Today it is my pleasure to welcome Harlequin Presents author Annie West to HJ!
Hi Sara, thanks so much for having me here. It’s my first visit and I’m so excited.
Annie for all of my readers who may not be familiar with your work, could you tell us a bit about yourself and your books?
Sure. I write for Harlequin Presents and am putting the final touches on what I hope will be my 19th book for Harlequin. I love the fact that here in Australia here I live, Harlequin Presents books are called Mills and Boon Sexy so when I go to reader conventions and writers’ conferences I get introduced as a ‘Sexy author’! That always makes me smile. I love writing for Presents as I got hooked on the high stakes and emotional punch you find there. Plus it’s an excuse to daydream about ultra sexy men and their love lives. What a hard life! When I’m not writing I like to read, cook (and eat), travel, go out with friends or go for long walks. I live near some beaches, a scenic lake and some of Australia’s best wine country so there are plenty of places to explore.
What is your writing process like, what comes first, characters or story?
My writing process varies from book to book depending what’s going on in my life. Preferably I start early and get a good chunk of writing done before lunch, but I’ve become adaptable and have discovered that even when I’ve got lots of interruptions I can still achieve a fair bit in the afternoon. Though I’m a morning person I’ve learned to be flexible as I’ve juggled a few interruptions lately, including a series of minor house renovations.
Hm, as to story or character first, they really come at the same time. At least one character is strong in my mind with the plot though I may take a little longer to know the other. I often start a book without a detailed plot outline. As long as I have a good, strong conflict and two characters who are real to me, then I can start writing.
One book you read in the last 6 months that has left a lasting impression and why?
‘The Doukakis Apprentice’ by Sarah Morgan. Sarah writes for the same line as I do and I’m not giving away any secrets to say I love her books. I suppose this one stands out because of the lovely way she weaves humour into such an intensely emotional story. I smiled even as I got swept away in that lovely rollercoaster ride you find in a really great romance.
What are you currently working on? What can we expect from you in the future?
I’ve just been checking through the final version of ‘Imprisoned by a Vow’ – my August release. I enjoyed that final read of the edited version and found myself turning the pages quickly – always a good sign. It’s a story of an arranged marriage with quite a twist. The heroine is caught, not just by the terms of her marriage agreement to a man who makes her question what she wants from life, but by other factors that test her to the limit. As for the longer term future, I’d say look out for plenty of dark, charismatic heroes who like getting their own way, but have a very strong honorable streak, as well as heroines who refuse to be a pushover.
Let’s talk about your new release ‘Captive in the Spotlight’, If you had to sum up the book for the reader here…
The book begins on the day Lucy is released from prison in Italy. She’d been convicted of killing her boss in a heated lovers’ argument. Her family and friends have dropped away and she’s gone from young, innocent abroad with unquestioning faith in the justice system, to a woman who’s fiercely self protective, hiding her vulnerability behind a shell of hard won bravado. All she wants to do is put the past behind her and get on with her life. But instead she finds herself hounded by the press, and confronted by Domenico, the brother of the man she’s supposed to have killed. Domenico has his own reasons for seeking her out and refuses to let her slip away quietly. The book is set in Rome and on Domenico’s private island off the Amalfi Coast, where the pair unwillingly discover their preconceived notions about each other were flawed. They are the last people in the world who should fall in love and yet…
What sparked the idea for the book?
My lovely editor and I were in email correspondence about my next book (she’s in London and I’m in Australia so it’s often email). She mentioned the possibility of a story involving some sort of scandal that would draw major press attention. Within 24 hours I had the basis of Lucy and Domenico’s story in my head and couldn’t wait to write. Sometimes even a sentence or two can spark such a strong story idea.
