"I am ready to meet my maker. Whether my maker is prepared to meet me is another matter."
-Winston Churchill

Thursday, January 12, 2012

GFP Tour Stop with Tori St. Claire - Stripped

Welcome to Immortality and Beyond. May I offer you a beverage? 

Yes, I think I’ll try some of that mystic brew. It sounds fascinating. Don’t suppose I could get you to tell me what’s in it, hm?

LOL Sorry. The witch's secret is safe with me :)

Now that we're all settled in my lair, I'm de-bite-fully glad you stopped in.

BK: Please tell us a little bit about your current release...

STRIPPED is an erotic romantic suspense, that is darker and edgier than many of its genre counterparts. There’s a true element of, “should I root for this heroine or not?” in the story. My heroine is part of an elite group of CIA agents, who are, in a nutshell, hired killers. There’s really no way to glorify that. There job is their job is their job. What they do is in the interest of national security. But they are morally ambiguous characters who are, at the core of everything… human. They possess heart. A lot of it. And amidst a world of danger, deceit, and constant suspicion, they won’t hesitate to embrace pleasure at every fleeting opportunity.

Body of secrets…

As a member of the CIA’s elite, Black Opals, Natalya Trubachev must live a lie, working undercover as the lover of Dmitri, a Russian mob boss. His business is trafficking vulnerable Las Vegas strippers overseas for twisted sex games. Natalya’s business is to blow the ring wide open and bring down Dmitri and his American contacts. But the stakes are raised when she learns that the next target is her own sister Kate, a dancer in the famed club Fantasia. Only now does Natalya realize how personal her mission has become, and how far she’s willing to go to complete it.

Body of lies…

The manager of Fantasia is Brandon Moretti, an undercover detective who keeps a close eye on his girls, and an even closer one on his sinfully sensual hire. For Natalya, working the club could be the break she’s been waiting for. But for Moretti, Natalya is a possible link to a killer. Only he never counted on her being so lethally seductive or so dangerous to get close to. As every forbidden pleasure between them is stripped away, his own secrets threaten their security, but it’s Natalya’s that could destroy them both.

BK: What inspired this particular novel/book?

(Chuckling) Raw imagination in all honesty. The Ke$ha song, Take it Off, gave me a visual that triggered the core idea. But that particular scene never became a part of the story and never really influenced the plot. The rest of it was a combination of things. I have a fascination with everything Russian, so that explains the Russian influences. From that point forward, the plot demanded the rest of the intricacies: Where can I set elite crimes? Vegas. What country would be most likely to appreciate kidnapped American women? Dubai. Why would Brandon resist Natalya? Because she represents everything he’s spent his life hating.

Most of my books are a product of what my imagination has done with something I’m fascinated with. I can think of only one I’ve written that was inspired by something real or tangible. And like STRIPPED, most of the ideas start with a flash of a scene, a sound-byte of a phrase, etc, that leads to something significantly different than what I saw/heard. But the initial thought triggers, and I play with it until a storyline develops.

BK: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I didn’t ever realize I wanted to be a writer. I always wrote. One day, after a dare, I was an author. Laugh! Seriously… the earliest I remember writing was around 6-7 when I wrote a poem for my deceased grandmother. As a pre-teen my friends and I used to pass a notebook around writing off each others writings about rockstars. (I had a band! And one day I shall reincarnate Vette, the drop-dead sexy bassist who secretly wore gold, wire-rimmed glasses.)

I wrote my first “true” romance novel at 17, in my English class, while the class was watching Watership Down for two weeks. I recently read it, and while it’s nowhere near publication-worthy, it’s not half-bad.
I wrote on and off; worked for a fantasy gaming company and developed story-arcs; finished a couple Native American and Medieval romances; started a bunch of stories that slipped away when I had my children.

In 2008 I sat down to write after not doing so for a few years. I wrote a scene, which I then made fit a previous plot idea. I think that’s when I decided I wanted to be published. I wrote two others and was dared to try erotica. The product wasn’t erotic, but it was my first published book.

BK: How do you keep your writing different from all the others that write in this particular genre?

I can honestly say that mine is quite a bit darker than the ones I have read. In particular, my characters, if not the overall plot. You won’t meet an Opal who has a nice background, or is likely someone you’d want your children to grow up and become. Also, I. Love. To. Plot. You should see the spreadsheets I have for any particular book, let alone series. I love to plot, and subplot, and sub-sub-plot ;) I also deeply adore red herrings.

All of which you’ll find in my Black Opal books.

BK: What was the hardest thing about writing this story?

Mm. I spent days figuring out the end, and how Natalya was going to… pull of what she did… I knew I wanted one particular thing to occur, that is on the “news” in the story – for those of you who’ve read the book – but how that whole thing was going to happen eluded me. It finally came together when I stopped thinking and was staring blankly at the television watching, I think, America’s Got Talent results.

BK: What character was your favorite to write for in this story? Why?

