Regina: As an author, what makes a book great in your eyes?
Nike: The characters, first and foremost, determine a great work of fiction. If the author hasn't presented compelling characters who I love to love, or love to hate, then it's a waste of an interesting plotline. I don't care if it's a seat of the pants ride, if I haven't become emotionally invested in the characters I won't become fully engaged in the story.
Regina: Tell us a little about what you are working on.
Nike: I'm leaving the world of historical whodunits w/romance and venturing into contemporary mysteries w/romance. I'm constructing a series with really strong, spunky private investigator and law enforcement heroines and stalwart heroes who are sometimes exasperated by these impulsive, but very capable females. My heroes are three-dimensional and ultimately can handle relationships with complicated women. There is a huge amount of humor, some of it all out funny, or zany, with moments of satire. I'd compare it with some of the work of Susan Issacs (humorous romantic suspense) or Jaqueline Girdner (comic California murder mysteries) or Chris Well (Earl Walker series, hilarious Christian mysteries).
Regina: What is the hardest scene you had to write in this piece?
Nike: The first work to introduce this new contemporary series is a novella, HARMFUL INTENT. My heroine is a girl-next-door private investigator from Brooklyn, NY who goes to Abilene, TX where she is accused of murdering her husband of one year. There were two difficult scenes to write. The first was searching the husband/murder victim's hotel room. I rewrote it several times to get the police procedure correct. The second was writing the scene when my female PI discovers the body of the second victim of the murder(s). I'm a victim's rights advocate. The second victim is a sympathetic character and I wanted to be honest about the brutality of murder and also wanted to be sensitive to my victim and respectful.
Regina: Let’s talk about the book you’d like to promote today. How did you come up with the title and where can we find it?
Nike: I'm promoting BURNING HEARTS (arson/murder, action, romance, and humor). It's gotten all four and five star reviews on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The title is a play on words. It's an arson/murder whodunit. The story opens with an arsonist burning down a house, killing the owner. But it's also a "sweet" romance in which Erica and Lorne yearn for each other, but they care so deeply, their hearts are burning, so to speak. It's actually my debut novel which Desert Breeze first published as an ebook, but it's now come out in print and I'm very excited about that. I love ebooks and was completely happy with it in electronic format, but I do know there are readers who only read print and now it's available for them.
Regina: What was your first reaction when you got a glimpse of your cover art?
Nike: When I first saw the cover for BURNING HEARTS I'd never had my own cover before and didn't know what to expect or what it should look like. The I'm afraid I asked Desert Breeze Art Director, Jenifer Ranieri, some pointed (though hopefully not rude, no seriously, never that) and stupid questions...all out of ignorance and beginner's fear. Here I am, now a multi-published author, and I can laugh about how wet behind the ears I was back then. The fact is Jen's cover for the novel is gorgeous and the other covers in the series are equally awesome. I keep getting wonderful complements on the covers.
Please give us a blurb and excerpt!
BURNING HEARTS: Historical Murder Mystery with Romance, mid-1940s
---arson/murder, action, and romance
---Sweet romance, sophisticated themes presented tastefully
---Finaled in 2011 Grace Awards Romance/Historical Romance category
Can a sheltered young seamstress, disillusioned by the horrors of WWII, escape an arsonist/murderer who has killed her employer and mentor, while trying to decide if she can trust the dashing war hero who’s ridden into town on his Harley—who some say is the murderer?
Erica Brogna’s parents doted on her and taught her to think for herself. Many boys she grew up with had fallen in WWII, shaking her childhood faith. In rides a handsome stranger, at the hour of her most desperate need. A woman who is her close friend and mentor is trapped in a burning house. After making an unsuccessful rescue attempt, Erica stands by as this man rushes into the inferno and carries her friend’s lifeless body out.
Lorne Kincade can’t out run his past on his Harley Davidson WLA, the civilian model of the motorcycle he rode in the war. He’s tried. He’s been a vagabond biker in the year since the war ended. His Uncle Ivar bequeathed him a ramshackle cottage in Sanctuary Point, on the Great South Bay of Long Island, NY and now he’d like to hope for a future again, repair the miniscule place, and settle down. The only problem is, a young woman with hair the color of mink is starting to get under his skin and that’s the last thing he needs.
Long Island, New York
Erica Brogna hurried down Hill Street, eager to sketch her new design, a forest green taffeta dress with a swirling skirt for a twenty-fifth wedding anniversary -- her first significant assignment. She paused to inhale the salt scent on the ocean breeze, and her gaze lingered on a copse of red, rust, and gold maples near Ada's house and dress shop.
She smiled, pulling her cardigan tight around her, and dropped the newspaper Poppa asked her to bring to her mentor and employer. She retrieved the paper and saw Bess Truman smiling as she entered Walter Reed Army Hospital. With the war over, the First Lady visited broken soldiers in long-term care. Erica slapped the paper closed before rage and depression overtook her. So many boys had not come home.
Chin jutted out, she smoothed the pleats of her skirt and marched toward Ada's house.
She'd think on pleasant things and hand the paper over without a fuss as she did every morning.
Nothing would ruin this day.
She climbed Ada's wooden front steps and opened the door.
Smoke filled the living room Ada had turned into a fabric shop. Erica waved a hand in front of tearing eyes. Gray vapors, like swirling fog, partially obscured bolts of fabric stacked against the opposite wall.
"Ada! Ada, answer me please." Dropping the newspaper, Erica rushed toward the stairs, trampling Bess Truman's image. "Ada can you hear me?"
Coughing, she grabbed on to the cutting table in the middle of the room, steadied herself, and reached for the phone -- no dial tone. Perhaps the fire melted the line.
She yanked the collar of her blouse over her nose and mouth against the smoke. The stairs loomed before her, seeming as impossible to scale as Mount Everest. She lunged forward, gripping the baluster, and thrust herself up two steps. Since Ada wasn't outside, she had to be upstairs.
As Erica climbed, the smoke thickened and swirled around her. It was darker with each step.
One hand clasped the rail and pulled, and she advanced a few more steps. Heat blasted against her skin from above, and soft crackling sounds drew her gaze to the upstairs landing.
Squinting into the smoke, she lost her grip on the banister, missed the next step, and fell backward tumbling to the bottom.
The back of her head smacked against the baluster, and wooziness followed sharp pain.
She tried to stand but couldn't get her bearings.
Will triumphed over ability. She hoisted herself, ignoring the dull throb at the back of her skull. Her palms stung, the skin scraped off during her fall. She took a deep breath, and a coughing fit seized her. Shallow breaths were the better alternative.
Planting her penny loafer on the bottom step, Erica began her climb again, shaken but with new resolve. If she could reach the top of the stairs, she could also make it to Ada's bedroom.
Halfway up, the scratches on her palms pulsated as the temperature rose. So did her knees -- must've scraped those, too. The pungent smoke shrouding her darkened, and grit clung to her skin. She couldn't see the banister or the top of the stairs and each breath took effort.
Poppa's lectures on fire drills flashed into mind -- stay low in a fire to get fresh air. She dropped to her knees and crawled, ignoring her pain. A sickening smell made her stomach lurch.
Inch by inch she crept, now three quarters of the way up. Hot, putrid air assaulted her windpipe, and she doubled over, her insides trembling.
Heaving herself forward, she maneuvered up one more step, but the smoke pushed back, choking her. She sobbed, knowing she couldn't make it to Ada, and scrambled down, hoping she could find help.
Regina: That excerpt totally grabbed me, Nike! Name two things readers would be surprised to know about you.
Nike: A ways back, I was a pet rescuer for about five years and even had a small animal shelter in my basement complete with cages were stray cats and dogs could live until they were adopted. I rescued and adopted about nearly 50 dogs and cats. The other thing is that I worked in marketing in the bridal industry before I started writing professionally.
Regina: What is your favorite place in the whole world?
Nike: Key Largo, Florida (and some of the other lesser well known keys). I find them relaxing, romantic in the classical and personal sense. The Florida Keys are a great place to kick back.
Regina: If you didn’t have to worry about counting calories or fat, what’s the first food you’d reach for?
Nike: An authentic Florida homemade key lime pie.
Regina: Mmm- great choice! Speaking of choices, if someone hasn't read any of your work, Nike, what book would you recommend they start with and why?
Nike: I always like to start reading a series from book one, so I'd recommend BURNING HEARTS, the first in my historical whodunit series. That way readers can get to know all the people of Sanctuary Point, my fictitious bayside village. Characters from the first novel reprise in the later novels as secondary and minor characters. All the types you'd have in any tiny village. Of course, HARMFUL INTENT will be coming out soon and is book one in my new contemporary series.
Thanks for spending a bit of time with Gina’s World of Good and best wishes for your continued success.
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Nike Chillemi ~ Crime Fictionista http://nikechillemi.wordpress.com