Our interview today is with Heather Huffman (see all of her books) author of the romantic suspense novel Ring of Fire (4.6 stars). Before we get to the interview, here is a brief book description: An adventurous blend of love, power, greed, and personal conviction, Ring of Fire reminds us things aren’t always as they seem.
When rare, violet-gray diamonds are discovered at Alexandra McAlister’s clean-energy research site on a small South Pacific island, the reclusive scientist suddenly finds herself plagued by greedy gem hunters. To make matters worse, the island’s government is threatening to revoke her permits so they can capitalize on the find. Fresh from a confrontation with an annoyingly attractive government official, Alex happens upon a girl in danger. Instinct takes over and she rescues the girl, only to find out she is the island’s princess, and the annoying official is her guardian, Daniel!
Alex finds herself thrust into a situation where she has to protect not only her life’s work, but also her life itself and that of the precocious teenage princess she grows to love. Daniel appears to be their only chance at survival – if they can learn to get along. Undercover and acting the part of a loving family, they work to find out who is pursuing them and what it is they’re after, only to realize their relationship may not be an act after all.
Author interview with Heather Huffman
1. What was unique about the setting of the book and how did it enhance or take away from the story?
Ring of Fire was set in three locations. (I find my characters tend to move around a lot – I always set out planning to keep them in one spot, but they never listen.) The first setting is the fictional island country of Tuwanga in the Ring of Fire. I researched several island nations in the area to help create my little country. This was unique to Ring of Fire because the plot addresses the real issue of corruption in the mineral industry, and my fictional island was home to a discovery of rare, violet-gray diamonds.
The second setting was Missouri, where the main characters revisited several old friends from my novel Throwaway. Both Cherokee Street in St. Louis and the Ozark Mountains in southwest Missouri are fascinating places that captivate me, so I love including them in the novels.
Washington D.C. is the setting for a large portion of the action. Luckily, I had a trip to D.C. planned right as I was writing this book, so it helped me create a more realistic picture the world Alex and Daniel were in. I probably wasn’t much of a travel companion, though, because I spent the trip frantically taking notes!
2. What is the inspiration for your writing in general? What specific themes did you emphasize throughout your novels?
Nobody is a throwaway. The heroines in my novelsare always strong women trying to figure out just what their mark on this world should be. We all have a purpose and a plan, and it’s never too late to figure out what that is.
In Ring of Fire, Alex McAlister (the heroine) was passionate about using her talents to make the world a better place. She took the tools she’d been given to leave her mark on this world. That’s something I think we should all do. I love to write, and I hope to use that to, in some small way, make this world a better place.
3. How do your books raise awareness for human trafficking and other social injustices?
Many of my novels weave human trafficking and social injustice into the story. The books only scratch the surface – the intent is to make the reader aware and give them a face to care about. Through my author’s notes, speaking engagements, and resources on my website, I try to take them a little deeper into the facts.
4. To what extent do the characters remind you of yourself or someone you know?
There is always a bit of me in my main characters, although I have obviously never been in some of their situations. They always carry a piece of me and me them. I often picture a particular actress when writing my books; it helps me give the heroines their own personality.
For my heroes, I usually have an actor pictured as I write. I’m a visual writer – I see a movie in my head for the words I put down. Having my leading characters “cast” definitely makes the process go more smoothly.
Many of my secondary characters are at least loosely based on someone I know. Often they’re a combination of several people. A writer friend of mine has a shirt I covet. It says, “Careful, or you’ll end up in one of my novels.” That’s so very true!
5. What research did you have to perform to back up your story? Any research which really opened your eyes or gave you new respect for a topic or profession?
I have to say Ring of Fire took the most research! I usually spend as much time researching a book as writing one, but Ring of Fire outdid them all because the heroine is a research scientist. I had no idea the damage that is done to our environment when we mine rare earth minerals, which are found in most of our technology. That was a real eye-opener for me. It was also humbling how many hours I had to spend researching just for her to utter one articulate sentence.
As for how I conduct my research, I spend a lot of time on the Internet when researching a book. I also watch documentaries, check out every book I can find on a particular subject, and talk to people in the field.
6. How would you describe your books? (talk about how they are light and fun reads despite addressing difficult topics)
While my books don’t shy away from darker topics, they don’t dwell there either. They are typically light and funny reads, a paradox that it sometimes hard to convey when describing the novels. The way I see it, life is messy and often hard, but that doesn’t stop me from finding the sunshine in the world. That’s how I live my life, and that comes through in my books.
Another thing that’s evident when you read my books is that I love the idea of finding that one person who was made for you, and I love how the sparks fly when those to opposing forces come together.
7. What soundtrack would you say best describes your book?
I almost always have a soundtrack in mind before I even start writing the book! Just a few of the songs on the playlist for Ring of Fire were:
Joey (John Bartley’s cover)
Ring of Fire (John Bartley’s cover)
Ring of Fire (Social Distortion’s Cover)
Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad (Def Leppard – there was a lot by this band on the playlist, actually.)
The One That Got Away (Katy Perry)
I’ll Work for Your Love (Bruce Springsteen – there always has to be a little Springsteen on the playlist.)
8. What is your favorite book from childhood?
The Scarlet Letter would have to be my favorite childhood book. I read it in 6th grade, and its message had a profound impact on me: live a life of truth. I saw how tormented Arthur Dimmesdale was because of his efforts to save face in the eyes of the world. Hester Prynne, though she had to walk through a period of shame, was ultimately freed by laying her deepest secrets bare before the world. Something about that stuck with me through the years.
9. Are you working on any new books?
There’s always a new book! I’ll be sad if the day ever comes that I’m not elbow-deep in a book. The one readers should look for next is Devil in Disguise. This book revisits some of the characters from both Jailbird and Suddenly a Spy. Rachel Cooper, who has made at least a brief appearance in most of the books, finally gets her own story. When her younger half-sister is taken by human traffickers, she turns to her old flame Conrad Langston for help.
I’ve always thought that Conrad is such a likeable character – in this book, though, he gets a little more depth. While he is usually the stable rock who everyone leans on, the beginning of Devil in Disguise finds him in over his head in a bad situation.
Heather Huffman writes romantic suspense with strong female leads who refuse to lose hope and sees her books as a way to not only entertain, but to raise awareness of the realities of modern day slavery. She shares the passion of her resilient heroines to make a difference, and so dedicates both her time and a portion of her book royalties to organizations that fight against human trafficking.
Heather was born and spent her early childhood in Florida, but now calls the beautiful state of Missouri home. Her greatest joy, aside from writing, is to hit the road with her three boys for adventures unknown.