The author explains how she creates swoon-worthy novels that also keep readers on the edge of their seats.
A suspense author who sets her heroes in high-risk, adventurous situations, Susan May Warren is a USA Today bestselling author with more than one million books sold, plus multiple awards.
Her Global Search and Rescue series continues with The Heart of a Hero (Revell): With pediatric heart surgeon Dr. Aria Sinclair and former Navy SEAL Jake Silver trapped in the middle of a category 4 hurricane, can they survive long enough for a second chance at life—and love?
In this interview, Susan explains what draws her to writing high-stakes adventures, reveals the hardest part of the research, and gives us a preview of the final book in the series.
Susan, you’re well-known for your action-packed novels full of heroic characters who must overcome tremendous odds. How did you become so skilled at writing these high-stakes adventures?
I love research! I spend hours reading autobiographies and watching documentaries about Denali, or hurricanes (Heart of a Hero) and I have an army of go-to heroes and heroines who help me get my facts right, from firefighters to hotshots to SAR personnel to active military (any mistakes are mine, though!).
And, frankly, I like to try some of the high-stakes stuff my heroes do, like diving, sailing, hiking, and climbing. (Although I do draw the line at abseiling down the side of Denali, or trying to survive gale force winds . . .)
What drew you to this type of story?
I’ve always liked suspense and adventure, and I love survival shows. It felt like the right genre for me to dive into epic adventure (and romance). Also, any book with a team of heroes and heroines trying to save lives is one I want to know and spend time with, so creating this series was like hanging around my favorite kind of people—brave, smart, sacrificial, and fun!
Your new series is connected by the members of the Jones, Inc., team, which is comprised of ex-military, formers SEALs, and pararescue jumpers. What type of research was required to accurately portray these roles?
Not only did I have to learn how to do the SAR stunts, but I had to dive into military procedures, PTSD, lingo/jargon, and characteristics of spec ops soldiers. Thankfully, I have a son in the Navy, and a number of friends both in and out of the military.
And I’m a junkie of SEAL team books, movies, television, and documentaries. I am sure I got things wrong, but I tried to bring home the realities as well as a few insider moments of former military heroes.
In both the Montana Rescue, and the Global Search and Rescue series, weather plays a huge role in creating adrenaline-inducing storylines. How did you learn so much about weather and storms?
Annnnd, more research! I started looking into storms when I wrote A Matter of Trust (blizzard), and then continued it in Troubled Waters (hurricane), and Storm Front (tornado). In Storm Front, one of my characters was a storm chaser, so I dove deep into that life, which included how to predict and understand storms.
I’m now a very boring person at parties, as I dive into how a storm develops, how to survive a tornado, and what you’re looking at when you see the ocean receding (and I may or may not be a weather channel junkie!).
With all the research that goes into these romantic adventures (the weather, the skill sets of the heroes, the locations, etc.!) is there an area you find especially challenging to write?
I do love all the research that goes into writing the novels—especially the setting and challenges that go with that setting. It’s important to me for readers to feel as if they are there, so I invest a lot of time into understanding not only the area but the nuances of the area—the little known facts, nicknames and nuances about the area or activity.
Sometimes that involves traveling to that setting, always it involves reading books and memoirs by people engaged in that activity (e.g. climbing Denali, or living through a hurricane), and often I track down someone with first-hand knowledge who can answer my questions.
The hardest part, however, of the research is getting the medical/rescue element of the story right. I need to understand the severity of their injuries, the complications that could occur, the terrain of the rescue and how a rescue team would function.
Thankfully, I have a number of sources, but I always try and run the scenario by someone with first-hand knowledge, so I get it right!
The Heart of a Hero is the second book in the Global Search and Rescue series. Tell us about the two protagonists.
Jake Silver is a sweet guy hiding a bitter past. Not only did he separate from the military because of a terrible mistake he made, but he first ran into the service after a brutal tragedy from his childhood. Of course, he’s not about to talk about any of this, so he hides it behind his happy-go-lucky demeanor.
But Jake is also the guy who doesn’t give up, and he’ll give his life for you, even if you don’t want him to…which is the problem with Aria, our heroine. She already had someone give their life for her, and now, her job as a pediatric surgeon is to save lives, not cost them. The problem is, Jake and Aria share an—ahem— moment together. (Fear not, it’s PG-ish, but still, there’s issues).
So, when Jake and Aria find themselves trapped together during a hurricane, well, let’s just assume it’s awkward. And then it’s dangerous. And then, when they have to make difficult choices to survive, it just might turn deadly.
Did any of the characters in The Way of the Brave or The Heart of a Hero surprise you as you developed their story?
I think Jake surprised me as I got to know him better. I initially envisioned someone who was all play, but when I dug deeper, I found a deeply sensitive, kind man who would give his life for others. I think he might be one of my favorite heroes, despite his mistakes.
