Please welcome a friend of mine, and newly minted fellow Ellora's Cave author, Tibby Armstrong! Tibby's first Ellora's Cave book, Sheet Music, released this past Wednesday.
Thanks for joining us here at Fierce Romance, Tibby! Can you tell us about your latest or upcoming release?
Sheet Music is a contemporary erotic romance from Ellora’s Cave. It is about enigmatic superstar, David Tallis, and the music journalist (Kyra Martin) who is out to get his story at any cost.
Is this your first book?
This is my first published work, unless you count financial prospectuses and technical specifications. I’ve written everything from paranormal to historical novels, but always romance, with one exception.
Well, romance is where it's at! What is it that you enjoy most about writing?
Losing myself in my characters’ lives is the most compelling thing about writing. I enjoy watching them come alive through successive drafts, weaving in additional details and sub-plots that make the story blossom. I used to think that writing the first draft was the best part. Now, I look forward to editing and the opportunity it affords to enrich the story.
We have that in common! I love to edit! Clue us in on your favorite character in your book.
Ah. *smiles* David. He is such a mysterious, edgy character. I didn’t really know him until half way through the first draft. He hid himself very well, even from me. Let’s just say he made me work for everything he gave me except the love scenes. Those simply flowed from him to me to the page. Apparently, I have a bit of a crush on him!
Deservedly so! David is one hot man :) As much as those scenes flowed, can you tell us what element of this story was the hardest for you?
That would have been David’s back story. He and I agreed that he had motivations that went beyond lost love. When he revealed what those motivations were, however, I initially said, “No! Not in an erotic romance!” He just gave me “the look” and I kept writing. Nobody survives that look! *laughs* Until the day I submitted the final draft, he and I argued about his back story. In the end, he won, of course, and I like him better for it. In fact, I’d say it’s a large part of my fascination with him.
I love it when a character keeps you on your toes! For now, though, tell us a little about you. When did you know you wanted to be an author?
I don’t think it’s a conclusion I came to overnight. It was a something I considered more of a fantasy or a dream for a long time—probably since college. I remember telling my third grade teacher I wanted to write stories when I grew up, but I don’t think I had a concept of what that really meant.
Like most authors, I’ve been honing my writing skills for most of my life; but I have to admit it wasn’t until relatively recently that enough pieces fell into place and I could write a story I could be proud of the whole way through. Until then, it was all about enjoying the learning process—in many ways it still is—and believing someday I would get it right.
Ultimately, I had a critique partner, Kristin Daniels, whom I met online. She encouraged me to try my hand at erotic romance. The process of writing my first story for the genre freed something in me, and I started to consider publication as a real possibility—started to think, “Maybe someday I’ll be an author!” I really owe a lot to Kristin for mentoring me.
You have me blushing! Seriously, it was a pleasure. I had a ball encouraging you to give the genre a try. Still, the road to publication isn't an easy one. Tell us about your journey.
I’ve submitted two novels to agents and publishers subsequent to landing the contract for Sheet Music with Ellora’s Cave. Before I submitted my first query letter, I read several books on how to write them. (Confession: I have a fetish for books on writing process and the publishing business, and have been reading them for close to two decades.)
Next, I showed my query and sample chapters to an author I respected. She gave me great advice on the importance of conflict hitting the reader in the face from page one of a story. I did rewrites, resubmitted, and while the manuscript was much better, it was still rejected many times over.
In the meantime, I went through a divorce and stopped submitting my work for two years. I did not stop writing, however. In fact, I wrote more. It was during this time that I came to understand why my novel was being rejected and I worked on honing my skills.
The first time I submitted Sheet Music to Ellora’s Cave, it was not accepted for publication. Rather, my wonderful, brilliant, ever-patient editor suggested some extensive revisions. In essence, the manuscript was too short for the story I was trying to tell. Taking her advice, I added in more back story to the initial chapters, and rounded out the latter half of the novel with additional chapters. After resubmitting the novel, it was accepted, and another stage in my journey began!
Is there anything you wish you’d known before becoming published?
I wish I’d had enough foresight to have a web site up and running before I was published, because while it has been fun, I’ve felt like I was running a marathon uphill since the day I found out Sheet Music was accepted. There is so much promotional work to be done, edits to focus on, and things to learn about the business side, that it’s not easy to get it all done and have time to sleep, breathe, and eat. Of course, it doesn’t help that I’m in graduate school working on a thesis project at the same time!
You are one of the busiest people I know! Tell me, do you have any advice for unpublished authors?
I sit on the edge of my seat when I see this question posed to other authors. I continue to learn so much from the answers.
Basically, I’m still learning, but this is my advice: Listen to the experts. Rely on people who have gone before you, and never be so wedded to your story that you aren’t willing to change it for an editor or agent. These experienced individuals have a great deal of insight to offer, and chances are if they’re telling you something about your story needs improvement, they are right.
Oh! I do have one other bit of advice. Submit your work! Get it read by critique partners, agents, editors, mentors, professors—anyone who is willing and able to give honest feedback. Again, these people have knowledge that can help you improve your writing quickly. If you think that you are going to get published by never allowing your writing to see the light of day until it is perfect, you are probably going to be waiting a long time. So, get your work out there. Make mistakes. Learn. Grow. And enjoy the process.
Great advice! Now that Sheet Music is out in the world, what’s next for you?
Right now I’m working on another contemporary erotic romance with a theme similar to Sheet Music. Two chapters and an outline are out of the way, and I’m at that delicious stage where I go to bed every night dreaming about my characters. I’m writing an edgy ménage this time, which is very new for me; but once again, the characters ran away with the story and won’t be denied!
Menage, one of my favorite genres!
Tibby, thank you so much for being here and telling us about you and your book! Ladies and gentleman, you can find Sheet Music here. In the mean time, here's the blurb and excerpt:
Music journalist Kyra Martin faces the toughest assignment of her career—to write a cover story about enigmatic heartthrob David Tallis. Deadline looming, Kyra plans to go undercover. When she ends up under the covers with the sexy superstar instead, can both her career and their budding relationship survive?
With a closet full of skeletons to hide, and a paparazzi-fueled divorce behind him, David Tallis despises the press. When Kyra Martin bribes her way into his life, her sexy assets have him composing a duplicitous seduction. Ensnared in a media maelstrom of his own making, can David face the music? Or will he lose Kyra, along with another piece of himself?
David Tallis’ velvet-over-steel voice made Kyra’s stomach do a little flip that had nothing to do with nerves. Her reply was throaty, laced with all the pent-up need she’d intended to hide.
“Kyra. With a y.”
She licked her lips and stared as his strong, long-fingered hand made a flourish across the liner notes and flipped the CD case shut. He held it out to her in a graceful motion, rough-cut onyx cufflinks twinkling in the ambient lights.
She flicked a glance at the CD then met his cobalt eyes and promptly forgot she was here for professional research purposes only.
The next words out of her mouth shocked them both.
“Mr. Tallis, I’m Kyra Martin.”
“Bloody hell,” he muttered under his breath, placing his hands, palms down, on the linen-covered table.
She straightened her shoulders and fought not to close her eyes at the blunder she’d kick herself for later. She’d planned to introduce herself tonight when she “accidentally” bumped into him at the bar, not at Danny Owens’ music store opening, but there was no going back now. In for a penny, in for a pound.
“I realize this is unusual, but I was in London and I haven’t been able to get your publicist to show you—”
His voice rang through the upscale store, and out of the corner of her eye she saw the paid event photographer lower his camera rather than taking the perfect paparazzi shot.
Kyra felt all eyes upon her as a hush fell over the gaggle of women who had been let past the ropes for the publicity event. She calculated she had about ten seconds before Tallis’ infamous private goon-squad threw her out the door, but persisted nonetheless. Award-winning music journalism didn’t happen without a little chutzpah, after all.
Leaning forward she played the sex card, letting her cleavage peek above the sweetheart neck of her black cashmere sweater, her pearls swinging forward in a rhythmic arc.
“I’m sure we can find something to talk about that would be mutually agreeable.”
He held up a hand to stay the bodyguard who’d appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and his eyes made a disdainful dip to the offered view.
“I’m sure we could. I doubt you’d be writing about it in Rolling Stone, however. Hustler, perhaps?” His crisp accent made the jibe more pointed than it otherwise would have been.
Kyra smiled slowly. “Touché.”
Opening her purse, she took out a business card and slid it into the breast pocket of his suit jacket. With a breathless “Call me” that would bring most men to their knees, she turned and sashayed past the line of gaping women out into the early summer rain to hail a taxi.
“The Ritz,” she directed as she slid into the gleaming black car.
Stretching catlike, she smiled at her bit of brilliance. It might not have gone off exactly as she had planned, but it was a first step. Yes, there was always a way around a publicist.
As for David Tallis, he might not have given an interview in the better part of a decade, but she refused to be cowed by the likes of him. Rather, he was an irresistible puzzle. A man, who, no matter what strings the press pulled, seemed to have no past before age thirteen. No parents. No history. All they could uncover was a prep school education in a remote area of Scotland, and an improbably quick rise to international music stardom.
Even before he’d begun refusing to talk to the press, they’d all been prepped not to mention his childhood. Anyone who deviated from the script had received the famous Tallis glare and an abrupt end to the interview.
He had another think coming if he thought he could brush her off so easily. She could tolerate living naked on an iceberg—as long as she got her story. And she would get it. She might have blown the advantage of surprise, but she hadn’t failed yet in an assignment. It was something her editors counted on, and something on which she had staked her reputation and built her career thus far.
She would be the go-to name for the music industry glossies by the time she was finished, and no one would stand in her way. Her editor had assured her that if she got this story she could write her own ticket. If she didn’t… Well, failure was something she refused to contemplate.
Leaning her head back against the seat, she rested her eyes as the cabbie made his way to The Ritz where she—and David Tallis—would be spending the next week. Behind her closed lids she remembered his eyes. They had been even more stunning than on the cover of his latest CD. When they shot his picture for the story she’d have the set draped in fabric dyed to match their Mediterranean blue.
She pictured him naked from the waist up, in a casual pose that showed readers the sensual man behind the music. His covers were far too reserved for her taste. He needed more smoke, like his voice. Something that screamed sex.
Feeling a flush spread through her veins, Kyra wondered if the cabbie had turned up the heat. She shifted in her seat and blew out a breath. It was probably jet lag combined with the stress of her opening salvo with David that had affected her. It certainly couldn’t be his famous sex appeal. She was too jaded to be taken in by someone as pampered, pompous and self-interested as a musician—especially one with a pour-down-your-spine accent and hands that looked like they could caress the clothing off her body with one deft flick of his fingers.
Her purse rested between her thighs and she rocked forward to let the leather bite into her, imagining the heel of David Tallis’ palm in its place, picturing sitting on the edge of the autograph table in front of him at the signing. He’d have her thighs splayed wide, her skirt bunched so that her bottom rested against the cool linen.
He’d grind his hand harder into her folds, giving rough little slaps as he found a rhythm that reminded her of one of his Latin-inspired numbers. She’d arch her back and he’d hold her up with his other hand to grip her shoulder.
“Come for me, baby,” he’d growl, and she’d widen her thighs.
Her cell phone rang and her eyes flew open to meet the cabbie’s stare in the rearview mirror. They must have been sitting curbside for a full minute. Had the man been watching her? Did he know what she’d been doing? A twinkle in his brown eyes told her he did.