"New Worlds Are Our Oyster."
December 2000 Issue
Soar into the Future.........Fly high with Sci-Fi
PNR Poll: We Want More............Tales from
Dubbed the "inventor of Aviation Romance," by Romantic Times Magazine, Susan Grant loves writing about what she knows best: flying, and the delicious interaction between the sexes.
She was one of the first women in history to attend the United States Air Force Academy. Upon graduation, she flew jets in the Air Force, including a three-year stint as a flight instructor in the rigorous USAF pilot training program.
These days, she pilots 747 jumbo jets around the world for United -- that is, when she's not flying at an even faster speed to keep up with her two young children!
Barb S: Susan your first novel, Once A Pirate, was the subject of a bidding war between two of the big print publishing houses. I imagine that was a heady experience for a new author. Were you excited?
Susan G: I sure was! It happened because of some Romance Writers of America writing contests I'd entered. I always chose the contests where - should I final - my chapters would end up on an editor's desk. It happened that both Berkley and Dorchester requested Once a Pirate because of first-place wins in two -actually, three - contests. After reading my chapters and synopsis, they both offered for it! I was very fortunate to have a top agent guiding me through the dizzying few days it took to consider the offers and to decide which publishing house was the best place for me to go.
Barb S: Dorchester published the book in February of this year, as part of a two-book contract. Shortly thereafter, RT dubbed you the "inventor of Aviation Romance." No doubt this stirred up reader curiosity? The book went into a second printing?
Susan G: The book sold out three days before the official release and went into the second printing to fill the orders still coming in. I'd say pre-release buzz was a factor, yes, but obviously, the publisher's reps who coax the US distributors into buying were excited about the book, too. I then had a few weeks of wonderful luck: the good fortune to be featured on Amazon, a five heart review on The Romance Reader, that fantastic feature in RT, plus great word of mouth from readers who read it and liked it. It all helped so much, because I was new and unknown. In fact, Once a Pirate just went into a third printing, so it's still selling well. I'm humbled and so very pleased by the success of such a simple (dare I say "fluffy?") fun story.
Barb S: Once a Pirate is a time travel; the heroine is a fighter pilot who crashes into the Atlantic Ocean and goes back in time to be rescued by a pirate? What is the pirate's reaction to this very modern woman?
Susan G: I played up the "culture shock" aspect of their meeting: two people from very different worlds. Using experiences I've had traveling to faraway places and trying to converse with the inhabitants there, I wrote an interrogation scene into the beginning of the book, where Andrew is trying - and failing miserably - to get information from Carly regarding her "father's" ship, something she knows nothing about. Both characters use slang and expressions perfectly known in their own times, but not so in the other's. Lots of fun. Also, Andrew is somewhat taken aback by Carly's high level of comfort around men. Of course, she was a pilot stationed on a carrier, and quite used to dealing with the male seafaring species!
Barb S: In your second book, newly released THE STAR KING, your heroine is also a pilot who crashes a meet her hero this time a man from a distant and more advanced world. By now most readers are aware that you yourself are a pilot and that you write from experience (not crashing we hope <g>). Will you continue to write "aviation romances," and are you concerned that the tag will pigeonhole you at some later date?
Susan G: Aviation romance has allowed me my own little niche while getting started as a new writer. But the best part, to me, is that this sub-sub-sub-genre *g* allows me a great deal of freedom. I can write anything from time travels to contemporaries to science fiction romance with the common link being flying, humor, and adventure - and, of course, pilots. <g> I don't see writing pilot characters is any more restrictive as Suzanne Brockman's SEALS, or Christine Feehan's Carpathians. Both ladies are currently writing new books eagerly awaited by readers, where the characters will be different from their previous works. What may have pigeonholed me is writing only paranormals, but with a contemporary romance coming out in 2002, readers will see that they can expect anything from me - I hope!
Barb S: Back to THE STAR KING. You took some chances with this romance. The heroine is mature; she has two grown children. Many years pass between her initial dreamlike meeting with the hero, correct?