Hands down Natalya. I really, really like her internal struggle.

BK: Which was your favorite scene to write?

Oh wow. That’s a toss up between the office scene where Natalya has her mind on achieving what she wants, and Sergei’s scene in the bedroom. I can’t give details :P

BK: Will this become a series? If so, what inspired it to be a series?

It’s absolutely a series. The second book releases in 2012. And it’s always intended to be a series in one fashion or the other. I don’t plan any book without a way to create a second or third. In this case, the Black Opals came into being during my first edit pass, on the fly. But a follow up to STRIPPED was always in the works.

BK: Now for a little fun, and into your everyday life, What is a day in your life like?

Laugh! There’s nothing eventful in my daily life. I get my eldest demi-demon off to school, I put in a couple hours work doing web maintenance, I pick up my child, we feed our menagerie of horses, dogs, cats, pigeon, and mouse (saved from the mouse-addicted cat), we eat, they play, they get in trouble. When they are done trying to destroy my house in every way possible and become sweet little angels because they are sleepy, they go to bed and I get my time to write until the wee hours of morning. Then we get up and do it all over again.

BK: What do you like to do when you're not writing?

Really, I’m so busy with the children and the animals, that writing is my hobby time as well as my career time. We do have game night on Friday nights. Right now the demi-demons are into dominos. We watch movies. We read. I like to socialize with my writerly-friends when I can. Right now though, it’s a pretty quaint, pretty home-body life, and I thrive on the time to myself when I can tick off plots.

BK: What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to learn about you?

Hm. That’s a hard question. I’m pretty modest actually. And I’m fairly shy when I first meet people.

BK: What do you like to read? Who is your favorite author?

Obviously I read a lot of romance. I won’t name favorites because there’s just too many and I know many of them. I’d hate to pick a name out of a hat and inadvertently offend. So aside from romance I’m a big action and speculative fiction reader. Steve Berry is my all-time favorite author, hands down.

BK: Please tell us one piece of advice you were given as an author that you carry with you when you write?

There is no one piece of advice I carry with me when I write. I have been very blessed to learn from some really wonderful authors who have all imparted what’s become a collective of information that contributes to everything I do. I can’t name anything specific.

BK: What is one piece of advice you can give to aspiring writers/authors?

Move beyond the rejections, and put faith in the phrase, “This is just one opinion.” Truly, I never realized just how speculative writing is until I had an offer from my agent. As courtesy to those other agents who had my book in consideration, I notified them I had an offer. Every one of them declined my manuscript – not that I was still shopping -- and not one had remotely the same reason. The book sold a week and a half after partnering with my agent. So don’t get bogged down with the idea that a rejection is a rejection of your talent/work. It is just a decline to work on that specific project.

Further, if you really think about it, it isn’t an every day occurrence that a book goes to auction, or bidding wars begin on shopped manuscripts. Which loosely translates to the fact that the vast majority of books are shopped to multiple publishing houses, but only one editor ends up loving it enough to take it on. Many of those books go on to become best sellers or at least popular sellers. Really, it is all about subjectivity. Believe that.

BK: What are you currently working on?

Right now I’m promoting two books! Laugh. Ah, aside from that I’m in edits for the second Black Opal book, and the second book as Claire Ashgrove, Immortal Surrender. I’ll begin work on a new project, and finish out my Inherited Damnation series the first part of this year as well.

BK: Where can readers connect with you?

(Both websites have links to individual blogs)
TWITTER: @ClaireAshgrove

About Tori St. Claire:

Tori St. Claire grew up writing. Hobby quickly turned into passion, and when she discovered the world of romance as a teen, poems and short stories gave way to full length novels with sexy heroes and heroines waiting to be swept off their feet. She wrote her first romance novel at seventeen.

While that manuscript gathered dust-bunnies beneath the bed, she went on to establish herself as a contemporary, historical, and paranormal author under the pen name, Claire Ashgrove. Her writing, however, skirted a fine line between hot and steamy, and motivated by authors she admired, she pushed her boundaries and made the leap into erotica, using the darker side of human nature and on-the-edge suspense to drive grittier, sexier, stories.
Her erotic romantic suspense novels are searingly sensual experiences that unite passion with true emotion, and the all-consuming tie that binds -- love.


