Tuesday , March 20 2018
Home / Books / Book Interviews / Interview: Lindsay McKenna, Author of ‘Wolf Haven’
I’m always contemplating and looking at the horizon of what engages me emotionally to write the next series.

Interview: Lindsay McKenna, Author of ‘Wolf Haven’

Lindsay McKennaLindsay McKenna wears several “hats” in her life: writer, homeopath, and flower essence creator.

She joined the U.S. Navy at age 18, in her father’s footsteps. After three brutal days of nonstop, eight-hour testing in boot camp, Lindsay was told that she had the highest mechanical score since the WAVES (Women in the Navy) had been formed back in the early 1940s. As no mechanical jobs were open to women in 1964, Lindsay was asked to pick another career field. She chose meteorology because it was about nature.

Because she went into the military, this experience became the backbone of her writing—she is credited with writing the first military romance novel (Captive of Fate, 1983, Silhouette Special Edition) and has created a thriving subgenre within the romance field. Her many experiences in the U.S. Navy are backdrop for her understanding of the military in general, and also for her very successful Morgan’s Mercenaries, which is an ongoing series for Silhouette Books.

Lindsay loves to hear from her readers and loves to know what they’d like to see her write next. Please visit her Web site at www.lindsaymckenna.com.  And visit her blog at www.talesfromechocanyon.blogspot.com.

Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Wolf Haven. When did you start writing and what got you into Romantic Military Suspense?

Thank you!  I’m very excited about this latest book of the Wyoming Series.  Luckily, all my series books are stand-alone and can be read by themselves.  Readers who love the series will see some characters from other books pop up, but the story is always about the hero/heroine.

I started writing at age 13.  I didn’t get my foot in the door of publishing until I was 35 years old.  I had 22 years worth of trying to write and one thousand reject slips to prove it.  But, once I got into publishing, I’ve stayed now, for thirty-three years, 135 books published thus far, 23 million sold and in 22 foreign languages.  I have always been an innovator in the romance publishing world.

I originated and created this sub-genre back in 1983, Silhouette Special Edition, Captive of Fate.  Until that time, there were no stories about military heroes.  I went on to also create the 3-book series concept in mid-1990’s via Silhouette, too.  And I had to write two series (Kincaid and Travis series) before Silhouette decided to take a chance on the concept.  You can go to: http://lindsaymckenna.com/book-series/ to find all my series, including these two pre-series before my publisher decided to take a chance on the concept of tying three books together consecutively with inter-connection between all of them.

Wolf Haven 2And when they did finally take this giant new step in a new direction, the FIRST series (romantic military suspense) came out as Love and Glory. The three books were the story of the Trayhern children:  Morgan, Noah, and Alyssa Trayhern.  They are world famous today.  And, I continue to write about the Trayhern family children now.  This is the longest, most continuous family saga in the romance industry.

Readers can learn more about the family at: http://lindsaymckenna.com/trayhern-family-tree/

What was your inspiration for Wolf Haven?

Wolf Haven embodies the symbology of the story as well as the characters.  Wolves, as you know, are a pack.  They’re a team animal and one works with the other to accomplish a goal.  A haven is a place to feel safe, protected, calm, quiet or relaxed.  In the story, the hero, Grayson (Gray) McCoy, is an ex-SEAL.  His mother is a world renown wolf expert and wildlife biologist.  Gray grew up with wolves and puppies as a child.  He knows wolves well.  When he leaves the SEALs, he eventually lands a job at Iris Mason’s Elk Horn Ranch near Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  She is putting up a one-hundred acre wildlife preserve for the dude ranch visitors who come to the ranch.  Plus, she’s pro environmental, loves wolves and wants to help them out.

Gray loves being the boss of the new wildlife center, knows wild animals well because he had eighteen years of learning from his world famous mother.  And like the SEALs, who always work as a seamless team, the wolves work in a similar way out in the wild.  He has a special connection with them.

The heroine, Sky Pascal, RN, is ex-US Navy.  She  was in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan with a surgeon flying to an FOB to save a man’s life.  She was one of two people who survived it and was captured and tortured by the Taliban.  SEALs rescued her nearly two weeks later, but by then, she was badly damaged physically.  And she acquired PTSD as a result of her torture.  The Navy released her later and she couldn’t hold a job in the States.  Finally, she answered the ad for a nurse wanted at the Elk Horn Ranch.  And Iris Mason hired her.  For Sky, the ranch became her haven.

Sky is fragile, fighting to be ‘normal’ and hold a job.  She never expects to run into Gray McCoy, or find another kind of haven in his arms.  Gray wasn’t looking to fall in love, either.  Each brings something to the other and something deeper and more tender develops between them.  The wolf puppies, caring for them, comes naturally to Sky.  Just by her presence, she begins to heal Gray’s past heartache.  Only, even in a haven, there can be danger.  And Sky’s healing could be undone by the acts of one man.

Who is your target audience?

My readers enjoy romantic suspense.  I have many who specifically enjoy military romantic suspense, which I created in 1983.  The sub-genre has gone on to suddenly, after thirty years of me writing books about it, as well as other authors, to be highly popular. That’s very gratifying to see an idea take off and then become a genre in its own right thanks to readers.

I’ve also written historicals and paranormals as well, over the length of my writing career.  I basically write what taps into my passions as a writer.  I don’t like getting pigeon holed into just one type of writing because I’d get bored.  Instead, what interests me is where I write. Because I grew up in rural West of the US, I created Wyoming Series about cowboys and ranching.  And because I was in the US Navy and have a military background, I created Shadow Warriors Series. Both are with Harlequin.  And who knows where my heart and passion will go next?  I’m always contemplating and looking at the horizon of what engages me emotionally to write the next series.

