I’m at Asha King’s blog today talking about my new book, getting unblocked, and being a weirdo. http://bit.ly/1RSeL2p
April 2, 2016 | Categories: darien cox, Erotic Romance, Gay Romance, new release, Science Fiction | Tags: Asha King, Darien Cox, erotic romance, gay romance, guest blog, m/m romance, Safe in Your Fire | Leave a comment
It’s release day for my writing buddy Asha King’s book BEAST, the latest in the Midsummer Suspense tales – I was lucky to get to read this one early, and though there is a connecting thread, you don’t need to have read the prior books, this definitely works as a standalone too.
And damn, this Beauty and the Beast story ain’t no Disney tale! Mystery, murder, action, and kink, I’m awed at what Asha pulled off here. And now I get to interview her! Check out my Q&A with Asha below then hop on over to Amazon to grab a copy.
Welcome back, Asha! Let’s start with an easy one. What made you decide to take on fairytales?
Funny you should ask that, Mr. Cox. 😉
I am actually quite fortunate to have a few good friends who are writers (my smut buddies), and many times they help inspire, or least encourage, ideas—for example, my books wouldn’t even exist without my good friend Aylia Ryvelt’s encouragement. I’d mentioned to one of them, who may or may not be my gracious host today, that I’d wanted to do interracial fairy tales, but had a lot on my plate.
The idea kept bugging me, so I decided to look at Amazon; lo and behold, there were interracial contemporary fairy tales for sale. I had the wind knocked out of my sails and felt quite saddened, as I was really looking forward to it.
And then you encouraged me to do it anyway. So I got pondering the idea and the great thing about fairy tales is that they don’t have to be fantasy or paranormal—they’re stories that work in any genre. Since I’ve found my own writing veering toward romantic suspense, that seemed the logical choice for genre, and then wasn’t encroaching on anyone else’s territory.
There’s a lot of danger and darkness you have your characters face that make the books more exciting. Do you have boundaries you want cross in a romance, or does anything go as long as it’s key to the storyline?
I go wherever the story needs to. Obviously there are certain expectations within romance I have to meet, like not killing the hero (though readers know that even that is something I will play with) but otherwise nothing is off the table.
Fairy tales also lend themselves well to darkness, as the original ones were quite dark. I’ve found as the Midsummer Suspense Tales continue, they’re getting darker and darker as we go. Cinders began with a sweeter relationship against a backdrop of dark abuse against the heroine. From there, the stories have developed quite an edge. Beast is the fourth book and the darkest yet, but I don’t think you can really do a retelling of a Stockholm Syndrome romance while keeping it sweet.
How do you create the balance between toughness and vulnerability in your tough as nails heroes?
Ultimately I think it’s because non-vulnerable men do not appeal to me at all.
The whole “alpha/beta male” debate gets on my nerves because what most people have deemed “alpha” is actually “asshole”. An alpha, to me, is a man who takes care of his family—not a possessive brute out of the Stone Age but someone with emotional maturity and security who puts his loved ones ahead of his own needs. He will fight to protect them and he respects women.
So toughness + vulnerability is natural and super hot to me. Maddox in Bad Moon Rising being a virgin, for example, was sweet and beautiful and had no bearing on his strength. With Carter in The Book of Love, it’s clear he hasn’t been with anyone since his wife before the divorce during the love scenes, and his hands shake a little with nervousness—it’s incredibly endearing and that vulnerability doesn’t make him weak at all.
The heroes in the Midsummer Suspense Tales world often have their lives on the line for the women they love, and I think the sheer fact that they let another person mean so much to them is a sign of vulnerability.
Your heroines, especially in the fairy tales, have suffered a lot in their past and been victims, yet they’re ultimately strong and independent. Is the intentional?
Absolutely, and probably not for the reason a lot of people think. There are a lot of books where the female characters have been through terrible things and it’s done for no reason other than the writer seems to think, “Everyone must have a shocking, traumatic background!”
