Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Gemma Snow, Seduction En Pointe

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Today we are interviewing Gemma Snow about her erotic romance novel, "Seduction en Pointe."

Describe the plot of your novel, “Seduction en Pointe,” in a few sentences.
"Seduction en Pointe" is an erotic dalliance set in Paris, where two people of differing backgrounds, personalities and lives come together over shared hurt and common desires.

Television star and all around bad boy, Nicco Castillo, is sent to Paris to learn ballet for the upcoming season, and so his producers can keep an eye on him. There, he meets Isabelle La Croix, his infuriatingly beautiful and icy instructor, who doesn’t trust performers as far as she can throw them. Over the course of their class, however, Isabelle and Nicco find common ground in their past loves and pain and the erotic needs that drive them. Though it’s difficult for both of them to trust, or ever love, again, they are deeply drawn to each other and, in the end, might just find that they’re both willing to fight for a shot at forever.

Who do you think would most appreciate this book? 
"Seduction" has a high heat rating, but it was very important to me that the erotic elements were deeply ingrained in the characters’ personalities and relationships, and not just there for the sake of a little titillation. I think anyone who loves the idea of a Paris affair, redemptive love or scorching heat between two people finding themselves, will enjoy it.

Tell us a bit about the main character, Nicco Castillo.

I loved writing Nicco. I think of the two main characters, he went through a much larger and in-depth development process. In the beginning, I knew I wanted a bad boy who liked to tease and flirt and didn’t take anything seriously, but the first iterations came out a little cardboard and two-dimensional. The deeper I got into writing Nicco, the more I understood that his behavior was rooted in hurt and a sense of losing who he was over his time spent in Hollywood. I think it’s a universal theme to struggle with a sense of self, and exploring Nicco’s journey to finding who he is, against a background of so much pomp and masquerade as Hollywood, was a satisfying and important.

What can you tell us about the relationship between Nicco and Isabelle?
So I’m all about the love/hate tension, and I knew from the start that "Seduction" needed that element, though it took awhile to figure out exactly why. For Isabelle, Nicco is a stark reminder of her ex-husband, who publicly humiliated her with his affairs. Nicco is a playboy, though a lot of that is his defense mechanism to deal with his own hurt, at his ex-boyfriend’s unfaithfulness, which Isabelle doesn’t find out until later.

A lot of their relationship is about seeing past what’s on the surface—Isabelle and Nicco both wear masks to cover up what’s been done to them, and when they eventually crack through, they see the people below. Playing around with the elements of performance, both artistically with the acting for Nicco and the ballet for Isabelle, and erotically, with this shared exploration into voyeurism and exhibitionism, was a huge element of that dropping the mask theme.

You have an interesting background, having an education in both journalism and creative writing. How does this impact your writing style?
My background in journalism has proven invaluable to my creative writing. Journalism has its own elements of creativity, but for the most part it needs to be polished, logical and organized, which helps temper some of the creative wildness. One of biggest crossovers is the interviewing process. When it comes down to it, both journalism and creative writing are driven by character, people, human stories. I can take what I’ve learned from writing articles and interviewing people and apply it to these fictional characters, which I believe helps create realer and better-rounded characters.

Tell us about your creative process, from initial idea to published manuscript.
Well, it’s supposed to be straightforward, but it never is. I’m a plotter. I like outlines and character charts and research notes and storyboards. I think that’s an element of the journalism showing through there. But no matter how prepared I think I am, things can change at a moment’s notice.

"Seduction" is a great example of that. I published an erotic short two years ago, and began playing with the idea of giving the different couples their own stories, so I went in with the intention to make "Seduction" a short story. Well, the press with the short folded and I suddenly was no longer bound to the original story—around when I realized that my book was way bigger than I thought it would be. So I rewrote it. And rewrote it. And rewrote it. I ended up with four major revisions of this book. The character of Giancarlo, Nicco’s best friend, changed a dozen times. I gutted the whole thing down to the names. Seeing the final product is as much a labor of love and sheer stubbornness on my part, as it is creativity, patience and determination on the part of my editor, Rebecca, who stuck by my side and guided me through really rough waters. Some books come easier than others, but they all have their stories.

