I had the great pleasure of interviewing a great Paranormal Romance Author today. Welcome Tasha Black, author of the Tarker’s Hollow, and Building a Hero series. I have yet to read anything from the Building a Hero series, but if they’re anywhere as good as the Tarker’s Hollow books, I know I’m going to love them.
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Welcome to PNRLovers, Tasha.
Tell us a little about yourself – your education Family life, etc.
I studied theater in college and was an actress for several years. When I got tired of the lifestyle (small NYC apartment, living on a tour bus half the year) I decided to try something new! I’m married to an incredible man who helps me with my writing and promotion. We’re lucky to live close to friends and family as well. We live in a big old house and we’re constantly throwing parties!
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I didn’t feel like a real writer until the first book sold. I made a bet with my husband that Curse of the Alpha would not sell ten copies by Christmas. (We released it in August.) I very, very happy to lose that bet! Curse has now sold many thousands of copies, and has even been translated into Italian. Spanish and Portuguese translations and made into an audio book as well.
What inspired you to write your first book?
I knew I wanted to write, and I knew that Paranormal Romance would be my genre. I grew up reading fantasy, starting with James Howe’s wonderful Bunnicula and moving on to Madeline L’Engle and Robert Heinlein. In college I learned to love magical realism. Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Jon Cohen were my favorites. The idea across all these books was that magic might exist in our world, undetected by most people. And of course, I loved the very straightforward romantic books of Jane Austen. When I realized that Twilight was popular enough to take the world by storm, it became clear that writing romance about werewolves might not just make me happy – readers might enjoy it too! I LOVE wolves and dogs. Even in my acting days I would spend days at the zoo, observing animals to learn more about their very honest interactions with each other. The wolves at the Chicago Zoo were my absolute favorite animals to watch.
How much of the Tarker’s Hollow series is realistic?
It is all extremely realistic. Except the part where like 10% of the people living in the town can turn into giant wolves! J
What books have most influenced your life most?
Stranger in a Strange Land, War & Peace, Notes from Underground, all the plays of Anton Chekov, Bunnicula, A Wrinkle In Time, How I Live Now, Twilight, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, Max Lakeman & the Beautiful Stranger, One Hundred Years of Solitude… I could keep going, but those are the ones I read and re-read regularly. They are the books that have sustained me in bad times. They’re the ones my husband would read to me if I ever had amnesia because they would make me remember myself!
I’m currently putting the finishing touches on Upgraded: Building a Hero Part 3 – it’s up for pre-order right now! This is the superhero romance I was telling you about earlier! I can’t believe the epic trilogy is nearly complete!
I’m also going back to Tarker’s Hollow for a set of shifter romances with some bad boy heroes. I love that mysterious little town and I never feel more at home than when I’m writing about its residents!
Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Other authors have been a huge source of inspiration and encouragement. I’m in a group of professional authors. By sharing our successes and failures and even collaborating in box sets and projects we’ve made a lonely profession into something collaborative and fun!
Do you see writing as a career?
I absolutely see writing as a career! I’m probably supposed to say that it’s an art and I’d do it no matter what. But the truth is that I am lucky enough to be able to make what I love and be supported by readers! I definitely see my readers as my customers and I strive to give them everything they want! (I love you guys so much, my darlings!!! I want to give you things you don’t even KNOW you want yet!!!!)
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I think I’ve always wanted to write. When I told my mother I wanted to be a writer she bribed me to learn to type. There was this very cool jacket I wanted and she would only buy it for me if I could type 65 words per minute. Now I can type much faster than that. She wanted me to learn to type not because she thought I would be a great author, but because she assumed that as a failed writer, I would need to become someone’s secretary to avoid starvation.
What makes you laugh/cry?
Oh god, everything! I’m a fool for knock knock jokes, videos of funny pets, and my own awkward moments. If I think too hard about the side plots in the TV show Arrested Development I’ll laugh so hard I’ll drop my laptop! Movies and books always make me cry, like when Rocky thinks he is being interviewed to be Apollo Creed’s workout partner. I cried like a baby at his earnestness when he said he “wouldn’t take no cheap shots”. Or the part in the 3rd Harry Potter book when Harry thinks the patronus is his father’s because it is shaped like a deer. I’m about to cry just thinking about it – this poignant idea that he sees his own silhouette, but because he is a boy only beginning to become taller and more man-like he doesn’t even recognize himself. Of course the deer-shaped patronus didn’t make it to the movie, even though it was a brilliant visual gag. And in the first chapter of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, when the boy describes how he doesn’t like to be hugged so he lets his dad touch his hand. I could go on and on…
Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
The answer to this changes daily. Today I would like to meet Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Mostly because he was so brilliant and witty! And also because, like me, he had to write very fast to make a living. Though for much of his life he was desperately poor, so I guess I should clarify that I would not just ask him about writing, I’d probably spot him a few months’ rent and a garrett-ful of groceries too.
