Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Get Lost in an "Unforgettable" Romance from Heather Ashby and Maj. Chris Bergeron

The 9/11 spirits aboard USS New York are back! Their mission: help Cate and Mike find their happily ever afters—and stay alive. 

Captain Cate Hawkins, has run from her unconventional childhood by becoming a Marine Corps pilot. But when a mission in East Africa goes awry, she finds herself in a race for her life. 

Navy pilot, Mike Nikolopoulos wants nothing more than to rescue his new love. If the spirits help him save her, they’ll finally be free to move on to the light. But can Mike overcome a sudden fear of flying to find his way to Cate before terrorists repeat “Black Hawk Down”—with a female American pilot this time?

E.E. Today, my special guests are Heather Ashby and her writing partner, Major Christopher Bergeron. They're here today together, loaded and ready to roll with a fascinating interview about their writing, collaboration and background -- including their real-life "romances." They'll be sharing an exclusive excerpt, and there's a giveaway, too. 

Heather: Elisabeth, thanks for inviting us to Get Lost In A Story. And thanks for giving us the conn today. (Military-speak for “we are in charge.”) Go put your feet up. We’ve got this. What do you think, Chris? Can we handle an interview all by ourselves?

Chris: I’m mission ready. How about you?

Heather: I’m good to go. Okay, first question. You’re a retired Marine Corps major and I know you can write awesome USMC scenarios, but I don’t really know what you did in the Marines. Care to share with us?

Chris: I was in logistics, a job had that me touring with every aspect of the Marine Corps—from wing units to infantry. All over the world. I specialized in unit movement and operational planning. My job was to get Marines and their equipment combat ready to fight when they got there. I also spent six years attached to Navy amphibious ships, so writing NEVER FORGET and UNFORGETTABLE have been a trip down Memory Lane to familiar turf. 

Christopher Bergeron is a retired Major in the United States Marine Corps, with twenty-four years of service. His ten deployments include combat tours in Desert Shield/Desert Storm; Somalia; Kosovo; Haiti; Fallujah, Iraq; and Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Chris’s travels have covered the globe, including more than twenty countries. He lives with his wife and son in Rockford, Michigan, where he is currently a Communications/Marketing student at Grand Valley State University. Unforgettable is his first novel.

Award winning author, Heather Ashby is a Navy veteran who taught school and raised a family while accompanying her Navy husband around the United States, Japan, and the Middle East. In gratitude for their Army son’s safe return from Afghanistan and Iraq, she now writes military romance novels, donating half her royalties to Fisher House Foundation in support of wounded warriors and their families. Heather lives in Atlantic Beach, Florida with her retired Navy husband. Unforgettable is the fourth and final book in the “Love in the Fleet” series.

Twitter: @HAshbyAuthor
Facebook: Heather Ashby Author  

Chris: What did you do in the Navy, Heather?

Heather: I was a Personnelman working in the Transient Personnel Unit in Norfolk—what many people call the armpit of the Navy. I hope I made some sailors’ trip through TPU a bit more palatable by taking an individual interest in them as I processed their records for transfer or discharge. Norfolk was not my choice of duty stations, but I did meet my husband there, so it was all for the best. What I learned in the Navy was to appreciate what I have and to not complain. I have little tolerance for whiners. I bet you’d agree with that.

Chris: No tolerance, whatsoever. Your husband was in the service too. So tell me how you met “Commander Integrity.”

Heather: He was Lieutenant Integrity in those days, still doing the right thing and following all the rules—except for this one time. I picked him up at a party at the Officer’s Club in Little Creek, Virginia. He was an officer. I wasn’t. We’re going on 39 years of marriage and we haven’t gotten caught yet. If you’ve read FORGIVE AND FORGET, you’ll know exactly where I got the idea about a rule-following lieutenant hero—and a rule-bending, enlisted heroine.

Chris: LOL, I can just see you crashing a party at the O Club, Heather. Here’s how I met my wife. She was in the Navy and we were both assigned to the USS Bonhomme Richard, LHD-6 when it was being built in Pascagoula, Mississippi. It’s an amphibious ship, so the falling in love part of NEVER FORGET and UNFORGETTABLE brought back a lot of memories. Anyway, we started out as friends who ran in the same social circles. One night we all ended up in New Orleans and the whole group burned out except for the two of us. We danced until the sun came up on Bourbon Street and we’ve been together ever since. 

Heather: Awwww, great story and you’re an awesome couple, Chris. Okay, so you’re retired from the Marine Corps and back in college. What do you want to be when you grow up? What’s your major and what do you want to do next with your life?

Chris: Wait. Do I have to grow up? I suffer from total Peter Pan Syndrome. One of the benefits of the military is that you can put off deciding what you want to be until you’re forty-something. I’m currently studying advertising and photography. Photography is a creative outlet I’ve played with since childhood. Come on, how cool was it shooting the covers for FORGIVE and FORGET, FORGET ME NOT, and NEVER FORGET? Remember how fun—and crazy—that week was?

Heather: Yes! Readers, Chris is an excellent photographer with professional equipment. Our editor, Teresa Medeiros gave us the go-ahead to use my son as the cover model and let Chris shoot the covers. But, Chris was in the middle of moving after his retirement. 
We had a one week window to get my son flown in, gather all the necessary uniform items, and set up Chris’s equipment before the movers packed them up. We needed a flight suit and uniform jackets from the base thrift shop, but it was only open on Thursdays. On that last Thursday before he left town, we met at the thrift shop at 9:00 when it opened. We literally raced through, grabbing uniforms, giggling our tails off, because I had a substitute teaching job at 10:00 across town and he had to be at his son’s fifth grade graduation at 10:00 a.m. We found the right items, threw the money down on the table and raced to the parking lot, laughing the entire time. The next day we picked my son up at the airport, draped my dining room in black, set up the photography equipment, and voila! Book covers!

Heather: Okay, back to questions. What’s your most interesting quirk?
Chris: I’m a complete Sci-Fi geek. I think I’ve seen every B Sci-Fi movie from the 70’s. “Forbidden Planet,” “The Day the Earth stood still.” You name it. It fascinated me as a kid and my Dad is the same way. It was one of the things we shared. I just introduced my son to “Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind” and we’ll be visiting Devil’s Tower as part of our summer vacation. My turn. What’s your favorite movie of all time?

Heather: “To Kill A Mockingbird.” Favorite book and movie. And one of the few films that did the book justice. How about you?

Chris: “Lawrence of Arabia.” It was such a sweeping and magical movie. It was a war movie, but so much more. I just wish I’d been old enough to see it on the big screen.

Heather: Haha! Some people in this interview were old enough to see it on the big screen. I always forget I’m old enough to be your mother. I keep thinking you’re my little brother.

Chris: Well, you’re the closest thing I’ve ever had to a sister, so I guess that works.

Heather: Well, the giggles in that thrift shop will last me a lifetime. These are the kind of memories you make with your little brother. Okay, let’s get back on track. What inspires you?

Chris: All I need is an hour in the pool, on my bike, or in my running shoes. Something about physical exercise spears my brain and gets the creative juices flowing. It’s like a big re-set button. You would mention something we needed to do in the story and then I’d head out on the bike or go for a run. I’d just turn the idea over and over, mixing it up, and then I’d come back and hit the computer. And it would just flow onto the paper. How about you? 

Heather: I’m very spiritual. The mornings I set aside 30 minutes of dedicated prayer and meditation time turn into the most productive days. Everything seems to just fall into place, practically without effort. I am extremely ADHD, so without this focused time to get centered—and anchored—my days just spin out of control.

Chris: Let’s switch things up a little. Who’s your favorite villain?

Heather: I don’t have one. There are so many real villains in the world already, that I don’t want to read about them or watch them in a movie. I know my stories need to have an external conflict and good has to conquer evil, but it still creeps me out so I try to keep it to a minimum. Why do you think I had you write the bad guys and the violence? Who’s your favorite villain?

Chris: (Rubbing his hands together while sneering villainously.) Any Bond villain. James bond fanatic here too. I will admit that the end of UNFORGETTABLE was a Bond-style death for the bad guy and I got a ton of inspiration for writing that truly wicked baddy from Ian Fleming. If I had to name just one though, it would be Dr. No, the uber-cheesy villain from the first Bond film. Everything about the guy was over the top, but still I loved it and believed it. I wanted to make Khaliif in UNFORGETTABLE that kind of bad guy, with depth, purpose, and drive—but fatally flawed. 

Heather: And you did. Amiir Khaliif Thamak is truly unforgettable. So where do we go from here? The series is done. You’re the best little brother/co-author a girl could ask for. What do we do next

Chris: I like the idea of writing a series prequel about how our elderly ghost couple met during WWII. Lots of spy and undercover action in Europe going through my head. But you got to give me a couple of years while I finish school. How about on your own? Any writing plans up your sleeve

Heather: Yes. There were epilogues cut from all four book in the “Love in the Fleet” series. I’m going to cobble them together and put them out as a $.99 special right after New Year’s. I’m sure readers would like to see what happens to our characters when they “grow up.” (Except for Sky. He’ll never grow up.) Okay, I’ve got one parting question for you, Chris. What makes you smile? Even on a bad day?

Chris: That’s an easy one. My son. The boy is a total ham and comedian. After 24 years of service, one of the main reasons I retired from the Marines was I just got tired of being away from him. 

Heather: That’s so sweet. I can hear the readers saying “Awww” through cyberspace. It would be a poignant note to end our interview on, but Elisabeth asked us to include a brief excerpt. Since you waxed and waned so beautifully on villains, I say we share a bit of your creation, Amiir Khaliif Thamak.

    “What about the rest of the village, Amiir?” asked one of Khaliif’s henchmen.
    “Leave it. The beheading should get our message across. The prize is Lady America. We get her and we own the revolution. We will all be rich and powerful men.”
    Khaliif’s men smiled at one another. And he smiled at his power over them. He still had their loyalty. Even after the lion attack and all the adversity, they again believed this coup was going to happen. They climbed into the trucks and disappeared down the road.
    Khaliif lit a cigarette and sucked the smoke down deep into his lungs as he drove. His mind slipped to his prey and the hunt at hand. He exhaled bitterly as his mother’s screams echoed in his head. Soon it would be his turn to exact the ultimate revenge. An eye for an eye, the infidels called it. His lips curved into a dangerous smile. An American female running loose on his turf? Yes, this would be sweet. A woman who would soon understand how his mother had felt before her death, who might welcome her own death by the time they were done with her. All his key men would get to play.
And Khaliif would be first in line.

Chris: Oh, yeah, I loved writing Khaliif! But don’t worry, readers. He’ll get his due.

Heather: (Shaking off icky-bad-guy vibes.) Thanks, Elisabeth for letting us take over for a few minutes. We have several questions for your readers: 

Chris wants to know if they like stories with dastardly villains who get what’s coming to them? I prefer to hear what inspires your readers or makes them smile, even on a bad day. We have a copy of UNFORGETTABLE signed by both of us for one lucky commenter who answers either question. 

If they haven’t read the rest of the series, they may want to start with Book 1, FORGIVE and FORGET. Thanks for inviting us to Get Lost In A Story!

Heather is currently featured as one of Lorelei’s Lit Lairs “Authors to Watch” on Read A Romance Month

Check out her blog post for a chance to win a Vera Bradley laptop bag filled with romance novels. Drawing on 8-31-15.


Heather Ashby said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Heather Ashby said...

Thanks for inviting us today, Elisabeth. I'll be around to visit with readers throughout the day. Chris sends his regrets as he's in Yellowstone and parts west with his family. I asked if they'd be camping. He replied, "Are you kidding? After 24 years in the Marine Corps I've done enough camping for this lifetime."

Kathleen Bittner Roth said...

Great post! I mean, really great post! So many interesting tidbits...you two must have really enjoyed working together. What a gift to be able to write, let alone end up with a writing partners who are on the inside track when it comes to capturing military voice and specs..

Heather Ashby said...

Thanks, Kathleen. It has been a joy working with Chris. And what's scary is that we both write by the seats of our pants, with scenes and chapters all out of order. It amazes us that a complete emerges at the end. AND that we had so much fun writing it! Thanks for stopping by.

Robin Wilson said...

To answer your question: YES. Give me vengeance for an evildoer! I love it when the hero beats up a villain who has hurt his love. Bring it on! lol
(Great interview, Heather and Chris.)

Heather Ashby said...

Haha! Except in Unforgettable, it's the heroine who triumphs over the bad guy. Love, love, LOVE how Chris wrote our female USMC aviator!!! Cate's dangerous mission was all Chris! Gotta love a guy who wants to dedicate the book to "Our Female Aviators!"

Teresa Medeiros said...

Fabulous interview with two of my favorite authors (and people)! Thanks so much for hosting them, E.E.! :)

Heather Ashby said...

And thanks so much for stopping by, favorite editor :-) We appreciate ALL you do for us!

vicki batman said...

Welcome to Get Lost in a Story and your interview is fabulous and fun. The cover is nifty too.

Jan Jackson said...

I love complex villains and believe they inspire the hero/heroine to greater heights. What would Star Wars be without Darth Vader? Heather, I miss seeing your smiling face at FCRW meetings! Hope to see you soon. Congrats to you both on the book and thank you for your service. =)

Pamela Johnson said...

I enjoyed this interview with you and Chris, Heather. I enjoy reading where the bad guys get what's due to them. I liked the scenes in the books that were military correct, although you could write anything and I wouldn't know the difference but your books read true. Thanks for your service, both you and Chris and your son and husband and Chris' wife. Can't wait til you have a new project going.

Heather Ashby said...

Thanks for the welcome, Vicki! Always good to interact with your readers. Write on!

Heather Ashby said...

