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Exclusive Interview with Author Niall Leonard

Oh how the F2F chicks love to bring our readers a terrific interview! We’re like Elizabeth Vargas and Barbara Walters when we get together and try to come up with hard-hitting questions fans want answers to as well as thoughtful questions that invoke heartwarming answers. So we were ecstatic when Nialls Nation approached us about the opportunity to interview author Niall Leonard in anticipation of the release of his upcoming novel Incinerator, the sequel to Crusher and the second book in the Crusher trilogy via The Random House Group.

EXCERPT & ORDERING INFO HERE

The day Finn Maguire discovers his dad bludgeoned to death in a pool of blood, his dreary life is turned upside down. Prime suspect in his father’s murder, Finn must race against time to clear his name and find out who hated his dad enough to kill him.

Scouring the sordid, brutal London underworld for answers, exposing dark family secrets, and facing danger at every turn, Finn is about to learn that it’s the people you trust who can hit you the hardest. . .

Crusher is this year’s most talked-about debut thriller.

Lisa’s Review of Crusher

Discovering Niall Leonard has been another welcome part of this journey Kitt and I have been on since finding each other in the Twilight fandom. That journey lead us to some incredible authors who are now going mainstream and the reason we first launched this blog, not the least of which is Niall’s wife Erika (aka E L James). We have enjoyed their Twitter banter for a few years now, as well as reading interviews he has done as a result of his wife’s growing fame. So when Niall got his first publishing deal, we had no doubt the intelligence and humor we had grown to love would also be evident in his writing. And it is.

It will come as no surprise to those who follow this blog that I bought the audiobook version of Crusher. It’s what I do. It’s what I live for. (Sorry. I still have Anna Kendrick’s The Little Mermaid skit on the brain. lol) Crusher is fast-paced and keeps you entertained from start to finish. There’s even a little bit of romance for our hero, and I can’t help but hope that Zoe has found her way into Incinerator too once I get to listening to the audiobook. Since Niall has helped raise two boys of his own, it’s obvious he knows his way around their head space. It’s also obvious he knows his way around a good story. We’re big on not giving away any spoilers in our posts, so you won’t find any here. What you will find is a recommendation to buy the book and fall in love with Finn too!

U.S. Release Date: April 8, 2014
EXCERPT & ORDERING INFO HERE

Incinerator is the pulse-pounding sequel to Crusher, Niall Leonard’s debut YA novel and an Edgar Award finalist for Best Young Adult Novel.

Following the bloody deaths of his mother and father, Finn Maguire is determined to make a fresh start, running a boxing gym in the bruised and bitter heart of the city. But when loan sharks target his business partner and his lawyer vanishes with all his money, Finn is dragged down into London’s underworld once more, with only his fists and his wits to keep him alive.

Q&A

F2F: It’s fantastic that Nialls Nation has been created to support your career, and we appreciate the admin including us in the opportunity to do this Q&A with you. Thank you for taking the time, Niall!

NL: You’re very welcome. I’m honoured to be asked and amazed at the efforts Nialls Nation makes to publicize the Crusher trilogy. Their work is beyond price.

F2F: Kitt always wants to know… How did you celebrate when you got the news Crusher had been picked up by Random House?

NL: I remember when I heard the news – I was vacuum-cleaning the floor in my father’s house in Ireland when my agent rang and told me that if I wasn’t sitting down, I should be. When she explained that Random House wanted to publish Crusher and its two sequels I was stunned – I understood then why she’d told me to take a seat. Of course, it was the same year Erika’s trilogy became a record-breaking publishing phenomenon, and extraordinary events just seemed to keep on coming, but I’ve never stopped being thrilled and flattered to be published, and I hope that thrill never fades.

F2F: Lisa always wants to know… Is there any significance to the name you chose for your main character(s)?

NL: Maguire was my mother’s maiden name and for me it always had a rogue-ish quality, maybe because my father used to grumble (in jest) that in centuries past the Leonards had been kings in their part of Ireland and the Maguires had moved in and taken over. I’ve used it quite often as the name of my hero in my work. ‘Finn’ is a bit of vanity because it means ‘fair-haired’ in Irish (though it should really be spelled Fionn). I’m fair-haired so it was a way of putting myself into the tale.

F2F: Did Finn start talking to you when you decided to participate in Nanowrimo, or had he been kicking around in your head for a while?

NL: He’d been kicking around for a year or two. I emphasise this to people who wonder how I wrote the first draft of Crusher in a month. Writing quickly has never been a problem for me, but the planning and working out of the structure can take a while. In fact it took longer than it should with Crusher; from the start I thought it ought to be a book, and even wrote an opening chapter, but since I hadn’t worked out beforehand where the story was going I lost momentum and put the project aside. As a TV writer I’ve always relied on knowing the structure of a piece to allow me to keep me moving; also as a TV writer I’ve had clients breathing down my neck and that kept me focused too! Since I was writing Crusher for myself it was too easy to let myself off the hook, pretending that the piece would be better if I let it ‘mature’ for a bit, which was classic procrastinating BS. Nanowrimo was the kick up the ass that I needed.

F2F: Is Finn’s dyslexia inspired by anyone in real life?

NL: One of my brothers a few years back was diagnosed as dyslexic, and realized that that had held him back academically. I thought of that when I needed a reason for Finn to have under-achieved at school, to be taken for stupid when in fact he’s smarter than most, and to be angry and have low self-esteem; dyslexia fitted the bill. Of course If I’d realised how difficult it would make my job when he’s trying to solve mysteries, I might have looked for a different flaw..!

F2F: Why mystery? Were you a fan of the Hardy Boys or Sherlock while growing up?

NL: I was never particularly into mysteries when I was growing up, or even now. I was into humour and comedy, and have always believed that being able to tell a joke is like being able to tell a story with a twist – the answer has to be hidden in the tale itself, in such a way that nobody sees it coming until the very end. I’ve written a lot of murder-mystery thrillers for TV, and learned the craft on the job, approaching the problem in a practical way; you start off with a secret that motivates the murder, and find other secrets that have a similar theme, and you wrap the real answer inside the fake ones. The audience follows the hero as he or she unravels the puzzle. When it works well, and you take the audience by surprise, it’s a real buzz. But writing Crusher I learned that it’s an even bigger buzz when as the writer you take yourself by surprise.

F2F: Your wife, E L James, famously admits that your sons have not read her books, but have they read yours?

NL: They made a start, but if either of them ever got to the end, they haven’t told me, and I’ve stopped asking. It’s a painful irony for both Erika and me that our kids aren’t great readers – maybe that’s our own fault for giving them too many other things to do when they were young. Growing up I was quite often bored out of my skull and reading was the only escape. However, many of our sons’ friends have read Crusher and enjoyed it – including the lad whose dislike of fantasy and romance novels first inspired me to come up with a crime story featuring a teenage hero. That’s some consolation. (Many of those boys have read Fifty Shades too, from a rather different motive…)

F2F: We love the new cover for Crusher, as well as the covers for Incinerator and Shredder. The theme has a very appealing Saul Bass feel. How much creative input did you have in the design?

NL: The original Crusher cover featuring the lonely figure in the dark street was deliberately aimed at the adult thriller audience for which that sort of image is a staple – it was meant to convey that Crusher was not a typical young-adult book. However, for the paperback edition we decided to go for a radical revision and tie it up thematically with the covers of the next two novels.

F2F: The Fifty Shades trilogy blazed a trail with its simple monochrome covers, blowing away all the ancient clichés of romantic fiction imagery. I wanted my book like hers to have an iconic cover that could be recognized across a bookshop, or when shrunk to a thumbnail on screen. My other basic idea was that the text of each title should be ‘damaged’ in the way the title suggested, and the cover artists took that idea and ran with it, suggesting a simple three-colour theme and coming up with the modern-Saul-Bass look everyone loved.

F2F: Daniel Weyman did a great job narrating the audiobook version of Crusher. Will he be narrating Incinerator and Shredder too? Were you involved in the audiobook process at all?

