Q – Is it true that this book was originally conceived as a straight-up romance?
A – A very nice editor for a romance publisher contacted me after reading Protecting Parker and asked if I’d be willing to try writing a book for them. They were interested in a “fish out of water” story. You know the type – rich alpha male falls in love with poor shop girl and romantic problems ensue. She thought it might be interesting if the female was military. I gave the idea some serious thought for about two weeks and even wrote an opening chapter to go in that direction. But I quickly found myself wandering off topic and wondering what would happen if they weren’t really embassy guards, but a special ops team. What if there was a bomb at an embassy party? What if this was about an attempt to steal a new weapon? What if…What if… What if… And that was the end of the standard romance novel. I just couldn’t do it. I enjoy a good love story, but only if there are plenty of explosions and small arms fire to go along with it.
Q – How did you decide on the type of terrorist group?
A – In talking over the premise with a friend, I mentioned that I was going to set off a bomb at an embassy event in London and, out of the blue, she asked if they were part of the LeT organization. She’d just finished reading a book about the Mumbai bombings and it seemed like a possibility to her because there is a large Pakistani population in London. Her question sent me in search of more information and the next thing I knew, I had the terrorists, the plot and the plan.
Q – Were you worried about the plausibility of the Marines doing some of these things in London?
A – Not really. Putting them with the British Marines in a joint mission made this work. We put boots on the ground in many places so why not work together with our allies. There are a lot of documentaries about the FBI and DEA working in foreign countries, so I just modeled this on that concept. I also know of several military members who served in joint service assignments with foreign military units. Who knows what we have people doing where?
Q – Your side characters are often unique and interesting and become quite endearing. Where did the idea for Geoff come from?
A – I was waiting for my appointment at the VA one day, and I sat next to a man who was heavily scarred. He’d been burned aboard a ship in World War II. He was utilizing the old style hook prosthetic for his left hand. Across from us was a young man who’d been wounded in Iraq, and he was learning to use his newer style prosthetic. They were comparing notes, and I was fascinated by the openness as they discussed the differences. The older veteran had the liveliest eyes and was incredibly engaging. As usual, the doctors were running behind, so we spent almost 45 minutes together in that waiting room. It was an amazing experience for me. I asked a lot of questions and they both willingly shared their experiences. This happened at about the same time that Sergeant First Class Leroy A. Petry received his Medal of Honor. He’s using the newer generation prosthetic that allows him to grip and squeeze properly. It was big news when he shook the president’s hand utilizing his prosthetic.
Q – Several of your books touch on the subject of sexual harassment and assault in the military. Will this continue to be a theme?
A – Only if it specifically serves the story. I don’t have any hidden agendas or particular desire to write about the subject. There will always be those (inside the military and out) who abuse their authority or wish to impose their will on someone else. If I do approach a subject like this, I try to do so as directly and honestly as possible.
Q – What’s your favorite part of the Embassy Guards?
A – Probably the relationship between C.J. and her parents. I like that her father won’t say goodbye. And her mother is just doing what moms do. I love that her mom is going to yell at someone in the chain of command about her supposedly safe assignment being anything but safe. It becomes a bit of comic relief, but it’s also a very true part of deployed life that the parents are stuck with what they see on the news and don’t know if their kids are part of the news or safely away. All the military beta readers loved that I had these big tough operators digging in their pockets for their phones to call their moms.