If you had to pick your favorite scene from ‘Captive in the Spotlight’
Oh, that’s so difficult. I’m a sucker for an intriguing opening. I loved writing this one. Lucy’s dreams of freedom turn to ashes when she’s faced with a paparazzi horde plus the man she least wants to see in the world. The emotional stakes are high for both of them, and when he offers her a lifeline – a way out of the disaster facing her, I felt that rush of doubt and shock and unwilling attraction too. But then there’s their first kiss – on a boat off the Amalfi coast of southern Italy, where they’ve been watching the sun set. Domenico and Lucy have learned enough about each other to question their earlier assumptions, and be intrigued about what they’ve learned. They finally give in to the searing attraction they haven’t been able to banish.
Who would play Domenico and Lucy in the movie version of your book? And why?
Ah, I had fun with this one, Sara. I thought long and hard but it’s definitely Joe Manganiello for Domenico. He’s got the same look and build and has one of those faces that looks great brooding or smiling which is exactly how I see Domenico. As for Lucy, I’d opt for Diane Kruger. She has the blonde looks but also the energy that makes Lucy stand out for me. Lucy is self-controlled (she’s had to be) but beneath that there’s real fire. I think Diane Kruger would do the part beautifully. Thinking this through I’d love to see the pair of them together.
Giveaway: Annie will be giving away a signed copy of ‘Captive in the spotlight’ plus one backlist.
To enter giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter below and post a comment to this Q: Even though Domenico is the last person Lucy wants to see when she’s faced with a throng of paparazzi, he does help her escape. If you were in trouble and needed help, who would you like to have rescue you? Someone you know and love, or maybe, someone you’d like to know better?
As if sensing him, she turned her head. ‘You! What are you doing here?’ She spun to face him, legs planted wide and hands clenched at her sides, a model of aggressive challenge.
Except for the robe’s gaping neckline and the flutter of cotton around bare thighs that highlighted her femininity.
Domenico reminded himself he liked his women accommodating. Soft and pliant. Warrior queens with lofty chins and defiance in every sinew held no appeal.
His body’s wayward response angered him and guilt pricked. This woman had destroyed Sandro.
‘This is my property. Or had you forgotten?’
‘You implied I’d be here alone.’
‘Did I? Are you sure?’ Of course she wasn’t. He’d chosen his words carefully. Even to his enemies, Domenico didn’t lie. Seeing her skittishness he’d deliberately neglected to mention he’d arrive here today. ‘I fail to see what my travel plans have to do with you.’
He waited for her to splutter her indignation. But she merely surveyed him through slitted eyes. He sensed she drew her defences tight, preparing for battle.
Was she like this with everyone or just him?
‘You came to make sure I don’t steal the silver.’ The sarcastic jibe almost hid her curiously flat tone. Yet he heard that hint of suppressed emotion, as if she was genuinely disappointed.
As if what he thought mattered.
Domenico frowned, instinct and intellect warring. He knew what she was, yet when he looked at her hefelt…
Abruptly she pulled her robe in tight, as if only now realising the loose front revealed the shadow of her cleavage. Methodically she knotted the belt, all the while holding his gaze. Why did it feel like she was putting on armour, rather than merely covering herself?
Did she know with the light behind her, the wrap revealed rather than concealed her curves? Was it a deliberate ploy to distract him?
His voice was harsh. ‘I leave it to my security staff to watch for thieves.’
Did she flinch? He remembered her rosy flush in court when evidence had been presented about the jewellery she’d been given by or stolen from Sandro.
No sign of a blush now.
‘What do you want?’ Her insolence made his hackles rise.
It was on the tip of his tongue to deny he wanted anything but pragmatism beat pride. He was here for one reason only and the sooner he fixed it the sooner he could put Lucy Knight firmly in the past.
‘I do have some business to discuss with you but-’
‘Ha! I knew it!’ She folded her arms and Domenico had to force his gaze above the plump swell of her breasts, accentuated by the gesture.
‘Knew what?’ To his chagrin he’d missed something. He who never missed a nuance of any business negotiation.
‘That it was too good to be true.’ Her lip curled. ‘No one gives anything for nothing. Especially you.’ Her gaze flicked him from head to toe as if she read his body’s charged response to her. His skin drew tight. Fury spilled and pooled. At her dismissive tone. At himself for the spark of arousal he couldn’t douse.