NL: For the Crusher audiobook I was sent a shortlist of actors and I have to admit I rejected them all – they had boy’s voices and I wanted the more world-weary tones of a young man. I asked for a list of older actors and listened to about twenty: Daniel Weyman came top of the list – but that was the limit of my involvement, which surprised me. I never even got to meet him. I trained as a director and the idea that you send the actor cold into a studio to make his or her own way through the text, with no hints or suggestions as to how they should approach it, seemed like anathema – but in the world of books that’s how it’s always been done, apparently. And since it turned out so well, maybe a director would have just over-complicated the process!

F2F: As a television writer turned novelist, would you rather see your books adapted into movies or a television series?

NL: I would say movies, because the stories are essentially so short and self-contained. Everyone demands so much of a TV series these days – multi-layered and deeply complex, with storylines that run for season after season. If I were writing Finn as a TV detective for a serial I’d have to do it differently…

Actually, that’s a really interesting idea. (A/N: We’ll see our names in the credits, right?)

F2F: Speaking of television, are there any British and/or American television series where you find the writing (bloody) brilliant?

NL: The dialogue in Game of Thrones zings off the screen. It manages to be convey ‘medieval’ without become stilted and self-conscious, and it’s always witty with it. House of Cards I love, even if it suggests that every politician except Frank Underwood is fundamentally honest and devoid of guile, which stretches credibility just a little. I’ve recently discovered Arrested Development, which has the merciless wit of Modern Family but none of the saccharine – although the saccharine in MF is superbly judged.

F2F: What’s next for you? Any projects you can share with us (besides trying to housebreak Mini – lol)?

NL: I am torn between a period detective novel series based an actual historical character I came across a few years ago, and a one-off novel about dogwalkers in a London park and how their lives interweave. The first will take, and has taken, a great deal of research – the second I research every day. Mini, though adorable, is a real distraction – puppies are a lot easier to keep entertained in a house with young children.

Just for fun…

F2F: Maybe not everyone knows that you were your wife’s original editor for the Fifty Shades Trilogy when it was fanfiction. Was there ever laughing involved while you pored over what you read that you haven’t admitted to her? C’mon, you can tell us!

NL: Erika literally sat at my elbow as I proof-read each chapter, and she missed none of my reactions. I edited punctuation without referring to her, often swapping ellipses for dashes and vice versa, but if I wanted to change any of the words we hammered it out between us. It was hard work for both of us, but we did laugh, and when we did we laughed together. I still find it hard to believe we actually collaborated so closely for so long without ever trying to hit one another with blunt heavy objects.

F2F: Have you ever written fanfiction and, if so, for what fandom(s)?

NL: I was going to reply ‘no’ to this question, but then I realized that when I started to write almost everything I produced was fan fiction, in the sense that it echoed the work of authors I loved. I’ve written stuff inspired by JRR Tolkien, Frank O’Connor, Sven Hassel (don’t ask) and Spike Milligan, among others. But of course many professional writers start out by emulating their heroes, and keep writing until they find their own voice. Fan-fiction is another way of doing that, with the added thrill of sharing the fun with friends and fans.

F2F: How did you propose to your wife? With each of you having such a great sense of humor, we’re thinking it might be a fun(ny) story. Although, we’re also fans of hearts and flowers 😉

NL: This is a very sensitive subject, and whenever I have told the story I’ve tried to make it funny, but Erika has never found it hilarious….

…and despite intense efforts over centuries of marriage I have never been forgiven. It seems I will just have to keep on trying… (A/N: We thank you for sharing the story with us, Mr. Leonard, but due to the unromantic nature of it, and our allegiance to Erika, we have decided not to publish it.  We support your efforts to continue seeking forgiveness. LOL!)

F2F: Who has current bragging rights for trivia night at the pub? The guys or the girls?

NL: The girls have only come to the pub quiz a few times – and the last time they finished ahead of us by a point, which was suitably mortifying for the guys. However in the last year the boys’ team has won the jackpot twice, mostly on the strength of trivia, so we have nothing to be ashamed of. Sadly however the boys’ team seems to have gone their separate ways of late. Erika and I are planning to form a splinter group, just as soon as we can agree on a snappy name for the team…Don’t anybody hold their breath.

F2F: Okay, we won’t! But chick Lisa is holding her breath in anticipation of the audiobook version of Incinerator!

Available June 2014!
EXCERPT & ORDERING INFO HERE

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Thank you so much to Niall Leonard for entertaining us with his enthusiastic and thoughtful answers! We wish him the best of luck with the release of Incinerator.

Niall Leonard

WebsiteTwitter | Amazon

And be sure to “Like” Nialls Nation’s Facebook page! In addition to up-to-date information and working directly with Mr. Leonard, they do great giveaways!

#JointheNation

Facebook | Twitter

For more Q&A, you can also listen to a wonderful interview with Mr. Leonard conducted by Lori Ness after the release of his first book, Crusher, on NorthwestPrime by clicking here!

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Sempre Redemption Blog Tour and Author Interview

Special delivery from Santa! Whoops! We mean from your Kindle! It’s finally here–the Christmas present we’ve all been waiting for…the arrival of Sempre Redemption. I’ve read it, and it captured my heart.

Sempre Redemption Cover

Ordering Information
Amazon | Barnes & NobleiTunesSimon & Schuster

SYNOPSIS

In this thrilling and sexy follow-up to Sempre, two young lovers struggle to keep their relationship intact after they become deeply enmeshed in the dangerous mafia-run crime ring they once tried to overthrow.

Haven Antonelli and Carmine DeMarco have been through a lot. Haven was taken in by Carmine’s father, and with his family’s help, she escaped a gruesome fate. However, saving Haven from the dark intentions of a mafia family cost Carmine a steep price: he was forced to swear loyalty to them.

Now, still passionately in love, Carmine and Haven must face the fall-out of Carmine’s forced service, as Haven discovers terrifying secrets about the family that enslaved both her and her mother—and why she matters so much in this intricate web of lies.

EXCLUSIVE BLOG TOUR EXCERPT

The smile fizzled from his face as he strolled through the house, heading straight for the drink table. He grabbed a small glass and filled it from an open liquor bottle, disregarding Corrado’s warning. The burn lessened the pressure in his chest, unwinding the knots and loosening his taut muscles.

He leaned against the table as he drank, his attention shifting to the front door. Hours had passed, yet the girl still stood there, as silent and still as ever. He studied her, wondering where she had come from and how long she had been trapped in Sal’s home. He couldn’t recall her ever being there before.

She snuck a peek after a moment, tipping her head up slightly so her blue eyes met his. Her brow furrowed when she saw him watching her, and she dropped her gaze again quickly.

“What’s your name?” Carmine asked curiously.

She peeked up once more but didn’t have a chance to respond before laughter sounded out behind him. Carmine turned at the noise of a clinking liquor bottle and froze, the glass nearly slipping from his hand as he stared at the badly scarred face. The familiarity took his breath away.

“Her name’s Annie, I think,” Carlo said, casually pouring a glass of scotch.

“Abby,” the girl whispered, her voice shaking as she corrected him.

“Not that it matters,” Carlo continued, shrugging. “You can call her anything you want.”

Carmine couldn’t tear his eyes away from him. Everything about the man screamed vile, from his callous words to his horrid face. “I prefer to call her by her name.”

Carlo looked over at him, studying him carefully. “DeMarco’s kid.”

“Yes.”

“Makes sense.” Carlo brought his glass to his lips. “She’s your type.”

Anger swept through Carmine. He fought to control himself, forcing his feet to stay where they were. He wouldn’t be provoked. Not here, not now. “Excuse me?”

“Ah, no reason to be ashamed,” Carlo said. “If it’s any consolation, I’ve always liked to sample the help, too. Little Annie over there is a sweet thing. Submissive. Didn’t even put up a fight. Not that any of them do. Well, except yours. Feisty one, isn’t she? Didn’t get that from her mother.”

