Did you choose your genre or did it choose you?
The Romantic Suspense genre definitely chose me! When I was first starting out as a writer, I had a lot of ideas (still do!), too many to fit into one story. My TMIS (Too Many Ideas Syndrome) serves me well in romantic suspense, because the plots are complicated and full of mystery, danger, twists and turns. I used to think of TMIS as a curse but now I know it’s a blessing of the best kind.
Did you enjoy language arts in school? Did you have a teacher that particularly encouraged you to write?
I loved language arts as a kid, and I always found it to be one of the easiest subjects. Though I definitely write for my love of romance, I know I have a good grasp on grammar and punctuation, which is a definite plus when it comes to writing and editing.
In college, I had a creative writing professor who was…well…eccentric. Our class focused on play-writing and although I was not destined to write plays, I learned a lot about stepping out of my comfort zone. In class, we’d write a play, then, select peers from the group to read the various parts out loud. Many of my male classmates wrote content that was pretty graphic, and, as we had a relatively small class, I was often chosen to read their work aloud. Doing so helped me to get over the feeling of shyness relatively quickly. This eventually lead to me being able to read my sex scenes to a group of people, which makes writing them seem like a piece of cake by comparison!
It’s five o’clock somewhere…Let’s have a drink! What cocktail best describes you and why?
I’m not much of a drink connoisseur, but I do love a glass of white zympnidel every now and then. Like myself, wine is sweet and mellow, mysterious and enticing—though you’re not exactly sure why. Those who drink it always end up coming back for more ;)
On my desk I have a rhino that my husband gave me to remind me I’m rhino-tough, as you have to be in the business. Is there anything you have that you use to remind you of that?
Very nice! I don't have a rhino, but I do try to surround myself with positive images that help when the chips are down. My bedroom is decorated in Victorian, and I have several pieces of furniture, including a marble-topped Louis XV vanity, that makes me think of the rooms I envision in historic romances. I also collect Godey's Fashions, which are pictures of women wearing gowns they might have during the Regency and Victorian Eras. I've recently added in pictures of my own book covers for Dangerous Ally and Dangerous Proposal, which are there to remind me of the two biggest accomplishments I've made so far.
I also have a chart (a poster, actually) where I keep track of both my writing goals and accomplishments. If I don’t succeed at a particular goal, it’s nothing ventured, nothing gained. It’s simply something that will be checked off later, a goal I’m still working toward and will achieve when the time is right.
I have two muses, Arwen and Bronwyn, they have very distinct personalities. Can you share a bit about your muse?
I have several muses, but I drew a lot of the inspiration for the heroes in the Pinnacles of Power Series from the stars of the CW's Smallville, Tom Welling and Michael Rosenbaum. Aside from their incredible real-life personalities and amazing good looks, I was inspired strongly by their ability to play "bad-boys." Though Clark Kent (Tom Welling) is an all-around nice guy, he is given, on many opportunities, a chance to play an evil/bad version of his character. I was very inspired (and turned on!) by both his performance as well as Michael Rosenbaum's (who played Lex Luthor.) I wanted to write a series in which the heroes struggle between their lust for power and their calling to “do the right thing.” The inspiration I drew from these two actors (and characters!) helped me a lot with this task.
It seems we all endured English and/or World literature coming up in high school…What was the worst book you were ever forced to read and what about it turned you off?
The worst book I was ever asked to read was called "Shiloh." Honestly, I don't remember much about it, but I believe the dog, Shiloh, was being abused. I strongly dislike stories that contain abuse, especially when they're about animals. I'm all for torturing my characters (humans!) but there needs to be some humor mixed in, and I like a strong indication that the characters are going to be ok. The promise of "Happily Ever After" in romance novels definitely helps with that!
Do you have one of those pesky day jobs, or are you a full-time writer? If you do have another career what do you do and do you enjoy it?
One of those pesky day jobs…I like that! Yes, I do have one of those, and for the most part I really enjoy it. I do accounting and human resources for a small company in central NJ. Writing is definitely my first love, but it’s nice to have another focus to switch off to. Definitely helps with the “writer’s block” and helps me to clear my head. Also, I’ve made some great friends there.
Due to the world we live in, most editors will tell a romance writer they have the moral obligation to protect their characters from scary life altering things, thereby being obligated to the reader. What are your thoughts on this? Do you protect your characters and how?
I tend to put the breaks on my own writing, as in, not writing anything that I myself would find too gruesome or terrifying, were I the one picking up the story. But I also think it’s important to push myself out of my comfort zone and write about things I find uncomfortable. During a particular scene in my debut novel, Dangerous Ally, the villain, Raphael Ramone, confronts and terrifies the heroine, Lilah Benson. This was by no means a life-altering event, but it was definitely scary. I protect my characters by trying to treat readers the way I’d like to be treated, offering drama but not dishing out anything I couldn’t take reading myself.
Romance has come a long, long way since Fabio graced the covers regularly…it seems the hinges are off the proverbial door. How far is too far in your mind? Are there things you simply won’t write?
