Hi Julie and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, Wicked Torture!
Tell us about the book with this fun little challenge using the title of the book:
Oh, that’s so hard to do without spoilers!
Okay, here goes:
Ten years after leaving the woman he loves, Noah Carter finds himself face to face with her again. Only now, he’s a wounded man with a dark, tortured past. He knows he can’t have her, and he’s certain she doesn’t want him, despite the electricity that still crackles between them. Even so, they’re forced together by work side by side—a situation that’s full of wicked torture … and all kinds of possibilities if they can just break through each other’s walls.
What’s your favorite line(s) from the book?:
Oh my goodness! That’s a hard question. (flips back through manuscript looking for possible quotes …)
OK, I’m going with: She had an obsession with swizzle sticks.
It’s the first line of chapter 1 and it’s my favorite because a) I like the mental picture, and b) this was a book I went round and round on how to start it, and when I landed on this scene between the hero and a blind date, the first chunk of the book finally gelled!
Please tell us a little about the characters in your book. What first attracts your Hero to the Heroine and vice versa?
Noah is a tech genius with a very strict sense of what is right and what is wrong. So strict that he left the love of his life to marry his old girlfriend when he found out that she’d gotten pregnant right before their breakup. His own father had walked out on his pregnant mother, and Noah can’t be that guy.
But now, he’s guilt-ridden and tortured because his wife and child were killed during a vacation over a decade ago. So while he used to be a guy who saw the world as open and his for the taking, he’s much more circumspect now. And although he has close friends, he hasn’t given his heart to a woman, and he buries his pain in a series of meaningless one-night-stands.
Kiki was a woman with a dream of being a singer/songwriter, and she push hard to make that dream come true—only to find her muse had left the building after the love of her life (Noah) left her a decade ago to return to his old girlfriend after he learned that she was pregnant. Though unable to write and too dead inside to perform, her ambition still shined through, and she went back to school to become a marketing professional.
When they meet again, the sparks fly, and each remembers what they loved about the other all those years ago … and what they see now that they admire and lov
When you sat down to start this book, what was the biggest challenge you faced? What were you most excited about?
One of the things I love about all of the Wicked Nights Stark World books are that they feature heroes who have appeared as secondary characters in other Stark World books or novellas. But that’s also a challenge, because you’re not starting from a blank slate. And even though I’ve known Noah’s backstory (and most of what would happen as he and Kiki’s relationship resumed), juggling the little details that might have been mentioned in an earlier book so that there aren’t inconsistencies, is always a challenge. I’m the worst about making a list of those things as I go along. So I end up spending a lot of time re-reading my own books, LOL!
What, in your mind, makes this book stand out?
Hmmm. The sexual tension between Noah and Kiki combined with the tragedy of their backstory. Even when I was re-reading to proof, I kept turning the pages as if even I didn’t know where the story was going, LOL!
The First Kiss…
I hold my breath, hyperaware of the sound of her passing, and even more aware of the feel of Noah’s body against mine. I tilt my head up, and his face is right there, his lips parted, the scent of whiskey on his breath. His eyes are on mine, and time melts away.
I don’t know how long we stand like that, breathing each other’s air, seeing each other’s thoughts. It seems no longer than an instant; it seems like forever.
Neither of us moves, and after a moment, I hear the clink of the door shutting as the girl goes back inside. But still, we stay frozen, as if we both have one foot in the past, and if we so much as blink, the spell will be broken.
Then his head tilts. It’s barely even the hint of a movement, but it’s enough. I straighten, knowing I need to push past him. But before I can move, his mouth closes over mine.
For a moment, I freeze. I’m flat against the wall, completely trapped. Some small part of me wants to push him back—my hand is already on his chest. It would be so easy to do. But I can’t—I won’t. And soon that tiny seed of rationality is swallowed up by need and want and greed.
