M. L. Buchman has over 25 novels in print. His military romantic suspense books have been named Barnes & Noble and NPR “Top 5 of the year” and Booklist “Top 10 of the Year.” In addition to romance, he also writes contemporaries, thrillers, and fantasy and science fiction.
In among his career as a corporate project manager he has: rebuilt and single-handed a fifty-foot sailboat, both flown and jumped out of airplanes, designed and built two houses, and bicycled solo around the world.
He is now a full-time writer, living on the Oregon Coast with his beloved wife. He is constantly amazed at what you can do with a degree in Geophysics.
Jen: Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
M.L.: Light Up the Night is the fifth book in my Night Stalkers series (each stands alone, so the order doesn’t matter except for some little reader cookies). The previous books followed the first four women to fly the four-seater DAP Hawk, the most lethal helicopter ever launched into the night sky. The U.S. Army’s Special Operations Aviation Regiment, SOAR, flies three types of helicopters, a four-seat Black Hawk is the first. The second is a two-seat Little Bird, the smallest helicopter in the U.S. inventory. It is a fast and feisty bird good for quick tactical maneuvers. So, my premise was to put the first woman in SOAR’s Little Bird.
Well, there was this character who had been lurking in the background of my earlier books. Lieutenant Trisha O’Malley had trained with Emily Beale, was interviewed for SOAR by Connie Davis, and was her general cheery obnoxious self in Take Over at Midnight. So, it was time for her to have her own book and matching her personality to her helicopter gave me a great launch into the story.
As to the hero, he was a complete surprise to me. I wanted someone who could stand up to Trisha. I had never expected to write a SEAL, but the contrast was too much fun and they ended up being great together…it is a romance after all.
Jen: What age did you discover writing? Tell us your call story.
M.L.: I was 35. I had lost everything: business, career, house that I’d spent 7 years remodeling, car, etc. I decided that the only thing that made sense was to get on a bicycle and go around the world. While out there, I’d write a journal and turn it into the book of my travels. Oddly, that book still hasn’t seen the light of day, but while on that 18-month, 11,000 mile journey through a dozen countries, I also wrote the first draft of Cookbook from Hell which went on to be my first novel sale.
The “call” came 17 years later. I had two novels out from a tiny press that had then died. I’d build up over 400 rejections across a dozen titles. I was unemployed and desperately scrambling for a job when I received a call from Deb Werksman at Sourcebooks. “I want your book.” Simple as that. Within the 1/2 hour I had sold a 4-book series that was to be named “The Night Stalkers.” While I still had to find a job as fast as I could, we certainly danced about the living room for most of the rest of that day.
Jen: Are there any other writers, published or not, in your family?
M.L.: My sister is a brilliant writer, and also a photographer. She rarely writes, but when she does it leaves me with tears of laughter. Mom had aspirations of writing a murder mystery when she retired, but sadly it always stayed a dream and little more. I’m the first.
Jen: Do you have a writing routine?
M.L.: I wish! I need to get back to one. I try to write 4-6 hours/day, but that gets lost in marketing, promotions, edits, revisions, research… The varied winds of being a full-time writer (both traditionally and independently published) make a schedule very hard to keep. But I keep trying.
When I do cut out a block of time (my minimum is about 15 minutes, my max can be 10+ hours), I put on rock ‘n’ roll music (mostly a play list from my daughter) or opera if it’s a Sunday (a leftover habit from my dad), and I write in 1-hour blocks with 3-minute breaks for as long as that carved out chunk of time lasts.
Jen: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Easiest? Most rewarding?
M.L.: Toughest? I find the research to be immensely challenging. I work very hard to make all of my details as realistic and accurate as possible. Where a reader sees a few words, “she released the retardant with a flick of her left thumb,” I will have spent an hour or more verifying that it is done with the left and not the right one. I love getting it right, but I hate the distraction to me as the writer. I want to get lost in the story just as much as the reader does.
Easiest? Those moments when I can just let go and get lost in the words. It’s typically when the characters are talking, growing, moving closer together. Those scenes just fly by.
Most rewarding? My wife says that I laugh, chortle, moan as I write. Didn’t know that. I do know when I’ve written something that makes me cry, have to keep wiping my eyes. But the most rewarding moments are when my wife, who is also my first reader, laughs. When I can sit in my office with the door open and I can hear her laugh as she reads in the living room, that’s the best.
Jen: Who has influenced you as a writer?
M.L.: The ones I’ve read. I’m not being facetious. It’s not that I try to write like this person or that. I take the vast joy I’ve found from reading every author and try to let it come out as me. Who have I read the most? Which authors have a read everything they’ve written, or at least a dozen or more titles? Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Clive Cussler, Herman Hesse, Ayn Rand, Nora Roberts, Susan Wiggs (The Charm School was my second ever romance after Laura Kinsale’s The Prince of Midnight). Them, and a whole bunch of others.
Jen: What’s been the highlight of you career to this point?
M.L.: The first time I opened a box of books with my wife. I began writing before I met her, actually met her because of my first novel. But when we opened The Night is Mine together. That was a moment I never expect to surpass.
Jen: Can you tell us about your upcoming book, Full Blaze?
M.L.: Full Blaze picks up the end of the fire season that began with Pure Heat. The New Tillamook Burn is in the past, the last fires are being beaten off the Santa Barbara hills, and Jeannie Clark, who crashed her tiny helo in Pure Heat, now flies a big Firehawk helicopter. In it, she flies to the rescue of the country’s leading wildfire photographer mere moments before he gets burned. Neither one ranks all that hot on trusting others, they’re two very independent souls, until they must trust one another to stay alive. California, the Australian Outback, and the jungles of East Timor pass beneath their Firehawk and into their lives.
Jen: What did you do to research this book?
M.L.: I am always researching, keeping up on the latest news and technology in wildland firefighting and Black Hawk helicopters (both military and civilian). Curiously, the hardest thing to research in this book, wasn’t hard. Why? Well, years ago I had a mid-life crisis on wheels, when I lost everything due to a bad business partnership and solved it by going around the world on my bicycle. I have ridden across and camped in most of these settings, both the Australian Outback and the arid jungles (it sounds like a contradiction, but it actually isn’t) of Indonesian Timor. Most of my research was going back through my old journals and slides. Great fun!
Jen: What’s next for you?
M.L.: One of the joys of being a full-time writer is that the answer to that question is, “Lots!” This December, my Firehawks series will continue with Full Blaze. I also have a new thriller coming out this fall in my “Dead Chef” series, Two Chef! Next year Sourcebooks will not only be continuing my two existing series with them, but launching two new ones. Endless fun, I love writing!