We are very happy to welcome Sarah Madison to the Smoocher’s Voice blog today. Her latest book Walk a Mile, book 2 in The Sixth Sense series is available at Dreamspinner Press.
Sarah Madison is a veterinarian with a large dog, an even bigger horse, too many cats, and a very patient boyfriend. When she’s in the middle of a chapter, she relies on the smoke detector to tell her when dinner is ready. She writes because it’s cheaper than therapy.
Connect with Sarah:
Jodi: Thank you, Sarah, for taking the time to answer some questions for our readers. Please tell us a little about yourself and exactly how many cats is too many.
Sarah: Oh, this made me laugh! Well, like many writers, I was an avid reader as a child, and when I ran out of stories I wanted to read, I began writing my own. I did this straight up until college, when I decided to put away childish things and concentrate on a career. Basically, I thought it was time to grow up. I gave up everything creative: writing, theater, drawing, singing… looking back now, I’m not sure what I was thinking except that there was no place in my life for these things anymore. So when I discovered online fanfiction archives about six years ago, I devoured everything concerning my favorite television shows and began tentatively writing my own stories. It was like waking from a coma. I wrote like a mad woman, producing over a million words of fanfic in a period of about three years. That’s what gave me the courage to submit my first story for publication, and I’ve never looked back. I could no more stop writing than stop breathing now.
As for the cats, well, I lay claim to 3.5 cats. That would be the three indoor cats that are truly mine (and even that is one more than the house is happy with, the youngest edition being a holy terror!) and the two feral cats that took up with me. I call them my “Porch” cats because EPK (which stands for Evil Psycho Kitty) had kittens under my porch for several years before I could trap and spay her. It took me a year and a half to trap one of the toms from her first litter (the rest are truly like wild animals—I only see them from a distance on rare occasions) and neuter him. However since these two have been ‘fixed’, they are under the assumption they belong to me. They sprawl along my porch all day long. They come running up when I pull into the driveway. They follow me around the property. They are NOT my cats! I can’t seem to convince them of this fact.
Jodi: Well, I see we have a lot in common regarding the world of felines J. Walk a Mile is the second book in The Sixth Sense series. Does this book pick up where Unspeakable Words ends, or is there a gap in time?
Sarah: There is a short gap in time of about six months. Jerry and Flynn’s relationship is showing some strain as a result of the events in Unspeakable Words, and Flynn is determined to become ‘normal’ again. However, Jerry has doubts as to whether they’d even be together if not for the bond forged between them due to the extraordinary powers Flynn received in the first story. Still, he wants Flynn to be happy, even if that means giving him up.
Jodi: Are there a specific number of books planned for this series?
Sarah: I’d always intended for this to be a three book series, but while working on the third story (tentatively titled Truth and Consequences), I realized there would need to be a fourth to address all the loose ends!
Jodi: What was the inspiration for this series?
Sarah: I’m rather fond of ‘what if…?’ scenarios, and so it amused me to wonder what would happen if someone who was used to being in control of his life and circumstances was suddenly faced with a supernatural ability? How would this affect him and his relationships? Then I began to wonder if a ‘super power’ would be a curse or a blessing, and if a curse, to what lengths would someone go to get rid of it? I can amuse myself endlessly pondering these kinds of questions! Eventually, scenes and storylines start to form around such pointless musings.
Jodi: Jerry Parker and John Flynn are both dedicated FBI agents, but they have very different styles and personalities. Tell us a little about their characters.
Sarah: I’m a closet fan of ‘opposites attract’. I know in real life, similar personalities are more likely to create lasting relationships, but one of the fun things as a writer is to depict contrasting personalities and let them strike sparks off each other.
So John Flynn is your typical action hero: handsome, charming, a bit of a maverick, with a serious disregard for personal safety when it comes to getting the job done. He’s an athlete and an adrenaline junkie with some dark personal history that he doesn’t share with many people.
Jerry Parker, on the other hand, is precise and meticulous to a fault. He has a nearly perfect photographic memory, which makes him a great resource within the Bureau, but his people skills leave something to be desired. He doesn’t have a lot of patience with anyone he perceives to be less intelligent than he is. He’s “by-the-book” because he can quote the book, chapter and verse. His colleagues take advantage of his skills while not liking him very much.
