Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Writer Wednesday: An Interview with Zee Monodee



Hi everyone! Welcome to another edition of Writer Wednesdays, where we get to meet another fabulous author, Zee Monodee!!! Help me welcome her!


Hi! Thanks so much for coming today. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hi Carrie; hey all! Pleasure to be here, totally stoked!
So, about me... Married chick, mum of a tween, stepmum to a teen, undomestic goddess, has a strange fascination with cookbooks and cooking shows despite hating to cook (starting to show my weirdness now...). I also think I have a very twisted mind because it appears I can get into the minds of assassins, spies, and sociopaths very easily in my Corpus Brides romantic suspense/espionage series. When I’m not writing, I’m most probably reading, or watching Supernatural or Glee, and surely plotting how to get my husband to take me shoe shopping ASAP.

Tell us a bit about your book.

It’s the story of Rayne Cheltham. Rayne always knew she was a bit ‘odd’; actually, she has sociopathic tendencies. But she also knew she could curb that edge if she settled down, with the boy she’s always loved – Ash Gilfoy, her neighbor and childhood best friend.
But the day Ash crashes her hopes when he vows never to marry, that dark edge wins, and Rayne gives in. She becomes a clandestine agent with the Corpus agency; a highly-skilled, trained assassin whose specialty is undercover work and killings without leaving any trace.
For seventeen years, Rayne has been able to carry out missions as Kali, her secret agent moniker. Until the day she comes back to England, and her path crosses Ash’s path once again. Faced with the man she never stopped loving, Rayne knows she cannot go back to being sociopathic Kali. So she bows out, and goes to Ash, ending up with him.
Easy, right? Not exactly. Ash has no clue she used to work as a killer, and someone inside her agency is not ready to let her leave so cleanly. Rayne is now in a race against time to keep her secret and find the people who want to get them to work for their nefarious purposes, before Ash discovers the truth, and before these rogue agents kill her.

Is this part of a series?

Yes – it’s Book Two of the Corpus Brides series. But it is actually the prequel to Book One, showing what happened in the backstory of the Corpus agency, the mutinous plot that is at the heart of Book 1, Walking The Edge.
This mutiny storyline spans over the 3 books in this series. Book 3, Let Mercy Come, is currently in writing stage, and is the story of the presumed mutiny leader being brought to justice in front of the Corpus authority.
But nothing is exactly what it seems – no one is exactly who or what he/she shows himself to be... There are a lot of secrets still to be unveiled in Book 3.
Each book focuses on the life and love of one female agent, a Corpus Bride, and can be read as a stand-alone.

What did you find the hardest part of writing it to be?

To think, behave, act, carry out missions, like a trained spy/assassin would. While Book 1 had aspects of espionage tradecraft, Book 2 required me to literally step into the shoes of an international spy, to ‘be’ this undercover agent and efficient killer. It was a walk on a very tight line to make Rayne, and the other agents inside the Corpus, come across as realistic, yet at the same time, sympathetic, and a person the reader would cheer for. I’ve pored over countless espionage books, watched hours of spy TV shows and movies, done endless research on locations and the veritable barrage of guns that these spies use. Spies seem to be wired to think differently, and it wasn’t easy to get my suburban-housewife-mum brain to wire this way.

What was your favorite part?

The scenes with Rayne’s family. Russian on her father’s side, Irish on her mother’s, they are a crazy, loony, totally over-the-top bunch who have so much drama going on in their lives you wonder how anyone can remain sane in their entourage! Rayne and Ash go home for their siblings’ wedding (Ash’s brother is marrying Rayne’s sister), and in the process, unveil their very own secret Las Vegas wedding on their unsuspecting families. Writing the actual wedding – the exchange of vows and the reception – was a true delight. These scenes were the touch of lightness in what was otherwise a very dark and ominous atmosphere.

Rate your story in terms of steaminess

1 – Something your sour, old, very proper aunt wouldn’t even scoff at!
2 – You might get that aunt to scowl...
3 – Don’t even think of letting the old biddy see this! She’d think you’re on the road to hell!
4 – Worry that if your mum ever reads this, she’ll wonder where all your religious education went, and how she is now damned to hell for raising such a shameless daughter!
5 – Don’t even dream of letting anyone in your entourage see this, because they’ll think you’re a sex fiend with more than a kinky bent (you’re heading to Bedlam though, because this level of hotness is just “not done”... shame on you...)

