I’m super excited to have paranormal romance author Carla Susan Smith as my MAY “Author Spotlight.” We actually met because of…Amazon. Yes, it’s true. About a year ago after I designed the cover for my still unreleased Contemporary Romance series, I found hers in the sea of books on Amazon and had a bit of a heart flutter. We had one really big thing in common. We shared the same delicious cover model. Her Gabriel, my Raine. I kept a photocopy of her cover on my desk for about a year—but couldn’t bring myself to read it. I was so in love with my character that I was afraid to confuse myself. Silly, isn’t it? Then I saw A Vampire’s Promise on Bookbub, and downloaded it for free. Once I opened it on Kindle, I couldn’t put it down. Carla’s characters and writing drew me in immediately. For me, she’s one of those writers whose words wash over you like a warm bath, wrap around you, and then carry you along. I finished the book in two nights, and left my review on Amazon and downloaded the second book, A Vampire’s Soul. I’m sure you could imagine my surprise when Carla sent me a note about the review through my website email address! We chatted online for a day. Since I enjoyed both books so much, I asked her to be a guest…and here she is. Turns out we have a lot of things in common besides a cover model. See my review below!
Carla, thank you so much for stopping by Creating the Write Reality today![CSS] Thank you for inviting me – it’s so exciting to be a guest!
So tell us how you got started as a writer. Did you always dream of being an author?[CSS] Truth be told, my writing started because of a real bad romance novel. I was reading a truly awful romance novel, and no, I’m not going to tell you the title, when my best friend who’d been listening to my mutters of disgust, asked if I could do better. Never one to shy away from a challenge (mainly because I was too foolish to know better!), I went home that night and wrote the first couple of chapters of what eventually became a 250-thousand word historical epic! And that’s how it all began. Becoming a writer has been, for me, a wonderful accident!
I noticed that you won an award for the A Vampire’s Promise. Tell us a bit about that.[CSS] I was lucky enough to be awarded first place in the paranormal category of the 2012 “Finally a Bride” contest which was sponsored by the Oklahoma Outlaws, a chapter of RWA. It was for entries that had placed somewhere other than first in previous contests, hence the name. Anyway, I about fell off my chair when I read the e-mail that said my entry had taken first place. Oh and just in case anyone decides to look it up (though why they would is beyond me) my entry won under its original title of A Promise Given.
You shared with me that A Vampire’s Promise and A Vampire’s Soul was originally one book, which I found fascinating. Share with us a little about your journey to publication.[CSS] Yeah, originally it was one book, but at well over a 150-thousand words I was told it was too long, especially for a debut novel. Unfortunately I lost too much of the story when I tried to cut it down to 100K words, so instead of writing less, I wrote more, making it a novel with a sequel. Trust me, I’ve had a lot of comments about the “cliff-hanger” ending of A Vampire’s Promise, but to me it seemed the most logical place to finish the first book.
As for my journey to publication, that goes back to winning the contest. Alicia Condon, who is an editor with Kensington, was one of the final judges, and she requested my full manuscript. Of course I e-mailed it to her right away – and heard nothing for four months! Talk about a let-down – LOL! Then I suddenly got an e-mail from her asking if the book was still available (hell yeah!) and would I be interested in being published digitally? She could have offered to print it on grocery bags and that would have been okay with me! I’m pretty sure I asked her to repeat the contract offer three times before it sank in, and I remember she laughed when I asked if this meant I could tell people I now had a publishing editor. But in all seriousness, I am so grateful to have been given this opportunity and I realize how extraordinarily lucky I am especially as, and I’m sure you can empathize with me here, Liz, the road to publication can be both frustrating and demoralizing (can you say query letters?). And no, I still don’t have an agent!
