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Interview with Marta Perry

Captain’s Log, Stardate 04.17.2006

Have I got a treat for you, sports fans! (Okay, so you don’t have to be sports fans to appreciate this treat.) I’ve got a new interview with romantic suspense author Marta Perry!

(The crowd goes wild with excitement)

And now, here’s the Marty and Camy show!

Your new book IN THE ENEMY'S SIGHTS just came out. Tell us about it.

IN THE ENEMY’S SIGHTS is Book Four in the Faith at the Crossroads mini-series. Each author wrote one book, and although each one stands alone, together they create a complete suspense arc with a common villain behind all the bad stuff. My story deals with search and rescue dog trainer Julianna Red Feather and injured Air Force pilot Ken Vance. Ken returns to his home town of Colorado Springs to recuperate, determined to conquer his vision problems and return to flying, but he’s drawn into what seems to be a campaign of vandalism against his friend Quinn’s construction company. This brings him into contact with Julianna, who is working at the construction company and using its site to train her search and rescue teams. As their relationship develops the attacks on the construction company turn into attacks on them, and they find they have to risk everything in order to survive.

What was the funnest part of writing IN THE ENEMY'S SIGHTS?

I loved doing the research on Julianna’s Zuni Pueblo Indian culture. I learned so much, and for me it gave a richness to the writing that was really satisfying.

Any favorite scenes?

One of my favorite scenes is the pow wow Julianna takes Ken to, and another is the crisis scene where Julianna and her dog go into the building wreckage in search of survivors. I won’t say more, because I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t read it.

Are there any symbols or themes in IN THE ENEMY'S SIGHTS that you want to emphasize, point out, or elaborate on?

I used symbolism from Julianna’s Zuni heritage. The Zunis are noted for the excellence of their silver work, and one of the jewelry symbols becomes important in understanding Julianna and is also used as a weapon against her.

How was it to work on the Faith at the Crossroads suspense series?

I loved working with the other five authors! We formed an e-mail loop and cross-checked plot details with each other. Sharon Mignery’s inside knowledge of the Colorado Springs area was invaluable to us.

And can you give us any juicy secrets about the other books in the series?

I’m not telling!

We're giving away all four of your Flanagans series books. Tell us about the series and how you came up with the idea.

The Flanagan series is about a large family, all of whom are involved in firefighting in one way or another. It actually had a serious beginning, as after the Trade Center tragedy I was particularly touched and shaken by the number of firefighters who had brothers, sisters, cousins, parents who were also firefighters. That just went into the back of my mind and emerged later as the Flanagans. I really didn’t know it was going to turn into such a long series—I began with just the first book, HERO IN HER HEART, and my wonderful editor, Krista Stroever, saw the possibilities for more. And now that the guys are all married off, there will be three more Flanagan books, coming out in January, March, and May of 2007!

'Fess up. Which is your favorite book out of all the ones you've written?

“Land’s End,” the inspirational romantic suspense novel that’s coming out in June from Love Inspired Suspense, was a story that had hung around in the back of my mind for a long time. The suspense plot is rather complicated, and I had doubts when I started it that I could pull off the suspense and still keep the romance and the spiritual element strong. My editor thinks I did—we’ll have to wait and see what readers think!

You know (or maybe you don't know) how much I LOVE FOOD. I just discovered that an authentic Portuguese bakery in Santa Clara makes these white bread rolls that look like little butts. Okay, so maybe that's TMI, but the important part is that these rolls taste HEAVENLY--crusty on the outside, creamy soft inside. What's your favorite ethnic food to eat and why?

My heritage on my mother’s side is German and English, and I grew up having homemade noodles and chicken every Sunday for dinner. I thought everyone ate like that, until I got out into the wider world and discovered most people had never had homemade noodles! My kids still love that meal, and I make it whenever they’re around. And if you want the recipe, just e-mail me at marta@martaperry.com and I’ll send it to you.

What ministry do you do at your church or in your community? Why do you like doing it?

I spent 30 years teaching church school before I retired when my husband and I started traveling so much. I really loved the sense that I was having an influence on the spiritual development of children. Now I teach junior church, work in the church nursery, teach an occasional short-term adult class, do the children’s talk, and sometimes serve as lay reader.

I know you loooooove beaches. What have been your favorite vacations?

