Wednesday, April 27, 2016

"There's Just You and the Bad Guy" - Katie Ruggle on Her New Romantic Suspense Novel



Katie Ruggle-2Katie Ruggle's new romantic suspense novel, Hold Your Breath, starts with heroine Lou Sparks landing in hot water—no, make that very cold water—as she trains for ice rescue in a frozen reservoir in Colorado. And then she finds a dead body in the reservoir.

The first in Ruggle's search-and-rescue series, Hold Your Breath combines suspense with humor as Lou and her rescue-squad boss, Callum, first spar and then team up to find the murderer. In the meantime, someone is targeting Lou. Is it the killer? Is it someone else with a grudge against her?

You know what to do. Read it and find out. But before you do, see what Katie Ruggle has to say about ice rescue, small towns, and crafting suspense in remote locations.

 

Amazon Book Review: Your heroine, Lou Sparks, has moved to an off-the-grid cabin in Colorado after leaving her more affluent life in Connecticut behind her. What about Lou and her fresh start do you think readers will find appealing?

Katie Ruggle: I imagine almost everyone has thought, at some time or another, "I hate my job/school/relationship/life. I'm running away to the mountains/beach/island/Cleveland." (Okay, maybe not the last one.) For most, these escape plans never get past the daydream stage, but Lou actually did it. She left life as she knew it behind and moved to a tiny, off-grid, scarily remote cabin. How wonderful and terrifying is that?

Lou admits to Callum in Hold Your Breath that she didn't even know how to light a fire before she arrived in Simpson. The only heat source in her cabin is her wood stove. In order to not freeze to death, she had to figure it out—fast. Lou's first winter in the mountains is a story of survival, of learning everything she needs to know in order to hold onto her newfound independence. Not only does she stay alive, but she thrives—and she never loses her sense of humor. I think readers will be drawn to Lou's courage and tenacity as she struggles not only to keep herself alive, but to help others as part of the rescue dive team.

Hold Your Breath opens with Lou going through ice-rescue training—and she uses that training later in a critical scene. You yourself have been certified in ice rescue. How often have you had to use that training in real life?

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately? That water is cold!), I haven't used the training as much as I'd have liked. After becoming certified, it started to snow…and snow and snow. I was living off-grid in the mountains at the time (although my system was not as bare-bones as Lou's; I'm a big believer in backup plans—and backup generators). As the wind howled and the snow hardened into rock-like drifts, I developed a new understanding of the term "cabin fever."

Several times, when the plow would finally, finally pass by my house, I was tempted to run out and wave down the driver, just so I could talk face-to-face with a real, live person. By exercising a huge amount of willpower, I managed to resist plow-chasing.

Since I was stuck in my house for weeks at a time, it was impossible to get to the fire station for training or to go on calls. Now that I'm in Minnesota, I'm planning to volunteer for the local fire department and dust off my ice-rescue skills as soon as I find a spare minute. With its multitude of lakes and the frigid winter temperatures, I'm thinking that Minnesota will offer plenty of opportunities for me to jump into cold water (um…yay?).

Hold Your Breath-25Lou and Callum seem to have an opposites-attract relationship, but they're both committed to helping others. What else do they have in common that gives their romance a solid foundation?

Despite their differences regarding, say, the cleanliness of their pickups or their window-blind-hanging techniques, Lou and Callum respect each other. They are both smart, courageous, strong people, and they know that these positive traits are what matter. The little things—like Lou's chaos-causing tendencies or Cal's insistence on arranging the firewood in a very specific, very orderly way—are insignificant—endearing, even. They truly like one another, and that's a pretty sturdy foundation for a relationship.

The details of the murder aren't resolved by the end of Hold Your Breath, so clearly we're going to return to Colorado to find out more. Whose story is next in the series, or will you continue to explore the evolution of Lou and Callum's relationship in the next book?

Although Lou and Callum show up quite a bit in Fan the Flames, the second book in the series, they won't be the main players. Firefighter and MC member Ian, along with gun-shop owner Rory, will take center stage in this one. Doing research on this book was a blast (ha! Please excuse my unintentional pun); my inner gun nerd had such a great time.

What aspects of a small town in the Rockies made it the perfect setting for your search-and-rescue series?

I love writing about small towns. There's something so comforting—yet claustrophobic—about places where everyone knows everyone else's business. The setting plays a huge part in building suspense, too. After I moved to the Colorado Rockies, it took me a while to truly understand the meaning of the word "remote." In the city where I'd previously been living, the average response time for first responders (police, ambulance or firefighters) was six minutes. In my new mountain home, it was seventeen—and that was on a good day. When there was a blizzard and/or icy roads and/or closed mountain passes and/or a herd of bighorn sheep hanging out on the highway, this response time could be stretched even longer.

It's scary enough to hear someone trying to break into your home when you're in the middle of civilization. You can call 9-1-1, and the police will be there in a handful of minutes. You can scream, and your more helpful and/or nosy neighbors will be there in seconds. Help is close and plentiful.

But what if you're alone in a mountain cabin with a bad guy at the door? You try to call, but there's no cell reception. You scream, but only the burglar and the coyotes can hear you. There's no help. There's just you—and the bad guy.

Scary, right? And that's why it's a perfect setting for a romantic suspense.

What have you read lately that you've been recommending to friends or other readers?

With trying to squeeze writing and editing into the small window between a night baking job and sleep, I've sadly fallen behind in my reading. However, I did manage to cram in The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata. After staying up all day reading, I was a bread-making zombie the next night, but the book was totally worth the sleep deprivation. I love her characters so very much.

 

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