Friday, November 14, 2014

Featured Author: Lindsay McKenna

About the book:

New York Times bestselling author Lindsay McKenna brings readers back to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for another gripping, edge-of-your-seat romantic suspense!

U.S. Navy nurse Skylar Pascal is struggling to regain control of her life after a traumatic crash in Afghanistan that nearly destroyed her. After losing so much, an ideal job at the Elk Horn Ranch in Wyoming offers Sky something she thought she’d never find again—hope.

Former SEAL Grayson McCoy has his own demons. But something about Elk Horn’s lovely-yet-damaged new nurse Sky breaks something loose. Compassion—and passion. And even as Gray works with Sky to piece her confidence back together, something deeper and more tender begins to unfurl between them. Something that could bring her back to life.

But not even the haven of Elk Horn Ranch is safe from dangers. And all of Sky’s healing could be undone by the acts of one malicious man.

The Jackson Hole series:

•    Book #1: Shadows from the Past
•    Book #2: Deadly Identity  
•    Book #3: Deadly Silence
•    Book #4: The Last Cowboy  
•    Book #5: The Wrangler 
•    Book #6: The Defender
•    Book #7: The Loner  
•    Book #8: High Country Rebel   

Interview with Lindsay McKenna  

Lindsay, what’s the story behind the title 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.

Tell us about your series. Is this book a stand alone, or do readers need to read the series in order?
Wolf Haven is book number nine of the Wyoming Series that I’m penning for Harlequin/HQN.  Each book is a stand alone book. But you will see characters from other books in them, as well. There are two matriarchs in the valley, Iris Mason of the Elk Horn Ranch and Gus  Hunter of the Bar H, are wonderful older women who are anchors to their family and those who work for them. The abiding power of older women who have a lifetime of wisdom, permeates each book. 

These are stories about people who either come back to the valley where Jackson Hole resides, or are drawn to the area. And regardless, there is suspense, danger and romance in the mix. All the books, including two more in 2015, will be placed in The first nine books, including Wolf Haven, are available. These are books about family and meeting the challenges of today’s world together, rather than individually. Family is the main theme running through this series. And those who have lost their family find a new one when they come to this area of Wyoming. 

How did you create the plot for this book?
Since I was in the US Navy and have a military background (and created the Military Romance genre in 1983), I write about military topics, veteran’s stories, or men/women who have been in the military and are now civilians. I’ve never been for water boarding, which the CIA uses on the enemy to drain them of information. I’ve read a number of reports of men who were water boarded (and were innocent) and how it changed their lives forever. And then to have our U.S. government say that water boarding is not “torture,” put me right over the edge on this particular topic. 

If you are ever water boarded, you will agree instantly that it IS torture. You will also agree that you’ll say ANYTHING to get the water from running into your nostrils and creating mock-suffocation within you. I wanted to illustrate this point so that my loyal readers could really “get it” up close and personal. I created Sky Pascal, a US Navy nurse, who is at the wrong place at the wrong time. She’s taken prisoner by the Taliban and water boarded off and on for two weeks. She is eventually rescued, but comes home a broken shell of her former self. 

The story is about healing from such trauma, how it forever alters a person’s life and their view on life, and that love can provide a new door opening up for Sky through ex-SEAL, Grayson McCoy. 

Which character did you most enjoy writing?
I loved writing about Sky Pascal. She was a good person, broken by war circumstances. Her father was in the Marine Corps, her mother a full blood Cheyenne Indian. She had a strong backbone, but even the strongest person can be brought to their knees and destroyed in the right circumstance. I like to write about people who are under severe stresses, challenges and must call on their most basic survival instinct and fight to live rather than die. It takes nothing to breathe air in and out all day long, never engaging with life. It takes real courage to LIVE your life and mix it up and get in there and fight for yourself. Sky had to do that. And I feel that the readers will find her sympathetic and be rooting for her all the way with each step she takes away from her trauma and begins to heal from it.  

Who are your favorite authors?
Most of my favorite authors are women military veterans who did serve or are currently serving their country. When they write a military romance, it’s the real deal. You know you’re going to get accuracy about the military, the environment and how people act/react in military settings. Toward that end, my favorite authors to read when I get time are: Merline Lovelace, Delores Fossen, Geri Krotow, and Jessica Scott.

What’s one pet peeve you have when you read?
Any author who writes a military romance and doesn’t even know that men and women in the US Navy are called SAILORS, and are not called “soldiers.”  Or they call a Marine a “soldier.” If a Marine was EVER within earshot and heard themselves referred to as a “soldier” they would immediately be in your face and let you know you screwed up (or most likely, far stronger words that that because they get very angry and testy when called a ‘solider’). The only “soldier” is someone who is in the US Army. Period. And by the way? Men and women in the Air Force are called “airmen.” It deeply disappoints me when authors make such basic mistakes. They’re not doing their research. These men and women give their lives for our country, the least they can do is get the basics straight of the military branch they serve in. I can’t tell you how much email I get from readers who are outraged about this basic mistake when they read another author’s military romance.  I always tell the reader to email that author and let them know. 

