Author Archives: Sarah Andre
Hi Readers- Sarah Andre here! In the small world department: I sat next to a friendly woman at a recent luncheon, who turned out to be the mother of a romance writer. Not only did I know her daughter’s name, JB Schroeder, among the thousands of authors, but she was a guest on Kiss and Thrill last year, hosted by Lena! Naturally I invited JB to my house when she came to visit her mother and the hours flew. We talked about writing as if we’d been best friends for years! When I heard she had a new release coming out I invited her back to K&T- let’s catch up with what JB’s been doing, shall we?
Hey girl! You and I had a discussion about certain books kicking our author butts, but being better writers in the end because of all that hard work. Locked, Loaded, and Lying was that book for me. Yours, is Unhinged, which is also releasing today, May 24. Congrats!
Thank you! Yes. I wanted to try something unusual with Unhinged, but didn’t pull it off so well in the first draft. It went through four major overhauls—essentially re-writes. And then came the revisions! But it was all worth it! The story is better for it, and I was determined that my second book to hit virtual shelves would be just as good as the first (Runaway). According to my Review Crew ARC readers, I succeeded in that! Hooray!
Yay- I can hardly wait to read it, JB! As a struggling pantser I’m dying to know what techniques others have learned in their trial by fire. Tell me three writing challenges you learned from re-writing/revising Unhinged.
Red Herrings don’t necessarily make twists—sometimes they are just distracting.
When I started Unhinged I had three possibilities for the villain, and I thought I intertwined it all pretty well. But my critique partners felt that one characters role be condensed to reduce confusion. Later, my editor strongly suggested that same character be eliminated entirely because she wasn’t really necessary! It changed a lot in the book, but you find other ways to do what you need to, and make better use of the cast that is there. In other words: do more with less!
Sometimes it’s all about the reveal. This ties in closely to my red herring problem. You don’t have to keep the villain’s identity secret. Even if the reader knows fairly early WHO the villain is, they still love the journey. For one thing, its exciting to know more than the characters know. Just like watching a movie, gripping the edge of the chair, and thinking “Oh no, sister, bad idea. Do NOT go into the basement!” For another, the fun is in the HOW. How does the villain create trouble, how do the protagonists find out what they need to, and of course, how do they stop the villain? In Unhinged, I actually mapped out on a timeline exactly what could be revealed when for maximum effect. And I’ve been hearing a lot of OMG’s from my readers in all the right spots, so I know it worked!
Villains need motivation too. My first draft of Unhinged had the villain just plain crazy—which was super fun and allowed for a lot of creative license. But my agent pointed out that that level of loco meant the villain couldn’t possibly pull it all off. I needed a serious motivation and goal for the villain, not to mention a reason behind the crazy. It took weeks, but when I finally came up with THE IDEA—everything came together: goal, motivation, conflict, numerous juicy bits to reveal, and even an awesome twist.
Oh my gosh, this sounds SO exciting! And I absolutely LOVE your cover and the series name. I know you’re a graphic artist who does covers and this is your own creation…I’m green with envy. Thank you for joining us, JB! We wish you all the best in your new release, and come back to visit us soon! (Both K&T and my house.) 🙂
So thrilled to celebrate release day with the fab ladies of Kiss and Thrill. Thank you, Sarah!
Readers: Think back a few years ago–I went bonkers for the first three novels in the Graveyard Queen series, about Amelia Gray, a graveyard restorer who stumbles across clues and gravestone symbols to catch killers. She also sees ghosts, and believe me-they aren’t the cute Caspar kind!
Well The Visitor, book four, was released this month and I read it (with constant goosebumps) in one sitting. I’m delighted to welcome back one of the most prolific Gothic thriller writers in modern times: Amanda Stevens.
Hi Amanda. There’s a four year gap between your last Graveyard Queen novel. What have you been doing during this time?
The Prophet was the last of the original three books in the series. Since then, I’ve written three more books—The Visitor, The Sinner and The Awakening. Life threw me a huge curve-ball in 2013 and it took me a while to get back into writing. But I’ve worked my way back and I think the next Graveyard Queen trilogy echoes my struggles. It’s been a dark and twisty journey for both Amelia and me.
I’m thrilled that über-hottie John Devlin is playing a bigger role in this story, and looks to be a major conflict for Amelia in The Sinner! Did you always have his dark and haunted background mapped out or has this growing issue with his grandfather and the family business come to you as the novels have progressed.
Devlin’s evolution is interesting to me because from the very first moment he stepped out of the mist in The Restorer, I knew he was more than just a haunted police detective. He had something really, really dark in his background, something that he might not admit even to himself. Something that initially led him to Dr. Shaw and the Institute for Parapsychology Studies and then repelled him from all things paranormal.
So to answer your question, I didn’t have his background mapped out, but it was always there in the back of my mind so that all I had to do was flesh it out when I needed to. That’s been another interesting thing about this series—sometimes I’ll drop something about a character’s background or even mention something in passing that doesn’t seem to be all that important to the current story and then I get to the next book and I realize that I’ve been subconsciously dropping clues and setting up backstory all along. I think it’s all there in my head and has been since the very first book, but I didn’t know it until I needed it—if that makes sense.
Unitarian Churchyard in Charleston–so lush, so Southern, so Gothic. There’s a scene in The Visitor that takes place in this churchyard. Photographer: Amanda Stevens.
