Book Chat with Cindy Lynn Speer

This summer, I was priviledged to chat in depth with Cindy after reading The Chocolatier’s Wife released by Drollerie Press around the same time as Beautiful Death.  Events conspired against us so we’re just not getting this “chat” published on our blogs, but we had a great time discussing the story behind the books and general writing.  We plan on posting part of our “back and forth” chat every Friday until we finally stopped talking shop.  This is very informal, so there may be some overlap…or some juicy tidbit extras!

First off, let me say how much I enjoyed The Chocolatier’s Wife (TCW).  This sweet romance really tugs on the heart-strings.  I absolutely adored the little touches between Tasmin and William.  For most of their lives, their courtship happens through letters.  It’s sort of a fluke, really, that they were even “matched” by the magic that determines who should marry. 

Little things speak so loudly, though.  It’s the care and consideration between the two of them that really makes this story so sweet, long before they ever meet face to face.  The small considerations between these characters really shows how they fall in love bit by bit.  Love comes softly for these characters, and it’s beautiful to watch.

We thought it would be interesting to delve deeper into our stories, because they are on opposite ends of the spectrum, really, for what our niche micropress Drollerie Press is really all about.  Beautiful Death is violent and quite sexy, where TCW is softer and subtler, but BOTH stories combine magic and romance into what we think is a rather rich and unique tapestry.  Both stories are transformative, because I assure you, William is never the same after Tasmin blows into his life, and Isabella can only learn what it truly means to be a “monster” after she becomes a monster herself. 

So the first thing we started talking about was the “story behind the story.”  Here was Cindy’s response:

What started my book was a sort of goofy confluence.  It was nearing Christmas and my then department chair had given me a tower of chocolate…different boxes with all these lovely things inside.  And I had just watched a movie with an actor in it who I was wishing was in more roles…and as i was opening the box, I was wondering what I would like to see him in.  And I took a bite of this square of chocolate…it was, sincerely, one of the best pieces of chocolate I’d ever eaten…and the idea flooded into my head, even the title.  

Sounds yummy, yes?  So head over to Cindy’s blog and read my response about Beautiful Death and its original inspiration.

Next week, we’ll continue with the next question, where I said: 

Oooh, so you know I’ve got to ask:  who was the actor and what was the movie?  

Then we got to talking about “casting” our characters.

And since it’s been quite a while since I posted anything about Beautiful Death, I’ll post an excerpt.  This piece provides some of the backstory about how Isabella became “Beautiful Death.”  Although she doesn’t know it at the time, this “alien” is Hades.  Not exactly your everyday run-of-the-mill “first meet” in a romance.  :roll:  :wink:

Without opening her eyes, she knew someone watched, very close, the stirring of air warning her that a hand stretched toward her.  She exploded into action, rolling to the side and scooping up the knife that she always kept nearby.  Huddled with her back to the wall, she felt her heart stutter with dread.

This monster was the real thing. 

The alien spun silvered rainbows through the alley, leaving her nowhere to hide.  He squatted down to her level, as though that would fool her into trusting him.  “Isabella.  I’ve come to help you.  Your father–”

A cold sweat coated her skin, but she couldn’t hold back the laughter.  Ragged, shrill with grief and rage, her voice grated like broken glass.  “Even if you weren’t a monster, I’d know you were lying.  My father’s the last person I ever want to see again.”

A sound jerked her attention behind him.  More aliens had her sister.

“I’m tired.”  Amelia lay in one of the alien’s arms like a helpless baby, and the look of resignation on her face made bile burn up Isabella’s throat.  “I’m dirty and cold and starving.  I just want to go home.  He said we’d be safe, Bella.  If not…”  she shrugged, “at least it’ll be over.”

Fight!  Why don’t you fight?  Don’t lie there and let them kill you!  “There is no home.  Mom’s dead, and Daddy’s never coming back.  Don’t you understand?  There is no safety!  If they don’t kill you, their virus will!”

Choking on tears of rage, her throat hurt, her eyes burning.  Otherwise, she’d have seen the alien coming at her.

The bastard was good, she’d give him that.  He seized her right arm, his thumb pressing on her tendon until her nerveless fingers dropped the knife, while he pinned her against his body with his other arm.  For all his size and power, he made one monumental error.  He treated her carefully, as though she were just a fifteen-year-old kid, half starved and scared shitless, as though she hadn’t seen people tearing each other apart for food or killed to keep herself alive.

She lunged up and buried her pitiful human teeth in his neck, tearing at that vulnerable pale skin.

The alien’s body jolted against hers, silver burning higher.  Glass shattered in the windows of the abandoned highrise.  Street lamps that had long ago quit working exploded like fireworks.  The ground trembled, glass and metal tinkling, debris falling all around them.

“Bella.”  The alien’s voice sounded shaken, hushed, not filled with fury or pain like she’d expected.  The fool released her hands and cupped her head tighter to his throat, curling his body around hers protectively.  “Your father sent me to you.  I mustn’t…”

Then you’re dead, she thought, fisting her hands in the ridiculously long, pretty hair about his shoulders.  She yanked his head back further and tore deeper at his throat, determined to rip her way to his spine, but he still didn’t release her.  His power burned higher, sinking into her, melting her bones, and swirling rainbows sucked her down into an endless pit of darkness.

Her heart pounded harder, her mind screaming with terror, but her body slipped into neutral while he siphoned off her energy.  Her strength, hatred, and rage that powered her ferocious will to live disappeared in an instant.

He’s feeding on me.  He’s eating me alive.

She’d seen the horrors, watched as the aliens drained their victims and left them mindless shells to die twitching and screaming when the virus struck.  She’d hated those weaklings and despised their stupidity, never understanding the horrific compelling need to give up the fight. 

There was nothing she could do to stop him; worse, the longer he fed, the less she wanted him to stop.

Rest, peace, safety, all lies he silently promised while he crushed her against him and drained her lifeforce.  Surrender, his body purred against hers.  Death won’t be so bad.  I’ll be gentle, sweet, good, I promise.

His blood coated her face, filled her mouth, and slid down her throat in a hot, liquid flood, but she was the one dying.  Little by little, Isabella flickered lower, a candle guttering in the silent, cold night.  Her defenses crumbled.  He was all around, inside her, soaking her up, drinking her most horrible dreams and memories, seducing her to death.

Lost, all she could think about was how incredibly good his blood tasted.

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