Carmine’s rage spiraled over. “You son of a—!”

Before he could leap over the liquor table and pound his fists into the man’s grotesque face, the noise in the room grew louder as a slew of guests filtered in. They scattered through, some heading for the door while others made their way to the back den. Carlo took a step back, tipping his glass at Carmine with a menacing smile. “Nice to officially meet you, kid. I’ll see you around.”

He sauntered away as Corrado approached, grabbing the glass from Carmine’s hand and slamming it on the table. “Your ability to listen is astounding.”

“Do you know what that motherfucker just said to me?” Carmine asked, clenching his hands into fists. “He just—”

Corrado cut him off. “I don’t care. He’s made, Carmine. You don’t disrespect a man who earned his button.”

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AUTHOR INTERVIEW

We are filled with gratitude to be able to welcome Ms. Darhower to our blog! It’s such an honor to be able to promote her on a larger scale than by just a word-of-mouth recommendation. We know so many of our friends are long-time fans too!

1. We always want to know…. what was your inspiration in choosing the names Carmine and Haven?

I put a lot of thought into Haven. I wanted a name that would capture her essence, to describe her character with a simple word. A name says a lot about a person. And after going around in circles for a while, picking out keywords to describe her to try to find a name that matched, I just kept coming back to Haven. She’s a haven for a few characters, and it just seemed like the perfect name, something her mother would call her. As far as Carmine goes, he was easier. The moment it came time to give them names, he was just Carmine. It’s a fairly popular Italian name, and it sort of captures him, I think… beautiful, yet edgy. Took me all of five minutes to pin his full name down… Carmine Marcello DeMarco.

2. There are so many heart-breaking moments in the story that many of your readers will say moved them to tears or feelings of anguish. I remember feeling gutted at certain points. Which scene was the hardest for you to write? Did any of them actually make you cry? If so, which one(s)?

I tend to get emotional when I’m writing about death and loss, and yeah, a few times I shed some tears. The opening line of Redemption, when I wrote it, made me tear up a bit (writing those words were strangely hard). There’s also a letter in it that a character writes that made me cry. The hardest scene, in general for me, occurs over halfway through the sequel, when a certain character confronts the truth and finds his redemption in his own way (people who read it will completely understand).

3. We know through your writing and social media, you have tried to heighten awareness of modern-day human trafficking. Was there a particular event, news story, teacher, or something else that inspired you to base your story around this subject matter?

I can’t really pinpoint a specific event that inspired it as a whole… I just often think about the victims of human trafficking, the invisible people who exist in our society, nameless and faceless…. They’re there, breathing, and dreaming, and fighting for survival, and so few people notice them. So many people go missing, just vanishing into thin air, and we never know what happened to them; we never know their stories. So for me, writing Haven was sort of a way to say, “we see you”, in a sense.

4. We all have movie hopes for Carmine and Haven’s story, but we understand how difficult the process is and that there have been snags along the way. Are there any positive developments with the movie rights you can share with readers?

I’m afraid all I have is not-so-positive news on that front, currently. The snags seemed to be more like roadblocks and detours, and I’m not sure when or if we’ll ever get diverted back to the main road. Alas, the hope is still there, but at this point it’s not much more than an idea and a plan that’s been explored a bit. Nothing tangible. (A/N: I feel a Make-Sempre-A-Movie Twitter Campaign coming on!)

5. We had the privilege of interviewing one of our favorite book boyfriends, Bryce Thompson, (see sidebar) and know you met him at The Naughty Mafia convention this past summer. Heather from Love N. Books called into the show and told us a few authors in attendance said they’d love to have him in the movie adaptation of their books, if given the chance, including you. We’re all for that, of course, and would love to know which character you could see Bryce playing in Sempre?

Ah, Bryce… what a gorgeous, kindhearted creature with a to-die-for accent (and goodness, he smelled AMAZING). I indeed recall saying he could come be in my movie anytime. Not quite sure there’s a part suited for him in Sempre, sadly, since my main characters are all either late teens or in their forties. Although, we do have Gavin and Remy in Redemption, and they’re in their mid-twenties. Hmmm…. (A/N: It’s good to hear him described as ‘kindhearted’!)

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REFLECTION

It’s so hard to talk about this book without wanting to give away spoilers (which I don’t). I think there are too many of us who have loved this story and its characters for so long (way back from its FF roots), that every reader should have the opportunity to discover and become invested in the story themselves.

It’s intense. There are some elements I was already familiar with from the original story, but it’s been streamlined in a less-is-more and right-to-the-point kind of way. The story flows so beautifully that I was always ‘in the moment’ while reading each scene.

One of the greatest compliments I think I can pay Ms. Darhower is to say this: There are some wonderful books that I’ve read where I felt like I was this privileged audience member, looking through a window, watching the story unfold. Then there is her story, where when I was reading it, I literally felt like I was shadowing the characters–and not just the one I most identify with or the one I like the best. It’s all of them. What each character has gone through in the past and how they react along the way is very emotional, and I felt it all. And the entire time, as I continued the book in search of redemption for all this couple had gone through already, I kept remembering the words the author had offered about Sempre…

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I hope you will all not only read this fantastic sequel to Sempre, but also read it the way I did, not stuck on the sidelines watching a story, but instead experiencing all of the character choices and emotions!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

JM Darhower is the author of countless stories and poems, most of which only she has ever read. She lives in a tiny town in rural North Carolina, where she churns out more words than will ever see the light of day. She has a deep passion for politics and speaking out against human trafficking, and when she isn’t writing (or fangirling about books) she’s usually ranting about those things.

Chronic crimper with a vulgar mouth, she admits to having a Twitter addiction. You can usually always find her there.

Social Media Links for JM Darhower
Facebook | Goodreads | Tumblr | Twitter | Website

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Meet Otherwise Unharmed Cover Model The Savage Trainer

As promised in their review post here, Kassie and Lauren are back with a very special guest!

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Many readers, ourselves included, have enjoyed staring at the cover models on many of our favorite books, but we don’t normally get the chance to interact with them on a personal level, so this is a treat! The man posing on the cover of Otherwise Unharmed, by Shay Savage…The Savage Trainer (aka TST)…was gracious enough to sit down and answer some questions for us. We hope to have compiled a list of questions (with the help of some fabulous ladies and friends) that you, as readers, were dying to know the answers to.

Synopsis & Ordering Information Here

1. What is it like to be the face…errr, body…of Evan Arden?

Amazing. Such a great opportunity and I love working with Shay! I enjoy taking the pictures as well as interacting with the fans. Being the face/body of a bad ass hit man with a high level of sex appeal is an honor and I truly appreciate the positive feedback.

Trainer 1

2. Besides being the physical model for Evan Arden, do you have any character traits that mirror him?

Many in fact. I’ll start with being an ass man! I can’t deny that fact one bit. I was also in the military. Combat Medic in the Army. When it comes to marksmanship, I have a one shot-one kill method and always take care of my equipment. I definitely love my dogs! My dogs are my favorite buds to come home to and play with. Evan and I both have a dark side that is better left alone and kept to ourselves.

Trainer 3

3. When Shay first told you about her writing, were you surprised to find out about the erotic nature of the stories?

I was at first, but then the more I got to know her, I wouldn’t expect anything less! Never a dull moment or story when she’s around!

4. I assume that you never expected to become so immersed in Shay’s world.  Do you go easier on her during workouts now?

HELL NO! I train her to make progress and keep moving forward with her goals. I know when to take it easy on her, but for the most part I kick her ass with fun workouts such as “Mother Fucker Mondays,” “Wicked Wednesdays,” “What the Fuck Wednesdays,” ” Too tired to smack me,” and “Lunge me to Death” 🙂

5. We all know that you met Shay because you’re her trainer, but how did you get into personal training? Has fitness always been important to you?

I got into personal training in high school actually. I earned my first certification at 18 and loved it ever since.  Fitness became super important to me around the age of 15. I just have a passion to share my knowledge and help push other people to reach their goals.

