Steal My Heart
contemporary fiction, romance, erotic
(5 Aug. 2019)
When a fantasy turns into a cold reality
Lexanne Harris had a plan down to the last sexy detail. Never did she think her attempt to spice up her love life with her boyfriend would involve her in a burglary with a sexier than sin thief whose emerald eyes and serious between the sheets skills are impossible to forget. As a police detective she is expected to stand on the side of the law and fight for justice. But what happens when the lines of justice blur and what’s wrong becomes way too tempting?
The situation might be challenging but Lexanne is determined to get assigned to the case, recover the jewels and catch the culprit.
The question is: What will she do with her sexy cat burglar when she catches him?
O’Brian, author of Steal My Heart, a
hot, contemporary romance with elements of mystery and suspense
Can you tell your readers
something about why you chose this particular topic to write about? What
appealed to you about it? Why do you think it is different and your approach is
Steal My Heart has been percolating in
the back of my mind for years. What might happen when a woman plans to act out
her sex-with-a-cat-burglar fantasy with her new boyfriend? What if her plans were
to go awry in a deliciously naughty way? I never thought I’d be brazen enough
to write this novel, but the boldness of my protagonist drew me in. I’ve always
had a strong first-person voice and decided to showcase that by writing a hot,
fast-paced, contemporary romance with a heroine who knows what she wants, isn’t
afraid to admit it and is willing—at least to herself—to own her mistakes.
How many times have you
been rejected before your first novel was accepted or before this book was
I don’t know how many
times I’ve been rejected, but it’s a lot,
so I choose not to count them. Those rejections taught me to be a better writer
and to have a tough skin. I started
seriously writing in 2011 and joined Romance Writers of America a year
later. That’s where I really learned my
craft and made the contacts I needed to begin submitting. I went from form
rejections, to the occasional encouraging note, to personalized feedback.
Overall the agents and editors who rejected my work were generous in their
comments, and it made at tremendous difference.
I finished four novels over eight
partial and abandoned manuscripts. Steal
My Heart is my fourth completed novel and the first to be published.
Did you need to self-publish
on e-books before a publisher took you up?
Knowing I needed affirmation
that my work was ready for publication, I chose not to self-publish. Each
rejection was the impetus I needed to get better. Entering contests also provided valuable feedback.
I never ruled out self-publishing, but I
didn’t want to put my work out there before it was ready. Once accepted, this
book went through three rounds of edits: developmental, copy-editing and
proofreading. I’m grateful for the expertise of my publisher and editors, who
not only made the story better and me a better writer, but caught mistakes I
missed. One such mistake was assuming the signature of an artist I referenced
was legible. The copywriter of her own initiative looked up the signature and
let me know that my characters wouldn’t be able to read it off a painting. This
required I rewrite the dialogue in that scene for accuracy. So to the writer
considering self-publishing, I’d advise investing in professional editing. I
know my book is much improved because of it.
What do you read when you
are ill in bed?
When I’m ill and don’t
want to think too hard but want immediate gratification and distraction, I go
straight for smart, sassy heroines in pretty dresses. For me, this usually translates into a
What is your favourite
I read primarily romance.
It’s what I want to write, so I immerse myself in all its subgenres:
contemporary, historical, romantic suspense, and paranormal. I enjoy its many
heat levels, everything from sweet to hot.
I’ve been known to veer off into science fiction and mystery, but still
crave that happily ever after.
What have you done with the
things you wrote when in school?
I love perusing my college
papers. I was so smart. Sometimes I wonder at the vocabulary I used. I was
quite the literary writer. But the ability to write a superlative essay does
not translate to commercial fiction. I was quite stunned at how difficult it was
to write a romance. Romance writers make it look easy. The easier a story is to
read, the harder it is to write. What
did translate from school was the drive to write well. University classes taught me to work hard and
to work on deadline.
Do you have an unusual
I don’t how
unusual it is, but I love visiting museums. I can get lost, literally, in a
museum for hours. I recently visited the Metropolitan Museum in New York City
and had to leave after three hours. It was heart-breaking. I could’ve spent
I also really
like being on the water. Every time I go on vacation, I find myself on a boat.
I love harbor cruises and ferry rides. And windy days on the water are the
Having lived in both California and Texas, Aimee O’Brian now resides in the beautiful wine country. With her three children grown and experiencing their own adventures, she and her husband are free to explore the world. When she’s not reading, writing, or planting even more perennials in her garden, she can be found stomping through ancient ruins and getting lost in museums.