Jodi: An unusual accident at a museum not only changes Flynn, but it also changes the dynamic of the relationship between the two men. What made you choose this particular “super power”?
Sarah: Ah, well, I wanted a ‘super power’ that could be hidden and one that couldn’t be easily demonstrated. (I’m purposefully being a little vague here, for those who haven’t read the first book) Essentially, I wanted something that would be easy to hide, to even pretend it wasn’t real. Kind of hard to deny you have a super power if you can fly!
I also felt that this power, more than almost anything else, would change the dynamics of the relationship between the two men—in part because Flynn isn’t forthcoming about sharing his feelings, and Jerry (understandably) feels at a disadvantage here.
Jodi: This dynamic does change the relationship and leads to some humorous lines. So, I have to ask, if you could choose any superpower to have, what would it be?
Sarah: Hmmm, the answer changes almost every time someone asks me this question. I can see the pros and cons to so many abilities! Tonight, however, I wish I had the power to heal. It would be so nice just to lay hands on someone or something and have a glowy light make them all better again.
Jodi: Was it a challenge to balance the realism of the story with the paranormal aspects?
Sarah: I know that for some readers, the paranormal aspects came out of the blue in the first story. I’m sure they found themselves scratching their heads and wondering what they’d gotten themselves into! But I wanted that feeling because that’s exactly how Flynn and Jerry felt when they ran into it as well! It should have felt like a major jolt because that’s exactly what it was like for them. I hope that it all makes more sense as it goes along! That was the attraction of the story for me, however: an extraordinary event turns your life upside down. How do you deal with it? I jokingly refer to my tag line of “Hot Men in Hot Water” because I like to put my heroes in hot water to see how strong they are. Like tea bags, only sexier. J
Jodi: In the first book, the agents in this story are looking for a serial killer. They do come across two other crimes in their search. Is there a continuation of the search in the second book?
Sarah: I definitely keep the investigative elements going throughout the series. We’ve got a lot of loose ends to tie up! Walk a Mile takes us back to Flynn’s old stomping grounds, so there is more about his backstory this time around, but I haven’t forgotten about the serial killer, nor the other mysteries surrounding the boys! All questions will be answered in the end (I hope!). J
Jodi: In Unspeakable Words, you do a great job balancing mystery, serious circumstances, tragedy and humor. Was it a challenge balancing the serious ideas with the humor?
Sarah: Thank you! I don’t think I had too much trouble balancing the serious with the humorous, mostly because I have a fairly twisted sense of humor. My own reaction to a tense situation is to crack a joke, so it came naturally to have my characters do the same.
I also enjoy snarky banter as dialog. I think the hallmark of banter (as opposed to bickering) is the underlying affection and amusement. It’s what keeps banter from turning mean and nasty.
Jodi: The novella Unspeakable Words seems to set a tone and introduce characters and possible plot twists. Will you expand on the main characters as well as some of the minor characters and their animosity in the second book?
Sarah: Ah, we will definitely learn more about the characters as the series progresses. We’ll find out a lot about Flynn’s former job and friends, as well as Jerry’s home life before becoming an FBI agent. Circumstances are going to lead both characters into exploring their pasts (but for completely different reasons) until they come full circle again. *rubs hands together with evil grin*
Jodi: In the first book, Jerry seems to think that his fellow agents don’t like him. Some of what John tells him confirms that. Jerry does not hide the fact that he is gay. Does his desire for control and wanting to solve cases stem from his need to be accepted?
Sarah: That’s a good question. I think Jerry has come to terms with being ostracized for his sexual orientation a long time ago, but it does say something about his character that he chose to go into a profession that viewed homosexuality as a security risk and grounds for dismissal up until 1991. In a way, by being open about his sexuality, he’s daring the Bureau (and his colleagues) to reject him the way his family did. However, if you asked him, he’d say the animosity stems from the fact he is good at his job and others resent him for it. He acknowledges that he probably hasn’t advanced as far as he could within the Bureau because of his sexual orientation, but he also knows he isn’t exactly the most politic person in the office, either.