We had a tremendous trip a couple of years ago to Norway to visit my son-in-law’s family. They showed us all over the place, entertained us in their homes, and just generally made us feel perfectly at ease in their culture. My husband and I spend a lot of time at our vacation home on Hilton Head Island, SC, and my favorite thing there, winter or summer, is walking on the beach, listening to the waves, and feeling in such perfect harmony with God’s creation.

What are you favorite TV shows?

I confess a crazy addiction to Survivor—I’m constantly amazed at the things people do. And I’ve followed Seventh Heaven for years and am sorry to see it go off the air.

Do you ever base your characters off of your friends and family? How about your friends from the Steeple Hill discussion boards? And if you do, would you ever write about a loud Asian chick? And can you make her a little skinnier and with martial-arts skills so she can kick bad-guy butt? :)

Sorry, but I think you’ll have to write that one yourself, Camy!! I suppose some of my characters have bits and pieces of people I know in them, but it’s never conscious on my part. The characters are just themselves to me.

What's your writing schedule like? You have lots of grandchildren all over the country--how do you ensure time for family and church?

When I’m home, I get up early, have breakfast, do some stretches, and then head for the computer to do my pages for the day. I’m usually done with the writing stint by noon, giving me the afternoon to do all the non-writing stuff that comes with this job. When I’m traveling, I usually take my Alphasmart or my laptop along to work in the car or on the plane, but when I’m with my grandkids, they have my undivided attention. There are five of them, btw, and the oldest is not quite six, so they’re at the age where they still think Grammy and Grandpa can do anything! Other commitments go on the calendar, and when I plan my writing for the week, I take those into account. I try never to let anything interfere with some devotional time each day—I have to be fed spiritually myself if I’m going to write the message God gives me. Right now I’m reading C.S. Lewis’s MERE CHRISTIANITY.

What is your most memorable moment as a writer?

Participating in the Rita ceremony last year was pretty close to the top. I didn’t win (sob) but it was very affirming to be a finalist.

On your website, you mentioned you fell in love with writing after reading Nancy Drew's "The Secret in the Old Clock." (I remember that story!) What other childhood books were your favorites?

I’m a huge Louisa May Alcott fan, and I still re-read her books. I loved all the series books that were popular—Nancy Drew, Dana Girls, Cherry Ames, Trixie Belden, etc.

Finish this line: Writing a novel is ...

the hardest work in the world and the most satisfying.

What's your greatest writing weakness and how do you overcome it?

I tend to get so involved in the character relationships that I forget description! I don’t obsess about it in the first draft. I just know I’ll have to go back and put it in the second time around.

What's your best writing strength?

I’ve been told that the depth of my character point of view is quite strong. It’s really a natural voice to me; I just see the whole story through the characters’ eyes and tell it that way.

How do you handle deadline stress? Any advice or tips?

Put my husband in charge of meals! Seriously, I’m always looking for ways of keeping on schedule so that I don’t have to stress at deadline time. I mark off the weeks on a calendar with weekly and daily goals to keep me on track.

How do you handle writer's block? Do you ever get writer's block?

I’ve said for years that I don’t believe in writer’s block. If I get stuck, it’s because I’ve taken the story in the wrong direction, or because I haven’t planned a scene out well enough in advance, or because life is demanding so much that I don’t have the emotional energy to spare for the writing. The first two can be dealt with; the third sometimes means that I just have to do the best I can for the moment.

Describe your writing space as it is now, and your fantasy writing space.

I have my fantasy space! It used to be a bedroom, of course, but now it’s my office, with one wall lined with bookshelves, a daybed for when I need to take a break, and all my materials fairly well organized and at hand. Don’t get me wrong—it piles up sometimes when I’m going full throttle towards the end of a book, but it’s still my space. I had it repainted last fall. Now it’s a lovely, peaceful, mossy green with ivory Roman shades on the windows and an ivory area rug. From my computer, I’m looking out the window right now at a hedge of lilac bushes just leafing out, and beyond them the sunlight is sparkling on the stream.

What's the best writing advice you've ever received?

The best advice I’ve received was to keep reaching beyond what’s comfortable. That advice was given to me by a short fiction writer I greatly admire at a time when I was hesitating to take the next step in my writing. I try to keep reminding myself of that whenever I get too comfortable.

Thanks for doing the interview! Any parting words?

Thank you so much for having me here. I hope you’ll come visit me on the web at www.martaperry.com.

Camy here: Thanks so much, Marta!

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