My dears, I’m so excited about our guest today!!! Not only do we have the fantastically fabulous Leslie Kelly for Blogiversary, it’s also her birthday! You know how I love birthday guests, and this is double the fun! And you know, Leslie Kelly! So everyone jump on in for the fun!
I should have teased you all about Leslie‘s “real” identity. But why? I don’t want to hide who she is – this is an exciting new direction!
The Price of Peace?
When writing my new novel, Don’t Look Away, I spent a lot of time thinking about the world in which the heroine, Ronnie Sloan, lives, and whether I’d want to live in one like it.
In case you haven’t read the book…it’s set in 2022, five years after a devastating terrorist attack that destroyed much of Washington D.C. and killed the president. Because of that attack, the entire populace was left numb and deadened to anything except making the country secure. So the government reacted by removing the U.S. from the international stage. Withdrawing from all conflicts, they abandoned former allies, became trading partners with former enemies, and essentially retreated to a policy of non-interventionism, or “Grand Isolationism.”
The strategy worked, and the U.S. has been at peace for a few years, with no new terrorist attacks, no wars on the horizon, and peace and prosperity for its citizenry. The rest of the world, however, hasn’t been so lucky. War rages in other countries, but the U.S. has closed its borders and focused every penny on its own defense, and doesn’t even want to know about it.
Ronnie, who was a D.C.P.D. cop at the time of the attacks, and still is, finds the whole thing disgusting. This doesn’t feel like the land of the free and the home of the brave in which she’d grown up. And considering how much she and her family lost during the 2017 attacks—including three beloved family members—she feels entitled to her own opinion. But most people are happy. So happy they willingly allowed themselves to be implanted with microchips, like those used in pets today. No price is too high to pay to avoid a repeat of that awful day.
I thought a lot about this concept in the years following 9/11. When I think of how much our nation has changed, I’m sometimes surprised to remember how different life was before. Remember the days when you could actually wear your shoes through the security checkpoint at the airport? When you could escort a loved one to their gate and watch them board their plane? When there was no Department of Homeland Security? When the U.S. wasn’t at war?
My kids barely remember that world. This is the world they’ve grown up in.
I honestly wasn’t trying to make any kind of political statement when I wrote Don’t Look Away. The world in which it’s set is not a huge part of the story—it merely serves as the backdrop that helped make my heroine become the person she is. The main thrust of the story is the hunt for a serial killer and the new technology the cops use to catch him.
Still, it’s interesting to wonder, isn’t it? How high a price would we be willing to pay for peace and security?
Me? Oh, hell no, I’d never let anybody microchip me and monitor my every movement. Nor would I allow any cameras to be implanted in my brain to record every second of every day of my life.
But it’s sure fun to play what-if and write about….
Can a murder victim’s own memories be used to solve a crime?
Detective Veronica Sloan isn’t shocked by much. Having lived through the worst terrorist attacks in history—which destroyed much of Washington, D.C.—she’s immune to even the most vicious brutality. But even she is stunned by the discovery of a murder in the basement of the under-reconstruction White House.
Sloan and FBI Agent Jeremy Sykes have been assigned to investigate the homicide because the victim was a participant in a top-secret experiment. Veronica has been training for just this kind of case, waiting to use her special skills, anxious to learn if a recording device implanted in a victim’s head can help solve their murder….before the killer strikes again.
Thoughts? I think this is something we all have opinions and experiences that relate… (Oh and you can check out Leslie’s site for this persona at Leslie A. Smith.)
Hey y’all! You’ll notice I am NOT ON TOP of things lately. My apologies. No reason to get into it here/now – nor is it the place. Especially since you don’t want to hear what I’ve got to say, because the fabulous Leslie Kelly is here! She’s super awesome, and agreed to be a guest here even though I missed meeting her in NYC last year because someone *coughsJoycoughs* decided to get a second margarita. ;D No, actually, this was probably scheduled at least six months before that happened. Yeah I’m totally sleep deprived.
Anyway, it’s still part of the birthday month festivities! And today is extra special and fun because Leslie wrote a guest post and decided to answer some of those zany “author interview” questions! You’ll notice everyone in June is getting some from the same set. I did it on purpose. (Honest!) Thought it’d be fun to compare them. 😀
After having written dozens of books during my fourteen-year career, I am always on the lookouts for projects that excite me creatively. My Harlequin editor has told me many times that she knows as long as she can keep me interested, she’ll get great books. If I get bored—if I feel like I’m doing the same old book again and again—writing is an utter chore.
Fortunately, a few years ago I was invited to participate in a new Blaze miniseries, called Blazing Bedtime Stories. Since that time, I’ve found something I really love to do—adapting fairy tales, standard tales or classics, and giving them a modern, sexy, fun Blaze twist.
Having realized that I wanted to do more than fairy tales, I thought about it last year and decided to try something different. I am a big William Shakespeare fan, and decided to write an updated, modernized, super-steamy version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Believe it or not, I’d never actually read that play, or seen any version of it, so my first job was to read it. I then took bits and pieces that I thought would translate well into a contemporary story, and layered them into my version, Blazing Midsummer Nights. I had a great time dropping in little Easter eggs throughout the book—from the setting in Athens, Georgia, to the “magical” woods surrounding the southern estate where the hero and heroine both live, to the names of their eccentric landlords (Tatiana and Obi-Wan…ha!) I played around with some dreams, some mystical tea, an overbearing father and a love quadrangle. I was thrilled with the result, and can’t remember the last time a story was so easy for me to write.
I loved doing that book so much that I began thinking of other types of story I could adapt for a Blaze release. I have read most of the “classic” novels and that’s where I went for my next bit of inspiration. I immediately thought of the D.H. Lawrence novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Though that book was incredibly racy in its day, it is relatively tame compared to what’s being published today, and I thought I could take the heat up another notch. The problem is, I abhor infidelity. I knew I would never be comfortable writing a married heroine who’s cheating on her husband, so I had to play around with the premise to reach my comfort level. So far, the story’s coming along really well and I think readers will like it.
Now, the “author interview!”
1. How’d you come up with your author name?
Actually, Leslie Kelly is my real name. When I sold my first book, I just thought it would be easier to stick with my real name rather than a pseudonym. Looking back, I wish I’d chosen another one since my books get some attention for their steam content.
I also write dark romantic thrillers under the pseudonym Leslie Parrish. I was going back and forth with my NAL editor on possible pseudonyms—one would be too short, one too long, one too similar to another author’s. Finally I said, “Well, how about Parrish…since so many people will perish in these books?!” She loved it and that’s how we settled on that.
2. What’s the most embarrassing thing to ever happen to you at school? And what about at a conference?
I remember being in 11th grade, sitting in one of those open classrooms that were popular back in the 80’s. (Basically an enormous area, with “giant cubicles” for each classroom.) It was Mr. Virts’s Contemporary Issue class—he was my favorite teacher, it was my favorite class. Anyway, I was leaning back on the back 2 legs of the chair, and of course I leaned too far. Not only did I fly backward, but as I was holding onto the edge of my desk, I brought that with me. It did a complete flip-over, smashing into another girl who sat nearby.
I was mortified to say the least!
As for the conference—at the RWA conference in Dallas in, oh, I think it was 2004? I was in the bar (not even having had a drink yet, believe it or not) and was pulling over a really heavy chair to join my editor and a few other authors. I was wearing really super-thick-soled flip-flops, and the chair was heavier than I expected. I ended up pulling, but it didn’t budge, and I fell back on my butt. Flat, hard, SLAM on my tailbone. I was in utter agony. My roommate came back to the room and found me lying on the bed, face down, with a towel full of ice on my butt. I had to fly home to Florida that way, and when I got home and went to the doctor for an x-ray, I found out I’d actually broken my tailbone. Talk about painful!
3. If you were to become a spammer, what product would you peddle? And what would your message be? Come up with the most attention getting, creative, crazy thing. Yes, that’s a challenge.
Dick of the Year Awards. They’d go only to spammers who constantly hit me with Viagra or “finance minister from another country” schemes. I would totally love to counter by spamming those spammers with a whole bunch of “Congratulations, you’re a dick” messages!
4. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned while writing/researching a book?
Hmm, going to be careful with this answer…lol! Let’s just say there’s a book I wrote called Overexposed, which most readers call “The Cannoli Book.” While writing that book, I discovered I reaaaaalllly love cannoli. 😉
5. What five deceased authors would you invite to a dinner party?
Oscar Wilde and Edgar Allen Poe definitely—they are two of my all time favorites. Mark Twain seems like an interesting guy to spend an evening with. I’ve always thought it so sad that Margaret Mitchell died such a tragic death, and since Gone With The Wind has long been a favorite, I’d invite her, too. Finally, Kathleen Woodiwiss, because she introduced me to the romance novel. I read The Flame and the Flower when I was twelve or thirteen years old, locked in my bedroom closet with a flashlight. My love affair with romance has continued ever since. She was, truly, the grand dame of our genre.
Now, Leslie has questions for you!!
I’m curious, am I the only one who loves these adaptations? Do you like seeing classic stories re-told in some new, original way? And what story would you most like to see made into a sexy, sassy Blaze?
Guess what?! Leslie said “I’d be happy to give away 3 backlist books, to random commenters, of any of my Blazing Bedtime Stories books.” So whee! Any comment – or fun questions for Leslie? (You can answer her question…) But I’m just waiting for that one outrageous one that tops my interview repetoire… ;D
*NB – ETA: So to clarify… the prize is a two-book set to each of three random commenters. Isn’t Leslie so generous?