Please welcome Kristen Strassel, author of The Night Songs Collection, The Spotlight series, and many other titles as our very first author interviewee!
She was gracious enough to agree to break this new feature in for us here at Paranormal Romance Lovers, and we’re thrilled to have her.
You may be familiar with her work such as Because the Night: Rock Star Vampire Romance, Secondhand Heart: BBW New Adult Country Star Romance, or Colorado Shifters: The Complete Series, just to name a few.
If you have any questions, or would like to make a comment, please feel free to do so. We love author/reader interaction here!
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Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hi! I’m Kristen Strassel. I write paranormal and contemporary romance. I love music, especially hair bands, and I write a lot of musicians. I can think of a million ways to make playing the guitar sound dirty. I also work as a makeup artist for film and TV. I get to meet a lot of cool people and see some amazing places. My job creeps into my writing too. I’m a huge football fan, I can usually put the guys to shame on Sundays. I love decorating things and attempting extreme sports that I’m tragically bad at. I have a pet cockatiel named McGee and he’s in a serious fake bromance with Guy Fieri.
Have you always wanted to be a writer? How long have you been writing?
Yes. When I was a kid, I wanted to write for music magazines, but as I got to college, music changed and what I wanted to do didn’t exist anymore. I struggled a lot finding my ‘thing,’ I didn’t realize when I was younger I really could do whatever I wanted to do. I grew up in a small town and everyone I knew had a very practical, traditional job. I tried that, but I was like a bull in a china shop. My path to doing what I’m supposed to do wasn’t straight, but I think it made me a better artist, in both makeup and writing.
I’ve always been writing. My best friend and I used to pass a notebook back and forth and write a few paragraphs, adding on to what the other wrote. The same friend came to me a few years ago and said that she was writing a book. I had had the same idea kicking around in my head for YEARS. I felt so strongly about it that I moved to Las Vegas because I needed to research and experience the city so I could write about it. My problem was I never knew how to finish anything, or how to craft a story. The two of us worked together until we both had complete books! Mine was Because the Night, and hers was Running Home (Julie Hutchings). Now I can’t make the ideas stop!
We know you write Paranormal romance. Do you write any other genres?
I also write contemporary romance. The Spotlight Series is about reality show winners who are caught in a show scandal. It’s NA, but I don’t write college student meets the bad boy NA. Daisy is a very young military widow, and her best friend Bree is a single mom. Abby in Too Many Reasons is graduating from college, but that’s not the focus of her story. It’s the band and her relationship with Devon. I didn’t do college in a traditional way, and I was always intrigued by my friends who didn’t either. The ones who made terrible choices and pulled themselves up out of the muck and thrived. They inspired many of my New Adult heroines, in my paranormal and my contemporary stories.
The Fire Dancer just came out on May 21, which is a spinoff of The Night Songs Collection. Holly’s a bad ass burlesque dancer who bursts into flames on stage. It’s a different twist on my own vampire mythology, but there are lots of familiar faces from Night Songs. I’m writing an adult contemporary romance, a woman in her late 30s who is going against everything she’s ever done and finding love…yes, I’m being intentionally vague.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you do research for your books?
A little of both? I get an idea that won’t leave me alone and I write down everything that comes to me. Plot, character traits, snippets of conversation. When I’m ready to sit down and spend some time with the story, I write a list of things that I think will get me from beginning to end. As I don’t know the characters yet, this is always subject to change.
I go in with a plan, but I let my characters do what’s best for them. It’s not always what I want them to do!
Research is so important. Since I write romance, I tend to read a lot of relationship articles, and how to, ahem, do things better, because I need to strip it down and really explore why my characters want what they do. So it’s different for every story. I actually moved to Las Vegas which was early research for my vampire books. I did a ton of research for my shifter books, because I needed to add animal traits and perspective to each of the characters. I’m always checking out architecture, food, anything I can about a city that I’m not familiar with.
The book I’m working on now requires a ton of research, since it’s set in two cities I’m unfamiliar with: Washington DC and Miami. As much as I love research, I also find that I default to things I know a lot about…hence the entertainment angle that likes to creep in to most of my books.
