For our first year celebration, we invited the amazingly talented Carolyn Crane here to answer some questions about her new series releasing in October. Following the interview you can read an excerpt from Mr. Real and enter our giveaway.
Good luck and thanks for stopping by!
Mr. Real (Code of Shadows, Book 1) | October 30, 2012 The girl of his dreams…with the secret agent of his nightmares
Alix Gordon is a girl who doesn’t take life too seriously. What’s the fun in that? So when she stumbles across occult software that can bring any computer image to life, she conjures up lots of awesome outfits and accessories. And then, on one drunken, horny night, she conjures up Sir Kendall, the sexy TV ad spy . . . who looks exactly like Paul Reinhardt, the super-sexy martial arts teacher who kicked her out of class a few years ago.
Fighter Paul Reinhardt has good reason to hate Sir Kendall, the character he brought to life to land a part in a TV ad; he’d do anything to forget him. A cross country road trip seems just the thing . . . until Paul finds himself inexplicably drawn to Minnesota and is shocked to discover Sir Kendall – in the flesh – with the girl he’d once loved from afar. He barges into Alix and Sir Kendall’s love nest, determined to stop the madness – somehow.
But is superspy Sir Kendall transforming into something more dangerous anyone can imagine? And what will Sir Kendall do when Paul and Alix finally give into their mad lust for each other?
Carolyn: Hey thanks so much for having me here! And happy first year. Okay, ahem. You have questions…
Cat: The synopsis for Mr. Real sounds very unique and sexy. We're dying to get our hands on it! What inspired you to create this story?
Carolyn: I think a lot of us who are heavy into reading can regard characters as people, even if it’s just for fun. (Okay, maybe not you, but I do it.) You know, having book boyfriends, or, just characters we consider ‘ours.’ (Hands off Roarke! Hands off Vishous!) And I got to thinking, what if some character was really brought to life?
Bringing favorite characters from books or TV to life is just a fun thing to think about, at least for me. (Ahem, but not in a dirty way!) And then I got to wondering, what if a heroine stumbled on that power? So I got this idea for her to bring a spy from a TV ad to life. A James Bond type. But then I thought, wait, somebody played that spy. Who is the guy who played that spy? And if the magic called that spy, would it also call the actor who played that spy?
Like so many books, just a lot of fun ‘what ifs.’ Because I spend so much of my life on these books, an idea needs to seem like it will be entertaining to think about and write about for long stretches of time.
Cat: You describe Code of Shadows as a "paranormal romantic suspense spy series with a dash of SFF". Why the decision to create a cross-genre series?
Carolyn: I actually didn’t set out to go cross-genre, but that’s what this series had to be. It’s paranormal romance because there’s a different hero and heroine in each book. But, romantic suspense because, besides a bit of magic, everybody is more or less human, though some people are very dangerous. And the magic itself has an SFF quality, etc.
Going cross-genre can be a little risky, which is why writers and publishers tend to stay away from it. But sometimes you just have to follow your gut. Oh well. Rules are made to be broken, right?
Cat: How would you describe the protagonist, Alix?
Carolyn: Alix is a witty, free-spirited young woman—she’s that friend who’s always getting herself into jams, but you can’t be mad at her, because her intentions are always so damn good. And she has a huge heart; she’s super loyal—she’ll do anything for her friends.
Cat: If you stumbled across software that could bring computer images to life, what would be the first item on your list of things to make real?
Carolyn: This is going to sound boring but this second it would be a box of chocolate Sees suckers. I love those things! But I was eating them so much, I had to stop keeping them around. And right now I’m craving one. They are great for writing. After that, a fabulous new mattress for our bed. I was just in New Orleans at a convention, and I couldn’t believe how heavenly the bed mattresses were!
Okay, now that I’ve answered, what would you make real?
Cat: Oh, that's easy! One of the tairen from C.L.Wilson's Tairen Soul series. They're basically giant fire-breathing cats with wings. It would be a fantastic way to travel and all of my enemies would flee with terror! Okay...so I don't actually have any real enemies. And it would stay that way if I had a tairen!
How many books do you have planned for this series and will the main characters change with each story?
Carolyn: Yes, the main characters will change, with a different hero and heroine with their own romantic storyline in each book. Basically, the computer virus that brings images to life ends up getting passed from one computer to another. It’s not always people being brought to life – sometimes it’s things. I have three books fully plotted out, and an idea for a fourth, but it could go beyond.
Cat: How would you describe your experience with self-publishing so far? More stressful? More enjoyable?
