In the kerfuffle of #NaNoWriMo2015, I'd like to take a break and share this cool interview I did with Ani Keating, a fellow Samhain writer and the author of the upcoming contemporary romance Thirty Nights. I've got my hot little hands on an advance copy and I am in love. Hope you enjoy our interview, and please check out her book. It's coming out Nov. 17. All the links are below.
Hi, Ani. Can you please tell us a little bit about your new book?
Would love to. Thirty Nights is the first book in the American Beauty series. It tells the love story of an orphan from England—Elisa—and a U.S. Marine with PTSD and total recall—Aiden. They meet in the eleventh hour, when in the height of the anti-immigrant movement, Elisa’s visa to live in the U.S. is denied. Determined to save Elisa from everything, including the government he once served, Aiden fights the way only he can. His only condition is for Elisa to stay away from him and his demons. But despite all the reasons why they shouldn’t be involved, the two soon realize that the biggest battle is fighting their tortured pasts. With thirty nights left, they begin a terrifying and scorching race to save themselves, and each other. But are some demons too deep, too vast to fall? In love, is surrender perhaps the best kind of fight? I’ll let the readers decide.
Your protagonist Elisa faces a difficult challenge when her visa is denied. What inspired you to create her?
Elisa—unlike all other characters I’ve written—came to me fully formed. I knew from the moment I “heard” her voice in my head who she was, what foods she liked, what made her tick. But not because she is me in any way. She incorporates some of the best traits of the most influential women in my life, and their flaws—even though she is entirely fictional.
But at the core, Elisa was “born” because I wanted a heroine who gave voice to the millions of women who have come to (or were born in) this land and fight tooth and nail for their dreams. I wanted to see what the American Dream still means: to Elisa, it means love and family.
Tell us a little bit more about Aiden. What makes him so yummy?
Ah, Aiden. How much room do you have on your blog for this answer? I think the readers would be better equipped to answer this question but, in my mind, I think his draw is his complexity. He is a mass of contradictions from the beginning. Cold, yet passionate; logical, yet irrational; driven, yet detached; loving, yet isolated; possessive, yet giving. And the axis that holds all of this together is his self-sacrifice. Everything Aiden does in the book—truly everything—is motivated by his need to save someone, especially Elisa. Regardless of the cost to him.
Of course, his good looks, total recall memory, and bedroom skills don’t hurt either. But those traits are external. The core Aiden is what draws the readers in, I think.
What were your biggest challenges in writing Thirty Nights?
Oh so many… it’s my first book, I’m sure I screwed up on a daily basis.
The biggest goal I set for myself though is to explore these controversial topics – war, self-interest, immigration—in a sensitive manner that didn’t distract from the core of the book: Elisa and Aiden’s love. I hope I was successful, but that will be for the readers to decide.
Aside from that, the rest of the challenges were procedural: keeping the word count within publisher limits, negotiating the whole agent/publisher hunt, compromising on what to keep and what to discard. You know how that feels… every word is your baby. But I became a much better writer in the process, so I am very thankful for that journey.
When you’re not writing, how do you like to spend your free time?
Free time? What’s that? Kidding, but only a little. Between practicing law and writing and family, there isn’t much time left. Whatever it is, I spend it doing glamorous things like dishes, laundry, and vacuuming. But when I sneak in some real “me” time, I like to get lost at Powell’s City of Books and read the newest releases with a cup of hot chai tea. Hubby and I are also taking a mushroom hunting class now, so I’m in red alert for two things: 1) avoiding all poisonous fungus and 2) finding that elusive mushroom that makes you orgasm just by smelling it.
Where can readers get a copy of Thirty Nights?It’s available for pre-order on paperback and e-book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and several other major distributors. Here are the main links, and you can find more on my website, at anikeating.com
Can you share an excerpt with us?Sure, here is one of my favorite Elisa and Aiden moments.