6. Now that you’re on Twitter as The Savage_trainer (@savage_trainer), has it changed your perspective on women at all?

Not at all! My mother and 3 older sisters are all into the “Fifty Shades of Grey” series and now they’re into the “Otherwise” series, so I understand women have their needs just as men do. Men and women just do it in different ways. We’re all sexual savages at heart, it’s just how comfortable we are with sharing it that determines how Savage we are.

7. What made you decide to join Twitter as TST in the first place? The idea that all of these readers were clamoring for your pictures and posts didn’t scare you off?

Shay uses such great imagery in her writing, I almost didn’t have to make a Twitter! However I loved the idea of releasing my sexual Savage and being a tease as well. I love being able to satisfy women with their sexual needs or desires so this just allowed me to expand on that. To be honest there’s not much that scares me in life, I just saw this as another great opportunity.

8. Are we all as crazy as I feel like we are when we go nuts over your pictures?

Not at all! I love the positive feedback and comments. It allows me to continue my desire to post more pleasure pics for everyone.

9. Have you ever done any other “official” modeling?

Unfortunately no. This was my first big opportunity and I love every minute of it. I would like to continue with modeling though whenever more opportunities approach.

10. Was it a different experience taking the photos for the cover than it is sharing pictures through Twitter? What kind of “headspace” did you need to be in to pose as this character?

Taking the cover pics was a little more difficult. The fact that one of the pics was going to end up on a book was crazy and I wanted to make sure they turned out great! Twitter sharing is fun and playful, I enjoy doing that. As far as headspace, working with Shay made everything so easy! she gave great guidance and made being “Evan Arden” one hell of an experience.

Trainer 2

11. How did you prepare for the shoot? Did you and Shay discuss the character or any other aspects of the story to help you to be ready?

I trained and ate properly for a few weeks before the shoot so I wouldn’t disappoint Shay. We spoke a lot on the back story of Evan and she painted the perfect character for me to be.

12. You seem fairly comfortable sharing pictures on Twitter. Have you always been comfortable with showing off your body?

Actually no, not until Shay approached me did I open up to the idea. I’m normally a reserved person but I liked the idea of doing something new and rewarding.

13. Would you be interested in recording an audiobook version of this series, if it were ever a possibility?

Indeed! Shay and I will have to discuss that since it is ultimately up to her. (A/N: Yes, please!)

14. How did Shay talk you into posing for the cover?

Wasn’t much “talking into.” She walked up to my desk and just asked me. Haha, no easing in to just put it out there. And without any thought I said yes and haven’t looked back since.

15. What was your favorite part of shooting for the cover?

I’d have to say exploring Chicago and actually being at all the locations that are in the book.

16. Did you have a favorite location that you shot at?

I’d have to say by the prison and only because I got my first experience with a city rat in a trash can.

17. Did you have input into the cover?

There was none needed, Shay sent me a pic of the cover art and I was just blown away.

Now, a little game, if you don’t mind – inquiring minds want to know:

  • Are you single? No, I have an amazing girlfriend who supports everything I do.
  • What’s your sign? Virgo
  • Shoe size? 12
  • Favorite gun to shoot? Any and all! The bigger the caliber the better.
  • Do you “name” your favorite things: cars, guns, etc? Diesel truck is Brutus. Haven’t picked a perfect name for my motorcycle yet. Gun is “Back Up”.
  • Hobbies?  Other than working out, of course. Fishing, snowboarding, shooting, riding my motorcycle, eating and spending time with my family.
  • What’s your personal training motto/philosophy/words to live by?Well I have many but two of my favorite sayings are “Fuck it” and “Just sayin”.
  • What is your favorite article of clothing? What is your favorite article of clothing on women? I love wearing shorts with a t-shirt and my camo hats. Ladies, whatever makes you feel comfortable. I love a tight little black dress but sometimes its nice to relax at home in sweat pants.
  • What would be your idea of the perfect date? Oh man, so many ideas come to mind. For being a brute of a man, I have a romantic side and love being a gentleman so it depends on the weather and her favorite things. I’ll have to get back to this one but I know no matter what, I’d have to have some after dinner desserts and an appetizer 😉
  • What is the first thing you notice about the opposite sex? Smile and attitude, ass and titts come next. I can’t find a woman attractive if I just want to walk away from their attitude.
  • How big is your…er…um….gun? That’ll eventually be released 😉 But it never misfires, is always cocked and ready to go.
  • And one last question we just HAVE to ask; have you finally read all the books? Work in progress, between work and outside responsibilities I am trying to get them all read. My family and friends are reading them now though.

Trainer 4

Thank you so much to Shay Savage for hooking us up with this interview and the amazing pictures. A very special thank you to The Savage Trainer for taking the time to answer our questions with sincere honesty and well thought out answers. I (Kassie) was lucky enough to spend an evening in Chicago with Shay and TST and had a blast learning the answers to some of these questions during some hysterical conversations, and it made me want to know more about the man behind the cover.  I (Lauren) am insanely jealous of my reviewing partner and her evening with Shay and TST but had a great time writing these questions and reading through the answers.  

Don’t forget to head on over and buy yourself a copy of Otherwise Alone, Otherwise Occupied and Otherwise Unharmed so that Evan Arden, in writing and on the beautiful cover, can always be within your reach. And don’t forget Uncockblockable. TST posed for that as well!

It doesn’t hurt that the books are just as good as the covers. You can also find the rest of Shay’s work here! Happy reading!

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Okay, ladies, today we’re talking secret crushes on that older, unobtainable guy you knew when you were younger. Let’s make that first secret crushes! Think back to when you were in middle school. Was it…

  • the boys’ counselor at summer camp who dated the girls’ counselor?
  • the lifeguard at the beach that you considered faking a drowning for just to get his attention?
  • the college-aged tennis instructor that gave you goosebumps when he touched your arm to show you proper form?
  • your older brother’s handsome 19-year-old friend who happened to intern with your father’s company and spent a summer living under your roof?

We all love a good romance that involves the handsome stranger who comes into our lives and sweeps us off our feet. Those are stories we can absolutely lose ourselves in and shut the door on reality for a bit, but sometimes there’s another fantasy of ours which authors succeed in bringing to life—finally getting a chance with a school-girl crush and seeing how it would play out. This is the basis of Christina Lauren’s newest book, BEAUTIFUL PLAYER!

Synopsis & Ordering Information Here

REVIEW *Minor Spoilers*

Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeet William, girls, I loved this book! I was absolutely lost to the new couple as this story unfolded, as well as the intertwining of characters we have already met and adore. At this point in the series, we have a complete ensemble. We met Will earlier in the BEAUTIFUL BASTARD series, Max’s genius of a business partner who was part of the little pictures on the phone joke. In his early thirties, he’s the man who has a set schedule of female companions. We quickly learn that at his oldest friend’s wedding, he easily charmed two women…at once…to sneak off to a room with him.

Said oldest friend has a younger sister, 24-year-old Hanna, living in New York. Hanna is introduced in the beginning and immediately likable. She’s kind of boisterous with all these crazy theories based in science and sex that’s she not afraid to share.  Openly. [You’ll find yourself cringing and laughing at the same time when she speaks.] She’s a brilliant scientist as well, but much less social and certainly less sexually experienced than Will, but put that aside because Will is the only familiar, gorgeous face who lives in the same town as her.  On the request of Hanna’s brother, Will agrees to spend some time with “Ziggy,” as he’s called her since they were younger, in order to help her meet people, get out more, and enjoy a social life.

The reason you’ll love this story is because the authors perfectly balance out the relationship between Hanna and Will from Hanna’s crush to Will’s experience that has come with his age (and good looks!). How do they do this? First, they tell the story in alternating Hanna and Will chapter point of views. Second, they create situations where Hanna and Will are able to put their age difference aside and share in exciting, spontaneous first/early-love-type experiences, even if that means acting like horny, drunk, college-aged kids in a dark room of a frat party or risking getting caught being naked together at Hanna’s parents’ home.

