Interview by Ashley Eastman
Featuring Fatal Mistake
Each day could be her last…
Tara Parrish is the only person ever to survive an attack by the Lone Wolf bomber. Scared and emotionally scarred by her near death, she goes into hiding with only one plan–to stay alive for another day. She knows he’s coming after her, and if he finds her, he will finish what he started.
But not if he can help it.
Agent Cal Riggins has had only one goal for the past six months–to save lives by ending the Lone Wolf’s bombing spree. To succeed, he needs the help of Tara Parrish, the one person who can lead them to the bomber. Cal puts his all into finding Tara, but once he locates her, he realizes if he can find her, the Lone Wolf can, too. He must protect Tara at all costs, and they’ll both need to resist the mutual attraction growing between them to focus on hunting down the bomber, because one wrong move could be fatal.
"Serial killers, romance and bombs, oh my! Fatal mistake is a thrill ride from page one. Hop on, strap in, and prepare to be entertained!"
- Lynette Eason - bestselling, award-winning author of the Elite Guardians series
Ashley: What was your inspiration for writing the White Knights series?
Susan: The White Knights series was born during the six weeks I spent with FBI agents at the FBI Citizen’s Academy. I saw the agent’s incredible hearts for helping others. I also saw how that heart for others motivated them and also how it took a toll on them. When things turn ugly and law enforcement professionals can no longer control the situation, making them unable to provide the needed help, they take it harder than most people.
I thought about how a group of agents on a special team that deploys to particularly difficult situations might behave if they couldn’t provide help. Then I wondered how being a Christian might impact their actions and knew I had to put their faith to a test. To challenge these agents, I had to find really BIG problems that they couldn’t simply use their tremendous skills and abilities to solve on their own. I wanted them to realize they couldn’t rely on their own strength and training, but must turn to God and each other for help, only then could they succeed on the job and in life.
Since the team is a Critical Incident Response Team, I needed to look at news headlines to see the type of incidents these agents might respond to. For Fatal Mistake I chose a serial bomber who has struck so many times and escaped capture that the agent in charge of the investigation has learned he can’t bring in the bomber on his own and the reader sees him struggle with this realization.
Ashley: Tell us about the main characters. Who are they? What makes them unique?
Susan: Tara Parrish is your everyday woman who is faced with an extraordinary challenge. At first she runs from the seemingly insurmountable problem, but then digs in and starts to fight back. I think this is how many of us first face a challenge, and that the reader can easily see themselves in her and can imagine being in her shoes.
Cal Riggins is an FBI agent whose past lost of a person close to him has left him driven with the need to protect others. In Fatal Mistake that pushes him beyond reasonable limits to find the Lone Wolf bomber. And when God doesn’t respond in Cal’s timing, he takes things into his own hands. I know I do this at times and I’m sure readers do, too, and can relate.
Ashley: Give us one fact about each main character that no one else knows.
Susan: Tara grew up on a farm. As a child she wanted to be a farmer just like her father. That ended when her parents were killed in crash.
Cal must live in Washington D.C. for his job, but he secretly wishes he could live in the boonies somewhere without any neighbors and lots of land surrounding his home.
Ashley: In three sentences, what is this book about?
Susan: How about three phrases? Serial killer. Terrifying bombs. Learning to trust God through it all, even when all seems lost.
Ashley: Sad truth right there. It seems like we trust God the most during tough trials in our life. Do you outline the entire book before starting, or do you write as you go and let the characters take control of the story?
Susan: Though I at first I didn’t use outlines, after writing a few suspense books with intricate details that needed to be kept track of and resolved, I decided I would spend a lot less time rewriting if I started to outline. So I created my first outline and have never looked back.
Ashley: How do you believe this story relates to the lives of readers?
Susan: Well, hopefully none of the readers will ever experience a bomb, but they can identify with Cal and Tara as they struggle with trusting God and others. They both must learn to trust God and leave the outcome up to Him. And, isn’t that the core of faith and something we all struggle with at times?
Ashley: Sure is. What is your favorite genre to write for?