I’d say the sex scenes in Before The Morning slot in somewhere between 4 and 5. One of my beta readers fell in lust with Ash merely on the basis of his hot prowess in the bedroom!
The buildup of sexual tension warrants a 3, I suppose. These two mostly jump into the sack without much need for long, drawn-out tension. They’ve known each other forever, and are already married for much of the book.

Who is your favorite romance author?

Susan Mallery. No one quite does small town romance and lovable characters as well as she does. Her books also don’t sound like you’re reading the same story over and over, with only the character names changed.

What is your favorite romance book or series?

Favorite book = The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella. There’s everything in that one – humor, lots of laughter, falling in love, a heroine out of her depths who learns to ‘live’ again, a man to die for, and that definite HEA.

Favorite series = Susan Mallery’s Fool’s Gold. That town feels like a second home now, the characters like an extended family you just love to catch up with.

Who is your favorite romance character? If you could go on a date with that person, what would you do? Details please! *wink*

I’ve totally been struck by this man I read about in Judith McNaught’s Night Whispers. His name is Noah Maitland. Rich tycoon, totally swoon-worthy, honorable, and when he fell in love, he fell hard. There’s also an edge of danger to him, a sort of roughness no amount of high society polish or money could totally buff out of his persona and his appeal.
A date with Noah Maitland? *checks if my husband is around... he’s not* LOL. Let’s just say, why not a balmy evening on his yacht, just off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. We wouldn’t be exchanging pleasantries and witty conversation, if you know what I mean... *grin* So, the soft evening breeze blowing on the deck... the yacht moored a few hundred yards from land, where no one can really make out what’s happening on board... a nice, comfy blanket on the polished wood planks of that deck... a sexy, dark, brooding man wearing nothing but skin-tight jeans... I’ll leave you to imagine the rest *wink*

Boxers or Briefs?

Boxers... though, in the end, both will have to come off ASAP... *grin*

What is next for you?

A slew of WIPs, a handful of them continuing the two series I have started at Noble Romance Publishing. Book 2 of my sweet romance, Destiny’s Child series, is in the making, titled Glory Days. It’s the story of teenage lovers who reconnect nineteen years later... to win custody of their granddaughter after the death of their secret child. Book 3, the last one, of the Corpus Brides series, is also on my drafting board.
Then I have a couple of 1NightStand ideas rolling around, and a potential contribution to Decadent Publishing’s Western Escape small-town romance series.

What were your first impressions of each other?

Ash Gilfoy: That she was totally off her rocker. I saw this little girl in a pink tutu and ballet slippers climbing up this gigantic chestnut tree at least five times her size. As I predicted, she slipped, and I got there in time to catch her. The first thing she asked when she opened her big blue-grey eyes was, “Are you an angel?” I expected, “Who the hell are you?”, but no. She was totally crazy!

Rayne Cheltham: I thought he was an angel, sent to save me. I fell from that tree and this bony, gangly little boy cushioned my fall. I remember staring into the most beautiful, molten-silver eyes I had ever seen when I looked at him; they were the color of my mum’s most precious silver. His blond hair fell over his forehead, and he really did look like an angel. I was six, and I’m pretty sure I fell in love that day. My heart never belonged to any other boy ever since that day.

What are your favorite parts about each other?

Rayne: That Ash has a noble spirit. He wants to help, to do good, to save people. Who can resist a knight in shining armor?

Ash: Rayne can take on the world when she’s got her heart set on something. There’s nothing that can come in the way of her determination.

What’s next for you?

Rayne: Getting used to a ‘normal’ life, and becoming better acquainted with my role as a wife. I will also try my best to stop my past from encroaching into my life...

Ash: Getting used to the idea that I now have a wife, when I have no clue or memory of proposing or even getting married... I never conceived of my life including a wife, a family. I never conceived I’d be anything but a cop, either, and look where I am today, a paramedic. I’ve got to adapt to this change...

Bio:

Zee Monodee
Stories about love, life, relationships... in a melting-pot of culture
Zee is an author who grew up on a fence - on one side there was modernity and the global world, on the other there was culture and traditions. Putting up with the culture for half of her life, one day she decided she'd stand tall on her wall and dip toes every now and then into both sides of her non-conventional upbringing.
From this resolution spanned a world of adaptation and learning to live on said wall. The realization also came that many other young women of the world were on their own fence.
This particular position became her favorite when she decided to pursue her lifelong dream of writing - her heroines all sit 'on a fence', whether cultural or societal, in today's world or in times past, and face dilemmas about life and love.
Hailing from the multicultural island of Mauritius, Zee is a degree holder in Communications Science. She is married,mum to a tween son, & stepmum to a teenage lad.


