Great Summer Reads From EJ Russell
The sun is shining and as I plan my summer vacation one of my toughest decisions is figuring out which books I want to load up on my ereader for poolside perusing, campsite lounging, or airplane reading. At the end of March, EJ Russell released the second book in a series that is a must add for your summer reading list.
Tested in Fire is the second installment of her Art Medium books that follow the lives of artist Stefan Cobbe and his boyfriend, art investigator Luke Morganstern. I managed to catch up with Ms. Russell in between deadlines to ask her a few questions about her thoroughly lovely series and two of my favorite lead characters.
C. Morgan Kennedy (CMK): I’m always curious as to why authors are drawn <pun intended> to their subject matters. So…why paranormal? Why contemporary?
EJ Russell (EJR):
Good question, C! It really comes down to what I love to read. I’m a voracious reader—it’s my chief form of recreation. Before I really discovered modern romance (thank you, Kindle gen one, and book bundles!), my reading pattern was cyclical. First, I’d be on a Jane Austen/Georgette Heyer binge. Then one day, I’d think, “Time for a change,” and it would be all fantasy/sci fi, all the time. Then I’d hit the wall and dive into mysteries. Rinse. Repeat. That changed to some extent with the Great Romance Discovery, however I never shook my original reading patterns. So historical, contemporary, and paranormal romances are the stars of my TBR pile. Once I started writing again (I hadn’t really done anything other than expository or business writing since sixth grade. The California school system. What can I say?), my preferences were set! I write in three basic flavors: contemporary (with a definite rom-com bent, because if it’s not fun, why bother?), paranormal romantic comedy, and supernatural romantic suspense (which is where the Art Medium series falls.) I haven’t written a historical yet, although I’ve got one planned. Not a Regency, though—I’m too intimidated by all the amazing authors who write in that milieu. I’ve got my eye on silent era Hollywood!
CMK: I’ve read both the original and expanded versions of The Artist’s Touch and now Tested in Fire. I loved both books. What is it about Luke and Stefan’s love story that brought you back to your keyboard for a second installment? AND <please, please, pretty please> are we going to see them again in a third book?
The original version of The Artist’s Touch was my first published book, and was written in response to a call for submission for short novellas set in a haunted house. Because the call was specifically for short fiction, I couldn’t spend as much time with Luke and Stefan as I wanted. I wrote the first (very) rough draft of Tested in Fire because I wanted to give them another challenge—and see how their relationship would stand the test. However, my publisher at the time wasn’t interested in multiple books featuring the same couple, so I put it aside for…gosh, five years? I was so happy that my editor, Rachel Haimowitz, wanted to see both books! And yes, Rachel and I have talked about a third book. After all, Luke can’t escape unscathed from the events in Tested in Fire, and Stefan still has one ghost he has to face. (I won’t tell you who—but canny readers will probably be able to figure it out!)
CMK: OK – I’m not giving anything away with this comment / question – Hootie haunted a Payless in Flatbush?? I laughed-out-loud when I read that passage! How did he come into being? :D
Heehee! Hootie sort of…evolved. Originally, the only thing I knew about him was that he was Peg’s sidecar ghost who cheated at poker—didn’t even have a name for him. Then, for some reason, Hieronymous Bosch’s painting, The Garden of Earthly Delights, floated through my head. I liked the idea of the ghost having a name that was related to art, although Hootie is Italian, not Dutch, like Bosch. In fact, Hootie was acquainted with Niccolo Machiavelli! (Not that he’s one to drop names, of course.) And since Hootie was a cobbler in life, it made sense that he’d haunt a shoe store. ;-)
CMK: Speaking of Hootie…Peg is my kind of colorful secondary character! She is a sheer pleasure to read on the page. Will we see more of her and Hootie?
Anyone who’s read my Legend Tripping series (Stumptown Spirits especially) has already met Peg and Hootie (although Hootie kept a very low profile)! When I was writing Stumptown, I needed a ghost expert for a desperate Logan to turn to. Since I’d already written one (even though she hadn’t yet seen the light of publication), I totally stole my own character and gave Peg a cameo, which means the Legend Tripping and Art Medium series are de facto in the same story universe! And if the third Art Medium book moves forward, we’ll definitely see Peg and Hootie again!
CMK:I am in awe of the number of stories you have written since we first met. Tell us a little bit about your writing process and what we may see before the end of the year (if you can)?
I’m a micro plotter, which I know sends many of my writer friends screaming from the room. But ever since high school, when before every essay test, my favorite English teacher used to write on the board, “In a well-written and unified essay…” I’ve always had to know where I was going before I could start. I’d look at the essay question, figure out my last sentence, and write to that sentence. When I first started writing fiction, I was still flailing around, trying to find a process that worked for me, and having one heck of a time because all the methods I’d seen used (at most) macro plotting—the three act structure, the Save the Cat beats, etc. But those didn’t help me because they weren’t specific enough. I needed to know what happened next so I could write to that next thing. Then two things happened: I took Suzanne Johnson’s Quilting 101: Patchworking the Perfect Plot, and discovered Todd Klick’s screenwriting book, Something Startling Happens. The combination of these two things (which dovetail perfectly) changed the way I write. If I follow Suzanne’s plotting-through-character-arc method and organize the story with Todd’s Startling beats, I can power through the first draft of a 75K word novel in under a month. Of course revisions and edits are another story!
