Hi Janie and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, Critical Instinct!
Thanks for having me again on Harlequin Junkie! Always love to be here.
Please summarize the book for the readers here:
Detective Brett Wagner is the only one who believes Paige isn’t just trying to get attention with her drawings. And when he realizes they’re all linked — all the victims of one killer — he know’s he’ll do whatever it takes to protect her.
Everyone Paige has drawn has ended up dead. And now she’s drawn herself.
What’s your favorite line(s) from the book?:
Randal shrugged, still grinning. “I say take your passion and make it happen.”
Brett could practically feel his eyebrows finding a new home in his hairline, but he couldn’t keep from chuckling. “Did you just quote *Flashdance* to me as life advice?”
When you sat down to start this book, what was the biggest challenge you faced? What were you most excited about?
I had a HUGE fangirl moment when NY Times/USA Today best-selling author Cynthia Eden, not only agreed to read Critical Instinct, but gave such a glowing review of the novel:
“Dark and intense—perfect edge-of-your-seat romantic suspense! CRITICAL INSTINCT grabbed me from the first page.”
Please tell us a little about the characters in your book. As you wrote your protagonist was there anything about them that surprised you?
My favorite thing about this book is that it’s not paranormal, but it has just a touch of the unexplained. Paige Jeffries is an artist –a painter– but she’s been drawing women in her sleep… victims of a killer, with perfect detail. She doesn’t know why she’s drawing them, and very much wishes she wasn’t.
What surprised me, something I didn’t plan, was that Paige doesn’t actually know how to draw. She’s an artist, yes, but she’s a *painter*. She doesn’t know how to do realistic drawings on command. She could only do them in her sleep.
What have you learned about your own writing process/you as an author while writing this book?
That I am capable of writing longer books, with a more involved romance and mystery storyline. All my other books have been Harlequin Intrigues, which has a set word count. So writing something different, longer, was a little scary. But also so rewarding. I think this is definitely my best novel to date!
But I also wanted to make sure it wasn’t gruesome or contained unnecessary violence. I don’t like to read that in books, so I definitely don’t like to write it.
The First kiss…
“Sometimes I don’t think I’ll ever recover from what happened to me.” She turned and walked over to the sink, facing out the window. “That I’m broken.”
She could see his vague reflection in the window as he came to stand behind her, but he didn’t touch her again.
“If you’re talking about what happened today, I think you’re being too hard on yourself.”
She turned to face him. “I’m talking about how I’ve lived inside this house for nearly two years, afraid that a repeat of something that was most probably a random occurrence will happen again. I’m afraid that I’ve let some silly teenagers goofing off force me back into this house for two more years. I’m afraid that I told you that about seeing auras and now you’re looking at me like I’m a few Bradys short of a bunch.”
He smirked. “I was going to say a few marshmallows short of a bowl of Lucky Charms.”
She smacked him on the arm as he laughed. “That’s not funny.”
“A couple tires short of an eighteen wheeler?”
She groaned, wiping her hand across her face. He was joking she knew, but he didn’t even know the full extent of everything. “I don’t blame you if you want to leave. If you think I’m crazy. If I was you I’d get as far as possible—”
She forgot what she was going to say as he stepped closer and took the hand she was using to rub her forehead. He gently brought her fingers up to his lips and kissed them before lowering them down to her side.
She couldn’t stop looking into his soft brown eyes —was almost mesmerized by the flecks of gold in them— as he reached down, grabbed her by the waist and hoisted her up onto the counter by the sink. Then he reached down and gripped her hips and slid her all the way to the edge until she was flat up against his hard body.
All without any hurry.
“You’re not crazy. And there’s no one else I’d rather be with.”
Perched up on the counter put them much closer to eye to eye. Brett’s hands slid up her back to either side of her neck, threading into her hair.
And then he kissed her.
It wasn’t brief like last night at the show. It was thorough. Hot. Wet. Every single thought about anything flew out of her mind and all Paige could do was feel.
She saw in colors all the time, but never before had she felt in colors. Even with her eyes closed colors seemed to bombard her.
Did any scene have you crying or laughing (or blushing) while writing it?
One of my favorite scenes was when Paige finally got the courage up to make her move on Brett:
Looking at Brett as he walked towards her down the hall, all she could feel was the heat pooling in her.
“Paige.” Chivalry fairly floated off the word. He stopped his forward progress.
He was concerned about her. Going to try to stop this before it even got started.
She felt a deep, feminine bravery come over her. Whatever battle with himself Brett was envisioning? He’d already lost it.
She took a step closer to him and hooked the crook of her finger into his shirt between the second and third button. She pulled him closer.
“Brett.” She mimicked his same tone, but smiled instead of frowned.
“You’ve had a pretty traumatic day today.”
