By: Susanne Matthews
Good morning and thank you for having me on Just Romantic Suspense once again. Today, I’d like to talk about Fire Angel, my first romantic suspense novel, released on April 29, 2013. It’s been a year, and what an incredible journey it’s been. The main characters in Fire Angel are Alexis, a feisty fire investigator with a knack for solving the tough cases, Jake, a disabled veteran criminal profiler who doubts his ability to be as good as he used to be, and the Fire Angel, a serial arsonist bent on revenge against the people of Paradise. These characters are as real to me as any of the people I know in my everyday life—maybe even more so, because I controlled their thoughts, actions, and adventures.
In many ways, being an author makes me feel a little god-like, as in the ancient gods of Greece who meddled in the lives of humanity. I created the setting for the story—a small town in Northern Ontario because I wanted to share the love I have for the incredible scenery that can be found in Canada. I used typical fall-winter weather to my advantage, and since we’d had a blue moon that year, I dragged it into the story too. I populated Paradise with everyday people some with secrets, others who were exactly what they seemed to be. My characters weren’t perfect; they were flawed, and all too human. As in the Garden of Eden, there’s a snake in my Paradise, an insidious creature bent on death and destruction. As I wove the threads of their lives, I felt like a puppet master, pulling their strings to make them act out my story. I researched every aspect of fire and fire investigation as well as extra-sensory perception. When I finished, I was proud of myself and my characters, but unlike God on the seventh day, I didn’t rest. Writing the book was only the beginning.
As much as love being an author, there’s a part of me that’s as insecure as it can possibly get. My story was loosely based on a series of disconnected events occurring in and around the city where I live. Part of me was terrified at the prospect of being judged by the reading public. Was the plot strong enough? Had I developed believable characters? Was the dialogue quick-paced and natural? Writing the book was a challenge, but sending it to a publisher was the real leap of faith. Will they like it? Will they want it? I agonized for several weeks until the email came offering me a contract for the book. Three rounds of edits by people far more knowledgeable with the needs of the publishing industry produced the final product, and to this day, I’m still somewhat in awe of it.
I’m as proud of Fire Angel as I can be. While reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Nobles, and similar places are critical to a book’s success, the reality is people read books and don’t review. My greatest satisfaction comes from hearing someone I know tell me how much they enjoyed the story. Being told they couldn’t put the book down is an incredible thrill that makes all the blood, sweat, and tears that go into writing a novel worthwhile. Fire Angel is my first-born brain child, and it taught me many things. This year has been an emotionally exhausting one, with ups and downs, joy and heartache, but the sense of pride I have each time I look at my beautiful cover I remember the thrill of it all.
About Fire Angel:
A malicious serial killer is out for revenge in Paradise. Using fire as his weapon, he strikes at random, and the bodies are piling up.
Criminal profiler Jake McKenzie has returned from Afghanistan minus a leg and afraid to trust his instincts. When the police ask for his expertise in identifying the killer, he agrees knowing this is his chance to prove he can still do the job.
Sixteen years ago, fiercely independent Alexis Michaels escaped an abusive uncle and a deadly fire to become one of the country’s top fire and arson investigators. Her uncanny ability to put herself in the arsonist’s place is the skill they need to find this maniac. She reluctantly accepts the assignment and returns home to lead the hunt for the killer, knowing she will have to confront the unpleasant memories.
When Jake discovers that his new partner is the girl who haunted his dreams all these years, he finds himself enthralled, but memories of his dead wife make him doubt his emotions. Alexis has few pleasant memories of Paradise, but Jake is one of them. Undeniably drawn to him, she longs for a deeper relationship but believes he isn’t ready to move on yet.
Until they catch the killer, they must set aside their conflicted emotions and work together. The clock is ticking, and the killer has made it clear: Alexis is next.
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Excerpt from Fire Angel
“So when the rental agency gets the car back, they can say the finger grooves in the steering wheel are for improved navigation control.” She chuckled. “I don’t think they’ll be open to returning my security deposit though.” She reached for her beer and took a drink.
“Now, let’s forget my stalker for a minute and talk about the fires. You people have not been very forthcoming with information. Since there doesn’t seem to be anything specific in the files that I’ve been given, I’m a little confused about this so-called link. From what I’ve read, the first fire could have been set by a careless squatter, the second sounds like a kitchen fire, and the third is most likely the result of that dropped cigarette; there doesn’t appear to be any connection at all. Accidents, plain and simple; what do you know that I don’t?”
She had changed, and he found the change very appealing. She had been more beautiful in her indignation than anyone could have imagined, her eyes flashing fire and growing more compelling for it. Her sense of humor relating the story of her encounter with the moose showed her courage and determination; it was nice to find a woman with a backbone, but whether she liked it or not, he would watch that backbone for her. The memory of a woman who allowed others to brainwash her into doing what they wanted flashed through his mind, but Alexis’ presence and her question didn’t allow it to take root.
“Whoever the arsonist is, he’s very clever, and he’s been extremely careful,” said Jake. “It was a fluke that we caught on to him in the first place. We’ve made a potential connection, but not in the fires, with the victims. That’s why it’s taken so long to call you in on this.”
“What do you mean by that? I’m a fire investigator, not a forensic anthropologist.” She scowled.
“At first, everyone believed, like you, that the first fire had been an accident, a careless camper squatting in a hunting camp. That being said, we didn’t rush the autopsy and identification. We got the report just after the second fire. Our first victim was a small time drug dealer from Montreal known as Bandit, a.k.a. John Slaney. They identified him from dental records. His mother had filed a missing persons report on him early in September, but no one had taken her seriously. It seems young Mr. Slaney made a habit of relocating when the rent was due or the police were getting close.”
About the Author:
Susanne Matthews grew up as an avid reader of all types of books, but always with a penchant for happily ever after romances. In her imagination, she travelled to foreign lands, past and present, and soared into the future. Today, she has made her dreams come true. A retired educator, she now gets to spend her time writing, so she can share her adventures with her readers. She loves the ins and outs of romance, and the complex journey it takes to get from the first word to the last period of a novel. As she writes, her characters take on a life of their own, and she shares their fears and agonies on the road to self-discovery and love.
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