FEVER: It’s coming!

Welcome today to my guest, Joan Swan! Joan is a triple RWA Golden Heart finalist, and a double Kiss of Death Daphne du Maurier finalist. She writes sexy romantic suspense with a paranormal twist, and her first novel, FEVER, debuts with Kensington Brava February 28, 2012. BLAZE releases October, 2012.

Thanks for being with us today. First, would you tell us a bit about yourself? What area of the country do you live in, do you have a family, pets, etc. Are you a coffee fiend, or do you have another “addiction” you must have on your desk at all times? What’s your education, if it’s relevant to your writing, and how does that education help you/or do you find that you can write well even without the diploma others might think they must have?

*clears throat*
*pushes to feet*
*takes a deep breath*
*keeps eyes focused straight ahead*

“My name is Joan Swan, and I am a Diet Coke addict.”

*breaks out weeping*

Luckily, where I live, on the central coast of California in a town of about 3000, there aren’t any DCA (Diet Coke Anonymous) groups, because crying gives me headaches and makes my eyes swell. Not pretty. That lack of DCA also allows me to indulge, much to my oldest daughter’s pleas to stop least I fall prey to some as-of-yet undetected brain cancer. (An unpleasant thought which actually has merit and has me substituting DC for other beverages as often as I can stand it.)

As far as other “quirks”, I have far too many to explain or even list without having to check myself into an asylum…  Wait.  That idea has serious possibilities…  I’ll contemplate, but move on for now.

I’ve been married 21 years to a real keeper, and we have 2 beautiful daughters, one in college and one in high school.  They’re keepers too, but **shhhh** don’t tell them I told you.  Their heads are already a tad big for their little bodies.

I, myself, have a bachelor’s degree in design from a California State University and a certification in sonography.  I’m also board certified in four different sonographic specialties.  But…mo matter how I stretch it – and remember, now, I’m a fiction writer – I’m not coming up with any way those have helped me with my writing.

Oh, wait.  Yeah, they have.  College has most definitely taught me how to deal with the administration bullshit bureaucracy found in publishing.  And sonography, reading all those black and white shadows on the screen, spending long hours in dark rooms with whacked out patients…well, that’s just made me a little psychotic—totally necessary in this profession!  A must-have!

And I’m not even going to mention my little pup, Indie, a little Sheltie/Aussie mutt we picked up at the pound as a baby who has become the absolute center of our lives and is currently curled up on the pillow next to me, the tip of his white tail to the top of his black nose, because he’s so perfect everyone will want to steal him away.  I’m absolutely not going to bring that precious gem into the conversation.

Tell us about your most recent publication/whichever book you’d like to talk about today?

But I was having so much fun talking about me…

Oh, okay.  FEVER is my next favorite thing to talk about.

FEVER is the first of the Phoenix Rising series.  The overarching series plot broils around a government conspiracy. 

A military warehouse explosion injures a team of seven hazmat firefighters, killing one.  The contents of the warehouse, extremely confidential and dangerous radioactive chemicals used by the Department of Defense in secretive scientific experiments, have inflicted the team with various paranormal abilities.  Abilities the government wants to study, but also suppress.  Abilities the team wants to hide, but also expose.  With military advancement and national power at risk on one side and personal health and freedom at stake on the other, each group is fighting for precious stakes.

FEVER is book one.  The hero of this story, one of the seven firefighters, Teague Creek, has been convicted of a murder he didn’t commit, framed by a government threatened by his prying questions into the warehouse explosion. 

Teague has been denied an appeal, lost the daughter he lived for, and the career as a firefighter he loved.  With no hope left, he plans an escape.  But his plan goes wrong when the woman he kidnaps as leverage to get his daughter back turns out to be someone else.  And this woman quickly clues into the abilities he tries so hard to hide, creating a bond neither can afford while they’re on the run from both the cops and undercover operatives who want Teague silenced.  This time, permanently.

What inspired you to write this story? What interesting thing did you learn or research to write it that you didn’t know before?

All stories seem to come to me differently.  Some present characters first.  Some flash with a plotline.  This one came out of a repetitive fear in my everyday reality.

One of the locations where I previously worked gained a huge prisoner clientele over the year I worked there.  I went from scanning two or three prisoners a week to scanning five to eight prisoners every single morning.  I began feeling like I spent half my day working in a prison, surrounded by guards and inmates.

Other things started to shift as well.  Security, for instance.  Some days, guards were in short supply.  Some days, guards brought the wrong prisoners.  Some days, no chase car followed the vans.  Some days, fully loaded busses came instead of vans.  Each change presented its own security risk.  As I spent more and more time around the guards and the inmates, I started to understand their routines, and quickly recognize how easily it could all go wrong.  One tip off from someone at the hospital to a prisoner’s family member.  One guard off his game that day.  Many, many times I was left in dangerous situations that should have never been allowed to exist.  I was lucky, nothing ever happened.  But that didn’t keep me from thinking, “What if…?”

That “What if…?” led to the kernel of FEVER’s existence—a prisoner kidnapping a hospital employee during an escape attempt.  The rest of the story grew out of that idea and was based mostly on the characters.

How would you best describe your books?

