Interview with Brenda Novak – and giveaway!

Brenda NovakThis summer I picked up INSIDE, the first novel I’d read by romantic suspense author Brenda Novak, and couldn’t put it down until I’d finished. I read through the night and lost my heart to its hero, a man who spent his entire adulthood in prison for a crime he didn’t commit and is still paying for crimes he did commit while locked away.

I leapt on the opportunity to review her entire Bulletproof series, and I’m thrilled to say that Brenda’s here today answering my questions and giving away IN CLOSE, the last in the series (which you can easily read on its own if you haven’t read the other two).

Thanks for being here, Brenda!

1. You say on your website, “I learned how to write by reading what others have written. The best advice for any would-be author: read, read, read….” Being a bestselling author, mother of five, and organizer of a major annual fundraiser for a cure to diabetes, do you still get time to read? If so, what recently published novels have you learned from?

Inside by Brenda NovakI do still read. I think I’d go crazy if I didn’t. I’m writing so much that I have to be putting something back in the well to draw from.

I just finished CHILL FACTOR by Sandra Brown. Fabulous example of plotting and character development. Really enjoyed it. I’ve also recently read ROOM by Emma Donaghue, whose clever use of POV (it’s told completely from the point-of-view of a little boy) really makes that story shine. I’m currently reading Ted Dekkar’s latest futuristic. I’m not very far into it, but I’m enjoying it.

2. My freshman year of college, I regularly volunteered in Cook County Jail in Chicago, and ever since then I’ve been interested in artistic portrayals of prison life. I devoured the first novel in your Bulletproof series, INSIDE, which features a hero who has been released from prison and a heroine who’s an assistant deputy warden. Can you tell us what inspired you to write it?

In SecondsI was inspired by the television series PRISON BREAK. My daughter told me I’d love the series but, as you just mentioned, I have a lot on my plate. The one thing I’ve let go is TV.

I didn’t bother to watch it until I went to Utah on a writing trip (I need to cloister myself away in a hotel every now and then to finish a book). This trip I was doing double duty and seeing my daughters, who were in school there, after I finished my pages each day. One of them insisted I sit down with her and start the series, and I absolutely LOVED it. I kept asking if we could watch one more and one more until we’d been up almost all night. LOL

One of the things I really enjoyed about the series was the love interest, only I wanted to see more of it. So I decided to write my own romance set against the high-drama and gritty backdrop of prison life.

The exciting news is that we’ve heard from a production company who is interested in the performance rights. We’ve only just started talking to them. Fingers crossed it goes somewhere…

3. Your website has a fantastic story of one of your research trips, on a police helicopter.  What other adventures have you been on in the pursuit of research? Did you go on any for the Bulletproof series?

I did! The research for INSIDE was fascinating. I wanted it to come off really authentic, and that meant I had to know what I was talking about. I toured Soledad prison with a correctional officer who was also generous enough to vet the research in the manuscript.

In addition, I drove to Crescent City, where Pelican Bay is located. While I couldn’t go inside THAT particular institution, I was able to see what it looks like and garner details about the surroundings.

4. In addition to your Bulletproof series, this year you’ve also released a historical novel: The Bastard (released November 1st). I’m always amazed by novelists who can write in multiple genres. What are the biggest challenges and rewards of writing in more than one genre?

The BastardI think it can be tough to pull your head out of one world and immerse it in another, but I also find having a change invigorating. Historicals are so different from suspense. It gives my muse a break at the same time it provides a fresh challenge.

5. You must spend hours and hours researching various aspects law enforcement and society’s underbelly. What’s the strangest thing you’ve learned?

My trip to the morgue was probably the most intriguing research trip of all. I watched the autopsy of a murder victim, a man who’d been stabbed in the back. While it was fascinating and I was intrigued on a cognitive level, my autonomic nervous system rebelled and I nearly passed out. LOL The strangest thing I learned there is that they do skin harvesting on dead people. I’d never heard of that before.

Tell us about IN CLOSE.

In Close coverIn IN CLOSE, Brinkley Chapman has been searching for her missing mother for nearly two decades. It isn’t until she uncovers the truth about her late husband’s “accident” that she begins to suspect someone very close to her is behind both deaths. Then she learns that knowing too much can be murder….

I had a great time writing IN CLOSE because it has a fun reveal at the end, one that a lot of my readers have written to say they weren’t expecting.


Brenda’s giving away a copy of IN CLOSE to one lucky commenter. Leave a comment by Monday, November 21 to enter!


  1. Great post! I have the first book, Inside, on my tbr and will be moving it up the stack. I just bought “The Bastard” recently for my kindle because a friend, who’s also a reviewer and blogger, told me “you have to get this book” …I’m really looking forward to reading this series and would love to win the last book. Thanks for the giveaway!

  2. Thanks, Maria. I’m so glad you’re going to give INSIDE a try–and thanks to your friend for recommending THE BASTARD. Did she leave me a review on Since that’s the only venue that sells it, that’s my only way of trying to affect buyer decision. If she’s willing, that would be great. 😉

  3. Romantic suspense is a great genre for me because it’s very engaging and the heroes really get their chances to shine. The research you did sounds very interesting especially with your trip to the morgue. I find stories that are well-researched does make a story more authentic feeling, not necessarily overflowing with facts but that each fact that is used is meaningful. Thank you for the interview. Your IN series sounds fantastic.

  4. Great interview, Brenda! 🙂 I still think you’re brave to watch an autopsy. I don’t know if I could do that! The things you do in the name of research… 😉

    (No need to enter me into the contest, just wanted to say hi! :))

  5. Thanks for joining us, Fiery. The research definitely made these stories more authentic. That’s one comment I get consistently in the reviews. Hope you’ll give them a try!

  6. Just reading one of Brenda’s books is an intensive workshop in crafting a story. And she’s a wonderful person, too! I’m trying a slight detour from romantic suspense to mystery, but I’ve always considered my rom sus books as “Mysteries with Relationships” so it’s not that big a jump. I don’t think I could do a major genre hop.

    Terry’s Place

    1. What a nice comment. Thank you, Terry. Sounds like you’re on to great new adventures. Genre hopping can be hard. We are like factories that get used to putting out one product. I feel like I had to completely retool to do the historical.

  7. I just finished inside and am looking forward to the following two. You never repeat your plots and I love how you work characters from one novel into another (often). Your research shows too! I have *no* desire to visit Pelican Bay either, thank you very much! Happy writing from a happy reader!

    1. Thanks, Donna. Visiting Soledad to research INSIDE was really interesting, but I’ve always been fascinated by prison culture. I’m so curious as to how people learn to survive–on both sides (the inmates and the guards).

  8. Hi brenda My aunt and I just love your books we always count down to one of your new books however this last series we havent been able to read cause our little town stores stop selling them for some reason and niether one of us have ever bought anything on the net so we just keep looking for them everytime we go out of town. I must tell ya I ude to never read and one day my husban and i was taking a trip in my sisters car and she had stop me inthere that was the first book i have picked up and read in probly 10 yrs. I want to say thank you so much you have open up a whole new world by making such wonderful books

    1. Thanks so much, Tori. I’m really excited that you and your aunt like my work. I’m sorry that your local store no longer carries them. Have you asked the owner if she will order you a copy? They usually do that for no extra charge.

  9. This would be a new series for me but it sounds wonderful. I think you can always tell when an author enjoys her reserach – it shows in the flow of the story and there’s always interesting tidbids.

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