The Stars in Her Eyes
Love in LA Quartet #1
Contemporary, New Adult, Reverse Harem, Romance
March 26th 2019
When Creslyn Knight auditions for the role of a life time, she never expects three things:
To know the casting director—intimately.
To be insanely attracted to the three stand-in actors at the audition.
That she’d soon be putting her morals to the test when her resolve weakens.
Acting is in Creslyn’s blood, and she’s focused her sights on one thing: landing the role of a lifetime. But she’s always been told that everything comes at a cost. The casting director names his when he tells her she must make him believe she can surrender to a harem of men, or he can’t justify giving her the lead role.
Determined to prove him wrong and show him she can tap into a passion that deep, Creslyn throws herself into rehearsals. But the fine line between script and reality soon starts to blur, leading her and three men into unchartered territory. The only problem? She has a jealous roommate, a disgruntled mother, and a string of paparazzi hot on her trail, making Creslyn question the cost of everything.
In a world where some things are best kept secret, is the price of fame too high when it comes to the heart?
The Stars in Her Eyes is book one of the Love in LA Quartet and is a new adult, steamy contemporary romance reverse harem LOVE STORY that can be read as a stand-alone or as an introduction to the series. All the heat you’ve come to expect with a reverse harem, AND a storyline worthy of a contemporary romance love story. Finally, the best of both worlds!
USA Today Best Selling Author C.M. Albert writes heartwarming romances that are both “sexy and flirty, sweet and dirty!” Her writing infuses a healthy blend of humor, inspiration, and high-heat romance. She’s a sucker for a good villain but is a die-hard believer in everlasting love. In her spare time, she and her husband wrangle their two kids and enjoy spending time outdoors. When not writing or kid wrangling, C.M. Albert is also a Certified Medical Reiki Master, chocolate chip cookie aficionado, kindness ambassador, and seeker of naps
Can you tell your readers something about why you chose this particular topic to write about? What appealed to you about it? Why do you think it is different and your approach is unique?
Thank you so much for having me! This is actually my first Reverse Harem novel, and boy was it a challenge at first. I was inspired by a publisher who asked me to write a short RH for a boxset—and since I love stretching myself as a writer, I accepted even though I’d always said I’d never write a RH. But as one reader said, I always need to put a “Colleen spin” on the concept. And that was very true for The Stars in Her Eyes. I wanted the story to be realistic and not just a bunch of sex for the sake of sex. Since it’s a contemporary romance and not a paranormal or fantasy RH, I really wanted to understand the female main character and how she could find herself realistically falling for three men at the same time—let alone having an arrangement to explore their relationships sexually. This book seriously wrote itself. It’s a cliché, but it truly did. Creslyn Knight came through hard and fast demanding that her story be told, and it’s now my favorite story to date. I think it’s different than most RH’s in that it is a longer book, and is equally balanced between the HOT HOT HOT scenes you expect with an RH (and there are plenty!) and the plot-driven storyline and characters readers need with a contemporary romance love story.
How long does it take to research a topic before you write? And for this book?
I usually research as I go, when I discover I don’t know something or one of the characters throws a curve ball at me – like River in The Stars in Her Eyes, who ended up going to Julliard and was a classic cellist. On the plus side, as a result, I discovered the amazing duo 2Cellos during my research. But sometimes the topics are heavier, like with an upcoming novella where some of the characters are LGBTQ. I’ve already started interviewing several people who identify as this so I can do the story and characters justice from the get-go. But for The Stars in Her Eyes most research, particularly around location, was done as the need arose.
Would you recommend self-publishing and building an audience before approaching a publisher? If so, what benefits do you see that it might have for the aspiring novelist?
So far, I am strictly self-published by choice; most of that has been because of a need for complete flexibility in my schedule up to this point. I am also a stay-at-home parent and my family comes first every single time. That’s not always the answer a publisher wants to hear. That said, I’m lucky enough that as the kids have gotten older and are in the same school now, I am able to write a lot more than I used to during the day. In general, I do believe it’s helpful to build a strong audience and brand before approaching a publisher. It’s certainly not required, but I think it does help them to see your dedication, commitment, and business savvy ahead of time. It also doesn’t hurt for them to know you have a built in audience and to see how people respond to your stories before taking a chance on an unknown author. In today’s market, it’s not that uncommon for authors to take this approach, or for publishers to find writers who bust their butts and are able to shine in a very dense market of eBook self-publishers. I also think it benefits the author because it helps give them a broader understanding of everything that’s truly required to publish a book and be successful, because only a small percentage of that is actually writing.
What do you read when you are ill in bed?