Where do you draw inspiration? I have a feeling we like some of the same authors, anyone who stands out that has influenced you? Favorite paranormal series and why?[CSS] Inspiration can come from anywhere and everywhere, which sounds like a horrible cop-out I know, but it’s true. I will say that part of the reason why I wrote A Vampire’s Promise was because it was the story I always wanted to read – but no-one had written! [LGO] I know what you mean! That’s how I started too 🙂 [CSS] Who has influenced me? Surprisingly enough a wide variety of authors, and not all of them are paranormal romance writers. For pure genius I have to say Stephen King is my all-time favorite. The man can take the cleaning instructions from a silk blouse, and make it scare the crap out of me! But I also like writers as diverse as George R. R. Martin, Anne Rice, Bernard Cornwell, Grace Draven, Michael Crichton, Tasha Alexander, Ken Follet, and Anne Bishop to name a few – trust me the list could go on! But of course I do read an awful lot of paranormal romance and my favorite series is a tie between J. R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood (you have no idea what a struggle it was to finish my third book knowing The Shadows was sitting on my shelf, waiting to be read!) and Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series. (yeah, I so wanna do Jericho Barrons!) And in a complete let-me-suck-up moment, I do want to say how much I enjoyed your Trinity Stones, and I’m trying to find a moment to catch my breath so I can read The Wanderer’s Children.
[LGO] Aww, thanks so much for saying that! Love the BDB series by J.R. Ward, Anne Rice, and so many more of the authors above.
First romance you ever read? Favorite romance you ever read?[CSS] First romance I ever read is easy and I’ll never forget it – mainly because my mom took it away from me believing it was a little too risqué for her pre-teen daughter to be reading! It was called Angelique by Sergeanne Golon, and is a historical series set during the reign of King Louis XIV. As for my favorite romance—I guess it’s too conceited of me to say I love Rowan & Gabriel’s story!—so let me say there really are too many good stories for me to pick just one, but if I have to right now, at this precise moment (sheesh – talk about pressure!) I just read Grace Draven’s Master of Crows and that’s definitely going to be a keeper for me.
Most amazing ‘pinch me’ moment you’ve had since you were published?[CSS] OMG – Had to be seeing a copy of A Vampire’s Promise in my local bookstore! I picked it up and putting it back so many times I’m pretty sure the gal behind the counter thought I was trying to steal it!
Any advice for new writers?[CSS] Trust your voice. The mechanics of writing can always be learned, but your voice is unique and is what draws your readers in. I had a review where the reader said she stayed up until 3:00 a.m. (on a work-night no less!) because she couldn’t put my book down. Best compliment ever!
Any marketing tips that you can share?[CSS] Well, being here with you is a terrific marketing tool! I’ve always been told that a writer needs an agent, but as you know, I don’t have one, so I’m sure there’s lots of things I could be doing to promote my work, possibly things an agent would do for me, but I don’t know what they are! However, the internet is a wonderful resource tool as well as a great promotional platform. Virtual book tours are fantastic (just make sure you’re in the right one to promote your genre) as is trade publication advertising (but this can be pricey, so be careful). It goes without saying you need a website and social media promoting – I confess I’m terrible at Facebook, but with the world of digital publications there are any number of great sites to get advice and help. I have to give shout out to The Books Machine and Bookbub, both of which are terrific. Oh and make sure you have business cards with you – at all times. You wouldn’t believe the number I’ve given away standing in line at the grocery store!
What’s next? Can you tell us a little about Book 3?[CSS] Book 3 is done – drum roll please – and I must thank my friend Ruth for coming up with A Vampire’s Honor, which I love, and I’m hoping we can keep. Right now it’s in the hands of my editor at Kensington for her to read, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed she likes it as much as I do. It’s primarily a continuation of Rowan and Gabriel’s story (living with a vampire can be challenging to say the least – wait till you see what Gabriel does with Rowan’s underwear!), but in this novel we also get to learn how and why Aleksei and Gabriel were brought together, and the reason for Aleksei becoming a vampire. Oh, and you get to meet another Original Vampire and this one’s drop-dead gorgeous (of course) even if he does have blue hair! [LGO] I love the new title, and can’t wait to read it!
Will you come back to do a guest post for launch? And maybe a giveaway?[CSS] Absolutely on both counts, I would love to! Thank you so much for having me here today, and I want to let you know this is definitely one of my “I can’t believe it” moments! [LGO] It was great to have you. Wow, glad I could provide you a ‘can’t believe it’ moment!
