Author Jill Sorenson is known for her heart-pounding romantic suspense. You can read AAR’s review of her latest book, Backwoods, here. I know Jill on Twitter and asked if she’d be interested in answering a few questions. Dabney: Hi Jill, thanks for talking with me. AAR reviewer Lynn describes your latest book, Backwoods, as “a lovely romance that takes place on The Camping Trip From Hell.” It’s a fair description. I didn’t like camping before I read it. Now I’m never going again! What inspired you to write this very scary story in this setting?
Jill: Hi Dabney! Thanks so much for having me here at AAR. I got the idea for Backwoods a few years ago while hiking with my family. We were in an unfamiliar area with overgrown brush on all sides. It was like walking through a cornfield, sort of claustrophobic. There might have been trash or gun shells on the ground. It wasn’t a nice, picturesque hiking trail and I felt uneasy. We’ve been lost in the woods before. I imagined a family of four coming across a couple of creepy hunters. The mother and daughter get kidnapped and the father and son try to save them. In my original plot there was no romance, just suspense. The blended-family dynamic came later. I needed to infuse some romance into the story and I liked the poetic justice of two betrayed exes finding love together.
Dabney: The interpersonal relationships in this book are reflective of our modern world of blended families. The primary romance is between Abby, a divorced mom, and Nathan, the father of her ex-husband’s stepson. The secondary relationship is between Abby’s daughter Brooke and Nathan’s son Leo; the two are step-siblings. Was it a challenge to write characters who had so many layers of connection?
Jill: No, I don’t think so. The characters already had established emotional connections (except for Abby and Nathan), so I had a lot to work with and pull from. I particularly enjoyed writing Nathan’s interactions with Leo.
Dabney: Nathan is a recovering alcoholic. Another of your heroes (Owen from Badlands) is an ex-skinhead. Yet another (Eric, the secondary hero from The Edge of Night) is a member of a violent gang. What appeals to you about writing heroes with serious baggage?
Jill: Good question! I guess I like redemption stories. Flawed heroes (and heroines) appeal to me. I’ve made a lot of mistakes and changed my life for the better, so I’m drawn to stories about people like me. People who struggle to get by or do the right thing. Addiction is a recurring theme in my books. So is atonement, self-awareness and personal responsibility.
Dabney: Your novel is set on the Pacific Crest Trail. Is that the West Coast version of the Appalachian Trail? Have you hiked it?
Jill: I don’t know what the Appalachian Trail is! The Pacific Crest Trail runs from Mexico to Canada, and I’ve hiked very little of it.
Dabney: Abby’s ex husband (and Brooke’s dad) is a plastic surgeon. Abby herself has breast implants and is happy with them. I can’t think of another romance I’ve read where the heroine has implants and it’s not portrayed as a bad choice. (Disclaimer: I am married to a plastic surgeon.) Why did you give Abby implants? Have readers responded to that choice?
Jill: I read a book by Karen Robards years ago in which the heroine has implants. She likes them. The hero likes them. No big deal. I can’t remember why I gave Abby implants. Maybe because she’s a perfectionist about her appearance. Her bra plays a role in the story. Perfect, perky, natural breasts also just aren’t the reality for many women. Natural beauty is held up as the gold standard, but it’s unattainable for most of us, like vaginal orgasms. Women with implants (or sexy clothes, too much makeup etc.) are often portrayed as greedy and shallow. I think that’s a harmful, inaccurate stereotype and I wanted to challenged it. I’ve seen a few positive comments about Abby’s implants. One reader told me the detail bothered her but she appreciated the fact that I raised the issue.
Dabney: I love well-done romantic suspense. It’s always a treat to read a book where the romance and the suspense are well-done. When you set out to write your books, do you plot the romance first, the suspense first, or do something else entirely?
Jill: I usually start with setting and character, which is like the flesh of the story. The suspense plot is the backbone and the romance is the blood flowing through, giving everything life. Basically it all has to work together as a whole, but I try to nail down the suspense plot early. The emotional elements are a little more flexible and organic. I make sure to leave room for the romance, with quiet moments and alone time.