“Yes, scary teenagers everywhere.”
“You hurt your elbow.”
She stretched out her other arm to show its functionality and pulled him closer with her finger. “I think I’m going to make it.”
“This,” he sighed and referenced between them and her bedroom with his hand, “Is a big deal. For me, but for you especially. I think we should take it slow. That you should make sure this what you really want.”
She let go of his shirt. She wasn’t prone to anger, but felt it coursing through her now. Not at him, at life in general. She was tired of being fragile, of being the one everyone always worried about. She’d been that way her whole life, even before the attack.
The quiet one. The one that needed protection. The scared one.
But damn it, not tonight.
She pushed Brett back against the door frame with a little more force than either of them were expecting. She poked her finger into his chest.
“I’m not scared. And I’m not making some knee-jerk decision based on what happened today. I want you and unless I’ve misread everything and you don’t want me too, then just shut up and kiss me.”
If your book was optioned for a movie, what scene would you use for the audition of the main characters?
I think the point where Paige and Brett meet again, when Brett is sent to question her, would be a great part to determine both the chemistry between two actors…
“Did they send you because we knew each other in high school?”
She was definitely smart. Or wary enough of the department to know their tricks. Brett side-stepped. “I don’t think the couple of sentences we spoke in art class would constitute knowing each other.” And honestly, after his family died, he’d never thought of Paige Jeffries or her blue eyes again until today.
Blues eyes that held shadows. She looked like someone chased by demons. Bone-weary exhaustion from trying to outrun or fight them. Maybe he’d and the chief been wrong. She certainly didn’t seem like she was some sort of attention-monger.
“I’m sorry if you feel like anyone at the Portland PD was not putting their best effort into the case.” Brett didn’t even let himself focus on the fury building inside him at the thought of what had happened to Paige. At what she had suffered. That jaw poking out at him had been broken, her face hit so hard one of her eye sockets had collapsed. Her nose shattered.
So if she wanted to stand outside the department with a bullhorn and picket signs demanding they do more to catch her attacker, Brett wasn’t sure he’d blame her.
“It’s not that I don’t feel like they’ve tried their best,” Paige said softly. “I think I made them uncomfortable. Like they didn’t know exactly what to do with me. Go ahead and ask your questions,” Paige said, sitting on a barstool across from him. “Or… actually I can probably answer your questions without you even asking them.”
She took a sip of her water, then continued, holding up her fingers as she ticked off the questions. “No, I have never remembered anything about my assailant. Even though I must have seen him at some point, I can’t remember anything about his features at all. How am I doing so far?”
Despite her slightly defiant tone, Brett could tell these were still hard statements for her to make. “Yes, definitely questions were on my list.”
Paige stared down at her water bottle, all of the fight seeming to suddenly leave her. Her voice was much softer as she shrugged. “I’ve never remembered anything more that would help. It would almost make you think some part of me doesn’t want to catch him.”
Brett could read her frustration with herself. His hand itched to reach out and touch hers, to comfort her in any way he could. He ruthlessly tamped the feeling down. This was not the time or the situation. Plus, the questions were only going to get harder.
But the desire to touch her, to comfort her, was almost overwhelming. She looked so little and lost sitting on that barstool, clutching her water bottle as if it was a lifeline to the civilized world.
“It’s okay not to remember,” Brett offered, feeling it was the least he could do. “It’s your mind protecting itself. No one would ever blame you for that.”
Paige nodded shortly, but Brett could tell she wasn’t convinced. It didn’t seem to matter if others blamed her. Paige blamed herself.
Readers should read this book….
Because courage doesn’t alway roar. We all have demons in our past we have to fight in order to fully embrace the future.
What are you currently working on? What are your up-coming releases?
Survival Instinct, the follow up to Critical Instinct! This is the third of the triplet’s stories (Primal Instinct was Adrienne’s, Critical Instinct was Paige’s, and Survival Instinct will be Chloe’s).
Survival Instinct releases July 11 and is available for pre-order now. 100% of the proceeds from the pre-sale of Survival Instinct will benefit Tia’s Troopers fight against Cystic Fibrosis (see more here: http://www.janiecrouch.com/tia-troopers )
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
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Excerpt from Critical Instinct:
From Chapter 1:
Damn it was good to be home.
Brett Wagner brushed the last of the cold rain from his head as he sat down at desk at the homicide division of the Portland PD and turned on his computer. He’d never thought he’d miss the gloom of early spring in the Pacific Northwest, but he had.
South Florida, for all its bikinis, really only had two seasons: hot and melt-your-face-off hot. But it had served his purposes for the last fifteen years, since at eighteen he’d accepted a football scholarship at a mid-sized university there. It had gone on to give him a place to live, and a police force to join and ranks to move up. Brett had loved it in South Florida, had thrived there.
