Category Archives: Author Interview

Move over Jack Reacher…Enter Gil Malloy!

Meet Crime Fiction Novelist R.G. Belsky

and the newest installment in the Gil Malloy series…

BLONDE ICE

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Son of Sam. Ted Bundy. The Boston Strangler. All of these infamous serial killers who made front page news shared a common trait—they were men who killed women for a sexual thrill.

But now Gil Malloy—ace reporter for the New York Daily News—is on the trail of a different kind of serial killer who breaks all of the rules. Dubbed “Blonde Ice” by the media, she’s a sexy blonde who picks up seemingly random men at bars and clubs, has sex with them, and then brutally murders them afterwards.

Malloy—who is already in the middle of a major political story about the election of the next New York City mayor—finds himself drawn to the case by secrets from his past. As he digs deeper, he begins to suspect that there could be some kind of link between the mayoral race and the emergence of the Blonde Ice killings.

As the body count and the political stakes continue to rise, Malloy soon realizes he’s covering what could be the biggest story of his career. All he has to do is live through it.

Amazon       Barnes&Noble      Simon&Schuster

Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, in New York, NY (John Makely / NBC News) NBC News Dick Belsky.

Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, in New York, NY (John Makely / NBC News)
NBC News
Dick Belsky.

Does that sound like an awesome story or what? This is the third novel in the Gil Malloy series. Now meet the fabulous author, R.G. Belsky.

R.G. Belsky is an author of crime fiction and a New York City journalist. His new mystery BLONDE ICE – the latest in a series featuring newspaper reporter Gil Malloy – was published by Atria on October 18. Previous books include SHOOTING FOR THE STARS and THE KENNEDY CONNECTION. Belsky is a former managing editor of the New York Daily News; metropolitan editor of the New York Post; news editor of Star magazine; and managing editor at NBCNews.com. He recently won the Claymore award and finished as a Silver Falchion Finalist at Killer Nashville.

Lena – Welcome to Kiss and Thrill! You have a long, prestigious history as a journalist and are still an active journalist. But you also write crime novels. Did you always want to write novels? What finally made you take that leap?


R.G. – I’ve actually been writing crime novels for a long time. I started back as a young journalist when I first read Raymond Chandler, Agatha Christie and a few others – and got inspired to try my own. Most of my crime novels have been written while I was also working as a fulltime journalist at the NY Post, NY Daily News, Star magazine and NBC News. I always thought that gave me a big advantage in my fiction career because:

    • Being a news person gives you great ideas for crime novels. I’ve covered most of the big crime stories over the years – Son of Sam, O.J., Jon Benet, etc – and also been involved in some of the most sensational tabloid stories like “Headless Body in Topless Bar” – the famous NY Post headline. So when people ask me where I get the ideas for my crime novels, I always say: “I just go to work in the newsroom every day:”
    • There’s no place better than a New York City newsroom to find colorful characters. None of the characters in my crime novels are real, but they certainly have been inspired by many of the real life characters in my journalistic life. Much of the dialogue in my books too comes straight out of newsroom banter. I don’t think I ever could have created someone like Gil Malloy if I hadn’t been around a lot of Gil Malloys as a real life journalist.
    • A journalist has to deal all the time with the facts. He or she is consumed by them – everything in a news story has to be accurate. But in fiction, I get to make stuff up! I generally start with some real life facts as in The Kennedy Connection – pegged to the JFK assassination. But then I create fictional items like a secret son of Lee Harvey Oswald to propel the plot forward. Now that kind of freedom is really fun to do for a longtime journalist like me!

Lena – When you and I last spoke, your first novel in the Gil Malloy series, The Kennedy Connection, was coming out. Since then, you’ve published the second in this series—Shooting Stars. And the third, Blonde Ice, just came out (Happy book release!) This series has received amazing critical acclaim. To what do you attribute your success? What makes your books so different? What makes Gil Malloy so compelling?

R.G. – I follow a pretty basic rule when writing my fiction. I try to make the books – especially the characters – things I would want to read about. That’s especially true with Gil Malloy. He’s flawed, immature at times, and has a lot of other issues = but he’s basically a good guy with integrity who’s also very interesting. I guess I patterned him to a degree after some of the TV characters I’ve loved over the years like Jim Rockford and Columbo. I also try to make sure the story has as many twists and surprises as possible – but the character is still the most important thing to me. One of my favorite reader reviews on Goodreads consisted of just three words: “Gil Malloy rocks!” That’s the reaction I’m going for.

