Today, Hartford Books Examiner welcomes Elizabeth Heiter.
Ms. Heiter writes novels of romantic and psychological suspense. Her newest release, Seduced by the Sniper (Harlequin, $5.50), was published last week and marks the second entry in The Lawmen series, which debuted with Disarming Detective and will continue with SWAT Secret Admirer in March. Her Profiler series featuring Evelyn Baine includes the titles Hunted and Vanished, both of which are available now. Ms. Heiter graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in English Literature; her research has taken her into the minds of serial killers, through murder investigations, and onto the FBI Academy’s shooting range. She is a member of International Thriller Writers and Romance Writers of America.
RT Book Reviews awarded Seduced by the Sniper 4 stars, noting: “a well-rounded story with a fair amount of romance, intrigue and suspense. Who doesn’t love a good bodyguard story with a hot hero?” Further, the legendary R.L. Stine offered high praise for the latest Profiler book: “VANISHED had me turning page after page … When you talk about our most-promising new thriller writers, put Elizabeth Heiter on the list!”
From the publisher:
Zeroed in on one woman…
In a twenty-four-hour period, FBI negotiator Chelsie Russell’s life changed. She was a promising negotiator for the Bureau, but then she failed to talk down a crazed gunman. A year later the killer has escaped, and sniper Scott Delacorte has stepped up to protect Chelsie. Scott is the FBI’s most infamous playboy—and the guy Chelsie had a one-night fling with just before the shooting. She’d dismissed him as the love ’em and leave ’em type, but now he stands between her and a killer. When the investigation takes an unexpected turn, powerful people become desperate to keep Scott and Chelsie silent—dead silent. Chelsie knows it’s time to put aside their past and trust this man who has the power to break her heart. Again.
Now, Elizabeth Heiter invites readers inside her web of intrigue …
1) You write both psychological suspense and romantic suspense. What, in your opinion, are the primary differences between the two – and how much crossover do you allow yourself when writing for a specific genre?
In psychological suspense, there’s a lot of focus on the “why” behind the crimes, and the psychological makeup of both the villain and the protagonist. In romantic suspense, the romance and suspense both play an important – and complementary – role in the story.
I do allow myself a fair amount of crossover between my psychological suspense and my romantic suspense. Obviously, they both share the suspense element, but my romantic suspense delves into the psychology and motivations and my psychological suspense still has a smaller romance element. While any good mystery or suspense requires a strong focus on figuring out “who,” I find “why” equally – if not more – interesting. I also think that allowing focus on the interpersonal relationships and character interactions – like you’d find in a romance – adds something to the suspense. The average reader may not have ever investigated a serial murder case, but they can probably relate to falling in love.
2) Your Profiler series features protagonist, Evelyn Baine, who is employed by the FBI. What kind of research do you do to capture authenticity (procedural, etc.) – and what creative liberties do you think are acceptable for the sake of a story?
It’s very important to me to be accurate in my stories. Before I created FBI profiler Evelyn Baine, I visited the FBI Academy at Quantico, I shot the weapons used by Special Agents, and I spoke with current and former agents about cases, procedures, and the life of a federal agent. I also did extensive research on psychological disorders, serial murder, and the process of creating a profile. I even practiced writing my own profiles – and tested them against the real profiles and perpetrators – before I ever wrote one for Evelyn to present.
When I write the books, I try to abide by how a Special Agent would really run an investigation, I use the proper weapons, and I create profiles the way they’d actually be written. Where I take creative liberties are in the smaller areas – for example, “my” version of BAU doesn’t force the agents to have such extremely defined specialties as they have in real life (Evelyn is a generalist). I do this in order to allow her a greater variety of investigations, but it’s one of the few areas where I specifically chose to make an alteration. Usually, when I take creative liberties, I try to explain it – for example, if a DNA test gets completed more quickly, I say they put a rush on it.
3) You strive to create strong heroines. How important is it to you to counter strength with vulnerability? Also, what’s the key to developing characters that may share some fundamental similarities but are still entirely distinct?
I think it’s essential to counter strength with vulnerability. To me, a strong heroine isn’t one who’s perfect – that would be boring (and unrealistic!). A strong heroine doesn’t necessarily have to be physically strong, and she doesn’t have to always be tough or never break down. In my mind, the key element of a strong heroine is one who stands up for what she believes in, who stands up for others, and who always tries to do the right thing, even if it isn’t the easy choice.
I write a lot of FBI characters, and even some who share the same job title, and they still need to seem like true individuals. I think the key in creating distinct characters is getting to know them before writing the story. Knowing how they grew up, what scares them, what their greatest challenge has been, and so on, helps define characters who aren’t going to react the same way, even if they do the same job – and even if they were to be presented with similar cases to investigate.
4) You have an active publication schedule. How do you balance personal and professional obligations – and what advice would you give those who struggle to find time for creative output?
It’s definitely a challenge to balance my personal life and professional obligations. I think most writers struggle to find time for creative output, and the key is making it a priority. Having specific times set aside for writing – that you stick to – and giving yourself goals and timelines (even if you don’t have a contract) helps to make writing a habit. Once it becomes habit, it’s a lot easier to stay on schedule and to make sure you don’t let your writing time slip away.
5) Your bio includes the ridiculously impressive fact that you sold five books in 2012. FIVE. So … what’s the secret? As in, what kind of work did you put in proactively to result in that kind of payoff?
The secret, in one word? Perseverance. Selling five books in less than two weeks was a huge thrill, but it was nine years in the making. Nine years of diligent writing, submitting, and working on my craft (and that was after dreaming of being an author and writing stories since I was a child). There are lots of stories out there like mine, of writers who spent many, many years working hard, trying to sell, before they finally found themselves published. For anyone who’s an aspiring author, believe in yourself, and keep working. The more you write, the better you’ll get, and the more books (and chances to sell!) you’ll have.
6) Leave us with a teaser: What comes next?
Currently, I have two books in my Profiler series (psychological suspense) and two books in my Lawmen series (romantic suspense) on shelves. Up next is more in both series. SWAT SECRET ADMIRER, in my Lawmen series, focuses on an FBI SWAT agent’s hunt for the rapist who attacked her; it puts both her, and the teammate who’s fallen for her, into the net of a cunning predator. That book releases in April. In the next book in my Profiler series, SEIZED (out in late 2015), FBI profiler Evelyn Baine lands on the wrong side of a hostage situation, putting her in the middle of an emerging terrorist threat.
With thanks to Elizabeth Heiter for her generosity of time and thought.