Monday, April 15, 2013

Why I Write Military Romance by Cat Johnson

For my first post for our brand new military romance blog, I figured I'd better introduce myself and explain how it is I came to be here since some of you know me, and I'm quite sure a lot of you don't...

The Red Hot & Blue series by Cat JohnsonThe Beginning
I started writing military romance back in 2006 because I enjoyed reading it--military romance authors like Suzanne Brockmann were auto-buys and on my keeper shelf. So I asked my editor would she be interested in a military romance from me? (My one published romance at that time was a romantic comedy.) Her answer was definitely, and that's when my Task Force Zeta was born. Why Spec Ops? Because it was around this time that the real life Task Force 145 was in the news for their capture of Al Zarkawi. More importantly, because I am a civilian, I figured it would be safer to create a Special Task Force of my own than to risk writing about a real unit and making a mistake. However, as you'll see, that soon changed.

The Real Men Who Changed Me
Being a born promo 'ho, I thought hey, I'll send my books to the deployed troops and get my name out there. That's when I joined Books for Soldiers and became obsessed, reading the troop requests in the forum, spending hours and countless dollars shipping everything from shower shoes, to DVDs, to Christmas decorations and candy, and yes, books (both my own and others I'd bought at the library used book sale) to the war zone. Then something unexpected happened. I began to get thank you notes by mail and through email. That led to some of these men becoming more than my pen pals, they became consultants on my military books and more, they became some of my best friends and they still are today.
real life 'boots on the ground'

I no longer wanted to focus solely on the elite special operatives that romance readers love so much. I wanted to tell the stories of the boots on the ground such as the real life Army tankers and infantry I'd come to know and love. That's the turn my Red, Hot & Blue series took beginning with A FEW GOOD MEN, based on stories from the real life deployment of my friend in Ramadi. Then came MODEL SOLDIER and A PRINCE AMONG MEN as I wove real life missions in the border provinces of Afghanistan with actual events in the news, with a healthy dose of fictional romance thrown in to satisfy my readers. My consultant always joked he wished he'd had all the sex (or any sex at all) that the characters I'd modeled after him had in my books while deployed! But that's where the delicate balance comes into play--honoring reality while wrapping it in fiction. Besides the serious side of war, and in addition to the love stories I craft, there's also a healthy dose of humor in my books and that is not fictional, because with the camaraderie found among the deployed also comes practical jokes, and teasing, and fun when and where they can grab it.

Why do I write military romance?
Because those in the military, and those who love them, know tomorrow is not guaranteed. They live and they love harder. Faster. With more intensity than we outside of that world can ever hope to understand.

Because civilians such as myself need to get inside the head of a soldier and realize that getting a letter or a package at mail call means everything. That the loneliness of being deployed can be devastating, but at the same time, sometimes the thought of coming home from deployment and having to resume normal life as if they'd never been gone is even more frightening than the war zone. That traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, and staggering suicide levels among returning troops is a reality that needs to be dealt with as we welcome returning troops home.

That adrenaline is addicting, as is the sense of purpose and belonging these troops get as part of their unit. That they really do want to deploy with their squad. That they really would give their life to save that of the man to their right. That they'd risk life and limb to recover a fallen teammate's lifeless body.

Writing these books, meeting these men, has changed me on a personal level. You can't wake up daily to a "Good morning" message from the war zone in your inbox without being affected. You can't read or watch the news about a downed helicopter or suicide bomber or a threat against our troops or our country from an international leader without holding your breath until the next message comes in from the guy you know in that region. 

My hope is to give my readers a level of understanding about what being in the military is like, what loving someone in the military is like, as well as to honor those who serve. I can only hope to do them justice with my craft.

Cat Johnson

A Few Good Men by Cat Johnson (Red, Hot & Blue series) Model Soldier by Cat Johnson (Red, Hot & Blue Series) A Prince Among Men by Cat Johnson (Red, Hot & Blue Series)


  1. my husband was a soldier for 22 years always the lst to go on an excercise or whatever and the last to come back. He could drive a tank or truck anywhere. He always said (this was before computers) that they love mail while away if its only junk mail. Its so sad that a lot of serving soldiers US or Brits dont get mail or packages from family

    1. You're right, Julie. They love receiving anything. A scribbled crayon drawing from a child. A picture post card. Anything.

      Thanks for your comment post and please thank your husband for his service.

  2. I used to write letters and send over boxes for Soldiers Angels, another wonderful program.
    And the regular grunts need the same recognition as the special/elite forces groups. I love that you'e writing about them!

    1. Thank you, JM!

      I've always gotten lists of "forgotten" soldiers or those needing things from either or They, along with your Soldiers Angels, are all reputable sites.

      Thanks for your comment!

  3. I love your books and I love military heroes. I even wrote one of my own. I also support through Operation Gratitude, I made a dozen crocheted scarves to send in my last box and a few christmas stockings.
    Until reading about deployment through the site I had never realized how cold it got in Afghanistan and Iraq, just always thought about the heat.
    Thank you for your stories and for supporting our troops
    :) <3

    1. Thanks, Tamara!
      Yes, it gets super hot as well as super cold in Afghanistan. I remember my one guy was at a firebase so remote there were mud huts with plywood walls. His toothpaste kept freezing inside his sleeping quarters. That's bad!

      The scarves sound wonderful. I'm sure they were appreciated
      Thank you for your comment.

  4. I love you and your books, Cat!
    And you know my hubby and I appreciate all the support you give the military, and or course, that he's my military inspiration.

  5. With all the books I've read & there's alot, I don't recall reading one of yours. And after reading some of the reviews, etc., I've been missing out. Well, not anymore because I'm going to read at least one of the one's I've put in my TBRs before summer. This is the reason I follow many blogs; I get introduced to many authors that are new to me & some great books to read. I'm really loving this new blog. My uncle was a Marine & continued to stay connected with his buddies up until he passed in Dec. 2009. Ever since I was little, I have had this fascination of men in uniform, whether it was police, Air Force, Navy, Marine, Army, or Coast Guard. I'm looking forward to reading one of yours. Thank you for your post, it helped me learn a little more about you.

  6. I have read your books but I am behind and now I will be moving your military books to the top of my TBR pile.

  7. I love the Red, Hot and Blue series! I can't wait for more!!