While it’s true that strength can come out of trauma, for me it comes down to wanting to see that story told (no matter how many times I tell it). As a survivor of trauma, I like to see other stories of survivors. I like to be reminded of how resilient women are, how we can go through hell and come out the other side whole. To quote The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: “White dudes hold the record for creepy crimes—but females are strong as hell.” There is always a chance that someone who is reading one of my books has been through something terrible and if I can help remind them that survivors are strong and they deserve happiness, I’ve done my job.
That is also the really beautiful thing about the romance genre as a whole. Women—all women, no matter what they’ve survived—get their happily ever after. (Of course, so do men.)
Let’s talk about Beast specifically. This book ties to earlier Midsummer stories more than ever with Joseph mentioned in Beauty. Was this planned all along?
By the time I got to Beauty, I knew I’d be introducing future heroes and heroines from book to book—writing Cinders I knew immediately that Michael O’Hara would be the hero of Snow. But it wasn’t until the first draft of Beauty was written that I thought, hmm, maybe the villain’s son wasn’t dead—maybe he lived but went into hiding. I rewrote the epilogue to reveal he’d lived and knew by that point he absolutely had to be my “beast”. So generally with the Midsummer books, each story was planned two or three books ahead of time. The sixth (and likely final) one, Red, has actually been planned from the very beginning and I’m quite excited about who that “hero” is.
Belle spends most of the book with no idea of what Joseph actually looks like, yet the sexual tension is still palpable and erotic. Was that particularly challenging?
I think it would’ve been if it was strictly her point of view, but thankfully Joseph had plenty of scenes to fill in visual information for the reader and strike a balance there. But writing erotic romance, we often get caught up in visual cues when there are four other senses to explore in detail that can be just as hot as seeing some washboard abs (if not more). The tale of Beauty and the Beast, at its core, is about falling in love with the person you find below the surface, so taking that one step further and having Belle blindfolded seemed natural to me.
Did you worry at all about how Joseph would be received as a hero in a genre populated by visually stunning men?
I honestly go into every book assuming everyone will hate it—this is my fifteenth published book and it only took like three for me to realize people will not like them and be very vocal about it. So letting go of the worry about whether or not anyone would like Joseph was quite freeing for me as a writer. It allowed me to be entirely true to him as a character and not file down any of his sharp edges. Some will really respond to that while others won’t, and that’s cool. Personally, I dig a big, strong, broody, scarred hero.
And I suppose that worry pales in comparison to making your heroine take a job as a prostitute.
Yep! Another unfortunate fact of the romance world: women get flayed for the same behavior men display all the time. I’ll write a heroine who only has sex with the hero in the book, no signs of promiscuity, and she’ll be branded a slut while the hero isn’t. Double standards always apply, so while I didn’t think Joseph hiring a sex worker would seem like a big deal, certainly, having Belledona take the job—even just to investigate these crimes—is something that might not go over well. But at the end of the day this is fiction, it is fantasy, and characters do things you and I wouldn’t. My job is to tell this story of two people who are very different and yet fit together, and how they find their way to one another.
And then make it really hot.
What’s next for Midsummer? Obviously it cannot end here…
Not when there are more fairy tales to tell! Next on my plate is Gold. I’d wanted to do something with Goldilocks and the Three Bears, but there’s not really enough meat to that story, IMO. Then my mind wandered a little and I thought about Rumpelstiltskin/The Miller’s Daughter, spinning straw into gold, and the idea went from there. Gold is about the “baby bear” of a family who’s always had trouble with the law, and how he finds a hacker girl trying to escape the criminal underworld by hiding in a cabin he’s supposed to be preparing for summer tourists.
After that, the (probably) final book is Red, where Raina and her grandmother come face to face with a monstrous serial killer, and the only one standing between Raina and certain death is the equally dangerous hitman known as The Huntsman.
Just six books, then?
The thing about fairy tales is that there are always more to draw on. A few years down the road I might try another trilogy of tales if inspiration strikes.
There’s always The Little Mermaid, after all…
Thanks for coming by, Asha, and congrats on the release of another great book. To check out Asha’s other books visit her author site, ashaking.com.
So happy to be hosting talented author Asha King today! Asha writes smokin hot interracial romance, sometimes with a paranormal kick, and her work is NOT for sissies. She will go there with the danger and darkness and isn’t averse to putting her extremely lovable heroes and heroines in great peril, but there’s always a satisfying payoff in the end. Her brand new release Stray Cat Strut is the latest installment in the Cats and Conjure collection, a series that has everything: Shifters, magic, sex, edge of your seat excitement, and some truly scary villains.
Welcome, Asha. So we’re all excited for another Cats and Conjure book and to catch up with Addie! She seems to be getting progressively stronger from book to book.
Yes! I mean, she always had a core of strength to her, but it’s far more prominent now. She grew up being told that her power was actually insanity so she became adept at burying it, but by the time Cat Scratch Fever rolled around, I think it was clear she was incredibly brave. And now that she’s coming into her powers, she’s grown far more confident and it shows. While I don’t think she was ever really a damsel in distress, her damsel-y qualities have certainly faded. It was important to me to have a heroine who was every bit as strong as the hero, if not in physical strength at least in her determination to do what’s right and protect those she loves.
The books in this series tend to end on cliffhangers. What was your reasoning for that, and do you get any criticism for it?
There’s this really weird divide between television and books in that people will watch something with cliffhanger episodes (or season endings) and gnash their teeth but get really excited about it.
Not so with books. I’m finding more and more writers get accusations of piecemealing stories and bilking readers out of their money, “forcing” them to buy the next books. And…well, first of all, yes, we’re trying to earn money. We want readers excited about our work and dying for the next book. That’s kind of how this works.
But while I’m sure some writers do that deliberately—cutting a book in half just to drag it out and get more sales—that was never my intent.
I find each installment a satisfying meal on its own, though they do leave me needing to know what’s next, so mission accomplished.
Yes, the Cats & Conjure books were designed to function like a TV show or series. Each novella has a complete arc—the first is Adelaide discovering what she is and how Erik will keep her hidden while Lincoln hunts him, the second is Addie being kidnapped and how Erik will free her—but is part of a larger story that’s serialized. Apparently it wasn’t the smartest choice on my part if several vocal readers are to be believed, but I think it makes for something fast-paced and exciting. And when the box sets release (the first is due to drop January 2016), it’ll make for Netflix-like binge-reading.
At the end of the day, I just remind myself that this is the way this story needed to be told. I can’t control what other people think, or whether or not they give the books a chance because of the serialized nature. There are a handful of readers who get the novellas and are on board with it, and that’s what’s important.
This is the third book in the series, and there’s been a gap of a year and a half between this one and the last one. Why the long wait? Are you worried readers will have forgotten about the series?
To answer the last question first, yes. It’s been a concern. There was a two month wait between the first, Cats in Heat, and the second, Cat Scratch Fever, and even that got me hate mail. So I’m aware of what a long gap there is this time around and although the series had some very loyal fans, the rate publishing moves now is so fast that it’s easy to get lost in the sea of books. I did add a recap PDF to my website, though, that readers can download to refresh their memories.
To the first question, there were a few factors behind the wait. Cat Scratch Fever came out December 2013 and I’d planned for Stray Cat Strut to be out February or March. By that time, though, sales numbers were back in and they were pretty abysmal. I don’t write full time, I have to fit it around the day job and my family, taking time away here and there when I could afford to. And I just couldn’t afford to with this book. On top of that, 2014 was a rough year for my family and I only ended up having one release (Cinders).
It’s great to have loyal readers, but there are certainly plenty of installments out now for NEW readers to sink their teeth into as well. Did you have trouble coming back to the world after so many months away from it?
Yes. I couldn’t remember what the side characters were named let alone looked like—I have multiple series in progress and I’d just spent the last several months working on romantic suspense fairy tales, so jumping back to paranormal was…difficult, at least initially.
I knew I was going to put out a print version of the first three novellas in one volume when the third was done, however, and it never hurts to give things another proofread. I dumped the first two books into Scrivener and took notes as I re-read them, and by the time I was through the second, I felt ready to jump into the third.
So your regular readers are dying to know at this point precisely what is up with Adelaide and the cats following her around.
Haha, I’ve been weaving in threads, but it hasn’t been answered. Yet. Mythology buffs will probably have an idea after Stray Cat Strut, but I intend to answer it in Alley Cat (the fourth book). Let’s just say there absolutely is a reason why she has an affinity for those of the feline persuasion and why they seem to be drawn to her, both housecats and then hot men who become her guardians.
The book’s mythology does seem to come from several sources—is all of it based on existing myth or is some of it spawned from your own creative brain juice?
There’s a mix. In this book, there are vampire-like creatures hunting Adelaide and her crew that are based very, very loosely on some from Greek mythology, for example (also, as a hint for the next book: I will also say that there is a reason Lincoln is so powerful and why he summoned something from Greek myth).
And then there’s also Adelaide—separate from the whole why-cats-are-following-her-around thing is the fact that she practices Conjure, which is also known as rootwork and hoodoo. It’s a fascinating practice of Afro-Caribbean folk magic with Native American influences found throughout America (primarily the south). It’s not a religion—in fact, most practitioners have traditionally been Christian—so it can be practiced by people of any faith. Although I take plenty of liberties with it in these stories, it’s very real.
Oh hell, we’re not done with Lincoln yet?
He still has a role to play.
He is the worst.
He is. Deliberately so. There’s a risk with a young, attractive, powerful villain that readers will be cheering for him instead of the hero because we all like a sexy bad boy, right? (I do.) So he had to be absolutely terrible with no redeemable qualities, nothing that might make him an antihero. His threats of sexual violence against Adelaide in Cat Scratch Fever, which were phrased not graphically but still not leaving any room for misinterpretation, were sickening and made it abundantly clear that no, this is not a secretly good man we’re dealing with. He is a monster through and through, and there’s nothing romantic about it.
What’s next for Adelaide and Erik? Especially given how this one ends?
They’ll be back in Alley Cat next year—their trials are far from over, clearly, and another villain is on the horizon, someone who we’ll see more of over the final three novellas.
This latest installment ends with a knockout punch to say the least. As a writer I think hate mail is preferable to indifference, but have you prepared for any potential reader rage-mail this one might generate?
Several boxes of wine and not checking my email should help.
Adelaide Deveraux has escaped her enemy’s compound along with her tiger-shifter lover, Erik Wells, but the home that had once been her sanctuary is now gone, burned to the ground and leaving them with no choice but to go on the run.
At least Erik knows a thing or two about running; he’s been doing it for most of his life, and he’s determined to keep Addie safe. Between their handful of allies and Addie’s growing magic, he thinks they just might have enough resources to survive, and, for the first time in his life, sees a future for himself and the woman he loves.
But the powerful sorcerer on their tail has more than owning Addie in his sights. Now he’s also out for revenge and not everyone will make it out alive…
Release Date: September 18
Genre: IR (bwwm) paranormal romance
Length: 32 000 words (or 100 pages)
Series: Cats & Conjure #3
Ebook Price: $2.99
About the Author:
Asha King likes good-looking men and hot books, and often strives to combine the two in contemporary, paranormal, and suspenseful romantic stories. She hails from the exotic land of Alberta, Canada, where she doesn’t ride a polar bear to work but does drink vast amounts of locally brewed beer and watches hockey.
She loves connecting with readers and you can keep up to date with her online at www.AshaKing.com, where you’ll find a list of her books as well as what she’s working on.
September 18, 2015 | Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: amazon, Asha King, author asha king, book giveaway, Cats and Conjure, character love, erotic romance, guest blog, interracial romance, paranormal romance, shifter romance, Stray Cat Strut | 3 Comments