Dabney: Backwoods is the fourth book in your Aftershock series. The premise of the first book-San Diego suffers a severe earthquake that kills many and destroys whole parts of the city–is utterly believable. What’s the most interesting thing you learned about earthquakes when you were researching the book?
Jill: I took an earthquake preparedness class and learned that my premise is pretty farfetched! The known fault zones in the San Diego area could not generate an 8.5 earthquake. A blind (undiscovered) fault would have to be responsible.
Dabney: You’ve set several of your books away from cities, in “wild” environments. What appeals to you about writing those settings?
Jill: I love the great outdoors and writing is like traveling for me. I get to visit awesome places in my mind. Remote areas are perfect suspense settings because there’s no help around for miles. I can’t get enough stranded-island stories, survival shows, man vs. nature, disaster movies etc.
Dabney: What’s up next? Will we see more of Leo and Brooke? Will you ever write the story of Eric and Meghan (from The Edge of Night)? And I know readers still badger you to find out whatever happened between Ian and Maria (from Caught in the Act)!
Jill: I don’t know if we’ll see more Leo and Brooke! I hope so. Eric and Meghan are my most requested couple. Maria and Ian are second. I have a short explanation here about why I put those projects on hold. Many of my secondary characters are YA age and not ready for an HEA yet, or I’m not ready to write their stories. I enjoy the freedom of leaving things open sometimes. The only promise I make is an HEA for the main couple.
I just finished Wild, book five in the Aftershock series. It’s another earthquake story, set during the same event as Aftershock, at the “San Diego Wildlife Park.” Earthquakes and wild animals! Together! It’s coming in January 2015.
I’m currently working on Riding Dirty, which is a bit of a departure for me. It’s erotic suspense with a motorcycle club/criminal informant hero and a forensic psychologist heroine. The story has some of the gritty elements readers expect from me, along with a few surprises. I don’t want anyone to get bored. ;)
My next project after that is Ace and Janelle’s story, tentatively titled Saltlands.
Jill: Thank you for having me!
Jill has generously offered five signed copies of Backwoods. If you want to be entered in the giveaway, let us know in the comments. The contest closes on Monday, the 30th, at midnight. You are also welcome to ask questions and/or comment without entering.
All the books mentioned in the post are available through Amazon and other sellers.
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Thanks for the giveaway! I enjoy Jill Sorenson’s stories.
My fave Jill Sorensen books are Aftershock, Dangerous to Touch and Stranded with Her Ex. Please do include me in the giveaway. Thanks for the interview and the chance for a free copy.
“”Riding Dirty”” sounds really interesting and I am looking forward to it.
I recommend the early border/immigration stories. Thanks for entering me in the contest.
I really enjoyed Edge of Night but for some reason haven’t read any of Jill’s other works. I would love to get a copy of Backwoods to get me started again.
Thanks for the interview. I look forward to the new book!
Thanks for the opportunity! I really like Jill’s work – it’s difficult to find well-done romantic suspense.
I haven’t read any of your books….yet. But this would be a great opportunity to start. This sounds like its a great read! Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy.
Thanks for the giveaway, and thanks to Ms. Sorenson for the candor on sales. I think it’s hard for readers to understand how difficult it can be for a book to do well in overall sales even if it’s near and dear to your heart. But the best point is that Ms. Sorenson’s books are on a steady upwards trajectory for sales. Let’s hope the new series makes a positive move in that direction!
I don’t want to interject after every comment but I thought I’d respond to Maggie B with some more info on my “”border”” books. It’s hard to say why some books sell well and others don’t. Most books don’t do well, so it’s not a surprise when this happens. At the time of those releases, romantic suspense was dead. I think readers were looking for fantasy billionaires and nice small towns, not gritty realism. Immigration and border issues aren’t the most popular topics in romance, either. There could be lots of other reasons. I’m delighted that so many readers loved those stories. I think they’re good books and I’m proud of them.
About my Aftershock series: You can read them in order, or not. I tried to write each book as a stand alone.
