Thanks Suzanne for being here today. I admit to being a huge reader of your books and will continue reading anything that you write but can you tell us what inspired you to write?
Suz: It's a pleasure to be here, Jeanne! Thank you so much for inviting me.
While I've been an avid fiction reader since about age three, I think one of my biggest, personal, defining moments came while I was around sixteen. I was struggling with chronic tonsillitis, and ended up home with a relentless fever for weeks. My head ached so much that I couldn't read--which was unheard of! It was during this time that I stumbled across Star Trek. (Classic Trek: Kirk, Spock, McCoy.) It was actually impossible not to stumble across it, since at the time cable consisted of maybe nine channels, total, and Trek was on four or five times a day. I found it, and I latched on.
For the first time, I became consciously aware of the power of storytelling, and the allure of taking a compelling journey with great and worthy characters. The show's creator, Gene Roddenberry, became one of my storytelling role models. (And my ongoing friendship with Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock continues to this day.)
Initially, I wanted to write for TV and film, but soon found a niche in genre romance. (More about the TV/film thing later...)
I happen to know that you had an exciting life that most of us dreamed of having at one time. Can you tell us a little bit about what you did?
Suz: Hmm, are you talking about one of my first jobs, as an ice cream truck driver? Or my days as a street performer, singing with my guitar in Boston T-stations and streets?
I went from that to forming my own original rock band--this was 1979/1980--right after the Cars had been discovered, and Boston was a hotspot for recording companies seeking original music.
I was honing my storytelling skills by writing songs--very, VERY short stories! The band that I helped form and front was called "Sensible Shoes." And although we recorded some demo tapes and played all of the local clubs for quite a few years, we never hit it big.
I ending up marrying my lead guitar player's former college freshman roommate (fate!), so I don't consider that adventure wasted time. (And I'm still close to many of my friends from the early 80s Boston music scene.)
I didn't start writing in earnest until after both my kids were born, in the late 1980s. And I started writing TV scripts (Star Trek: Next Generation, and Quantum Leap -- remember those shows?) and screenplays, none of which ever saw production. (Again, writing in that very visual format was good training for my novel writing career.)
I started writing romance (specifically targeting contemporary category romance) in the summer of 1992, and sold the fourth book that I wrote by December of that same year.
This year, HEADED FOR TROUBLE, my 52nd book, will be published by Ballantine Books. It's been a long, strange trip -- that's for sure!
One of the many things I love about your books is that you are not afraid to tackle some of the issues that other authors won’t. For example, you have written a storyline with an older heroine and younger hero and vice versa, a full figured heroine and a hot trimmed hero, interracial romances, same sex romance (that isn’t defined as erotica) and all done respectfully well. What is your advice to writing these types of romances, without resorting to stereotypes?
Suz: First, thank you. I appreciate readers who are open to the idea that love is love is love--and that we can't turn love off and on. We can't choose who to fall in love with, either. And it's usually always messy and filled with unexpected surprises.
As far as stereotypes go, I'm a big fan of busting them. In my view, people are people, and everyone is an individual. No two human beings are exactly alike, and yet, in many ways we're all so much more alike than we are different.
I think the old Navy SEAL adage "Never assume anything," is good advice to take when creating characters. Do extensive research if your character has a background different from your own, and never assume you know everything about a certain "type" of person.
Let your characters come to life and really live and breathe. Give them a rich, detailed history or back story, and strip them of all labels. Bring them down to the most basic level: that of human being looking to make a connection with another human being.
Are you currently working on a new book and if so, where did the idea come from?
Suz: Right now I'm writing my next hardcover release, DO OR DIE. After an experiment writing a new futuristic, paranormal series, in which my readership failed to follow me (oopsie!), I'm back to writing romantic suspense. DO OR DIE is the first in a new trilogy of books set in my Troubleshooters world. The hero is a former Navy SEAL named Ian Dunn, whom my readers haven't met before, but there are plenty of crossover characters, including Martell Griffin, who appeared in FORCE OF NATURE. FBI agent Jules Cassidy gets a mention, as well as two of his favorite FBI underlings, Deb Ehrlanger and Joe Hirabayashi.
This book has a lot of comedic, rom-com elements--the heroine, Phoebe Kruger, can really hold her own with Ian. And of course, Martell is around to deliver his own brand of funny.
I know that your troubleshooters series was a runaway success, and I look forward to this next installment.
You wrote and produced an off Broadway show in New York. Can you tell us about that?