Passion, danger and suspense…all with a twist of the paranormal.

I write for maximum entertainment and fulfillment.  That combination requires a fast pace, deep conflict and rich characters.  Those are my primary goals.

What is your favorite genre to write? To read?

My favorite genre to read is thrillers.  I used to read far more romance, but in the last decade, the emotion in the romance seems to tear me up.  I love writing it, because I know where it’s going, how it will turn and where it will end.  But in reading it, I don’t know those things and I can’t seem to handle the emotional angst that comes with the unknown during the travel. 

I’m also an extreme lover of craft—story structure, prose, metaphor, etc.  I’ve found the skill level of some thriller writers like a piece of art I could study over and over—Koontz, Crais, Brown, to name only a few.

In writing, a couple of years ago, I would have said romantic suspense—that’s all I’d ever written.  Really all I ever liked to read.  But when I added the paranormal element to FEVER, I found a new love.  I’d have to say my enjoyment of writing both straight romantic suspense and paranormal romantic suspense are now equal.

What would you write if you could write anything you wanted to write?

I am currently writing exactly what I want to write.  Lucky me.

What would I want to write if I had the skill to write anything?  Romantic comedy.  I long to write funny.  I so appreciate a good comedic writer.  I’ve come to believe it’s a talent, not a skill.  I believe humor is something that can be honed, but not taught.  So I write to my strengths—character and tension with a little snark thrown in for fun.

What do you most like about writing? Least like?

I love getting to know my characters.  I love it when I’m deep in the zone and they take off and start taking the lead, showing me a new facet of themselves only my subconscious knew about, but one that, now exposed, gives the story new life and a fresh twist.  I love telling their stories.

Least?  The inherent anxiety.  Is this crap?  Is this boring?  Or the opposite—this is good.  Is it a fluke?  Will I be able to repeat it?  Is it really good or do I have a skewed view?  Am I the only person who will like this guy?  Is this girl too hard?  Is this plot twist too contrived?  Will I ever stand out?  What happens after this contract is fulfilled?  And on, and on, and on…

Do you belong to a critique group? What do you find most valuable about the experience?

I have participated in many critique groups in the past.  Now, I have a critique partner.  Elisabeth Naughton and I have been critiquing together for over 5 years now.  I love the company of other writers, but have found that at this point in my career, larger critique groups don’t work for me as well as simply the act of writing.  Going through the grind of pushing myself to be clearer, to dig deeper into my characters, to write fresher.  I’m finding lately that by attempting to emulate the masters I admire, by reading their work, studying it and applying those lessons to my own novels has been beneficial in growing my technique.

The benefit of having a trusted, talented critique partner is that she knows me well enough to give me the rope I need to allow me test and grow without balking at the change, but not enough to let me hang myself. 

What are you writing now? What’s next for you—will you be making personal appearances anywhere our readers can find you?

I’m pretty excited about what I’m working on now.  It’s another paranormal, but ventures deeper into the genre, exploring witchcraft, demons and true evil.  It’s complicated, dark, gritty and sexy.  Very fun!

I’ll be at Passion and Prose in Long Beach in February, the RT convention in Chicago in April and RWA convention in Los Angeles in July.  But I’m always online and love to connect with readers and writers via: Twitter: @joanswan or @romancegiveaway, Facebook: Joan Swan Author or my blog at http://www.joanswan.blogspot.com.

I’ve got lots of ongoing contests and giveaways you can sign up for at my blog:

1-Escape & Enjoy Mega Giveaway (http://www.joanswan.com/escapeandenjoy.htm): A week’s vacation in Lake Tahoe to celebrate FEVER’s availability for preorder.  Value $3000.

2-Book Buzz Giveaway (http://joanswan.com/buzz.giveaway.htm): Weekly giveaways for chatting up FEVER, runs eight weeks.  Prizes include custom ereader skins, early copies of FEVER, Godiva chocolates.  **Bonus** all comments here count as 3 entries to this week’s contest – just fill out the entry form.

And for comments here, you will be entered to win a $10 Amazon Gift Card or 1 of 3 custom handmade FEVER bookmarks!  International.

Currently, Joan works as a sonographer at a one of the top ten medical facilities in the nation, and lives in magnificent wine country on the central coast of California with her husband and two daughters.


  1. Tatiana L.

    The more I read about ‘Fever’ every day on Twitter and various blogs, the more I get excited for Joan and the more I want to read the book.

  2. Na S.

    I really like the sound of your work, both the upcoming release of Fever and future works. I gravitate towards dark, gritty stories, even with true evil. Even though in real life, I’m shy and quiet! It lets me explore a world completely different from mine. I could say the same for you too Joan, as you come across super personable :) It makes me wonder the sorts of characters, heroes and demons you are consorting with inside your head.

  3. Raonaid luckwell

    Deeper in witchcraft? Oooh that totally interests me! Man Feb can not get here soon enough to read Fever.

  4. Congratulations on your first novel! While it sounds very exciting and thrilling, I don’t envy the position you were in that inspired it. I have a job that deals with the public on a daily basis, and there have been scary moments where cops had to be involved. I can’t imagine dealing with it everyday!