You’ve written a few books and have a new one on the horizon. Have you noticed you tend to gravitate toward certain themes?
I do! So I write under two pen names, because of the heat level, and I write several genres, including historical and erotic. But across the board, it’s really important for me to write unique, independent and powerful women, and men who support them as they are. We often hear of the “strong female character” and I think that can be very limiting, in the sense that women can be leaders and role models for a thousand different reasons, and strength of character can show itself in a myriad ways.

For instance, Isabelle is an introvert and her power comes from keeping herself together through everything that happened with her ex-husband, an internalized and quiet sense of power and self. I’ve also written heroine pirate captains who show a much more obvious sense of strength. In my upcoming release, "The Lovin’ Is Easy," my heroine, Madison, comes across as a tough city girl, but her real freedom and independence can be found when she admits to herself that maybe it’s that very thing that’s been holding her back.

Women come in all shapes and sizes. Juliette Marillier is a master of writing heroines both within and outside of traditional female roles, and how they succeed and ultimately save the day by playing to their individual strengths and passions. I strive to make my heroines as real as possible, with faults and foibles, because we don’t need ‘strong’ women’, we need ‘real’ women.

Along the same line, it’s really important to me that the books I write are sex-positive and accepting. "Seduction" is all about understanding a deep-rooted desire and coming to grips with it alongside your partner. "The Lovin’ Is Easy" is a ménage relationship, which Madison has to come to terms with in order to move forward. Erotic romance continues to struggle against stereotype and condescension, I’m sure you’ve heard the term mommy porn before, but really it’s just another way to undermine women’s sexual desires. Women like sex, lots of varied and unique types of it, and being part of a community that cultivates a safe and accepting environment for people of all ilk to explore what calls to them is a fundamental reason for my entering this genre.

What is the most difficult aspect of writing for you?
It tends to be editing. I like to work on several stories or series at a time, largely because I can spend awhile letting a plot just saturate, ‘meeting’ my characters, so to speak, so that when I start the book it’s easy writing. One thing I’ve come across lately, in both "The Lovin’ Is Easy" and a current work in progress, "Leather and Gold" is that they’ve actually been doubled in size. That’s a really unique challenge, and one with a lot of pitfalls where continuity and character development are concerned, but in the case of both of these books, the longer version was undoubtedly the better version, so it ended up being well worth it.

Otherwise, I’d say the marketing elements. We can’t write if we can’t sell, but marketing, especially social media, can end up taking an incredible amount of time and at the end of the day, we’re supposed to be writing.

Tell us a bit about what we can expect from you for your next project.
Yes! So "The Lovin’ Is Easy" comes out at the end of September and is available for pre-order on the major retailers and early download through Totally Bound. Unsurprisingly, that’s part of a four book series (I love writing series!) set at the Triple Diamond Ranch in Montana, and I just finished up the first draft of book two! "The Lovin’ Is Easy" is the story of city girl Madison Hollis, who inherits a ranch from an uncle she’s never met. When she goes out to inspect the place for sale, she meets the two ranch managers, Christian Harlow and Ryder Dean, and ends up on a whirlwind of desire, family history and personal journey.

I’m also working on "Leather and Gold," which is historical BDSM. One of my favorite elements of writing historical is the built in tension, stemming from propriety and the rules of society. Adding this heavily erotic element into that has been a unique and fun challenge.

Is there anything else you'd like potential readers to know about your book?
"Seduction en Pointe" is fun! I know it seems a little serious and erotic and dramatic, and there are parts that are, but I think we all have a Paris love affair fantasy, and this book plays to that. The city is a huge part of the book, and is there any better place in the world to fall in love than Paris?

Thank you so much for hosting me, and for reading! I hope you enjoy "Seduction en Pointe!"

Where to get "Seduction en Pointe"
Seduction en Pointe on Amazon

Connect with Gemma Snow on Social Media

Monday, September 4, 2017

Howard Kaplan, Author of The Damascus Cover

Espionage, Thriller, Suspense, Romance, Middle East, the damascus cover, howard kaplan, damascus cover film, syria spy novel, damascus novel
Today we are interviewing Howard Kaplan about his spy novel "The Damascus Cover" (The Jerusalem Spy Series Book 1), which will soon be a feature film released in theaters 2017, starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Sir John Hurt.