In terms of what’s on the horizon (or near it), I recently released another paranormal romantic comedy, Nudging Fate, in the new Enchanted Occasions series with Dreamspinner Press. They’ve contracted the second in the series, so expect to see Devouring Flame sometime in December or January. My contemporary novella, Mystic Man, also from Dreamspinner in their States of Love collection, arrives on June 22. I’m also working on a new three-book series set in the Fae Out of Water ‘verse. This one (the Supernatural Selection series) is centered around a “supe” matchmaking agency, and features guest appearances by characters from Cutie and the Beast, The Druid Next Door, and Bad Boy’s Bard. The first book, Single White Incubus, should hit the (virtual) shelves in October, with the other two following in November-January.
Thanks so much for inviting me to stop by, C! This has been a blast!
CMK: Thank YOU, EJ for taking the time to talk with me! Well dear readers, we can all look forward to seeing many more fabulous books from EJ Russell. (Personally, I’m going to beg for a beta read of her silent era Hollywood book!) Happy reading!
The Artist’s Touch (Art Medium Book 1) by EJ Russell
Two men haunted by more than the past.
Painter Stefan Cobbe was homeless and debt-ridden after the death of his wealthy partner, but the worst loss of all was his artistic inspiration. After two years of nothing, he’s offered patronage by an eccentric gallery owner and starts to produce again, canvas after canvas. The only problem? He can’t remember painting any of them—not one single brushstroke.
Luke Morganstern’s reputation as an art-fraud investigator is in tatters. He can’t afford to turn down any job, even a lousy one for an anonymous client who sends him after an unidentified forger in a remote cabin in Oregon. When the alleged forger turns out to be Stefan, the man he never stopped loving, Luke’s professional ethics are stretched beyond the breaking point.
As the two men take tentative steps toward reconciliation, evidence begins to mount that they’re not alone in the woods. Someone—or something—is watching. Something with sinister plans for them both. To escape, Luke must overcome his suspicions and Stefan must trust Luke with his deepest fears. Otherwise they could forfeit their relationship, their sanity—and their lives.
NOTE: This is a heavily revised and significantly expanded reprint of the author's Northern Light.
Tested in Fire (Art Medium Book 2) by EJ Russell
Six months ago, Stefan Cobbe was at rock bottom: grief-stricken, guilt ridden, debt laden, artistically blocked, and living on charity in an isolated mountain cabin. But after reconciling with his first love, Luke, and moving to Sarasota with him, Stefan is preparing for his first major show. Yes, he still has debts, and no, Luke doesn’t understand Stefan’s desire for independence. But compared to last year? No contest.
Luke Morganstern ought to be happy. After all, his art-investigation business has recovered and he’s got his boyfriend back. But Stefan stubbornly refuses to move in with him or accept Luke’s financial help, and it’s really starting to bug him. Who knew that the biggest test of their relationship wouldn’t be time or distance, but his own insecurities? After Luke’s next job—a trip to Italy to retrieve a mysterious artifact—he plans to convince Stefan that it’s time to totally commit.
But when Luke returns, he changes, and Stefan begins to suspect that the person in Luke’s skin isn’t Luke at all. He can hardly go to the police and claim his lover is the victim of a supernatural hijacking though. He needs alternative help to find Luke and get him back, because he refuses to let anyone—or anything—come between them again.
Columnist: C. Morgan Kennedy
I have a confession to make. I’m a time traveler. I love flinging myself into the future, then hurtling fast to an alternative past. In my usual time-space-dimension, I’m a mechanical engineer and business woman. So, I have a natural penchant for hover cars and steam or aether powered engines. Though I was born in the wrong era, I’m actually a child of the sixties – 1860, 1960, 2060.
My stories feature strong women, who know how to wield their minds like weapons. Their men are smart and often controlling….but, rest assured, my female leads give them a run for their money. They strive to follow their hearts and dreams for the betterment of themselves and their loved ones. Like my life, all of my stories feature a diverse cast of characters.
With my business partner, Therese Patrick, I work to demystify marketing principles for my author friends. Our first book, Author Marketing 101 Guide & Journal, was published by Gazebo Gardens Publishing and released in October 2013.
Steampunk, futurist, blerd, artist, author, and marketing maven…a real creative force of nature – that’s me in a nutshell.
Keep tabs on my adventures via my blog, Morgan’s Mix Tape, on my website: http://www.cmorgankennedy.com.
Find C. Morgan Kennedy's prior Melting Pot articles here.