It’s as if I’ve been starving, and Noah is the finest chocolate, the most tempting liquor. I want to savor him, but I can’t resist. I clutch him tight, matching his heat, his need. His mouth is hard and demanding against mine, as if he’s trying to consume me, to draw me in, to claim me completely. And so help me, I want that. In this moment, I don’t care about the past or my anger or my hurt. All I want is to recapture what we had. All I want is the man I once knew and that touch, that passion, so all-consuming. So combustible.
So goddamn dangerous.
The thought hits me hard, and I push away from him, gasping with shock, my skin hot from a mixture of lust and self-loathing. I’d been drawn into the past, all right. A past when things were good. When I’d let myself believe we had a future.
But that wasn’t how the story ended, and I shouldn’t have let myself block out reality any more than I should have let him kiss me. Because in the real past, he left me.
In the real past, he walked away so that he could marry someone else.
If your book was optioned for a movie, what scene would you use for the audition of the main characters and why?
Oh, probably the kiss scene above. Because there is such a subtlety of push/pull in the characters’ emotions and desires—and that kind of unspoken emotional acting takes skill!
If your hero had a sexy-times play list, what song(s) would have to be on it?
The music of Pink Chameleon (Kiki’s band!), of course!
What do you want people to take away from reading this book?
I want people to put it down with a sigh of satisfaction … and with eagerness to read another J. Kenner book (!!!)
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned for 2017?
I’m working on what I’m calling – until the mid-October announcement – my Super Secret Awesome Project that is launching in January of 2018.
I. Can’t. Wait.
(And I think readers are going to absolutely love these upcoming books!)
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: $20 Amazon Giftcard
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Excerpt from Wicked Torture:
“…I lose myself in sorrow, clinging to tomorrow.
I don’t know how I will get through…”
The words soar out of me, my chest swelling as emotion fills my heart. And not just the emotion of the song, but the knowledge that I’m back.
This song—the first one I’ve performed in almost ten years—isn’t just good, it works.
I can see it on the ardent faces in the audience. The bodies held tight with anticipation, as if the music is a tangible thing that they can cling to, letting it carry them away to another world.
I’ve nailed it. And the pride inside me is laced with relief as sweet and warm as fudge sauce on vanilla ice cream.
I’m back. I’m finally back.
My voice rises as the music and lyrics tell the story. Her triumph over the memory of him. The way she claims her victory by reclaiming her life.
She survived, tall and proud and ready to shut the door on the past and finally move on.
That’s the song, anyway.
The reality goes deeper. The reality is that I survived.
And I lived to sing about it.
I’m performing only this one song tonight, but when it ends, I’m utterly drained. I’ve thrown everything I have into it—emotion, memory, regrets, ambitions—and as the audience clusters around me, I’m almost afraid I won’t be able to stand when I slide off this stool.
But their applause restores me, just the way it used to. I feel my strength returning, and I plant my feet on the stage, then casually hand my guitar to Ares when he strides over, his hand extended, so that I can take a bow. Which I do, relishing the moment.
“What do you say, folks?” Ares asks. “Is this girl back or is she back?”
A general cheer rises from the crowd, and I laugh, delighted. I’ve never shied from an audience, and now I smile at the faces near me, silently thanking them all for giving me a chance. After all, they’d come tonight to hear Ares and his band, Seven Percent, before they leave Austin to head out on tour. My performance could have been an annoyance.
“Kiki King, ladies and gentlemen,” Ares goes on, as I continue to scope out the crowd. “In case you didn’t know it, she was one of the founding members of Pink Chameleon, and wrote their biggest hit, Turnstile.”
He doesn’t mention that Turnstile was the last song I both wrote and recorded, and I’m grateful for his oversight. Anyone in the audience who’s familiar with Pink Chameleon probably knows that I left the band and dropped out of the music scene while Turnstile was still climbing the charts, even if they don’t know why.
The rest of them only know what they just heard. And since I’m starting over, that’s more than enough.
I take another bow at Ares’ urging and then look out at the crowd again. They’re still clapping, and I’m still basking. And as I look past the nearby faces, I see my little brother Cameron standing in the doorway that leads to the smaller bar in the back.
He’s clapping wildly, and I roll my eyes when he thrusts two fingers into his mouth and releases a wolf whistle that carries over the din all the way to where I’m standing on the stage. My smile spreads wide, then I laugh out loud when his boss, Tyree, steps up behind him and glares down until Cam notices, shoots me an apologetic glance, then hurries back to serve drinks or chat up patrons or whatever other bar-related duty he’s been shirking.
Tyree lingers, and though he tries hard to look fierce, I see the pride in his eyes as he nods at me, and my overfull heart swells a little bit more.
I’d found Cam so easily in the back of the room that I hadn’t noticed any of the other patrons standing near him. But now, as I’m about to take a sideways step toward Ares, I catch a glimpse of red hair in a shade so familiar it makes my heart ache.
It can’t be him. He’s just on my mind, that’s all. The man I once loved. The son-of-a-bitch who’d inspired tonight’s song.
But no way is he really here, and I’m still repeating that mantra when he lifts his chin, I see his eyes, and the world starts to fall out from under me.
No, it’s my imagination. The song. The music. My mind playing tricks on me.
It’s not him. It can’t be. Why would he be here? In Austin? In this bar? On this night?
Panic flutters inside me, hot and wild. I’ve just gotten my shit together. Just started writing again, singing again. I have a plan, a whole map for the rest of my life, and I don’t want to see Noah Carter at all.
And the sky is pink, rainclouds are full of wine, and ice cream has negative calories.
I start to search the crowd, looking for another glimpse of that familiar burnished copper. But then Ares calls to me, and I realize that Seven Percent is ready to start their set. Reluctantly, I wave a final goodbye to the crowd, then hug Ares before hurrying off the stage. I know I should linger and listen to them—either that or just get the hell out of The Fix—but like a good little masochist, I push away from the stage and deeper into the bar, right straight toward where I saw Noah. Or, I’m hoping, the Noah-like apparition.
I’m ground level now, and I can’t see much of anything. I’m five-seven only when I’m in heels, and today I’m wearing canvas flats, which means my view consists primarily of a sea of male chests.
I nip through the crowd, shifting and turning as I work my way backward. It’s slow going. Not only do more than a few people pause to tell me they enjoyed my performance, but I’m also stymied by the fact that most folks are moving toward the stage at the front of the bar, which means that I’m fighting against the current.
I tell myself I should go home. My mind is playing tricks, and I need to get out of here. Except I can’t seem to make my feet cooperate, and they lead me inexorably forward. I’m not sure what I expect to find when I finally push through the crowd—a tall man with red hair and nothing else familiar about him? Or the man I’d once loved with all my heart and soul?
More important, I’m not sure what I want to find.
The question, however, is moot. By the time I get to the doorframe that marks the entrance to the quieter back bar, Noah’s nowhere to be seen.
If it even was Noah. Which, of course, it wasn’t.
I squeeze past two frat boys whose broad shoulders seem to fill the doorway, then peer around the room, my pulse pounding so noisily I can barely hear the strains of Seven Percent’s first song behind me.
He isn’t here.
Neither Noah, nor anyone who looks like him.
Had my imagination been playing tricks? Or had we passed in the crowd, him going one way and me the other?
I shift my attention to the area behind the bar, searching for Cam. But he’s not there either. Not that he could have confirmed that the man with red hair was Noah. Cam’s ten years younger than me, and even though I showed Noah pictures of my brother and bragged repeatedly, the two never actually met.
Which leaves me standing like an idiot in the doorway, my forehead creased into a scowl.
“Considering you blew them away in there, you don’t look very happy.”
I glance to my left, where Tyree is standing at a table chatting up two guys in business suits who I assume are regulars. Immediately, my mood shifts, and I smile.