Where did you grow up?
In the first eighteen years of my life, my parents moved us twenty-two times and in six different Western states. We moved, roughly, every nine months. My father was in WW2, a sailor in the US Navy. He was blown off a gun turret on the USS Fletcher in the Pacific, and suffered horrendous injuries and PTSD. PTSD was not called that at the time. Back then, it was “battle fatigue.” 

My father was also part Eastern Cherokee, and he had the wanderlust in his genes. We seemed to move at least once or twice a year whether we needed to or not. I was born in San Diego, California (a great Navy city), but also saw states such as Oregon, Arizona, New Mexico, Montana, and Idaho along the way. For a writer, this is a great boon because I got to see a lot of different people of different mindsets and beliefs. You had the Navajo in Arizona and New Mexico, Mormons in Idaho, ranchers in Montana, timber folks in Oregon and so on. I went though schools like people go through a revolving door. I learned a lot of different lingo, slang and heard a lot of different vocalizations, depending what state we lived in. All of this, of course, helps me craft my characters in my book, so it was a good thing. 

What dumb things did you do during your college years?
Actually, I have a high school story that’s about a dumb as they come about college and it’s truly worth telling. In my junior year of high school, I took my SAT test. This SAT test was to determine your intelligence, IQ and of course, whether you were smart enough to go to college. I must say here that I was a poor student. I even had to go through remedial English in the 9th grade, flunked math in the 7th grade and almost got set back to the 3rd grade for a second time. I was NOT a book learner. There are six different types of “learners.”  Among them: Visual, auditory, tactile, kinesthetic, analytic, and  global learners. I’m a kinesthetic type. I like to be physical, move around, loved sports, learned by working with whatever it was (like learning how to take apart a car carburetor and putting back together again), making airplane models, loved gym, competitive in sports and exercise. 

The upshot of my SAT test was that I scored 650 on it. You must remember, 2400 is a “perfect” scores and of course, you’re a genius. So, when you come in with a 650, that’s not really great. You’re kinda looked at as the dumb kid in the high school. Further, I only made “C” grades while in high school, too. And as I went in to see my counselor about my SAT score, I saw that someone had written up in the corner of it: “Not recommended for college.” And I was told that by my sad looking counselor. Never once did they ever consider I was a bright kid, but their teaching methods weren’t reaching my intelligence.  And never mind that currently I have 135 books published in 22 foreign languages, with 23 million in sales. That’s not bad for someone who score 650 on the SAT test. Do you think?  What I really think is that 1 out of 6 kids is a “book learner” type and does well. But what about the other 5 types of kids? They all get left out. And of course, the SAT test is the golden standard in education. Sadly, too many children who had poor SAT tests listened to their counselor, realized they were not bright enough, and so bought the whole message. Fortunately, I did not.

How did you meet your husband? Was it love at first sight?
I met my husband, David, at a fencing class in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at the YWCA. He was one of the four fencing instructors to our class of fifteen women who wanted to learn how to fence. I had always been a lover of sports, super competitive and loved a challenge. I thought learning how to fence, to be a “Muskateer” waving her epee around, would be really cool. When I first met Dave, I thought he must be married and have three kids...he was that kind of easy going, patient, laid back kind of personality. Happily, I found out later he was single and didn’t have a girlfriend. Lucky me! We literally crossed swords when we met. And now, we’ve been married 41 years and he’s still my best friend, my confidant, my lover, and we love living our lives together through the ups and downs. At least, when there is a down in our lives, we have each other to comfort one another. When I write about love, I can write definitively about it because I’m very lucky in that I get to live it, day in and day out. I know what makes a good relationship and marriage work.  I put all kinds of info in my books about what makes love work between two people...and what does not.

Would you rather work in a library or a bookstore? 
For three years, I worked in the library of Medford Senior High School, in Medford, Oregon, where I graduated. I loved working in the library and my teacher and librarian was very maternal, an elder with such a beautiful heart and soul. I loved reading from the time my mother read to us when I was five years old onward. And to handle the books, smell them, read a little page or two as I put them back on the shelves, was like dessert to me. I’m an introvert, so I’m much happier in a quiet, gentle environment like a library...not in a busy, hectic, frantic bookstore scene. 

What’s one of your favorite quotes? 
“This too, shall end.” I know we all go through a day, weeks, months, and sometimes, years, where we are being tested, challenged and take on tremendous responsibility for ourselves and others. When I have a day, week or month like that (thank goodness, not too many years, but I’ve had those, too), I just mutter under my breath, “This too, shall end.” And it always does. It helps to say it out loud, however.  

What’s your favorite candy bar?
I love Heath Bars! I love the buttery toffee, the exquisite chocolate mixed in with it.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I 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 stay 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.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where in the world would it be?
Right here in the USA because after all my decades of travel, there simply is no place like the United States. People who don’t travel don’t realize this, however and that’s a shame. We live in a very wonderful country. 

About the author:

Lindsay McKenna is proud to have served her country in the U.S. Navy as an aerographer’s mate third class—also known as a weather forecaster. She is one of the original founders of the military romance subgenre and loves to combine heart-pounding action with soulful and poignant romance.

Connect with Lindsay:
Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Book trailer  

Buy the book:
Amazon | Audible