Suz: I've always been in love with New York City, and took an opportunity to live there for about four months, while producing a play that my husband and I wrote called LOOKING FOR BILLY HAINES. We learned a lot about producing, and about watching our characters come to life on the stage. (Not for the weak of heart!)
You’ve also made a movie; we’d love to hear more about that as well.
Suz: Yes! My next project as a producer was a SAG ultra-low budget indie feature film called THE PERFECT WEDDING. Again, I co-wrote the script--this time not just with my husband, Ed Gaffney, but also with our son, Jason.
It all started when Jason complained that, as a young gay man who'd come out at age fifteen to a loving and accepting family, he didn't have much in common with gay characters in popular fiction. Most LGBT movies were either angsty coming out stories, or sex romps! What he was looking for was a nice little boy-meets-boy romantic comedy, where the humor doesn't come--at all--from the fact that the characters are gay. No one's in the closet, no one's a drag queen (not that there's anything wrong with drag queens!!!), and the hero's family loves and supports him completely.
We decided that since Jason couldn't find this movie, not even on Netflix, that we'd write it. And once we wrote it, we loved the script so much that we decided to produce it ourselves. We connected with a talented young director named Scott Gabriel, and together the four of us set about finding a crew and casting our movie.
Relatively early on in the process, though, Ed and Jason and I were "dream casting" our script, and we all agreed that Kristine Sutherland (who'd been a favorite actor of ours since her days playing Buffy's mom, Joyce, on Buffy the Vampire Slayer) would be perfect in the role of the hero's mom. We actually wrote a rather juicy part for a woman in her late 50s--there's a subplot (of course!) with the hero's mom and dad. I won't give away any spoilers, but we knew, when we wrote the script, that these two roles would be very attractive, particularly to actresses who are used to getting parts in which they say "Honey, dinner's ready."
And so, with hope in his heart, Ed contacted Kristine Sutherland's agent, and sent him a copy of our script. Long story short, she loved it--enough to be in our tiny little low budget movie. (Talk about dreams coming true!)
So okay, our first casting was done. Kristine was going to be our hero's mom. And Jason, of course, was going to be our hero's love interest. We'd also written the script for both Annie Kerins and Apolonia Davalos, two young actresses who we'd worked with in New York. So they were on board.
Meanwhile, we held casting sessions up and down the east coast, searching for our other characters--in particular our hero, and our hero's dad.
Jason and I found our hero--a young actor named Eric Aragon--during a casting session in Sarasota, Florida, where we ended up filming the movie. Eric drove up from Miami and blew us away.
And the cinematic gods were smiling on us, when we offered the part of the dad to James Rebhorn (Independence Day, Homeland, Sleepwalk with Me) who accepted the role.
Wait'll you see our movie!
We filmed it in June 2011, in Sarasota and Osprey, Florida, with a cast and crew of well over fifty people.
An early version of the movie played (to sold out houses) at the Sarasota Film Festival in 2012. We've just signed with Wolfe Releasing for U.S. distribution. They'll be releasing the movie on DVD and via online streaming this fall. (Watch my website at www.SuzanneBrockmann.com for exact dates and details.)
You can find more info about the movie at our website, www.theperfectweddingmovie.com !
I know that you are passionate about equal rights in the LGBT community. Is there something you can share that would bring additional awareness to it here?
This year marks the tenth anniversary of the first time an anti-gay crusader told my sweet-faced son that, as a gay teen, he was going to hell, that god hated him, and that he was "better off dead."
It's also the tenth anniversary of my not hunting her down and kicking her ass.
My kid was lucky, because I lived in a world where gay people were valuable members of society. Being gay wasn't some awful thing, and when I looked at my funny little three year old, I thought "Well, okay," instead of "Not My Kid!"
So Jason grew up with a mom and dad who was watching his back -- and making sure that he knew he was loved, that he wasn't alone, and that he was perfect, exactly the way he was. (You should see what an awesome young man he is. In fact, you will see if you watch our movie. He plays Gavin.)
My heart breaks for kids who grow up without the option of maybe being gay. There are still plenty of families who throw away their gay kids -- kicking them out for being "born that way." I can't imagine not wanting my child to be happy.
One of these days, I'm gonna dance at Jason's wedding. <g>
Some great resources for families and kids:
Parents, Friends, Families of Lesbians and Gays: www.pflag.org
Human Rights Campaign www.hrc.com
Trevor Project: http://www.thetrevorproject.org/
It Gets Better: http://www.itgetsbetter.org/