Buy Links:

BEFORE THE MORNING (Corpus Brides: Book 2): An action/adventure, romantic suspense tale on the backdrop of a clandestine espionage agency - come read the story of Rayne, a spy who leaves that life in the name of love, & Ash, the man who changes her world! 
https://www.nobleromance.com/Books/420/Before-the-Morning

WALKING THE EDGE (Corpus Brides: Book 1): Currently FREE - A romantic suspense novel, wherein an amnesiac woman is on the quest for her forgotten memory... Escape from London all the way to Marseille, France, and discover the secrets, deceit, danger, & the powerful love, she uncovers during her search! https://www.nobleromance.com/Books/304/Walking-the-Edge  

ONCE UPON A STORMY NIGHT (1NightStand): On the paradise island of Mauritius, British billionaire Lars Rutherford isn’t looking for a woman, & corporate law executive Simmi Moyer isn’t looking for a man. But when a matchmaker pairs them together on a blind date, both face open doors towards a future they refused to contemplate... until now. http://www.decadentpublishing.com/product_info.php?products_id=553&osCsid=joff4lkh610umgtpmk3mg4qvr4


Contact Links:

Blog: http://zeemonodee.blogspot.com/

Facebook & Goodreads: Zee Monodee

Twitter: @ZeeMonodee

Before The Morning
. . . is a time of great darkness. . . 
A trained killer with borderline sociopathic tendencies:
Rayne Cheltham traced out her life's path when she was twelve: she would marry her best friend and bear his children, and in the process, stifle the restless edge in her. When he vows never to marry, she gives in to the darkness and becomes a clandestine agent—until the day he walks into her world again, and her carefully fabricated façade crumbles.
A former cop burned by life and his personal demons:
When Ash Gilfoy meets a woman who reminds him of his childhood best friend, he starts upon a path that leads him down into an abyss once again. The day Rayne waltzes back into his life, he knows she is his second chance, and the one who will save him.
Each thinks the other is their redemption . . . until they discover how deep the other's edge of darkness goes
No one knows Rayne used to be a spy and an assassin, and no one knows why Ash left the police force. The secrets between them make them sit on a keg of gunpowder with a lit fuse in their hands. Neither knows what 'normal' means now, especially Rayne, whose whole life is built on a lie. Truth is threatening to explode in their faces, and that is not the only menace they have to face. Someone is out to get Rayne, and she must disclose her past before it is too late.
Can Rayne and Ash survive all that's thrown in their path? Can they hang on to the last thread of their relationship, and can they emerge, still together and still alive, in the morning after the deepest darkness?


http://youtu.be/ivUw0X9odFk

Excerpt:

