Monday, June 16, 2014

It's a 'Dangerous Secret'…#AuthorInterview with Jessica Lauryn #RomanticSuspense

I'm happy to welcome Jessica Lauryn back to Kisses, Caresses, & Whispers in the Night as part of her book tour for her latest release, 'Dangerous Secret.' In addition to the interview, she's graciously offered to do a giveaway for an ebook copy of  'Dangerous Proposition.' See the Rafflecopter below! 

Thank you for taking the time to stop by Kisses, Caresses & Whispers in the Night today.  I really appreciate it.  Can you tell us a little bit about your newest release?
Author Jessica Lauryn

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember and I’ve been writing with the pursuit of publication since 2006. My first book, Dangerous Ally was published back in 2011 and I’ve since had 3 more books published. My latest, Dangerous Secret, just released on June 10th!

I jumped back in time a couple of year to write Dangerous Secret, as it’s actually the prequel story in my current series, The Pinnacles of Power. This fast-paced romantic suspense series all centers around a dangerous criminal organization, and five couples whose passion for one another ignites as their lives become entangled with the danger that surrounds them at every turn.

In Dangerous Secret, we meet Abigail MacKenzie, the girl-next-door whose father was murdered 6 years ago and whose murder went unsolved.  After learning the only person who witnessed her father’s shooting has also been killed, Abigail meets a handsome stranger, and quickly realizes that the man has in his possession a business card belonging to her father’s witness. Shortly following, when Abigail is about to accept a new job position, the handsome stranger, Ryan Newberry, resurfaces, and Abigail learns he’s going to be her supervisor.

What inspired this novel in particular? 

I actually began writing this story many years ago, before I was even trying to write a story I felt was good enough to get published.  Like my heroine Abigail, I’d worked in a hotel that was undergoing renovation and I had the day-to-day grind of what we were all doing stuck in my head. I dreamed of having a dark handsome stranger join our staff, and I thought, what could be more romantic than having a secret rendezvous in some of the hotel rooms we were all working so hard to clean. ;)

Years later, when I’d had a couple of stories in The Pinnacles of Power Series under my belt, I was looking for ideas to extend the series and thought the story I’d barely began about the hotel romance would be a good fit.  Taking the initial premise of that story, I changed the characters to be the ones in The Pinnacles of Power Series, and I worked to create a story that would head up my five book story about diamond smuggling, sexy criminals, the men who get caught in their web and the heroines who fall for both.

I know this is part of a series, can you sum up the previous books for us so we can get a sense of the overall scope?

Dangerous Secret, [book # 1] kicks off The Pinnacles of Power Series in the small town of North Conway, New Hampshire. Abigail MacKenzie fights to learn who murdered her father years ago, simultaneously struggling to learn the dangerous secret of her handsome surpervisor, Ryan Newberry.

In Dangerous Proposal, [book # 2] Alec Westwood [Ryan Newberry’s best friend] goes into a panic when a mysterious young woman, Lena Benson, shows up in town wearing an amulet with the symbol of the underground organization who recruited him to assassinate a man ten years ago.

In Dangerous Proposition, [book # 3] Julia Dyson [Abigail MacKenzie’s best friend] discovers her father has been kidnapped and believes that he may have been taken by a man who appears to be concealing a liftime of secrets, her teenage crush [Alec Westwood’s older brother] Colin Westwood.

In Dangerous Ally, [book # 4] journalist Lilah Benson [Lena Benson’s younger sister] is sent on an assignment to expose diamond smuggling operation Project Gemstone and she comes head-to-head with its founder, [Lena’s ex-fiancé] dark, mysterious Lucas Ramone.

Do you have a favorite character in the series?

I really do love all of my characters equally but if I had to pick a favorite I’d have to say Alec Westwood.  I really dug deep into Lena’s psyche while I was writing Dangerous Proposal, imagining the man I’d want to meet were I in her shoes.  Alec is handsome, charming, and he’s so funny! I still laugh whenever I re-read his dialogue, even though I’ve read each of the books that he appears in about a million times.  I really enjoyed writing scenes with Alec in Dangerous Secret, because I got to explore how he would have been a few years prior to meeting Lena. He’s a wise-guy, always confident, and a ladies’ man through and through. **Minor spoiler alert** Having Alec pursue Abigail a little bit and consequently push all of Ryan’s buttons was one of my favorite things to write about in Dangerous Secret!