Here’s what critics and fellow authors are saying about his novels…

  • “Bombshell Twists” ~ Publishers Weekly
  • “Sensational! R.G. Belsky dazzles with his new mystery novel…Gil Malloy shines!” ~ Killer Nashville, Book of the Day
  • “Sinewy, compelling and addictive” ~ The Huffington Post
  • “Excellent thriller…establishes Malloy as a formidable hard-boiled hero.” ~ Booklist
  • “Malloy is a terrific character” ~ Sandra Brown
  • “completely entertaining” ~ Hank Phillippi Ryan

Lena – What’s next? More Gil Malloy books or a new series? Something else?

R.G. – I recently won the Claymore award at Killer Nashville for “Forget Me Not,” the next book I’ve been working on. It’s about the long ago disappearance of a child in New York City and a woman TV reporter who becomes obsessed with finding out answers about the case. I think it’s different than the Gil Malloy books – but still captures that same New York City media world that I know so well. Of course, I also hope to do more Gil Malloy books in the future too. I like writing Gil!

COMPLETE BOOKLIST

As Dick Belsky…

  • ONE FOR THE MONEY – Academy Chicago (1985)
  • SOUTH STREET CONFIDENTIAL – St. Martin’s (1989)
  • BROADCAST CLUES (Paperback version from Berkley Prime Crime of South Street Confidential) – 1993
  • LIVE FROM NEW YORK – Berkley Prime Crime (1993)
  • THE MOURNING SHOW –Berkley Prime Crime (1994)
  • SUMMERTIME NEWS – Berkley Prime Crime (1995)

As R.G. Belsky….

  • LOVERBOY – Avon 1998
  • PLAYING DEAD – Avon 1999
  • THE KENNEDY CONNECTION – Atria (2014)
  • THE MIDNIGHT HOUR – Novella – Atria (2015)
  • SHOOTING FOR THE STARS – Atria (2015)
  • BLONDE ICE – Atria (2016)

R.G. is giving away a PRINT COPY OF BLONDE ICE to a random commenter (Giveaway limited to U.S. mailing addresses.)

Just answer the below question to be entered into the drawing…

Who’s the scariest serial killer you’ve ever read or seen on screen?

Learn more about R.G. Belsky by visiting his website.

What Readers Want in Female Protagonists

Jess Lourey and Shannon Baker are thriller and mystery writers who have, between them, published 19 books. When they realized Jess’s thriller, Salem’s Cipher, and Shannon’s mystery, Stripped Bare, were set to launch on the same day, September 6, they joined forces for the Lourey/Baker Double Booked Tour.  Doesn’t that sound delicious?

Today this phenomenal duo are discussing whether female sleuths need to be alpha-heroes for today’s readers or if the old-fashioned, Ms. Marple-type character still works? We hope you readers will chime in and let us know what you think, too! Take it away Shannon:

Jess and Shannon are giving away a copy of Salem’s Cipher and Stripped Bare. For a chance to win tell us your favorite women protagonist or leave a comment.

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Shannon: Thanks, Diana, for letting us drop by. I hear a lot about the “kick-ass” woman detective or sleuth when people talk about women protagonists in crime fiction — and while I’m glad the crime writing world has progressed far beyond the idea of women protagonists only knitting and sipping tea — I’m not sure all women crime fighters need to be tough, gun-toting mamas. So today Jess and I are going to answer the question about our women protagonists—Miss Marple or V.I Warshawski?

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Shannon and Jess

When I started writing about Kate Fox, the star of my new series, I didn’t set out to write a tough crime fighter in the Nebraska Sandhills. In fact, Kate walked right into my life, and like meeting a new friend, I’ve been getting to know who she is. Kate is a person, who happens to be a woman and accidently falls into a new career. One she never expected, or wanted.

For me, writing a character is a lot like raising a child. You give them guidance and discipline, love them and nurture them, and maybe prod them along, but they come out of the womb already loaded with who they are. I can push Kate into situations that test her mettle, but she’s going to react according to who she is, with very little help from me. (I know, writers are crazy, and explaining how would take much longer than we have space for in this blog.)

Diana: I love that Shannon! How would you characterize your heroine, Kate?

Shannon: I don’t think of Kate as kick-ass. She doesn’t go looking for trouble. In fact, she goes to great lengths to avoid it. She’s smack in the middle of eight brothers and sisters, so there’s always some crisis brewing. Her MO is to duck and weave.

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But she doesn’t run from a problem. She might clench her teeth and bow her neck and barrel in reluctantly, but … READ THE REST OF THE POST BY CLICKING HERE

All about Sharon Wray.

IMG_5582KaT member, Sharon Wray supplied all these photographs…take a look at them…aren’t they SO Sharon Wray?! She’s the most optimistic, genuinely kind and considerate friend/fellow writer I know.

I believe the entire romance writing world knows her because of her eight RWA Golden Heart nominations in six years, because she’s always volunteering for chapter positions or cheering others on through yahoo loop emails, and because of the hundreds of poignant photographs and heartfelt blogs she’s posted over the years.