The Sinner looks to be an epic clash of forces. Is this the end of The Graveyard series or have you signed for more?
The sixth and final book (for now) is The Awakening, which will answer a lot of questions and resolve a lot of issues, but I don’t think Amelia’s story can ever be completely wrapped up.
Do you plan to go to San Diego (this year) or Orlando (next year) to attend RWA the conference?
I’m not going to San Diego this year and I don’t have any plans as yet for Orlando, but that would be a great conference to attend because The Graveyard Queen will be ending and hopefully I’ll be launching a new series by then.
A shot of a baby crib memorial in Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston. This grave inspired the plot for The Awakening–the 6th Graveyard Queen Book. Photographer: Amanda Stevens.
What has changed in publishing these four years now that you’re back in the fray? Deadlines tighter? Self-marketing expectations? A shake up in the editorial crew?
Believe it or not, I’m still working on the same contract I had before I took a step back so nothing has changed for me personally as of yet. But in that four-year period, my publisher was bought by HarperCollins so I’ll soon find out what that means in terms of a new contract and new expectations. I’ve had the same editor for twenty years and she and my agent have been incredibly understanding and supportive. I’m optimistic about a new contract and about my career overall, but I’m also realistic. Four years in publishing is a lifetime.
I know you shy away from public speaking, but if you gave a workshop what do you think you’re most expert at to share with new writers?
Writing is so instinctive to me that I have a hard time trying to explain the process. I really don’t know how I do any of it. But I suppose I would stress the importance of creating atmosphere and a sense of place, a sense of dread. I subscribe to the Alfred Hitchcock school of suspense that less is more. What you don’t see/read can be far more disturbing than a lengthy description of blood and gore.
What books have you read recently that leave you in awe? (Doesn’t have to be romance.)
I still think about Michael Gruber’s Tropic of Night even though I read that book some years back. Talk about atmosphere and a sense of dread! Currently, I’m reading The Saints of the Lost and Found by T. M. Causey, which has a wonderful premise. I love a good premise! One of the most memorable has to be The Farm by Tom Rob Smith. It’s an older book that I found while browsing Half Price Books. The back cover synopsis sold me.
Describe a relaxing day for you.
I live a pretty stress-free life these days so a typical day for me is several hours of writing with a little gardening thrown in and then an evening of binging on The Walking Dead or whatever series I’m into at the moment. Lunch and dinner with friends, a day at the beach now and then. It’s all good.
Favorite recent movie and why?
Mad Max: Fury Road. Beautifully shot, non-stop action, breathless stunts and an amazing cast. My son was in town when the movie came out and we went to see it together. He’s a filmmaker so I always love hearing his take and whatever inside information he’s gleaned out in Hollywood. That movie left us both so gobsmacked, we went back the next day to see it in 3-D. Another beautifully-shot movie is Crimson Peak. So Gothic and dark and lovely.
Although the indie option is out there for all writers, many still seek the traditional path and/or are still trying to get an agent. What advice do you have for them?
Gosh, it’s been so long since I went through the process and so much has happened to me personally and to the industry as a whole that I don’t feel at all qualified to offer advice. I mean, I’m a dinosaur. But for someone wanting to go the traditional route, I imagine perseverance is still key. Keep sending out those query letters, keep polishing that manuscript and never stop working on your craft. Probably the best thing you can do for your career and your sanity is to develop a thick skin. Writing is personal, but publishing is a business.
Connect with Amanda here:
No f**king way was he going to die running. He stopped, turned and faced the truck barreling toward them. The tires ate up the ground at an indecent rate. He clutched Isleen tighter to his chest. For her sake, he wanted it to be a quick death. No more lingering. No more pain.
That thought infuriated him. None of this was right. They shouldn’t be on the verge of death. Again.
The truck kept coming—twenty-five feet.
Everything slowed, happened as if through the quicksand of time. A white dandelion floaty meandered on the breeze directly between them and the truck. His heart no longer ran a staccato rhythm. Duh…duhm. Pause. Duh…duhm. Pause.
His life didn’t flash before his eyes. The future did. Isleen’s future. In an ethereal dream beyond time, her skin was gilded by firelight, her eyes void of sadness and fear, her body whole and healthy. She smiled, an expression so full of warmth and tenderness and undiluted joy that it plunked itself down inside his heart and wouldn’t leave.
He ached to create that kind of smile on her face, but their lives were over and it all could’ve gone so differently if he’d only listened to her, believed in her, found her years before now.
An excerpt from Race the Darkness
RACE THE DARKNESS—October 4, 2016
Cursed with a terrible gift
Criminal investigator Xander Stone doesn’t have to question you—he can hear your thoughts. Scarred by lightning, burdened with a power that gives him no peace, Xander struggles to maintain his sanity against the voice that haunts him day and night—the voice of a woman begging him to save her.
A gift that threatens to engulf them…
Isleen Walker has long since given up hope of escape from the nightmare of captivity and torture that is draining her life, her mind, and her soul. Except…there is the man in her feverish dreams, the strangely beautiful man who beckons her to freedom and wholeness. And when he comes, if he comes, it will take all their combined fury and faith to overcome a madman bent on fulfilling a deadly prophecy.
Jeez-Lousie! What a terrific premise! Welcome, Abbie, how did you come up with this?
My characters made me do it!