What comes first--characters or plot ideas?

Character and plot are pretty much simultaneous for me, but I definitely work the plot out before fully understanding my characters.

I plot out every story with an outline before writing it, so my focus at the beginning is on the overall storyline, and not so much on the smaller details. One thing I do make myself do is to name the characters as quickly as possible, the hero and heroine in particular.  This gives me an idea of how to visualize them, and to hear their voices in my head as I go about plotting their storyline in my outline.

What motivates your main characters?

In Dangerous Secret, protagonist Abigail MacKenzie is strongly motivated by her love for her father and wanting to get him justice for his murder. When she learns that her father’s witness has also been murdered and that the shooting took place in the hotel where she is going to be working, she vows to do whatever it takes to learn whether there is a connection between the murders and bring her father’s killer to justice.

After being laid off from his previous job, Ryan Newberry is desperate to hold onto his new position at the Washington Valley Hotel. But when mysterious clues begin to show up in his new place of employment, the very same clues he believes he was fired for discovering last time, he realizes he must solve the mystery of the hotel murders or else risk being blacklisted for good this time. When Ryan sees that his front desk associate, the sweet pretty girl who is quickly getting under his skin, Abigail MacKenzie, is interested in solving this mystery herself, he realizes he must protect Abigail, the way he failed to protect his sister Rachel from a tragic accident.

What is the central conflict in this new release and how does it differ from the previous books in the series?

Central to Dangerous Secret’s conflict, is not only who killed Abigail’s father, John MacKenzie, but why they did it.  As Dangerous Secret is the first book in the series, we don’t yet know about the secret criminal organization Project Gemstone, which we later learn that heroes Alec Westwood, Colin Westwood and Lucas Ramone have all been involved in, in some way.  It’s a mystery, and Abigail and Ryan are each desperate to solve that mystery for different reasons. In the other 3 stories, we essentially know Alec’s, Colin’s and Lucas’s involvement with Project Gemstone and we are dealing with the aftermath of those heroes’ past mistakes. Whereas in Dangerous Secret, both hero in heroine are in the dark as to what is the cause of their surrounding danger.   

What is your favorite aspect about being a novelist? 

I love being a novelist, more specifically a romance novelist, because I get to think about romance all of the time. I’ve always imagined how it will be when I meet “the one” and I’ve come to realize I’m very good at imagining different ways that this might happen for various people. Throw in a bit of danger, and I absolutely love coming up with unique ways for couples to meet and fall in love.

What draws you to this particular genre?

Romance is at the core of who I am.  I never get tired of thinking about it!

Are there any other genres you can see yourself writing and why/why not?

I enjoy mysteries and science fiction, however, I typically don’t enjoy a story as much if it doesn’t contain at least some element of romance. When reading another author’s work I generally perk up when romance takes the center stage and shut down when it doesn’t. I can’t think of too many things fiction-wise that I enjoy reading or watching that don’t include at least a certain degree of romance. I might write something that isn’t a romance at some point, but right now I’m having too much fun doing what I do.

If you could snap your fingers and transport yourself anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

I would send myself to Switzerland where I could explore the picturesque Swiss Alps. I’ve only seen the Alps on TV and I think that the land out there is absolutely beautiful. Snow aside, I think it would be an ideal place both to live and to write.

Tea or coffee?  Neither

Night person or early riser?  Early Riser

Tell us 5 little known facts about yourself.

1. I’m addicted to soap-operas.
2. Roses and orchids are my favorite flowers.
3. I collect Victorian-Era antiques.
4. I live in New Jersey.
5. I’m a hopeless romantic. 

Fabulous interview, Jessica. Now let's look an excerpt of your 'Dangerous Secret'. 

