Wednesday, May 7, 2014


My guest is romantic suspense writer, M.L. (Matt) Buchman. I love his books. The romance is great but what I love is the action, danger, kick-ass solutions, and of course a happy ever after. What's not to like? 
Today Matt talks about the challenges of writing romantic suspense based on real life heroes. 

Hi and thanks for coming aboard for a short flight.

I have this friend who says he likes writing romance because it gives so much structure which he can than hang his story on. And I see his point: her, him, love interest, love challenge, love resolution, HEA! Voila!

After 15 published romance novels, I've concluded that my friend is a lunatic. Totally! Why? (So glad you asked!)

Most of my novels aren't just romance, they’re romantic suspense, including my latest release Pure
LA County Fire Department's S-70 Firehawk
which launches my new Firehawks series. Rom Sus means I've set myself a tough challenge, winding together a love story and a suspense story in such a way that one drives the other and neither can be removed without the whole thing falling apart.

But was that enough for me?

Nooo! Fool M.L. Writer had to set a higher challenge of writing about real world heroes and heroines. I struggle to be as accurate as possible, though not as realistic as possible. (Military battle and fighting forest fires are much too ugly and scary to include all of the details and at the core I want to tell a love story; so I clean it up a little.)

That means that one of the major tasks I set for myself is research. Oh, I’m fine with reading books, blogs, and following the news. I did two years of that before I even tried to start my Night Stalkers or my Firehawks series. My trouble is that I’m pretty shy in new situations with people.

Drop me into a corporate environment, and I can rock-and-roll; I spent over 25 years there. However, on my very first day in corporate, I was assigned to copy a large box of court documents. As I squatted down, I blew the seam out of my pants from the bottom of the zipper all the way up to my back belt loop. I was too terrified to do anything, so I didn't take lunch, I didn't take breaks, I spent the whole day with my butt facing a wall and then snuck out with my suit coat held just so.

Every interview I do for my writing is like that. Over the years I've conducted hundreds of job interviews as well. But when it comes down to my writing, not so much. For example, I had a change to talk with a Coast Guard heli-rescue pilot, who was at an airshow with his chopper specifically to answer questions. I fell mute. It can take me weeks or even months to gear up for an interview.

And oddly, instead of getting easier with time as it did in corporate, I find personal interviews for my stories keeps getting harder. The more book-based knowledge I acquire, the more I am daunted by the men and women who fly to the rescue—military or fire. I once had the opportunity to interview a woman who flew two tours in Iraq as a Black Hawk crew chief. She was an incredibly shy and soft-spoken woman half my age, and I was so daunted by her that, if my friends had not dragged me in, I would never have managed to do it. (She was awesome and immensely helpful, by the way.)

Oddly, my reaction has become one of the key features of my books in both of these series. I am in true awe of the real life versions of these people and I attempt to capture that, yet show the real people that I came to know and several of whom I now count as friends. These are the men and women of Pure Heat!

Let's chat 
I’d love to hear who are the people you go gob-smacked mute in front of?
One commenter will win a copy of Pure Heat, and I'll announce the winner Friday's blog. 

These daredevil smokejumpers fight more than fires.
The elite fire experts of Mount Hood Aviation fly into places even the CIA can’t penetrate.

She lives to fight fires
Carly Thomas could read burn patterns before she knew the alphabet. A third-generation forest fire specialist who lost both her father and her fiancĂ© to the flames, she’s learned to live life like she fights fires: with emotions shut down.

But he’s lit an inferno she can’t quench
Former smokejumper Steve "Merks" Mercer can no longer fight fires up close and personal, but he can still use his intimate knowledge of wildland burns as a spotter and drone specialist. Assigned to copilot a Firehawk with Carly, they take to the skies to battle the worst wildfire in decades and discover a terrorist threat hidden deep in the Oregon wilderness—but it’s the heat between them that really sizzles. Download chapter excerpt

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M. L. Buchman has over a dozen romances and more than 20 books in print (he also writes science fiction and fantasy). His full name, Matthew Lieber Buchman, translates as Matthew Beloved Book Man, no wonder he’s a writer.
He is now making his living full-time as a writer, scribbling away with his wife on the Oregon Coast.


Mark Koopmans said...

Aloha Sia :)

(Oh, and Matt, too :)

Enjoyed the interview and wow, there's a genre I'd never considered.

(I had to think what Rom Sus meant for a wee minute, but I was never the sharpest pencil in the case:)

Thanks for sharing some insights, Matt, and best of luck with PURE HEAT :)

Happy writing to you both :)

Natalie Aguirre said...

Sounds great to combine suspense with the romance genre. Makes your stories stand out.

Thank for sharing, Matt.

Jo said...

Ii think interviewing anyone would strike me dumb, let alone doing the jobs some of these people do. I must look for your books Matt. Hey that's my hubby's name.