Romance has definitely come a long way, and that’s a really wonderful thing. But, I’m always going to be true to myself no matter what the latest trend is. Concerning heat level, my tendency is to write an average of 3 sex scenes per story, and have those scenes must complement and enhance the plot, not the other way around. That said, I don’t see myself branching into erotica any time soon. But hey, you never know!
I had an editor early on that showed me the way…have you had anyone in particular that gave you a gentle **ahem** nudge in the right direction? How did they do that and how did you react?
I had an editor who helped me a great deal. She was not my editor, but, one I had submitted to. She said, this would be a great piece if you “show” it versus “telling” it. I was disappointed she didn’t buy the piece but thrilled that the lightbulb within me had finally clicked. I went about “showing” Dangerous Ally full speed ahead—concentrating on in the moment dialogue, action and narrative. Shortly following, I had my first sale!
Wine or beer? Wine
Satin or cotton? Satin
Fries or tots? Fries
Cake or pie? Cake
Steak or burgers? Steak
Candle light or pitch dark? Candle Light
At two years old, Jessica became a devoted fan of both listening to and reciting the books her parents would read to her at night. When she was a little older (about four), she sought a greater challenge in her life, and began making up stories of her own, acting them out with her dolls. “When the dolls got “boyfriends,” she says, “I knew I was getting too old for dolls!”
As a romance novelist and a reader alike, Jessica is most intrigued by dark heroes, who have many demons to conquer…but little trouble enticing female companions into their beds! She feels that the best romances are those where the hero is already seducing the heroine from that first point of contact. “Isn’t it the hero’s job to seduce?” she says with a grin.
Jessica loves to see the sparks fly when a stubborn, domineering hero crosses paths with a bold, feisty heroine, and uses the combination frequently in her stories.
When she’s is not writing, Jessica enjoys listening to asmuch80’s music as possible, watching the same re-runs of Smallville over and over, shopping for exceptionally unique cameos, and taking long walks in nature where she can daydream about anything romantic. Though she resides in Central New Jersey, her heart belongs to the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire.
For ten agonizing years, Alec Westwood has been keeping a secret from the world. At nineteen, he nearly committed the most horrific of crimes—murder in cold blood—and narrowly escaped the assigned task with his life. When a stunning young woman crosses his path wearing the insignia for the underground organization that recruited him, he vows not to let fate get a second chance. But when the enchantress gives him a kiss that leaves him spellbound, Alec realizes the power she holds is greater than all his strength and fortitude combined…
On the run from her psychotic fiancé, Lena Benson vows to forge a new life, even if that means befriending a witch, and practicing the craft of the devil. But when her new friend Jack tells her to stay away from Alec Westwood, the man she believes her fiancé hired to track her down, and the handsome stranger she kissed in a tavern, Lena vows to take matters into her own hands. Alec may have the charm, but she’s calling the shots this time, even if that means resisting the man responsible for giving her the most intimate kiss of her life, a man who’s eyes and touch rob her, literally, of sense…
For five lonely years, diamond smuggling kingpin Lucas Ramone has hidden himself from the world. With a father who has baited him all his life, made a game of trying to trip him up at every turn, Lucas will do whatever is necessary to protect what is rightfully his. What he isn’t prepared for is Lilah Benson…
Upon accepting a job in the home of her sister’s maniacal ex-fiancé, reporter Lilah Benson believes she has finally found the perfect way to make her mark on the world. Exposing the criminal endeavors of Lucas Ramone won’t soon be forgotten. But as she comes to know the man who was supposed to be her adversary, Lilah is tempted by a passion far stronger than the desire to see her name in print…
Power and control are tools of survival, critical in a world of thievery and deception. Lilah, an innocent in a land of criminals, may be the one person capable of bringing Lucas to his knees. But Lucas will stop at nothing to keep his empire secure.
He will have it all: His Fortune, His Legacy, and Lilah Benson in his bed…
Excerpt for Dangerous Proposal:
She ought to go. She certainly wanted to. But the idea of walking alone in the woods with the man she’d been warned to stay away from seemed most unimaginable.
Lena looked at Alec. He was smiling softly, no longer criticizing. His eyes were full of intent. They suggested one thing. Come with me. And your desires will be fulfilled.
Anticipation consumed her. She reached for his hand. Excitement melted into warmth. Warmth became security. They began to walk together along the moonlit path.
She felt…safe. As if for the first time since she’d left Westchester, everything was going to be all right. No one could hurt her. Not when she was with Alec. Her skin tingled with warmth as he brushed his thumb across the surface of her hand.
“Where are we going?” she asked.
“I thought we were taking risks tonight,” he said with a grin. “You want to be surprised, don’t you?”
Her cheeks were flushing. She was grateful for the darkness that masked her anxious demeanor.
He smiled. “Don’t worry. I think you’re going to like this.”
She imagined she would, considering how much she had enjoyed everything he’d done so far. A part of her was still afraid, but a larger part wanted very much to know where he was taking her. Alec stroked her knuckles as they walked. The feeling was intoxicating, like sweet, dark chocolate. The longer he did it, the more it seemed this simple touch was no longer enough.
She was drawn from her thoughts as Alec stopped beside a bench. He took a red-and-blue-checkered picnic blanket and slung it over his shoulder.