From the front-facing window on the second floor of the Shepherd's Close freehold, Corpus secret agent Rayne Cheltham watched the ambulance pull away from the curb.
Shivers crept up her arms, and she hugged herself tight to ward them off.
Get a grip!
She was a professional on an assignment, an elite, trained operative from a clandestine agency that handled operations for governments and international forces as a stealthy left hand. Her agency entrusted her with the most important missions—nothing should faze her.
Before today, she would've said that nothing could affect her when she had her eyes on a goal.
But she wasn't sure anymore. She'd never had her past collide with her present like a few moments ago, in the form of her childhood best friend.
Ashford Gilfoy, better known as Ash. The boy who had been there to catch her when, at six, she had slipped while climbing the chestnut tree that sat right on the border between their two houses in Hastings, two days after her family moved there from Salisbury. The boy who had taught her how to ride a bicycle without the training wheels on the long and winding, gravel-covered lane leading to her parents' mansion. The teenager who had smashed the nose of the first lad who had broken her heart, at thirteen, during recess in the schoolyard. The young man she had left seventeen years ago on a platform at London Waterloo, on the day she bid her old life goodbye.
For the first time since that day, she was back on British soil, and kismet decided Ash should cross her path.
Why then, of all times? She was a hair's breadth away from closing the contract on this mission. Seven months of intensive infiltration work and she was ready to achieve her aim—neutralize Nikolai Grigorievskiy's criminal operations before she took out the man. The Corpus always sent her for the kill, but the trick was that she had to make her target's death appear self-inflicted, at the bare minimum, or an accident, in the direst of cases. Measles, as such operations were known in their clandestine world—a planned assassination that didn't leave any indication of the cause of death. She would then have to sanitize everything—leave no evidence, no witness, nothing that could lead back to her. Unlike her other agency counterparts, she wasn't an out-and-out black ops assassin, but a different level of highly implicated agent provocateur.
In other words, a consummate actress who got to her ends by manipulating people and circumstances. All those years of drama school, at her mother’s insistence when, obviously, she'd be too tall to become a ballerina, came in handy. In fact, her portrayal of Lady Macbeth in the drama school's end of year play had caught the eye of the people who had recruited her into the Corpus. Seventeen years into the agency, fifteen of them as Kali, her operative name, a sociopath with no apparent conscience who followed her orders with diligence. Never had any one of her targets come close to figuring she was an undercover agent. Her track record was flawless—each assignment undertaken with one hundred percent success rate and a marginal body count.
Until today, when she'd almost gotten burned.
Ash had recognized her down there. For a second, she'd thought her cover was blown. Then, she'd taken a deep breath and forced herself to remain in character. Never panic, always stay in control, breathe and gather your wits—the first lesson drilled inside the mind of any secret agent. Pulling on a blank face was one of her fortes, and Ash had bought the act. He thought she was Irina, clueless twenty-year-old from the dirt-poor suburbs of Moscow who didn't speak any other language but Russian.
She'd had a few close encounters in the past, but never like that. Rayne and Kali had two separate, compartmentalized lives that ran parallel. The two should never have touched, because that would end up making a mess of her. She could keep each persona separate, as long as she could push Rayne to some dark corner of her mind. Her job taxed her, and she walked the tight line of paranoia every single second while undercover.
But if Rayne came to the front during a mission . . . .
Damn it, she wasn't a rookie agent on her first mission. Cherries, as the CIA called them. Hell, even during her first undercover operation, she'd had no qualms and no trouble achieving her aim.
Why today, when everything was smooth sailing toward a much-desired goal?
She closed her eyes and rested her forehead against the windowpane. The glass was warm against her clammy skin.
She was sweating?
That will not do. I have to take control again.
She had to forget about Ash, about Rayne, and focus on being Irina, the one who would bring down a notorious criminal. Her agency and the whole world counted on her to take out the piece of scum. She was their last hope, sent in as the trump card after good cops got killed when trying to bring Nikolai to justice.
Someone knocked on the door, and she pulled away from the window. Damn it, she still had a job to do.
Willing confidence to steel her spine on a deep breath, she turned around. She blinked a few times, called forth tears. She was supposed to be a young wife who'd just been hit by her husband, a man she'd left downstairs at the party with a leggy blonde draped all over his side.
The moisture trickled onto her cheek, and she swiped her eyes to smear the kohl and mascara.
There—she should present the desired picture of despair.
"Da?" she answered as she stepped toward the door.
The panel opened quietly. "Zdrastuyte, Gaspazha Grigorievskaya."
Hello, Mrs. Grigorievskaya. Such formality. Only one man addressed her with such deference and respect—Boris Petrov, Nikolai's right-hand man.
"Zdrastuyte, Boris Ivanovich." She replied him with the same formal greeting, using his patronymic name to further show her respect, as was customary in the Russian culture.
Boris was the least disposable target in the whole operation—the keystone. She had to bring him down, or at least create a rift between the two men. Everything would crumble afterward. Nikolai wouldn't have his main pillar of support, and would thus crash down through the pyramidal structure of his operations.
"Are you okay?" he asked as he stepped into the room and closed the door behind him.
She shrugged, forced a small, tremulous smile. Russian wives, she'd learned, tolerated a lot of their husbands' outbursts. "It's nothing."
"You shouldn't listen to what Mikhail said. He is just jealous that Kolya's attention is not wholly directed onto him any longer."
"It does not bother me," she said in a small voice.
Make a move, she silently urged him. For her plan to work, Boris had to capitalize on the simmering embers of passion that flared between him and his boss' wife, and that he denied all the time. She'd already lost too much time, and had to start the measles process.
I have to take matters in my hands. There's no other way.
She trained her eyes on him. Boris was a big, burly man in his mid-forties. Anyone could imagine him knocking out a person with just a flick of his thick wrist. Toying with him was like playing with fire—she could get burnt. But she had no other choice. The time had come. Five months to gain Nikolai's trust and compliance; two months to insidiously plant the seeds of discord within the criminal's entourage. She didn't have much leeway to work at influencing outcomes anymore. No—she had to provoke.
Rayne inhaled, felt the oxygen fill her lungs and clear her brain. She forced herself into her character. What would Irina do?
She gasped, and brought her hands to cover her mouth. With rapid steps, she rushed to Boris' side. She reached out with one hand and trailed the tips of her fingers along one of his eyes, swollen nearly shut from a blow.
"You shouldn't have," she said in a soft whisper, letting tears streak down her cheeks. "Not for me."
Boris' swift intake of air was the only sound that hissed between them. He closed his eyes under her touch.
Do it, she urged.
"I am so"—she paused and sobbed—"so sorry." Her voice was small and breathless, heavy with sadness.
Boris settled a heavy, meaty palm on her hand, to keep her fingers unfurled on his cheek. "Forgive me, Irina. I couldn't let him say those ugly lies about you."
He is caving.
"Boris, please." She pleaded with him.
"I will do anything for you."
"I am a married woman."
"Why don't you leave him?"
She gasped. "I cannot. I pledged myself to him."
"But look how he treats you!"
"Borya," she said, using the nickname for Boris, "back in Russia, for every one like me, there are ten other girls, more beautiful, waiting to take my place."
"There isn't any woman more beautiful than you in all of Russia."
She smiled, making sure she displayed sadness and resolution on her features.
"You are such a sweet man." When he wasn't forcing underage girls into the cargo holds of boats docking out of most major European ports, plying them with drugs before supplying them like meat to brothels and sex perverts.
"Leave him," Boris said, the words a subtle urge.
"I can't. Where would I go?" She gently tugged her hand from under his and took a step closer to him. "I can't go back to that life, Borya."
"Irina, please—"
The sound of the door opening startled them. Nikolai stood on the threshold, his tall, dark form an intimidating silhouette in the dim doorway.
Kali threw one look at Boris, shook her head softly, and took a few steps away. The back of her knees hit the edge of the window seat. She stumbled backward into a sitting position on the upholstered ledge.
Nikolai's narrowed gaze went from Boris to her, and back to his right-hand man.
"Leave us," he said softly, the words obviously an order.
Boris nodded and exited the room.
Good—she’d sown the seeds of doubt. Her "husband" would wonder what went on between her and Boris, and Boris would try to get closer to her. She would play on this nearness between them, subtly make people wonder if something was happening behind Nikolai's back.
At that point, she would move her final chess piece—Nikolai would die at the same time as Boris. For the world, things would look like an altercation gone wrong between a spurned husband and a forbidden lover, with her caught in the crossfire. That's how she'd ensure her exit from the operation.
Yes, all the pieces of the game were falling into place. She just had to play along.
Nikolai closed the door behind Boris, the click of the latch falling into place sounding louder than it should have.
He turned toward her, pressed his shoulder against the doorframe, and pushed his hands into the pockets of his Gieves and Hawkes champagne-coloured, tailor-made linen trousers.
Her "husband" focused his steely grey eyes on her.
The stare burned into her skull. Still, she refused to look up. Not yet.

***end of excerpt***


Zee will be be offering a pdf of Before The Morning to a random commenter. :-) Be sure to leave your email address to enter.
 




15 comments:

  1. Fantastic interview. Will check out Before the Morning.

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    1. Thanks Cara! I hope you enjoy the book! xoxo

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  2. Great interview! Zee is a new to me author and after this I had to get a copy of Walking the Edge. Thanks for the headsup about it being free on Noble Romance.
    suz2(at)cox(dot)net

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    1. Lovely to meet you, Susan! Thanks for grabbing your copy of Walking The Edge - I hope you'll enjoy the read. :)

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  3. This books sounds really awesome. I definitely have to check it out soon! Wishing you tons of success with all of your releases, Zee. Great interview, ladies.

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    1. Thank you for those lovely words, Melissa - it's a pleasure to meet you! :)

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  4. Great interview.

    Carrie - love your steaminess rating.

    Zee - Awesome excerpt.

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    1. Thanks, Daryl! We had a lot of fun coming up with this steaminess scale, me imagining my very proper mum & aunts reading my work and having heart attacks! :)

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  5. AHHHHHHHHHH, I didn't want the excerpt to end. I was relaxing with my coffee and lunch, reading your excerpt--it was so good!

    Great interview you two. I love me some Zee!

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    1. Awww, thanks Brenda! You're too sweet! XOXO

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  6. Have you ever read to the end of an excerpt and kept trying to scroll down to read more, but there isn't any? Like Brenda, I hit the end and said Noooooooo!!

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    1. LOL! Too funny, & sweet! Love ya, girl! xoxo

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  7. Very nice interview. This sounds like a good series.

    bn100candg(at)hotmail(dot)com

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    1. Thank you! I hope you get to check the books out :)

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  8. And a big huge fat thanks to Carrie for having me over and allowing me to meet some fab peeps! You're a darling, Carrie girl!! XOXO

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