Hi Sia, hope it's getting better for you.

Pat Hatt said...

That is an interesting combo indeed, sounds like a great way to go at your feed

nutschell said...

Thanks for the interview Sia and Matt! Matt, How cool that you get to interview all these real life heroes. :)

cleemckenzie said...

The combination of romance and suspense is always a winner! Great to find this one.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I play in a bad but fortunately don't sing, as that would likely when I would go mute.
Congratulations on all your books, Matt!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Hello Mark! :-)
I wish more men would consider writing romance. I read a lot of books written by men and find that most have an element of romance in it. I think love and romance is not exclusive to women readers or women writers and it shouldn't be since it is something important to both sexes. The angle of the romance is sometimes different and sometimes not. Depends upon the writer.

Some of my favorite romantic movies were written by men. Notting Hill and Love Actually, About Time (Richard Curtis) Serendipity and A Good Year(Peter Mayle wrote the book for AGY and Marc Klein wrote the screenplays for both) the only reason I know this is because I was curious if these were based on books (if so I read more from them) or screen plays.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Natalie I'm not much of a mushy romance reader and I have to admit, I love romantic suspense and I love the action/adventure/danger angle in romance.

Jo doing better each day and thank you for asking. I really enjoy Matt's books. He tells a great story and many of the characters are unforgettable!

Pat I'm glad to see your rhyming self here. I agree, it's a good combo.

Nuchell I agree. I would love to have a chance to interview some of these people. :-)

~Sia McKye~ said...

Lee Yes Ma'am, I agree.

Alex You don't sing at all in the band? I would have thought you did some. But I hear you. It is daunting to sing in front of a crowd of people until you loosen up and have fun.

Denise Covey said...

Romantic suspense is a fabulous genre and Matt seems to have found the key. Love the sound of this story.
I love a well-researched novel. Currently reading Belinda Alexander's Sapphire Sky. Amongst the many sub plots is the fact that the Soviets had ace female fighter pilots in the war. Amazing story.


~Sia McKye~ said...

Denise I'll have to check out Belinda Alexander out. I did know that the Soviets had fighter pilots. This sounds like a good read. Thank you for sharing it!

~Sia McKye~ said...

I forgot to put in *female* fighter pilots.

Margo Berendsen said...

Real life interviews with stranger terrify me, too! I need to interview someone with NASA experience, and I haven't got the guts yet to contact anyone. But I know its a necessary part of good writing.

Nick Wilford said...

This sounds excellent. I'm terrible at talking to people as well, which is why I admire people who do such a deep level of research. And it's great that you work in your awestruck feelings into the books. You can't get much better definitions of heroes than these folk!

Stephanie Faris said...

Interviews...yikes! As a freelance writer during the day, I run from any assignment that has the word "interview" in it. I've done a few and they sucked. Now--email interviews aren't too bad. I can think through my questions and they can think through their answers. Plus, I don't have to spend the whole interview frantically scribbling down what they're saying or playing the recording back later. I have their exact words right there that I can copy and paste. said...

I agree, Sia. It's great to see a male romance author. If I had to work in corporate America, I'd likely split, spill, or pee in my pants daily.

Thank you, Sia and Matthew.


Kat Sheridan said...

I just love romantic suspense, and really admire the level of research you're doing. I won't say anything about being surprised by a man writing romance. One of the "grande dames" of the old bodice-rippers was a man. To be surprised is sort of reverse sexism, isn't it? Like being surprised that a woman can do science or something. Some of the most romantic people I know are men. LOL!

As for interviewing, I can do it, but only after lots of preparation and simply "acting". Just pretend to be a confident, extroverted person, then go throw up later. I'm horrifically shy with strangers, but few people actually know that because I'm good at pretending.

Off hand I can't think of anybody I'd be too gob-smacked to talk to. I figure that no matter what their public personna is, underneath it all they still scratch and fart and stuff just like anybody else!

Elizabeth Seckman said...

Matt sounds like an awesomely fun guy. Love the ripped pants story. Good way to cover it up!

I love romance and love the idea of mixing some action and intrigue into it.

M. L. Buchman said...

Woops! Joining this conversation a bit late. :) I'm working hot and heavy (oo, perhaps not the right image...well, maybe it is) on Firehawks #3 coming out next June-ish. That distracted me a bit.

As to research, I have some friends who never research beyond a minimal amount, enough to make the story work. Others, like me, will spend time on the smallest detail (for example, in the opening scene of Pure Heat, just what interior colors and materials were available in Steve's car. When Emily picks up a load of water of fire retardant, how many seconds does it take her to do that. This allows me to orchestrate Steve's timing from the fire tower to arrive in the cargo bay just seconds before they take back off. To me, it makes it more real. In the end, less than half of the research, way less, makes it into the book or I'd be killing the story with the details.