“Thank you so much for letting me go on before Seven Percent,” I say, genuinely grateful. “I know Ares tossed the idea at you out of left field yesterday, and even though it was only me with a microphone and my guitar, I understand what a hassle last minute changes can be, so I—”
He holds up a hand to cut off my flow of words. “I was happy to do it. Hell, I’m glad you took us up on the opportunity.”
My smile wavers a little, and I wonder how much Ares told him. We’ve been friends since college, when we both attended the University of Texas. I whizzed through in three years, mostly because I was bored with school and wanted to perform, and I left for Los Angeles while Ares stayed behind in Austin.
He introduced me to his LA-based cousin Celia, though, and she and I ended up forming Pink Chameleon with two other girls.
When I moved back to Austin, I looked him up, of course, and he was a solid rock in my personal post-Noah storm. He’s one of the few people who knows that I’m on the edge of the springboard, my toes curling over as I steady myself, gathering my courage to leap off the high dive and back into my dream of a career in music.
More than that, he’s one of only a handful who understands how much I’ve had to heal so I could claw my way up to that sky-high platform in the first place.
I hug myself. Seeing Noah could destroy all of that. Hell, just thinking about Noah could set me back.
But only if I let it.
I straighten my shoulders, remembering everything I’ve gone through. How much I’ve sacrificed and how hard I’ve worked. And you know what? Fuck Noah.
Fuck him and his maybe-here, maybe-not apparition. I can handle the man, and I can handle his ghost. And I’m sure as hell not going to run scared.
Not only that, but if he is here, I want to know why. And if he’s intentionally playing peek-a-boo, I want to know why even more. Austin’s my place now. My safe spot. It’s where I’d run to escape the memory of him—of us.
It’s the place that sheltered and healed me. That gave me the strength to build a wall around the pain. Then helped me to shut those sweet memories up behind it. The precious memories that ached deep inside, and gave the pain both fire and the steel-honed edge of a razor.
He can’t be here. Because if he’s here, I’m not sure that I can keep those walls from crumbling down.
Excerpts. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Outwardly, Noah Carter is riding high as the tech world’s hottest new genius. Inside, he’s still reeling from the abduction of his wife and baby daughter eight years ago, and then the devastating discovery of his child’s body. For years, he kept up hope that his wife was alive, but now that she’s been declared legally dead, he’s thrown himself even more deeply into his work, cutting himself off from emotional ties because they just hurt too damn much.
Then he meets Kiki Porter, an eternal optimist with a killer work ethic and dreams of fronting a band. And everything changes. Even though he tries his damnedest to fight it…
Sexually, they are combustible together. But their true fire is emotional, though it is a slow to burn. But once it lights, it is all consuming. The relationship grows emotionally, the sex is hot, things are good.
Meet the Author:
Meet the Author:
J. Kenner (aka Julie Kenner) is the New York Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, Wall Street Journal and #1 International bestselling author of over seventy novels, novellas and short stories in a variety of genres.
Though known primarily for her award-winning and internationally bestselling erotic romances (including the Stark and Most Wanted series) that have reached as high as #2 on the New York Times bestseller list and #1 internationally, JK has been writing full time for over a decade in a variety of genres including paranormal and contemporary romance, “chicklit” suspense, urban fantasy, and paranormal mommy lit.
JK has been praised by Publishers Weekly as an author with a “flair for dialogue and eccentric characterizations” and by RT Bookclub for having “cornered the market on sinfully attractive, dominant antiheroes and the women who swoon for them.” A four time finalist for Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA award, JK took home the first RITA trophy awarded in the category of erotic romance in 2014 for her novel, Claim Me (book 2 of her Stark Trilogy).
In her previous career as an attorney, JK worked as a clerk on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and practiced primarily civil, entertainment and First Amendment litigation in Los Angeles and Irvine, California, as well as in Austin, Texas. She currently lives in Central Texas, with her husband, two daughters, and two rather spastic cats.
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