A new Susan Stoker book release generally sends her fans into hyper-ventilating excitement. So, everyone have your paper bags ready. Her fifth Delta Force Heroes book, Rescuing Kassie (Delta Force Heroes), arrives May 15 and is now on pre-order. Let the one-clicking commence.
Romantic suspense is a popular genre in Romancelandia, and Susan’s books have kept fan swooning over SEALs, Delta Force operatives, soldiers, cops and cowboys for the last few years. A prolific writer (i.e. almost the definition of prolific), Susan has several series available in e-book, paperback and audio, not to mention titles landing on the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal Bestseller lists–more than once.
Susan stopped by LadySmut today to share her thoughts on the enduring love of men in uniform and what’s next for her hot heroes and strong heroines, and gave us a peek into her latest, Rescuing Kassie, with a new excerpt (bottom of this post).
Interview with Susan Stoker
ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: The romantic suspense genre seems to be growing, especially where military are involved. Do you think this is indicative of our world today, meaning it tracks with our fast, action-packed times?
SUSAN STOKER: I’m honestly not sure why it’s growing…I mean, I know why I write it and why I like to read it…men in uniform. 🙂 I simply think they make great Heroes because they’re ALREADY heroes. Who better to “save” someone, than a man in the military? But honestly, romantic suspense hits that “damsel in distress” trope that I think a lot of women enjoy. Just because we’re strong women in our everyday lives doesn’t mean we don’t think about being able to put our problems in someone else’s hands.
ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: Amen. I mean, SEALS! SEALS! SEALS! Oh, sorry, I got a little excited there. In your Seals of Protection series, a lot of saving goes on. What is it about the SEAL hero? Why do women swoon? Is it really because they can get you out of any jam? All that alpha energy? Or the fact they are so selfless in their service? Or something else?
SUSAN STOKER: I think it’s the fantasy of the man in uniform saving someone. Mr. Stoker was in the Army for twenty-one years and we were married for seven of those, and I’ve certainly seen a lot of men (and women) who wouldn’t be able to find their way out of a paper bag nonetheless try to rescue someone else. LOL
I’m a huge fan of the damsel-in-distress trope, and who better to rescue you than a hot man in uniform? SEALs are appealing because they’re a little mysterious, andthey have to be super in shape because of what they do and to even become a SEAL in the first place. So to have them swoop down and carry off the heroine is just such a heart-swooning image.
ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: Moving on to Delta force in your Delta Force Heroes series….I hear the Delta Force are the most secretive of the special ops world. I’m dying to know how you do your research! But, in the meantime, how do you differentiate your different special ops guys? SEALS from Delta? And is it important to do so?
SUSAN STOKER: I’d tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.
HA! Just kidding. You’re right, there’s not a lot of information about them, and that makes them even more mysterious and fun to imagine them swooping in to save the heroine.
My books aren’t really “military heavy.” And by that I mean a lot of time the drama that happens isn’t related to the military at all. The heroes just happen to be Delta Force (or a SEAL). But to answer your question, I differentiate them because of where they live and how they talk (using Army lingo). I believe that I don’t need to be super specific with guns, missions, uniforms, ranks, etc. It’s not necessary for the story. I let my reader use her/his imagination to fill in the blanks.
ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: In your Ace Security series, you have a band of brothers who launch an agency to help people free themselves from abuse. How did this series come about?
SUSAN STOKER: When I wrote Justice for Boone, the Hero was abused by his ex-girlfriend. There aren’t a lot of books out there where the male is the one being abused. But it happens. Just as I like to write about “real” issues out in the world, men being abused is one such issue. It’s just not talked about as much as women being abused.
As far as ideas, I watch a lot of crime shows. I’m totally addicted. Disappeared, Forensic Files, CSI, Criminal Minds, etc. are all great places to get a nugget, and then my imagination makes up the rest.
ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: In your Badge of Honor series, you turned to cowboys and law enforcement. What called you to write those kind of heroes? How are they different from your SEALs, Ace and Delta Force guys?
SUSAN STOKER: Man in uniform…need I say more? 🙂 Seriously, again, it’s the saving the heroine thing. Who better to rush into a burning building and carry the heroine out than a fireman? Who better to save the heroine from a gun wielding lunatic, than a police officer? And honestly, they AREN’T a lot different. I always tell people, I could put my team of SEALs or Deltas in the BOH series and it wouldn’t be a lot different.
ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: You do the strong, selfless women with tragic backstories and the alpha males who find them really well. The women also seem quite supportive of one another. Do you take anything from your real world experiences and import them into your stories? And, what is it about this theme that attracts you as a writer?
SUSAN STOKER: I think close relationships with other women is something a lot of people are missing in their lives and it’s wonderful to read about close friendship circles like this. I know I would love to have a closer circle myself. I’ve moved a lot in my life and it seems as if those close friends have always been out of reach for me. So it’s a bit of “wishful thinking” on my part.
ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: Your characters also deal with some dark stuff like abusive pasts, murder, trauma. Would you consider your books on the darker side or most realistic because that stuff happens in real life all the time?
SUSAN STOKER: I am very “mean” to my heroines. And I’m honest about that. A lot of it is fiction, but I also do that to show exactly how strong my heroines are. I mean, they take a beating (sometimes literally) and keep on going. I don’t really consider them “dark” because I don’t go into a ton of details with some of the situations, but again, women are living these kinds of life all over the world. So even though I write fiction, for many readers, it’s not.
ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: Alabama, Mozart, Summer, Rayne. You have a lot of interesting character names! How do you go about naming your characters?
SUSAN STOKER: I definitely use websites for baby names, but I also stalk social media, too. The name Jessyka is actually one of my readers. As is Adeline. Sometimes I see a name and just love it so much I want to use it in my books. Other times the names just come to me. But if you are a friend of mine on social media, don’t be surprised if I steal your first or last name sometime. It’s the best place to “research.” Ha!
ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: What is next for you, writing-wise? What can we expect in the future?
SUSAN STOKER: I’ve got a busy year planned, with a book coming out every month from May to December. Some are novellas, but most are full-length novels. You can expect more of the same in 2018. I like what I write, and I don’t have any plans to veer off in a different direction.
ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: What is your secret sauce for writing so many books so quickly? Asking for a friend….Seriously, you are so prolific. What is your writing process, and how long does it take you to go from idea to completion?
SUSAN STOKER: I can type really fast. 🙂 Okay, that’s not totally it, but I’m type A. Once I start a book, I get obsessed until I finish it. That means writing up to 7 to 10K words a day until it’s done. When I’m really into the story and it’s flowing well, I can manage to finish a full length book in two weeks. Then once I’m done, I don’t write anything for a couple of weeks…to let my brain re-fresh. Then I start again. I’m a pantser. I start out a book knowing how the characters meet and what the drama at 85% is going to be. Then I just start writing. My imagination takes over.
I also write “ahead.” Deadlines would never work for me. I have friends who can write a book right up to a deadline, but that’s not me. I’ve finished all the books coming out in 2017 (first drafts) and I’ll be starting on 2018 books soon.
ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: What is one questions readers ask you all the time? And what do you wish they ask?
SUSAN STOKER: What my favorite book/character is. I honestly don’t have one. I love all the stories and characters. I wouldn’t have been able to write the books if I didn’t.
I’m pretty open with my readers. They ask me stuff all the time and I can’t think of anything I didn’t want to answer. In fact, I probably give them TOO much info about upcoming books and plots sometimes. Ha.
But, how about, ”do you like what you do?”
Absolutely. I used to be a University Registar and not a day goes by when I miss it. There might be days where I struggle with writing, or marketing, or dealing with people, but when push comes to shove…I feel incredibly lucky to be able to make a living using my imagination and writing stories. I just want to say THANK YOU to every single person who has ever bought one of my books. It means the world.
ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: Thanks for being here, Susan!
The LadySmut Fast Lane
We ask, Susan Stoker tells….
- Beach or Mountains? Mountains
- Coffee, Tea or a favorite alcoholic drink? (you can name it) Midori Sour
- Seal, Delta, Cowboy or Cop? (menage is a completely valid answer) Um…ALL of the above!
- Driving the motorcycle or riding on the back? Riding on the back
- Favorite season? Spring
- Dream vacation? Maui, Hawaii
Excerpt from Rescuing Kassie
After she nodded at each of the men, Truck said, “You ladies want some punch? I’m going to get a round.”
