First, about Taste Me: He Wants Her So Badly He Can Taste It…Ever since their tempestuous fling years ago, incubus Lukas Sebastiani has known that siren Scarlett Fontaine was meant to be his. But when you’re a sex demon with an insatiable desire, relationships are way more than complicated…Her Siren Songs Bring Men to Their Knees…Rock star Scarlett Fontaine desperately needs a break after a grueling tour. But with murder and mayhem surrounding her band, and the one man she never thought to see again put to the task of protecting her, life is going to be anything but peaceful…Every encounter between them creates more turmoil—and heat—until Scarlett pushes Lukas to the boiling point, and unleashes forces that go way beyond anything she can hope to control…
Q: Welcome! I love the complexity of your world. What drew you to create a multi-paranormal world with a broad range of preternaturals―from vampires to weres to incubi to sirens, ruled by a sort of paranormal UN?
TH: Oh, a paranormal UN…I love the way you phrase that! While I was building the world, I kept circling back to two thoughts: “Mythological creatures are real” and “Winners write history.” I enjoyed wrapping my brain around an origin story that took both of these concepts into account. What if mythological creatures wrote the very mythology that humans know, so they could hide in plain sight? What if “first contact”— humanity’s first contact with extra-planetary intelligence—had actually occurred a long time ago, and humanity just wasn’t aware of it yet? What if they decided, based upon their observations of our behavior, that human civilization wasn’t yet advanced enough to deal with the news that they weren’t alone in the universe?
Q: Which “race” is your favorite?
TH: Gotta say the sirens. Being a person grounded in the physical world, one of my goals for the species I created was to propose feasible biological origins for my preternaturals’ unusual skills, abilities and vulnerabilities. In the world I created, we share more similarities with them than differences; they simply sprouted from a different branch of our shared evolutionary tree. I like the idea that the gentle sirens, while not particularly physically strong, can control a room with their voices. I also liked exploring modern-day occupations at which sirens would excel. Scarlett is a singer, her mother Claudette is a politician, and her sister Annika is a voice-over artist. I explicitly crafted the conflict between Scarlett and Lukas so it would be exacerbated by their biology. What happens when you pair a control freak incubus who has to absorb emotional energy for survival with a pissed off siren who amplifies emotion with her voice? ;-)
Q: How did you go about creating Scarlett’s playlist? Did you sit around for months finding the sexiest music you could uncover? (Because I went and listened to some and it is smokin’!)
TH: (Laughs) What does it say about me that all those songs were already on my iPod, just waiting for me to put them to work? Once I got the idea of Scarlett crafting a set list which would make Lukas writhe with frustration, it then became a matter of finding the right songs—so I went to my iTunes library and searched for songs with sexually-loaded titles. There were other songs that I knew had the lyrical content I needed to illustrate how Scarlett’s own emotional state changed through the show, and how her plan to drive her big, bad bodyguard to distraction ultimately boomerangs back on her.
Q: Could you talk a little about your path to publication as a debut author? I know this manuscript won or was nominated for a couple of awards before you signed with Sourcebooks. How long had you been writing?
TH: Though I earned a B.A. in English/Creative writing many moons ago, I came out of college with a crushing case of performance anxiety. It took me over twenty years after graduation to seriously tackle writing a manuscript. I started writing the story in 2006/2007. The manuscript, then called Underbelly, was named an RWA Golden Heart and Daphne du Maurier paranormal contest finalist in 2009, winning the Daphne and then selling to Sourcebooks as part of a three book deal. So, I haven’t been writing long—but I like to think that, as a lifelong reader of romance, I was…in training. I absorbed a lot of craft knowledge from reading other people’s books.
Q: What’s on your bedside table to read? Do you have a favorite author or series?
TH: Right now I’m finishing Eloisa James’s When Beauty Tamed the Beast. Also on my auto-buy list is anything and everything by Nalini Singh—I think her Psy/Changeling and Guild Hunters series are absolute bloody genius. I’ve read, and will continue to read, everything Nora Roberts writes. Anne Stuart makes me cackle with glee; Emma Holly always satisfies, and Lois McMaster Bujold can school me anytime.
Q: You explore two very different worlds in Taste Me—both high-tech security and the life of a rock star weary of a long tour. What kind of research did you do (unless you’re actually a gun-toting, computer-wielding chanteuse yourself)?
TH: Ha!! Though my day job is in technology, high-tech security is not my area of expertise. While a few authentic technical details can go a long, long way, one of the benefits of creating an alternate world is flexibility. I’m not necessarily bound to using technology that actually exists, or to using human processes and procedures. (The preternaturals are developing some pretty whiz-bang stuff at Sebastiani Labs.) Most of my music exposure comes from friends in the business, and decades of club hopping and concert-going. I live near Minneapolis, home of First Avenue, the nightclub Prince made famous in the movie “Purple Rain,” and a thriving live music scene. I have to admit that as I get older, I spend less time dodging elbows in the pit than I used to.
Q: What’s next in the Underbelly series? Will we be revisiting characters we met in Taste Me?
TH: I just typed THE END on Taste Me’s follow-up, Chase Me, which pairs archaeologist and Valkyrie council member Lorin Schlessinger with by-the-book werewolf geologist Gabe Lupinsky as they search for evidence of their ancestors. Chase Me is scheduled for a March 2012 release. Reformed computer hacker Bailey Brown will be featured in Underbelly Chronicles Book Three, Tempt Me. Most of the characters mentioned in Taste Me will ultimately be heroes and heroines in future books in the series. Readers are already asking when Lukas’s feisty sister Sasha will get her own story. Soon, I swear!
Thanks so much for inviting me to spend some time with you and your readers today!
Read an excerpt! (mature readers only)
Thanks, Tamara! Want to win a copy of Taste Me? The nice folks at Sourcebooks Casablanca are offering two for commenters today. Leave a comment, and you know the rest of the drill. One entry for comment, another for blog follow, a third for a Twitter follow @Suzanne_Johnson, and a fourth for a Tweet or Retweet. Be sure to include your email. Now...Go forth and comment!