Many writers experience a vague anxiety before they sit down to right. Can you relate to this?

Not at all.  When I sit down to write, I’m excited to get into the story to see what the characters are going to do, or say next.  I’m just as riveted to the creation of the story as the readers are when they read in an ebook/paperback/audiobook.  I wake up in the morning wondering what is going to happen in the next chapter with my characters.  And on a good day, I may write up to four chapters (20 pages each).  On a standard day, I write a chapter.  They are rough draft, of course, but later, I edit them.

I’m not built like a lot of writers.  I’ve never experienced vague anxiety.  Just the opposite.  My characters are as real as I am.  Plus, I can move inside each one, feel what they are feeling, hear what they are think or speaking aloud.  I feel how they move, where their pain is at and how it’s affecting them everywhere else.  I don’t know if you want to call this symbiosis or some other metaphysical explanation, but I’ve always had this unique skill.  It was in place in me since I was thirteen years old.  

George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”

I’d say you need to find another way to make a living, then.  And that if you do publish, you won’t publish many books.  You’ll burn yourself out.  You won’t stay in that career very long.  George and I are opposites of one another, thank goodness.  I don’t find the process of writing and creating a story anything like this.  When I wake up every morning, I’m gung ho to grab my coffee, get dressed, and sit down at my computer and open up the chapter I’m going to write.  I want to see what happens next.  I have a direct emotional tie with each character.  I’ve always had the capacity (skill?) to get INSIDE each character.  I can move from one to the other at will and check in with them.  I can feel where they are emotionally, what they are thinking, how they see what is going on externally around them, and I see it through their eyes….what they notice, what flags their attention.

I never know what my characters are going to do with the external friction or challenges they must face.  It’s as interesting to me as it is the reader.  I can do plotting, no problem, but if I do, my characters always take things into their hands and the plot goes another direction. A better one, as a matter of fact.

For example, in Wolf Haven, I had a villain in mind, but as I got into Sky Pascal’s being, I suddenly realized just how important her family was to her. Especially her father who had been in Marine Corps and seen black ops duty in Kuwait in that war in the 1990’s.  And the book took a decided turn with a secondary plot between daughter and father, that it didn’t have before.  And it was really heart wrenching, painful and beautiful to watch both of them struggle with what war had done to both of them.  And how the PTSD had haunted both of them, but in different ways.   It’s a powerful secondary story in the book, and I’m sure my readers will appreciate it because this is happening in our country right now.  

What is your advice for aspiring authors?

Write your passion.  If you don’t LOVE what you write, you’ll never make it in this business.  And it is a business.  The key here is your business is telling stories.  Whether novella, medium length or full length novels, it’s about the story.  If you are doing something you love, that you have a passion for, you will continue in it through the ups and downs, through rejections and near misses, until someday, you will publish.

Of course, the flip side of this, nowadays, is since anyone can publish anything, whether it’s really ready to be published, is a whole other matter.  Writers who want to make a career out of this, should tread very thoughtfully over doing this too soon, when their writing has not yet matured.  I had to wait twenty-two years and worked at writing every day, refining my skills, understanding my ‘voice’ and paying my dues.  And I don’t believe a critique group can give you their blessing on whether what you write is ready for prime time or not.

I see too many ‘young’ (meaning these are people who have been working five years or less at trying to learn the skill set of writing) jump the gun, throw out their story with or without someone who knows good story telling to give them good advice.  It’s important the young writer hone her/his skills, develop serious discipline (you write every day, no excuses, unless your dead), maintain a schedule and finish what you start.  Without this “muscle memory” being in place, the person will not last in today’s environment where series demand 3-4 books a year out of a writer.  Don’t be in a hurry.  Get your skills under your control, like moving a team of horses who are plowing a field.  

What do you love most about the writer’s life?

I love to travel a great deal.  I go where I want to set a future book.  We do a lot of individual kinds of adventuring because we go off the beaten track.  Also, when we travel, such as to Rome, Italy, we stayed seven days down in the heart of the city, walking probably five miles a day, getting to know the people, the food, the heartbeat and soul of the city, and breathing in that monumental historical culture which is to die for.   We’ve been to Asia, Europe, Central/South America, all over North America, Australia and New Zealand.  When I put a story somewhere, I’ve already been there and breathed it into my memory, lots of photos, lots of notes, and buy a lot of cookbooks and other types of books about the city/country.

For example, I’ve been to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, many, many times over the past two decades.  I love it because of the wildness, the real West, Nature and not a whole lot of people under foot.  I’m an amateur photographer and going into Grand Tetons National Park, about ten miles north of this town, is one of the richest wild animal photographic opportunities I’ve ever found.  There is buffalo, antelope, coyote, wolf, deer, elk and moose, to name just a few.  Being able to set Wolf Haven in one of my favorite spots on the globe, is always a joy.

I can impart certain factual information about the area to my readers because I’ve been to the place and know it intimately.  The sights, the sounds, the smells, taste and what I hear are all recorded throughout this book, as a result.  I love to give readers a great love story, but I also love educating them as well from my own experiences into a given area.

[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00L0XO1XI]


About Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults and has authored over a dozen books, some of which have won awards. Her stories, reviews, interviews and articles have appeared on numerous publications such as The Writer, Writer’s Journal, Multicultural Review, and Bloomsbury Review, among many others. Represented by Serendipity Literary.