We were hugely ecstatic but a bit confused when we learned her most important moment in being a writer (getting the coveted book contract offer from a publisher) was communicated in a Publisher’s Weekly announcement. (The rest of us usually type the news in all caps all over social media.) Sharon was in the middle of a hectic summer and getting ready for the RWA national conference, so she hurriedly told the overall story, but promised to tell the nitty-gritty details when she returned. And here she is:

Can you tell us about the moment you realized your publishing dream had just come true?

It was surreal. After I hung up on a Skype call with my agents (Deidre Knight and Kristy Hunter), having accepted Deb Werksman’s offer from Sourcebooks, I sat at my desk shaking. After all these years (11!), I’d actually sold a book. And two more! I couldn’t even call my husband. I was so afraid to say anything to anyone because I was worried someone would  tell me it was all joke.

But now that I have a deadline, I know it’s not only not a joke, it’s a dream come true. I’m so grateful to my agents and editor, and I’m determined not to let them down.

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Explain ‘auction’ for those readers who’ve never heard the term associated with novels.

An auction is when a novel has two or more offers for publication from different publishing houses, and a literary agent negotiates the best deal for his or her author. Negotiations can include (but aren’t limited to) advances, subsidiary rights, marketing plans, release dates, etc. For the author, it’s very exciting and a crash course in all things publishing. Here’s a great article by Rachelle Gardner who explains it much better than I ever could!

What was your family’s reaction after you sold?

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Donut the Dog whose lack of interest keeps Sharon humble.

They were all so excited, including the dog, and they gave me hugs and we all cried. Then we went out to dinner to celebrate! And while at dinner, the kids asked about going to Disney World to really celebrate. Still thinking about that one. 🙂

When did you you know you wanted to start writing novels?

In 2004, my four-year old twins and I moved to Savannah, GA from Fairfax, VA (temporarily) to take care of my father who was dying of cancer. Taking care of my dad and the twins, while my husband was still in Virginia, was one of the most stressful things I’ve ever had to do. There was little free time and lots of stress involved.

It was during this time that my sister-in-law Kieran Kramer (now a USA Today Bestselling author for St. Martin’s Press) suggested I keep track of everything going on in my journal. Kieran had always been a writer and was actively pursuing a romance writing career. And I’d always admired her talent and perseverance.

During the summer of 2004, I found that writing helped me find a place for all of my emotions and I slowly moved from non-fiction into fiction. I realized that all the stories I’d always had in my head needed an outlet. In 2005, after my dad’s death, I finished my first manuscript, joined RWA, and entered the Golden Heart (and didn’t final!). After that, although I was in the early stages of learning how to write, I was hooked!

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In those 11 years, you’ve done an incredible amount of research and learning writing craft. What “Ah-Ha!” craft resources do you recommend?

There are so many, but here’s a list of my favorites:

Laura Baker & Robin Perini’s Discovery Story Magic 

Laura Baker’s Turning Points (DSM part 2)

Michael Hauge’s Identity to Essence

Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat

Alicia Rasley’s Emotion without Purple Prose

Kathleen Baldwin’s Scene & Sequel

Suzanne Johnson’s Plot Quilting 101

Margie Lawson’s Rhetorical Devices & Empowering Character’s Emotions

Tiffany Lawson Inman’s Madness to Method &  Writing Authentic Choreograph

Back to your contract details! Do you have tentative titles and publication dates?

The Series title is The Deadly Force Series which I love. I honestly don’t know yet about whether or not I can keep my original titles. I also don’t know my publication dates, but I hope to know soon.

Right now the first three books are titled:

When Next We Meet

Hope Craves an Execution

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I thought this saga was planned for 6 novels. Are you cutting the series short or planning on another multiple book deal?

For now I’m writing the first three books in the series for Sourcebooks. Hopefully, if things go well, I’ll be asked to write the next three.

Can you give us the overall story line for the series?

The Deadly Force series is about Colonel Torridan and his group of elite ex-soldiers who operate a self-defense school while seeking the truth behind an operation gone wrong.

These men are devoted to each other, determined to seek the truth instead of justice, and willing to risk their honor, their lives, and their souls to save themselves and the women they love. And, in the process, protect the world.

Do you believe in Serendipity?

Yes. I also believe in God’s timing. And in my case, the timing couldn’t be more perfect. I have three books to write in the next two years, but the kids go off to college next summer. I was already worried about how I was going to handle that (I suspect I won’t be handling it well) but now that I have three books coming out, I know I’ll be too busy to cry or feel lonely.

The timing of Sourcebook’s offer isn’t an accident and I’m so grateful that when the twins do go off to school, I’ll have plenty of work to focus on (besides my husband and dog!). I’m also grateful this didn’t happen earlier. I wouldn’t give up the time I’ve spent with my family for anything in the world.

Three Books you’d take to a deserted Island?

JR Ward’s Dark Lover (Paranormal Romance), Stephen King’s The Shining (Horror), and Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me (YA)

 Favorite foods you can’t say no to?

Oreos. Perfection in a small, round cookie.

Yummy. 🙂 Do you have any advice for writers still waiting for the call?

Never Pillow

Never stop writing. But Winston Churchill said it best in his October 29, 1941 speech at his childhood school (he almost didn’t graduate).

“. . . never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.”

This quote–this speech–has never failed me in my darkest moments of self-doubt and worry.

Sharon, I think you know how much we’ve looked forward to celebrating your publishing contract, and how excited the eight of us are for you! Thanks for the pictures, and even formatting this for me, because that’s just the kind of friend you are!! –Sarah

Sharon-Wray

You can find Sharon here at Kiss and Thrill and DON’T miss her own blog www.sharonwray.com (it’s what a blog SHOULD be!)

She also loves to connect with readers on: Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram | Goodreads

All photographs courtesy of Sharon Wray.

A Magical Shop in Paris Generates a Novel

deyrolleToday is release day for Lark Brennan’s second book in The Durand Chronicles. This is a series based on the psychic skills of the powerful Durand family and their war against the evil faction in the world; the Dissemblers, who thrive on creating chaos and death. IRRESISTIBLY YOURS is Adrien’s story, the most powerful member of the Durand family. What’s compelling in this fast-paced adventure/thriller is the inner demons he faces and the critical decisions he’s forced to make for the family’s survival. It’s a riveting read, and I’m pleased to welcome Lark back to KaT today!

Tell us where did you got the idea for IRRESISTIBLY YOURS?LarkBrennan_IrresistiblyYours_HR

On a rainy January day in Paris, my husband and I were strolling down the rue du Bac when a window display of framed insect specimens caught his eye.

We went into the charming little garden shop, browsed for a few minutes, and were about to leave when the woman behind the counter told us we absolutely must go upstairs.

We weren’t expecting much, but it was raining and cold outside so we climbed the worn stairs and emerged among Deyrolle’s incredible collection of taxidermy animals—featuring every species from elephants and giraffes to donkeys, wolves, rabbits, and even mice–all posed as though they are having a jolly time in the elegant townhouse. Then and there I fell in love with the place and every creature in it.54

I joked to my husband, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the man who owned Deyrolle could bring the animals to life when no one was around?” That imaginary man later became Adrien Durand, and IRRESISTIBLY YOURS is his story.

It was important that Adrien Durand’s ability to animate the taxidermy animals of the Maison d’Ermonie have a plausible and serious purpose that makes him uniquely qualified to be head of the family. The last thing I wanted was to write a Night at the Museum Meets Doctor Dolittle comedy.

Instead, the entire structure of the psychic world evolved around what the ‘animals’ are and the enormous stakes the family has in protecting them. Although the paranormal elements are an integral part of the world, the story includes suspense, international intrigue, a bit of pseudo-science and, of course, a love story.

Tell us a little about Adrien and Tate.

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Lark’s inspiration for Adrien

One of the most powerful telepaths in the world, Adrien loved being a covert agent in the Durands’ war against their ancient enemies and hates being trapped in Paris running the family’s worldwide business empire. The one thing he treasures is his ability to connect with the beings who inhabit Maison d’Ermonie’s taxidermy animals—until Tate shows up and his world is turned upside down.

Tate is an animal telepath and empath from Indiana who has hidden her abilities in order to protect herself. The joy in her life comes from volunteering in animal rescue organizations where she can help animals with her unique abilities. When she meets Adrien, for the first time she doesn’t need to hide who she is–which makes it far too easy to fall hopelessly in love with him.

Are The Durand Chronicles a continuous story or does each book stand alone?

The books can definitely stand alone although I think they’re more fun to read in order. Each is a complete romantic suspense with a different Durand cousin as the hero or heroine.  There’s an over-arching story that threads through the series but it’s very easy to pick up at any point. Some of the characters from Book 1 appear in Book 2 and readers are introduced to new family members–all navigating tricky family dynamics.

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Released last year

The Durand Chronicles have been called a mash-up of suspense, romance, adventure, and paranormal. How would you describe the stories?

You forgot science fiction. 🙂 I call them romantic suspense with a psychic element. The series takes place in the present in the Real World but unbeknownst to the general population, some people have genetic-based psychic abilities. The Durands are among the most powerful of those psychics.