M. L. Buchman said...

Rom sus = Romantic suspense
One of the real challenges for me has been balancing those. I've written over a dozen now, and I find that I'm still dancing along the edge of letting neither overwhelm the other.

But I love writing in this space (aside from the fact that it's one of the fastest growing areas of romance). What I really enjoy is looking at the tension of starting a relationship. It's not so different from the high-action tension, maybe even more so in reality. I'm just fascinated by how we humans go about finding love and romance. I think it is the most important act we can do.

M. L. Buchman said...

Kat -the gob-smacked is totally on me. I'm an introvert to begin with (most writers are -I mean we're happiest sitting alone in a corner making shit up. [I love my job description.]). Then I turn around--someone who has never fought fire, flown a helicopter, or served in the military--and what am I becoming known for? Military and firefighting helicopters! Go figure.

So, once I climb over those thresholds, I have to admit, every single person I've interviewed has been awesome, kind, helpful, and supportive. It's just a bit daunting. :)

~Sia McKye~ said...

Matt--Glad you could stop by!

I agree, I've always been fascinated by how humans begin a romance, or what draws someone to another. It happens in so many varieties. And love is something we all need. And the romance extends way beyond the initial burst of hormones.

Another fascinating area is the romance between a couple who have been together for years. You do a good job with Emily and her husband. Life changed for them and yet there's still a strong bond.

M. L. Buchman said...

Thanks re: Mark and Emily. I do have the advantage of still being totally nuts about my wife after 17 years together. She is still the single best thing that ever happened to me. So, if that leaks into my stories... :)

~Sia McKye~ said...

MATT, it does leak into the dynamics of Mark and Emily. And I'm glad to see it. It's easier to write contentment into a relationship when we live it.

I'm curious, has anyone taken you up in one of the helicopters you write about? Sometimes they do allow civilians in them....

M. L. Buchman said...

re: helicopter rides, I actually have very few military fans who let me know of their existence. I'll even get sideways messages such as: "I have an ex-Army friend who loves your stories," rather than a direct contact. I do have some ex-military who have offered to read and critique factual info in my books. But, no, no chopper rides...yet. :)

farawayeyes said...

Now this sounds like a 'Romance' that I would enjoy. Sure romance is fun to read and write, but with this type of edge, I personally would find it so much more interesting.

I don't think I've ever been gobsmacked in front of anyone much to just about everybody's dismay. In other words, I'm the fool with my gums constantly flapping, well, I do listen too, but I'm not afraid to talk to anyone.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Faraway--I'm like you. I can talk to anyone. I'm like Kat mentioned above, one that can work a room and sparkle. I have to gear up mentally to do it but no one but my closest friends know the toll it takes. I don't throw up after, lol, but I do need down time away from everyone. It drains me.
:-) If you like a good romance with an edge you're going to enjoy Matt's stories!

Matt No helicopter rides? Sheesh. I almost got to ride in a fighter jet. Hubs was attached to a squadron but the CO got wind of it and put a negahatchi on it. Damn. Probably a good thing because pilots tend to be high adrenaline and love to show off. I can just see millions of dollars doing a crash and burn and me floating down in a parachute with a pilot laughing his ass off.

Bet if you asked for a ride in a Civilian Firehawk you could. Just kinda cool, don't you think?

Jennifer Chandler said...

Hi Sia,

First of all, thanks so much for stopping by my blog and commenting. I appreciate your thoughtful words.
This is a wonderful interview.

M.L., I know how you feel. The idea of interviewing anyone, even someone I know, is daunting and makes me clam up. I'm terribly introverted in situations like that. However, it is something I know I need to work on...especially in light of some new projects I have on the horizon.

Nice to meet you both!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Jen I enjoyed your thoughts on writing. And it is all too easy to put off WIP when were worn down or so tired our creativity is whimpering or sleeping. :-)

As for interviewing people...part of it is being prepared and doing some research on them, the other part is realizing that many appreciate having someone interested enough in what they do to want to ask about it. Most are willing to talk.

M. L. Buchman said...

Yep, what Sia said. People love that I'm interested in them, are excited that I'm trying to get things right, and do, of course, appreciate someone who has done their homework so they don't have to answer the basic 9 questions.

The 9 questions is a theory I developed while riding my bicycle around the world. Almost everyone had the exact same first 9 questions, despite age, gender, or culture. I was going to print a t-shirt with the 9 basic answers they got so tedious. So, when I do an interview, I always try to make sure I've at least gotten past the first 9.

I don't remember the traveling ones exactly anymore (it was 20 years ago), but it started with:
-what are you doing?
-where are you from?
-where are you going?
-all by bicycle?
-how do you cross the oceans? (that one always killed me as if they were expecting I put paddle wheels on my bike and rode across-which actually became one of my standard answers)