Thinking she might do better socially with more pleasurable sexual experiences on her resume, Hanna seeks to learn as much as she can from Will’s sexual expertise, confident in the knowledge that he’s a Player, so he’d never have any interest in more than her proposition when she asks him to teach her. Will knows that this probably isn’t what Hanna’s brother had in mind when he asked for his help, but he gets so deep into his coaching gig that he realizes he wants to be the one filling her social calendar, not anyone else. In the meantime, his own previously scheduled social life [read as: scheduled sex life] is of less and less interest to him.

In the middle of all of this, these two easily build a friendship…daily conversation while running and via texting…and a trust in each other that adds to that perfect balance the authors have developed.

There’s so much more to this book as the two go through the ups and downs of coaching, learning, and navigating their relationship! Hanna and Will each have their own discoveries to make, and I’m not going to say much more, because I want you to discover all the goodness of this story yourself. But I will say this… For those of us who have already become attached to Bennett, Max, Chloe, Sara, and George (how could you not love George?), the good news is they are all brought in and out of this story, so this couple isn’t isolated. Their story flows right into what you’ve previously read! Also, this story turns up the heat, so as a word of caution (or go girl!), plan to have your boyfriend, husband, or favorite gizmo nearby while reading, because when Will promises that he’ll “make it good,” he’s not playing around!

Bradley-Cooper-and_1623388aDid we mention Will’s a bewb man?
(A/N: I would love to see Ryan Gosling in the role, but I couldn’t help but picture Bradley Cooper & Jennifer Lawrence as Will and Hanna while reading. I think it stems from the jogging/running they did in Silver Linings Playbook and Jennifer’s Hanna-like brazenness in her real life remarks.)

I can’t wait until you get your chance to read how Hanna’s second chance with her young crush plays out. Will the Player get played or is the Player playing for keeps this time?

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We know Christina and Lo are doing a bunch of interviews to celebrate the release of BEAUTIFUL PLAYER, but we guarantee that this will be one of the most fun ones you’ll read! We were thrilled to get another chance to read an ARC of their books (thank you Gallery/Simon & Schuster!) and to interview them.

Q&A

We had a great time with our Q&A last time, and we’re back with some more, hopefully fun, questions that your fans and friends can relate to. According to what we hear, there is plenty of excitement about the release of BEAUTIFUL PLAYER, so we hope this adds to it all just a bit!

Thanks for having us!! So far the early response to PLAYER has been amazing. We really can’t wait for this book to be out there so we can talk about it with everyone!

I was the lucky one who got to read the ARC. Lisa somehow stayed strong and waited for the audiobook release but kept up with the awesome VIP teasers. I may bring up Ryan Gosling a lot. Will you both be okay with that? It won’t be a problem, Will it? 

HAHA! Wow, he would be perfect wouldn’t he? We hear he’s taking a little hiatus from Hollywood, but by the time the third movie is ready, he should be back on board, don’t you think? (A/N: *nods emphatically* Except… *gasp* No plans to see Will in movie #1 and #2!?!?! That’s going to be rough on me. Can’t Max at least speak to him on speaker phone at the office? #sexyvoice)

1. Will Sumner is the third major player (pun intended) of the series. At what point in the collaboration did his back story begin to take shape between you two?

In fact, when we signed with Gallery for BEAUTIFUL BASTARD, it was initially a two-book contract, with the second book an unknown story at the time. We had two book ideas in our head: one ended up being STRANGER, and the other turned into what is now PLAYER. We felt that STRANGER would be a better second book and the way the stories could weave together came to us once we made that decision. So, yep, Will has been with us for a little while now!

2.  Our glimpse into Will in BEAUTIFUL STRANGER with the little picture game he played with Max wasn’t exactly favorable. When writing BEAUTIFUL PLAYER, did you have to keep in mind that Will would need to ‘win over our hearts’ or did you just let him evolve?

We already loved Will, so we didn’t really try to do anything to make the readers love him. We just showed him as he is—wonderful but also flawed. The nice thing about having a character do something stupid in a previous book is you don’t expect them to be perfect when it’s their turn to take center stage. We just had the most fun writing PLAYER, and truly truly love Will.

Let’s talk famous (or should we say infamous) character Players!!! 

3. Do Players get a bad rep until they settle down with one woman or does a part of us love to see them playing around?

We don’t know how it is for everyone else, but for us the reformed player is incredibly sexy. It’s because he’s the man who knows how to do everything you want—we mean really throw down in the bedroom, okay?—but is devoted and loyal to the woman he loves. That’s hot, who can disagree?

4.  Tell us who some of your favorite TV character Players are/have been? We’ll start you off! Who didn’t love Dr. Doug Ross on ER

Everyone loves Clooney, no lie. Other players we love to love? Damon from Vampire Diaries, Sawyer from Lost (come on, you know he would have been a huge slut if he had more options), Spike from Buffy, Jackson from Teen Wolf. YUMS. 

5.  Let’s keep going with some of your favorite movie character Players. So many come to mind, but I’ll always love Ramjet the Rookie, aka Doug Dorsey in The Cutting Edge. Who are your faves?

We are Bond girls, no doubt. Give us Daniel Craig on a platter and we’re happy.

6. But with most examples of Players that come to mind, they eventually decide that someone has come into their life that they don’t want to lose, so that means giving up their lifestyle. As Ryan Gosling’s character Ladies Man (aka Jacob Palmer) said in Crazy, Stupid, Love: “I met someone, and she’s a game changer.” What do you think it is about the Player falling in love that makes us girls swoon?

It’s a little what we said in question 3—where you’re assured that this guy knows how to get the job done—but it’s also more than that. It’s the idea that he’s picky, or obstinate, or happy alone and the girl that comes along is so right for him, he can’t really resist falling for her. That story has been told so many times in literature, and it will never get old for us.

7.  In BEAUTIFUL PLAYER, I loved the scenes with the boys hanging out at Maddies. Three of my favorite gorgeous guys having a beer together? Let’s be sure to get that in the movie! Would you say that “love” strengthened the bonds of friendship between the boys?

It definitely gives them common ground. When Will has such a different social life than Bennett or Max, their time outside of work and guy-night-out is so starkly different and it does give them fewer things in common. So, for sure, Will understanding love helps the guys relate on one more level.

8.  Is it true love for all three couples or is it possible one of them just got a little caught up in what he thinks his life should look like now based on his age and his friends settling down? *bites fingernails* 

We are firmly in the “it is true love for all three couples” camp, and since we’re the authors, we can pretty much call it decisively. (A/N: I asked because I was genuinely concerned that things could unravel for one couple!) 

9. Does George ever find love? Maybe at the wedding of Chloe and Bennett he’ll meet a nice young man who happens to be Chloe’s cousin?

Lo says: I can’t tell you how badly Christina wants to write the George novella. (A/N: Lisa and I can’t tell you how badly we want you to write it!) 

10.  I love Hanna’s personality, especially in the beginning when it is the strongest. Is that because she didn’t feel as vulnerable then, so she could openly be suggestive and ballsy in voicing her opinions and random theories? Or was she trying too hard in front of Will because of the history of her crush on him?

Hanna just has no filter, and sort of speaks her mind in bursts of awkward. And when she’s first with Will, she’s so nervous and excited and trying not to throw up that things just sort of come out of her mouth before she can think better of it. But yes, as she and Will get to know each other more, it softens that side of her, gives her comfort to ask things in more tender, unguarded moments.

Speaking of her crush… Let’s go there and chat about crushes! Easily one of my favorite parts of this story is that Hanna was 12 when her crush began on her brother’s friend, Will, a 19-year-old boy that all of the girls were crazy over! 

So bonus round, girls.