Each book has a fast-paced suspense plot. For two centuries the Durands have been waging a covert war with a faction of psychics bent on controlling non-psychics by creating chaos, destruction and terrorism, and that conflict is always in the background. In IRRESISTIBLY YOURS, a new, unsuspected enemy sets out to destroy Adrien and his entire family using both psychic and legal manipulation—and manages to throw suspicion on Tate and divide the family in the process. 

Could you give us a short excerpt based on your visit to Deyrolle, so the readers can see the charming humor the animals bring to the story? (Readers: There really IS a horse to greet you as you reach the top of the stairs!)

Excerpt

Tate’s smile wilted as Adrien led her through the gallery of stuffed animals to reception. He was sorry to disappoint her but the sooner she was gone, the better. What had passed between them when he touched her was out of his control, and nothing in this place could ever be out of his control. That was who he was and what he was.

“Thank you,” she said. You and this enchanted place are what I’ll remember of Paris.

He’d read her thoughts and his instincts went on high alert. She sensed too much. “Would you like to have lunch?” he asked.

“I wish I could. I’m due at the convention center at one.”

“Tomorrow, perhaps? Here at twelve thirty?”

Her eyes lit up and he was rewarded with a lovely smile.

“I’d like that.” She stroked the horse’s neck on her way down the stairs. “It was nice meeting you, Maurice. Au revoir, Mr. Durand.”

His reply lodged in his throat. “Bye,” he managed as she disappeared down the stairs.

When the door below closed he whirled on the horse. “Maurice? How the hell did she know your name?”

The horse’s ear twitched. A good guess?

“I don’t think so.” He turned so he could address the room. “What’s going on here?”

Louis, a huge African lion, replied. Don’t you like her?

“I don’t even know her. And anyone showing up here with empathic abilities that strong is suspect. What if she’s a Dissembler?”

She isn’t, Maurice replied. She’s completely untrained and unguarded. You know that. You were in her head the entire time she was here.

“Forget it. I’m not looking for a woman.” Especially an empath.

The llama replied, Tate is different. She felt us. She likes us.

“That is not good. Even if she isn’t a spy, someone sent her here.”

Victor appeared in the doorway. “So who was the empath?”

“Some American tourist,” Adrien snapped.

“What’s your problem?”

He’s taking her to lunch tomorrow, a cheetah confided.

Victor grinned. “Really?”

Adrien groaned. “You’re on my side. Humans stick together.”

“She looked pretty hot to me—in a wholesome sort of way.”

“Drop it. What do you have for me?”

Victor handed him a business card. “His camera crew is due at two o’clock to plan the video shoot. In the ballroom.”

Which was in chaos. Adrien chuckled. “Then let’s go put it in order.”

They entered the ballroom and Victor leaned against the wall, awaiting directions.

Adrien crossed to the center. He stood among the stuffed animals and breathed deeply, focusing on tapping into the power of the Source below. The energy swirled and pulsed until the air crackled. Soon the power surged through him, growing, pounding, expanding until it filled his body and mind with light. Slowly he lifted his arms.

The energy flowed from the Source through him to the Guardians, pure spirits who had taken possession of the stuffed bodies over the past three centuries.

The animals began to move.dss

Thank you so much for sharing the incredible story-behind-the-story. Because I’ve been on this particular book’s journey with you from the first time you handed out pages in a critique group, I made a point of visiting Deyrolle a few years ago, and it was as magical as you described! The most remarkable part of wandering through rooms of vibrant, astonishingly alive-looking animals in the most darling poses was thinking: “Lark nailed it!”

On behalf of my eleven-year critique partner, I’d like to gift 5 digital copies of IRRESISTIBLY YOURS to 5 lucky commenters!

QUESTION: What quirky way does your pet communicate with you? (Can be an animal from your past.) 

Winner will be announced on Friday, June 25th!

 

 

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Lark Brennan

– Author Bio, Social media & Buy Links

 

Lark Brennan’s love of reading, writing and travel — including a few years spent sailing and diving in the Virgin Islands –has led to a string of colorful jobs and a well-worn passport. Her travels have also inspired her romance series, The Durand Chronicles, which takes place in some of her favorite destinations—Paris, British Virgin Islands, New Orleans and Scotland. Lark dreams of one day moving to Paris, and in the meantime lives in Texas with her brilliant husband and two adorable canine “children.”

You can find Lark Brennan at: www.larkbrennan.com

Facebook

Twitter: @larkh

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Celebrating our GH Sister, Diana Belchase

Hi, Sarah Andre here! For those of you who don’t know what the RWA Golden Heart® is, it’s the most prestigious contest in the nation for romance writers. A tiny percentage of entrants are called in late-March, and notified that their scores (judged by fellow writers) were high enough to qualify for the nomination. What exactly does getting a nomination mean? It’s the equivalent of getting an Oscar nomination! No joke. And guess what? We at Kiss and Thrill are thrilled to congratulate one of our own for this incredible career achievement–Diana Belchase! Let’s get to know her a lot better, shall we?

