Interview de Brenda Novak – VO

Onirik : Your « dead » (in French “noir” black) trilogy is exciting. I am very much looking forward to read the third volume which will publish in France in march 2008. Plot is solid and at the same time controlled and original. Is the part of your work you find the most difficult?

Brenda Novak : Plot can be difficult for me because I don’t outline before I start a book. I have to be surprised and entertained as I go along, and if I’ve already puzzled out the whole story, I grow bored. I also want my plots to be very « organic. » In other words, I want them to grow and evolve with the characters–in writer speak, we say « grow from the characters, » which simply means that we want the plot to become a natural consequence of who the characters are and what each type of individual would do in each certain circumstances.

Onirik : Guiltiness is the most important theme of “dead” trilogy. It provides a real depth, a heartbreaking aspect. What is your motivation to use this guiding thread ?

Brenda Novak : The « redemption » theme runs through a lot of my books. In some, this is intended; in others, it crops up on its own. I think the fact that it appears so often is a reflection of my what I believe to be important–not whether or not you’ve ever made a mistake but whether or not you were able to overcome it.

Onirik : You seem to appreciate to write surprise endings, with a cine montage (rather rare in romantic suspense stories). Is it your idea and why this choice?

Brenda Novak : I like complex, emotional stories that challenge me to think a little differently or to look at something through « new eyes. » Maybe this is why I opt for endings that are not « pat » but it really isn’t something I set out to do on purpose.

Onirik : Is it more difficult to write suspense novels the rhythm being more nervous and asking for robust new developments to avoid running out of steam?

Brenda Novak : Adding the suspense elements makes the novel more difficult *and* easier to write. How can it be both? The writing is easier in that you have more tools to use in order to keep the reader « hooked. » But the writing is more difficult in that it requires so much knowledge about police procedures and criminial justice professionals, and the plotting has to be so precise and elaborate.

Onirik : When you write plots, do you have your own limits or criteria or do you have limits or taboos fixed by the publishing houses?

Brenda Novak : Fortunately, I have my own limits. Harlequin hasn’t restricted me at all–although I think they’d caution me if they felt I was writing something that would alienate readers.

Onirik : Your books are focused on the family circle (the clan). The parents/children relationship subject is it something that you’re particularly interested in or is it the human relationship complexity that interests you best ? They’re alone, victims of rumor of a little american town (not idyllic like the tv serial “little house” which was very appreciate by French people) but as the movie “Fury” of Fritz Lang, which inform on human impulses and difficulty of institutions to suppress them in same circumstances. (as your serie « dead » or « Cold feet » or « taking the heat »). What do you think about ?

Brenda Novak : I love the family dynamic, simply because it is so complex. We can love our family and not like them–regardless, they remain family and as much as we may try to rid ourselves of feeling for them, there will always be some traces left. Familial relationships are the most difficult we will ever have to deal with, simply because they mean so much. This adds much drama and conflict, which is what keeps a book interesting.

Onirik : Your heroes have very often been marked by life, tragedies or their childhood. So in “dead giveaway” , Clay’s father run out on, or Madison, shell-shocked by the suffering of her family when he was incriminated to be a serial killer in “Cold feet”, Grace, in “dead silence”, abused by her stepfather, or, Gabrielle, forsaken by her mother in “taking the heat”. They try to live with this past that haunt them. You do not hesitate to analyse accurately the heroes feelings and moods. How do you manage to make your characters so human and describe their deep evolution while alone and face to face with their own selves?

Brenda Novak : This is something that happens instinctually. I often give my characters a challenging past because it is difficulties that forge them (and all humans) into who and what they are. Those who have never suffered have no depth of feeling. I like exploring how people conquer challenges and this is represented in my work. I like the theme of triumphing over all odds as much as the theme of redemption, I guess. After all, they sort of go hand in hand.

Onirik : Your “romances” stick out. It seems that you like to push the limits somehow static of the romance genre. So, I’m passionate about your book “big girls don’t cry”. The bigamy is processed appealingly, not melodramatic not light. I’ve been quite surprised to notice that the writing in your novel does not follow the usual path of romance Harlequin. The happy ending is not the usual one. What kind of style are you trying to reach or avoid?

Brenda Novak :I think I’m merely trying to exercise my own « voice. » My books are an extention of who I am as a human being. I haven’t set out to do anything particularly different, just to explore those things I find most interesting and many of them involve morally ambiguous situations. I don’t really believe in a black & white world where everything can be neatly categorized. My books almost always explore the « gray » area in between.

Onirik : Who are you favourite authors? Do they inspire you for your own books?

Brenda Novak : I love straight historicals. Philippa Gregory is one of my favorites, and a new author I’ve just discovered is Brenda Rickman Vantrease. I also like true crime books, as they help convince me that there are some really twisted individuals out there, giving me fodder for the suspense element in my bigger books. Other favorites include Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Janet Evanovich, Barbara Taylor Bradford, Ken Follett, and James Clavell. They all inspire me to write better, try harder, keep aiming for the best story I can deliver.

Onirik : Can you disclose a few secrets about your next novel which will be published next summer? (I think it will be another trilogy… a romantic suspense?)

Brenda Novak : The next trilogy is actually the beginning of a series (which means there will be more connected books beyond the initial three). It’s based on a victim’s charity started by three women who know a little about violent crime–from having experienced it in their pasts. In the first book, TRUST ME, the heroine must deal with her past coming into her present while working to maintain all she’s achieved to help others. I think it’s probably my best book to date, so I’m very excited to see how readers receive it.

Marnie : Thank you very much, pardon me again cause my bad english. I hope my questions will be comprehensible…

Brenda Novak : You did very well with your English–I’m very impressed and sincerely wish I was bilingual. I envy you! Thanks for doing the interview!

Happy New Year!