Susan: Suspense, particularly romantic suspense is my favorite genre to not only write but to read as well. I love the combination of fast paced action. The mental challenge of figuring out who the bad guy is and a healthy dose of romance combined with all of it.
Ashley: How many books are planned for this series?
Susan: There are six members of the White Knights team and each book features one of the team members so there is potential for six books.
Ashley: Any certain research required for the book, or is it all from your imagination?
Susan: There was a tremendous amount of research required about bombs and FBI investigative procedures for this book. I found myself being very interested and yet terrified at what I discovered about bombs, as you can easily obtain items needed to create a bomb.
Ashley: How do you strike the right balance in your Romance Suspense book?
Susan: I try to balance romance and suspense equally. I have the riveting, move along at a fast pace suspense, then I slow it down with character issues and romance. It seems to balance quite well in my opinion and readers often confirm that for me.
Ashley: Are you working on the next book in the series?
Susan: The next book is called Kill Shot and it is completed and will release in February 2018
Ashley: Can you give us a hint at the next book in the series?
Susan: Sure. Here’s the back cover copy.
Some fears haunt you forever….
As the ballistics and weapon’s expert for the FBI’s special task force nicknamed the White Knights, Rick Cannon has known the Department of Defense was developing self-steering bullets. Rick feared these smart bullets–which have one hundred percent accuracy that can turn even a novice into a lethal sniper–would eventually end up in the hands of the wrong people. But since the ammunition was still in the development stage, he figured they had plenty of time before that happened. He was wrong. Dead wrong.
Until they become reality.
When a homeless vet is killed with a smart bullet, it’s clear that the ammunition has been stolen, and the Knights are called in to find the thief and stop the killings. But they aren’t the only ones desperate to find the killer. Therapist Olivia Dobbs is well known for her success in counseling military veterans with PTSD. When she discovers one of her clients moments after he is murdered, she becomes both the FBI’s prime witness, and suspect.
Despite the mutual attraction that immediately sparks between them, Rick can’t–no he won’t–let Olivia interfere with his investigation. But when the sniper trains his rifle on her, Rick must recall all the skills he learned as a Marine sniper to make sure the next bullet fired isn’t a kill shot that takes Olivia out.
Ashley: Were any scenes or characters cut from the book? Can you give an example?
Susan: I had a scene where Tara and Cal visit the FBI forensic lab in Quantico but had to cut it due to word count. In prep of writing authentic FBI stories, I attended my local FBI Citizen’s Academy and graduated in 2016. The academy was a combination of classroom lectures, firearms simulator, shooting hand and long guns at the FBI shooting range with agent instructors, and blowing up and disarming bombs with their bomb experts. I loved every minute of the academy and am still a member of the alumni group. I hope to visit FBI Headquarters in D.C. in December along with a visit to Quantico where FBI agents train.
This academy inspired me to not only write about my White Knights, but to share details with readers that are authentic and convey the incredible integrity, compassion, and caring that FBI agents possess. This scene accomplished all of that. I loved sharing details like the biovestibules that serve as airlocks to keep contamination to a minimum, and the sheer magnitude of the 500,000 square foot building with over 500 employees all devoted to crime scene analysis. I think this allowed me to convey the big job the FBI crime scene employees have to do and the cost of crime in our country. Who knows, maybe the scene will be resurrected and modified for another book in the White Knight series.
Ashley: Where do you like to write?
Susan: I have rheumatoid arthritis and I often have painful joints so I mostly write sitting in a comfy recliner to minimize the pain. I have a view out over our backyard and my garden, and I am a gardening fanatic, so that is a very inspiring view for me. Of course, at times the garden calls to me, and I can’t resist so I go out there when I should be writing. But these little trips out into God’s beautiful world also helps me work out story problems, too.
Ashley: Are you a full-time or part-time author/writer?
Susan: I am a full-time writer. I had six books release this past year. If I didn’t work full-time, that wouldn’t have been possible. It was barely possible as it was. So far, I only have two books and two novellas releasing in 2017, which is a much more manageable schedule.
Ashley: How long does it usually take you to write a single book?
