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The Midnight Confessions of Ella Grace

Manda hbio-picere. You may not know this about me,  but one of the romantic suspense hero types that really cranks my tractor is the small town sheriff. So when I picked up the first book in Ella Grace’s new trilogy set in Midnight, Alabama and saw that the hero was…a small town sheriff, I was SO there. And when I realized that Ella Grace is the alter ego of Christy Reece, who writes angsty, nail-biting international romantic suspense, I HAD to know more.

So, being the Nosy Nellie that I am, I invited Ella to K&T so I could get the real scoop for me and for all of you out there who read and loved her Last Chance Rescue books as Christy Reece and who are well on the way to adoring every word that Ella Grace puts on the page. Without further ado, let’s welcome to the K&T lounge, the delightful, Ella Grace!

MC: Welcome, Ella! I’m so glad you’re here. I first started reading your Last Chance Rescue series cover_rewardunder your Christy Reece name and became a fan. That you’re also an Alabama girl just cements it!

EG: Hey Manda! Thanks so much for having me over. I’m excited to be here. And I always love talking to another Alabama girl.

MC: Bama gals have to stick together! Only we know how grateful to be for the existence of Mississippi! Speaking of locales…Your Last Chance Rescue series feels global in scope, with many of the stories taking place overseas, and the headquarters of the Last Chance Rescue organization calling Paris home. Your new Ella Grace stories are set in small town Alabama, which is about as far from Paris as you can get. What are the challenges of writing about people and places that are so narrow in focus? Do you prefer one over the other?

EG: At first it was a struggle to go from an international setting to a place that could be my own back yard. I love the exotic excitement of international settings. Depending upon how far you want to go in making the setting a part of your story, it can add a lot or a little extra flavor. My LCR characters are sophisticated, street smart, and somewhat edgy. They wouldn’t fare well in a sleepy little southern town, no matter how many murders take place there. So I felt the need to tone down the ‘world-weary toughness’ of the characters but still make them comfortable if danger came calling. Which it does.

When I first started writing the series, I wanted to stretch myself creatively so I worked to keep Christy’s voice out of Ella’s writing. My Christy Reece books tend to be dark and angsty. I don’t think I was totally successful, because there’s quite a bit of angst in the first two books and the third one is shaping up to be even more so. However the blend of Christy and Ella’s voice began to work quite well and became a good fit for the series.

When the town of Midnight finally came alive for me, so did the book. The story wasn’t really working until I finally named the town. I was going for a Southern sounding name but could never find one that I liked or wasn’t already a real city or town in the South. Then I noticed that certain monumental, life-changing events kept occurring around the midnight hour. That’s when the name Midnight struck me, and suddenly the town and it’s citizens came alive.

hcover-midnight-secretsTo create it further, I drew on my knowledge of small southern towns. I grew up in a small Alabama community where whatever you did was scrutinized and talked about almost before you did it. And I’ve lived in small southern cities where shady dealings of law enforcement was known and accepted as a way of life. Having lived in the South most of my life, I felt comfortable creating the characters, from the quirky and loveable Aunt Gibby, the nosey Inez, the humorless but somewhat mysterious Faye, to the hideous red neck characters of the Daytons and Hensons. At some point in my life, I’ve met them all.

It was so much fun creating this pretty little south Alabama town. I’d love to live there–well, except for the murders. 🙂

I can’t say that I prefer one setting more than the other. However, I do have to get in a particular mindset to write each series. And in its own way, it’s freeing to be able to ‘switch gears’ voice-wise.

MC: Midnight Secrets the first of your new series set in Midnight, AL introduces the reader to the Wilde triplets whose parents died under mysterious circumstances when the three girls were children. Midnight Secrets is Savannah’s story which reunites her with her high school boyfriend Zach. Reunited lovers is one of the most popular tropes in romance. What do you think draws readers to these stories? Do you have a favorite?

EG: I adore reunited lovers stories. Four of my LCR books are reunion romances. There’s just something about having that history, the remembered heat of passion. Reigniting the spark and watching it flame out of control is so much fun to create and watch. You know I love angst and what’s more angsty than past hurts or betrayals and working to overcome them?

MC: Choosing triplets as your heroines for this series is a bold move, and I love it. What was your reason for casting this series with triplets instead of just sisters? Was there something about the bond between multiples–and especially identical ones that intrigued you?

EG: I really wish I had an intelligent, well thought out reason for making the sisters triplets. I don’t. From the moment I sat down to write Midnight Secrets, I knew the sisters were triplets. However, once I got into the story, I realized how much fun I was going to have with it. The sisters are identical in appearance but how they reacted to their parents’ deaths became such a wonderful personality and character study. Savannah turns inward, becoming shy and bookish. Samantha hides her pain behind her popularity, letting no one know what’s going on behind her bright smile. And Sabrina rebels, making each issue that comes her way a battle she must fight and win.