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    Sarah and Diana at the Golden Heart Awards Ceremony

    Tell us about the 2016 GH call!

Oh my goodness, it was incredible. Diane Kelly, the President of RWA, called me personally. It meant so much because I knew her, and because of that, this is the first time I can remember who called me this clearly. It still is very much a haze. I had forgotten that Friday was “THE” day we’d find out. So the call first went to voicemail and then when she rang back again, and she said “Hi, this is Diane Kelly from RWA.” I just went blank – wondering why she was calling me and I said, “Yes? Nice to hear from you.” So Diane repeated herself, “DIANA, THIS IS DIANE KELLY CALLING YOU FROM RWA.” She didn’t yell, but she did emphasize her words very strongly. All of a sudden the light bulb went off and instead of being more coherent, I was much, much less coherent. I remember trying so hard to not scream in her ear. I was absolutely surprised and dazed.

  1. This is your third nomination, and you won the Romantic Suspense category in 2011. How is this a different experience?

The first time I won in 2011 it was a surreal experience. I was thrilled, but I didn’t fully understand what the Golden Heart® meant. Being in the world of finalists was such a different experience – we were competitors, yet became really good friends. In fact, we started a blog together! And making those friends has been one of the best experiences of my life.

In 2012 when I finaled a second time, it was a total relief. Frankly, I thought the first time around was a fluke – i.e. the right combination of judges and just plain luck. Of course, that is always true to a certain extent, but down deep I felt unworthy the first time out. The second nomination said, despite all the rejections and near misses at being published, I did write well enough for people to like my work, and it meant the world to me.

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The coveted Golden Heart medallion

Now, in 2016 as a third-time nominee, it has come at a moment when I really needed a burst of confidence. It’s been a long waiting game, bittersweet seeing so many of my Golden Heart® friends get published — I’m thrilled for them, but have been feeling a bit left behind. This nomination reminds me that even if editors think “there are too many female spies on the market” (really would we ever say there were too many male spies on the market?) that there are at least eighteen people out there who have read my work and like it. Eighteen glorious people who might one day buy my books.

This time is so much sweeter because I know so many more writers and people online. To have blogmates, like you, want to honor me by interviewing me is something I’d never believed would have happened to me. Seeing so many fellow GH nominees, now published, and up for RITAs® at the same time is amazing! It is great to cheer for them, to support them, and to know they are rooting for me, too. Most of all, I am honored, so deeply and incredibly honored to be among the smart, fabulous Golden Heart® nominees once again.

  1. Can you give us a blurb or excerpt of SPY IN THE MIRROR?

Her contact is dead, her bureau chief is missing, and the guy she’s in love with might be working for the enemy.

After watching her parents’ car explode like the final blast of a dying star, rookie spy Trina Bianchi becomes determined to follow in their footsteps, to hone her skills, and to track the man who ordered their deaths. But as the desire for vengeance consumes her, can anyone crack the ice of her heart? Will she ever be happy or allow herself to love?

Sent into her first big mission in Hong Kong, Trina is ordered to do the one thing she isn’t good at – make friends. Why can’t she just plant bugs, climb buildings, and break into safes like usual? Instead, she must enter posh, British ex-pat society in order to uncover the murderous traitor killing agents and selling U.S. military secrets.

Soon she’s juggling a lecherous boss at her cover job, catty socialites, playboy financiers, and ducking bullets – losing her heart to the one man she can never have.  Will she succeed before someone launches a U.S. nuclear weapon against the American people?

  1. Wow, that’s pretty riveting! How did you come up with the BORN TO SPY series idea?

Every story starts with a germ of an idea taken from real life. The Spy in the Mirror came to be because of the Cox report – investigating how U.S. secrets ended up in the hands of China. Escape From the Harem came from an article about Prince Jeffrie inviting American starlets to his palace and then not letting them leave. But most of all this series came about because it was what I wanted to read and couldn’t find: a woman who was as capable as James Bond, but dealing with the things he never did – a family, insecurity, choosing between insatiable vengeance and love.winning-the-golden-heart-2011

  1. If this goes to Hollywood, who do you envision playing your h/h?

It is totally ridiculous but I’d love Taylor Swift to play Trina. And Trina is a dark brunette, and Taylor is blonde – but when she played both roles of geeky neighbor and sexy, have-it-all cheerleader for her You Belong With Me video, I said, wow, that’s Trina – the geeky girl who can transform herself into anyone she needs to be.  I haven’t thought about who the hero would be, but his song is definitely Chris Daughtry singing What About Now.

  1. Do you write full time? If not what does your day look like?

I write as much as I can between the craziness of daily life. And that is a good chunk of every day, but also includes blog posts and writing and producing my TV show, BookSmart which currently airs only in the D.C. area but hopefully will soon be expanding it’s market. (Ssshhh!) We just got a new director and a new studio so I’m very excited about that. Of course, my fiction is my first love and that takes up a good part of my day, too.

  1. Favorite food you can’t say no to?

Brussels sprouts. Okay cringe and laugh, but I absolutely love them! I love chocolate ice-cream, too.

  1. (Whew! Saved by chocolate ice cream…) What question should I have asked, that you would like readers to know about you?

That I’m very grateful to have you interview me today and that I’m so proud to be a member of Kiss and Thrill. Thank you so very much.

Thank you so much for answering these questions, and know that every one of us is rooting for you!

Want to know Diana even better? Check out her website  and Facebook page!

Lena Diaz Introduces the Darynda Jones of Romantic Suspense – BRYNN KELLY

Deception Island_Lena Diaz quote

Brynn Kelly Headshot

Can you tell that I LOVE DECEPTION ISLAND, the romantic suspense debut novel by incredible author BRYNN KELLY???

Those of  you who read paranormal romance know the name Darynda Jones. She’s the Queen of Voice in that genre. Well, I predict, with absolute confidence, that Brynn Kelly, will be the Queen of Voice in the romantic suspense genre. When I read Deception Island I was completely blown away.

EVERYTHING about this novel is fantastic: pacing, plot, characters, tone, twists, turns, and on and on. But what pulls it all together, what makes it a step above ANYTHING that I have read in recent times (including my own books, even though I’m green with envy admitting it) is her VOICE. The way she turns a phrase, word choice, dialogue, it’s all so UNIQUE and fresh and fun!

But don’t just take my word for it.

How many authors do you know who debut in HARD COVER these days?

Brynn Kelly’s debut novel, DECEPTION ISLAND, is available now, in HARD COVER.

For a publisher in today’s hard-to-sell climate to put a publicity machine behind a new author and introduce her in hard cover is unheard of, and it shows that her publisher (Harlequin-HQN) believes she’s the real deal.

Who else agrees with my fangirl-craziness about Brynn Kelly’s debut novel? Take a look…

“Intense and exciting, Brynn Kelly’s Deception Island is romantic suspense at its best!” -New York Times bestselling author Carla Neggers

“Captivating and cutting edge! Deception Island offers smoldering chemistry, cunning twists, and a whole lot of heart. Brynn Kelly delivers everything I love in a romance.” -New York Times bestselling author Heather Graham

“The romantic suspense genre just got a hot new talent …this thriller is expertly laced with psychological drama. Add in an unexpected and passionate attraction and you have one truly unforgettable tale.” –RT Book Reviews

“Sexual tension, mystery, and danger crackle off every page!”-New York Times bestselling author Laura Kaye

“In Deception Island, Brynn Kelly pens a raw, dark, emotional novel of danger and intrigue that will keep readers turning the pages.” –New York Times bestselling author Kat Martin

“DECEPTION ISLAND is a brilliant thriller that will have you begging for more. The plot is a maze of surprising and harrowing twists and turns that lead to a dynamic conclusion.” –Fresh Fiction

“It was rough, raw and real, with a storyline that hypnotized me and some of the best character development I’ve had the fortune of reading.” –The Romance Reviews

“Kidnappings and pirates and romance-oh my! Brynn Kelly’s fresh new voice is sure to become a mainstay among romantic suspense aficionados! Deception Island is a keeper.” -New York Times bestselling author Cindy Gerard

“Deception Island is the perfect book for someone searching for a hero with a dark past, enough passion for any woman’s deepest desires, and an amazing code of honor. The story, and the heroine with a wild heart and a fierceness to match, make this one you’ll never forget.” -New York Times bestselling author Sharon Sala

In Brynn’s own words…

Lena: By all appearances, it seems like you are an “overnight success” in the fiction world. Is Deception Island the first novel that you’ve written?

Brynn: Aren’t we all overnight successes in this industry? (grin) Deception Island is my third completed novel, and comes after ten years of serious tinkering with novel-writing, twenty years of journalism and non-fiction, several years of freelance manuscript copy-editing, and a childhood lost to reading and writing and daydreaming. So yes, totally an overnight success! It took that long to find my voice, figure out what I loved to write and develop the confidence and skills to (hopefully!) pull it off. I might revisit those earlier manuscripts someday, but for now I’m happy to write them off as my apprenticeship and leave them under the bed.

Lena: Can you tell us your “call story”, how you found out that you’d sold DI in a two-book deal to HQN? And when you found out you were going to debut in hard cover, did you faint, scream, what? Readers LOVE call stories, so please feel free to describe your feelings, what you were doing when you found out about the contract, etc.