Abigail was about to attempt an answer when the old-fashioned bells on the door rang. A ray of light streaked against the floor. Through it stepped a man who appeared to be a couple of years older than herself. He was tall and broad shouldered, and he was wearing a flannel shirt and a pair of jeans. At second glance she observed that he had thick black hair and deep blue eyes. Mysterious eyebrows loomed above them. There was a touch of dark stubble on his cheeks.
A jolt of electricity shot up Abigail’s spine as the man approached the counter. His broad chest came into view as he came toward her. The man looked strong, like he could bench press their picnic table in the parking lot.
There weren’t a lot of twentysomethings living in their town. She would probably remember if she’d seen him before. Offering a smile she prayed wasn’t too anxious, Abigail straightened her posture.
His grin broadening, the man placed his large hands against the counter. He leaned forward and said, “Shouldn’t you be off the phone in case a customer walks in? I’m pretty sure that’s against the rules.”
Abigail hung up promptly. “What makes you think this isn’t the company phone?”
“It might be.” The man in the farm-shirt shrugged. “But something tells me the company phone isn’t pink.”
There were several things inside of that room that were pink. But Abigail didn’t suppose the fact would strengthen her case any.
“Probably good instincts,” she muttered, picking up a rag from beside her. Frantically, she scrubbed the counter.
“Aren’t you going to ask me what I’d like?” the man said, offering her a second glimpse of his perfect white smile.
Abigail dropped the cloth she was holding. “I’m sorry. Yes, of course. What can I get for you, Sir?” Of course, he didn’t look anything at all like a ‘Sir’ and a lot like the most handsome guy she’d ever seen.
Unable to hold back, she pressed, “You’re not going to tell anyone, are you? About the phone, I mean. Not that you don’t have every right to be angry. But for what it’s worth, I really need to keep this job.”
A look of sympathy and something she couldn’t quite describe settled about his lightly tanned face. “Tell you what. You make me a vanilla milkshake, throw in an extra pinch of syrup, and we’ll call it even.”
Abigail paled. She was terrible at making milkshakes. What was worse was that the machine had been acting finicky all morning. Saying a silent prayer that she could change his mind, she asked, “Sure that you wouldn’t rather have a banana split instead? We just made a batch of our fresh strawberry ice cream this morning. It’s rich and creamy, made with strawberries grown right here in North Conway.”
“I really don’t think—”
“Did I mention all of our sundaes are fifty percent off today?” She crossed her fingers behind her back.
He said, “I appreciate you letting me know. But it just so happens that I’ve got my heart set on a vanilla milkshake.” Inclining his head in her direction, he said, “In my experience, the more desirable choice is worth paying the price for.”
Ignoring the goose bumps that had formed along her arms, Abigail took a gigantic step back. She could do this. Just because she’d never successfully made a milkshake correctly on the first shot before didn’t mean she couldn’t do it now.
She took three scoops of vanilla ice cream from the dome beneath the counter. Then, she added extract. Sugar came next and finally, milk, which she was very relieved not to spill on the counter. With all of the ingredients packed safely inside the metal cup, she walked over to the milkshake mixer.
Ignoring the feel of her customer’s sinful blue eyes against her back, she proceeded to begin her task. She slipped the cup into place beneath the metal stirring wand. Breath held, she flicked the switch.
Turning the cup in slow circles, Abigail mixed the ingredients. After about thirty seconds, her confidence began to grow. Ice cream and syrup had become a smooth, drinkable liquid she was almost proud of. Beaming, she reached across the counter for the whipped cream, which she’d add to the top when she was finished.
Turning her attention back to the machine, Abigail gave the metal cup a final spin then pushed the switch downward. But instead of turning off, the wand spun harder, causing the chunky white liquid to spill over the sides of the cup. She placed her finger firmly over the switch, but it wouldn’t move. She forced it down as hard as she could, but the metal nozzle popped upward and the stirring wand spun at lightning speed. The contents of the cup flew up and out, landing on the floor and all over the ceiling.
Abigail gasped, turning to where her handsome customer stood. His shirt was covered in thick chunks of ice cream.
“Oh my God!” She grabbed a towel from the counter. Racing from behind it, she went to where he was standing and began rubbing his shirt vigorously.
Seeing that there was an enormous white streak near the bottom of his shirt, Abigail went to work on it. She quickly realized that she was only setting in the stain. She slowed her strokes, inadvertently lifting the man’s shirt as she did so. A wad of cash was sticking out of his pocket, but she barely noticed it, mesmerized by the look of his hard abdomen and silky dark chest hair. She breathed in and out. Warmth flooded her insides.
Clearing her throat, she took a step back and said, “I’m sorry. You’ll probably want to be doing that yourself.”
A smile spread across the man’s face. “Not really. I actually thought you were doing an excellent job.”

Author Links:

Like she said in the interview, 'Dangerous Secret' is the prequel to 'Dangerous Proposition' so how sweet would it be to win a copy? Pretty sweet! Enter to win on the rafflecopter below. Winner will be announced on June 23. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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