And I do love the bond that they have. It’s not psychic or supernatural. It’s pure, untainted lovehcover-midnight-lies between siblings. I didn’t want the typical strife one might see between sisters. I wanted the girls to be best friends. When the world comes crashing down around them, they have each other. No matter who’s against them, they always have each other’s backs. Their relationship is one of my favorite aspects of the series.

MC: The second book in this series Midnight Lies, is Samantha Wilde’s story. What kind of trouble is on the horizon for this sister, the cop? Who is her hero?

EG: Samantha is a homicide detective in Atlanta, dating Quinn Braddock, who she thinks is the ‘most perfect man on earth’. However when his ex-wife is murdered and he’s found standing over her body, she begins to wonder if the perfection she thought she saw in him was a facade. She’s never really dealt with her parents’ deaths and all of that comes crashing down on her, making her question her judgment.

Quinn is an ER doctor and has been betrayed repeatedly by the people in his life. However, if there’s one person he knows he can count on, it’s Samantha Wilde. Imagine his surprise when he realizes she’s not sure of his innocence.

After their break-up, Samantha returns to Midnight and Quinn follows her. But all isn’t rosy. They’ve hurt each other badly and their earlier relationship put more emphasis on their physical attraction than it did on getting to know each other. This is something they have to rectify if they’re going to move forward. Into the mix comes another murder and once again Quinn is considered a suspect. This time Samantha stands by her man, unaware that the killer has set his sights on her as his next victim.

MC: Who are some of your influences? Your favorite authors, romance, suspense or otherwise?

EG: I grew up reading Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. (MC: Hi fives! Always love meeting other Nancy Drew fans!) I loved the excitement and fun of puzzling out the mysteries. Some of my favorite romance and suspense authors are Linda Howard, Karen Rose, Judith McNaught, Julie Garwood and Allison Brennan.

MC: Do you have any more projects underway? Tell me about them!

EG: Yes, I’ve started a new series called Grey Justice. The first book, Nothing To Lose, features a young woman who has everything she’s ever dreamed of and then loses it all because of one family’s corruption and greed. She’s determined to see that they pay. Enter a mysterious man who offers to help her in her quest but has his own agenda and another man who’s number one goal is to save her from herself, even if it costs him his life.

I’m also continuing my Last Chance Rescue series, with at least three more books planned. And another book in the Wildefire series for Sabrina Wilde, the third triplet.

MC: Ella, thank you so much for visiting us today! I can’t wait to read your next book, no matter which of your personae is writing it!

To learn more about Ella Grace and her Wildefire Series or Christy Reece and Last Chance Rescue, check her out on the web, on her LCR Facebook Page, her Ella Grace Facebook Page, or @EllaGraceBooks on Twitter.

So, gentle readers, do you like your Romantic Suspense with an international flavor or a downhome flair? Tell us which one you like best, and give us an example! One lucky reader will receive a copy of Ella Grace’s latest Wilde Sisters book, Midnight Sins.

Rachel Grant puts herself in Grave Danger

Rachel Grant

I wanted to be an archeologist for at least a year after I discovered Macchu Picchu (Peru) in a sixth grade textbook. I later realized I might not have the patience required for the job, but that didn’t stop my fascination with ancient sites and unearthed artifacts. Which is part of what I love about Rachel Grant’s books. They give the reader a glimpse into the real world of an archeologist. Add in some danger and steamy romance, and her stories have it all.

Rachel’s latest—out today!—Grave Danger, includes a determined archeologist trying to rebuild her reputation, a stalker, an unexpected find in the archaeological site, and a sexy small town cop who’s not sure if he can trust her, but can’t stay away. You won’t want to miss it!

She’s being stalked…

Grave Danger 300dpi

After struggling to recover from a career-crippling mistake, archaeologist Libby Maitland has landed the project of her dreams—a data recovery excavation in a picturesque, historic sawmill town. Tasked with digging up secrets of the town’s founding family, Libby soon learns that nothing in Coho, Washington, is as idyllic as it seems.

She’s barely settled into her new home when suspicious events make her believe she’s being stalked…

Or maybe she’s losing her mind.

Coho Police Chief Mark Colby can’t decide if Libby is crazy or if she has her own twisted agenda, but the deeper he delves into her past, the more intrigued he becomes. Even as he and Libby grow closer, he can’t quite let his initial suspicion go.

When Libby’s life is threatened, they must work together to determine if the truth about her stalker is buried in her past, or if the answers can be found in the layers of the excavation.

Read on for more about Rachel, archeology, and her books. And be sure to answer her question for a chance to win a signed copy of Grave Danger.

Gwen: Clearly your experience as an archeologist provides background for your stories, but was there something in particular that sparked Grave Danger? An incident? An article? A scene idea?

