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Interview: November 19, 2010

Three-time Rita finalist Kylie Brant is back with DEADLY INTENT, the fourth installment in her Mindhunters series, which follows forensic linguist Macy Reid as she tries to find the twice-abducted daughter of a Denver tycoon --- and deal with her obnoxious (and incredibly handsome) new team member, who just might be the only man capable of helping her conquer her past. In this interview with’s Amie Taylor, Brant sheds light on her inspiration for both the series and its latest addition, elaborating on why she decided to delve into the field of forensic linguistics and how she determined the fate of the tycoon’s kidnapped daughter. She also speculates on whether or not men like Kellan Burke actually exist, talks about her writing process, and reveals a few details about future Mindhunters books. DEADLY INTENT is the fourth installment in your romantic suspense series, The Mindhunters. What was your inspiration for these thrillers?

Kylie Brant: I do a lot of research in my writing, and one thing I hear over and over again from law enforcement folks is that there are few perfect crimes --- lack of time and resources are the two major reasons why crimes go unsolved. The case load for detectives can be staggering. So I began to think, “What if time and resources were no longer issues…?" I know a forensic profiler who consults with law enforcement on crimes across the country, and The Mindhunters sort of evolved from that concept. A group of some of the best criminologists in the country who consult with local law enforcement on particularly complex and high-profile crimes...with that sort of extra assistance, there aren't many criminals who would go uncaught!

BRC: Kidnapping would be something that a person wouldn’t want to encounter once in a lifetime, let alone twice…which is what happens to Ellie Mulder. What made you decide on this fate for your character? 

KB: With five kids of my own, it was a difficult issue to contemplate. Her being snatched twice sort of all ties in with the subplot and backstory...and explains Ellie's character and her responses to the trauma, which otherwise wouldn't have been believable of an 11-year-old girl.

BRC: I love how strong and resourceful Ellie is. What do you enjoy about writing her character? Is there any of you in Ellie?

KB: I was unprepared for the impact Ellie had on me --- I'm used to calling the shots with my story people :) When a character gets stubborn, we usually work out a compromise. But Ellie was pretty headstrong --- she relayed her story to me. A lot of the things that happened with her scenes weren't planned...she just dictated them, and I wrote them down :) The most intriguing aspect of her character is that she refuses to be a victim. And her abductor soon learns that he'd vastly underestimated her.

Ellie's far braver than I would be, I'm afraid! But the mind games she plays with the villain...that's more my style. Getting the psychological best of someone!

BRC: Kellan Burke is funny and strong --- such a memorable hero. Do you think men like him really exist?

KB: Actually, I'm married to one! I have to admit that Kellan's sense of humor closely resembles that of my husband :) Some of the...ah...inappropriate comments certainly sound like something my spouse would say. I think a great sense of humor is the sexiest quality in a man.

BRC: As someone who loves to read and write, I find the idea of analyzing words and communications in a forensic manner fascinating. What drew you to explore this in your book? And what are some of the interesting things you learned about this subject in the course of your research?

KB: When I’m writing a book, I tend to focus on occupations that I find fascinating; in one book I had a forensic anthropologist. For a kidnapping plot, a forensic linguist seemed natural. And I was lucky enough to receive assistance from one of the premiere forensic linguists in the nation. She taught me the difference between stylistics and text analysis and true linguistics. Stylistics is when people try to draw conclusions from the words people use. For instance, a ransom note with contractions in it would have stylistics experts concluding that the writer was a native English speaker, and a missing pronoun would be taken as a sign of a lack of commitment or responsibility. But with extensive study, words can be chosen deliberately for the express purpose of creating false conclusions. Linguistics, on the other hand, focuses on syntax rather than the actual words, which is more of an unconscious choice. Syntax is more along the lines of diagramming sentences --- how many nouns, verbs and gerunds are used, and in what pattern. Linguistics is based on scientific research, whereas stylistics and text analysis have no research base. Amazingly, both are still allowed in the courtroom!

BRC: I like the way everyone in DEADLY INTENT is so human. Some authors seem to create a cast of perfect characters that are completely unrelatable. How do you keep your characters so down to earth?

KB: Perfect people are boring, and so are the ones who *pretend* to be. A reader won't invest in a character that he or she can't relate to. Characters that have human flaws and foibles remind us of ourselves or of people we know. Mistakes we've made, traumas we've suffered, shape us into unique individuals who react to the world based on our own experiences. I try to create characters with backgrounds that create yet another obstacle for them as they struggle with the external conflict or villain.

BRC: Did you always envision these books as a series? If so, what did you do in the first book to makes sure that you "set up" the series? Is there anything you regretted doing with your characters or setting that restricted you as the series went on?

KB: I had envisioned a trilogy, but my editor asked for three more books, ending with Adam Raiker's story. I'd never considered writing a story about him, but I was unprepared for the amount of reader mail I'd get about that character! People have been intrigued and fascinated by him from the first. But truthfully, I'm not a plotter. I do better adapting as I go along than uploading series details at the beginning, so I probably wouldn't have done anything differently.

BRC: What made you want to be a writer? How did you get your start?

KB: I've always been a voracious reader, but my favorite writers couldn't write fast enough to keep me with reading material. One summer, I decided to write a book myself. Two years later, my first two novels were bought by Silhouette.  

BRC: Tell us a little about your writing routine. Do you plot ahead and work from an outline, or do you prefer the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants method?

KB: I'm an organic writer. I gave up trying to pretend that I could outline years ago. I just don't have it in me. I call my process “writing in the mist.” I know the characters before I start --- and very well. Their conflicts, their motivations, the overarching suspense and a few scenes are clear to me. I usually know how it's going to end, but that's about it. The rest of it comes to me as I write. For instance, with DEADLY INTENT, I had no idea that Ellie would outwit the kidnapper in the one scene. The story sort of unfolds as I write it. I like to be surprised by the story; if I outlined it, I'd feel like I had already written it, and I'm afraid I'd grow bored with the plot. To stay on task, I create a very simple chart with two columns of boxes. I make short notes in them along the way about things that need to happen or things I need to return to. When I have enough filled in, I run it off and cut it out and lay the boxes out on a table. I switch the sequence around as I write --- adding more, removing others...that's about as organized as I get.

What is most amazing is that in my “other” life, I'm an extremely organized person! I'm a list maker and very task-oriented. But with writing...I'm different. I've had to learn to adapt to that.

BRC: What kind of schedule do you adhere to when you're working on a book?

KB: I teach full-time, so deadlines dictate my schedule! During the school year, I write nights and weekends. In the summer, I write 10 pages daily about five days a week. Under deadline, as I get to the last 125 pages or so, I write 30-40 pages a day in a writing marathon that leaves me in sort of a fog afterwards.

BRC: What are you working on now, and when might readers expect to see it?

KB: DEADLY DREAMS --- Book 5 in the series --- will be out in April. I'm working on DEADLY SINS right now, which is Adam Raiker's story. It'll be out in August.

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