I’m a total write-by-the-seat-of-my-pants writer. I NEVER plan what’s going to happen. I’ve tried to plot. And failed. To me plotting takes the fun away. I could plot out a whole book, but then I wouldn’t want to write it because I already know what’s going to happen!
I usually just follow my characters wherever they take me. So far they’ve never let me down. So I’m not exactly sure how I came up with the premise. It’s just something that happens organically as I’m writing the book.
A lot of writers insert something (a person’s name, a street they used to live on) into their novel, kind of an ‘in’ joke for the readers who know them best. Did you do this? Can you give us a hint of one?
How did you know I did that? Lol. I guess all of us writers do it!
Here’s my little secret…
At the beginning of all three of my novels I have fictional epigraphs, and I always use my family’s initials and names. Here’s an example:
RACE THE DARKNESS:
Individuals with Auditory Perception Syndrome claim to hear more than sound. They allegedly possess the ability to hear thoughts. These assertions have never been scientifically proven and should be treated as an auditory hallucination.
~~Dr. M. J. Franklin, The Journal of Sound and Mind
M is for my grandma (Marge). J is for my grandpa (Joe). And Franklin was my great father’s name.
You call this a dark suspense. Define what makes up the ‘dark’ and how difficult was it to write and switch back to your friendly, compassionate, funny self? (Or your other self- a counselor, and switch from listener, problem-solver to your creative side?)
The professions—writer and counselor—aren’t as different as you’d think. Or maybe the lines have blurred a bit for me since I do both.
The two most important skills I use as a therapist are: Listening and creativity.
I listen to stories all day. As a story-teller I’m enthralled by every client who comes through the door! Everyone’s lives are so different. I listen to my client’s tragedies. I listen to their triumphs. Their stories inspire me. The terrible, awful, horrible things I hear—that’s what comes out in my writing and makes it dark. I didn’t even realize how dark my writing was until a prospective editor called it “romantic horror” and was concerned they would have to put warning labels on it!
The other part of what I do is creative work. I have to figure out how to get a client to buy into making change. I have to figure out how to show them their problem, but from a different perspective. You know that old phrase think outside the box? Every session challenges me to think outside the box because every client is different. There’s no cookie cutter answer for everyone.
Is this going to be a series?
HUNT THE DAWN—December 6, 2016
Lathan Montgomery has a unique ability to solve cold cases. When he links a group of unsolved murders and discovers an active serial killer, the mind-hunters at the FBI refuse to open an investigation. Lathan is determined to find the killer himself, but his search gets stalled when he rescues a woman from an attacker. The more he gets to know her, the more devotion, tenderness, and passion overwhelm him in a way he’s never experienced. But the killer is on the offensive and kidnaps Lathan’s only love. And he never keeps his victims alive for long…
Untitled Series: STAIN OF MERCY (temporary title)—2017
The son of a serial killer falls for his father’s only surviving victim. Will she be able to see the man he truly is and not how much he resembles his father? Or will the past become the present and destroy them both?
Your career sounds formidably busy and mentally taxing. When do you find the time to write?
I write for an hour before I go to work in the mornings. If I have a cancellation or a no-show at work that’s bonus writing time for me! Whoot! Whoot! Then I spend two to four hours in the evening writing before I have to go to bed and do it all over again.
On my days off, I spend all morning and afternoon writing. I’ll take a break for supper and then write in the evenings until bedtime. I live a very boring life. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world! I love being a writer!
When did you know you just had to write novels?
When I turned thirty-five I realized I wasn’t happy with my life. I had a great husband. A great job. Two awesome and ornery dogs. So why wasn’t I happy?
I thought I needed a hobby. So tried painting and sewing. I made necklaces, candles, and soap. All in the name of avoiding doing the one thing that really wanted to do.
Write a romance novel.
Why was I avoiding it?
I didn’t know how to do it. I didn’t know how to begin. And I was worried everyone would think I was stupid for wanting to be something more than a mental health counselor.
I started taking on-line classes. I went to workshops. I attended conferences. I read books on writing. For nearly two years, I kept my writing a secret from every except my husband.
From the day I sat down and started writing my first chapter, writing has fed my soul. I can’t imagine life without it.
Favorite movie and why?
When I was eighteen-ish. The Last of the Mohicans starring Daniel Day-Lewis came out. Never in my life have I seen a movie in the theatre as many times as I saw that one! ME TOO! I think it was an epic 16 times before it left the theater.
I fell in love with the history. With the love story. With Daniel Day-Lewis. I loved how he protected his woman—even when she didn’t understand he was protecting her. I loved that he would kill to keep her safe. What could be more romantic? J
And seriously—have you seen a picture of Daniel Day-Lewis from that movie? <swoon> I ended up with the biggest crush on him!
I saw him in Gangs of New York. That cured my crush. 😦 Me too.
A food you can’t say NO to is—
My mom makes this candy called Butter Crunch. It’s a melt in your mouth toffee that she ices on both sides with chocolate. OMG! My mouth is watering just thinking about it. I could eat Butter Crunch all day, every day, for the rest of my life. I would weigh 800 pounds, but I could eat it forever.
When she makes it for me I can’t stop myself—I have to eat it all! I can’t even meter it out over a number of days. Nope. I’m an eating machine when it comes to Butter Crunch. Mom has strict instructions to NOT make it for me. But sometimes she does anyway.
Novel you’ve read that had the greatest impact and why?
What? Only one? No way. I can’t do it.