Tell us about yourself.
I was born in Los Angeles and attended Berkeley as an undergrad.  I spent my junior year abroad in Jerusalem and with a friend visited Lebanon, Syria and Egypt so I began to see both sides which has been a lifelong goal to grasp how both sides of this conflict felt.   I have one son, 24, an English major who graduated from Oberlin College who as of late wonderfully been teaching me some things about writing.

Describe the plot of your novel, “The Damascus Cover,” in a few sentences.
"The Damascus Cover" is a plot within a plot.  There’s a surface story about a rescue of children from Damascus.  Then there is an underlying story unknown to the protagonist as he races through Syria and everything starts to go wrong.  He slowly learns it is intended to go wrong and there’s a twist near the end of the story that actually didn’t come to me until I was a good deal into writing it.

Who do you think would most appreciate this book?
I seem to have two kinds of readers:  those who love thrillers and those interested in learning something about the Middle East as my novels come with a good deal of history snuck in between the action.

What inspired you to write an espionage novel?
When I was 21 and 22, I made two forays into the Soviet Union to smuggle out manuscripts on microfilm.  At the time anyone leaving the USSR could not take unpublished writings with them as they were considered “property of the state.”  I was arrested and interrogated for four days though I had no incriminating documents on me.  I met some people in the espionage business along the way so I began to write about what I’d learned and seen in fiction form.

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Kaplan as an extra on-set in Casablancas.

Much of the story is set in Damascus. What makes Damascus an ideal setting for the story?
Damascus is the oldest continuously inhabited city on the planet.  It’s actually an oasis, 50 miles from the Mediterranean, a desert oasis rung by a river with about every manner of fruit trees.  I spent some time in the city and did deep research to bring the city alive to the reader as it’s such an interesting place.

In “The Damascus Cover,” protagonist Ari Ben-Sion takes up a mission that he normally would turn down. What compelled him to accept the mission?
Ari is a man who has made a huge mistake that cost the life of a younger spy.  He’s plummeted from being at the top of his game and is desperate not to be put out to pasture, so he will accept about any mission.  He does not realize the head of the Israeli Secret Service uses Ari’s weakness to create a greater mission.

Tell us a bit about the relationship Ari and Kim.
They are strangers who meet, both with secrets, who unburden to each other but are mindful at the same time not to divulge too much.  Ari’s marriage has come apart and like with his mission he is trying to grab again at life.

“The Damascus Cover” is the first book in the Jerusalem Spy Series. What can readers expect from the rest of the books in the series?
The second book, "Bullets of Palestine," has already been published and the series will continue from there with those characters though the head of the Israeli Secret Service will continue through the series.

“The Damascus Cover” will soon be a major motion picture. What can you tell us about the upcoming movie?
The film adaptation stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Olivia Thirlby (Juno, Goliath) as Kim and Ari.  There is great chemistry between them.  I was on set in Morocco for some of the shoot.  The head of the Israeli Secret Service is played by Sir John Hurt, who recently passed after an illustrious career.  We are beyond lucky to have had him with us.

Thanks for speaking with us about your book and the upcoming motion picture adaptation!

An excerpt from the opening of "The Damascus Cover":
DOV ELON sat in the dirt in his cell leaning against the whitewashed wall. The cubicle, three feet by five feet, was windowless. The air stank of urine. A can, his washbasin, lay on its side in one corner. A thin blanket covered the mound of damp straw piled in the other.
Dov’s eyes rested on the food trap in the door. Not long before he’d heard the banshee cry of the muezzin beckoning the Muslim inmates to prayer. He assumed a bowl of jasmine tea would soon be pushed through the food trap, but he wasn’t sure. The previous day he’d been transferred from Tadmor Prison, near the ancient Greek ruins of Palmyra in the north, to Sigin al-Mazza, on the outskirts of Damascus.  He didn’t know if his new guards would feed him regularly or at random intervals. So he waited, listening for approaching footsteps, not moving—for every shift in position arched pain through his bruised body. After a while he closed his eyes. The minutes fell away. There were no sounds. The silence hummed in his ears.

Learn More about "The Damascus Cover"
Buy The Damascus Cover on Amazon
Find The Damascus Cover on Barnes and Noble 
Check out Howard Kaplan on Facebook
Get The Damascus Cover iBook on iTunes
Buy the Kobo version of The Damascus Cover

IMDB page for The Damascus Cover