“Redefining normal”. These are her words. And as I spent an hour talking to her about her life and work I understood that it takes a huge commitment to not only entertain but to slowly introduce and bring to the forefront of her reader’s consciousness the issues that she cares about the most.
Both her Tall, Dark and Dangerous andTroubleshooters series have become a big part of the lexicon of romantic suspense. As readers, we’ve waited eagerly for each new book; and from Lieutenant Joe Catalanofto in Prince Joe, the first book in the Tall, Dark and Dangerous series, to Izzy Zanella in Breaking the Rules, the most recent book in theTroubleshooters series, we always want more. Always.
The books in her series can be viewed as one long story arc between friends/lovers/comrades/ co-workers, or as individual gems. Yet, they also carry the message that although people are different and you may not share their beliefs or lifestyles, once you get to know them you’ll forget the differences and instead embrace the fundamental similarities. She conveys this through humor, exciting action, amazing adventures and romance.
Brockmann says, “I plan these books in advance; I’m a planner and a plotter and I think in broad over arching story arcs”. If you’ve read any of Brockmann’s books you know this is true, and the journey she takes her characters on is usually long and more often than not happens over many books. She constantly tests their convictions by giving them personal as well as universal obstacles to overcome, and in doing so she makes the characters seem familiar; as if we’ve known them all our lives. Suzanne is about bringing things to light in a way that we can embrace, gently guiding us along by introducing us to what’s important to her through her characters and the subtext of their struggles and desires.
WHY ALYSSA IS ONE OF HER TOP 5 HEROINES
When I asked her who her top female characters are she immediately replied, Jenn (Breaking the Rules- Troubleshooters Series #16), Brittany (Night Watch - Tall, Dark and Dangerous Series#11) , Molly (Breaking Point -Troubleshooters Series #9), Annie (Force of Nature -Troubleshooters Series #11) and Alyssa (Gone Too Far -Troubleshooters Series #6) .
Each of these heroines has several things in common – they are strong, intelligent and independent
women. Very much like their author. They have clear goals, quick minds and a steadfastness that enables them to act for the greater good. I asked why Alyssa, a former FBI agent and now second in command at Troubleshooters Inc., was one of her top five. Brockmann replied, “For me, Alyssa represents the kind of struggle we have in our society for women to wear more than one hat at a time. We are mothers, wives, sisters, daughters - and we are workers, and we have to fit all these things in and choose which one to be in any given situation. I think a lot about it in terms of my own life. As a writer and creative person I wear a certain hat. But I’m also my own business. I am Suzanne Brockmann who writes the books, but I’m also Suzanne Brockmann who deals with the financial end of the business. Early on in my career it was important to me that I never let myself get too emotional in a business situation… So it’s a weird mix of, when am I the writer and when am I the CEO? It’s something that is really hard… So Alyssa being a strong woman, a black woman in a white man’s world, having the burden of being an incredibly beautiful woman on top of that, and having to make hard decisions and not show weakness is why she’s one of my top five.”
IZZY’S STORY BEGAN AT THE BEGINNING
Brockmann has created the SEAL teams as the underpinning that carries her stories through. They become a metaphor for the kinds of conflicts and resolutions that arise in relationships. She says “there are so many parallels between work in a SEAL team and a family – you can’t choose who you work with in a SEAL team and you gotta get the job done.” And like a SEAL team on a mission, neither her characters nor her readers find an easy road to a happily ever after. We all have to earn it. A lot like life.
She’s a master at creating and interweaving multiple story arcs and characters. She’s also one of the few authors who introduces a character and carries them through several books until they finally get
Throughout the series we get such a clear look at how Izzy and Dan Gillman operate, their individual desires and dreams. How, although they work well together because they have to, they really don't like each other. So when we finally read Breaking the Rules we feel as if we know them, both their flaws and their strengths, and it gives us an even greater investment in the outcome of their relationship. As Brockmann says “the final book in their story arc is a romance between Izzy and Eden, and Dan and Jenn; but the real relationship in Breaking the Rules is between Dan and Izzy”.
WHY ROBIN CHADWICK IS HER ALL TIME FAVORITE CHARACTER
Jules Cassidy waited nine books before he could dance off into the sunset with his true love Robin Chadwick. That’s a heck of a long time, but that was Ms. Brockmann's plan from the very beginning, to allow readers to really get to know who Jules was. Suzanne says “I think of it as redefining normal. I think as a writer when you include characters in your book like Jules Cassidy – a highly skilled, super intelligent, funny smart, capable, heroic, courageous FBI agent, who happens to be gay - you watch him work, and watch him save the day. If you notice in the Troubleshooter series Jules very frequently comes in and saves the day, and that was not by accident. My whole purpose was to redefine normal so that readers wouldn’t be like, ‘oh he’s gay, oh he’s different’. No he’s Jules, you know him - you know you can count on Jules. He happens to be gay. ”
Suzanne and I talked at great length about FBI Agent Jules Cassidy and movie star Robin Chadwick, the two gay characters who first meet in Hot Target (book 8) and get their HEA in Force of Nature. She says, “Robin is probably my all time favorite character – which really surprised me. The book Force of Nature was not supposed to end with Jules and Robin together. What was supposed to happen and the end of the book was Robin would be unable to come out of the closet, he was going to go into rehab but he was not going to give up his movie career. And Jules was going to walk away from him because that's not what he wanted, this hiding.”
Fortunately for us Robin wasn’t having anything to do with Suzanne’s plan. Since she works with big story arcs, when she first introduced Robin in Hot Target she knew then “that in the book Force of Nature Robin and Jules were going to connect and… the relationship was going to be sexual and yet I was still not going to be able to give Jules everything he needed”. Her plan was to make them wait and be the Hero and Hero of their own book, not give them an HEA in Force of Nature. But as they say, the best laid plans…
Suzanne says that Robin wasn’t having any of it, he didn’t want to wait for his HEA, and he did not want to walk away from Jules. So for the first time as a writer she was as odds with one of her characters. She had plans for him and he had his own ideas. She says “There is a scene in Force of Nature where Jules comes and knocks on Robin’s hotel door, and they hadn’t seen each in a serious chunk of time. I believe I wrote that scene from Robin’s POV and I knew right at that moment that one look at Jules and Robin was willing to give up everything to be with this guy. And I couldn’t keep it from happening."
She continued by telling me "When you think about it, I write books about Navy SEALS. And even though these guys are really strong willed, I can manipulate them, throw things at them that they will be daunted by, and as the writer I can make them do things that make sense and that are true to their character. And here was this movie star, Robin, he was like- movies schomovies, 10 million dollars? I don’t care, Jules is what has been missing from my life and I’m going to go for it.” That was not Suzanne's plan for them.
For two weeks she just stopped writing Force of Nature. She reached a certain point where she just sat in her office waiting for Robin to listen to her. “I was like tick tock Robin… I’m in charge of you, but he didn’t listen. So I re-outlined the end of book and made it the way Robin wanted it to be. And that had never happened to me before with any other character. …all these Navy Seals and it takes an alcoholic in the closet actor to stop me in my tracks. In actuality, that’s why he continues to be one of my favorite characters.”
END OF PART ONE – PLEASE JOIN ME ON WEDNESDAY FOR PART TWO.
Coming up: Suzanne Brockmann’s personal journey of writing All Through the Night, being married to another novelist, having a gay hero, what's next for the Troubleshooters series and Fighting Destiny.
To learn more about Suzanne Brockmann visit:
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