What a treat I have for you today! Susan Mac Nicol, author of the charming and skillfully written romance, “Cassandra by Starlight”, is launching her book tour right here!!! Along with a witty interview, she’s also graciously donated signed e-copies of “Cassandra by Starlight” and “Together in Starlight” as part of an exciting giveaway. It’s easy to enter . . . just click HERE or on the following link. http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/09fc7f0/
Before we get started, I must encourage you to keep reading after the interview for more information about Susan’s novel including a great excerpt. “Cassandra by Starlight” is garnering rave reviews from romance readers everywhere so be sure to check it out!
Susan . . . how in the world did a horror and thriller fan end up penning such a delightful love story?
And therein lies the tale. I have to tell the truth. Bear with me while I ramble. I had an idea for a story based on something that happened in my home country of Essex when a concrete block was thrown onto a woman’s car while she was travelling on the motorway. I wondered what would happen if this had been a person, and in some strange quirk of fate, two people met who wouldn’t have in the normal cause of events.
I role play in the car when I’m travelling to work. I’ve always done this, since I was kid. Talk to myself like a crazy person, act out stuff. I’ve never wanted to be an actress though. I’m not able to show emotions easily like they have to do. I used to spend four hours a day travelling to and from work each day for over four years. It’s no secret I needed to do something to amuse myself. I role played this whole story out for weeks, putting on the voices, acting out the scenes (stop shaking your head in sheer disbelief, I swear this is true). Eventually I thought perhaps I might have the makings of a book so I should write it down. So that’s what I did and eight weeks later I had the full Starlight trilogy. Obsessed was a word I think my family used to describe me.
Rumor has it that Bennett, the scrumptious male lead in “Cassandra”, is based on a real person. I don’t suppose you’d share his identity and why he served as inspiration, would you? (I seek “atonement” for my prying questions. )
Swoon. I love any opportunity to talk about my one and only fan crush. I am *coughs* years old and act like a teenage girl. in this regard. My family are still disbelieving of this whole affair. The lovely, delicious British actor, Benedict Cumberbatch, (it is his real name, honest) was the inspiration for Bennett. I watched him in Sherlock and other stage plays like Frankenstein and fell head over heels for the man. His exceptional talent, his on screen presence and just his general being was something I wanted to recreate in a character. I guess I couldn’t have the real thing so I made one of my own.
I was even invited onto a local radio station to talk about this with a fellow Cumber fan, the radio show host, Tracy Cooper. The topic of Benedict and handcuffs in the same sentence definitely got the blood flowing I can tell you…
This tenuous connection has bought me a lot of pleasure, not least in meeting fellow fans who then read my books because of this, but in just being part of a fandom. It’s been a real hoot. I send everything that mentions Benedict to his publicist for the ‘scrapbook’ as I feel it’s only courteous to do so. So this post will be winging its way to her too… (Deb’s note: Benedict also starred in one of my favorite movies, “Atonement” with James McAvoy and Keira Knightly)
You tackled a hotly debated, controversial topic in “Cassandra” . . . female on male rape. I’ve worked with domestic violence shelters so I understand the public’s misconception about how this could happen. But it does. Have your readers responded negatively or positively to the story line? Did your publisher have concerns?
This was the truly amazing underlying facet of this book. I researched the topic ad nauseum, participated in online forums, read harrowing accounts of survivors and used one of them, an account by a man called James Landrith, as the underlying trauma in my book. Imagine my surprise when I started promoting the book and James himself contacted me to say he had experienced such an event himself. Imagine his surprise when I told him he was the original inspiration for the research. We started a dialogue which continues to this day and he’s featured me on his blogs as well. He’s also read the books, and loved them. The biggest validation for how I’d written the scenes was his assurance that I’d tackled the trauma with compassion and realism and that I think is key.
The reactions I’ve had from people so far have all been positive, I’ve been cited on various anti rape forums and they understand and agree with how I tackled with the subject. My publisher is as always incredibly supportive of this scene and they promote anything to do with it to their readers, as they know the subject has been tastefully handled.
You can read all about the various posts and discussions we’ve done together here and find links to other stories on the topic too
The Starlight Series second book, “Together In Starlight”, is a continuation of Bennett and Cassie’s story. What can we expect in book two? Will there be a book three?
Together in Starlight is the second book in the series and yes, there is another called ‘Starlight and Promises.’ The second story takes the couple from London to Tibet, where Bennett is filming his remake of ‘Lost Horizon’. This book very much deals with past events coming back to haunt various characters. Cassie has her own demons to face and their friend, Erica, from the theatre they own, also has a very harrowing experience with someone from her past. Of course Cassie is embroiled in this as well , as she can’t seem to stay out of trouble for long…
But the biggest ‘haunting’ is the one that takes place in the theatre, the Val, in London. Some fairly supernatural events begin to happen, events that have poor Bennett tearing his lovely auburn curls out, and things are never quite what they seem.
“Starlight and Promises’ completes the story of Bennett and Cassie, with more adventures for the couple, and culminates in an event on a tropical island which I hope will make everyone breathe a sigh of sheer delight.
Do you intend to keep writing romances or have you decided to bridge to the “dark side?” What’s on the horizon? I’d love to see a horror based romance from you.
I’m happy to say I might be able to meet that need depending on your definition of ‘horror’! I currently have quite a few books in the works at my publishers and we’re busy figuring out the sequence we need to publish them in.
‘Saving Alexandria’ is a story of a woman trying to fight some pretty nasty demons from her past, and needing to find a saviour to help her make her way through. It’s an S and M themed story, fairly erotic and certainly has its very dark moments.
“Double Alchemy’ is a two book contemporary paranormal romance series about a very dishy and controlling Warlock who has a darker alter ego, and a woman who has to cope with them both. It’s about witchcraft, the Witch Trials in Essex during the 17th century and dealing with malevolent darkness and beings and of course, magyck.
‘Born Human’ is a real diversion from my norm, being a gritty, dark detective thriller with a lot of romance, and a very nasty bisexual serial killer. It tackles a fairly controversial topic and some of the scenes in this book might not be for the faint hearted who expect a true romance. It also starts my foray into writing erotic gay male sex scenes.
And finally, there’s ‘Loving Matthew’, my first concerted effort into the gay male romance genre, a genre I read prolifically and adore. This is the story of Matthew and Shane, two very different men who meet in tragic circumstances (I do like those, don’t I), sparks fly and Shane, loving and nurturing soul that he is, has to find a way to bring Matthew out of his dark, tormented past and fall in love again.
Enough there to make everyone happy, you think?
Is it difficult to balance your “day job” from your writing? When do you find time to burn up the keyboard?
I do resent my day job for taking away my writing time. But it’s an unfortunate evil that pays the bills *chuckle* and I have to do it. I love my day job luckily or else I might have a permanent scowl on my face.
I write during lunch times at work, in the half hour when I get to work early and have time to spare, and sometimes in the half an hour after work before I leave for the day, as I let the traffic die down. Then I come home and write from about seven pm to midnight, one o’clock in the morning. Every day, no cease and desist. Weekends are also spent writing, at least five hours each day. My poor family have got used to me being totally oblivious by now.
And now for the “fantasy” question . . . If you found a magic stone that could transport you to any place, any time in history, where would you go and why?
Ah, that’s easy. I want to go back and catch Jack the Ripper. London 1888. I have a real reason for wanting to do this and in fact, I wrote about this exact wish in a post I did for my publisher back in December. So if you take a look at this, you’ll see exactly where, when and why I want to go back in time…
Wow! Thanks for joining me today, Susan. I’ve had fun and I know my readers have enjoyed learning more about you, as well.
Speaking of readers . . . I promised you more information about “Cassandra By Starlight” and here it is:
Susan Mac Nicol
Contemporary Romance, Suspense
Boroughs Publishing Group
Falling in love makes Cassie Wallace’s everyday and normal life much more complicated that she’d ever thought it could be.
Being an independent and somewhat unconventional woman, she’d never intended to fall head over heels for a handsome, charming and younger man, one who lived a life she’d only ever imagined before on the big screen.
But Bennett Saville, up and coming star of theatre and film and filthy rich to boot, was one such man. From the tips of his shiny Armani loafers to the auburn curls on his head, he turns Cassie’s world upside down. From their initial tragic meeting to the dangers that threaten them both as their relationship grows more intense, Cassie finds herself a willing participant in Bennett’s world. She learns about a life in show business and living with a man who is constantly on show to the world – not to mention having to face the fact that women throw themselves at him with regular abandon.
Cassie embraces the challenges as only she can, in her usual feisty fashion, lending humour and compassion to their developing relationship. And when violence and fear comes calling for them both, it takes the two of them to hold the dangers at bay and face the events together.
The day the sky fell changed Cassie Wallace’s world forever. She woke up that morning with the expectation that this day would be like any other. She also had a slight hangover from the abundance of wine she’d drunk the night before to try and get through a blind date organised by her work colleague, Sarah.
The evening had been a total disaster. Not only had the man been an absolute misogynist, one of the cardinal male sins on Cassie’s unwritten list, he’d also had a habit of leering at her chest every time he spoke as if he thought it might talk back to him.
She’d smiled politely whilst thinking she’d like to take his smarmy public school tie and shove it down his throat. When she’d finally left at around eleven, she hadn’t been able to get away fast enough.
She stood in her bedroom, checking her outfit in the mirror and sighed.
Was it too much to ask to find a decent man just to share things with and have a good time? They all seemed to be absolute idiots and in the old but true cliché, only interested in one thing.
Cassie had been out on a few dates in the past few months but somehow she never made it past the first one. A previous date gone wrong had told her she was too independent and perhaps a little bit ‘emotionally challenged, not affectionate enough’ for him.
She’d shrugged this off but it had hurt her deep down especially as she knew it to be true.
My bloody expectations aren’t even that high, she thought in exasperation as she fastened her necklace. It’s not as if I’m such a great bloody catch myself! Middle-aged and not really all that exciting. I’ll take what I can get within reason.
Cassie smoothed her skirt down over her hips and picked up her handbag.
When she left the house at six thirty, it was a typical dark English winter morning. Forty-five minutes later she was sitting in the traffic on the motorway, listening to the news bulletin.
“Bloody idiot,” she mumbled in between bites of a banana that she had hastily grabbed on her way out. “He wouldn’t know a bloody budget if his life depended on it. Silly sod has got no idea how to run a bloody country.”
She crept forward in her Honda Jazz at about two miles an hour, watching the traffic in front which seemed to have ground to a halt for no reason at all.
I really need to try and find something closer to home, she thought, not for the first time. This travelling lark is really starting to piss me off. Four hours a day in traffic is not my idea of time well spent.
Cassie wasn’t sure what other quality pastimes she’d be engaging in if she did have more free time, given her current ‘lack of male’ situation but she supposed she’d find something. Join a book club perhaps, or find more time to get to the gym. She might even start writing that novel she’d always planned on doing.
Her fingers impatiently drummed on the steering wheel in time to a melody on the radio. In response to another bulletin by the newscaster regarding the level of binge drinking in the county, she burst into a further diatribe. “For God’s sake, let the bloody idiots lay where they fall. If they had any brains they wouldn’t let it get that far so they needed an ambulance to take them to A and E. It’s my taxpaying money that’s looking after these morons!”
She glanced at the clock on the display. Seven thirty a.m. She’d be lucky to make it in on time today.
The story of my life, she thought resignedly. Slow death by traffic jam.
The traffic still seemed to show no signs of moving any time soon. She switched off the engine and took out her Kindle. She may as well catch up on her reading whilst she had nothing better to do.
Her concentration span was low as she tried to read. Last night’s ‘date’ kept replaying itself in random snippets of conversation. Cassie could still hear Ron’s supercilious comment about women needing to have a man in their lives to keep them focused on what was important—the man and the provision of all his needs.
She’d almost choked on her wine when she’d heard this and only just stopped herself retorting sarcastically that as a man’s needs were so simple, the only ‘provision’ they really needed was a soft toy shaped like a pair of boobs to play with and talk at. As she had very little money in her purse other than her taxi fare home, she’d stopped herself.
After the hell she’d been through sitting and listening to Ron’s drivel, the least she’d make him do was pay for dinner. Cassie had made a decision after last night. She’d stay home with her own company for the near future, with a bottle of wine and a couple of decent movies. She’d rather drool over a virtual Mark Harmon in NCIS than a real life douche bag like the Ronalds of his world. As for sex—well, that was what vibrators were made for.
It was nearly ten minutes later before the car in front of her re-started its engine and she followed suit and sped up to about twenty miles an hour as the queue took flight. She settled in as it got back up to the more respectable speed of fifty miles an hour.
As she drove she glanced idly up at the foot bridges to see the people strolling with dogs, on bicycles and footing it on their way to work.
At the bridge just ahead she saw a solitary figure leaning over looking down at the motorway below. She slowed down a little. Ever since those incidents a few weeks ago when someone had thrown a concrete bucket off the bridge at a passing car, she tended to be wary of people standing watching the traffic.
The figure didn’t appear to have anything in its hands but then she had only caught a glimpse of it before turning her eyes back to the road. She increased her speed as the traffic flowed easier.
There was no warning, just a sudden deafening bang of metal as the windscreen of her car collapsed inwards. Cassie screamed in terror as glass flew towards her like wafer thin slivers from a frozen icicle. Her hands left the steering wheel in panic, her foot pressing down on the accelerator.
The Honda Jazz went out of control, spinning around like a dirt dervish. Debris from the windscreen flew like lethal missiles around the interior of the car. Cassie cried out in pain as she was subject to a vicious assault by anything lying loose in her vehicle. She tried to cover her face in an instinctive reflex but her left arm seemed unresponsive. The pain horrifying. She whimpered as she glanced down and saw the bone shard sticking out.
In her pain and terror she didn’t notice that the car had stopped spinning. Everything went quiet. Cassie lay slumped in the driver seat, dazed and unresponsive as the shock set in. She could hear the sounds of people shouting and heard someone asking her if she was all right.
She vaguely registered the sound of screeching metal as someone tried to pull the driver door open. It was as if everything was being done underwater. The sounds were muted and her brain was sluggish.
The older man looking in at her from the road was speaking but she couldn’t hear what he was saying. Cassie looked at him blankly. She couldn’t see clearly, as if a can of fine red spray-paint had been aimed at her and the nozzle depressed, coating her eyes. She tried to move her body but the pain in her right leg was excruciating.
She watched dully as the man outside starting pulling away metal struts and twisted the door to get inside to her. She could hear his voice vaguely now, a rough London Cockney accent as he spoke reassuringly whilst trying to free her.
“All right, darling? Just stay calm and I’ll try and get to you. The ambulance is on its way. They’ve told me not to move you so I just want to try get in and keep you company till they arrive. You look as if you could do with a bit of company. Just stay with me now. Don’t go anywhere.”
He smiled at her, trying to keep her reassured. With a final tug at the door, he made enough of a space to squeeze in slightly and he took her right hand, avoiding the bad condition of her left arm with its broken bone. Her hand was freezing and he rubbed it gently.
“There we go. That should feel better. You just stay calm now and we’ll have you back to your old man in no time.” He continued holding her hand, talking to her as she slipped in and out of consciousness.
In one of her lucid periods she raised an unsteady hand to her face to wipe her eyes. The fog cleared a little and she was able to focus, then desperately wished she hadn’t. Lying in front of her, across the bonnet, was a face, pulped and looking as if dark sticky jam had been smeared all over it.
She could see the eyes open, looking at her and she could see the mouth forming words before she screamed and screamed and eventually the fog of blackness claimed her and the face could be seen no more.
Doctor Ian Spencer frowned as he read the patient chart in his hand. He glanced at the patient, an old man in his seventies, matted grey hair curling around his face like tendrils of an octopus, framing a bucolic face of cherry red, his bulbous nose caked with fresh snot.
“Up to your old tricks again, Terry?” the ER doctor asked resignedly. “I thought perhaps last time we had reached an understanding of sorts?”
The old man chuckled hoarsely.
“The drink beckoned again, Doctor, I’ve told you before, cider waits for no man.” He coughed, his body wracked with spasms. The doctor motioned with a hand to the waiting nurse who offered Terry a glass of water. He drank it greedily and lay back in the hospital bed.
Ian Spencer made a notation in his patient’s chart.
“You realise this time, Terry, you’ve really outdone yourself? You had what we call a minor varicose bleed which basically means your insides leaked with blood because they couldn’t do what they were supposed to do. I managed to stabilise you and you’ve been in intensive care for two days. Given the state of your liver you were very lucky not to have it worse. As it is, you’ll need to be here a few more days before I can release you.”
“I’m very grateful to you, Doctor.” Terry leered at the nurse who moved out of the way of his groping left hand. “I can always count on you to put me right.”
“Not always, Terry, not always.” Ian passed the chart to the nurse and continued on his way. He’d just completed his surgical rounds and was walking down the hospital corridor when he heard an ambulance arrive and saw the frenetic activity bursting through the double doors. Heheard the ambulance staff calling out their incoming triage procedures to the attending doctor and watched as a trolley with a woman covered in blood was wheeled into the waiting operating theatre.
One of the staff nurses, Judy, a good friend, hurried past him.
“I don’t believe this one,” she muttered to him. “Some poor woman minding her own business on the motorway and somebody falls on top of her car. We were lucky no one else was hurt as well when she spun around or we’d be running out of space this morning.”
“What about the man who fell?”
“He’s dead, poor bugger.” Judy’s voice was terse as she hurried off.
It was some hours later in passing Ian saw his colleague, fellow trauma surgeon Phil Moodley, come out of the operating theatre where the woman had been wheeled.
“Phil!” Ian hurried to catch up with him. “Wait up.” Phil turned and proffered a tired smile when he saw Ian.
“Ian, how are things? I’m just on my way to catch a few minutes doze. It’s been a long day.” “How did things go in there?” Ian motioned to the OR. “I heard she was hit by a man falling on her car.”
“Yes, it was very bad. The poor woman has a ruptured spleen, a hairline skull fracture, a broken femur and radius, and a wealth of lacerations and internal bruising.” He frowned.
“She also has a small foreign body embedded in her left temple. It’s in an awkward place and fairly deep. I’ve recommended not removing it at this time. I’m not sure it would be prudent. It doesn’t appear itself to be life threatening. She’ll be in intensive care for some time. I need to keep an eye on her for any possible embolism. She’ll probably need some physical therapy afterwards if there are no complications.”
He squinted at Ian with tired eyes. “You seem interested in this one, Ian? Did you know anyone involved?”
Ian shook his head. “I was involved in a similar situation some years ago when I was at Lakeview Hospital and that one—that one I did know. The person that fell though, not the victim.”
Phil nodded his head.
“This woman was very lucky, the young man was not. He was dead at the scene. His relatives are on their way.”
Ian nodded. “Thanks, Phil. You’d best get off and get that sleep, you look all out of it.”
Phil patted Ian’s arm and wandered down towards the staff room. Ian wouldn’t tell Phil the real reason for his interest. It was too personal and no one in the hospital knew anything about his reason for leaving Lakeview three years ago and joining Tilhurst Hospital on the outskirts of Essex.
In 2009, his wife Sandra had jumped off a foot bridge straight into the path of a passing mini-van. To this day he had no idea why. The mini-van driver, a young man called Freddy Clifford, who had just become a father, had died in the incident with Sandy. The feelings of guilt for both Sandy’s and the man’s death (he should’ve known what was going on in his own marriage for God’s sake!) had never left him.
He’d left Lakeview and started again where no one knew his history and no one could feel sympathy for him. He felt he didn’t deserve it. He was sure a psychiatrist would have some insight to offer on his reaction but he had never engaged with one, preferring as he did to manage it himself.
Ian made his way over to the nurses’ station outside intensive care. He saw Nurse Angie, a bubbly young woman with bleached blonde hair and a Carry On set of breasts, sitting behind the desk. She smiled as she saw him approach.
There were more than a couple of nurses who’d tried to form a relationship with him but none of them had been successful so far.
“Doctor. What can I do for you?”
“The woman that Dr. Patel has just operated on—can you tell me a little bit about her? How’s she doing?”
Angie consulted her notes.
“Let me see. Hmm, she’s in a private ICU room, so she must have great insurance. Room 310. Cassie Wallace, forty-seven years old, divorced. Her sister is coming in to see her. She’s on her way from Kent.”
She looked at Ian enquiringly. “Has Dr. Patel asked you to keep an eye on her?”
Ian shook his head. “No, just curious about how she’s doing. It just seems so tragic, minding your own business then POW! You find yourself in this situation. Thanks for the info, Angie.”
Ian made his way towards Room 310. He couldn’t say why he was so interested in this woman, only that he felt he had to find out more about her.
He clothed himself up with a mask and gloves and nodded at the ICU nurses as he walked through the main ward to the private ones at the back. The hum of machines and the absolute quiet in the ward was strangely restful. Ian reached Room 310, opened the door and slipped in.
Cassie Wallace lay on her back, surrounded by soft light from the equipment. The constant beep of the life support machines and monitoring equipment comforted Ian. This unit was dedicated to keeping people alive with the best care the hospital could provide. Cassie Wallace was in good hands.
Cassie had her left arm in a splint, her fingers cold and pale like soft, limp white gloves. Her right leg with its broken femur rested on the bed covers. Ian guessed she had pins and rods inside keeping it together.
Her face was battered and bruised from the accident. He could see the rise and fall of her chest as she breathed. Her pale strawberry blonde hair was spread across the pillow like soft gold straw, with a large bald patch on the left side where Dr Patel had shaved her skull.
Even through the cuts and bruises, Ian could see she was a very attractive woman. Not just pretty or beautiful, but with a look of her own that even under current circumstances made her look younger than her forty-seven years. She reminded him very much of a curvier Michelle Pfeiffer. A noise at the door made him turn. Judy stood there, looking surprised to see him.
“Ian? What are you doing in here?” she whispered.
“I was just checking up on her. I know I’m not her doctor but I really wanted to see how she was doing.”
“It’s all right, Ian.” Judy patted him on the arm. “She can do with all the help she can get. I need to check her vital signs now. Do you want to stick around?”
“No Judes, I’ll let you get on with your job. Thanks.” Ian left the nurse with her patient and made his way back towards the main reception.
Susan Mac Nicol was born in Leeds, UK, and left for South Africa when she was eight. She returned to the UK thirty years later and now lives in Essex. Her debut novel ‘Cassandra by Starlight’, the first in a trilogy, has recently been published by Boroughs Group Publishing in the US.
Sue has written since she was very young, and never thought she would see herself being a Romance writer, being a horror/psychological thriller reader all her life. But the Romance genre is now something very close to her heart and she intends continuing the trend.
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