Happy Monday readers! Time to cozy in and enjoy some 'you time' because there’s a “Must read!” new adult paranormal romance to be shared. Give a warm welcome to Michele N. Zugnoni, author of Starfire, Book One in the Chronicles of Shadow Mist. Not only is there a super interview ahead but Michele has a to-die-for pile of loot up for grabs!
Publisher: Forbidden Press
Date of Publication: July 30
ASIN: Not assigned yet
Number of pages: 400
Word Count: 110,000
Cover Artist: Michele N. Zugnoni
From an ancient battle comes a forbidden love … and the chance to hope again.
Destined to destroy vampires, or refuse and be executed, seventeen-year-old Julia Kirkwood finds herself drawn to two things: a life of partying and rebelling against the law, and Clay Blackwell. The trouble is, Clay happens to be the son of the Lumince high priestess, the leader of a race of peace-loving vampires, and Julia’s father’s unspoken enemy. For Julia isn’t just a Reaver, she’s the daughter of the Reaver Chief. And Julia’s father is furious to discover she’s secretly dating and falling in love with a Lumince, particularly after an attempt at peace crumbles in bloodshed.
When her father intensifies his attack against the Luminces, endangering the lives of Clay’s people, Julia’s forced to take a stand. She must choose to accept her destiny as a Reaver, or claim her heart and find the inward strength to declare war against her own flesh and blood. Interwoven with her fate are the ramifications of a love story as forbidden and passionate as her own: the ancient romance that sparked the creation of Reavers and Luminces, igniting this centuries-old feud. Will Julia’s feelings for Clay be enough to transcend centuries of love-turned-hate? Or will their final hope for peace be incinerated in a fiery war?
SKY: What inspired you to write this book?
MICHELE: You know, it’s interesting. I had no idea I was going to write STARFIRE. I was happily typing away at an entirely different story, enjoying getting to know my characters and their world, when BAM! I experienced a bout of writers’ block. And when I say writers block, I mean that with a capital WB. It came on all of the sudden, it was especially severe, and it led to several conversations between myself and my computer in which I threatened to throw that blasted machine out of the window if it couldn’t help me figure out what I wanted to say.
And then I walked away. And I went swimming. And I drank a bottle of Corona. And I went to sleep. And when I woke up, I had this characters’ voice in my head. It was so clear, I swear I could see her flipping her wild mane of crimson hair when she spoke my name. I knew right away that her name was Julia, and that she had a story she wanted me to tell.
Well, that day I sat down at my computer and I started typing. And typing. And typing. When I was done, I knew not only Julia, but also Clay, her forbidden lover. And I knew I had to know more. I couldn’t wait to get inside these characters’ heads, to slip inside their world, to discover their story, their romance, their love.
That was the day I started writing STARFIRE. From that moment on, I was up at night, dying to find out more. The other story is still on my hard drive, but STARFIRE? It’s come to life in more ways than I ever anticipated and I cannot wait to share.
SKY: Tell us a little bit about the conflict in your story.
MICHELE: From an ancient battle comes a forbidden love … and the chance to hope again.
Julia and Clay live in the hidden realm of Shadow Mist, where their kind has been at war for centuries. Marked by the gods as a Reaver, Julia is destined to hunt and destroy vampires, even if she believes some are good people who do not deserve the bad rap of their kind. And when she meets Clay, son of the vampire high priestess, she finds herself rebelling against everything she is and everything she knows simply for the sake of love. The problem? Julia’s father is the Chief Reaver, and he’ll do anything to destroy the vampires even if it means going head-to-head with his daughter in a war more brutal and vicious than any Shadow Mist has ever before witnessed.
SKY: If you had to sell your book based on one run of dialogue (start quote to end quote), which would it be?