Rachel: The story for GD really flowed from the axiom “write what you know” – and while I’ve never been romanced by a hunky police chief or been stalked, I know a fair amount about prehistoric shell midden sites in the Pacific Northwest. I wanted to write a book about real archaeology, as it’s practiced in the United States, because most books with an archaeological storyline either focus on treasure hunting (which will get a real archaeologist blackballed) or contain other inaccuracies. So I started with the archaeological project, and plotted from there.

Avoiding spoilers, there is a discovery Libby makes during the excavation that is a real concern among archaeologists given the protocols we must follow in similar circumstances.

Is that vague or confusing enough? 😀

Gwen: Hah, now everyone has to read it. 😉 This book was the first you’d ever written. I know you’ve made a lot of changes since the first iteration almost a decade ago, but what is it about this story that kept pulling you back in?

Rachel: I shudder when I think of that first draft.  I set this story aside in 2008 so I could focus on writing Concrete Evidence and other, more suspense-y books, but I never really let this one go. This is my small-town-romantic-mystery, as opposed to my city-set-political-thrillers, and I’d love to write more books in this part of the romance genre. I’ve had the sequel plotted for years and I can’t wait to write it.

Gwen: I definitely want the sequel! In GD, Libby is an archeologist trying to restore her good name, and Mark is the chief of police of the small town where she’s starting a new project. What do you think makes these two characters perfect for each other?

Rachel: Libby is really attracted to confidence, because she’s lost confidence in herself after a professional and emotional setback, but Mark sees her strength—and the courage in her convictions that she thinks she lacks—from their first meeting. Plus they are both outsiders in a small, closed community, but they each need to understand and become members of that community as part of their respective professions.

To me, the town of Coho was a character—a beautiful, pristine historic gem on the outside, but with a dark and conflicted history that overshadows today.

FrontCover-Final-300dpiGwen: Confidence is definitely sexy. Grave Danger—and your first release Concrete Evidence—both have archeologist characters, but the books aren’t a series. Do you have related stories for either of them in the works?

Rachel: I’ve had the sequel to GD plotted for a long time and look forward to writing it. I have two sequels to CE written and am working on a third. No promises yet on when those books will be released.

Gwen: Ooh, can’t wait for more in both series. Grave Danger takes place in a small sawmill town in Washington State, and Concrete Evidence was set in the big city—Washington, D.C. Do you find it easier to write small town or big city settings?

Rachel: The fictional small town was based on an historic sawmill town not far from where I live. This setting was easier simply because I could adapt the setting to suit my needs, but I loved writing the D.C. book too, because I lived there for two years and know the city well enough to write it with confidence. In CE, every scene (except for the ones set on fictional tribal-owned land) was set in a place I’ve visited at least once. Erica’s apartment in SW D.C. was my own, and the Bethesda office building was (not really) shockingly similar to the building I worked in.

Gwen: I definitely find it easier to write about places I’ve lived or at least visited. What’s the most interesting thing you ever found while working as an archeologist?

Rachel: Oh, that’s a hard one! In the Pacific Northwest, we don’t have pottery, we have woven basketry instead. Woven fibers decompose easily—they are only preserved in ideal conditions, very wet, or very dry—so finding prehistoric basketry is rare. Years ago, I worked on an excavation inside Porcupine Cave in Eastern Washington and caves and rockshelters have wonderfully dry preservation conditions. I found—in the screen, not in situ—a small fragment of a basket. That was really cool, but it was only about an inch across and something that wouldn’t trigger backflips for people who don’t know how rare and unique the find was.

Another exciting find was in SW Idaho, when I found a petroglyph on a rock face on the Owyhee Plateau. The petroglyph itself wasn’t all that exciting – it was a simple circle slightly larger than a softball – but still, it was the first time that particular petroglyph was recorded by an archaeologist and I was thrilled to have spotted it.

On a more bizarre note, I once dug a pit and found a rusted metal bucket and shovel head—evidence the site had been looted about a hundred years before.

Gwen: How cool to be the first to record a petroglyph! And I hadn’t thought of finding looting evidence, but then I guess that’s just another layer of artifact with its own provenance… Okay, one last question, like my experience after reading about Macchu Picchu, was there a particular incident that sparked your interest in archaeology?

Rachel: I was a senior in high school when I discovered Elizabeth Peters’ mysteries, and I (fondly) blame her for my decision to become an archaeologist, which leads me to my question for our readers…

Have you ever read a book that made you reconsider your career choice?

I’m giving a signed copy of Grave Danger to one commenter. Thanks so much for hosting me today, Gwen! I want to thank all the ladies at Kiss and Thrill for the fabulous support you all have given me over the last months.

Gwen: Thanks for sharing your new release with us. I can’t wait for more of your stories!

Pick up one of Rachel’s books today. C’mon, you know you want to.

Concrete Evidence
Amazon | iTunes | Kobo | Barnes & Noble

Grave Danger
Amazon | iTunes | Barnes & Noble

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