“No.” Sitting forward, Brandon folded his hands on the stack of papers atop his desk. “You worked with Kate. That was when? Ten years ago? Have you danced since then?”
“Fifteen, and no. But I’m quite capable.” Only because Dmitri made her dance for him. She supposed she could consider that a benefit. If he hadn’t insisted on private pole dances, her body would have forgotten how.
The reproachful arch of a dark eyebrow hinted at doubt. “What makes you certain you can compete with the girls who’ve been doing this for years?” His gaze dropped to her breasts, then slid slowly back up to lock with hers. “Beyond the obvious.”
Natalya’s body flushed with heat. She crossed the opposite leg over her opposite knee, unsettled by the blatant appreciation in those tawny eyes. How many times had Dmitri looked at her with the same suggestion in his gaze?
How long had it been since she’d liked being stripped bare with a mere glance?
The sudden tingling of her skin disturbed her. Moretti could very well be one of Dmitri’s faithful—he had more than one cop on the take. While Dmitri understood her job required a bit of . . . feminine finesse . . . he’d only grant her so much leeway. If she gave him a reason to suspect her allegiance, he’d slice her throat before she could see the knife glint. And the way her body was warming beneath Brandon’s heated stare spelled trouble.
Determined to ignore his blatantly sexual gaze, she focused on the small white scar across Moretti’s chin and dredged up every reason she could think of to convince him into giving her the job. “I danced well. Was the crowd favorite for a while. I held the job all through college, and two years in, the girls were coming to me for dance suggestions, costuming, on-the-spot fixes for breakdowns. Advice on how to handle the more exuberant customers.” She took a breath and began counting items off her fingers. “I hired. I fired. I kept the drugs out of the dressing rooms. I trained the girls on the pole—Kate said you needed someone strong with the pole. My core body strength—”
“You’re hired.”
Natalya snapped her mouth shut. Slowly, she blinked. “What?”
“You’re hired.” Moretti stood, stretching out his muscular thighs that even his loose denim jeans couldn’t disguise. He shoved his left hand into his hip pocket. Against her will, Natalya’s gaze dropped to his crotch. Her breath caught at the tightening of his fly, the hard ridge that evidenced arousal.
When she yanked her gaze back to Brandon’s, his eyes flashed dark gold, telling her he knew exactly where she’d been looking. His voice, however, belied his awareness. “We open in three hours. I’ll need you here early to help get the girls settled in.”
“The girls?”
He fished a set of keys out of the top right desk drawer and held his fist over her hand. “These are to the dressing rooms. I have a copy, you have a copy. No one else. Kate’s our star. She goes on at ten, and every two hours after. Jill follows. Beyond that, you’ll have to talk to the girls.”
Natalya moved her hand beneath his, palm up, waiting for the keys. “And me?”
“I need a housemom more than I need a dancer.” His fingers brushed the base of her wrist.
Ignoring the chill that raced to her shoulder, she blinked again. “A housemom?” He had to be kidding! She needed to be onstage. Scoping out the crowd. Looking for Discovery, as he was bound to be looking for potential targets.
Brandon lifted his hand a fraction. “A housemom.”
Or the job wasn’t hers. The hard line of his chiseled jaw voiced what he didn’t say.
Hell, not if she had anything to say about it. She was here to crack a case, and she couldn’t do that locked away in the back of the house.

Thank you for taking time to chat with me today Tori. Love the sound of the book, is now on my TBR. Can't wait to read it. You can view Tori's tour schedule HERE. You can also enter for a chance at a $25 Amazon Gift Card by following and commenting along the tour, and at the end one lucky winner will be randomly drawn from her entire tour. 

Goddess Fish Partner


Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thank you for hosting Tori today.

Nightly Cafe said...

You're welcome. I had fun interviewing her. Can't wait to read the book. Thanks for chatting Tori!


Karen H said...

Reading your post today, I began to think about how incredibly difficult it must be to switch hats from Tori to Claire. Since each name writes in totally different genres, do you ever find the two personas blending together and/or mudding the waters? As Claire has written in more than one genre, do you ever see Tori branching out into any other genre?

booklover0226 said...

Both the interview and excerpt were fabulous reads. Stripped is on my must have list.

Tracey D
booklover0226 at gmail dot com

Tori St. Claire said...

Afternoon everyone! It's a snowy miserable day here -- nice to warm up with that...ah... frightening drink. :)

Thanks for hosting me, definitely!

Karen, it's not too terribly difficult. I don't try to keep the two names totally separate -- ie in promotions and the like. The split was mainly to establish clear boundaries on what the reader would be picking up.

Content wise, if I'm going from a mainstream romance to an erotic romance, that's pretty easy to do. It's when I've come off writing an erotic romance and going to a mainstream I have to reel myself in.

I do have a proposal out, and am undecided which pen name to tie it with at present. So it's completely conceivable "Tori" might do more than one.

June M. said...

I have had Stripped on my must have list since first seeing it. I can't wait to get a copy of it and read. Congrats on both books and the blog tours.
manning_j2004 at yahoo dot com

Cathy M said...

Another great interview, Tori, and I am really enjoying all the sneak peeks.

caity_mack at yahoo dot com

MomJane said...

I love the way you write, and I can hardly wait to read the entire book.

Tori St. Claire said...

Thank you, June, Cathy and MomJane! I hope you enjoy the full version as much.

Mary Preston said...

I'm looking forward to the full version as well. I Know I will enjoy it.


Christy said...

I am enjoying your blog tour. I want this book. The more I read the more I like. christina_92 at yahoo.com