I tend to go one of two ways, depending on my mood: YA dystopian (like The 100, Steelheart, Pure) or romance (Colleen Hoover, L.J. Shen, Skye Warren, Elle Thorpe, Melissa Foster).
What is your favourite genre?
Hands down it’s romance, which is why I write it. I’m a hopeful romantic and love characters who are able to overcome personal challenges and still find a way to open up and love. In real life there’s always a lot going on politically and socially, so I think romance is a nice escape; it strips things down to the individual level while still giving us the bigger hope that love wins, despite the odds stacked against us. Humans are very complex (alone and in our relationships), and I love peeling back their layers to discover motivation. It takes a strong person to soften and open their heart to love again after experiencing tragedy, pain, heartache, or loss. And I think most of us can relate to that. Nothing makes me happier than for characters to get their happy ever after, whatever that looks like for them.
If you recommend a living author – who would it be? A dead author?
I could recommend a dozen living authors, but if I had to pick just one right this moment, I’d probably choose L.J. Shen. I never understood the appeal of “the bad boy,” until reading her books. And she writes hot bad boys like nobody’s business. I haven’t read a book of hers I didn’t end up loving, including her latest release, The Kiss Thief. What she excels at is making the bad boy sympathetic by the end of the novel (even if he still is a bad boy). It takes talent to make a reader cringe at someone’s behaviors throughout a book but by the end everything clicks into place and you love them more than any regular hero—exactly because of everything they had to overcome to brave it all for love. There’s something about cracking open a hard heart and seeing the light. As for a deceased author, I grew up reading Bertrice Small. She is the QUEEN of sexy as sin historical romance. I’m not even a huge historical romance reader, but I devoured every one of her books and miss her greatly. She was so detailed in her knowledge of the time period, wrote an amazing anti-hero, and set the pages on FIRE. That’s probably where my love for explicit romances began, as I read my first Bertrice Small book—Skye O’Malley—when I was just sixteen.
Which author had the most influence on your writing? Your writing style? Your writing genre?
I’d probably say Melissa Foster. Her knack for writing both sweet, soul-quenching romance with a lot of heat really inspired me that it could be done well and be done successfully. Most writers are either sweet and clean, or bad and dirty. I think you can be both—which is why my author tagline nails what you can expect with my books so perfectly: “Sexy & flirty, sweet & dirty.” My first book, Faith in Love, was originally published as a part of Melissa Foster’s Kindle World. I chose to do that because I knew our audiences would be similar and I loved the world she created for her characters the Remingtons. It was an easy fit for my contemporary writing style that combines real, complex emotions with a high dose of heat and soulmate level attraction. Even though Kindle Worlds went away, I’m forever grateful that it pushed me to write and release my first book in the genre I love most.
In your opinion who is the funniest author now writing?
I don’t read as many funny books, but in the past I’ve enjoyed Laurie Notaro, David Sedaris, and Elise Sax when I needed a dose of laughter with my books.
Have you ever tried to imitate another author’s style? And if so, why?
I really haven’t, and that’s because I think for your writing to feel authentic to readers, you have to write it from your heart. There is something missing when a person just writes words to spit out books. The connection is missing. For example, I LURV L.J. Shen’s sexy AF, bad boy anti-heroes, but I would fall down all over the place if I tried to write one like her. It’s just not ME. And I think my readers would feel that disconnect in an instant. I always think it’s best to tell the story your way, because you’re the only one who can. The best feedback I get from readers is when they say they are touched by the way I was able to so easily blend heart, hope, and high heat—and I think this is my own unique style and brand – my “Colleen spin!” One of the best reviews I got was simply, “Fun, sexy, and poignant.” That’s what I try to hit every time.
What have you done with the things you wrote when in school?
I have kept them, but haven’t published any. In high school I wrote a lot of very angsty, depressing poetry. My dark years. Haha! I still have every horrible poem because that was what I was needing to release through my writing at the time. In college, I wrote more non-fiction and poetry (which got marginally better when I was told I could throw everything I thought I knew about poetry out the window).
Do you have any pets?
Absolutely! I think pets bring so much happiness and healing, so I’m a big believer in the strong connection you can forge with your pets. (I have had one soul mate kitty and one soul mate dog.)
If so, what are they? We currently have 1 dog, 3 cats, 1 fish, and a bearded dragon. My daughter wants a chinchilla since she just lost her fish named NASA, and I’m obsessed with adorable little hedgehogs, but I doubt either will join our household. We have enough chaos right now!
And what are they called? Dog, Beau. Cats: Patty, Sarah, & Leo (who is our asshole kitty; there’s always one). Fish: Javier. Bearded Dragon: Waffles.
