Jen: Today we welcome Marliss Melton to Romancing the Book. Marliss, will you share a short bio with us?
Marliss: Marliss Melton is the author of over a dozen counterterrorist/romantic suspense stories, including two Navy SEALs series (SEAL Team 12 and Echo Platoon), a counterterrorist Taskforce Trilogy, three novellas, and two short stories. She relies on her experience as a military spouse and on her many contacts in the Spec Ops and Intelligence communities to pen realistic and heartfelt stories about America’s elite warriors and fearless agency heroes. Daughter of a U.S. foreign officer, Melton grew up in various countries overseas. She has taught English, Spanish, ESL, and Linguistics at the College of William and Mary, her alma mater. She lives in Williamsburg, Virginia with her husband and their youngest daughter, one of six children.
Jen: Tell us about your newest release.
Marliss: My newest release is HARD LANDING (Echo Platoon series, Book 2). Readers are going to love this book. It was one of my toughest to write in terms of the intricate plot, but the love story between Navy SEAL Chief Brant “Bronco” Adams and his friend, Rebecca develops so naturally that you’ll feel like this couple is destined for each other. Here’s what it’s about:
Navy SEAL Brant “Bronco” Adams adores women but never lets himself get too close to any one of them—until he meets sweet, classy Rebecca McDougal.
Rebecca is the wife of Mad Max, Brant’s commanding officer and safely off-limits—until she confesses that she’s desperate to escape her nightmare of a marriage and that Max isn’t the upstanding commander they all think.
Emboldened to protect her, Brant skids head-long into Mad Max’s plot to do him in. Suddenly, the former playboy will assume any risk to give him and Rebecca hope for a future of their own.
The plot for this story was born while writing DANGER CLOSE, Book 1 of the same series, in which Bronco played a secondary role and stole my heart. The internal plot came to me fully formed, but the external plot took a lot of hard work and research to figure out!
His ringing cell phone interrupted his trek to the bench. Juggling his lunch to free a hand, he noted the unfamiliar number. “Hello?”
“Hey, it’s Rebecca.”
He jerked to a stop. The clouds above seemed to part, and a ray of sunshine streamed down, warming his shoulders.
“Well, hi.” But then he wondered if creepy Tony had made another appearance and concern edged aside his pleasure. “Is everything okay?”
“Uh, sure. Everything’s great.”
That sounded a bit forced. “Well, that’s good.” Why the hell would she risk calling him, then? He continued forward.
“I’m using a pay phone,” she said, putting his mind at ease. “You have no idea how hard it was to find one. Listen, I need to tell you something,” she added on an anxious note.
Bullfrog glanced up at him as he neared the bench and sat down. “Go ahead.”
“Well, first off—” She hesitated, and he could picture her biting her lower lip. “Max kind of mumbled a threat against you the other day. I just thought you should know.”
He lowered his lunch onto his lap and balanced his drink on the arm of the bench. “What kind of threat?”
Bullfrog paused in his reading, lowering his book to his lap.
“More of an implied threat, really. He said, ‘I wouldn’t enjoy his company anymore if I were you. Something bad might just happen to him.’—him being you, of course. I’m so sorry, Bronco. It’s my fault for talking to you in the first place.”
Frustration heated Brant all over again. “Christ, we were only talking!”
“I know,” she said, with lament. “But I should never have involved you in our issues.”
“I didn’t leave you much choice, remember?” He deliberated telling her then what he’d learned about Max’s secret account.
“Yes, but now I’ve drawn unnecessary attention to you, and I’m truly sorry. I probably shouldn’t talk to you anymore, even at a party.”
The regret that laced her voice tugged at his heartstrings. “That’s bullshit. You’ve got to talk to somebody. Besides—” He caught himself from relaying his discovery.
“Besides, what?” she pressed.
“Becca, you deserve better than him.” He winced. Shoot, he’d made it sound like he was offering himself up in Max’s stead. His heart thudded as he waited for her answer.
“I know that. I’ve pretty much decided that I’m going to leave him.”
“You—you what?” He almost dropped the phone on top of his lunch.
“I’ve decided to leave him. But I can’t just leave, or he could claim that I deserted him. What I really need is proof that he’s involved in something criminal.”
Shock radiated through Brant’s body. Rebecca wants to leave Max. It was like the universe and all of its stars and planets had shifted their alignment. When his brain started working again, he thought of a way that he could help her out. “What if I said I might have proof?” he answered slowly.
Bullfrog’s head swiveled as he gave up all pretext of reading and looked at him directly.
“Like what?” Her hopeful tone plucked at him the same way her despondency had earlier.