What do you want written on your head stone and why?
Sorry to disappoint, but I assume I will be turned by a vampire and never die.
Why do you write superhero romance?
I’ve always loved to watch superhero movies with Mr. Black. While he enjoys the action, I admire Christian Bale or Robert Downey, Jr…
And I wonder… what would it be like to be Pepper Potts? Or one of Batman’s arm candy girls?
Would a wealthy businessman by day and muscle-bound hero by night necessarily make a crummy boyfriend? Or might he be loyal, protective and passionate?
And what about those powers? Would he hurt you with them? Or would he be dynamite in the sack?
Would his powers and good deeds spur you on to be your best self? Or would they make you feel pedestrian and inadequate?
And what if you had known him before he was a superhero? Would you still believe in him?
Writing this book allowed me to play with all kinds of answers to these questions, as well as, let’s face it, some steaminess!
Was it difficult to switch gears into superheroes after writing shifters? What do you think the main differences are in dealing with those two types of characters?
I’ve always loved superhero stories, so in a way it was like coming home.
That being said, yes, I definitely had to get my head in the game in order to set the stage for a different kind of story.
My shifters are born into their abilities, so there is no “origin story” for them. Shifters are drawn by instinct and often make decisions that seem to be almost fated.
On the other hand, superheroes are new to the game and they generally make decisions that are based on data and their own nebulous sense of right and wrong – consequently they tend to make more interesting and spectacular mistakes!
At the end of the day though, it’s all about the characters, getting to know them inside and out and then putting them into impossible situations to see what they’ll do. That’s what all writers love to do, I think.
I have been waiting all my life for someone to ask me this! Is the follow-up question: “Do you want your power right now?” 😉
Although I really want to be able to fly, I’ve been more and more driven to wishing I could clone myself in order to work faster! You know, like Lady Redundant Woman from Word Girl. Or like Tatyana Maslany from Orphan Black!
Boff, Marry, Kill: Superman, Batman, Spiderman?
First of all, this question is ridiculous! These three characters don’t even exist in the same universe.
But if we suspend our disbelief…
I’m definitely boffing Batman. He seems like he’d be great in bed, and he has all those sweet gadgets to keep a girl from getting bored. Also he seems like he wouldn’t get all needy or anything afterward.
Superman is so handsome. I hate to kill him. But his fortress of solitude looks really drafty and he doesn’t have a sense of humor. I will try to make it painless for him.
Spiderman has a great sense of humor and a sweet NYC apartment, he’s respectful to his aunt, and basically, he seems like a guy a girl could settle down with. But he’d better keep a sharp eye on me if Batman comes a’callin’.
What are the top three things you look for in a guy?
Oh wow, this is so hard…
Well, he has to look like he would jump when I say jump without dithering around asking a bunch of silly questions. So that’s #1.
A great sense of humor is a sign of intelligence and a comfort in hard times, so he has to laugh really hard at my jokes (but not too hard.) That’s #2.
Finally, a man should be one of the following:
- Financially stable
- Crazy, silly, gumby hot
- Be able to cook, so that I don’t have to eat cereal three times a day for the rest of my life. (Did I mention that I’m a dreadful cook?)
Do you have any writing rituals?
I take my beloved MacBook Air everywhere with me so I can hole up and write if I want no matter what else is going on. No rituals – I can write in just about any circumstances. And I refuse to write my ideas on a napkin, this is 2015, my computer weighs less than a pound, there is no reason to write anything on a napkin, for any reason. Sidenote: I’ve written so much this year on that Mac that the letters have worn off the keys!
What was your favorite part of writing the Building a Hero series?
I had to research all the amazing technology that was used to rebuild West. Most of it is real or in development, though of course I exaggerated what could be done with it. Since publishing the book, I’ve read about artificial skin with sensory abilities, and I even saw a YouTube video of a man getting an artificial eye.
I also enjoyed the dichotomy of the story. It begins as a tension-filled billionaire romance and turns into an action-packed dash to the finish.
How did you come up with Cordelia as your female lead character?
So I knew that my hero would begin as a bad boy billionaire type, self-indulgent, shallow, and free from accountability for his actions – basically the last person you can imagine becoming a superhero. As a matter of fact I’ve had fans say they got pretty far into the story before they saw him grow enough to cheer for him.
A guy like that doesn’t turn around without help, he simply isn’t emotionally equipped to look at the world from someone else’s point of view.
And thus was born my Cordelia, a woman of character, a person who has spent her life putting the interests of others before her own. She’s a bit stiff and judgmental, but who can blame her for trying to bring order to a world that has shown her such sadness and chaos?
I love that Cordelia and West’s early interactions are so ridiculous, their very different personalities made the writing fun.
Can you share a short excerpt of one of your books for our readers to enjoy?
