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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Mayhem with Sylvie Kurtz

Today we will be having some mayhem with Sylvie Kurtz. Unfortunately, she's off creating some mayhem of her own in the woods somewhere with her husband (okay, that probably gives away exactly what kind of mayhem...), so she's here with us via satellite.

Sylvie KurtzIf you aren't familiar with Sylvie, you can find her bio in every one of her books, at least as far as I've noted. It's pretty interesting if you ask me. Some people might think she's crazy for turning away from her pilot's license in favor of a keyboard and the voices in her head, but as every author knows, you have to stop and listen to those voices if you want to be sane. So, that's what she did. Here's her bio as you'd find on her website and in her books: "Flying an eight hour solo cross-country in a Piper Arrow with only the airplane's crackling radio and a large bag of M & Ms for company, Sylvie Kurtz realized a pilot's life wasn't for her. The stories zooming in and out of her head proved more entertaining than the flight itself. Not a quitter, she finished her pilot's course, earning her commercial license and instrument rating.

Since then, she's traded in her pilot's license for a keyboard, where she lets her imagination soar to create fictional adventures that explore the power of love and the thrill of suspense.

When not writing, she enjoys the outdoors with her family, quilt-making, photography, and reading whatever catches her interest."

After reading A Rose at Midnight and Spirit of a Hunter, I felt I needed to bring Sylvie here and introduce the rest of you to her. She is a phenomenal writer and has a gift for suspense and well, intrigue. I'm currently reading Under Lock and Key and finding it hard to put down and hard to pick back up because I know if I pick it up, I won't be able to do anything else until I've finished reading it! Then I will be on to

Mask of the Hunter Photobucket
Mask of a Hunter and Pull of the Moon
Follow us on Goodreads to see my progress and my reviews of these and other books.

By the time I finished the books and read her website, I was filled with questions. Now, I could ask all of them, didn't want to scare the girl off, so kept my list of questions to the ones I wanted to know now.

[I started with some questions specifically about Sylvie herself]

ME: What drew you to the Intrigue Line?

SYLVIE: The combination of romance and suspense. I love both genres, so finding both in one story seemed like the perfect marriage.

ME: What influenced your life that you find enjoyment in the darker and gothic romances as well as suspense?

SYLVIE: Um, that's a loaded question J [supposed to be a smiley face but you can't see it!]. I'm not really sure why darker stories appeal to me. Maybe it's because Joe and Jane Average win in the end, no matter how bad, strong, rich the opponent is. This so rarely happens in real life, where Joe and Jane more often than not find themselves squished. Plus New England scenery, with its thick trees, granite, and weather, lends itself perfectly to that dark atmosphere.

ME: Was there any one author that influenced you and your writing more than any other?

Airs Above GroundSYLVIE: When I was a kid, what got my attention was a book cover with a horse on it. When I ran out of kids' books, I turned to the adult section and found Dick Francis racing books and Mary Stewart's Airs Above The Ground. I loved that book so much, I went back and read every book by Mary Stewart I could find. That got me hooked on the Gothic genre. Once I decided to write, I devoured both romance and suspense novels, not so much with a reader's eye now, but with an eye to learn how to make the genres work. I learned sexual tension from Jayne Ann Krentz, emotions from Nora Roberts, atmosphere and the sheer joy of word usage from Dean Koontz. When I first started writing for Intrigue, Tess Gerritsen still wrote for them, and I learned the pacing of an Intrigue from taking apart her books. I try to learn something from every book I read, which sometimes ruins the fun of reading J. Volunteering at the library has helped me find many new authors, making my list of favorites long and my to-be-read piles a health hazard [Isn't everyone's TBR a mountain range? I know mine is!].

[Sylvie touches on a very important point that I don't think can be stated enough for anyone wanting to improve their writing. Read, read and read some more! You need to read good and bad writing to teach yourself what to do and what not to do. She has an impressive list of teachers there! Okay, back to the interview.]

ME: Okay, we all know that the Intrigue line is a limited release and doesn’t get into reprints. Is there a possibility of your books, your seeker series at least, being release as eBooks through eHarlequin?

SYLVIE: I haven't heard anything about that yet, but Harlequin is always looking to maximize sales, so I don't see why they wouldn't end up on their e-list eventually.

ME: There’s a different recipe before each of your Intrigue novels, is that something you did or was that a Harlequin addition? Why were those recipes added?

SYLVIE: My first agent once commented that my books made her hungry because food appeared in so many scenes. Most of my good childhood memories revolve around food--Christmas dinners, Easter pastries, summer picnics, Thanksgiving turkey, and one special high tea at the Ritz with my grandmother. Because food became an unconscious layer in all of my books, I asked if I could include a recipe and it stuck. Even when I couldn't have it in the front pages anymore, it ended up at the end of the book.

[Here's where I finally start asking questions about her books.]

Spirit of the HunterME: Spirit of the Hunter is book 5 in The Seekers . Do you plan on writing any more of The Seekers, or do you feel it sort of wrapped itself up?

SYLVIE: I have an idea for Gray's sister, and one for Harper, but I don't know if I'll get to write them.

ME: What gave you the inspiration for The Seekers? Was it something from your own life?

SYLVIE: Mostly frustration at not being able to get local law enforcement to answer questions. Then in a book on law enforcement of the future, I read about the idea of private policing and used that as the basis for The Seekers.

ME: Did you have any specific men in mind when you wrote the different heroes of The Seekers? If so, who?

SYLVIE: Not really. They all kind of appeared with their own personalities. Sebastian first, then his crew as he needed them. I love how they were all so different, yet shared the same basic values.

ME: Which Seeker hero was your favorite?

SYLVIE: I know I'm not supposed to have favorites, and I know readers like alpha heroes, but my two favorites are the more beta heroes, Dominic and Noah.

[Interesting concept, a beta hero!]

A Rose at MidnightME: In A Rose at Midnight, the main premise swirls around a New Orleans Myth. Is that myth the real thing, or something you made up?

[I love, love, love this cover!]

SYLVIE: It's actually a French Canadian tales I grew up with. I can still remember a particular television show called Franfreluche, where the main character reenacted the tale--her getting caught up with the stranger, the horns appearing on the devil's head, the smoke around their dancing feet, her inability to get away from him, and the sound of the grandfather clock bonging midnight in the background. I couldn't have been more than seven, but the images are still clear. I always wanted to use that tale somehow and got to in A Rose at Midnight.

ME: How long did it take you to research myths and legends?

SYLVIE: I got a couple of books of Canadian tales to refresh myself on the details. I ended up finding several versions and kind of molded them all into the one I used in the book. I used Quebec City as the setting, because my grandmother had lived there and the old part of Quebec City is so ripe for that Gothic atmosphere.

ME: What kind of research did you do, or was it mostly online (what resources did you find the most helpful)?

SYLVIE: Online research is fast, but I still like hands-on research. If I can try something my characters will do, then I like to have the experience--like shooting a handgun or a rifle, kayaking, hiking the White Mountains, etc. I like that I can tap into my own emotions as I was in the midst of the experience for my characters.

[Okay, how can I do this? I don't think my husband will buy the, "Honey, I need to do research for a book I want to write, so I'm booking a trip for us to..." Um, no, won't work. Oh, darn!]

Under Lock and KeyME: I recently started reading Under Lock and Key. A castle complete with moat is an interesting idea for a contemporary novel, but what made you decide to put one in Northern Texas?

SYLVIE: Because a similar one does exist, although I'm not sure about the moat part. I forget where now, because it's been so long since I've lived in Texas, but I remember reading an article in the newspaper about how a man had had a castle transported stone by stone and rebuilt it. I cut the article out and placed it in my idea file until the opportunity to use such an element came up. I didn't use the actual Texas castle, but created one just for Melissa based on an English castle. [click image at right to go to castle's website]

ME: Why did you make the main character a journalist over some other career choice?

SYLVIE: You're asking me to dig back far! I had to find someone who had a good reason to contact Melissa and someone who would most press Melissa's conflict buttons. A too-gorgeous guy, who she thought wanted to expose her "ugliness" seemed like the perfect fit.

[Here are some questions about future publications:]

ME: Are you currently working on any projects?

SYLVIE: I'm currently dabbling in several things.

ME: If so, what are their titles?

SYLVIE: No titles so far--those tend to grow out of the story and surprise me somewhere as I'm writing the story.

ME: Will they be suspense or intrigue?

SYLVIE: I'd like to do both!

ME: If not, what genre will they be?

SYLVIE: I started a psychological suspense and was having fun with my heroine, but then this guy started talking to me (this probably sounds normal only to other writers--I swear I'm not psychotic J) and his voice was so strong that I had to start writing down his story, which kind of goes back to my paranormal roots, because there's a ghost involved. I have no idea where that will end up.

The way the mind works has always fascinated me--why people do things, how they react, how they survive, hence my attraction to the psychological suspense genre.

We'll see what happens.

ME: What are you doing in the meantime, besides working on future books that is?

SYLVIE: I'm teaching two classes for the Long Ridge Writers Group--Breaking Into Print and a novel course, and volunteer at my local library one afternoon a week. I also present the occasional online workshop. The next one is for the NEORWA chapter ( from September 7-18th and it's on revising.

ME: Thanks for taking the time to interview with me and I look forward to seeing more from you in the future!

SYLVIE: No problem--it was fun!

[Any questions for Sylvie that you'd like to ask? Want to tell her how much you like her work, post it here for when she checks in later!]

4 Moonbeams (comments):

Terry Kate said...

I love Intrigues they Have such a great balance of romance and Suspense. I have only caught a couple of these titles and I will go back and search the others out.
Thanks for the Mayhem ladies!
Terry Kate
Romance in the Backseat

Carrie said...

Thanks for stopping by!

Under Lock and Key is definitely full of suspense so far!

Sheila Deeth said...

Dick Francis and Mary Stewart were among my first addictions once I got my grown-up library card.

Margay Leah Justice said...

Sylvie, thanks for visiting our blog!