Brynn: Let me tell you about this crazy twelve-hour period back in March last year. Several months earlier, I had entered Deception Island in the Golden Heart and my agent had submitted it to my dream publisher, Harlequin’s HQN Books. This is an imprint that rarely takes on a debut author, so it was a long shot, but holy cow, what an amazing place to start.

We’d had feedback that the editor we’d submitted to “loved it”, and was passing it around for second reads. The second reads turned into further reads, and it went around the building—and in fact around the world (as I later discovered)—until it felt as if everyone from the VP of publishing to the sales and marketing team to the janitor had read it. Every time we received an update, the hope and the tension rose.

It was beautiful torture—I told myself that the longer it took, the better were my chances, but of course the longer it took, the more devastating a “no, thanks” would be. And it could come at any time. I got to the point that I was relieved when a day passed with no word, because that was one more day hope remained alive. In the meantime, I was questioning whether all the effort and angst was worth it. Maybe I should quietly release the dream, quit writing, and live a calm everyday family life that wasn’t at the mercy of this emotional rollercoaster?

So back to that week in March. The Golden Heart finalists were due to be announced on the Friday in the US, and after all the waiting, my stomach was a pit of snakes. On my Friday afternoon (Thursday in the US), the phone rang. A US number. It was Tessa Dare! Deception Island had finaled, and they’d decided to tell me early because of the time difference! I had to keep it under wraps but I did quietly let my agent know.

That night, I couldn’t sleep. About 4am, I slipped onto the internet and found an email from my agent, Nalini Akolekar of Spencerhill Associates. She said there was news from HQN and asked when would be a good time to call. She used exclamation marks. Surely she wouldn’t use exclamation marks if it was a pass? I told her to call anytime, because … sleep? As if! I took the call in my lounge, in the dark, whispering so I didn’t wake the husband and kids. It was a two-book offer. And weirdly, after all that waiting and tension, I felt totally calm. I think Nalini was a little confused. But my overwhelming emotion was relief. Over the days and weeks that followed, I kept waiting for the ecstasy to hit, but somehow it never did. The feeling was more of a lifting of tension, and a quiet contentment that this dream I’d been working toward for so long was coming true, that all that work wasn’t for nothing, that I wouldn’t have to face the choice of giving up writing.

I had a similar reaction to hearing that Deception Island was being released in hardcover. I took a call from my agent while I was volunteering at a school fundraiser, standing on the veranda of the school hall in pouring rain. She said that HQN was so confident about Deception Island and they’d had such positive external feedback that they’d decided to publish it in hardcover. I said, offhand, “Oh, cool!” My reaction was so understated that Nalini said something like, “Do you understand what a big deal this is?” The funny thing is, I’m normally a very emotional person. I wonder if my brain is subconsciously shielding me after all the ups and downs of the writing and submitting process?

 

Some Ways That You Too Can FanGirl Over Brynn Kelly!

Author Website: http://brynnkelly.com

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/brynnwrites

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brynnkellyauthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14537646.Brynn_Kelly 

Deception Island - Brynn Kelly 

A stolen boy

A haunted soldier

A cornered con woman…

Rafe Angelito thought he was done with the demons from his past—until his son is kidnapped. Blackmailed into abducting an American heiress, the legionnaire soon finds himself trapped in paradise with a fiery, daring beauty who’s nothing he expects…and everything he desires. But when he uncovers her own dark secret, Rafe realizes he’s made a critical mistake—one that could cost him everything.

Playing body double for a spoiled socialite was supposed to be Holly Ryan’s ticket to freedom. But when she’s snatched off her yacht by a tall, dark and dangerous stranger, the not-quite-reformed con artist will make a desperate play to turn her captor from enemy to ally, by any means necessary.

Yet as scorching days melt into sultry nights, Holly is drawn to the mysterious capitaine, with his unexpected sense of honor and his searing touch. When they’re double-crossed, they’ll have to risk trusting each other in ways they never imagined…because in this deadly game of deception, it’s their lives—and hearts—on the line.


Buy Links for Deception Island (Or visit your local book store!)

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

iBooks

Harlequin has graciously agreed to give away one Hard Copy print book of DECEPTION ISLAND to a random commenter.

JB Schroeder’s Trial by Fire (ahem, red pen).

JB

JB Schroeder, Author of Unhinged

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!book

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!

Unhinged is available on Amazon here

And you can connect with JB on her website.

Our Beloved Graveyard Queen Returns!

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Amanda Stevens

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 novelWhat 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.
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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.MagnoliaCemeteryCharleston

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.

TheVisitorAlthough 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:

Website     Author FB Page     Twitter

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