In this scene, Ainsley has just arrived in her hometown, Tarker’s Hollow, after years away in college and in Manhattan. She wants noting more than to clear out her parents’ home quickly and get out of town without having to interact with anyone. Unfortunately, that’s not in the cards…
Ainsley looked both ways and crossed Yale. Avenue. There was nothing over there except the empty construction site, nobody to bother her.
The construction vehicles seemed out of place, especially for a town that feared change as much as Tarker’s Hollow. The former ball field was going to be an Inn and restaurant soon. The town had approved it fifteen years ago but they were only just now breaking ground because there had been such a fuss.
As Ainsley crossed Yale she studied the temporary fencing, trying to picture the size of the building and the parking area that would be there one day. Many of the trophies that still lined the shelves of her room featured miniature golden softball players. Ainsley had thrown her share of strike outs on the field that had already been erased by the heavy treads of the earth movers.
Just as she arrived on the sidewalk on the college side of Yale, a figure appeared behind the fence in the construction area. Tall, dark and handsome didn’t begin to describe him. But Ainsley was never the kind of girl who fantasized about Neanderthal types, so she tore her eyes away from his tantalizing shape and headed toward the overpass. She would just walk back over Yale to the café and real estate office.
She turned – the guy was yelling at her. Did construction workers actually think girls liked that? She turned up her nose and sped up her walk.
“Ainsley?” he called.
She turned on her heel and squinted at him. Did she know this person? She didn’t think so. She would have remembered that body.
“Ainsley Connor, is that you?”
Well, she wasn’t going to get out of this. She swallowed a sigh and walked toward him. God, he was good-looking. A white T-shirt stretched over his broad chest. His arms rippled with muscles. His jeans hung low on his hips.
Why were these blue-collar types always so hot? It wasn’t fair.
“Do I know you?”
“It’s Erik. Erik Jensen.” His eyes crinkled in a smile. He had the longest eyelashes – that was the only part of him she recognized.
“Erik?” Ainsley did not remember that incredible body.
“Yeah, I almost didn’t recognize you either, Ainsley. We grew up, didn’t we?”
Yes. Erik had grown into an underwear model. Ainsley had just grown curvier than she wanted to. But she couldn’t help smiling.
“We did,” she said.
“I was really sad to hear about your parents.” He glanced down and kicked at some dirt with the toe of his work boot. “Sorry. I was out of state for the funeral, or else I…”
“It’s okay,” she said, letting him off the hook. “I’m dealing with it.”
“So you live in New York, right?”
“Yes, I’m in real estate. It’s going well.” She left it at that. He was still stuck in Tarker’s Hollow, and digging holes for a living. How awkward. It would be better to not make a big deal of her success. “How are things with you?”
“They’re great, thanks for asking! I just found out I’m on the short list for the highway.”
What could that possibly mean? Was he on clean-up duty as some sort of community service?
“I’m not sure I know what you mean.”
“Sorry, Ainsley. I guess our small-town news doesn’t make in into the New York Times.” He flashed her a playful smile that made her forget to breathe for a minute. “I own this excavation company. We’re working on the Inn project now. And it sounds like we’re on the short list to do excavation for the new highway coming in. It’s a huge opportunity.”
The highway, was that really going to happen? She knew the residents had been fighting it for years but the highway would finally put the town on the map. Although given the special kind of diversity found in Tarker’s Hollow, maybe that wasn’t such a good thing.
Ainsley’s cheeks flushed at her assumption Erik was a bog standard construction type. His ambitions had clearly brought him well beyond the role of ditch digger.
It dawned on her that Erik was a wolf, too. She remembered what Mr. MacGregor had told her. Her cheeks flushed even more. She must look like a fool.
“Wow, Erik, that’s amazing. I’m really happy for you!”
He smiled and looked down modestly, showing off those eyelashes again.
For a moment she allowed herself to imagine what it would be like to be his mate. She let her eyes run down the length of his body, wide shoulders forming a triangle with his narrow waist. His jeans hung just low enough that she couldn’t quite see but could well imagine the silken trail leading down to what just had to be a beautiful cock. Even the jeans couldn’t disguise the size of the bulge between his legs.
He looked up and she met his eyes.
In a heartbeat, the edges of her vision blurred and nothing mattered but Erik. His eyes were luminous; his sweat was an intoxicating musk. His too long hair lifted in an imaginary breeze as his heartbeat strained to match hers. Tiny, golden motes danced along his muscular body.
It was happening again. Just like with MacGregor. Only this wasn’t a middle aged History teacher standing on the other side of the fence.
Ainsley licked her lips and moved toward him. Her palms clinked against chain link fence, just as he crashed into it, clenching it in his powerful hands and twisting until several of the links gave way with a pop. God, but he was strong. She had a vision of him tearing down the entire section of fence just to get to her.
A tiny moan escaped her lips and he growled softly in return, his dark eyes flashing a spectacular amber. His wolf must be close to the surface. She could feel her own, begging to be unleashed. Somehow she tore her eyes from his and the spell was broken.
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