Jen: Today we welcome Winter Austin to Romancing the Book. Winter, will you share a short bio with us?
Winter: Winter Austin is a pen name for Winter Peck. She perpetually answers the question “were you born in the winter?” with a flat “nope.” A lifelong Midwest gal, Winter rediscovered her love of her beloved Iowa and its hot summers and snowy winters. Combining her love of all things rural, agricultural, and military, Winter translates that into writing deadly romantic thrillers, turning her small-town life upside down.
Jen: Tell us about your newest release.
Winter: Atonement is the first book in the McIntire County series. I knew from the start Nic Rivers was a sniper, and the best. This book was brewing in the back of my mind for several years, but it wasn’t until I finished my first series that my agent at the time challenged me to start writing books in a setting I was familiar with. Thus was born the idea to bring my home state of Iowa to life in the romantic thriller genre.
Nic Rivers is first out of the gate, bringing her dark and tragic past to small-town southeast Iowa. When a rash of unexplained suicides brings out her dirty secrets, Nic must race against a killer calling himself The Priest, while trying to deny her growing attraction to police detective, Con O’Hanlon.
Atone for your sins…
A rash of unexplained suicides in the sleepy town of Eider, Iowa, draws McIntire County deputy Nicolette Rivers into a devious killer’s twisted plot. A former marine sniper suffering from PTSD, Nic hides her own deadly secrets, and The Priest will do anything to expose it and her.
For redemption is at hand…
Eider police detective Con O’Hanlon is assigned to help Nic uncover the truth behind the suicides. She rebuffs his help at every turn, but the stubborn Irishman holds on. When tragedy strikes, Con helps cover up the fallout, but is he too late to prevent Nic’s dark, downward spiral? Or is Con the one man stronger than her demons?
Jen: Describe your writing in 3 words.
Winter: Dark, dramatic, dangerous.
Jen: Are there any other writers, published or not, in your family?
Winter: On my paternal side there are lots of storytellers and writers, but as far as I know I’m the first to ever be published in a genre-driven market. One of my cousins did compile and publish a biography of sorts for one of our favorite uncles. He was a Korean vet, an Arizona ranch hand, a race horse trainer/owner, and a cowboy who landed in a Coors beer commercial. (Gee, can I say beer on here?) I cut my teeth on storytelling, sitting around campfires and tables during family gatherings, listening to the stories of events that happened when my relatives were young. There’s never a dull moment at family gatherings when the stories start flying.
Jen: How do you remember ideas that come to you at odd times?
Winter: Usually my best scenes come to me while I’m driving and listening to a particular kind of music, and with my commute for work this gives my mind plenty of time to dwell. I can’t just write things down as I’m driving or fiddle with my phone, so I just roll them over and over in my head like a movie or a music video while I replay the song that triggered the scene. I won’t be able to recall what was exactly said when it’s time to write it, but it’s okay, considering it might not work for what has happened up to that point.
This really played out a lot with pivotal chapters in Atonement between Nic and Con. Especially the dance scene toward the middle.
Jen: What did you do to celebrate your first book?
Winter: My first book with Crimson Romance was Relentless, in the Degrees of Darkness series. The week it released was the same week as Mardi Gras. Louisiana and French Cajuns played a huge role in this series, and to celebrate my release I made my very first pot of gumbo and we had a king cake with breaded okra. This was a stay-at-home affair with my family, nothing fancy or big hoopla, but it’s become a tradition to have gumbo or red beans and rice with king cake on Mardi Gras now, which my family loves.
Jen: Do you do anything to celebrate a sale, new contract or release?
Winter: I have a glass of wine or I snitch one of my husband’s specialty beers. That’s about it.
Jen: Who are some of your favorite authors?
Winter: I’ll pull one top from each genre I read: paranormal—Jeaniene Frost, sci-fi romance—Sherrilyn Kenyon, thriller—Karin Slaughter, historical—C.S. Harris
Jen: What are you reading now?
Winter: Tami Hoag’s Dark Horse, Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl (finally), and C.S. Harris’s What Darkness Brings, along with my critique/brainstorm partner’s book coming soon in her sci-fi romance series.
Jen: What’s next for you?
Winter: I’m beginning the next book in the series with the working title of Born to Die. In Atonement you meet Nic’s sister Cassandra (Cassy) Rivers and the thorn in her side, FBI agent Boyce Hunt. Born to Die is set two years after the events of Atonement and brings Cassy and Boyce back together when an Eider police officer is murdered after several convenience stores and a bank are robbed. I’m playing with a modern day Bonnie and Clyde situation in this book.