I highly recommend reading these books together. So, I’m reviewing them as one.
Title: A Vampire’s Promise
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Published: June 1, 2014
Title: A Vampire’s Soul
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Published: July 1, 2014
PRAISE FOR CARLA'S BOOKS:
“Rowan's wry commentary about her predicament is priceless, and this romance sizzles. The revelations about the complex nature of Gabriel's existence and his connection to Rowan are the backdrop in which their wild passion and love run rampant. By striking a “deal with the devil,” Rowan gains much but also loses her former humanity. This series is highly recommended.” —Library Journal
A Vampire’s Promise: Trust Your Instincts
Rowan Harper is nothing but a smart-mouthed bookstore clerk with a crappy love life on the night she walks into Rosie's Bar. Most of the drama in her life is borrowed from her best friend's adventures. But when she meets Gabriel–tall and movie star gorgeous–everything changes. Never mind that she turns down the drink he offers, or that he brims with secrets she can't begin to guess at. He ignites a desire in her she never suspected–and shows a fascination with her she can't explain.
He has no family, no job, no bank account; he knows where she lives and her favorite flower. An aura of mystery cloaks him, even as Rowan grasps for facts, even as she fears an answer that could destroy her happiness. Gabriel can guide her through a wonderland of new sensations. But only if Rowan trusts him enough to follow. . .
A Vampire’s Soul: Into The Dark
Rowan Harper's world has been wrenched apart. The man she thought she loved—the man she does love—is a vampire, and not the kind that glitters.
Running away isn't an option. Gabriel isn't just her lover. She's bound to him in ways she can't comprehend, ways that put both of them in desperate danger even as Rowan's desire for him blazes anew.
The rules of her life before are gone. But she has a power of her own, a power she is remembering in fits and starts even as time races against her. With her life and Gabriel's very soul on the line, Rowan has to choose who to believe—and who to trust. . .
RATING: 5 STARS (Adapted from my Amazon reviews)
The story is written in first person from Rowan's point of view. I found her delightful from page one. She's smart, witty, and tells a compelling story that I found hard to put down. Gabriel's written to be so delicious that I felt pangs of jealousy just reading him, and identified with every point of angst Rowan had over falling for him. Their love scenes were well done without going overboard. Laycee and Jake were also likeable and enjoyable to have on the page. What can I say? This is my kind of book. I couldn't help but pick up on the common paranormal author influences between myself and Ms. Smith. J.R. Ward, anyone?
The Vampire's Promise (Book1) and The Vampire's Soul (Book 2) are really one story told in two books. The second book seamlessly picks up where the first one left off. I highly recommend reading them together. I loved both books, devouring each one in about two days. The writing and characters are compelling. They drew me in and carried me along with ease in a complex, and expertly woven tale that resonated with me long after I closed the book. Rowan and Gabriel continue to sizzle on the page.
In this half of the story, the reader experiences the tale unfolding with Rowan as she comes to understand the meaning of the promise, and all of its implications. Not everything is as it appears when it comes to the Light and Darkness, and Rowan must figure out who she can trust. Gabriel is as delicious as ever. He shows us both the depths of his love for Rowan, and the price he's willing to pay to be with her. Enough is left open for a third book, while still giving a satisfying ending. Looking forward to whatever is next…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Carla owes her love of literature to her mother, who, after catching her pre-teen daughter reading by flashlight beneath the bed covers, calmly replaced the romance book she had “borrowed” with one that was far less risqué, and much more age-appropriate! Encouraged to include different genres in her reading tastes, romance – paranormal romance in particular – has always been her first love.
Born and raised in England, she now calls South Carolina home where she lives with her wonderfully supportive husband, awesome son, and a canine critique group (if tails aren’t wagging then the story isn’t working!) When not writing she can usually be found in the kitchen trying out any recipe that calls for rhubarb, working on her latest tapestry project or playing catch-up with her reading list.
Find Carla here: http://carlasmithauthor.com/
Purchase A Vampire Promise and A Vampire’s Soul here: