USA Today bestseller Catherine Mann resides on a sunny Florida beach with her military flyboy husband and their four children. Also a RITA Award winner, Catherine writes action-packed military suspense for Berkley and Sourcebooks, and steamy romances for Harlequin Desire. With over two million books in print in more than twenty countries, she has also celebrated five RITA finals, three Maggie Award of Excellence finals and a Bookseller’s Best win. A former theater school director and university teacher, she holds a Master’s degree in Theater from UNC-Greensboro and a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts (with minors in both English and Education) from the College of Charleston. Catherine and her family are also active volunteers in animal rescue, having fostered more than fifty puppies and special needs dogs for their local shelter.
What was the most memorable research trip you’ve made?
Animals and animal rescue frequently play a role in my books. One year for our anniversary, my hubby and I road tripped to transport a shelter dog from Florida to Texas. We didn’t have any money left for gifts or a special meal out, but knowing we’d saved a life was the best gift possible!
Please share with us the most interesting stories law enforcement professionals have told you?
I have a source/friend in our local police department and he told me a funny story when our families all went out to eat last week. He participated in the investigation into a suspected meth lab. To achieve the necessary search warrant, he and fellow police detectives were sifting through the trash. They found a fortune from a fortune cookie that read, “A surprise visitor awaits you.” They also found the evidence needed – and surprise. The meth lab had police “visitors.”
Are there any stories that have made you cry, laugh, stunned you or rendered you speechless when you heard it, that you had to incorporate them in your fiction?
Hot Zone is set in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake – not at all funny and definitely a stressful setting. But I knew pacing wise the book would need moments of relief from the tension. I was able to interview a former Air Force pararescue jumpers (PJs) who had participated in a similar type of rescue. The scene where all the PJs run out into the street wearing only towels was inspired by one of his stories!
What is the most disgusting fact you’ve woven a story around?
Whenever my kids complain about a food on their plate, my husband almost always mentions having to eat rabbit eyeballs in survival training. That gross factoid may have worked its way into a book or two!
How would you say you have evolved as a writer over time?
I used to be a very strict plotter, having the entire book completely mapped out before I began. Now I work with a brief outline and trust myself more to fly into the mist when writing.
When you’re not writing, what are your favorite ways to relax and have some fun?
I’m an active volunteer at my local Humane Society and also serve on their board of directors. My family and I foster puppies and special needs dogs until they’re ready to be adopted into a forever home. I also enjoy reading, walking on the beach, going to movies – and naps.
I have found that some authors listen to music while they write. Do you listen to music or is it something that is distracting to you?
Oddly enough, I keep the TV on most of the time while I’m working – probably to cancel out the noise in my house.
Do you ever fear writer’s block or that you’ll let your audience down?
I have an amazing critique partner – Harlequin Blaze & Historical author Joanne Rock. We read/critique for each other in three-chapter increments as we’re writing. So if I’m ever at a point where the story stops flowing, I pick up the phone and call Joanne. We can usually talk through any “writer’s block” in an hour long conversation.
As for the other part of your question, I always think about the reader and hope that the book I’m working on will be enjoyable. I don’t take for granted the privilege of having someone pay for and spend hours of their life on a book of mine.
Do you belong to any writers groups and what do you feel you have gained from the social sites?
I belong to the Romance Writers of America – a valuable group for industry info, networking and friendship. I very much enjoy chatting with readers online and can be found almost daily on Facebook and on Twitter.
Are there any characters in your books that represent you? How much of the characters and story lines come from people you know and your own experiences versus your imagination?
I like to think that each of character is a unique individual. I may see a quirk or trait in a live person that sparks an idea – such as a military guy who’s wearing an unconventional doo-rag. The doo-rag may have come from a real person, but the character that grows from that doo-rag is specific to that story, that book, that plot.
How do you keep your characters fresh and the plot exciting?
I look for quirky traits – we all have them – that something that makes us totally different from anyone else. I believe book characters should be equally unique in their habits, traits, speech, mannerisms.
Can you tell us one thing about yourself that most of your fans don’t already know?
I won’t eat any food that has green peas in it. Seriously, I’m a big baby about it. (Same goes for all beans except string beans.) So yes, I too have been reminded by my husband that he ate rabbit eyeballs in survival training.
What do you feel are the benefits of the new electronic readers to the environment?
There are so many angles to that, I can’t claim to have a definitive answer. On the one hand, we’re using less paper, which is good for trees. There are less transportation and storage issues. But then, we also now have all these plastic devices that will have to go somewhere when they break. However, for me, most of what I read is digital now, mostly because I live so far away from bookstores.
What impact do electronic readers create on the bottom line for authors in the end?
I appreciate having my entire backlist made readily available to readers. Since I’ve written a few series, it’s helpful that readers have access to all the books. To help make that easier, I have a feature on my website that allows readers to sort my backlist by series.
Is there anything you would like to add to this interview?
I have an exciting packed year with seven books on the shelves, including: Pursued (March, Berkley), Honorable Intentions (April, Harlequin Desire), and Under Fire (May, Sourcebooks).
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