Which best describes Will:

  1. an inspired product of a real-life crush of Christina
  2. an inspired product of a real-life crush of Lola
  3. an inspired product of a combination of traits of real-life crushes of both Christina and Lola
  4. an inspired product of a celebrity crush (If you care to admit it was Ryan Gosling, ladies, then say no more! We get it!)
  5. other (please explain!)

We’re going to have to say 5, although 3 was a close option. The thing is, Will has elements of boys we’ve crushed on in our lives, but although we designed certain aspects of Will intentionally, a lot of it just came out as we wrote him, without a lot of planning or thought. The same was true for Max, and also Bennett. The more we write them, the stronger their personalities become, and it’s not always the way we imagined.

Who were your crushes at the age of 12? Camp counselor? Older brother’s friend? 

Lo: A family friend who was a couple of years older and who may actually read this and laugh his ass off. He was just so good-looking and funny and I basically just stared at him all the time. It was probably really awkward for everyone around us, including him, I have no idea. Then when I was 15 and he was 17 we made plans to meet up for dinner (at Sizzler, lulllz forever) and I just assumed he was fucking with me and wouldn’t show up, and so I didn’t show up, and then he called and was like, “Why didn’t you show up?” and I was like OMG I AM THE BIGGEST IDIOT ON THE PLANET.  

Christina: Joe Elliott, the lead singer of Def Leppard, and I legit thought he would see me someday and be smitten. Oh, and we had a boy around the block that used to play basketball so I’d ride my bike for hours to go by his house. I had an ass like granite that summer.

[Lo is seriously cackling reading Christina’s answer] (A/N: We are cracking up at both of your answers!) 

Mine was the high school senior who accompanied our school trip to Washington, DC. All of the girls liked him, and considering he always sat with the girls at lunch, he knew it! 🙂 I never had a chance to know him outside of school until one day I was a junior in high school and he was standing in my living room. O.M.G. Could I even talk? No. I froze. 

Turns out, my brother worked with him, and he gave my brother a ride home. So naturally he had come inside to ask me out, right? Wrong. LOL! But that’s why we have books like yours—a story about the 12-year-old girl with a crush who matures and gets her chance later in life! It’s going to hit home with a lot of women who are really going to enjoy the story and characters!

HAHA!! That is an adorable story. We are totally going to write that book someday. 😉 (A/N: Awesome!)

Thanks again for indulging us!

Thank you! Most fun ever.

Great interview, girls. Beautifully Played! Happy Release Day! (Somewhere Will is snickering at that comment!)

GIVEAWAY

Thanks to the beautiful team of Christina & Lo for playing around with us and for TWO copies of BEAUTIFUL PLAYER!

Here’s all you have to do to enter:

  1. Follow us on Twitter here.
  2. Follow Christina on Twitter here.
  3. Follow Lauren on Twitter here.
  4. Follow Beautiful Bastard on Twitter here.
  5. Copy, paste, and tweet the following message:
  • I’m following @fics2flicks @seeCwrite & @lolashoes for a chance to win a paperback copy of #BeautifulPlayer. #F2Fplayer

Not on Twitter? Just leave us a message in the comments that you’d like to be entered in the giveaway!

We’ll choose the winner via Random.org from qualified entries on Saturday, November 2nd. Good luck!

NEXT FROM CHRISTINA LAUREN

So excited for BEAUTIFUL BEGINNINGS which is due out November 19th!!

Synopsis & Ordering Information Here

Lauren Billings, Christina Hobbs, Christina Lauren

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ALL OF YOU by Christina Lee Is Here! Review, Author Q&A, and Giveaway

We’re thrilled to be participating in the blog tour hosted by our friends over at The SubClub Books in support of Christina’s debut New Adult novel! This is our first blog tour, which is fitting since this is Christina’s first New Adult novel and her hero’s first time 🙂 A special thanks to Enn Bocci (@ennbocci) for giving us the heads up about this special story and to Penguin for granting our ARC request.

  • Book Title: All of You
  • Author: Christina Lee
  • Genre: New Adult/Romance
  • Publishing Company: Penguin
  • Expected Publication Date: September 17, 2013
  • Tour Hosted by: The SubClub Books
  • Blog Tour Participants: Complete list here.

All Of Me Cover

Synopsis & Ordering Info HERE

CHICK LISA’S REVIEW

Every once in a while a book comes along that gives you honest-to-goodness butterflies…butterflies so intense that they border on painful. ALL OF YOU is one of those books.

Bennett didn’t breathe a word as my fingers raked softly against his thigh. He sucked in a breath and brushed his hand up and down my back and against the nape of my neck. The fire between my legs only intensified. I resisted the urge to squirm and moan into his chest.

Once the end credits began rolling, Bennett straightened himself. But I was still against his shoulder in a feigned state of sleep. When he removed his fingers from my hair, I lamented the loss.

“Avery,” he whispered. “Ready for bed?”

“Mmmm . . .”

He shifted away for a moment before I felt my body being lifted by strong arms. He smelled liked coconuts and white sandy beaches. My eyes remained closed but I nuzzled into his neck, my lips resting against his smooth skin. He stifled a groan.

His lips brushed against the top of my head as he carried me to his bed, and a wave of euphoria pulsed through me. He laid me down facing the wall, the same position I’d slept in last night. I heard his labored breaths as he stepped out of his jeans and removed his shirt. Then he slid in beside me.

He hesitated for the longest time before finally scooting forward. His hand came around and braced my stomach, so warm and strong and protective that I couldn’t hold in my gasp.

“Is this okay?” he whispered. I could only nod, my limbs felt so weak.

His breathing intensified and I felt his bulge growing against my back. But Bennett said nothing more and made no other moves. I got the feeling he was trying to hold himself back, and there was no way I was going to throw myself at him.

It was the single most sensual moment of my life.

We lay there for some tense and aroused minutes before I finally heard his breaths soften into sleep.

Avery and Bennett spooning gif

The UST between these two is off the charts. As a self-proclaimed audiobook addict, it’s been awhile since I’ve actually “read” a book. Suffice it to say that I could not put this one down.

Avery is in control of her life and her emotions because she refuses to let any guy be in control of her sex life, especially one looking for a commitment. She has good reason. But then she meets Bennett. (Insert swoon here.)

Bennett is in control of his life and his emotions because he refuses to let just any girl take his virginity, especially one that isn’t looking for a commitment. He has good reason. But then he meets Avery.

I dare you to not fall in love with Bennett. He’s sweet, sexy, and soulful. I want to keep this review spoiler-free, so all I will say about the use of ink in this story is that it’s such an integral part of who Bennett is and of the sense of self that Avery finds. Tears may or may not have been shed by this chick because it’s such a beautiful and moving part of their journey and that of the reader’s.

If you like HEA with a side of UST, buy ALL OF YOU today! We could all use some Bennett in our lives.

Q&A WITH CHRISTINA LEE

1. kitt always wants to know… How did you celebrate when you got the news that ALL OF YOU would be published?

I pretty much yelled, fist-pumped, and danced around. Later, when reality set in and more offers came, I sat down and cried like a baby.

2. Lisa always wants to know… Is there any significance to the names you chose for the main characters?

I always keep a running list of cool names for male and female characters. Avery and Bennett just felt right when I said them out loud—separate and together.

3. How much input did you have in the cover?

The Penguin team asked for my input on character descriptions, as well as likes and dislikes. For example, I knew with absolute certainty that I didn’t want a shirtless guy on the cover of ALL OF YOU—I didn’t think that image would fit Bennett. When I finally saw the cover they had produced, I was blown away. It was sweet and hot, the color palette was amazing, and Bennett still had his shirt on.

4. Do you have favorite authors and/or books that have inspired you?

I’ve always been an avid reader, so my list would be very long and would range from children to YA to adult authors. So for this interview, I’ll just stick to the first three New Adult authors I fangirled: Tammara Webber, Colleen Hoover, and Cora Cormack.

5. We know you create personalized jewelry which is for sale through your online store Tags-n-Stones (here). What previous writing experience did you have? Did you always want to write, or was this a new venture for you?

