welcomes today as our guest Award-Winning author, Pepper O'Neal. Pepper is a researcher, a writer, and an adrenalin junkie. She has a doctorate in education and spent several years in Mexico and the Caribbean working as researcher for an educational resource firm based out of Mexico City.

During that time, she met and befriended many adventurers like herself, including former CIA officers and members of organized crime. Her fiction is heavily influenced by the stories they shared with her, as well her own experiences abroad.

Pepper attributes both her love of adventure and her compulsion to write fiction to her Irish and Cherokee ancestors. When she’s not at her computer, Pepper spends her time taking long walks in the forests near her home or playing with her three cats. And of course, planning the next adventure.

Norm: Good day Pepper and thanks for participating in our interview

How did you get started in writing? What keeps you going?

Pepper: My family moved around a lot when I was younger. And as the new kid in almost every school I went to, I spent a lot of time by myself, and so I read. And in reading so much, something I still do today, I grew to love stories. As such, I always seemed to have at least one dancing in my head. I write now because I can’t not write. If I am not able to read or write, I start jonesing and become very restless. My characters want their stories told.

Norm: Why have you been drawn to writing romantic thrillers? As a follow up, are there aesthetic advantages and disadvantages peculiar to the romantic thriller? Does it have a particular form?

Pepper: Well, the first novel I wrote I sent to an agent. She responded that she loved the story and the characters, but the novel would never sell unless I added romance, as that was pretty much the only thing selling at the time. So I went back and revised the novel I’d sent to the agent, as well as my work-in-progress, to add romance, and since those two novels each started a series, I was kind of stuck, if you know what I mean. But, hey, I don’t really mind. Everyone needs a little romance in their lives, and sometimes the only place we find it is in the stories we read.

Norm: How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing?  Do you have a specific writing style?

 Pepper: A writing style, hmmm? Not that I am aware of. I pretty much sit down at my computer and write whatever comes into my head. Usually I have a vague idea for a story, or maybe a general theme, and I just let my characters write it. At least for the first draft. Of course, since my characters have never taken any writing classes, I have to go back in after the first draft and plug all the holes in the plot.

Norm: Are you a plot or character writer?

Pepper: Well, my stories are character driven, if that is what you mean. I find that once I develop a character, they have very clear ideas on what they will or will not do. I often find that if I am having trouble with a scene, it’s because I am trying to get my characters to do something they wouldn’t actually do.

Norm: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Pepper: Yeah, writing. J I am usually pretty focused, but life keeps intruding on both my writing time and my concentration. I have also been having health problems. I have Sjögren’s Syndrome, and it affects my eyes, so I do a lot of writing in my head

Norm: Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

Pepper: I spent a lot of years in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean after I got my doctorate, working for an educational resource company based out of Mexico City, and I met a lot of very interesting people (former CIA officers, former Special Forces people, even former organized crime members) who told me a lot of extremely interesting stories. I find that these experiences influence my writing a great deal.

Norm: Which of your books/stories are you most attached to and why? As a follow up, which fictional character would you most like to have a drink with, and why?

Pepper: I think my favorite book is Blood Fest: Cursing Fate. The main characters, Drake and Tabbi, are based on very good friends of mine, and I enjoyed writing the book very much. It made me feel close to my friends. I came back to the States and settled down to write, and they are still out there having adventures and I miss them.

Norm: What's your average working day like? Do you have any unusual habits/rituals?

Pepper: I am not sure I have an average working day. My day job is as a free-lance researcher, writer, and paralegal, so I have to wrestle my fiction writing time from my other work. But as I work from my home office, it’s not as hard for me as it might be for someone who has to leave home and go to an office for a day job.

Norm: Could you tell our readers about your most recent work, Dead Men Don’t?

Pepper:  Dead Men Don’t is the second book in my Black Ops Chronicles series about the CIA and an organized crime family. This book was fun to write as its hero is one of my favorite characters. He’s former British SAS as well as former CIA. He helped me vet the book and we spent a lot of time working on some of the more technical aspects of the book. This novel, like most of my novels, is based on a true story.

Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and your books?

Pepper: I have an author’s page on Amazon Author Central, though I don’t keep it up to date that well. I also have a Facebook page, and a WEBSITE: 

Norm: After your phenomenal success as an author what, if anything, remains "undone" for you? What is the one thing you haven't done, that you are still "itching" to accomplish?"

Pepper: I am not sure I would classify my success as phenomenal, but one thing I would love to do that I have so far not been able to is to go to Ireland and get acquainted with my grandmother’s family there and investigate my roots. I have done this on the Cherokee side, but as yet have been unable to do so on the Irish side of my family.

Norm: As this interview draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.

Pepper:  The only one I can think of would be when my on my next book is coming out. That will be Blood Fest: Running Scared, which will be coming out sometime next spring, hopefully. If I can get my edits done in time.

Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors

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