“Is that yours?”
He shrugged. “I just thought you might want something to sit on. Some of us tend to”—he cleared his throat—“dress up a little more than others.”
Lena laughed. With his hand around hers, she was almost appreciating his wit. “I guess some of us do.”
He leaned in, his warm breath coming against her ear. “I didn’t say I didn’t like it.” He gave her hand a squeeze. “It’s just past those trees. No peeking. I want you to be surprised.
“I promise I won’t peek.” She smiled and shut her eyes. A shiver shot up her spine when she realized he was kissing her cheek.
Lena took an uneasy breath as she walked forward, unable to see what was in front of her. Keeping her arms at her sides, Alec moved her in slow steps. She was taking quite a risk, allowing him to lead her along like this. He could do anything he wanted to her with her eyes closed like this. Oddly enough, the idea was more exciting than it was frightening.
Guiding her by the shoulders, he walked forward a few more paces. Then he stopped. “All right,” he said. “Open your eyes.
Lena did as she was told, looking out at the biggest, most beautiful lake she’d ever seen. It was vast in size, extending out as far as the trees that surrounded it. Moonlight shined against an uneven surface. Dark ripples glittered beneath a starlit sky.
She turned, looking up into two eyes as blue as the water. “It’s beautiful, Dr. Westwood.”
“Say my name, Lena,” he commanded softly. “I love the way it sounds when you say it.
Lena bit her lip. Once she did this, there was no going back. It would break the unspoken barrier between them. But how could she deny him anything when he was looking at her the way he was?
She suddenly became aware of Alec’s arousal pressing against her back. Her pulse quickened. He tucked a lock of hair behind her ear, tightening his hold on her.
She took a deep breath. “The lake is beautiful, Alec.”
Excerpt for Dangerous Ally:
"I’m guessing you’ve probably been down this road too many times, hmm?" Lucas replaced his hand on her shoulder.
"What road would that be, exactly?"
His gray eyes looked deeply into hers. "I’m sure I’m not the first man who’s tried to get you into a relaxed state, Lilah."
"Actually—" She hesitated, not wanting to get so personal yet feeling she could probably tell him anything and he’d somehow understand. "It’s been a long time, longer than you’d imagine. After I finished college, I had every intention of becoming a journalist. Meaning I’d be out most of the time chasing a story despite whatever danger came with it. It’s all I’ve ever wanted, for as long as I can remember."
He nodded, coming closer. "You must have been very persistent. It takes a good deal of perseverance and sacrifice to become a success at such a young age."
Lilah sure knew that. While her friends had been enjoying their last semester of college, she’d been frantically gathering writing samples, sending them out to every newspaper who would give her the time of day. But had her father noticed? Even when she became one of the youngest reporters at the New York Times, he’d barely raised a brow.
Deep down, she knew this was why she’d accepted Raphael’s offer, even in spite of the danger that came with it. A story about Raphael Ramone’s family laundry wasn’t going to impress Blake Benson. But exposing Lucas’s diamond smuggling operation would be a print-worthy unearthing that would win her father’s admiration as well as her first Pulitzer.
She lowered her gaze. "I haven’t given up anything so wonderful."
Lucas lifted her chin. "But if it came to that, do you think you’d be willing to make that sacrifice? Give up something you want—maybe something you want more than anything—to attain some ultimate level of self-victory?"
A chill came over her at his words. Lilah came back a step, unsure of what had just happened but wanting desperately to pretend it hadn’t.
Lucas cleared his throat. "Let’s get some air, shall we?"
Something she needed desperately. She followed him to the balcony, welcoming the cool night breeze as it caressed her hot skin.
"It’s beautiful here," she said, hoping very much to steer the conversation in a new direction.
"It is." He nodded and came beside her, bracing the rail with one hand. He slipped an arm around her back.
His body was warm—like a furnace—and he felt strong, as if he spent his days loading lumber instead of dabbling away at a computer.
Lilah shivered, goose bumps forming along her bare arms. It felt so nice being close to Lucas. Too nice. Maybe she’d just stay there with him a few minutes longer. They weren’t exactly hurting anyone by being in each other’s company.
He leaned into her, speaking in a tone she could only describe as husky. "Those men you never met," he said, "that was their loss."
She blinked, keeping her eyes on the night sky. "Please. Aman’s the last thing I need in my life."
"Are you sure about that?" Lucas asked, his warm breath coming against her ear. "Or is it possible you’ve been hiding behind your work for so long, you don’t even know how things could be?" His palm brushed her bare shoulder as he turned her to face him. "No one knows what it’s like to be hidden from the world more than I do, Lilah. You can trust me on this. I think we’re more alike than you realize. And it’s possible we’re both missing out on something incredible."
She didn’t push his hand away as it cupped her cheek. Or his arm as it encompassed her waist. No, she let him do what he wanted. She wanted him to touch her...
Siren BookStrand: http://www.bookstrand.com/dangerous-proposa l
Buy the e-book:
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dangerous-ally-jessica-lauryn/1103392690?ean=9781610342810&itm=2&usri=dangerous%2bally
Buy the Paperback: