Hi L.B. Alexander and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, Swan Lake!
To start off, can you please tell us a little bit about this book?:
Absolutely! Swan Lake, a contemporary reimagining of the beloved ballet, is a dark, upmarket romance about a troubled young dancer and the dominant older man who enchants her. The novel features both literary and erotic-leaning elements, so be prepared for a lot of beauty and steam!
Please share your favorite lines or quote(s) from this book:
“You, April, are two-natured. Half of you is pure. Chaste. Modest and fearful. Timid, sweet, and virginal. This is the part of yourself you choose to show the world…[b]ut there’s another half of you…the half you keep bound, and hidden. I saw it at Alyeska, and again at Demimonde. And, April…it’s passionate. It’s fierce. It’s powerful. It’s greedy. It’s… raw sex.”
-William Wolfe, from Swan Lake
Without giving too much away, this is a pivotal moment in the story where the heroine, former ballerina April Ekdahl, begins to realize she’s much more than an “innocent” face as she gives in to her darker impulses. It’s one of my favorite lines because it is the first big “lightbulb” moment of her self-actualization!
What inspired this book?
I trained in classical ballet for about 14 years, so the original Swan Lake fairy tale is definitely the obvious inspiration. I suppose I wanted to see what a “modern, grown-up” version of that story could look like ;). I’m also a huge art history and classical music geek, and I wanted to bring the beauty of high arts to a novel–and romance is the perfect fit for those themes!
How did you ‘get to know’ your main characters? Did they ever surprise you?
I started writing Swan Lake before I even considered myself a writer–just a few thousand words here and there to avoid studying for finals (lol!). While I’m not much of a “plotter” (perhaps I should be!), I did have a very clear idea of where I wanted the characters to end up. With that in mind, I just sat down and typed whatever felt natural–without putting too much pressure on myself. With this technique, the story truly flowed organically and I *never* experienced writer’s block. The main characters absolutely surprised me, because they revealed themselves to me the more I wrote about them!
What was your favorite scene to write?
I had an unbelievably fun time writing the “finale” of the novel, which is when the heroine makes her way to the hero’s BDSM dungeon for a night of passionate D/s play. It was the scene I spent the most time researching (at an actual BDSM club, in fact), so I was very excited to take that knowledge and add it to the page in an authentic way. And just like a true finale in classical theater, this is also the moment of the story with the highest drama and emotional intensity. It was such a great experience to let myself go completely “over-the-top” with my writing–unapologetically. Here’s a little sneak peak:
“The room was larger than I expected, dual-leveled, with walls lined with exquisite tapestries and windowless curtains of an exotic origin. The upper deck, where I stood, was carpeted with Persian rugs, and against the farthest wall, a sensuous ebony four-poster bed with cream sateen linens.
Flames illuminated multiple shelving units in the lower level, which contained an overwhelming multitude of tools and apparatuses of varying sizes and shapes I couldn’t identify. There were devices of wood, metal, leather, and rope, along with softer materials like silk and feathers. There were chains, so many chains, and over a dozen riding crops, harnesses, and paddles. There was a wall lined entirely with whips of different lengths and widths, as well as a glass-enclosed armoire with antiquated objects that strongly recalled draconian medieval torture.”
What was the most difficult scene to write?
April struggles with mental illness throughout the story, so detailing her panic attacks was definitely a cathartic experience. I wouldn’t call the process difficult, necessarily, but those were the scenes that required me to step away from the novel for a few days for my own wellness. I wanted to portray her mental health challenges with sensitivity, but also authenticity. There’s definitely a fine line between gritty and gratuitous, so I tried to be careful to avoid the latter. This is a story with a happily ever after, after all! Here’s a brief look at how the heroine reflects on her own struggles:
“I hoped my mini nervous breakdown was simply a result of my quadruple dose of medicine. Surely someone, somewhere, had also experienced hallucinations as a side effect of too much Xanax.
I was not yet ready to consider the fact that I might actually be batsh*t crazy.”
Would you say this book showcases your writing style or is it a departure for you?