Susan G: Yes, nineteen years pass from when they meet in their shared "near-death" experience to when they are reunited on Earth. But as for Rom and Jas being "older," it came about because of the plot, not because I deliberately set out to write such a story. The bulk of the story takes place almost two decades after the miracle that brings them together. I have always been partial to second-chance-at-love stories, so that factored into it, too.
As a writer, I found this book a joy to write. Jas has "history" behind her; she's experienced, giving her strengths and vulnerabilities a young woman would not yet have. That made her so much more interesting for me to write. I'd sure love to read more romances with more mature heroines, where the age is not made an issue. Rom's age of forty-three is more common, however. As in Hollywood, the "older guy/younger woman" seems to be popular in fiction, especially in romance. That said, I hope I find some measure of success with this book, to show the publishers that we want more stories with heroes and heroines who are in their thirties and forties.
Barb S: Can you tell us a little about the circumstances in which they meet for the second time? What brings Rom to Earth?
Susan G: Rom is living in exile on fringes of the galaxy known as the frontier - Earth's neighborhood, it turns out. When an official convoy makes first contact with Earth, Rom tags along, hoping to profit when the Vash Federation (in which he is banned from participating) opens commerce with the new world. Once on Earth, he's fascinated by every woman with black hair, for the angel who saved and then abandoned him nineteen years before had hair the color of deepest space.
Barb S: Obviously, both Jas and Rom have changed somewhat since their initial meeting. Jas has had an unhappy marriage in the interim. Do the two recognize each other immediately? Are they happy with what they find?
Susan G: When Rom sees Jas, he believes she is the woman the Great Mother (his culture worships a female deity) sent to save him years ago. Estranged from his family, his people, and living with no real purpose, he wonders why she didn't finish the job. Perhaps his angel of mercy was really an angel of death. As for Jas, she doesn't recognize Rom outright, though everything about him is hauntingly familiar. She's unwilling at first to believe he might be the man she never quite sees in her recurring dreams. Their attraction is powerful on many levels, as it often is when soul mates meet, though each have different reasons for wanting to explore it. Rom wants to know Jas's secrets, while Jas sees intimacy with the handsome, "bad boy" space captain as a way to discover whether she's the cold fish her ex-husband accused her of being.
Barb S: Jas is a former Air Force fighter pilot, would you say the book is set in the not too distant future? Is she astounded at the technology of Rom's world? Is Rom surprised by Jas' abilities?
Susan G: The Star King takes place on what we know as contemporary Earth: i.e. no neato futuristic gadgets like wristwatch communicators or flying cars. Technically, the year the story unfolds is sometime near the end of this decade to accommodate fast-forwarding 19 years from when Jas flew fighters in the Gulf.
Jas embraces technology, and is fascinated by how computers have revolutionized flying in Rom's time. Her abilities surprise Rom only because he never expected she'd be a pilot. Once he accepts this, however, he respects and comes to rely on her skill.
Barb S: Now for the villain. Sharron is a maniacal cult leader, with fanatic followers, among them even an elite of Rom's people. The Earth is far too primitive to be aware of the threat. What is the response of Rom's people?
Susan G: Rom's people, the Vash Nadah, are pacifists - dyed-in-the-wool, permanent pacifists. Eleven thousand years earlier, Rom's ancestors fought a war so destructive, so demoralizing, that when they finally achieved victory, they vowed to lay down their arms - for all time. Now they are a well-off and increasingly lackadaisical society, making them vulnerable to a charismatic and evil cult leader like Sharron. Rom is desperate to prove Sharron's threat. But with the aversion to war so interwoven into the government, the religion, the very foundation of the Vash Federation, it's nearly impossible for Rom to convince them that the only way to defeat Sharron is by force.
Barb S: The Heaven's Gate/Hale Bopp cult tragedy took place not long ago, underlining the fact that there ARE people out there who a willing to die as a show of faith, no matter how unbelievable the premise upon which it is founded. What inspired or influenced you to use such a cult in your story?
Susan G: I modeled Sharron and his followers after the doomsday cult Aum Shinri Kyo. This cult existed within a disciplined and religious society (Japan), making it exactly what I was looking for when I pondered what would be the greatest threat to the Vash Federation. I needed a battle of beliefs, a test of faith, something more than the black and white simplicity of good versus evil.
Barb S: Both Jas and Rom experienced rejection from the people who loved them most. Jas was emotionally abused by her husband; Rom's father disowned him. Naturally this would make them gun shy about relationships. How did they overcome this obstacle?
Susan G: Rom's fear of abandonment and Jas's fear of not living up to other's expectations certainly made them think twice (maybe even three times <g>) about opening themselves emotionally. Neither feared commitment, though, so once the trust issues were dealt with, they were able to love fully and deeply.
Barb S: Twice Rom is torn between duty (to save the world from Sharron and his followers) and his love for another. What is it about Rom that compels him to do the right thing? Is there an emotional toll?
Susan G: He has a deep-seated pride in his ancestry: eleven thousand years of kings descended from the original eight warrior-heroes who saved the galaxy from annihilation. Rom's sense of propriety is inborn. "The good of many over the needs of one."
The emotional toll is tremendous, as there are things he craves as a man - a simpler life, a woman who loves him - and can't keep because of the tremendous responsibilities honor will not allow him to walk away from.
Barb S: There is also definitely some humor injected into the story. Do you feel humor is important in a good romance?
Susan G: Yes. Speaking as a reader now, the books I love most are the ones that can make me laugh and cry.
Barb S: Jas has two grown children. Will we see either of them again, or do they exist simply to help form the woman Jas had become? I understand that there will be a sequel, THE STAR PRINCE, is that right?
Susan G: Yes! THE STAR PRINCE is Ian's story and there's a secondary love story with Gann. If you like fun, character-driven contemporaries, this one might appeal to you. The story begins on another planet, but the characters end up in Los Angeles, (where Jas's daughter Ilana is a filmmaker) which is arguably the wildest and most exotic setting of all my books so far. <g>
the heroine, is an innocent, runaway Vash princess who trades a life
of rigid tradition and luxury for the chance to become a starpilot.
Ian is just a typical guy from Earth plunged into an extraordinary situation
when his stepfather (Rom) names him as heir to the galaxy against the
wishes of quite a few galactic royals. When fate throws Ian and Tee'ah
together in a sleazy bar on a distant planet, Ian offers her a job after
losing his latest pilot to alcohol. Unfortunately, Tee'ah, while lamenting
the confiscation of her stolen ship, learns the hard way that she and
whiskey just don't mix:
hunched forward over the counter, her forehead resting on her knuckles.
In the lull between departing ships, a puff of wind ruffled her hair,
accentuating the stillness of the rest of her.
She had to
be joking, Ian thought. No one passed out after one drink.
He gave her shoulder a shake. Her head lolled to the side, exposing
her slender throat - and her pulse. Relief rippled through him.
on, kid," he said, massaging the back of her neck. Her smooth skin
was damp from perspiration and warm to the touch. Sighing, she flexed
her fingers, using her hands as a pillow. Her lips curved into a blissful
smile, but her eyes remained closed.
Ian gave a
quick, pained laugh. "I can't believe this is happening. Thirty
seconds in my employ and she's already unconscious."
jolted awake, snuffling and scratching his scalp.
every other pilot I've hired," Ian told him, as if he or anyone
on this miserable rock cared. "I feel like Bill Murray in Ground
Earth movie," Ian explained, though it was probably futile. "This
guy wakes up to the same day, over and over. He's trapped until he finally
learns from his mistakes." Watching the ice melt in the bottom
of his glass, he scowled. "Tell me I'm not doomed to hire one liquor-loving
space jockey after another."
was downright depressing. He'd never prove to the Vash, to Rom, that
he had what it took to rule the galaxy if he couldn't master the basics
of commanding a starship, including hiring and maintaining a crew. He'd
best turn things around, right here, right now.
feet, Miss Tee," he said briskly. He wrapped his arms around her
waist and lifted her away from the counter. It took a moment to untangle
her long legs from the stool. Dragging her away from the bar, he supported
her with one arm hooked around her waist. Her legs wobbled under her
weight, indicating the extent the liquor was mucking up her system.
How she'd survived in the frontier with such a low tolerance for alcohol,
he had no idea.
He gathered her close to help her walk. Harsh sunlight glinted off the tiny beads of sweat on her golden skin, illuminating her angelic face. Unexpectedly, something inside him softened.
know where you come from, but you sure as hell don't belong here."
Her eyes opened
to slits. "Hmm?" She lifted her head, clutching the wings
he'd given her to her chest.
back," he said. "We're on the way to the ship."
Her eyes flew
open, and she dug her heels in the dirt. "To where?"
I hired you, remember?"
away from him and clumsily fished out her pistol.
shot up. "Put that away!"
her weapon with some consternation, as if trying to remember what to
do with it. Then she dropped her right arm, pointing the deadly laser
south. Her speech was a bit slurred. "Not so fast. How do I know
you're really a starship captain - that you're hiring me to fly, and
not for," she blushed furiously, "for sex?"
the gun at his balls, and he resisted the potent urge to cover his privates.
Never in his life had he seen anything like this pistol-toting pixie,
her chin jutting out, her eyes accusing him of unspeakable perversions.
he told himself. He forced an expression of serene calm on his face,
a skill he'd learned from Rom. "Now that you bring it up, how do
I know you're really a pilot?"
Slowly . .
. . . forcing
her to turn in order to follow his deliberate and thorough inspection.
all I know, you're just another good-for-nothing space drifter,"
he said, "lying your way onboard my ship for the chance at a hot
meal and a clean bunk."
her. Her mouth worked, but nothing came out.
thief," he went on, "waiting until my crew and I are asleep
tonight to steal us blind - "
a pilot! My wings were in that speeder."
she replied glumly.
exactly. I have no proof you're who you claim you are other than what
you've told me. You feel the same about me, obviously." He stopped,
faced her. Warily, she watched him. "I need a pilot and you need
a job. We have no choice but to trust each other. But if that isn't
going to be a possibility, Tee, let me know now, because it's the only
way this is going to work."
at the row of shops and sleazy bars. Doubt saturated her features. Then
she shifted her attention to him, artlessly examining him from his hair
to his boots and back again. In her eyes sparked a glimmer of wonder
- the look she'd given him when they first met.
down on the unexpected rush of pleasure he found in that gaze. "So,"
he prompted, "what will it be?"
she stowed her pistol. "It appears I shall trust you, Earth-dweller."
And just so there's no misunderstanding about my personal life"
- he caught her by the arm, bringing his mouth close to one perfectly
formed little ear - "when I want sex, I don't have to buy it."
Her eyes widened,
and then she blushed, deeper than before. He'd meant the statement as
fact, not as a boast, but her irresistible reaction left him in no hurry
He took her by the elbow. "Now, let's go. I'm sobering you up even if it takes me all day, which I hope it doesn't because our take-off slot's in less than four hours, and you, my friend, are flying me to Grüma come hell or high water." --------------- (provided by Susan Grant ~ Copyright © Susan Grant)
Barb S: What's in the stars for Susan Grant? (What are your future plans)
Susan G: I'm on deadline for The Star Prince, due this March and out in November 2001. Then I have a June deadline for a wacky and fun novella in a Mother's Day anthology (think alien abduction!) with fellow authors Lynsay Sands, Lisa Cach, and Julie Kenner, to be released March 2002. Then, I get to start on the contemporary I told you about. It, too, will be released in 2002.
Someday in the (I hope) not too far off future I see a fun, fast adventurous thriller with powerful love story woven throughout. Think: Tom Clancy meets Susan Elizabeth Phillips. <g>
THE STAR KING
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