And thank YOU, Pamela Johnson for all of your support! *Waves to Jan Jackson* I've been staying home and writing - and I was teaching all last year. And you are right about the villains. I'm just such a weenie when it comes to bad guys.

Colleen C. said...

Enjoyed the Q&A! I love seeing good win over evil... what makes me smile everyday... is my young nephew and reading a romance novel.

Angi Morgan said...

Welcome back Heather.

izzyISH said...

Great interview. It's easy to see that you get along so well together and have lots of fun, too. Love the stories of how you met your spouses. I'm here in Ada, MI not too far from Chris. Yes, I like villains to get their comeuppance in the end.

izzyISH said...

Great interview. It's easy to see that you get along so well together and have lots of fun, too. Love the stories of how you met your spouses. I'm here in Ada, MI not too far from Chris. Yes, I like villains to get their comeuppance in the end.

Heather Ashby said...

Aww, I bet your nephew is awesome, Colleen! And we romance novelists LOVE readers who love romance novels :-)

Heather Ashby said...

I'll pass that on to Chris, Izzy. Yes, we do have lots of fun writing together. I like the baddies to get their comeuppance too, but I can't take the tension GETTING THERE.

Anonymous said...

Great interview! Love that you interviewed each other. How wonderful to have a writing partner that you can laugh with!! What makes me happy? The people who have touched my life...I'm truly blessed to have all of them...Thanks Heather! Suzanne.

Cindy Hazelwood said...

I loved your interview thanks to you both. Great job! I do love to see the bad guys get their just dues. Good triumphing over evil. I love romance started reading the historicals. So someone getting their happy endings and love make me smile. I have hope maybe I will get mine some day but at 45 it seems impossible so I find my happiness in books.

E.E.Burke said...

Thanks for sharing them with us! You know I love hosting all your authors. And you, too. :)

bn100 said...

they can be interesting to read

Heather Ashby said...

Cindy, I'm so glad you find joy in books. (Don't we all.) I hope and pray you find what you are looking for. Blessings.

P.S. Have you ever considered WRITING romance? I bet you'd be awesome. Email me @ heatherashbyauthor@gmail.com if you'd like more information. Blessings

Skyewriter said...

This series is awesome and I am so looking forward getting a peek into the lives of all these fantastic characters after you wrote The End. I really do want to see Kaliff get his "due" and find out more about the WWII romance. You can bet I'll be on deck on release day.

Heather Ashby said...

Awesome, Skye! Thanks for all your support! And thanks for inspiring me with YOUR awesome books. Write on!

Ann Ellison said...

Loved reading this. I have enjoyed everyone of Heather's books and look forward to her next ones.

Cyn Kea said...

As always a wonderful interview, this author is new to me but I sure will be checking her/them out.

Heather Ashby said...

Hi, Cyn. We'd love you to check out the series. Welcome aboard!

Fedora said...

What a delightful interview! Great to meet you, Heather and Chris! I do love stories where the villains get what is due them! I like when the author makes sure to bring karma's return to bear in force! As for what inspires me or makes me smile, great books, for sure :D Also, it's a right treat to find new-to-me authors to add to that TBR ;) A big thank you to you and yours for your service!

Dawn Morse said...

Great interview..can hear that laughter in the store...villain, well, like to see a bad villain get just rewards. ..as to what inspires me, being from generations of farmers,getting my hands into my flower garden is part of my therapy ...along with high mountain valley hikes to listen to eagles cry and see hawks soar...thank you both for your service!...blessings

Heather Ashby said...

Glad you enjoyed the interview, Fedora. Hope you enjoy the series. Welcome aboard!

Fedora said...

Looking forward to getting started, Heather! (One of life's pleasures is knowing there are more books to look forward to ;) )

Christina said...

Great interview!! I love that you interviewed each other, fun, fun, fun. And about this villian, they should be evil to the core, the hero and his lady come together to fight this common goal. Capture bad guy, save the world, ya know, the good stuff. They have to endure set backs over and over before, victory and their love concurs all. And all I need to smile is my children. They can change my bad mood in moments. They are my happy place!!

Lisa Hutson said...

I love when the dastardly bad guys get what's coming to them. Especially if it's a woman that gives it to them! And even better if it's a woman that isn't normally a tough one. But she does what she needs to. Love it.

Heather Ashby said...

Great to see you here, Fedora! And yes to KARMA returning in full force!

Heather Ashby said...

YES, Christina and Lisa, to the bad guy getting his due - ESPECIALLY when it comes from a woman!!!

Cindy Hazelwood said...

Yes we do. Thank you and blessings to you. Yes I have thought about it over the years. That is sweet of you to say. I will follow up with an email to you thanks again.