How long, on average, does it take you to write a book?
I can write the first draft of a novella in about 3 weeks and a full length novel in 6 weeks. Revisions and edits take longer depending on the story and what it needs.
What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
I had to ask around on this one. So I have this great office that I put a ton of effort into decorating. It’s totally me. Zebra print with gray and teal accents, all sorts of throw pillows and a fuzzy white rug. Lanterns hanging from the ceiling, and I made art for the walls. I love the room. I NEVER write in there. Ever. I have all my accounting crap in there for both businesses, and I think I associate sitting at the desk with numbers and not words. I sit on the couch and write. Although, I think I might give the office a try today. Why not, right?
Some writers make this awesome soundtrack. I watch the worst TV available. Home shopping, those music channels that just have the picture. There is a reason for this. They keep McGee mellow. Or bore him into a stupor. Anyway, I can concentrate on words instead of birds.
Which of your characters is your favorite, and why?
Aww, I can’t choose a favorite! I love them all. I spend so much time with them that even if they’re pissing me off, there’s a piece of me in every one of them. They all represent something that I’ve overcome, want to overcome, or want to be. And they are who I was at that point in my writing journey.
What’s your favorite genre/sub-genre to read? What are you reading now?
Right now I’m reading Beyond Shame by Kit Rocha. I’ve been reading a lot of erotica lately because my new story focuses on the emotional journey of the main characters, and sex is one of the ways they open up to each other.
I read pretty widely. Biographies, paranormal, contemporary…the only thing I’m not into is crime stories. I’m really interested in voice right now. If something grabs me, I want to figure out why. I’m also reading more recently published works, and indie stuff. A little while ago, I tried to catch up on the classics, but I realized they started too slowly for me. That’s not saying anything bad about those stories, I thought it was fascinating that my tolerance for consuming a story had changed so much.
Can you share a short excerpt of your newest release?
Of course. From The Fire Dancer:
Blade broke through the force field, the final barrier that was keeping us apart. As soon as his lips brushed mine, it was like I was breathing his oxygen. I drew him in. He didn’t hesitate, his tongue darted between my parted lips, shyly at first, but as I balled fistfuls of his hair, he grew more confident, pressing me against his chest. It was different, kissing a man. His strength, the feel of his beard moving against my cheek, and the taste. So unexpectedly sweet. God, I could drink it like nectar. His fangs scraped against my bottom lips, and I cried out, but he didn’t break the skin.
The flames slowly licked my skin, his skin, it was all one as we melted together. The heat intensified as we got sucked into the core of the inferno, falling through the reds and oranges into the blues as everything around us exploded. All I could see was Blade.
We hit the ground hard. Gravity was the only thing that could tear us apart. Blade was shrouded in blue, his features flickered before me. I gasped as I realized we were fully engulfed in flames.
“Shit.” Blade’s voice warped in the heat. “That was a hot kiss, but—“
I grabbed his hand. “We need to get in the water!” Pulling him toward the pond, we broke the still plane, the heat hissing as it surrounded us in a cloud of smoke. The bench we’d sat on had been reduced to kindling, crackling in the dying flames, but other than that, we hadn’t disturbed the peace of the park. “Oh my God.” I laughed.
Blade’s eyes fell down to my body, my skin wet and bare after the fire. He took one step closer to me. “You’re beautiful.” His words were wisps, like the smoke still wafting from his bare skin.
He was covered in soot and nothing else. I could barely breathe looking at him. My fingers were drawn to his chest, leaving a clean trail as I traced the outline of his muscles. “I guess we should’ve known that would happen.” I dared to meet his eyes. They glowed blue, like the center of the flame that threated to engulf us again if we took one step closer.
“How?” He blinked rapidly, probably trying to stave off the burn that was rising again inside of him.
“There’s a fine line between love and hate.”
I’d like to take a moment to thank Kristen for answering all my questions and for being a part of our little community. You can learn more about Kristen and her fantastic work at her website, and you can also follow her on both Twitter and Facebook. Thanks, Kristen!