Carolyn: That’s a good question. I’ve only ever self-pubbed novellas, so this will be my first full-length novel experience. Self pubbing has different stresses. In traditional publishing, other people are in control of your fate in a lot of ways and you have little power—especially with New York publishing. They control your cover, your editing, when the book is released, just everything. Self pubbing you have total control. So, it’s great in a way, but also tons of responsibility. You can mess things up. Having no control is stressful, but having total control is stressful in a different way. I do like it, though. I like both. It think different forms of publishing are right for different projects.
Cat: Can you recommend a book you've read this year that you think everyone should have on their must-read list?
Carolyn: Oooh, that is always so very hard!! I just loved Lothaire by Kresley Cole. I was blown away by how the power balances shifted around in that book, and how my feelings about Lothaire shifted around. (I have such a weakness for the villains.) Also, the sex was not only hot, but incredibly compelling and plot-thickening. I also greatly enjoyed Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas. That was a book that was so rich with of longing and love, and history. I ate it up!
Cat: Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions, Carolyn! I've been a huge fan since I first read Mind Games two years ago and you're still one of my all-time favorite authors. Looking forward to meeting Alix, Paul, and Sir Kendall.
Set-up: This is a pre-edit excerpt from in Mr. Real, hot off the presses! As it opens, our heroine, Alix has drunk a few beers. It’s a day after she’s figured out her computer has a virus that lets her bring images to life. And Hardass Paul is a super-hot martial arts teacher from another city who kicked her out of his class years ago.Alix sipped her beer, watching her favorite Denali man clip for what was possibly the hundredth time.She’d found it two years ago by total accident. She’s been on an obscure Internet forum for cocktail waitresses—the topic was disgusting liqueurs—and somebody had put up a link to a little-known Australian commercial for a peachy liqueur. She had almost fallen out of her chair when she recognized Hardass Paul in the clip. There he was, playing the part of Sir Kendall Nicholas the third, secret agent spokesman for Denali liqueur. Did he think nobody would see it because it was on Australian TV?She’d emailed the link to her friend Karen. How the mighty have fallen! she’d crowed. Hardass Paul, playing a James Bond knockoff for a gross liqueur.But secretly Alix loved the commercials. It was like snatching a forbidden little piece of Paul for herself. Paul had rejected her, kicked her out, but Sir Kendall would have her. Sir Kendall was wild and fun, and he romanced every barmaid he met. Sir Kendall was her people.Yet so much more.Sir Kendall was the ultimate dark stranger in a tuxedo. A magnificent male spy whose blue eyes twinkled with secrets as he lingered in dark doorways, always just back from some exotic place. Sir Kendall exuded a predatory charm. His sense of entitlement was arrogant, and slightly humorous—you would give him precisely what he wanted, and you would give it gladly.And that’s when it hit her: a sexy visit from Sir Kendall was totally within her reach.Thanks to the magic.Okay, she was drunk. She needed to think. Because, what would happen to him over the long haul? She couldn’t keep Sir Kendall forever. Or could she?But…he wouldn’t be there forever because he wasn’t real—he was a TV character and he always dissolved.At the very end of each commercial, he’d drink Denali, walk out of the bar, and dissolved. And the bottle of Denali would show on the screen with the tag line: ‘Denali. Always just the thing.’She laughed to think what Karen would say, but even Karen would have to admit it was brilliant—the world would be safe because Sir Kendall was temporary. Like a fruit fly. Except way better. He would come out of nothing, love her, drink Denali, and dissolve into the night.Unless he didn’t dissolve. But surely he would.Anyway, she didn’t care what Karen thought. And Hardass Paul would probably hate her more than ever—if he found out. But how would he?Ten minutes later she was settled in with her last beer, scanning through the Denali ad yet again. She pressed pause, then went frame by frame.Was she really doing this?Hell yeah!She took a screenshot of the perfect Sir Kendall pose—him leaning in a doorway. He’d slid his hand up high on the door frame, up above his head. His dark jacket hung open, blue shirt unbuttoned partway, but not so much as to be cheesy.She cropped the image, placed it in the special place and her desktop, and clicked it a dozen times.There. She’d done it. She’d ordered Sir Kendall.Her heart tha-lumped nervously.The clock said 7:46 pm. Would he show up tomorrow, Friday, at 7:46 pm?Of course! Why would he not? That’s how the magic worked.She sat back and eyed Sir Kendall, staring out at her from the dark world of the computer screen.His pose was menacing, but he was vulnerable, too—his neck, belly, even his crotch were open to attack or ravishment. He was like a powerful mammal demonstrating confidence by leaving himself unprotected—a show of dominance wrapped in a show of submission, a pose that said, go ahead.If you dare.Oh, God, what had she done? He was a man. A spy! With shaking hands, she closed the image, dragged it into the trash, and emptied it. Never mind!—that was her message to world of the occult. Cancel the order! Don’t send Sir Kendall!But she knew it was too late.She’d ordered Sir Kendall.
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