Avoiding Bullfrog’s wary stare, Brant cast an eye around to make certain no one else was near enough to overhear him. “Remember the account you told me about?”
“Well, I had Hack look into it for me,” he murmured, just loud enough for Bullfrog to overhear. “It’s a foreign account, Becca. We’re not supposed to have any foreign accounts.”
Jen: What what age did you discover writing? Tell us your call story.
Marliss: When I was thirteen years old and subsisting on a diet of Victoria Holt gothic romances, it occurred to me that I would love to write books! My 2nd grade teacher had already remarked on my report card, “Marliss is a natural born story-teller.” Taking her word for it, I decided that I was old enough at thirteen to write a book and I penned (longhand) my first historical romance, which only my mother ever read. After that, I was hooked on writing, but I knew it wouldn’t be easy to become a published author, especially with little experience in life, so I went to college to become a teacher and I taught for 15 years until I was finally published by Berkley Publishers at age 36. After that, there was no looking back!
Jen: Are there any other writers, published or not, in your family?
Marliss: My father has published three espionage novels featuring a CIA agent named Peter Ivorson. They are set in Laos during the Vietnam War, in El Salvador, and in Libya. My father is what you would call a Renaissance man. He speaks seven languages and has dabbled in various hobbies from restoring old cars to hunting big game, to flying his own plane. Writing isn’t his raison d’etre the way it is mine, but you could say that I inherited his storytelling ability.
Jen: Are you a plotter or pantser?
Marliss: I aspire to be a plotter. It would make my life so much easier to plan how I’m going to proceed through a book, step by step. But, no. Alas, I am a pantser of the worst kind. With almost every book I write, I back myself into a corner where I can’t possibly save my characters unless I either rewrite most of the story. Sometimes I can’t think my way out of my predicament for days or even weeks. The longest stall was four weeks long. Then, on a long drive home from my lake house—Eureka!—I came up with the solution to my plot conundrum. I tell myself with every book that this plot will be easy, but it never is. Being a pantser is painful, but I guess that’s how my brain works.
Jen: Is there a genre you’d like to write? Is there one you’ll probably stay away from? Why?
Marliss: Not everyone knows that I wrote historical romance at the outset of my career. Under the penname Marliss Moon, I published two medieval novels with Berkley, and I plan to republish them soon, along with the third book in the trilogy, which was never finished. I love historical romance because it’s so sensory! Back in the olden days, the smells were stronger (think horse manure, moats and boiled eels for supper). Also, the settings were more raw and dramatic (think castles and wild moors and maimed bodies lying on a bloodstained battlefield). In addition to historical romance, I have an interest in inspirational romance, perhaps taking some of my Navy SEAL stories and rewriting them to include Christian themes. One thing you’ll never see me writing is vampire romance. Sorry, but I just don’t have that inclination. Time travel is cool, but no vampires for me.
Jen: What kind of research did you do for this book?
Marliss: Way too much! First I had to research divorce law in Virginia. My home state turns out to be the very worst place to live if you want to get divorced. Then I had to research military criminal investigation. How does NCIS investigate matters and what is the process for putting a corrupt Navy SEAL commander behind bars? My father, who was a JAG officer in the Air Force proved to be a lot of help with that. My heroine is a nurse in the ER, and several scenes take place in the ER, so I had to talk to medical professionals including my oldest sister who is a nurse and my very own surgeon, both of whom helped me treat imaginary patients appropriately and with the right jargon. Then there was the usual research on military matters like weapons, procedure, and protocol. I turn to a retired Navy SEAL commander for answers to these questions. Plus I consult Google at least five times a day, using Google Maps to see places I’m writing about and to clarify matters when I’m not absolutely certain of the answer. Research is a huge component in writing any novel. Even so, I’m only as good as my sources, but hopefully that’s good enough!
Jen: What’s next for you?
Marliss: Look for FRIENDLY FIRE (Book 3, Echo Platoon series) coming in Dec 2015.
Five years ago, Navy SEAL Jeremiah “Bullfrog” Winters left college following an illicit affair with his lovely and like-minded literature professor. What are the odds that their paths should cross on a cruise ship bound for Mexico?
Francesca Albright considers herself a cured romantic. Life has taught her that love is an illusion destined to result in painful disappointment. Just because the earnest pupil who stole her heart five years ago has turned into a strapping Navy SEAL, that doesn’t mean Francesca ought to yield to her attraction.
But when an unforeseen occurrence threatens the lives of every American on board, Jeremiah’s unique military training offers Francesca, her daughter, and the other passengers their best hope for survival. It’s one thing to let passion carry you away in a life-or-death situation. But if they manage to survive, that’s when her choices become truly dangerous.