In Smoke and Fire, two women overcome their fears and find love against the backdrop of the oil well blowout suppression industry.

What inspired you to set a lesbian romance in such a male-dominated industry?

I know it probably sounds like a cliché, but it just came to me. That’s true for all my books. I’ll be sitting in a restaurant or driving someplace, or even in a meeting at work, and all of a sudden I’ll say to myself, “How about a story about oil-well fire fighters?” I’ve never sat down and thought about what to write next, it just comes to me at the oddest times. I guess it’s called inspiration.

What sort of research did you have to do for this book?

I knew very little about oil wells, oil well fires or what it’s like to be severely burned. All of my research was Internet-based, and I completely admire authors who wrote before the Internet. You certainly can’t believe everything you read on the Web, but I looked at information from reliable sources like HBO documentaries on the fires in Kuwait, the Science Channel, and textbooks and training manuals. There is an abundance of information about companies that do this type of work, and I went to their Web sites for information as well. I will admit I also watched the John Wayne movie Hellfighters, but only for entertainment.

What sort of dynamic were you going for with your characters?

I am trying to show how trusting someone with your biggest fear actually makes you stronger. Brady’s fear is of being poor again, and nothing will stand in the way of her achieving financial independence. Nicole is afraid to let anyone see what’s under the surface, whether it’s emotional or physical.

Smoke and Fire features some rather steamy moments. How did you balance the romance and erotica?

Thanks for thinking they’re steamy! I think romance is a feeling and erotica is an act. With Brady and Nicole, the sex comes first—simply explosive sex that just happens under the circumstances and is pretty revealing and powerful—and making love develops from there. Neither character can control the connection between them, and it completely exposes both of them.

Apparently, there was some confusion between you and the late Julie L. Cannon, who wrote books of a more spiritual Christian nature. Did this ever cause problems for you?

Nope, not for me! Actually, the other Ms. Cannon did send me an e-mail complaining about how her readers had sent her notes saying they were shocked and horrified at the turn her writing had taken. On the other hand, I had a grandfather send me a note that he started to read my erotic lesbian romance Come and Get Me to his grandchildren, having assumed it was a G-rated book by the other Julie Cannon. He then went on to say he kept the book for himself and wrote quite a nice review on Amazon.