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‘Tis Friday!  We made it through another week (!!), and to celebrate I’m welcoming fellow Noble Romance author and woman of great suspense Jess Anastasi to the stage.  She writes a fantastic story, ya’ll, but the story behind the scenes is a must read all its own.  Wait until you see what she thinks of her first novel!  Have a seat, won’t you?

Welcome, Jess!  I’m delighted to have you here for the day.  I did some background snooping and I’ve got to tell you, I LOVE how you say your first novel was “atrocious.”  What was it about?

Oh yes, it was bad. It was a historical romance, about the daughter of an earl whose entire family gets killed by the plague. She flees her family home, collapses on the roadside and gets found by an earl. He takes her in, but his castle isn’t exactly the safest place in the world, since someone is trying to kill him. It was so full of clichés and badly scripted drama, it’s embarrassing! I more wrote it as an experiment to see if I could write something that length. Oh, who am I kidding? I thought it was brilliant when I first did it. LOL.

Oh, I’d love to read it!  LOL.  But it’s a wonderful thing when we move past those early works and see the flaws.  Growth is a beautiful thing!  Now, you have a Diploma in Professional Writing and Editing.  How has that affected your career choices, aspirations, or accomplishments?

At the time, it was great to be supported and guided by likeminded people. My teachers were just wonderful and I couldn’t have asked for a better bunch of people to help me in my first steps into the world of writing. I got to try lots of different things – novel writing, short stories, non-fiction/journalism, writing for children and young adults. By the time I finished, I’d had lots of fantastic experience and knew exactly what I wanted to do with myself.

That sounds incredible, and to have that kind of direction is priceless.  Now, speaking of direction, have you ever battled with any of your characters over their personality traits?  If so, who won – you or the character?

YES! I am having this trouble right now. There’s a character in my sci-fi romance, Atrophy, named Rian. He’s the captain of a ship, the Imojenna. He’s not even the main character, yet he dominated every scene he was in, and even some he wasn’t. He’s a very hard man, fought in a war, got captured and tortured. He thinks there’s nothing in him worth saving and is definitely the stab-first, ask questions later kind of guy. Pretty much anything will randomly set him off and he’s not afraid to put down anyone who gets in his way. I had to tread a fine balance between being true to his character and not letting him alienating the readers, because eventually I hope to write his book (just got to get a publishing contract for Atrophy first). He’s definitely the most complex, scarred character I’ve even dealt with. Can’t say that either of us have won… yet. I have a feeling he will though.

Wow!  Rian does sound like a strong character, and his backbstory sounds perfect for a lead!  Pushy characters aside, Have you ever made big changes in your story because someone – your crit partner, a friend, or beta reader – really didn’t like it?  Are you glad you did (or didn’t)?

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The romantic suspense I’m working on at the moment, Night Fall, was half finished, yet I knew there was something about it that just wasn’t working. One of my crit partners said it had a ‘distance’ to it, for some reason she just couldn’t connect with the characters or story. My other crit partner said the same thing. After a lot of discussion and some revision, we worked out it was the hero sucking the life out of everything. So we ditched him (poor guy!) brought in a new hero and I started it from scratch. Just like that, everything connected and now it’s coming along very nicely. I’ve just gotten back to the half way point, hopefully it won’t be too much longer before I can get the whole thing finished.

A moment of pure bliss when it all came together, I’m sure.  (And props to those crit partners for helping you see the problem!)  As a suspense writer, how do you keep track of the clues and plot twists?

I don’t, my characters do! I am a pantser through and through. When I start a book, I have no idea what’s going to happen. Somehow, it works, don’t ask me how. The plot falls into place and the twists and clues seem to take care of themselves. I do go back and do a bit of tweaking here and there at the end, but ultimately, the pieces fall into place on their own.

Oh, man, that is awesome.  (Yep, that’s me … green with envy!)  Which of your novels most reflects who you are as a writer?  Why?

I don’t know that there’s any one in particular that does. I think they all do in one way or another. If we’re talking which one I ultimately love, then that’d have to be Atrophy. I always wanted to write sci-fi, but never felt confident enough to attempt it. Though I’m a sci-fi fan (Joss Whedon, when you created Firefly, you became my ultimate hero!) I didn’t think I’d be able to pull off all that technological stuff myself. Sanctuary was my experimental foray into sci-fi, but I softened the blow by lacing it with paranormal elements. Once I realized I could do it, I sat down and wrote Atrophy at 95,500 words in seven weeks. I feel like it’s my current pinnacle of work.

WOW.  That’s absolutely jaw-dropping!  I’d say you hit a mark with that one.  What are you currently working on?

As I said, I’m halfway through a romantic suspense about an ex-FBI agent, Ric, who moves back to his hometown, only to find his ex-partner, Madi, has gotten married and started her own life there. But things aren’t as they seem in the once quiet town and an attempt on his life makes Ric realize his past might be catching up to him. He suspects Madi is keeping something from him, but his feelings for her and the fact she’s now a married woman leaves him uncertain.

Madi is hiding something from Ric alright, the fact that she’s not really married. Her ‘husband’, Jon, is actually her new partner and they’re in town undercover, investigating a string of disappearances. But a number of near misses on both her and Ric’s lives create dangerous complications, not to mention the feelings she shouldn’t be having for her ex-partner. To protect Ric, should she tell him the truth? Or will revealing all the facts turn deadly?

(Interrupting here to say that sounds like a great plot!)

After I finish that, I’ll be starting the third book in my Sanctuary series, Singularity. It’s about Marc, who saved the life of an angel, Charmeine, and ended up mystically bound to her until she can repay the favor in kind. If that’s not complicated enough, a bunch of fanatics want Marc dead. With a bounty on his head and a kill-on-sight order out on him, Charmeine probably won’t have to wait very long to save his life!

I do believe you’re on a roll with ideas!  I think I need to stand closer so some of that inspiration will rub off on me. ;c)  (Disclaimer:  no actual rubbing has taken place.)

Thanks so much for having me, Sarah, it’s been great fun!  (<<And not because I rubbed her.  Really.)

Thank YOU, Jess!  Now, if I could just write 50k words in the next SIX weeks … yeah.  You win.

Readers, if you’d like to learn more about Jess Anastasi – who might be just a bit paranormal herself with that writing speed – you can visit her website and blog, stalk her on Twitter, or grab the whole backlist on her Noble author page.  For the latest contests and news announcements, head over to her Facebook page, but don’t go yet!  First, check out the blurb for DEAD REALITY!

FBI Special Agent Ella Waverly is wrapping up one last assignment before heading off on her first holiday in five years. But flip-flops and cocktails are the last thing on her mind when she meets the new team leader, Special Agent Bryce Lain, and finds out her holiday is being scuttled for an undercover assignment.

Agent Lain is gorgeous, the kind of gorgeous that guarantees he’s an arrogant jerk. The news that he’ll be her partner in the dangerous mission is almost enough to make her head explode. Before the day is out, Ella finds herself at Little Palm Island Resort in Florida, masquerading as a contestant on the latest reality TV show – Lord Bachelor. The bachelor in question, a disgraced British peer, is suspected of raping and murdering several women back in London.

As humidity frizzes her hair beyond the help of any type of de-frizzing, smoothing, glossing product, Ella tries to wrangle working against nineteen husband-hungry bimbos, one suspected serial killer and one seriously hot agent who’s trying everything he can to get under her skin.