Hi, Angelina! Thanks for stopping by Fresh Fiction. Can you tell us about yourself and your new book, HATE CRUSH?
I’m a lifelong writer and romance fan. I started writing romance when I was working as a newspaper journalist in the late-90s. My debut book, LUSH MONEY, came out October of last year, so let’s just say that my newspaper stories came out much quicker than my books did. ;-) I think the long road to publishing was very worthwhile--I learned so much about the craft, the industry, and myself as a writer along the way. It made me much more confident in the things I wanted to say because I’d worked so long at saying them!
HATE CRUSH, my second book in the Filthy Rich series--about powerful, wealthy women who get what they want because they’ve earned it--is about Princesa Sofia, a millionaire winemaking princess whose about-to-launch winery is struggling to get attention, and fallen rock star Aish Salinger, whose career is in the dumpster. A fake relationship between the two of them could save her winery and struggling kingdom, and his faltering music career. Only problem: She hates him more than any other person on the planet. Ten years ago, he broke her heart during one California harvest season. He regrets breaking it. She regrets giving him the chance. He’s sworn to get her back. And she’s sworn never to fall in love again.
I love that HATE CRUSH combines a bunch of romance tropes: royalty romance, rock star romance, a little bit of second-chance, and a whole bunch of fake relationship! What’s the challenge of combining tropes? Do you have a favorite trope to write? And what about your favorite to read?
I’ve been reading romance for 30+ years. When I started ingesting romance, tropes just seemed like hangers that you could hang all kinds of gorgeous, multi-dimensional, wildly varied clothing on. So, the more frames/hangers/tropes you line up, the more gorgeous thread you can weave.
I think I tackle the challenge of multiple tropes by making them seem real and concrete. I write BONKERS books because I want to create escapist fantasies--I read romance to be swept away. But the fantasy of falling in love only works for me if I believe the authenticity of the characters, regardless how wild the scenarios. So, for example, this royalty romance has real stakes for my royals--if they don’t do a good job running their wine-centric kingdom in the mountains of Spain, people’s lives will be ruined and a 1000-year-old history will be lost.
Because I view tropes like hangers, I don’t really have a favorite. My characters dictate my tropes and then I play with them to make them compelling or to spin them on their head so that they surprise you.
I will get down from my soapbox to say that stranded together--in a cabin, on an island--is my catnip. Though that might change after the last few months of social isolation with my family!!
Sofia wants to prove herself in the winery world, as well as to her royal family that she is capable of running a business and helping her people. How will readers relate to someone like Sofia—a former party girl turned entrepreneur?
Successful women are so often viewed through the lens of their love lives, marriages, children, and sex lives. Think of our female pop culture icons--Oprah Winfrey, Taylor Swift, JLo. Yes, they’re gazillioniares, yes, they’re wildly powerful and creative and talented and entrepreneurial. But are they married? Have they been able to find the right man? And aren’t they pathetic if they’ve had no children, too many divorces, too much sex. . . (Say the last three sentences with extreme sarcasm.)
Successful men are NEVER viewed through that same lens. Period.
I wanted to put Princesa Sofia through that same real-world scrutiny. She is highly trained and her skills have been proven and acknowledged (it’s why she’s a self-made millionaire). And while she was getting that training and showing those skills, she also partied and had sex. Her behavior in a man wouldn’t be blinked at. But for a woman, it’s constantly brought up to discredit her, even when her partying days are long over.
Some readers are going to open the book and insta-love Sofia for being a bad ass. Some readers are going to feel the biases we’ve been trained to feel about women making choices to enjoy themselves. I hope everyone gives themselves an opportunity to fall in love with this tough-exterior, gooey-interior, smart, loyal, hard-working and huge-hearted princess.
Aish is a down on his luck rock star and has done his fair share of selfish things at Sofia’s expense. He wants this opportunity to get close to her again. What was the easiest part about writing Aish? What was the hardest?
The easiest part: His slinky rock n’ roll sexiness. I’ve always been a bit of a fangirl for musicians, and so it was super awesome salivating over one as I wrote. He was also fun to write because he had a whole journey from California-surfer-golden-boy to a man who had to come to terms with the mistakes he’d made in his life and make amends for them. Seeing this gorgeously tall man slowly discover that he had to kneel to get back the woman he loved--and seeing him willing and eager to do it--was just awesome.
The hardest part: Making the hurt he caused in the beginning of the book real and meaningful without making him so awful that he was irredeemable. Sometimes second-chance romance books have hinged on the woman “overreacting.” I hate that descriptor for women and I certainly wasn’t going to hang it on my princesa. So, her hatred and anger had to be legitimate and understood by the reader without the reader wanting to run Aish over with a bus. It was a hard balance, but I think the hurt he causes in the beginning of the book makes his journey to becoming a man who would truly sacrifice everything for the woman he loves that much more wonderful.
I always ask authors what they’ve recently read and enjoyed! What’s a book or two you highly recommend?
I’m a huge fan of historical romance writer Cecilia Grant, and I only recently discovered that she had a novella that I hadn’t read. I devoured Christmas Gone Perfectly Wrong and cried at the end. Her story telling is emotionally rich and her characters are so unique and real. Her writing kills me.
What can readers expect from you next? Can you tell us anything about book 3 in the Filthy Rich series?
Book 3 in the Filthy Rich series, SERVING SIN, will be coming out in 2021. It’s about Roman Sheppard, known as the reluctant prince, who’s the half-brother of our prince and princess in the first two books. This ex-Army Ranger raised in a Texas trailer park only discovered his biological father was a king when he was an adult. When he discovered his royal family, he was already internationally famous for his daring rescue of a kidnapped Mexican teenage heiress. He’s now head of a security firm known globally for protecting heads of state and human rights activists.
That Mexican heiress, Cenobia Trujillo, is now the CEO of her family’s company, Trujillo Industries, the largest auto parts manufacturer in Mexico. She’s ready to take on the auto world with her launch of a new environmentally friendly car for Mexicans, by Mexicans. But a surge of threats against her and her company force Cenobia to visit the man she hasn’t seen in thirteen years: Roman Sheppard. After spending two days crossing the desert with him when he rescued her, he’s the only person she trusts to protect her, her family, and her company during this tenuous time.
There’s a reason Roman hasn’t seen Cenobia, who people call “Cen,” in all these years. He was 26 when he rescued her and always felt guilty about the way he was drawn to the girl on the cusp of 18. And there’s a reason Roman is the only man Cenobia wants around. She fell in love with him during that rescue--of course, she did. She’s ready to turn childish daydreams into a grown woman’s nighttime pleasures.
Rapid Fire Random Questions
Dragons or unicorns: Argh!!! Why is this so hard??? Dragons, although third-grade me who loved pink and purple and unicorns is kicking up a glitter storm right now.
Five people you’d invite to your book club (dead, alive, fictional, etc.!):
- Jensen Ackles (Supernatural star who is inspiration for SERVING SIN’s Roman Sheppard and whose image provides dopamine shots at the end of lousy days.)
- Prince (we’d sing, chat, and then he’d give that awesome grin at my jokes)
- Charlotte Bronte (I hope she’d enjoy herself. I’d serve her non-stop biscuits and tea and tell her how much I loved her feminist, funny, woman-who-takes-no-crap book of Jane Eyre)
- Michelle Obama (Our children are the same age and we both think her husband is hot. Does anyone not invite Michelle Obama to one of these fake book clubs?)
- Rita Moreno (She’s been a badass Latina for so long. I’d ask her if I could take lessons.)
Some of your auto-buy authors: Sierra Simone, Sherry Thomas, Lisa Kleypas, Mia Sosa, Naima Simone, Sabrina Sol, Cecilia Grant, Kerrigan Byrne, Reese Ryan
Favorite flower: Gerbera daisies
Earliest celebrity crush: Rick Springfield
Random interesting fact you like to tell people: My parents own a vineyard in Sonoma County. My second book is dedicated to my parents and Gantz Family Vineyards; they’re the whole reason I can write books about a wine-growing kingdom with any authority.
Hobbies you have (aside from reading and writing): Walking, cocktail making (truly, it’s a hobby!), watching Supernatural and engaging in the fan community, and reading and writing fan fiction. Yes, I relax by doing more writing!
Dream vacation: Two weeks on the beach in Tulum with my hubby and no plans.
Sweet or salty snacks: SALTY!! French fries and potato chips.
You have a totally free afternoon - no deadlines, no obligations, no Twitter notifications! What do you do?: Sit on my deck with my hubby drinking a cocktail we concocted while meat is grilling, then we eat said meat under our big umbrella with our adult sons, then we head inside when it gets too dark and put on music and play a cut-throat game of spades. Which my teammate and I will win.
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