Do they help you write? Beau is my faithful companion. Sometimes the cats curl up with me, but Beau always is my sidekick. I write in a big club chair for comfort, and Beau is always napping on the couch right next to me in the sun, just being near me for love and comfort. It’s sweet.
What is the funniest thing they have done while you are writing? Mostly it’s just Leo who chases the other cats. I’ve been concentrating before on a really intense scene and two cats will tear through the room at warp speed, flying off the couch over the coffee table like mini super heroes, all spitting and hissing. Scares the bejesus right out of me every time because it’s so fast and unexpected. Leo is ALWAYS the instigator too. Haha!
Do you want to add a photo of them to this Q&A? Sure. I’ll attach a rare photo of Leo not being an asshole and snuggling up with my baby Beau on the infamous couch in my writing room.
Thank you so much for having me today—this was fun!
So one thing I like to think about when reading a story is what type of story it is. When I was writing (academic folks!) I found out there were 7 archetypes types of stories that could be used, but in fact there are many other ways of identifying which story you are reading – and sometimes it is fun to guess. So I took look at what authors think about story tropes or archetypes and found the following. this is far from comprehensive, but it is a bit of fun research. If you want to find out more then take a look at: https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Tropes and https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MysteryTropes
There are sub-divisions of mystery and crime tropes eg:
Kurt Vonnegurt is very well respected for his story analysis. He made a map of his analysis against time.
He made a visual mapping of the length of the story against the time inhabited by the story and the different ups and downs each classic/trope will take. Helps explains how when you feel unsatisfied by a storyline it is often because you are still waiting for the next point to occur.
On the other hand Ken Miyamoto, Produced screenwriter, former Sony Pictures script reader/story analyst, former Sony Studios liaison claims that these are the story tropes.
Coming of Age – Seemingly innocent (although not always so) youth experience the evils, trials, and tribulations of the real world. Stand by Me, To Kill a Mockingbird, Almost Famous, Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, The Graduate, American Graffiti, etc.
Revenge – Our most primal instinct. We see and read stories of revenge in nearly every genre. In film we have Mad Max, Carrie, Death Wish, Once Upon a Time in the West, Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan, Gladiator, Election, Munich, The Counte of Monte Cristo, Hang ‘Em High, Memento, etc.
The Great Battle – An individual or group of people in conflict with others. This ranges from epic battles (War movies, Lord of the Rings) to comedy (War of the Roses) to science fiction (Star Wars, Terminator franchise, etc.).
Love and Friendship – Love stories (Romeo and Juliet, Romantic comedies), buddy movies (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Lethal Weapon), dramas about friendship (The Big Chill), etc.
The Big Mystery – There’s a mystery to be solved, and the protagonist has to solve it. You’re looking at classic characters in the likes of Sherlock Holmes, Tin Tin, Nancy Drew, etc. Comedies like The Pink Panther series. Agatha Christy novels. Tom Clancy and John Grisham novels and movie adaptations.
The Great Journey – This theme follows characters dealing with trials and tribulation during travels… many of which are epic. Huckleberry Finn, Apocalypse Now (Heart of Darkness in literature form), The Odyssey, Star Wars, and probably the best example in both film and literature, Lord of the Rings.
The Noble Sacrifice – The protagonist sacrifices himself for others. Glory, Armageddon, war movies where a character dies for his fellow soldiers, etc.
The Fall From Grace – Showing humans going where only God should go, doing what only God should do, or attempting to do what humans shouldn’t do. You look at films and novels like Jurassic Park, Splice, Frankenstein, etc. And then look into science films like A.I. and even Terminator, where we as humans have gone too far in trying to create life… and it backfires on us. Then into the horror genre with the aforementioned Frankenstein and even Stephen King’s Pet Semetary.
And Reedsy gives you 14 Fantasy tropes:
September 3, 2018
Fantasy tropes, like any other type of literary trope, are recurring images, themes, or devices that are used to the point of being common conventions amongst its genre.
When writing a genre such as fantasy (with such well-known conceits), authors often feel the need to straddle a fine line: include too many tropes and readers will get déjà vu; don’t include a single cliché and you risk losing readers who have come to expect certain themes and touchstones from a fantasy novel.
The thing is, conventions commonly crop up in stories because most of them contain some element of universal relatability — and people enjoy the familiar.
So embrace the balancing act by acquainting yourself with some of the most popular fantasy tropes out there, and by learning how to prevent your characters, plots, and worlds from becoming a complete cliche
At their heart, all stories are about characters who represent some aspect of human nature — and fantasy is no exception. Many novels in this genre feature archetypes, which is not necessarily a bad thing — so long as your characters’ development aligns with the narrative arc and doesn’t rely on cliché pitstops.
1) The Chosen One
A character who is alone capable of fulfilling an important purpose, and whose responsibility is to resolve the plot’s main conflict — which will often be to save the world.
2) The Secret Heir
An orphan ends up being the long-lost scion to a royal throne. Often, this character is raised on a farm or another humble situation that contrast their true lineage. Maybe they lost their parents at a young age and sent away for their own protection. Perhaps they were switched at birth in some sort of hilarious misunderstanding. Maybe their mother had a summer fling with an undercover prince in her gap year.
3) The Evil Overlord
Fire and brimstone, darkness and inhospitable lands, the Evil Overlord usually lives in a realm that reflects their wicked intentions, surrounded by their minions and followers. The Evil Overlord is also often bent on world domination.
4) The Reluctant Hero
The protagonist is thrust down the path of a story they don’t wish to be a part of. They long to return to normal life and only continue on their quest out of obligation or necessity. Think of it as the difference between Frodo (who wishes to return to the Shire but knows a task must be completed) and Conan the Barbarian, who relishes the role of rough-hewn hero. Often, the Reluctant Hero is also the Chosen One.
5) The Lucky Novice
This sometimes manifests when a character who has had never attempted a specific activity before is suddenly extremely talented at that specific skill. Other times it’s presented in the form of a protagonist — who’s had a moderate amount of training — defeating the villain who has been honing their powers for years or decades (or even centuries).
6) The Mentor
Usually an elderly character who prepares the protagonist for whatever conflict they are facing. The Mentor often leaves before the big climax — whether they are killed, retire, or have to leave to carry out a job elsewhere — forcing the protagonist to stand on their own two feet.
While the many subgenres of fantasy will all have their own tropes, here are a few worldbuilding conventions that you’re bound to see more often than not.
7) The World That Never Progresses
When a novel of series covers a society through the ages — but that world seems never change or progress. It could be a century later, but no social, technological, political, or cultural developments seem to have occurred. This one is fairly typical of high fantasy, which usually take place on grand, epic scales. ( and the one that really irritates me about Game of Thrones. Surely by now they have learnt how to fix holes in wooden doors!
8) The Pseudo-European Medieval Setting
A feudal system governing a society where taverns are frequented and duel-by-swords are a daily occurrence. The stories don’t usually take place in actual Europe, but a world that very much resembles the continent’s medieval era. This setting is a mainstay of fantasy — significantly solidified in the genre by The Lord of the Rings, but harking back to European folklore and tales of King Arthur.
9) The Powerful Artifact
This convention is used across all types of genres: an object of great power must be saved from falling into the wrong hands. The object is typically inanimate and derives its power from the manipulation of those who use it. The object might not be inherently evil, but its powers can have the effect of tempting and corrupting even the noblest characters.
10) The Homogenous Species
All elves are beautiful and love trees, and all dwarves are obsessed with gold and living underground, right? Categorizing entire races into a few commonalities is typical of fantasy novels, and if one character from that race differs, you can bet they’re an outlier — and often the protagonist of the novel (or a trusty sidekick). Another common feature of this trope is when one species is inherently “good”, and another is inherently “bad.”
The Plot is the chain of events that comprise your narrative arc. Many fantasy novels will share a link or two (or seven) in common with other novels, including these:
11) The Waiting Evil
Long, long ago, an evil force is defeated in battle and locked away, never to wreak havoc again. That is, of course, until now. Having bided its time, the evil entity breaks free with an eye for vengeance. This Waiting Evil might break free of their own volition, might be released by an avid supporter (that is usually then disposed of — hello, Peter Pettigrew), or it might be released accidentally by an unknowing passerby or by natural causes.
12) The “Here Comes the Cavalry” Twist
All is lost. The villain and their minions are too strong and despite a noble fight, the jig is up. The heroes simply can’t hold off the opposition any longer. Time to lay down and die. But wait! Do you hear that? It’s faint, but growing louder. It’s… it’s… it’s the heroes’ friends, showing up in the nick of time to save the day! Hooray! Not all is lost!
13) The Black and White Morality Theme
The battle between “good” and “evil” is such a prevalent theme in fantasy — and it’s no wonder. When it strays to a cliché is when the line between good and evil is perceived as black and white, with no grey area. The good guys are purely good, and the bad guys are pure evil — end of story. Often, the good guys manage to defeat the bad guys without killing a soul or even wrecking a single building.
14) The Quest
The hero — and usually a handful of secondary characters — sets out on a quest with a specific goal. Typically the goal ranges from saving a princess, defeating a villain, destroying a corrupt artifact, or finding someone. The goal of the quest doesn’t matter as much as the fact that there is a solid one. While The Quest very closely resembles The Hero’s Journey, there are key differences between the two story structures: while the former is all about the character’s journey to achieve a goal, the latter is more about the character’s inner journey than the actual objective. [ https://blog.reedsy.com/fantasy-tropes/ ]
On the other hand Jill Williamson claims there are 145 (!!!) Romance Tropes.
abduction to love
afraid to commit
all grown up
bait and switch
beauty and the beast
best friend’s lover
best friend’s sibling
best friends/ friends
boy hates girl
boy meets ghoul
boy meets girl
break his heart to
brother’s best friend
bully turned puppy
can’t live with them,
can’t live without them
childhood enemies fall
side of the tracks
damaged lead finds
happily ever after
dark secret keeps them
enemies to lovers
everyone can see it
fish out of water
friends with benefits
girl wants bad boy
guy wants cheerleader
huge guy, tiny girl/
tiny guy, huge girl
if I can’t have you,
no one will!
it happened in Vegas
love at first sight
love interest has a
profession protagonist abhors
love interest reminds
of estranged family member
love reforms villain
lovers in denial/
they’re the last to know
men in uniform
of love leads to love
noble rescuer steps
in, She’s dating Mr. Wrong
nobody thinks it will
not good enough for
oblivious to love
older man, younger
woman/ older woman, younger man
on the rocks
one night stand
one wants true
love/other wants a fling
oops! fall in love
with the wrong person (which could ruin everything!)
overly shy love
partners in crime
Plain Jane get the
pretending to be
married or engaged
rejected as unworthy/
turns life around
reluctant sex worker
removing the rival
return to hometown
rich man, poor woman/
rich woman, poor man
road trip romance
rock star hero
scars from the past
second chance at love
second time around
secret baby- He
doesn’t know she’s PG
secret that can end
sleeps with everyone
sorry, I’m taken
the one that got away
tragic love affair
triangle (involves some mistaken identity) ex. superman
wallflower noticed by
was it all a lie?
(wo)man in peril
working with the ex
So you reads your story and takes your pick.. Have fun…
murder, mystery, police, thriller
28th January 2019
Two desperate criminals. Something she never saw coming. A searing suspense thriller from bestselling author Nick Louth
In Manchester, two hardened gang members on the run take Catherine Blake and her one-year-old son hostage at gunpoint. She is in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Held in a Transit van, Catherine needs a plan fast. But it means diving into her captors’ risk-drenched world, and playing them at their own game.
Catherine has been through cancer, miscarriages and five draining years of IVF in order to have her son Ethan. He is the most precious thing in the world. She may be terrified out of her wits, but she’d do anything to protect him. Anything, no matter the cost...
A nerve-shredding suspense thriller you won’t believe until you have experienced it yourself, Trapped is perfect for fans of Cara Hunter, JP Delaney and Rachel Abbott.
Author Interview with Nick Louth
The book ideas I get flow most strongly in the time when I’m
just waking up and I lie in bed turning them over in my mind. Sometimes
the ideas come very quickly, almost tumbling over themselves in their hurry to
emerge, but sometimes it takes a lot longer for me to see how they would work.
For example, I have just been devising a piece of misdirection for a future DCI
Gillard crime thriller, one that will send detectives and hopefully the reader
in and entirely wrong direction when looking for the murder victim. The course
is particularly challenging when the title of my books offers a clue: The Body
in the Marsh, The Body on the Shore and so on. This particular idea I’ve been
working on in the back of my mind for two or three days, and I’ve yet to write
down any part of it. But it’s still there ticking over, like an engine kept
I do write notes, I have a notebook that I have with me at
all times, and if it’s an inspiring name for a character, or a place, I need to
write it down quickly. But the big concepts, the reversals, the misdirection,
ideas that give the book a ‘bang’ I tend not forget.
In the case of Trapped, the basic story on the idea for its
creative tension came to me all in one go. It’s the contrast between black and
white, not just the evil of the gangsters and the goodness, or at least the
normality of Catherine the hostage, it’s a bit extra. I wanted to contrast two
ways of living a life. Our heroine is an extraordinarily risk averse woman, who
plans everything in her life, even more so now she has been blessed with the
child that she took so very long to conceive. For her, nothing is left to
chance. But the gangsters are seemingly driven by impulse. They plan very
little, certainly not far ahead, and rely on quick reactions drive and energy
to live the life they want. I really wanted to smash together these two life
philosophies, and pack them into the smallest possible space to see what would
happen. That space is the back of a dirty, smelly transit van, surrounded by
armed police. Total claustrophobia. For a long time I thought that would be
enough, straight story that would have the reader on the edge of her seat,
particularly given an innocent one-year-old child was in danger. I had written
the book thus far almost 8 months before I got the idea for a very strong
twist. I’m particularly proud that I was able to pack in to what is a bit
particularly short novel all the action and a series of shocking twists.
