Jen: Today we welcome Liana Brooks to Romancing the Book. Liana, will you share a short bio with us?
Liana: Liana Brooks would like to SCUBA dive Europa (that moon around Jupiter), but with the NASA shuttle program shut down she’s resorted to writing science fiction instead. She likes southern beaches, warm weather, sharks, and striped socks.
Her superhero romance series started with EVEN VILLAINS FALL IN LOVE and continues with EVEN VILLAINS GO TO THE MOVIES and EVEN VILLAINS HAVE INTERNS. For those who prefer their romance without a side order of spandex she’s written PRIME SENSATIONS (part of the Tales From the SFR Brigades anthology) and FEY LIGHTS.
Jen: Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
Liana: EVEN VILLAINS HAVE INTERNS is a superhero romance set in near-future Chicago. I grew up in Chicago and have fond memories of the Windy City. I love the history. The prohibition tunnels, Al Capone, Elliot Ness, all those secrets hidden beneath a vibrant city with an amazing history. I felt Chicago was the perfect fit for Delilah’s talents.
Delilah’s ability to unlock anything really lends itself to the idea of a jewel heist or blackmail. And I toyed with both those ideas in early drafts. In the end I wound up with a Delilah who has built a life for herself without her superpowers. She uses them, but they don’t dictate who she is and what she does.
She’s a very driven character and I paired her with a very dominant hero. Two strong-willed people falling in love is always fun to watch. There are sparks. There are fights. There’s a serial killer, and hopefully there’s enough Chicago flavor to keep the locals happy.
Here’s a short excerpt:
Snow crunched under Delilah’s boot as she stepped out of the cab on East Jackson Drive. “Park down by the university,” she told Freddie as a voice on the police radio confirmed an ambulance was en route to collect the final remains of Mayor Arámbula.
Buckingham fountain was beautiful, even late on a winter night. Past the skeletal trees, golden lights illuminated the sparkling water—the strobe of blue and red from the waiting squad cars rather ruined the romantic affect.
The cab pulled away. Delilah walked through the fresh-fallen snow, drifting across the icy sidewalk with the calm demeanor of someone exactly where they belonged.
At the edge of the square, one of the officers noticed her. “Ma’am, can I help you?” he said stiffly, shining a flashlight at her face.
He squinted, trying to make out her face under the black top hat she wore. “Did you hear anything? See anything?”
“I didn’t.” She watched as the ambulance pulled up and paramedics hurried to the body. They lifted the dead mayor onto a stretcher and a scrap of paper fell out of his pocket. The wind caught it, lifting the paper up out of the snow and blowing it toward her.
“Hey!” one of the officers shouted. “Somebody grab that! Gelphi! Catch that!”
Delilah snatched the paper out of the air with a gloved hand. “Here,” she held it out to the policeman she assumed was Officer Gelphi. Three barely legible words scrawled across the paper: Kalydon – 77 Wacker.
“Thank you.” Gelphi took the paper back with obvious hesitation. “Ma’am, I’m going to ask you to move along. This is a crime scene.”
“Of course.” News vans were already parking on Lakeshore Drive and she didn’t need to be on camera. “Have a good evening.” Pivoting on her heel, Delilah strolled back along the snowy streets until her nose was numb. Seventy-seven Wacker was an office building that had been on the market for several months. It wasn’t somewhere the mayor would have gone for a party, but a black market business deal? That sounded plausible.
A warm breeze alerted her to company. “Fancy meeting you here,” The Spirit of Chicago said.
Delilah stopped, watching him from the corner of her eye. “How did you hear about this?”
“I have friends at the police department. You?”
She shrugged. “I know all the good gossips.” She turned to face him, or as much as there was of him. The festively lit streets twinkled through his gossamer body. “Where were you tonight, superhero?”
“Where were you, do-gooder super villain?”
With a grimace, she shrugged again. “Busy. I have an airtight alibi. Over a hundred people saw me flirting with a handsome man tonight. We didn’t get as far as drinks. Disappointing, overall. Your turn.”
“I was trying to attract the attention of devastatingly beautiful woman.”
Delilah almost laughed. “Oh? How’d that work out for you?”
“She looked right through me.”
They turned side by side to watch the paramedics cover the late mayor’s body. A chill that had nothing to do with the temperature and everything to do with the muted pallor of death wound its way up her spine, leaving her feeling isolated and angry.
Jen: How do you remember ideas that come to you at odd times?
Liana: I scribble them down or email them to myself. I have a white board marker in the bathroom so I can write ideas on the mirror if I think of something in the shower, and I’ve woken up in the middle of the night to email myself a line of dialog or the solution to a plot problem. The subconscious is always trying to detangle stories and the answers show up at weird times. You just have to run with it.
Jen: Is there a genre you’d like to write? Is there one you’ll probably stay away from? Why?
Liana: I think it would be really fun to write true urban fantasy, swords and sorcery mixed with cars and guns. I love reading UF and I’m a devoted fan of the genre. Eventually I think I’ll write something there. And I will probably never write real horror. I know EVEN VILLAINS HAVE INTERNS has a serial killer and is borderline horror, but it’s not the deep, dark, sleep-with-the-lights-on horror that some people write. I’m such a wimp, I can’t read scary stories. I don’t like ghost stories or creepy dead people stories. It’s just not for me and I don’t think I’d ever be able to write something deeply psychologically disturbing. I could write a parody of a horror novel, but you’d wind up giggling.
Jen: What kind of research did you do for this book?
Liana: I actually spent a lot of time on Google Maps for this story. Since Chicago is a real city I wanted readers who were familiar with the city to be able to visualize it, and I wanted people who read the book and visited Chicago to find the city familiar. Being able to use Google street view and look up the pedway maps was wonderful. It’s a cheap way to explore a city you don’t live in.
Jen: Do you have a favorite character or one you most identify with?
Liana: I loved writing Delilah. She’s aggressive and pushy and just a little mean. There’s always a push to write “nice” female characters because society tells women they should be “nice” and authors who don’t write “nice girls” get told their ladies aren’t likeable. I hate that. Real women don’t always get along with everyone, or like everything they do, or follow the rules. It was fun writing a character who is unapologetic about her behavior and doesn’t mind being in the spotlight.
Jen: What did you do to celebrate your first book? Do you do anything to celebrate a sale, new contract or release?
Liana: You know, I don’t think I did anything to celebrate my first book sale. It was December of 2008, I was pregnant with our third child, and it was such a shock to receive something other than a rejection that I actually turned off the computer and walked away thinking I’d misread something. And I don’t recall doing anything to really celebrate.
It’s hard to celebrate ebook releases. You can’t do a signing. There’s nothing to physically hold. Usually you have to be content with a nice dinner with friends and family who will keep you from running to check your sales rank.
Jen: What’s next for you?
Liana: Obviously, Book 4 of the Heroes and Villains series is the next project. Maria/Strike is mentioned in EVEN VILLAINS HAVE INTERNS and she’s getting her own book set in South America. Maria’s a super villain, not a superhero, and it’s fun writing from the bad girl’s perspective.
I also have a new science fiction series coming out this year. JANE DOE: THE DAY BEFORE is being released in April from Harper Voyager. It’s SF with romantic elements rather than SFR like the Heroes and Villains series, but I think readers will see similarities between the heroines.