Paige Tyler's action-packed paranormal love story To Love a Wolf, part of the SWAT series, is our June Top Pick in Romance. Tyler, who lives in Florida with her husband and dog, is a New York Times bestselling author of more than 50 novels. In this 7 Questions interview, Tyler talks about zombies, her surprising cure for writer's block and more.
Describe your latest novel in one sentence.
Snarky alpha werewolf from the Dallas SWAT team meets the beautiful artist of his dreams only to discover that her entire family is composed of men who hate werewolves and would die before they let the hero and heroine be together—think Romeo and Juliet with fur.
What initially inspired you to write about werewolves?
I’d like to say that my inspiration for this book—and the whole SWAT Series—represents a bright, shiny example of catching magic in a bottle. But in reality, I sort of stumbled on the idea. My hubby (who is my writing partner) and I had been working on an idea for an erotic series based on good, old-fashioned, alpha-male cops. The notion was a believable cop drama with a lot of hot sex. Should be easy enough, right?
But as we started writing the outlines for the various stories, we kept running into the same problems. Either the story ended up too procedural (i.e., boring) or too erotic (i.e., completely unbelievable in any realistic police setting). If you’re in the middle of a serious crime storyline, it can get really sticky trying to find appropriate places for the hero and heroine to have sex. They can’t exactly have a quickie in the middle of a blood-splattered crime scene or stop by the lab to drop off trace evidence on their way to the local BDSM shop.
Hubby and I kept working on story ideas anyway, trying to find the right mix of serious cop drama and steamy sex, but nothing was working, and we were both getting frustrated. Over breakfast one morning, we were still trying to figure out where to go with the concept and were close to dropping the whole idea—nothing was popping into our heads, and we were starting to get snarky with each other. After he went to work, I emailed him to make sure he wasn’t still spinning from our latest unproductive attempt at brainstorming. He replied back to me, and I to him, etc. That’s when something amazing happened. When you’re emailing back and forth, you’re forced to clearly put the thoughts in your head on the page, and the other person can’t cut you off halfway through what you’re saying. We still hadn’t come up with a good idea, but at least we were actually making more sense via email than face to face.
Then hubby made a joke about adding a zombie to the story (in his mind, every book can be improved with the addition of a few zombies!). I vetoed that idea immediately (I retain final executive authority on story content. If not, there’d be zombies, ninjas and exploding chickens all over the place.) and said that if we were going to put anything paranormal in the story, it should be a werewolf. Hubby said, “You know, that might just work,” and the SWAT series was born. We moved away from the erotic angle, focusing on the Dallas Police Department SWAT team, which is made up completely of werewolves. The series follows each of their efforts to find The One woman who can accept them for what they are.
The rest, as they say, is history. But it all started with a lame comment about a zombie.
Say you’re in the midst of writing your latest book, and you hit a wall. What’s your cure for writer’s block?
P.F. Chang’s spicy chicken. Seriously. Hubby and I do all of our best thinking and brainstorming while overdosing on spicy chicken. We’ll sit in a booth at our local P.F. Chang’s for hours bouncing ideas back and forth over a big plate of the stuff. The people there know us and tend to leave us alone to work. Luckily, they don’t get alarmed if they walk by and hear us plotting the best way to kill someone or comparing the various pros and cons of using claws versus fangs.
By the way, I’ve been angling for an endorsement deal with P.F. Chang’s for years now, but so far no luck.
You write in a variety of genres, from Western romances to paranormal. Which genre do you find the most challenging to write?
Since our basic brand—alpha hero, feisty kick-butt heroines and plot lines focused on steamy romance, pulse-pounding action and suspense—stays the same whether we’re writing about cowboys, cops, shifters or covert agents, romantic suspense is easy. It’s when we stray outside romantic suspense and write pure, basic contemporary romance that it gets a little harder, because that kind of story is romance stripped down to its core, meaning boy meets girl, without the added drama of cops, cowboys or guys with claws. Generating conflict and maintaining interest in a story of how two regular, everyday people end up together can be tricky.
I also have to admit, I’m primarily into blue-collar heroes. If you look on my Pinterest Boards, you’ll see hundreds of pics of cops, soldiers, firefighters, cowboys, etc. But you won’t see a single guy in a suit and tie. It’s just not my thing, which probably explains why I avoid straight contemporary.
When did you first start reading romance? Do you remember what book it was?
I first started reading romance when I was a teenager, thanks to two wonderful aunts who loved it and shared their books with me. The book that really got me hooked on romance was Gambler’s Prize by Valentina Luellen. It’s about a riverboat gambler who falls for a Southern belle. I read that book so many times, I’m surprised the words didn’t fall off the pages!
You’ve written over 50 books and hundreds of characters. Do you ever get stumped on what to name your next character? Where do you get your character’s names?
I get stumped sometimes. In my head, I have a very firm idea of what constitutes a “hero” name versus a “secondary” character name. I’ve been known to rename characters as a story goes along in those cases where a guy who was supposed to be a background character ends up in a more prominent role and will become the hero of his own book later. We maintain series and story bibles to keep track of all the names so that we don’t re-use them too often, but we still end up doing it anyway. I’m not sure how it happened, but we have heroes named “Trevor” in both our X-OPS and SWAT series. Luckily, one is a werewolf and the other is a coyote shifter, so they’re completely different. Don’t tell my editor anyway, though.
As far as where I look for names, that’s easy. I go to the social security website. You can look at popular names going back decades. I can spend hours collecting names that I might use later.
You’ve written about lots of heroes, including werewolves, cowboys and Navy SEALs. Who would make the best date?
Probably werewolves. I like big, cuddly animals, so a werewolf fits right in with that. They’re also good at keeping the bed warm, which would be a big plus, since I’m always freezing.
My hubby is retired Army and I flat-out worried my butt off the whole time he was in, so the Navy SEAL thing is out. My heart recognizes the fantasy of being with a SEAL, but my head knows what it’s like to worry about a man when he’s off doing something dangerous in some war-torn part of the world.
Cowboys are out, too. As much as I love animals, I don’t think I could be with a man who spends more time with his horse than he does with me.
(Author photo by Pure 7 Studios)