‘You’re here, aren’t you? Safe from the media?’
‘But at what price?’ She stepped close, eyes flaring wide as if she felt it too, the simmer of charged awareness, palpable as a caress against overheated flesh. ‘There are strings attached to this deal, aren’t there? A price I have to pay?’
Domenico looked down his nose with all the hauteur six centuries of aristocratic breeding could provide. No one doubted his honour. Ever.
‘I’m a man of my word.’ He let that sink in. ‘I offered you sanctuary and you have it. There are no strings.’
Yet if she hadn’t been so stressed yesterday she’d have made sure of that before agreeing to his offer.
Domenico muffled a sliver of guilt that he’d taken advantage of her vulnerability. The stakes were too high, the trouble she could cause too severe for him to have second thoughts.
Her perfectly arched eyebrows rose. ‘I’m free to leave?’
Domenico stepped back and gestured to boats moored in the bay. ‘I will even provide the transport.’
He wished she’d take him up on the offer. Yes, he wanted more from her but instinct warned him to be rid of her. He didn’t relish the discordant tumble of his reactions to her. There was nothing logical or ordered about them. She made him feel…things he thought long dead.
Her eyes bored into his, as if she sought the very heart of him. ‘But you want me out of the limelight.’
‘Of course.’ He shrugged. ‘But I’m not keeping you prisoner. There are laws in this country.’
Her breath hissed and she stiffened, reading his implication. That one of them at least was honest and law-abiding.
Her mouth tightened but otherwise her face was blank. So much for vulnerability. Lucy Knight was tough as nails.
‘If you’re staying…’ He looked at her expectantly but she said nothing. ‘We can discuss business when you’re dressed.’ He glanced at his watch. Eleven o’clock . ‘Shall we say midday ?’
‘Why delay? I’d rather know what you want.’
She spoke as if he hid something painful from her. He almost laughed at the idea. Once he made his offer she’d be eager enough.
‘You’re hardly dressed for business.’
She stuck her hands on her hips, her pose challenging and provocative. ‘You’d be more comfortable if I wore a suit? Why can’t you tell me now?’ Again those delicate eyebrows rose, as if she silently laughed at him.
Something snapped inside.
He stalked across till he stood close enough to inhale the scent of soap and fragrant female flesh. Close enough to hook an arm round her and haul her flush against him if he chose. Instead he kept his hands clenched at his sides.
She refused to shift. Even though she had to tip her head back to look at him, exposing her slim throat. Heat twisted in his belly, part unwilling admiration at her nerve, part implacable fury.
His gaze held hers as his pulse thumped once, twice, three times. The artery at her throat flickered rapidly and she swallowed. Yet she didn’t look away.
Charged seconds ticked by. Her pupils dilated. His senses stirred. Did he imagine that hint of musky arousal in his nostrils? The quiver of anticipation in the air?
Her breasts rose with her rapid breathing, almost but not quite brushing against him. The woman staring back defiantly was no modest, unprotected innocent.
The thought pulled him up. He’d almost forgotten this was about her, not him.
She wasn’t as unaffected as she pretended. He saw the fine tremor running under her skin. Her tongue flicked out to swipe her lips and he bit back a smile. For it wasn’t a consciously slow, seductive movement but sure evidence her mouth had dried. Nerves or arousal?
Domenico leaned close, letting the heat of her body drench him. Her lashes flickered and her trembling pulse accelerated. His quickened too.
Holding her gaze, he reached out and snagged her belt. Instantly she stiffened, but she didn’t retreat.
Was that a challenge in her eyes?
Her breath was a warm, sweet sigh against his chin as he tugged the bow undone, loosening the fabric around her.
Domenico bent his head and her pursed lips softened. Her eyes widened and something flickered there. Fear or anticipation?
‘My office in an hour. You’ll be less easily distracted if you’re fully dressed.’
He straightened, spun on his heel and left her.