I’m a journalist by training, and meticulous research
underlies everything I do. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to make
contact with a retired senior detective with extensive experience from drugs,
murder, Special Branch work and undercover operation, plus a government
forensic scientist who has allowed me to come with him to an occasional murder
trial. I’m also fortunate to have a very senior criminal defence lawyer who has
helped me extensively with work on my next book The Body in the Mist. The role
of research isn’t to dump on the page everything you have learned, rather it is
to convince the reader that you know what you’re talking about. Approaching
those in authority is something I’ve done for many years as a journalist so it
doesn’t make me nervous or intimidate me. However that doesn’t mean to say that
I was good positive response. PR people for police forces or corporations, for
example, often need quite a lot of handholding before they know what it is you
really trying to get from them. But others fall into your hands, so delighted
are they to be involved in the process of creating fiction.
I have been rejected countless times by many literary agents, amazingly even after I had a number one UK bestseller the previous year. I sometimes struggle to find what it is that agents are looking for, but feel I have a better rapport with publishers. In the case of Canelo, I was lucky enough that they approached me after a former agent of mine, now a non-fiction publisher, recommended me to them.
Author Name: Nick
Previous Books: The Body in the Marsh, The Body on the Shore and Heartbreaker
Nick Louth is a best-selling thriller writer,
award-winning financial journalist and an investment commentator. A 1979
graduate of the London School of Economics, he went on to become a Reuters
foreign correspondent in 1987. It was an experience at a medical conference in
Amsterdam in 1992, while working for Reuters, that gave him the inspiration for
Bite, which was self-published in 2007 and went on to become the UK No. 1
Kindle best-seller for several weeks in 2014 before being snapped up by Sphere.
It has sold a third of a million copies, and been translated into six
The terrorism thriller Heartbreaker was
published in June 2014 and received critical acclaim from Amazon readers, with
a 4.6 out of 5 stars on over 100 reviews. Mirror Mirror, subtitled ‘When evil and beauty collide’ was published
in June 2016. The Body in the Marsh, a crime thriller, is being published by
Canelo in September 2017.
Life on a llama farm, set in remote “Seneca County,” West Virginia, transitions from contented to chaotic in this final novel in the Hillwill trilogy -- all under the watchful eye of canine guardian Ralph. Five years after we first met northern urban transplant Beatrice Desmond, she is finally adapting to her mountain hollow among the wary “born-heres” and is more open to the blessings in her life. She has developed a rewarding mother-daughter relationship with troubled local teenager Clara Buckhalter and is inching toward marriage with dashing, but complicated entrepreneur Tanner Fordyce. Meanwhile, Clara sets off on a productive new path, one that would have been unthinkable had Beatrice never come into her life. All of that progress is suddenly jeopardized by Clara’s scheming mother Charyce. Ultimately, the upheaval touched off by Charyce’s schemes serves as the catalyst for new beginnings for the Seneca County misfits (even Ralph).
Questions for Authors:
How long do you think about a topic before deciding to write about it? Do you have a set of notes or a note book where you write down topics that appeal before making a decision as to which topic this time?
There’s been no set time-frame
for thinking through novel ideas. Once an idea seems to have legs, I set up a
“fermenting file,” which will collect odd bits of research (90 percent of it
never used) and random notes to myself. My initial idea may change dramatically
even before I start writing, as well as during the writing process. I’ve
published four novels now (and am currently working sporadically on two at the
same time) and with every one, I start out knowing how the novel should begin
and how it should end. So far, that certainty has not changed. It’s that large
space in the middle that gets tricky. After the first few chapters, I
inevitably get stuck. This is probably because my novels are so
character-driven and the characters start having minds of their own and taking
me places I didn’t anticipate going. If I let them talk to me, without my
losing control completely, the workflow changes halfway through the novel. At
that mystical halfway point, I suddenly know how to get to that previously
envisioned final chapter. Suddenly, I’m able to chart out six or seven chapters
at a time. The main challenge then becomes keeping up with the flow. I may
still get stuck occasionally, but nowhere near as profoundly or frequently as
in the first half of the writing process.
