Damn! Is it July already? I was not prepared for that.
Ah well, in the meantime, I’ve been writing and reading like crazy. I managed to finagle fellow New England Chapter Romance Writers of America member, Kristen Strassel, to swing by the blog. She’s recently released this wicked sexy vamp book (THE FIRE DANCER), the first book in the CIRQUE MACABRE series. I was instantly drawn in to the first page, and now she’s by the blog. So, yay!
As noted above, Kristen is a member of NECRWA and writes paranormal and contemporary romance. More than that, she’s also a make-up artist with some fantastic hair. A girl after my own heart, Kristen’s a bit of a music junky. And if you’ve ever checked out her bio, you’d now she has a sparkling smile J I know, staulkery, right? But seriously folks, she writes what she knows and loves… and who can’t envy that kind of passion?
Onto the review…
I OPENLY INVITED MS. STRASSEL IN TODAY AND OFFERED MY REVIEW:
We all know I can’t NOT stop and enjoy cover art. Check this one out! It is sexy, evocative, and captures the tone of the book completely!
THE FIRE DANCER introduces us to Holly Octane, a Vegas showgirl. She’s not just any burlesque show in town. She’s damn unique and the only dancer to set herself on fire… and survive! Holly’s immortal with the ability to summon fire at will and time hop. Seriously cool, right? Along with her fortune-telling girlfriend, Rainey, she’s settled in to a not so conventional life. When the (in)famous Cash Logan, a magician/vampire, introduces her to Blade Bennett, things heat up. (I know, I’m working the hell out of these corny puns… just roll with it) See, Blade’s not the normal vamp, either. He’s dark, sexy, and also able to manifest fire. Together, Holly and Blade make a scorching combination! But there’s more to life in Vegas than sex, blood, and gnarly guitar riffs. The world of the vampires is way more complex than Holly was prepared for.
What I enjoyed most about this story (aside from the fact that it speaks to the alterna-chick in me) is that Strassel approaches contemporary romance with an open-mind. The sexuality portrayed within the story blurs conventional lines tastefully. The other piece I enjoyed about this book was the vampire world. Strassel addresses vampires like we do in modern-day culture—from a subculture perspective. She makes it all too easy to believe vampires really do exist in the gritty clubs and casinos, and we’re just too caught up in the vamp hype nowadays to notice just how lethal they can be.
Overall, if you like the alterna-scene, you’ll love Strassel’s work. Better yet, she’s equipped with an arsenal of books to feed that hunger once you’ve had a taste.
So, now to get to know Kristen…
- This was some hot stuff (dorkish pun intended) and crosses some conventional boundaries. Please tell us a little bit about what sparked your inspiration for this series, and what do you have envisioned for it?
Holly Octane was inspired by Alice Cooper. I went to see him play with Marilyn Manson a few years ago, and his guitarist was this bad ass, beautiful blonde woman who absolutely shredded. We were in the back of the arena, and when he introduced her I thought he said her name was Holly Octane with the distortion. I couldn’t stop thinking about Holly Octane the whole ride home. I decided if that wasn’t her name, I was creating a character with that name. Thankfully, the guitarist was Orianthi, and Holly Octane was all mine.
(JC: Well… I can see where you misheard that… umm… yeah. LOL)
The Fire Dancer is a spin-off of my Night Songs Collection, which is still Vegas Vampires. That began as a bedtime story to myself. I was stressed out at work and couldn’t stop thinking about all the crap I couldn’t touch until the morning enough to fall asleep. I began telling myself stories as a way to slow my mind down, and I used those stories as the inspiration for my first book, Because the Night.
(JC: Oh, I do this too! I’m about to go tell myself a story J)
- What other projects do you have lined up?
Oh man. This is going to be a busy fall! I’m waiting for edits back on an adult contemporary romance, about a woman who brings a male escort to her twentieth high school reunion. I’m also working on a new series of shape shifter romances. The voices in my head are loud and demanding, but this time I’m actually trying to write a whole series before I move on to the next project. I’ll also be starting the sequel to The Fire Dancer soon.
- If you could have dinner with any of your characters, who would they be? (you may pick more than one)
Can I invite them all? I really can’t pick a favorite. They’re all pieces of me at the time that I wrote the book. If I had to narrow it down, I’d definitely try to make it interesting. Aidan and Cash, since they’re my oldest vampires, and maybe invite Daisy and Bree from The Spotlight series since they’re the polar opposite of my male guests.
(JC: Yeah, I’d go out for a bite with Cash)
- Is there a book that has made a lasting impact or an influence on you?
There’s so many. Anne Rice and Stephen King were huge influences. Even though it’s a trendy answer right now, Jamie Fraser from Outlander is THE romance hero of all time. My favorite book ever is an obscure western historical romance called Dirt Rich by Clark Howard. Total rags to riches story in the Texas oil boom about a man and woman who eloped after the war and how the try to survive a loveless marriage. I’ve read it so many times.
- If you could live in any other time, when might that be?
The 1960s. I would’ve wanted to be a hippie chick driving around the country, selling crafts to survive. And I’d want to be a part of rock n’ roll in its infancy, watch the musicians as they changed the course of pop culture.
(JC: Very Nice!)
- What’s currently playing on your iPod/CD player/music app?
30 Seconds to Mars Love, Lust, Faith and Dreams is in my CD player, but the song I’m absolutely obsessed with right now is Blake Shelton’s Sangria, and the last two concerts I went to were Barry Manilow and Awolnation. You might say I have eclectic taste in music.
(JC: As it should be J)
And just for fun…
- Live without your phone? OR Live without your computer, iPod, and clean clothes?
The phone. I can do everything through the computer. And I need clean clothes!
- Be a vampire? OR Be a werewolf?
Vampire. Who doesn’t want to live forever?
(JC: I heard that!)
- Receive $5 a day for the rest of your life? OR Receive $50,000 right here, right now?
I think I’d take the payout. I struggled with this one. If I took the 50K, I could invest it and make it more than it is. If you gave me $5 every day, I’d go buy coffee and whine that I had no money.
So, let’s take a few minutes to get to know Vegas Sensation, Holly Octane:
- So, tells us about your absolute best show and worst show ever?
My absolute best show was the first time that the crowd started chanting my name. It was perfect, because some of the dancers had been giving me a hard time. Rainey, my girlfriend, can see the future, and she insisted things were going to start happening for me. I figured she was just trying to cheer me up. But when they started chanting, I’d never felt so much love.
The worst show was the night of the accident. I’m not ready to talk about it yet.
- What do you think you would have doing tonight if you were any ordinary twenty-four year old?
Wow. I always wanted to be normal, but now that I’m trying to describe it, it seems dreadful! I’d be in Santa Fe, that’s where I grew up, and I’d probably work in one of the little shops near the square. If I was still as fascinated with History without being to go back to those times, maybe I would’ve studied it in college.
- What was the smelliest time you’ve ever been to?
The Middle Ages! Especially after the plagues when people couldn’t bury the bodies fast enough. Besides they never took paths and dumped their chamber pots out their windows.
- Aside from the obvious, how have recent events moulded your vision of vampires?
Lucille had always told us vampires were evil, but I didn’t know what that meant. It was an abstract concept. Now it is something I can define: they’re complicated and cunning, and it drives Rainey crazy that I think they can still be reasoned with. Once they had a beating heart. That has to mean something.
Now, let’s see if we can’t corner Blade Bennett for a quick second:
- What do you think life would be like as an ordinary vampire?
Obnoxious! That was the whole reason I never wanted to be a vampire. They might seem all bad ass with their Bloodlust and their bands, but they’re drones. They don’t think for themselves, they just do what they’re told. I could never do it.
- (this is for the ladies) What kinda gal gets you all hot and bothered. You know, aside from the obvious?
No vultures! In Vegas, that’s our nickname for vampire band groupies. They flock to dead things. Talk about a turn off. Hot and bothered, huh? How about a great smile, a sense of humor, and someone who likes to cuddle on the couch and watch movies.
(JC: *little girlish giggle*)
- If you were in the band, what would instrument would you play? Why?
Guitar. I’d always been known as a guitarist, until I auditioned for Immortal Dilemma and that was taken. I play drums, too, but I’d want to be out on the front of the stage where the action is.
- You’ve accomplished your goals, so what’s after Vegas?
I still have some work to do in Vegas. This clan needs a leader. I think I’ll be here for a while.
Finally, Kristen: Care to offer a few words of encouragement to fellow writers?
Keep writing. Even when you don’t feel like it. And get your work in front of an editor! That’s when you really grow!
It was awesome to have you by, Kristen. Don’t be a stranger at the next Manson show! LOL