Kassie looked over to where the large man had indicated and flinched. She’d been looking for the grog bowl, and wasn’t sure how she’d missed it. On a long table against the opposite wall were two large punch bowls.
“I don’t want any grog,” Kassie blurted.
“Grog? Did she say grog?”
The murmured questions came from Hollywood’s friends, but Kassie only had eyes for Hollywood. “I don’t know what I did wrong, but please don’t make me drink it.” She knew she was panicking, but couldn’t help it. The grog bowl was one thing she’d researched that was true about Richard’s farce of a military function.
“Kass—” Hollywood began, but she cut him off.
“I promise I’ll be good. I won’t embarrass you. Just don’t make me drink it. I’ll gag. I know I will. I just—”
“Kassie,” Hollywood said sternly, putting his hands on either side of her neck and forcing her to look up at him. “There isn’t a grog bowl here. It’s punch. Just punch.”
Her brows furrowed, Kassie looked up at him in confusion. She gripped his wrists as if her life depended on it. She saw nothing but concerned eyes looking down at her. Didn’t hear his friends whispering to each other. “Punch?”
“Yeah, Kass. Plain ol’ watered-down Hi-C, most likely. Fruit punch. Not grog.”
She swallowed hard. “Are you sure? There’s always grog. I Googled it.”
Hollywood turned his head, but didn’t take his eyes from hers. “Blade. Can you tell Kassie the grog bowl tradition?”
“Sure. They’re commonplace at dining-ins. It’s a tradition dating back to the Knights of the Round Table. Because of the weight of armor back in the day, it was hard to move and get a drink. So it was used as a punishment for someone who was out of order or unruly. The same thing applies today. There’s usually an alcoholic and non-alcoholic version and people who are found to be in violation of any kind of rule have to drink from the grog bowl.”
“And what’s a dining-in?” Hollywood asked, still holding Kassie’s eyes.
“It’s a formal military ceremony for members of a unit to foster camaraderie,” Blade said immediately.
“And are spouses, girlfriends, or significant others invited?”
“No,” Blade said succinctly.
Hollywood’s eyes narrowed, and he asked Kassie in a low voice, “When did you partake of a grog bowl, sweetheart?”
“I…uh…” Suddenly Kassie was more than aware of all the men and women around her, staring. She swallowed hard, embarrassed, but the terror hadn’t left her.
“Did your ex take you to an event with a grog bowl? You saw people drinking from it?” Hollywood pushed.
“He had an event at his place one night that included it,” Kassie told him, then bit her lip. “I told you about that. His friends dressed up in their fancy uniforms and came over. I usually messed up the most and had to drink from it all night. They thought it was funny to make me.”
Hollywood’s eyes closed momentarily and Kassie swore she heard one of his friends say “motherfucker” under their breath, but before she could say anything, Hollywood’s eyes opened and he said earnestly, “I’m sorry you had to do that, Kassie. As Blade said, the grog bowl is reserved for special soldiers-only functions. I can’t deny it’s gross, we’ve all had our share, but it’s supposed to be all in good fun. And I swear to you, all that’s in the punch bowl tonight is punch. Nothing gross. Okay?”
Kassie nodded. Embarrassed now. She’d made a fool out of herself. She should’ve known Richard hadn’t been following proper military protocol. The grog bowl was a real thing, but only for closed ceremonies…not for friends or family members.
“I don’t think I like this ex of yours,” Hollywood said, straightening, and reaching down for her hand once more.
“That makes two of us,” Kassie said with a nervous chuckle.
“Now that we have that out of the way…anyone want a cup of watered-down, barely drinkable fruit punch?” Truck asked dryly.
“Oh, with that description, how can we say no?” Emily asked with a laugh.
“Four cups, coming right up,” Truck said, lifting his chin at Kassie in what she thought was supposed to be a reassuring gesture, but in fact was just confusing.
Pre-Order Rescuing Kassie (Delta Force Heroes)
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Elizabeth SaFleur writes contemporary erotic romance and she’s not afraid to get graphic about it — “it” being the sex, the BDSM or Washington, DC society, which she regularly features in her series, the Elite Doms of Washington. Join her Sexy, Saucy, Sometimes Naughty exclusive reader’s group or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.