EXIT Inc. # 1
By: Lena Diaz
Releasing June 30, 2015
When Sabrina Hightower awakens to the sound of an intruder, she figures he's there to rob her, murder her— or worse. She doesn't expect to be carried off by a muscle-bound stud with male-model good looks... or that he came to rescue her.
Mason Hunt became an enforcer with EXIT Inc. to eliminate the bad guys—terrorists, militia groups, all those who would do America harm. But his latest target is innocent. If EXIT could lie about sultry, strong-willed Sabrina, what darker truths might they be concealing?
Going rogue in the rugged North Carolina Mountains, Mason risks everything to keep Sabrina close, especially now that EXIT's lethal assassins are chasing them down. The heat is on... but it's nothing compared to the slow burn of seduction.
Originally from Kentucky, romantic suspense author Lena Diaz also lived in California and Louisiana before settling in Northeast Florida with her husband, two children, and a Shetland Sheepdog named Sparky. A Romance Writers of America Golden Heart® finalist, she's won the prestigious Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense and has been a finalist for the National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award. She loves to watch action movies, garden, and hike in the beautiful Tennessee Smoky Mountains.
Hello Lena! Welcome to Roberta’s Dreamworld and thank you for your time. First of all, tell us something about yourself, both as a writer and as a person.
Thanks for hosting me today! I’m a wife, a mom, have a furbaby Shetland Sheepdog named Sparky, and live in North Florida. Action movies are my crack, when I have time. Or give me a tear-jerker romantic movie like Ever After or Knotting Hill. Obviously, I love to read romance too, and write it. My favorite genres are paranormal romance and the genre that I write--romantic suspense. EXIT Strategy is my tenth published novel.
How/when did you realize you wanted to become a writer?
I’m a late bloomer in that department. Reading has always been my thing. I didn’t start dabbling with writing until, well, much later in life. I’m not even sure why, except that maybe I got frustrated with some heroes not behaving the way I wanted them to in a book I read. Once I started writing, it was an ah-ha moment. I’d finally found what made me complete, what gave me true joy. I’ve been writing ever since.
Let’s speak about “EXIT Strategy”. We’ve read the synopsis but can you tell us a little more about what the book is about?
EXIT is a clandestine organization of agents called Enforcers who take on the jobs other alphabet agencies can’t touch, because EXIT isn’t constrained by the laws the other agencies must follow. EXIT masquerades as a tour company--EXtreme International Tours, Incorporated--to the public. And its association with the government is a closely-guarded secret.
Enforcers are assassins when necessary, and in a “Minority Report” movie kind of way, they take out the bad guys before they kill other people--without waiting for the kind of evidence that would be required in a court of law. But with this kind of power, comes an enormous risk of that power being abused, which is exactly what happens.
EXIT Strategy opens with a small group of Enforcers discovering that EXIT has indeed been abusing its power, and that because of it, innocent people have died. Mason Hunt, the hero of this novel, saves the life of the woman he was supposed to terminate. He gives up everything--the life he has built, his career, his own safety--to save the heroine because she’s innocent and not the villain that she was made out to be. And then both of them must go on the run for their very survival.
The series focuses on Enforcers who have gone rogue and who band together to bring down EXIT.
How did you come up with the idea and how did you create the characters?
I love the dynamics of brotherhoods, of groups of men who share a common bond of friendship to achieve a goal. And the books I write are over-the-top, high action flicks. So a natural combination of those two attributes was some kind of band of brothers fighting for something. But there are so many series out there where the alpha heroes are part of some secret agency or security company helping people. I wanted something different, so I went the opposite direction. I made my band of brothers the bad guys--assassins--or at least you think they’re bad at first. And I decided to make the company they work for be the ultimate villain. In short, I tried to twist everything around and then ratchet up the emotion and conflict by pitting the moral compass of these bad-boy heroes against the women who transform them and fall in love with them.
If you should describe your books in three words, what would you pick?
A Rollercoaster ride!
Do you have any favorite authors and did they influence your choice of the genre?
My favorite authors are mainly historical romance authors like Julie Garwood, Julia Quinn, Kathleen Woodiwiss. I never even read contemporary romance until probably ten years ago. That’s when I discovered Linda Howard. Holy cow. LOVE her writing. But honestly, it wasn’t authors that inspired me to write romantic suspense, it was TV and movies. When I write, I see a movie in my head. And it’s always a Bruce Willis movie, or an episode of Criminal Minds, or something like that.
What else do you enjoy doing, when you’re not writing?
Reading. Watching movies. TV. My favorite TV show ever is Grey’s Anatomy. I’ve seen the entire series at least six times. I binge on Grey’s Anatomy episodes as a treat sometimes.
As a writer do you get support from your family and friends?
Depends on what you mean by support. My family thinks it’s really cool that I’m a published author. But writing is my second full-time job, so there isn’t a lot of time for the things we used to do together as a family. So my family isn’t real thrilled about that. They want me to chase my dream, but it would be much easier all around if I could quit the “day job”. Not quite ready to do that yet. Friends? Yeah, since most of my friends are authors, they get it, and they’re totally behind me one-hundred percent. We’re all in the same boat and when the going gets tough we can whine to each other about it. And at the same time, we can celebrate each little success together, because we all understand how hard those successes are to achieve.
What are your dreams and plans for your future as a writer?
There are so many rungs on the ladder to being a successful writer. Every author has different rungs on that ladder, though. And mine include things like writing a book that’s someone’s desert isle keeper, making the top 50 of the New York Times list, becoming a Romance Writers of America Rita © finalist, and earning enough as a writer so that I can write full time (without having a second full-time job to pay the bills!)
Would you like to say something to the readers to encourage them to read your books?
There are all kinds of romantic suspense books out there from very light to very dark, and CSI crime-scene investigation to, well, whatever the opposite of that is. My books are action-packed, dramatic, over-the-top escapism. I don’t strive for real-life. This is a fantasy, fiction, entertainment. My hope as an author is to create a situation, a question, that hooks you from page one, and then takes you on a wild twisty ride that will make you breathless, and maybe even scare you sometimes. But more importantly, I want you to experience falling in love while on that crazy ride. I want you to feel the passion of a first kiss with a new lover, the wonder of looking into someone’s eyes and knowing they’re the one, and I want you to close my books with a smile on your face and believing in a happy ever after--not just for the characters, but for you. Those are the kinds of books I strive to write. And if that sounds like something you’d like to experience, I hope you’ll give my books a try.
Sabrina crept into her moonlit living room and grabbed the arm of the couch for support. Her right hand, slippery with blood, slid across the cloth and she fell to her knees on the hardwood floor. A gasp of pain escaped between her clenched teeth before she could stop it.
She froze, searching the dark recesses of the room, squinting to try to bring everything into focus. If the intruder was within ten feet of her, no problem, she could make out every little detail. But any farther than that and he might as well be a fuzzy blob on the wallpaper.
Had he heard her? She listened intently for the echo of footsteps in the hall outside, or the squeak of a shoe, the rasp of cloth against cloth. But all she heard was silence. In a fair world, that might mean the stranger had given up and left the house. But in her world, especially the nightmarish last six months, it probably meant he was lying in wait around the next corner, ready to attack.
The throbbing burn in her right bicep had her angling her arm toward the moonlight filtering through the plantation shutters to see if the damage was as bad as it felt. Nope. It was worse. Blood ran down her arm from a jagged, two-inch gash and dripped to the floor.
She clasped her left hand over the cut, applying pressure and clenching her mouth shut to keep from hissing at the white-hot flash of pain. She had to stop the bleeding. But there wasn’t any point in looking for something here in the living room to bind the wound. Only the couch and a wing chair remained of the antiques that she’d brought with her halfway across the country from Boulder, Colorado to Asheville, North Carolina. She’d sold the other furniture, and even some of her sketches, to pay the exorbitant fees of the private investigators searching for her grandfather and the even more exorbitant fees of the lawyers.
She supposed the Carolina Panthers nightshirt that she was wearing might be useful as a tourniquet. But she didn’t relish the possibility of facing an intruder in nothing but her panties. The nightshirt was definitely staying on.