As this is my first novel, I’d say it’s definitely a showcase of my writing style! I tend to favor stories that are literary-leaning with familiar tropes, and packaged with a unique twist, which is what I attempted to achieve here. With that said, I also *love* rom-coms and some fantasy, so I’m looking forward to experimenting with writing departures in subsequent books!
What do you want people to take away from reading this book?
As I’m just a new writer, I wouldn’t dare go so far as to tell someone what they “should” or “should not” take away from Swan Lake, because reading is such a personal, individual experience. The “meaning” of the book is whatever you think it should be! I will say that my one hope is that you reach the Finale of Swan Lake feeling hopeful in happily ever afters <3. I crafted Swan Lake with my whole heart–and a lot of love and care. I hope reading Swan Lake takes you on a journey of beauty, passion, drama, and love.
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned?
Right now I am working on the “soft” sequel to Swan Lake, a high-heat novella debuting in December, as well as the follow-up full-length novel which will (fingers crossed!) be released next summer.
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: For my giveaway, I’m excited to offer a signed copy of the 2020 Special Edition of Swan Lake, a box of Godiva chocolate, and a Diptyque candle! Open to US winners.
To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: For those of you who can’t get enough of an alpha hero…what would you say are the top 3 most important (or most compelling!) characteristics of an alpha hero in romance?
Excerpt from Swan Lake:
“Who are you?”
The rich, deep timbre of his voice, like the basso strings of an overture, activated a strange instinct within me, something primordial that almost urged me to dance again. It went beyond rational explanation, beyond intelligence, beyond thought. It was a mindless, unconditioned, purely physical reaction to an auditory stimulus—an electrifying, tingling command that spread throughout my entire body, apexed in the most hidden depths of my torso.
He’d spoken only three words to me, yet it felt like I had been summoned by biblical commandments. As automatic as jumping from the touch of fire, or salivating from hunger, I oriented myself in the direction of his voice and took three steps before I even realized it.
“April. Ekdahl,” I replied once I found my voice, keeping my gaze fixed on the floor.
“And what the hell are you doing dancing in my office?”
My stomach sank even further—he had seen me making a fool of myself. Surely this meant I would be fired. I thought I would pass out from humiliation.
But a curious surprise kept me from launching fully into an anxiety attack—something unique about his voice. His speech was faintly accented by a language or culture I couldn’t readily pinpoint.
I locked my hands behind my back and straightened my posture to the best of my ability, but I was already trembling. I wouldn’t be able to keep the panic restrained for much longer, for the chains were already beginning to rattle and splinter.
“Sorry, I…umm…I’m Ellen’s new assistant, sir. I was hired this morning. She asked me to prepare your coffee and…drop off these documents for your signature.”
If there was ever a time for me to sound confident and assured, it was now.
So naturally, I sounded like a child.
It certainly didn’t help that my shoes were lazily resting several feet away from me on what was surely an expensive rug.
I thought about gesturing to the table where I’d left the coffee and folders, but it felt as if some kind of force was keeping me anchored where I stood.
A few moments of silence passed between us.
“Do you always look at your feet when you talk, April?”
It didn’t really sound like a question, but his hard voice had softened considerably. While not exactly friendly, there was a remote element of…humor? I couldn’t be sure.
Automatically, I raised my head to meet his gaze.
And immediately, I wished I hadn’t.
Mr. Wolfe was entirely…wolflike. Standing in a very well-tailored three-piece charcoal suit, he possessed the refined sophistication of an executive.
And the hypnotic, dangerous beckoning of a mystical beast.
The first thing I noticed about him was his sheer size. He was an impressive figure, tall and muscled like an Olympian.
Or perhaps a warrior…in bulk as huge as whom the fables name of monstrous size, Titanian or Earth-born…
Perhaps this was the true meaning of devilishly handsome.
Perhaps I should have found it concerning that the sight of him immediately made me think of Milton’s Satan.
The tempter. The wicked.
His undulated hair was an intense, smooth dark brown, just a half shade away from pure black, trimmed short on the sides and longer in the front, and effortlessly styled with a classic side part that reminded me of a soldier.
His eyes were…I couldn’t even pinpoint what color they were. His focused, deep-set eyes seemed to vary from warm amber to a pure, electric green, leaving me mesmerized where I stood, a good ten steps away from him.
…With head uplift above the wave, and eyes that sparkling blazed…
He held his head high and proud. Regal. His angled cheekbones and hard jaw were further enhanced by an expertly groomed five-o’clock shadow, the dark ghost of a sharp-cornered goatee. Other than a few frown lines around his brow and forehead, his tanned skin was a completely unblemished canvas.
I couldn’t remember the last time I’d felt so intimidated by a stranger, yet combined with the fear was that strange other feeling, that primal feeling. It only grew stronger as the moments passed between us, nearly compelling me to walk directly into the jaws of this lupine beast.
The urge felt almost like my nausea, but it wasn’t entirely unpleasant. It was warm and ticklish, not quite in my stomach, but lower. There was a new heaviness there, a molten, viscous liquid… reactive to only one destructively handsome catalyst.
“How old are you?” He sounded suspicious.
His eyebrows rose in bemusement, as if he would have believed me more had I said five or fifty.
“And you were hired today?”
“And you think you’re qualified for this position why?”
Truly, I had no real qualifications. My degree was in a dying art, not in business or finance or any other relevant academia. I had no doubt there were thousands of other people more qualified for the job I’d gained not by merit, but by circumstance, luck, and pity.
There was undeserved privilege all over me.
So I said the only thing my nervous mind could think of.
“Because…I’m good at taking orders.”
His eyes widened and his frown deepened, and for a brief second, there was a flash of something violent in his gaze. But it wasn’t quite anger, or mania, or any other standard high- energy emotion.
He was standing completely still, but it was as if his eyes were lunging for me. This look, or reaction, no longer than a millisecond, seemed to convey a sense of utter pursuit.
The rise of my panic reached a sudden halt, and the nervous movement in my stomach ceased entirely. It was as if something other than my own will was reshackling my anxiety, a foreign force far more powerful than my desperate determination to maintain control of my illness.
I stood equally still as he watched me, unsure of what would happen next.
But strangely, I wasn’t entirely fearful of what could arise.
“Head back downstairs. See what Ellen needs,” he said eventually. And immediately, the odd spell was broken. He reengaged his paused conversation and turned away from me, and finally, I could breathe again and move of my own accord.
With careful steps, I collected my shoes and left his office.”
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
And then, there was quiet.
Physically, I knew nothing had changed. My heart still raced. My legs still shook. My breaths were short and shallow, and my stomach continued to flip.
But there was an unmistakable hush, and I couldn’t tell if that exquisite solace was sourced from my body or from his. It was as if I’d spent my entire life surrounded by white noise, and I was experiencing true, absolute silence for the first time.
My fearful body was not dancing to anxiety.
It was dancing entirely to arousal.
The swan is not as innocent as she appears…
All April wants is a moment of quiet. But due to an ongoing struggle with mental illness, silence has become an elusive privilege she fears she’ll never capture. A violent attack has brought her burgeoning ballet career to a sudden halt, and a traumatic experience in a strict rehabilitation facility has rendered her more humble than ever. Now that she has returned to her native Southern California, April is content to conceal the dangerous half of herself she fears under a tenuous mask of control.
But the façade is disrupted when April meets William – her older, mysterious, and disgraced new employer. She finds unexpected freedom in him, for like her, he is also two-natured.
There’s a mask he shows the world.
And a dark, true half he hides.
A novel in three acts.
Meet the Author:
Hi there! I’m LB, an American author based in perpetually sunny Southern California. I’ve spent my entire life enraptured by the sheer transformative power of the written word, and in December 2018, I published my first romance novel, Swan Lake, a contemporary reimagining of the beloved ballet. In addition to writing, I am a professional marketeer, a baker, an animal-lover, a tree-hugger, a perpetual wanderluster, and a massive art history nerd. An optimist at heart, aficionada of luxury, and true believer in happily ever afters, I strive to tell memorable, passionate stories that can intrigue, challenge, arouse, and most importantly, inspire.