Yet the 305 had never really been home.
But it had been as far from Portland as he could get and still be in the U.S. A distance he’d needed when his parents and two younger sisters had been killed in a car accident and his life had pretty much imploded just as he finished high school.
Who would’ve thought he would end up back here where it all started? Brett took in the organized chaos around him. Phones ringing. People walking, talking. The constant click of keyboards, printers, doors opening and closing. Some things didn’t change much. Law enforcement stations were one of them.
“Here you go, QB. A gift from Captain Ameling.” A uniformed officer dumped a load of files, at least half a dozen deep, off on Brett’s desk.
“Seriously Randal? More?” Brett rolled his eyes at both the high school nickname that still followed him even though he hadn’t played ball in nearly a decade and the files. They’d been piling on his desk all week. Captain Ameling was making his displeasure at Brett’s hiring known.
“That’s what happens when the Chief of Police is your uncle and you get hired despite the Captain’s wishes. Cold cases.”
“Chief Pickett isn’t my uncle,” Brett muttered, grabbing the uppermost file before it slid off the top. But he had been Brett’s father’s best friend and in Brett’s life so long that the title was more true than honorary.
“Look, man.” Randal’s grin was just as big as it had been in high school. “You don’t have to sell me. We’re all glad to have our beloved QB back in town. Terri says hearts, and certain lady lingerie parts, are already melting.”
More eye rolls. “Randal, you do know that leading a high school team to a state championship doesn’t actually have any bearing on real life all these years later, right? And definitely isn’t why I got the job here.”
“Your success record from Miami was impressive from what I’ve heard, so nobody doubts you’re qualified for the homicide detective position.” Randal shrugged, still grinning. “I say take your passion and make it happen.”
Brett could practically feel his eyebrows finding a new home in his hairline, but he couldn’t keep from chuckling. “Did you just quote Flashdance to me as life advice?”
“Hey, I’m just saying don’t let it get you down. Captain Ameling’s just a little pissed that Pickett went over his head. Who knows, maybe Ameling thinks you’re gunning for his job.”
Because Brett’s dad had been police captain before his untimely death.
“Trust me, I have no desire to to be captain. Hell, I’ll be lucky if I ever get to any current homicide cases the way I’m getting loaded with cold cases.”
“Well, Chief Pickett did mention you had a knack.” Randal clapped him on the shoulder. “I’ll leave you to them. Terri wants me to invite you over for dinner. Says there’s a number of old friends that would love to get reacquainted.”
Randal waggled his eyes and Brett had no doubt Terri meant some of her cheerleader besties from back in the day. Tall and blond like Terri herself.
But Brett had already done that. Had married a high-maintenance ex-cheerleader only to be divorced by her a couple years later when she realized how much attention Brett couldn’t pay her because of his job. He had no interest in someone who needed his attention all the time.
Brett waved Randal off. “We’ll see.” The other man chuckled and took off down the hall. Brett hoped Randal wouldn’t be back with more cases. Or dinner invitations.
Brett would ease into those when he was ready. Maybe in about three or four years.
Excerpts. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Every single person Paige has drawn has ended up dead. And now she’s drawn herself.
Paige Jeffries is the darling of the art world. Her works are original, compelling. But after a brutal attack two years ago —a savage beating from an unknown assailant—Paige has become all but a recluse. She knows her mind is broken. In her sleep she’s drawing scenes of violence. Murders. Going to the cops isn’t an option because they already think she’s crazy. And they may be right.
Seasoned homicide detective Brett Wagner is asked to look into a cold case nobody wants: the assault and battery of a local artist who claims to have drawn a picture of her own attack before it even happened. He remembers shy Paige from high school, and is driven to find her attacker, to believe her when nobody else does, to protect the innocent beauty.
Because when he witnesses firsthand what Paige is drawing in her sleep, Brett realizes they are scenes from actual cases. Cases that had no connection until now. Portland has a secret serial killer, and Paige is somehow linked to his mind.
And he’s coming for her.
Meet the Author:
Winner of the Golden Quill Award for Best Romantic Suspense, and a finalist in multiple other Romance literary awards, including the coveted RITA Award by the Romance Writers of America, Janie Crouch loves to read – almost exclusively romance – and has been doing so since middle school. She cut her teeth on Harlequin (Mills & Boon) Romances when she lived in Wales, UK as a preteen, then moved on to a passion for romantic suspense as an adult.
Janie recently relocated with her husband and four children to Germany (due to her husband’s job as support for the U.S. Military), after living in Virginia for nearly 20 years. When she’s not listening to the voices in her head (and even when she is), she enjoys traveling, long-distance running, movie-watching, knitting and adventure (obstacle) racing. Janie completed an Ironman Triathlon in 2014 and is prepping for another one in 2017.
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