MICHELE: “I’m the only person in the world standing between you and certain punishment. You think just ‘cause your daddy’s Chief Reaver, it’s gonna spare you the pain of rebellion? You think you can go against everything you are and emerge unscathed? Think again, little girl. It doesn’t work that way.” – Josh Woodley, a Reaver who just happens to have a crush on Julia and a yen for becoming her father’s right-hand man
SKY: Tell us about your book cover and how it relates to your story.
MICHELE: Do you like it? I actually designed the cover myself. There’s a very special scene during the second part of STARFIRE in which Julia and Clay run away to the forest, where magic starts to happen. It’s the first time they venture outside of Shadow Mist, the first time they begin to get close, and in the midst of their very first … Well, I wouldn’t want to give too much away. But let’s just say that in the middle of a very romantic scene, the most magical incident of all takes place. The cover depicts that journey.
SKY: Are you currently working on another story? If so, we’d love some details.
MICHELE: Of course I’m working on another story! As if I could stay away. I’m getting ready to release GODDESS KISSED, the STARFIRE short-story prequel that centers around Clay’s mother before she became High Priestess of the vampires. It tells of her rise to power, and all the struggles she must overcome before taking the throne. One of the biggest problems? The Reavers have learned of her immense power (she’s been granted more power than any high priestess thus far), and they’ll do about anything to stop her from ascending to vampire leadership, even if it means all-out war.
SKY: What sort of personality does your hero have?
MICHELE: Clay is a very sweet, poetic guy who will do anything for the people he loves, including standing up against the Chief Reaver himself. That said, he sometimes suffers from a lack of bravery. His journey centers around finding the courage to do the right thing, even if it means placing himself in mortal danger to keep his loved ones safe.
SKY: What sort of personality does your heroine have?
MICHELE: Julia is a rebel and a party girl of the strongest sort. She knows what she believes, and no one’s going to change her mind. And Julia believes that not all vampires are evil, and not all Reavers are good. She does, of course, suffer from the problem of being the daughter of the Reaver Chief. Julia’s journey centers around finding the strength within herself to stand up against her own flesh and blood, even if it means going against everything she is to protect those she loves most.
SKY: Tell us about your favorite writing environment. Is it indoors, outdoors, a special room, etc.
MICHELE: Do you wanna know a secret? My favorite writing environment isn’t indoors or even outdoors. Not really. It’s actually in the middle of Disneyland park, and on any and all Disney rides, surrounded by the rich, sweet smells of Disneyland and the sound of laughter and excited screams. In fact, the first part of STARFIRE was actually composed in Disneyland, while I waited in line for rides like Pirates and Star Tours, and at tables inside Blue Bayou and Ariel’s Grotto. At one point, I started jotting down a scene as the car for Space Mountain raced into the dark tower, jetting me into the stars. And if you really pay attention, you’ll find certain traces of Disney echoed within STARFIRE. There’s a reason one of my characters looks like Abe Lincoln; I created him while watching the show on Main Street. I also think there’s a reason why Julia has red hair; she really came to life on The Little Mermaid ride. So as you read through STARFIRE, you might try to pick out some of these influences. Go on. I dare you.
SKY: How long have you been writing? How long have you been published?
MICHELE: I’ve been writing ever since I was old enough to discover that crayons make excellent pencils if the paper is just the right thickness. My very first story was about a troll who looked an awful lot like my father (the poor guy had just punished me for something I probably shouldn’t have been doing; sorry, Dad!). Aside from an anthology in which my story, “Whisper,” was honored with third place, this is the first novel I’ve ever published. And I really cannot wait to share. So what are you waiting for? Go on! Buy your copy of STARFIRE. You know you want to. ;-)
An excerpt from chapter 2, Clay’s POV…
“D’you ever wonder,” Julia’s fingers glided along her cat’s back, blazing a path into its fur, “if there’s a place so far away, it just has to be perfect? That –” she sighed, “that maybe if we traveled far enough, we could – I don’t know, we could maybe cut around the bull shit and the lies and just live the life we’re supposed to live? Free of everything but the truth and ourselves?”
Clay tilted his face toward the stars. “Maybe. If there’s a place far enough away.”
“Sometimes I feel like there has to be.” She pulled her gown around her legs, letting the material drift against her skin. “Otherwise, what the hell else is there?”
“Mrow,” agreed the cat, nuzzling its cheek against Clay’s hand.
“Nice cat.” Falling onto the deck, Clay scratched behind the creature’s ears. “What’s its name?”
“Pandora.” Julia pushed herself to her elbows, causing the feline to fall onto her lap with a startled mrow. She smoothed her apologies against its fur. “Named her after a story my mom told me once. When I was a little girl.”
His heart sprinted as he stared into her eyes: stained with starlight and sparking with secrets, they grabbed hold and wouldn’t let go. “A story?”
“Hmm.” She nodded. “About a girl who just couldn’t take no for an answer. She opened this box she wasn’t even supposed to touch, and let out all the dark, evil things of the world. Anger. Jealousy. Spite. Malevolence. Everything bad. Until she got smart and slammed the lid shut, trapping just one thing inside. You know what that was?”
Julia tilted her face to the heavens. “Hope,” she murmured, her answer mingling with Clay’s whispered: “Hope.”
A crease formed between her brows, and she lowered her gaze to skewer Clay with her fiery stare. “Thought you hadn’t heard the story, Lumince?”
Clay shrugged. “I’ve heard it. I just wanted to hear you tell it.”
The starlight faded from Julia’s eyes and she reached for her bottle of champagne. “Aren’t you breaking the rules? Coming out here to talk to me?”
Clay smothered a grimace. “Rules?”
“Yeah, you know.” Curling her hand around the bottle’s neck, she lifted it to her mouth in a fluid yank. Her throat spasmed around the rush of alcohol; plunking the bottle onto the deck, she moistened her lips and leveled him with her stare. “Should any vampire be caught keeping company with a human,” she air-quoted the law with her fingertips, “that creature will suffer no less than two years in a Reaver-run penitentiary and –”
“And no less than thirty lashes of a pinewood whip.” Clay tugged his fingers through his curls, swallowing a sigh as Pandora curled onto his lap. “I know the law.”
“Then why are you out here talking to me?”
There was a dare in her eyes, in the way she pushed her fingertips against his hand; capturing one between his fingers, he held it in his grasp. “Last I checked, Reavers didn’t exactly qualify as human. Or have the laws changed again?”
Julia arched a brow. “Nice,” she drawled, twisting her fingertip from his hand. It fell against his arm, where it burned her touch into his skin. “Do you talk like this to all the girls, or am I just special?”
Clay met her gaze and took a breath. “I’m still trying to figure that one out.”
She blinked. “Well, let me know when you do. ‘Cause I’m just dyin’ to find out.”
She tilted her head for another drink, and Clay watched as the neckline of her dress fell open, revealing the Reaver mark etched into the skin below her collarbone. Unbidden, his fingers drifted to the design: a jagged “R” seared within a circle, smooth against his touch. “Did that hurt?”
He thought he heard her breath catch; he knew he saw her eyes widen as her gaze drifted to his hand. “Enjoying the feel?”
“Sorry.” Clay yanked his hand away, his cheeks burning against the warm September breeze. “I just…I’ve never seen one this close before.”
“You mean my cattle brand?” She skimmed the mark with her hand. Her forehead creased and her mouth puckered as she stared at the fingers he’d touched her with seconds before. “It’s okay, I guess. It’s just – I’ve never had anyone touch it before. It’s . . . kinda weird.” Her hand brushed against his arm, causing his breath to catch. “But it didn’t hurt. Or, it did for a minute, when I first got the flash.”
“Yeah.” She nodded. “It’s like…a moment, when you know you were chosen. A searing pain, and then you get the mark. It happened when I was thirteen. A full year before any of my other friends were chosen, which really kinda sucked.” A sip from the bottle, washed down with a tuck of her mouth. She smacked her lips together. “But it’s okay. I’ve gotten over it.”
“Wow.” Clay raised his brows.
“Yeah. I guess.” Shivering, Julia swigged another long drink. He took the opportunity to caress her hand with his thumb, sliding it beneath his palm.
She shifted until she was sitting, her gaze drifting to his mouth. “I wonder…”
“What do you wonder, Jewels?”
Her eyelids fluttered at the endearment, a spark of surprise sizzling through her gaze. “I – I wonder if …” Julia’s free hand glided into the air, and she skimmed her fingertips against his lips. “Do you mind?”
Clay swallowed and leaned forward as her touch seared itself into his skin. “D-do I – Oh.” He blinked. “Oh, yeah. Um, okay. Sure.” He slid open his mouth to reveal a pair of gleaming white fangs.
She smoothed her fingers over their tips, wincing as they pricked her skin. “They’re sharp.”
“It’s okay.” Flipping his hand, he captured her fingers between his own. “I don’t bite, and I never hurt.”
He was caught within her stare, pulled within the molten fire flashing through her eyes. His heart dipped as she yanked her hand from his touch, a guarded mask slipping over her features. A second later, and the bottle was at her lips, the rush of liquid flooding her throat. He caught the bottom with his hand, causing her to lower it until it hovered between them both. “Why do you drink so much?”
“Why do you care?”
“Actually,” he lowered his hand and she plunked the bottle onto the deck, “I guess I’m trying to figure out why you pretend so hard like you don’t.”
“Maybe it’s easier that way.”
“Yeah, maybe.” Clay scratched behind Pandora’s ears, making the creature purr. “Or maybe you’re just too scared to try it any other.” Her eyes flashed fire, but he caught her hand before she could flail him with her words, flipping it to run his fingertips along the lines of her palm. “I told you. You don’t have to be afraid of me. I don’t hurt, and I never bite.”
“No.” She ripped her hand away. “You only touch.”
SKY: Loved the interview, Michele! Thanks for joining me today.
About the Author
Michele is a recovering demon (AKA attorney) who left the legal field to follow her dreams of writing and teaching college-level English. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling as far as her credit card will take her, reading an assortment of fantasy and paranormal, and playing with her frisky animals (two black cats and two loud-mouthed cockatiels).
She’s loved vampires since she was four, when her BFF confided that her older sister was a vamp who enjoyed drinking blood. Like any four-year old, Michele thought this was the most awesome thing ever. Michele currently lives in Modesto, California, but will move to Santa Barbara to begin a Ph.D. program in education and literacy this fall.
Starfire came out July 30'th, and to celebrate, we're lookin' to give away some loot. To enter this rockin' contest, simply follow the actions below, and you'll receive the corresponding number of entries!!!
*Comment on any tour or Facebook post (see www.starfireseries.com for tour dates and info)
*Like Michele's Facebook page (www.facebook.com/MicheleNZugnoni)
*Share Michele's Facebook page on your own Facebook or blog
*Like Michele's Twitter account (www.twitter.com/Michele_ZZZ)
*Purchase Starfire and comment on Michele's Facebook page "I just purchased this fiery new
paranormal romance! Can't wait to read."
*Review Starfire at Goodreads, Amazon, on your blog, or anywhere else on the web (but be
sure to let us know on Michele's facebook page).
*Host Michele on any virtual tour stop (interview, review, spotlight, etc.)
*1 Starfire shot glass
* 3 Starfire mugs (2 Julia/Clay, 1 Mia/Brennan)
*5 autographed copies of Goddess Kissed, the Starfire short-story prequel coming out Sept. 1
*10 red or black velvet bookmarks (with assorted charms)
*2 $25 gift cards to Amazon.com
AND THE GRAND PRIZE...
*1 $50 gift card to Amazon.com!!!