Will you settle for a series? J.R. Ward’s ‘The Black Dagger Brotherhood’ series.
Wrath, Rhage and Zsadist are my FAVORITE Brothers! But I love them all.
I love that the books are romance novels, but they are heavy heavy heavy in male point of view. I love that! It gave me permission to do same in my books! Those were my favs too (it’s like we’re twins, only you’re so much younger!)
Thanks so much for visiting us today, Abbie, and we wish you all the best on debut day!
Abbie Roads is a mental health counselor known for her blunt, honest style of therapy. By night she writes dark, emotional novels, always giving her characters the happy ending she wishes for all her clients. Her novels have finaled in RWA contests including the Golden Heart. Race the Darkness is the first book in the Fatal Dreams series of dark, gritty romantic suspense with a psychological twist.
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You can find Abbie Roads here:
The Darkest Lie, by Pintip Dunn
It’s time to view the body. Family first.
Well, technically, me first. There was always only three of us in the nuclear unit, and Dad’s been locked in the den for the past seventy-two hours. I’ve only seen him once, when he shuffled upstairs like a pajama-clad zombie and asked me if I’d eaten.
That was it: Did you eat?
Not: I prefer the cherry wood casket. Or: Let me make your grandma’s travel arrangements. Or even: I know this was Mom’s favorite dress, but isn’t the neckline a little…low?
Did I eat?
Yes, Dad. I had soup from the can and microwaved pizza rolls and a bowl of cereal. The food sloshes in my stomach now as I walk down the runner to the casket I picked out because of its mauve tint.
Calla lilies pile in urns around the viewing room, and the air-conditioning wars with the sweat along my hairline. My mom smiles at me from a portrait erected behind the casket. Her eyes are hesitant and a little wary, as if she knew, somehow, some way, she would wind up here. Lifeless. Pumped full of formaldehyde. About to be gawked at by a town full of gossips.
This was only going to end one of two ways—with Tabitha Brooks dead or in jail. I never thought I’d say this, but I’d give anything to see my mother behind bars.
I wade through the dense, chilly air and stop a few feet from the body. Behind me, my grandmother and aunt sit, a box of tissues between them, blowing their noses like it’s a sport.
“Look at our Cecilia,” Gram sniffs. “So brave. Not a single tear shed.”
If she only knew. I’m not brave. Fifteen minutes ago, I was retching into the toilet bowl. Five minutes from now, when the doors open for the visitation, I’ll be long gone, leaving Gram to shake people’s hands and deal with the bit lips, the knowing eyebrows, that inevitable speaking-in-a-funeral-parlor whisper. I can hear the titters: “Is it true? Tabitha’s heart stopped while she was boffing the high school quarterback? Why, she must’ve been twenty years his senior!”
Twenty-three years, to be exact, and a high school English teacher to boot. But she didn’t actually die during sex. Instead, a few days after Tommy Farrow came forward with their affair, my mother took her own life.
What could be a clearer admission of guilt? She might as well have been caught in the act. The investigation was shut down before it even began.
I take a shuddering breath. Two more minutes. A hundred and twenty seconds and then I can leave. I steel my shoulders and walk the final steps to my mother’s body.
Oh god. It’s even worse than I thought.
The room whirls around me, and nausea sprints up my throat. My hands shoot out to grab the casket, stopping short of actually touching the corpse.
This . . . this thing . . . can’t be my mother. She never smiled like that, all serene and peaceful-like. She never wore this much makeup; her red hair was never chopped so closely to her head. My mother was chaos and passion, devastation and joy. Dad used to say you could reach deep into her eyes and pull out a song.
Well, her eyes are closed now, and I’m not sure there’ll be any music in my life, ever again.
ABOUT THE DARKEST LIE
“The mother I knew would never do those things.
But maybe I never knew her after all.”
Clothes, jokes, coded messages…Cecilia Brooks and her mom shared everything. At least, CeCe thought they did. Six months ago, her mom killed herself after accusations of having sex with a student, and CeCe’s been the subject of whispers and taunts ever since. Now, at the start of her high school senior year, between dealing with her grieving, distracted father, and the social nightmare that has become her life, CeCe just wants to fly under the radar. Instead, she’s volunteering at the school’s crisis hotline—the same place her mother worked.
As she counsels troubled strangers, CeCe’s lingering suspicions about her mom’s death surface. With the help of Sam, a new student and newspaper intern, she starts to piece together fragmented clues that point to a twisted secret at the heart of her community. Soon, finding the truth isn’t just a matter of restoring her mother’s reputation, it’s about saving lives—including CeCe’s own…
ABOUT PINTIP DUNN:
Pintip Dunn graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B. in English Literature and Language. She received her J.D. at Yale Law School, where she was an editor of the YALE LAW JOURNAL. She also published an article in the YALE LAW JOURNAL, entitled, “How Judges Overrule: Speech Act Theory and the Doctrine of Stare Decisis,”
Pintip is represented by literary agent Beth Miller of Writers House. She is a 2012 RWA Golden Heart® finalist and a 2014 double-finalist. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Washington Romance Writers, YARWA, and The Golden Network.
She lives with her husband and children in Maryland. You can learn more about Pintip and her books at www.pintipdunn.com.
Prize pack including the following 5 books!
Forget Tomorrow by Pintip Dunn
Six Months Later by Natalie Richards
Find Me by Romily Bernard
From Where I Watch You by Shannon Grogan
Lies I Told by Michelle Zink
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Goodreads Giveaway for THE DARKEST LIE
Guest post by Rolynn Anderson.
Writing is a humbling career. Every day I make presumptions and end up red-faced because I was wrong-sometimes horribly wrong-about my reckonings. FAINT, my sixth novel, released this week, is living proof of author smackdown. I took on Alzheimer’s, blindness, embalming, burial rituals, organ transplants, and clairvoyant dogs in FAINT, third in the funeral planner suspense series. No wonder the novel took me two years to write! My research on all these areas made me woozy with revelations.
Let’s take embalming. Better yet, you take embalming. Whoa! Consider the instruments and chemicals involved, the cleaning of the corpse and plumping with injections…the make-up…the dressing. Lordy, I even watched a ‘Do it at home’ embalming on You Tube. I had to hide my eyes half of the time. Among all these new learnings: Embalmers are bound by strict rules, forbidden to stray beyond their ‘normal’ tasks. They can’t even take fingerprints off the cadaver!
Blindness. Pete, a character in my novel, is a blind forensic investigator. I’d learned about blind men and women employed by the FBI after 9/11 to analyze suspect audio tapes and I wanted to explore their skill sets. Some of my characters were prejudiced against Pete. New learnings: blind people are shunned in some cultures, regarded as ‘less than,’ even evil.
Telepathic dogs. I was worried Elwood (Elly) a Scottie, who warns his mistress when she’s going to faint, was pushing a paranormal envelop. New learning: dogs can be trained to alert their owners of impending seizures and insulin lows. Elly’s skill was not a stretch, at all.
Burial rituals. Turns out every religion has a specific way to deal with the deceased. New learning: Certain orthodox religions require mourners to kiss the corpse in an open casket, within twenty-four hours.
Sounds like fiction, huh? I love what research turns up, pleased to see my presumptions challenged and energized by the complexity I get to add to characters and plots. Now, with my sixth book published, I’ve learned to test each and every assumption…but I must admit I don’t mind being wrong, because I can use that new information in my story!
It’s your turn.
GIVEAWAY QUESTION On what topic did your research for a book point out faulty assumptions? A free e-book of FAINT (you choose the format) goes to a random commenter.
Here’s FAINT, my newly released third in the Funeral Planner Suspense Series. Happy New Year, everyone! Rolynn
Their dead clients refuse to rest in peace.
How did small-town boutique funeral planning morph into crime-solving? Ask freelance embalmer Trudy Solomon, or Pete McDonald, a blind, forensic investigator. They’re unearthing mysteries of the deceased for their pregnant boss, Jan Keller, while her journalist husband, Roman, is benched by a ten million dollar defamation suit.
A dead client goes missing, and investigating his disappearance forces Trudy and Pete to confront their fiercely independent styles. When danger stalks them, will they blend brains, brawn and belief in one another to solve crimes and save themselves?
I am thrilled to introduce you to my critique partner of 10 years, Lark Brennan. On December 1st she’ll debut her multi-genre romance, DANGEROUSLY YOURS. (It’s a romantic, paranormal, suspense-thriller.) Lark is an outstanding author, whose wild imagination and unique world building will turn this industry on its head. Check this out:
Whales don’t just vanish, but marine biologist Lex Durand saw one do just that. With years of research at stake and driven by her bond with the whale, she seeks the help of scientist-in-hiding Bodie Flynn—a man with a mysterious past and a justified hatred of her brother. But while Lex was warned Bodie would be difficult, she never expects to find he has psychic abilities equal to her own.
Bodie despises being trapped in Durand Tech’s version of the witness protection program, and when a gorgeous Durand heiress lands on his beach asking for help, he’s unhappier still. The last person he wants in his life is the sister of the man who ruined him, but the disappearance of Lex’s whales could be related to his own research and he isn’t above using her to get her data.
As the dangerous force behind the changing seas becomes deadly, Lex and Bodie must put aside their personal agendas to track down a powerful foe. But when their attraction reaches a boiling point, facing their feelings may prove the hardest battle yet. Dangerously Yours
Welcome, Lark, and congratulations!! Your authentic world-building even blew your editor away. How did you come up with this unique premise?
I was playing around with the idea of a family of powerful psychics when Lex Durand marched in—a 6’ tall, gorgeous animal telepath who runs a marine mammal research foundation. She had so much attitude, I had to write her story. Of course a romance about a marine biologist had to start with a whale vanishing on camera and Lex blackmailing a super-hot physicist into helping her find it.
What kind of research did you do to make delphic energy and dolphin behavior sound so authentic?
Delphic energy is a totally made up scientific explanation of psychic abilities—glad to hear it sounds believable. I’m sure real scientists would roll their eyes. As for the dolphins—I spent countless hours on the web, bought a dozen dolphin books then ended up contacting the medical director at the Dolphin Research Center in Florida. She answered even my stupidest questions brilliantly. The dolphin telepathy I made up. I’m sure I’m going to hear from animal telepaths that I got that wrong.
Your descriptions of the BVI beaches, restaurants, etc. are sensational. Did you visit or live there?
I lived in the US Virgin Islands for seven years and spent a lot of time sailing and diving in the BVI. It’s an amazingly beautiful part of the world. We sailed the BVI just last summer and I’m relieved to report the places in the book are still there.
I know you’re under contract for a series, tell us the date, title and any details about the next book.
IRRESISTIBLY YOURS comes out June 21, 2016. It takes place in Paris where powerful telepath Adrien Durand has been forced to take over his family’s international business empire and protection of the source of their power. A lovely American empath shows up and he suspects she’s a spy. There’s plenty of action and intrigue and smooching.
Nothin’ wrong with plenty of smooching! Tell us one thing you’re thankful for (so we can call this a Thanksgiving post.) 😉
I’m so grateful to have such wonderful and supportive family and friends, especially the generous authors who have made the rocky road to publication so much fun.
Favorite food you can’t say no to?
Can’t think of a food, but don’t test me with a glass of excellent Bordeaux. 🙂
“I’d love to be stuck on a deserted island with…” (can be dead or alive.) And the one item you’d take with you.
My husband’s not reading this, right? No contest– Chris Hemsworth. And the item? I’d be wearing Heidi Klum’s body.
Favorite novel or author, and why?
Wow, there are so many. Probably Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ NATURAL BORN CHARMER because I love every character and subplot in it—and it has Dean Robillard!
If you could have any other career besides your present ones and had the skill to do it, what would you be?
(Wow, I’ve known you for 10 years and that came outta left field!) What question did I not ask that you’d like readers to know about you?
A question for all of you—one commenter will get a $25 Amazon gift card:
Bodie and Adrien are clean shaven except when stubble catches up with them, but I’m seeing lots more men with beards these days. How do you feel about facial hair? What do you think is sexy in a hero—clean shaven, stubble, beard, other? While you’re thinking about men and hair—body hair or man-scaping?
On Saturday, December 5th at 4:30pm, Lark is signing at MURDER BY THE BOOK with best selling romantic suspense author Laura Griffin! 2342 Bissonnet St, Houston
Lark’s love of reading, writing and travel has led her to a string of colorful jobs and a well-worn passport – as well as several years spent sailing and diving in the Virgin Islands. Her travels have inspired her stories–romantic adventures set in some of her favorite destinations around the world. When not traveling, she lives in Texas with her brilliant husband and two adorable canine “children.”
You can find Lark at larkbrennan.com, www.facebook.com/LarkBrennan and @larkh.
Thank you SO much for being here today, Lark, my excitement for your debut is only second to yours! Welcome to the published world, my friend. Buckle up, your sales will resemble a comet. 🙂
Rarely have I read an author who writes in two completely different voices. Julie Mulhern’s series: The Country Club Murders is a cozy mystery set in the 70’s, and filled with laugh-out-loud snark. Naturally when I picked up the first book in her new Haunting series, A HAUNTING DESIRE, even though I knew it was historical with a touch of paranormal, I still expected similarities in writing style. Nope. You’d never know the same writer wrote this solemn, eerie, twisted suspense involving Voo Doo and some grisly, dark New Orleans scenes that have you biting your nails like a teen. The two series are SO far apart in voice, style and spectrum on the mystery genre that I’m left thinking Julie Mulhern is either exceptionally talented or has a split personality.
As a dedicated KaT reader, I’m sure you recall reading about Julie after her debut last February when we featured her novel THE DEEP END. Next week the second book in The Country Club Murders comes out: GUARANTEED TO BLEED.
- You write a series that’s a hilarious snarky cozy and another series that’s historical, paranormal suspense. How hard is it to switch hats?
Actually, switching between two different genres is good for me. When I’m writing the mysteries, I get a break from turn of the century New Orleans and vice versa.
That doesn’t mean I’m not constantly having ideas for the wrong book. I am. I’ve started files.
- Which series is YOUR fav?
What a question! A bit like asking a mother which child is her favorite. Right now I am editing A Haunting Need (book two in the Haunting series) and writing Clouds in my Coffee (book three in the Country Club Murders). I love them both. That said, it’s easier for me to write mysteries.
- We interviewed you in February for your debut release. Tell us how well The Deep End has been doing.
The Deep End had a great spring and a wonderful summer, somehow managing a top spot on the Goodreads’ 2015 Best Beach Read list. I took screen shots of my book wedged between “Me Before You” and “The Rosie Project.”
Lynn Farris of examiner.com said of The Deep End, “This certainly isn’t your grandmother’s cozy mystery, and I loved it. This is a cozy mystery with an edge. Ms. Mulhern walked a fine line in this mystery with a tantalizing topic while still being acceptable to most cozy readers.”
Mystery readers who don’t want gore seem to respond to it.
- Are you a plotter or panster? What kind of research have you done for each? (You already answered or The Deep End, but it never hurts to refresh memories.)
I write to plot points. In an 80,000 word novel that means INTERESTING things better be happening at the 8,000, 20,000, 40,000, 60,000 and 72,000 words marks. Ish. I generally begin knowing my plot points but have no earthly idea how I’m going to fill in between them. Those misty spaces are where the magic happens.
As for research, I believe you mean RABBIT HOLE. I love it. Recently I needed to know how much it cost to rent a condo for a week in Vail in 1974 and found myself flipping through the virtual pages of a decades old ski magazine ($400 if you’re wondering). I’ve discovered Thea Porter caftans, renewed my fondness for Tab, and listened—willingly (once)—to “Seasons in the Sun.” I’ve also watched every movie Steve McQueen made in the 70s—that was no hardship.
Sometimes the research finds me. A New York Times article led me to this website – http://www.queermusicheritage.com/fem-jbl.html. I fell in love with The Jewel Box and knew I had to place a scene there.
- What are future release dates and titles?
Book two of The Country Club Murders, GUARANTEED TO BLEED, releases next week on October 13th. This is the book that features a scene at The Jewel Box. It also sees the return of Ellison, Grace, Mother, Aggie, Anarchy, and Hunter. I adore this mystery and am thrilled to see it venture out into the world.
Book three, CLOUDS IN MY COFFEE is slated for early May, 2016. I’d best get writing!
A HAUNTING NEED will release in April, 2016 (if I ever get these edits done).
QUESTION OF THE DAY FROM JULIE: As I mentioned, I’ve been watching loads of Steve McQueen movies and my favorite from the 1970s is Papillon. That said, my favorite movies from the 70s are The Sting, Blazing Saddles (after twenty years of marriage, my husband made a Mel Brooks fan of me) and Star Wars. What are your favorite 70s movies? FIVE COMMENTERS WILL WIN A DIGITAL COPY OF THE DEEP END!
Finally, readers, if you don’t believe me on how DIFFERENT Julie’s style is, please enjoy the excerpts below:
FIRST EXCERPT – In Guaranteed to Bleed, Ellison has a couple of awful dates (believe me, I’ve had worse). So in honor of my 20th wedding anniversary tomorrow (hurray, no more dating!), I thought you’d like to join her on one…
The scent of Aramis overwhelmed the aroma of my coffee. I looked up.
“How are the two prettiest ladies in town?” A man wearing the ugliest plaid sports coat I’ve ever seen—burnt sienna, burnt umber, cadmium deep yellow—stood in front of us.
Mother smiled. Daddy stood and thrust out his hand. Quin Marstin shook it. I looked from Mother to Quin to the empty seat at the table. Oh dear Lord.
“We’re so glad you joined us.” Mother’s smile didn’t mean a thing. The expression certainly didn’t touch the rest of her face. Was Quin a last minute addition because Hunter hadn’t wanted to come? “Please sit.”
Next to me.
When we were in high school, Garret Hargrove Marstin V, more commonly known as Quin, was the class president, the starting quarterback for a football team that won the state championship and the boy named most likely to succeed. As far as I knew, our senior year was the apex of his life. He’d been young, popular and almost every girl at school had wanted to date him. The world had changed. Quin hadn’t noticed.
He leaned back in his chair and grinned at me. “Ellison, looking good, babe.”
Next to me, Daddy tensed. Across from me, Mother washed away a sour-pickle expression with a deep sip of Bloody Mary. I shifted in my chair, inching as far as possible from Mother’s idea of a set up. Had she lost her mind? “Thank you,” I murmured.
The man positively reeked of cologne. What’s more, I’d bet, hidden beneath his white shirt, boring tie and that appalling blazer, there was a gold chain with a medallion nestled among his chest hairs. Bleh.
“How’s single life treating you?” Given that I was single because my husband had been murdered, I wasn’t quite sure how to answer. True, Henry had been a cheating low-life and I didn’t exactly mourn his passing, but…
He scooted his chair closer to mine. “Chick like you, you don’t have to stay single long.”
Across the table, Mother choked on her drink.
Quin leaned toward me and his Aramis assaulted my nose again.
Maybe his sense of smell was gone. Maybe when he looked in the mirror, he didn’t see the thinning hair. Then again, how could he, hidden beneath a toupee the way it was? Maybe he didn’t notice the thickening waist that threatened to become a paunch. The man remained a legend in his own mind.
I inched farther. So far, I risked falling off my chair. Maybe Daddy would catch me. Although…he looked frozen in horror. No help there.
“What are you doing now, Quin? For a living, I mean.” I asked.
Clipping coupons off the bonds his grandfather and father had amassed. We all knew it. Then again, cutting along a straight, dotted line is something of a skill.
He sat up straight, grinned, then leaned against the back of his chair. “I’m thinking of investing in a chain of incense stores. Not too late to get in on the action. You interested, Harry?”
This time Daddy choked on his drink. I patted his back and looked for a waiter. With everyone choking, we were going to need more ice water.
“There’s not enough water to make tea and read the leaves. It’ll be the cards.” With a rustle of her patched skirt, Granny led Trula into the cabin and settled into her seat at a table scarred by hot pans, dripping glasses of rum, and time.
Trula sat across from her in an uncomfortable straight-backed chair.
Behind Granny, a narrow plank painted a vibrant shade of blue groaned beneath the weight of a large crucifix, the curve of a snake’s skeleton, a small painting of the Virgin, tightly wrapped gris-gris, a cascade of crimson lace, brightly colored beads, painted stones, and a bottle of rum. Several candles burned and flower petals floated in a glass bowl filled with water. Next to the altar’s dense opulence, the rest of the simple cabin appeared drab.
“Are the wards holdin’?” Granny asked.
“I saw a boy.”
“Did he cause any mischief?”
Granny snorted. “The wards only keep out ghosts who mean you harm. I reckon that boy didn’t aim to cause trouble.”
The wards didn’t work against all ghosts? Until Zeke Barnes beat Carter Wayne, she’d never seen a single one in her home—it was a phantom-free haven. The wards made living in a city beset by ghosts bearable.
“You didn’t ride clear out here in the middle of the night because of the wards.” Granny’s head was wrapped in a bright tignon, a red shawl draped over her narrow shoulders. Her hands, roped with age and bent like claws, caressed a tarot deck.
“I’m worried about Cora James.” Trula bit her lip. It wasn’t exactly a lie.
“Cora’s in a safe place. Don’t you worry your pretty head about Cora James.”
The tension in Trula’s shoulders eased. “Where is she?”
The old woman grinned. “I done told you. A safe place.”
Trula closed her eyes and breathed through gritted teeth. If she wanted information from Granny, she’d catch more flies with honey than vinegar. “If you speak to her, would you please tell her the police are all over the district looking for Belmain’s murderer?
Granny laughed softly. “The New Orleans police aren’t gonna catch that killer. Least half those men couldn’t catch fish in a barrel. This ain’t somethin’ they understand. Darkness is roamin’ round the city.”
Trula shuddered. Eulie Echo had warned her about Baron Samedi, now Granny had as good as confirmed her suspicion that a spirit committed the murders.
“Cora’s not the only reason you rode clear out here in the middle of the night.” Granny’s faded eyes glittered in the dim light.
“I’m worried about my own girls as well.” That wasn’t a lie, either. She did worry about the girls. The man who’d invaded her thoughts wasn’t worth mentioning. Trula scrubbed at her tired eyes. Had he followed her?
Granny’s disbelieving laugh grated on Trula’s last nerve. “Maybe. But that’s not why you came. The cards have answers for you.” She shuffled the ornate deck and fanned it on the table. “Pick three.”
For more information on Julie Mulhern, please visit her website:
I read voraciously- you probably do too, and it suddenly struck me this week (after thousands of books) that I have an instinctive 4-tiered rating system.
1) There’s the poorly written story I stop reading when it takes too much effort or I find I’m dreading picking up my Kindle. (Dread should never be associated with reading novels!)
2) There are the stories that entertain me all the way through, but it’s still easy enough to put the book down and perform critical human functions like eating and bathing.
3) Then there are the amazing authors who consistently capture me into their world. You know the kind: the writers who make writing look easy. My impulsive story-craft critic never rears it’s ugly head…not even once. These are the stories you burn your family’s dinner trying to read ‘just one more page.’
4) And finally- the handful of authors (and I mean one hand, folks!) who are SO talented that I only pick up their stories when I’ve ‘earned it.’ Perhaps I finished a manuscript. Or I’m finally on vacation with nothing but that story in front of me. I begin them thinking it’s the 3rd-tier I just described. I say goodbye to my husband, because nothing will pull me from the novel. But the plot is profound, the characters and setting are so real that reading the story becomes an experience. In this 4th tier, the further I read, the more I begin to SLOW DOWN. Weird huh?
Last night I finished CRIMINAL, by Karin Slaughter, one of the top police-procedural thriller writers of our time. If she were in my 3rd tier I’d have finished the book in a day-and-a-half. But her phenomenal skill at story weaving puts her in the 4th tier. CRIMINAL took me a week to finish. Let me explain, because it’s so counter intuitive:
When an author is that enthralling I don’t want to be without the story. Those characters enrich my life. I also know I won’t get another new work for a year or more (all 5 of my top-tier authors rarely publish more than once a year.) Therefore, the more the story progresses and the more my soul has completely drowned in the author’s world, the more I’ll only read a chapter or two in one sitting. Miserly nibbling away, because I’m already sorry I’m this far into it. And maybe during the epic final battle (what we writers call ‘the black moment’) I’ll put that book down for a whole day. It’s masochistic, I know.
Ironically, I don’t tend to enjoy thrillers and I hate scary movies! Let me be frank: the thriller part of Slaughter’s Will Trent series is beyond horrific. Her antagonists’ twisted evil defies my imagination- and probably yours too. It’s airplanes-crashing-into-buildings shocking. It simply never occurred to you that a person could think up something this horrific to harm others. And Slaughter is 8 books in, folks. Will Trent and his female partner, female boss and girlfriend make up the gist of the story, but that’s 8 villains so heinous, so much more evil than Hannibal Lecter, that I guarantee they’ll each blow your mind. Nerd alert: It’s the kind of horror that requires me to watch three Bewitched sitcoms before sleeping, so her villain won’t seep into my dreams. 🙂
Why on earth would I stick her in the 4th tier? Because her hero, Will Trent is so mind-bendingly flawed and so determined to move beyond his disabilities, his past and his faults. His boss has such incredible depth and secrets that in 9 books (I’m including COP TOWN) you aren’t even close to figuring her out- and you know it! His girlfriend is stoic and beautiful and has held up under massive human suffering. It’s the realism of these characters’ lives and their good-trumps-evil spirit that make me slow down and drag the book out.
Initially I did not read her series in order, but I recommend you do. The Will-Trent-experience is far more enriching when you know what happened and what character traits and secrets were revealed in the previous novel. Below is the sequence of the series. And in her brilliant creativity she’s begun weaving the boss, Amanda Wagner’s backstory within the series and as stand-alones, so I’m adding COP TOWN in as a must-read too. Will Trent isn’t in it, but you need to know this part of Amanda to make CRIMINAL that much more of a 4th tier experience!
Name your top tier authors! One commenter will win a $10 Amazon gift card. (My way of paying for that author’s next book!)
WILL TRENT SERIES (links to each book on her website.)