Wednesday, April 15, 2009

by Suzanne
Oh hey, y'all! Give me a second to finish putting on my Kevlar vest. There! Now I'm ready to sit and chat with my good friend, Kay Thomas, who once again has brought us another intriguing book with bullets flying.

Suz: Kay, welcome back to the Lair. BULLETPROOF TEXAS is your second novel for Harlequin Intrigue and this is set, of course, in the Hill Country of Texas. Tell us a little bit about this book.

Kay, eyeing the vest: Sure, Suz. Thanks so much to you and the Banditas for having me back in "the Lair" today.

The bulletproof action continues when a pharmaceutical research scientist and a brooding caving guide are forced to work together extracting cancer-eating bacteria from a flooding Texas Hill Country cave. As the sparks fly and passions rise, so do the dangers when a competitor decides this potential cure shouldn't see the light of day--and is willing to kill anyone who gets in the way.

Suz: Can you tell us how you came up with the idea for BULLETPROOF TEXAS?

Kay: My family and I were in Carlsbad Caverns a couple of years ago for Spring break. I was listening to an audio tour that talked about cancer-eating bacteria found in Lechuguilla, another nearby cave. This bacteria is showing promise for cancer treatment in the research world. From the moment I heard the details of the discovery, I was fascinated with the idea of setting a romantic suspense novel against a cavern backdrop. I'd just finished a manuscript with a biomedical edge and a pharmaceutical company's machinations as part of the plot that would later be my debut novel, BETTER THAN BULLETPROOF (Harlequin Intrigue, January 2009). This new idea seemed the perfect fit for a sequel.

Suz: Your hero in BULLETPROOF TEXAS, Zach Douglas is a Park Ranger with a fascinating background. Can you tell us how you used it in the book?

Kay: Zach is the twin brother of Tammy Douglas from BETTER THAN BULLETPROOF. In the opening scene of BULLETPROOF TEXAS he makes the discovery of a lifetime (Devil's Hollow Cavern) and gets the news of Tammy's murder, both within moments of each other. The next scene takes place three months later. He's quit his job with the park service and is now a free-lance caving guide for the heroine, Maxine (Max) O'Neil.

Suz: Maxine O'Neil isn't your typical research scientist. How has she had to prove herself in her field and why?

Kay: Max is a woman with the body of a "Hooter's girl" and the brain of a rocket scientist. On the surface she appears to have it all. But her success has come at a huge price and her personal life is a wreck. She's just left her unfaithful fiance' at home in New York.

As a top pharmaceutical researcher in her field, her looks have been a handicap and she isn't always taken seriously in this "boys club" because of her stunning appearance. Over the years she's developed a very "hard case" personna. From the moment she and Zach first interact, there are fireworks.

Suz: The relationship between Max and Zach sizzles on the pages, are you finding it harder or easier to pack both steamy romance and plot into the category size books?

Kay: In this case it was easier to write because these characters just couldn't keep their hands off each other. Their relationship is more intense from the beginning and their personalities dictate a more physical relationship from the start.

Zach is angry with himself that he's attracted to a woman who infuriates, yet fascinates him at the same time. What he feels for Max breaks through the wall he has put up since his sister's death.

Max is drawn to Zach despite all her best intentions to keep him at arm's length. She's very aware of her responsibilities on this project and being in charge at Devil's Hollow, plus she's just broken off her engagement. She doesn't feel she's in a good place for a relationship or a casual fling because of how it would look to the others on her research team. But all those objections fall away once she and Zach start spending time together. Their chemistry is unstoppable.

Suz, grinning at Kay: Okay, since we're good friends, I know you did some interesting research for BULLETPROOF TEXAS. Want to tell our readers how far you went to be authentic in your story?

Kay, rolling her eyes at Suz: Oooh, I knew you were going to ask me this. : )

Much of the book's action takes place in a cave and since I'm too claustrophobic and too chicken to try actual "on-my-belly-in-the-mud" caving, my husband and I went to a rock climbing gym for the climbing part of the research. I was determined to feel my rear end in the rappelling gear, to feel the exhilaration of sliding down that rope and to get great pictures for my website. (For the record, my agent begged me not to do this! She thought I might get hurt. I assured her I would be fine! Note to self. Always listen to your agent.)

After the initial stomach churning experience of climbing to the top of the thirty-foot wall, (Did I mention I have this thing about heights, too?), I was having a fabulous time. Once I got over the nausea and rappelled down a couple of times, I was feeling very proud of myself...quite accomplished. What had I ever been afraid of? My husband was "on belay." He does lots of this kind of stuff a lot, so I wasn't worried.

A few minutes later, on my last climb of the afternoon we had a major "equipment malfunction." I was about twelve feet from the ground and my rope kinked. The ascender thingie (that keeps you from falling) jammed and I plummeted straight down. Flat on my back. The earth moved. Some of you may have felt it there in Australia. I scared those teenagers running the place half to death. Not to mention my sweetheart. It wasn't pretty.

After an MRI and multiple hours on a massage therapist's table, the doctor decided I did not have a compression fracture and cleared me to travel. For a month I had been planning (and packing) for a big writers' conference in San Francisco that started a few days after my umm...tumble. The doctor gave me a raft of muscle relaxers, anti-inflammatories and pain-killers to get me through RWA National. This conference is always a wonderful and wild time, but a backache in high heels, even when you haven't fallen on your rear the week before.

Suz glances over the rim of her glasses in that omnipotent way of hers: And what did you ultimately learn from this adventure?

Kay, laughs: Well, this could be a whole other blog post about how I learned not to be stupid while researching.

Number one. About my agent.
Always listen to your agent. After I fell, the first thing that ran through my head (as I was lying flat on my back and trying to breath again) was: "My agent told me not to do this. I should've listened."

Number two. About my research.
Always, always in these kinds of situations rent the "how to DVD" and
interview the hot athlete. Have your picture made with him for your website (The photo of my behind in that sling is something that will never see the light of day!)

Number three. About my husband.
When I've had an MRI because my husband thinks he dropped me, I can buy as many pairs of shoes as I want and he won't say a word. In fact, he may ask if I want to buy a purse to go with them! However, I do not recommend this as a path to Jimmy Choo.

Number four. About myself.
I am a writer. I do not necessarily have to experience things to write about them. (I know, not exactly an epiphany, but apparently I need to be reminded of this "truth" from time to time!)

Suz: BULLETPROOF TEXAS is Kay Thomas's second novel from Harlequin Intrigue and is on US store shelves this week. Romantic Times gave BULLETPROOF TEXAS 4 stars calling it "taut, tricky and worth the read." Cataromance gave it 4 ½ stars calling it "non-stop action, nail-biting suspense and fiery passion." Her debut novel BETTER THAN BULLETPROOF was released in the US in January and in Australia in March. For excerpts, to enter Kay's April contest, and more please visit www.KayThomas.net.

Kay: So, readers, what’s the silliest thing you’ve ever done against good advice? Or if you really don’t want to share that particular experience ‘cause trust me, I know we’ve all had some “never-want-to-think-about-it-again” adventures. What’s the best thing you ever did against good advice?

You’ve already heard about one of my sillier moments. Now for the best thing I ever did against good advice….I got married! I’d only known my husband seven weeks when he proposed. Some friends thought we’d lost our minds. But I knew this was the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. Twenty-one years later—we’re still together and ridiculously happy. Not listening to those friends was the best thing I ever did against good advice!

So…your turn…best thing you’ve done against good advice or silliest mistake made against good advice? One random commenter will get a copy of my new Harlequin Intrigue, BULLETPROOF TEXAS.

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