THIRTY NIGHTS EXCERPT: FIRST KISS
The door rattles under four sharp, loud knocks. According to my dad’s watch,
I still have one hour before Hale gets here. I peek through the hole and freeze. Bloody hell, it’s the Dragon, with a capital D this time. What did I do today? Oh, maybe he is canceling the painting. I put a half-baked plan together and open the door.
“Mr. Hale, what a nice surprise,” I start with a big smile, my voice high enough for the bats to hear it.
He steps inside. I think he’s trying to calm himself but it’s hard to tell with the smoke coming out of his ears. He runs a hand over his hair. What the devil is wrong with him? He takes one deep breath and explodes.
“Are you so above the rest, Miss Snow, that you will not deign to attend even your graduation from the institution that has granted you its highest academic honor? Or is this how little your own life means to you?” He speaks through gritted teeth.
Oh, bollocks! How did he find out, and why does he care? Be strong, Isa. “I’m sorry, but that’s none of your business.” I ignore his second question. Something about it makes me recoil.
He looks at me like I just insulted his mother. Honestly, I think I see fire from his nostrils. “None of my fucking business? Is that your answer?” Still gritted teeth, which I suppose is better than fangs.
“Yes, that’s my answer.” I stay calm, hoping some of it will rub off on him. No such luck.
“Over three thousand people watched President Campbell announce Miss Elisa Cecilia Snow, valedictorian in absentia, and a full minute of silence fell over the crowd, and you say it’s none of my fucking business?” He is spitting fire.
Damn it! Why would President Campbell announce it? I emailed the traitor. Well, one thing at a time. The Dragon first. “No, I didn’t say fucking business. I said simply business.”
He looks at me with flared nostrils and roars, his fists hanging down.
“What is wrong with you?”
Oh, this is rich. He is morphing into a Tolkien creature and I’m the freak? I am usually a calm, rational agent. It’s probably not apparent based on this last week, but I am. But right now, with my newly shaved legs and my lacy knickers on, after practicing his name all day in front of a stupid fan, I want to scratch his eyes out.
“There’s nothing wrong with me, Mr. Hale. However, based on your behavior these last two days, may I suggest the very real possibility that there is something seriously wrong with you? I strongly recommend that you visit a psychiatrist, sir, and soon, before you become a menace on the streets of Portland and incinerate us all for exercising our right as free human beings to go wherever we bloody well please,” I hiss, feeling a kindred spirit with Medusa because he has turned to stone.
Before I can draw a breath, he takes the two steps between us and his mouth closes in on mine, his hands like a vise around my face.
The force of his kiss slams me against the wall and makes me gasp. His lips mold with mine, and his tongue is dancing inside my mouth. My knees shake a little. As if he knows, one of his hands leaves my face, trails down my body and rests at the small of my back, arching me against him and supporting all my weight. I move my tongue shyly around his. I taste cinnamon and something else, something Aiden. My blood ignites, and another gasp escapes me. At the sound, he presses his hips against me, and his long fingers reach into my hair. He pulls my head back until my mouth opens wider. Our tongues move together, and his anger changes to desperation and then to a slower rhythm that I can follow. Of their own accord, my arms reach up around his neck and my fingers knot in his hair. He tenses, so I try to let go but he draws me closer until there is no more space left. I feel every line of his body against mine. His teeth graze my bottom lip. It takes me a moment to realize that the moan I hear is coming from me. He pulls away, his breathing harsh and labored.
“Impossible woman,” he growls.
I open my eyes. His sapphire depths are blazing. Without his arm supporting me, my knees go back to shaky and weak. Then it dawns on me. Bloody hell, I’ve just been kissed by Aiden Hale! And what a kiss it was. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t have much experience with such things, but I am willing to bet my supplement’s formula that no girl, anywhere, has been kissed like this. I pinch myself discreetly to make sure I’m awake. Yes, it was real. My lips are tingling.
“Are you ready to go?” he asks, his breathing now back in control. Apparently, we are not going to talk about it. That’s good. What if his next words end this? And what is there to say regardless? By some miracle, he wants me at some level, and I want him at all levels. That’s good enough for now. Good enough for forever for someone like me.