Jodi: It is interesting that Jerry identifies John Flynn as being an adrenaline junkie and taking risks, yet, it is Jerry who practices risky behavior in this first book. Was that intentional, or did the plot just play out that way for you?
Sarah: I think there was a degree of wanting to impress Flynn here. I think on some level, Jerry would like to be the kind of agent Flynn is, even though he thinks Flynn is a loose cannon. He also wants to be appreciated for his field work, to be known for being something other than a “Walking Wikipedia.”
Jodi: Jerry says, “I think most people are, you know, Bisexual, that is. If they haven’t had preconceived notions of gender and sexuality drummed into them. Attraction is attraction.” Can you expand a little on this point of view?
Sarah: Well, as far as Jerry is concerned, he sees sexual orientation as being one long continuum, much as the spectrum of light. It’s fairly easy to tell the difference between red and green, but a little less easy to tell when one has slipped from violet into blue. He thinks that most people start out in a certain place on the spectrum (and are attracted to others close to them on that same spectrum, regardless of race or gender), but that many people are culturally shaped into believing only a narrow portion of the population is an ‘acceptable’ partner. That they refuse to accept that they could find someone of the same gender attractive sexually because that’s ‘not who they are.’ They tell themselves they wish they could look like so-and-so, or try to emulate that person’s style, all the while telling themselves that sexual attraction has nothing to do with their interest.
Jodi: That is intriguing and deep. What kind of challenges does Flynn face as an FBI agent who is romantically involved with another man?
Sarah: Well, although the FBI no longer openly discriminates against homosexuals, you can bet an organization so steeped in homophobia as to believe that your sexual orientation made such a security risk that you couldn’t work for them can’t change its thinking overnight, or even over a few decades. One of the things Jerry worries about when they go back to Flynn’s old workplace is how he might be perceived should his relationship with Jerry become widely known.
Jodi: Do they hide their romantic relationship from their peers?
Sarah: They don’t exactly hide it, but they aren’t particularly open about it, either. If asked directly, they wouldn’t deny it, but they don’t discuss it. Since Jerry is open about being gay, there were jokes made before the relationship became a reality, and Jerry is sensitive about putting Flynn in a situation where he would get the kind of teasing and outright bullying Jerry has known most of his life.
Jodi: What is your next project?
Sarah: I’m currently working on book three in The Sixth Sense series so no one lynches me when they get to the end of Walk a Mile! J
Thank you so much for hosting me here today! These have been great questions and I’ve had a lot of fun answering them!
Walk a Mile
Sequel to Unspeakable Words
The Sixth Sense: Book Two
Jerry returned his attention to the tableau unfolding in the aisle. Flynn was making his way casually toward Jerry; he yawned, taking his time. 15-A hesitated; Jerry could see that he had stepped into the aisle, but was thinking of sitting back down again. Just then, the door to the toilet opened and the toddler came out into the aisle. Picking up on the air of tension, the child immediately started to wail.
15-A snapped like a wire stretched beyond its tensile strength. Whipping off his sunglasses, he reached into the pocket of his hoodie and pulled out a glass vial. Holding it up high over his head for everyone to see, he shouted, “Everybody stay where you are!”
People glanced up and turned around in their seats, startled and immediately alarmed. 15-A looked around sharply, making sure that no one was trying to rush him. Several people had started halfway up out of their seats to see what was going on; Jerry knew they were remembering United Flight 93.
15-a moved his hand in a broad semi-circle so that everyone could see the vial tucked in his palm. “I have Sarin!” he announced. “If anyone moves, I break the vial. Someone make that child shut up!”
Special Agent John Flynn is everything Jerry Parker is not: dangerously handsome, coolly charismatic, and respected by his peers. Parker is assigned to work with Flynn and the sparks fly as their investigative styles clash. A chance encounter with a strange artifact changes everything, however, and the two men must learn to trust each other before a killer strikes again.
Rafflecopter Prize: E-copy of book #1 – Unspeakable Words