It’s interesting how trends die, isn’t it? And I wonder how much of that we will see as internet sales outpace brick and mortar sales. For example, I had a B&N gift card at the time Backwoods came out. I went to the local B&N to pick up a copy, couldn’t find it in romance or mystery and finally asked for help. They offered to order it for me. I smiled and said I’d get it at Amazon. If I’m going to have something delivered, I’m going with people I know deliver quick and easy and that won’t involve a trip back to the store but comes to my door. Still, how a book is supposed to sell if retailers don’t stock it. I think it creates a sort of circular problem – customers don’t buy the book cause they don’t know about it, the store doesn’t sell the book cause customers supposedly don’t want to buy it.
I’ve been really grateful to Amazon lately for still carrying the RS books. In my area they are the only ones doing so.
It is interesting, and I think the resurgence of gritty books and RS can be attributed to self-publishing. I’ve seen authors like Elizabeth Naughton and Cynthia Eden blowing up the lists with self-pub RS, so that gives me hope! It’s too bad B&N didn’t have Backwoods. :( I’m glad you got a copy elsewhere.
I own a book by Cynthia Eden but haven’t read it yet. My TBR is a nightmare and I just haven’t gotten to it. I haven’t tried Elizabeth Naughton yet but I have an anniversary coming which means I will be picking up a few new books. I’ll definitely add her to my list. I’m just so grateful that talented people like yourself are still writing in this genre. I love curling up with a good RS novel and have been so sad to see the books disappearing from the shelves. Thank God for the internet, which helps me feed my addiction :-)
I have found Ms. Eden’s latest works inconsistent at best. I think we need a blog post about recent RS we’ve loved. They are hard to come by!
I would love to win this giveaway! I have not yet had a chance to read Jill Sorenson’s books but they sound great!
Loved Edge of Night and Caught in the Act!!! I enjoyed Aftershock and have Badlands on my TBR pile. Excited to read your erotic m/c tale!
Oh and please enter me in the give away
I am a little behind on this series, so would love to add this book to my TBR pile. I have been reading Jill since 2009’s ‘Set the Dark on Fire’ and am thrilled by her success.
Aftershock was the first book that I read by Jill and I am hooked!! I loved this book and I loved Badlands. Jill Sorenson writes the perfect balance of action and romance. I am so looking foward to reading more!!
Sign me up for reading about The Camping Trip From Hell — much better than living it! Also, mad props for including discussion about implants. I really appreciate when romances address “”taboo”” topics.
I really liked Aftershock but have not read any others. Would love to win one of the copies of Backwoods. Although I love camping, I hope it won’t scare me too much;-)
Thanks for the giveaway. I haven’t read this author yet.
I’d love to read this book. I have Aftershock in my Amazon wish list b/c not only does it sound interesting, I’m a San Diego lifer and like reading about my own back yard every once in a while.
Please enter me in the giveaway. I saw Ms. Sorenson’s comment on another thread and definitely need to read one of her books. I have Badlands in my Amazon cart. Anybody recommend that one or should I try another book first?
If you’re reading that series, I would start with the first one, Aftershock. I also love Edge of Night and Caught in the Act.
I picked up Aftershock when I was out today. Can’t wait to start reading. :)
Dabney, thanks for doing this interview. Jill Sorenson is one of my very favorite authors! Thanks for the link to Jill’s blog too. I’ll admit to being more than a little surprised by what I found out there. I can’t imagine why the books in the Borders series Caught in the Act/The Edge of Night weren’t more successful . They are terrific books with very sympathetic characters.
I’ve loved the Aftershock series as well and I am sooo looking forward to Jill’s new book in January (squee!)
Jill, I love your books. I have read everything except the Harlequin/Silhouette romantic suspense books. One of the things that I like is that you feature regular people, and the problems aren’t magically solved at the end. It is a shame that Edge and Caught did not attract more readers–they are really good books.
Thanks Susan! I appreciate the support.
Love Jill’s books! All of them but my two favourites are Caught in the Act and Edge of Night. I loved that grittier world. And I’m bummed to know those books didn’t sell that well. They totally deserve to be top-sellers and I recommend them frequently to others. You’re awesome, Jill!
Thanks so much for the kind words!!