The other person who surprised me was one of my supporting characters, Yola, whose wisdom and actions surprised me. She does something in the story I didn’t see coming, as if she took control of the story for a moment there and said—this is what needs to happen. She was right. I think, in a way, she’s the star of the story.
Give us a peek into the next title of the Global Search and Rescue series.
The third book is called The Price of Valor—it’s one of my favorite stories, featuring Hamilton Jones, who is searching for someone he thought was dead … someone who has secrets that could change the nation.
Part of the book takes place in Italy, so it was fun to write about a country I love to visit (and not far from my son’s base in Sicily!). It’s a little different, but still high stakes, high adventure, high danger … and lots of delicious romance!
How do you create swoon-worthy novels yet still keep readers right on the edge of their seats?
It’s all about the heart, and how the hero and heroine reach inside and heal each other’s deep wounds. So first, we need to discover the wounds (half the fun is getting to the heart of the matter!) and then we have to figure out how they heal them. Of course, there is physical attraction, and high-stakes issues, but I think the heart of the matter is the healing they bring to each other.
I’ve always said that the way a man treats a woman wins her heart, and likewise, the way the woman lets the man be a hero wins his heart, so I just let that play out on the page, and … swoon!
What would you especially like readers to take away after reading The Heart of a Hero?
I think we all have a shame, deep inside, that we can’t shake. Something from our childhood, maybe, or something more recent. My hope is to shake that shame loose a bit and help readers see that we can’t let shame drive our lives.
We are loved, and when we are forgiven, shame has no place in our lives. We are free, with new hearts to become the people God intends for us to be.
In many ways, the hurricane serves as a sort of “stormy baptism” into the new lives Jake and Aria will live, once they are set free from that shame, and I hope it serves to help readers shake free, also.
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The Way of the Brave
Global Search and Rescue #1
Susan May Warren
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Former pararescue jumper Orion Starr is haunted by the memory of a rescue gone wrong. He may be living alone in Alaska now, but the pain of his failure–and his injuries–has followed him there from Afghanistan. He has no desire to join Hamilton Jones’s elite rescue team, but he also can’t shirk his duty when the call comes in to rescue three lost climbers on Denali.
Former CIA profiler and psychiatrist Jenny Calhoun’s yearly extreme challenge with her best friends is her only escape from the guilt that has sunk its claws into her. As a consultant during a top-secret mission to root out the Taliban, she green-lighted an operation that ended in ambush and lives lost. When her cathartic climb on Denali turns deadly, she’ll be forced to trust her life and the lives of her friends to the most dangerous of heroes–the man she nearly killed.
Her skills and his experience are exactly what’s needed to prevent another tragedy–but in order to truly set Orion free from his painful past, Jenny will have to reveal hers. They’ll have to put their wounds behind them to survive, but at what cost?
Leap into action with this high-octane, breakneck new series from bestselling author Susan May Warren.
The Heart of a Hero
Global Search and Rescue #2
Susan May Warren
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Jake Silver may not be able to put the memories of his time as a sniper and Navy SEAL behind him, but at least he can put his skills to use as a part of the Jones Inc. rescue team. Saving the life of pediatric heart surgeon Dr. Aria Sinclair on Denali helped too. Now he can’t get her out of his head, and when he hears she is in the path of a hurricane down in Key West he can’t help but jump on a plane to rescue her.
Aria has dedicated her life to helping children born with defective hearts. After all, she was one of those children. Now driven to succeed, she lives a lonely, stressful life. One she would have lost on Denali if it hadn’t been for Jake. Jake is exciting and handsome, but he’s also dangerous, and she’s already lost one person she loves. She can’t bear it again.
It’s not until she finds herself trapped in the middle of a category 4 hurricane that she can admit she needs Jake desperately. With their very survival in the balance, can they hope for a second chance at life…and love?
The Price of Valor
Global Search and Rescue #3
Susan May Warren
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Former Navy SEAL Hamilton Jones thought that the love of his life was dead. But when a girl claiming to be his daughter shows up with a dire message from his wife, Ham knows he will stop at nothing to find her and bring her home.
Kidnapped by rebels while serving as an interpreter in Ukraine, Signe Kincaid has spent the past decade secreting out valuable information about Russian assets in the US to her CIA handler. Fearing for her daughter after being discovered as an operative, Signe sends her to Ham for safekeeping. She’s ready to give her life for her country, and she can hardly expect Ham to rescue her after breaking his heart over and over.
When Ham discovers the reason Signe has kept her distance, he must choose between love for his wife and love for the nation he has vowed to protect. Will he save the many? Or the few?
USA Today bestselling author Susan May Warren takes you on a global search and rescue mission where the stakes are higher than ever in this final installment of her popular series.