How long does it take to research a topic
before you write? And for this book?
The research time frame varies
with every book. My first two books were non-fiction, ghostwritten with a
deadline and overall subject area someone else proposed. That was a much more
structured process than for fiction writing. With both of those non-fiction
projects, I had six months to deliver the draft. In both cases, I spent four of
those months researching and two months writing. Although there was some
spillover, the research and writing phases were largely segregated.
With fiction, there’s much less compartmentalization.
Reinventing Hillwilla required the
least amount of research time of any of my books. Even though I wrote it as a
standalone, it is, after all, the third in a series, with the same venue and
same principal characters. So those characters were well-developed by the time
Chapter 1 ended up on paper. Nevertheless, there were lots of facts I had to
check — for example, about the legal system, about the exotic locales Tanner
visits, etc. And before I plunked Clara in the middle of Wellesley College, I
trekked up to Massachusetts and chatted with students to get a better sense of
the current campus culture. That way I had something firmer than memories of my
own college years, and I learned about some key changes in campus venues and
One final comment about research…
My most valuable research tool is bald observation. A favorite pastime is to
park myself, solo, in a restaurant, in a region that will be the venue for part
of a novel. Then I shamelessly eavesdrop on conversations at nearby tables.
I’ll make mental notes of vocabulary choices, pronunciation, phrasing. At one
point, I overheard a local speak about the need to “ponder” something before finding
the solution to a problem. That verb struck me as downright eloquent, uniquely
West Virginian. And you’ll hear it coming out of Ben Buckhalter’s mouth.
What is your favourite genre?
My favorite genre? Hmmm, depends
on my mood. I’ve certainly had my cop-shop whodunit phase, cozy mystery phase,
family saga phase, biography/autobiography phase and period novel phase.
Literary novels are a constant, however. Especially those involving flawed,
complicated characters with dark pasts. Not surprisingly, those are the kind of
novels I want to write, too.
If you recommend a living author – who would
it be? A dead author?
Recommendation of a living author?
When it comes to wordsmithing chops, the first name that pops up is Alexander
McCall Smith, author of the Botswana lady detective agency series and the
Scotland Street series (my favorite), among many, many others. That man can
string words together so eloquently, combining both economy of language and
lyrical flow, he just makes my jaw drop. He also has a talent for delicately
tweaking certain social trends, without coming across as preachy.
As for dead authors, oy, so many.
If I focus on economy of language, John Cheever and Emily Dickinson come to
mind. Both could pack so much into so few words, in very different ways. Both
had an appealingly dark sense of irony, too. Writers who stretched my brain — but
made that painful effort worthwhile — include such greats as Shakespeare,
Goethe, Rilke, Eliot. I’m sure I’m forgetting others who had a major influence
Have you ever tried to imitate another
author’s style? And if so, why?
No, I’ve never tried to imitate
another writer’s style. But I’m sure I’ve subconsciously absorbed elements from
other authors. Perhaps because I spent most of my professional life as a nonfiction
ghostwriter, it’s really important for me to speak in my own (unique, I hope)
voice as a novelist.
Do you have any pets?
Do I have pets? Is accounting
boring? The numbers are down to a precious few these days: one soft-eyed
English setter who looks a lot like Ralph (but was born years after Ralph); one
English cocker spaniel with the swagger of a rhinoceros and a great sense of
irony; and one gray barn cat who has staff.
If so, what are they?
Over the years, my life has been
blessed by llamas; a string of English setters, one Old English Sheepdog (hmmm,
there seems to be a pattern here of English-bred dogs), one mutt; one ginormous
Newfoundland; a bunch of rescue and feral cats; a series of fancy long-haired
cats (Himalayan and Birman); one Peruvian guinea pig (whom I named Fash, short
for Fascist Pig); and two parakeets, who got me through the terrible five-year
era when my childhood family was dogless.
Do they help you write?
Yes, my pets help me write. I
can’t remember how many dog-walks have freed up writer’s block. Mainly, my
animal companions have safeguarded my sanity, which fiction-writing constantly
Do you want to add a photo of them to this Q&A?
If you’re interested in pictures,
you need look no further than the cover of Reinventing
Hillwilla. My current setter Finnegan ably stepped up to portray the
spectral Ralph. But, yes, I had to bribe him with treats.
Melanie Forde is a veteran writer, ghosting in diverse
formats—from academic white papers to advertising copy. Under her own name, she has published numerous features
and commentaries about the natural world, as well as the first two novels in
the Hillwilla trilogy (Hillwillaand On the Hillwilla Road). She
lives in Hillsboro, West Virginia.