I’ve been creating jewelry and writing novels since 2008. At the time, I was a columnist for a local newspaper and decided to give fiction a go. My first book could’ve been considered a YA/NA crossover. After that I wrote several YA novels until the beginning of this year, when an idea for a New Adult novel got stuck in my head.

6. How did the story come to you? Which character was in your head first?

I had just finished reading a few romance novels that featured virgin females and alpha males. I wondered what a story with a virgin male and a confident alpha female would look like. Then I pictured Bennett—a good guy who is honest, self-assured, and sweet—yet still incredibly sexy.

7. Your new companion book BEFORE YOU BREAK is due out February 2014 and will tell Avery’s friend Ella’s story. (A/N: Baseball is a huge part of my life, so I’m stoked this new book boyfriend will be a baseball player! -Lisa) Are there plans for a third book for their friend Rachel?

It was fun writing about baseball, Lisa! I’d played softball for many years of my childhood, so I was very familiar with the game. In college, the ball players were good friends and many of them tried out for the minor and major leagues. Anyway, I am hoping that Rachel gets her own book and that’s about all I can say on that subject for now. 😉

8. If you sold the movie rights to your book, who could you see in the roles of Avery and Bennett?

Maybe a blond, tough as nails Jennifer Lawrence and a ripped, sexy Adam Brody with a heart of gold. However, if model Marlon Teixeira was an actor, I’d want him! He is my Bennett inspiration. That hair and those abs—oh my!

Marlon Teixeira

Marlon Teixeira

A/N: Marlon is gorgeous! While I was reading, I found myself picturing model Brandyn Farrell as Bennett.

Brandyn Farrell

Brandyn Farrell

9. Are you working on any other projects you can share with us?

I am always writing and working on new projects, but the only thing I can share right now is that ALL OF YOU will be out in trade paperback print on July 1st, 2014. Also, BEFORE YOU BREAK will be released in ebook form on February 18th, 2014.

10. Do you have any any book signings/appearances coming up so fans can get out and meet you?

I’m attending the Houston Book Rave on November 2nd and several signings in 2014 that haven’t officially been confirmed yet. (A/N: Chicago is always good. *nods* -Lisa)

Christina Lee

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS FOR CHRISTINA LEE

Facebook | Twitter | Website | Goodreads

GIVEAWAY

The SubClub Books girlz are also hosting an author giveaway. To check out the prizes and enter to win, just click on this link —>  a Rafflecopter giveaway

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THANK YOU SO MUCH for having me! XO –Christina

Thank YOU, Christina, for taking the time to answer our questions and for sharing your story with us. We wish you success with the publication and with continuing the journey with BEFORE YOU BREAK. Count us in for that blog tour too!

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Interview with “Animate Me” Author Ruth Clampett

Are you ready for the Woo?

When Chick Lisa met Ruth Clampett at the TFMU in Chicago last month, we already knew we wanted to interview her for the blog. We also knew from a previous discussion with Ruth about her Animate Me cover for our interview with Jada D’Lee (here) that she is an author whose answers are very thoughtful, which is why we wanted to give her the chance to take her time with our zany questions and respond via email. We know we made the right decision after reading her answers. We hope you enjoy this fun and insightful interview as much as we did!

F2F: kitt always wants to know… How did you celebrate when you got the news that Animate Me would be published?

RC: First I’d like to say thanks so much for giving Animate Me love on your blog. You guys have been a terrific support throughout my publishing journey, and I’m so appreciative.

With that said, I think my most exciting moment in publishing was when I held the first printed sample of the book. The whole intense process finally felt real to me. We broke out a bottle of champagne and got a little crazy.

F2F: Did you always know you could write, or was writing a brand new adventure? Did a moment hit when you just knew you had a story to tell, or was it something you had thought about over the years?

RC: I’ve always loved writing, but in my younger years, I wrote poetry and short stories. Although I was a design and photography major, I took courses in college and after I graduated was accepted into a serious writing workshop with a noted L.A. author. Soon after, however, I met my husband who at the time was getting his Masters in Creative Writing at USC. My world soon shifted where I was around a lot of literary and working writers and screenwriters. Honestly, it was intimidating, and it took the fuel out of my writing fire.

It wasn’t until years later that I stumbled across fan fiction and realized that it was a safe place to write and find readers. There’s such a cross section of themes, content and finesse in the work, and it provides a freedom I would’ve never had before. Fan fiction really opened the world of writing back up for me, and I’ll forever be grateful. (A/N: We appreciate you continuing to embrace your fanfic roots!)

F2F: Writing fan fiction offers writers a certain amount of anonymity, as well as the chance to build a support group/comfort zone. How has the transition been for you publishing under your real name?

RC: I would never have considered writing under my real name when I was younger for fear of being embarrassed about the sex scenes in my stories. But at this point in my life, I’m more comfortable in my own skin and figure that I am who I am. I don’t feel the need to keep it a secret. Honestly, some of my gallery clients have been excited for me over Animate Me — very supportive and sweet about it. So I have no regrets.

F2F: As the title and cover suggest, Animate Me is set in the world of animation, which is something we know is very near and dear to your heart. Did you also put some of yourself into the characters? If so, who do you think you’re most like — Nathan or Brooke?

RC: At first I was going to reply that I share no traits with Nathan, but that’s not really true. I get Starbucks every afternoon and enjoy listening to positive affirmation tapes. I’m fundamentally a positive person, like Nathan, and want other people to be happy too.

But in the big picture, I’m definitely more like Brooke. My career is built around working with artists and championing their work. I’m good dealing with the business people, but it’s the artists that keep me in the art and animation business. And like Brooke, I am very confident with my work but have my insecurities too. Like many women, I struggle with body issues. Although some readers were irritated with her insecure side, more appreciated that it made her feel more real to them.

F2F: Lisa always wants to know… Is there any significance to the names you chose for your main characters?

RC: Picking names is very hard but one thing I knew for sure is that my male lead couldn’t have a cool or trendy name. I had worked for years with a Nathan who was one of the best people I’ve ever known, and we became very close. He was like a brother to me. So whenever I think of that name I smile, which made it the perfect choice for Animate Me’s Nathan.

For the female, I already had B-Girl firmly in my head so I really struggled finding a ‘B’ name that fit my female lead. I chose Brooke because it felt like a strong name to me, unique but not too unusual. One of my favorite of the other names is Arnauld because I love the idea of him trying to sound sophisticated but once Nathan finds out his real name is Arnold, that’s how he refers to him the rest of the story. I love that.

F2F: Do you think Nathan is on track to be the next Lloyd Dobbler?

RC: I love your Lloyd Dobbler comparison as I adored the movie Say Anything. Animate Me’s geeky and lovestruck Nathan seems to have the ability to win over even the most skeptical readers. So if given the opportunity for a broader exposure and audience, I so think he could be a romantic hero like Lloyd was.

F2F: Juan Ortiz’s charming artwork and Jada D’Lee’s graphic design are a winning combination, making Animate Me one of our favorite covers. How involved were you with the creative process of the cover and the artwork featured inside the book?

RC: Actually I began picturing what I wanted on the book cover while I was writing the story early on. Since I’m an art director and visual person, I tend to do that with all my books. So although I had the picture in my head of what I wanted, it doesn’t mean anything unless you have the people who can help you bring it to life. First Juan and I went through a process to get the characters looking right in drawing form. But once he had it, the rest of the drawings in the book came together really easily since we work so well together. The photography of the cup and hands process came next. Finally, for the last step when Jada got involved, it became a challenge not to make the cover look like an advertisement. None of my ideas worked in that regard, but Jada kept working with it and the moment she nailed it, I cried I was so happy. She is super talented.

Illustration by Juan Ortiz / Cover Design by Jada D’Lee Designs

F2F: Have you received any interest in Animate Me being made into a movie? (A/N: We think it would be the perfect first rom-com for a certain British actor btw.) And if it did become a movie *fingers crossed*, would you and/or your drawings make a cameo in it?

RC: I would LOVE to see Animate Me made into a movie! I think it would make a really fun romantic comedy and since Robert Pattinson’s character in The Bad Mother’s Handbook provided a lot of inspiration for my Nathan character, I’d love to see him play the role. As long as we’re dreaming, sure I’ll do a cameo and be involved in the animation that’s worked into the film. I’ve always been a big dreamer…and this is a good one!

F2F: What are a few of your favorite cartoons (we figure with your background, it would be unfair to ask you to name just one!)?

RC: Well naturally I love the cartoons my dad worked on, Looney Tunes and Beany and Cecil, but there are many others I adore. It’s a wide range, everything from Spongebob Squarepants, Gumby, Power Puff Girls, Tom and Jerry, Fosters Home for Imaginary Friends, Teen Titans, the list goes on…

For features, my all time favorite is The Iron Giant. But I love all the Peanuts specials, many Pixar films: Toy Story, Up, The Incredibles, Ratatouille. Disney films such as Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, and Tarzan. I also loved Despicable Me.

F2F: What does the future hold for Ruth Clampett, the author? More stories inspired by working in animation? A sequel and/or spinoff to Animate Me? Publish your other wildly popular fanfic Dodge and Burn? New writing projects?

RC: I’m working on a story called Mr. 365 that takes place in the television world, and I’m having a lot of fun with it. I hope to finish it in the next few months. As for Animate Me, I have a sequel fairly well written so that’s something I may eventually publish. And thank you for asking about Dodge and Burn. It’s another story very close to my heart, and I’d love to see it published one day. So many people can relate to the struggle that the characters go through, and it’s meaningful to me that it’s a love story with a couple facing a new stage in their life. So I’m hope to pursue publishing Dodge and Burn soon. (A/N: We are beyond stoked about all of this!)

Thank you so much for your support for Animate Me and my work. Us indie writers would be nowhere without the support of readers and blogs like yours. You’re awesome!

Social Media Links for Ruth Clampett

WebsiteFacebook Twitter Goodreads Amazon | Clampett Studio Collections

Ruth stated above “My career is built around working with artists and championing their work.” We originally wanted to interview Ruth because we knew she was an author with a unique background and experiences in the animation business that were weaved into a genuinely funny and romantic love story. We’ve since realized that she’s a career woman to be admired and a positive role model for her industry and within the communities of her more recent ventures. Thank you, Ruth, for allowing us the opportunity to give back to you by championing your work!

We think Animate Me could potentially go all the way — from well-received fan fiction, to a mainstream published story with one of our favorite book covers, to Nathan being given the opportunity to woo and win over the heart of Brooke (and movie-goers) on the big screen, which would make it a true fic 2 flick for us!

Are you ready for more of the Woo? Join us on Friday for a chance to win an autographed copy of Animate Me!

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Review of Animate Me by Ruth Clampett

This first of our three-part post with author Ruth Clampett features a heartfelt guest review of Animate Me. Be sure and follow us on Twitter and get signed up for email alerts so you don’t miss out on our upcoming Q&A with Ruth and a giveaway of an autographed copy of Animate Me!

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Before I give you a review and rundown of one of the most charming stories I’ve ever read, Animate Me, let me first tell you about meeting the author of said story. As anyone who knows me can attest to, when I love something or someone, I can get pretty passionate and enthusiastic. I was extremely excited to meet Ruth Clampett, author of two of my favorite stories, Animate Me and Dodge and Burn, at this year’s TwiFic Meet Up in Chicago. As I reined in my inner fangirl, I introduced myself to Ruth. Not surprisingly, I found her to be as lovely and charming as I had imagined. She definitely knows the art of “woo” because I was star struck after merely several short, but significant conversations with her. I commented that she seemed to be a combination of two of her main characters, artistic story writer Nathan in Animate Me and whimsical photo artist Isabella in Dodge and Burn. She modestly said, “I only wish I were half as special as they are.” I can state that Ruth is, indeed, that special. I found her to be charming, amusing, warm, delightful, and just as determined as the heroic characters she creates in print.

Having read Animate Me as fan fiction, I can say I wasn’t surprised to find it was going to be a published book. It had everything a published story should have. It had characters you could sympathize with and relate to, it had setting details that put you in the world of cartoon animators, it had just enough intrigue to keep you guessing, and at the heart of it all it had a tender love story. Oh, and let’s not forget just the right amount of sex.

While reading the published version recently, I fell in love with her characters all over again. Nathan owned my heart from the first page as he described himself as an awkward, self-proclaimed nerd.

***SPOILER ALERT***

Animate Me is one of those stories that is character driven. The story is refreshingly told in Nathan’s male point of view. Nathan’s “voice” lets us hear his inner comedic conversations and allows us to join him in his adventures as a cartoon animator who slowly gets transformed into a sexy, confident lover. There are plenty of slap happy scenes as Nathan swoons over Brooke and finally gets a chance to prove his geeky, yet manly, worth.

The theme of the story is as the title suggests and the definition implies: animate — to create a liveliness, invigorate an energy, to impart interest and zest. Animate Me is a love story between two seemingly different characters — one a nice guy who is happy in his own skin and the other a too-perfect girl who seems beyond his reach. However, they both live lives that are partially closed off.

Nathan’s obsessive love for both Brooke and the world of animation takes him down a bumpy path that eventually leads him to where he needs to be. Without giving too much more away, let’s just say that sparks fly, roles get reversed, secrets get revealed, drama intensifies, and the sex gets steamy.

It’s clear to me that most of today’s contemporary romantic fiction has male characters who are intensely dominant and flawed, yet redeemable in the end…sensual men who ultimately win the hearts of ofttimes virginal girls. So it’s an exciting twist to read about a more relatable man like Nathan as he virtuously tries to earn the girl’s affection. Nathan’s lighter and more steadfast personality is a welcome change. He may not be that typical alpha male we love to read about, but he’s adorably sexy in equal measure. What makes Nathan special is he’s comfortable in his own skin, and yet he is willing to try new ways to improve his appearance without ever losing his sense of self. Nathan may be a self-deprecating, uniquely gifted man, but he never loses what matters most…his integrity. (A/N: Sound like anyone else we know? If and when Animate Me gets turned into a romantic comedy for the big screen *clasps hands and prays for this to come to be*, I can just picture the original muse, Robert Pattinson, as the romantic lead. Can’t you?!)

As the plot thickens, we learn that Nathan has secretly been star struck by Brooke, who is the Director of Development at Sketch Republic, the animation studio they both work at. He’s also been secretly writing and drawing a comic book heroine, B-Girl, which is based on Brooke. Brooke appears to be the perfect girl. She’s smart, sexy, motivated, and shares Nathan’s obsession with the world of cartoon, comic books, and even trips to Comic Con.

I have to mention the secondary characters in the story, too. Nathan’s father, Arthur, is even more geeky than Nathan. But, like Nathan, he’s filled with what we all seek…unconditional love and support. He’s as entertaining to read about as the rest of the characters. He teaches his son the art of “woo-ing,” and the magic of love begins to animate all of their lives. Also noteworthy supporting characters are the animators Nathan works who make you laugh and pull you in even more to the magical world of animation.

Each chapter begins with a cartoon quote. But the most wonderfull part of the story is, of course, the coffee cups that Nathan sketches for his B-girl.

It will be obvious to you that Ruth generously and successfully uses her father Bob Clampett’s world of cartoon animation, a world she knows well, to craft a well-written story. She’s done what Nathan tries to do for Brooke…she’s “wooed” us with each chapter of this fanciful story. If I were artistic, I’d buy Ruth a Starbucks coffee and sketch her as the super hero, pen in hand and red smoochy kisses all around her. (A/N: Please read more about Ruth’s father and the legacy she carries on via Clampett Studio Collections here.)

I highly recommend buying the published version of Animate Me if you haven’t already!

Social Media Links for Ruth Clampett

Website| Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon

Fran chick with book

Fran Duluk