Susan: After I have plotted the book and written a synopsis, which can take weeks, I can get the rough draft written for a trade-length book like Fatal Mistake in a month. But my rough drafts are very rough, and what then follows is months of editing. During this time I work on editing the book, then set it aside and come back to it several times so I see it with fresh eyes. So all in all, I’d say it takes about four months to complete the book.
Ashley: What do you hope readers take away from the White Knights series?
Susan: Hope and trust in God. Simple as that. No matter how bad life can seem there is always hope. My wish is that the characters’ struggles resonate with the reader, and they can see the characters work their way out of a problem and move into the light of hope by trusting in God. Then the reader can see anything is possible, and they, too, have reason to hope.
Ashley: When did you realize you wanted to become a writer?
Susan: I always wanted to write a book but like many people today, I was too busy to sit down and do it. Then I was struck with a chronic illness, and I was forced to sit for long periods of time. A type A personality, I couldn’t sit and do nothing so I started writing. As the disease progressed, I had to quit my job and I had more and more time to write. Soon I was writing full time and actively pursuing publication.
Ashley: What was your favorite book as a teen or child?
Susan: As a child I didn’t have a favorite book, but I can tell you the Nancy Drew mystery series was my all time favorite series to read. I couldn’t wait until the latest book came out.
Ashley: What are your hopes for your future as an author?
Susan: I hope to continually improve my craft and hope to continue writing for publication as long as I can. I love writing and am so blessed that God has given me the opportunity to have this career.
Ashley: In what ways does your faith impact how you approach writing?
Susan: My faith impacts my writing in that it is so woven into who I am that it slips into my books without me even realizing it. I recently wrote my Agents Under Fire series which is a clean read series for the general market not the Christian market, and I discovered that I couldn’t write a single book without making my characters believers.
Ashley: Coke or Pepsi?
Susan: Neither. I can’t drink carbonated beverages so my choice of drink is water. Okay, fine, I do drink like a zillion cups of coffee in the morning.
Ashley: Soft shell or Hard Shell tacos?
Susan: Funny you should ask. I was a soft shell taco person all the way, but lately I had a craving for hard shells, and so we had them last week. It reminded me that when I was pregnant with my first daughter, I had such bad morning sickness that I was constantly sick. The only food I could keep down were tacos and they had to be hard shell tacos from Taco Bell.
Ashley: Favorite place to vacation?
Susan: Honestly, I haven’t had a vacation in years as we have spent every moment of free time the last two years remodeling our house, and I would vacation just about anywhere if given the opportunity.
Ashley: Favorite season?
Susan: Spring/early summer is my favorite time of year for two reasons. We live in rainy Oregon. It’s a beautiful area of the country because of all the rain, but almost daily rain from October to July is a bit much. So when spring arrives so do sunny days, which signal the beginning of gardening season. Over the winter, I spend days drooling over seed catalogues and pictures of my veggie garden from the prior year. Coming up with a new plant rotation, buying fertilizer and seeds, and dreaming of the veggies I’ll harvest. And then spring arrives and yes…finally, I can get outside in the sunshine and dig in the dirt and I am a happy girl!
Ashley: Do you have a particular drink or food you consume when you write? Like coco, raspberry tea, animal crackers?
Susan: When I am struggling to get words on paper for a rough draft and my late afternoon slump arrives, peanut M&Ms provide much needed brain power. LOL
Ashley: Do you listen to music while you write? If so what are some examples?
Susan: I never used to listen to music when writing, but lately I found that it helps me concentrate. Right now I often listen to oldies like Art Garfunkle’s Breakaway album or the Best of Bread.
Ashley: Is there anything about yourself that might surprise your readers?
Susan: 1. I once recorded radio commercials for a company I used to work for. It was so odd hearing my voice on the radio.
2. I once raced a turtle. I grew up in Turtle Lake where we held annual turtle races so it doesn’t seem as odd as it sounds, right?
3. I used to play trumpet. Not only in high school and college, but as an adult I also I played at church for years.
Ashley: How you create characters and are they are based on people you know?
Susan: Characters aren’t based on people I know, per se, but are from a lifetime of watching and studying people. I have a degree in psychology and have always been fascinated with what makes people do what they do, so putting together character traits to form a unique and complex person is really enjoyable for me.