Hi, Skye Warren here! I’m the New York Times Bestselling author of dark romantic fiction, and I’m also the editor of Take the Heat, an anthology of criminal romance. I’m so excited to share this release with you.
One of the best parts of putting together this anthology was seeing what each author did—and Audrey Lusk’s story was absolute dynamite. Surprise Witness, her story in the Take the Heat anthology, is shocking and darkly beautiful. I’m thrilled to have her here today for an interview, so here we go…
Audrey, when did you first consider yourself a writer?
Audrey Lusk: As a small child, I was more likely to become a director, since I would organize the make-believe games for the kids on my block, casting everyone as pirates or ninjas, or whatever we were going to play that day. As puberty destroyed my social life, I turned to writing as a way of continuing “the game”. I was always an avid reader with a vocabulary far in advance of my years, and could already tell a coherent story.
Skye Warren: Can you describe your writing space for us?
Audrey Lusk: My laptop. Or my tablet. Everything else is subject to change. I write on the bus, on my lunch break at work, at karaoke. I write feverishly and when the mood is on me.
Skye Warren: Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
Audrey Lusk: I’m still getting started, and am as yet somewhat of a dilettante, as the answer to my previous question made clear, so I haven’t yet experienced the joy of working to a strict deadline – which mainly means that “block” doesn’t have the same impact. I have the freedom to set a story aside and come back to it six months later when the energy is back. But when I do really, really want to get back on track (say, I know what happens AFTER the scene I’m blocked on, but just can’t quite get there), I step into the head of one of my characters and just talk. Not out loud necessarily, and not even written down, just chit chat – the kind of inner monologue we all have every day. I start looking through his or her eyes and trying to find the things (in that moment where I’m held up) that I haven’t seen yet. Maybe I’ll realize something – like he left his stove on or she suddenly realized that guy over there went to high school with her – that sends me careening off in a new direction and gets me moving again. And if it’s all tangent and no substance, I can edit it out later, but it might still prime the pump!
Skye Warren: What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?
Audrey Lusk: Engaging the audience. After all, without them, we’re just screaming into the void. This does, however, include all aspects of writing in one way or another, both in an active way – for instance, making good characters, using strong descriptions, keeping the story flowing – and a passive way as well – such as not using atrocious grammar, spelling, and formatting, or anything else that will disengage the reader for even a minute. The instant a reader puts down the book in frustration, the writer loses a little.
Skye Warren: Are you working on something at the present you would like to tell us about?
Audrey Lusk: In addition to being an author of erotica, I also am a reader – as in “narrator” – for such books on Audible.com. I have almost as much fun bringing other authors’ characters to life as writing my own. I like to try new things, to see what people are looking for in listening material, so I cover a range from erotic romance all the way to just plain naughty.
Skye Warren: Tell us something about your newest release that is NOT in the blurb.
Audrey Lusk: There is a prequel to “Surprise Witness” (my story in the “Take the Heat” anthology) in a book of short stories I put out a few years ago. My old book is out of print, and I’m working on getting out a new kindle edition – though only after I have rewritten and cleaned it up a lot. It’s amazing how much difference even a few years can make to writing skill and maturity. A good story is still a good story, though, and I think these will be great when I’m done with them.
Skye Warren: Thanks so much, Audrey! And thank you all for coming to check out Take the Heat. If you’re down for a dark ride, I hope you’ll read it!
The ultimate bad boys, criminals capture our attention and awaken our darkest desires. Celebrate the illicit in this romantic suspense anthology, where handcuffs are used for more than play. These stories are shocking, sexy, and thought-provoking.
In New York Times Bestseller Skye Warren’s Magnolia Hotel, meet the heroine who pays her brother’s debt to a loan shark—who happens to be her childhood crush. Find out if the jury made the right decision in Acquitted by award-winning author Giselle Renarde. Explore a dark and sensual psychology with New York Times Bestseller Pam Godwin in Unlawful Seduction.
New York Times Bestseller Skye Warren – Magnolia Hotel
Cynthia Rayne – Captivated
New York Times Bestseller Pam Godwin – Unlawful Seduction
Sheri Savill – Slipknot
New York Times Bestseller Shoshanna Evers – This Might Hurt A Bit
Candy Quinn – The Bombshell
Tamsin Flowers – Playing with Fire
Elizabeth Coldwell – Disposing of Donnie
Audrey Lusk – Surprise Witness
Trent Evans – Last Day
Giselle Renarde – Acquitted
Ride the edge of desire and see if you can TAKE THE HEAT…
Excerpt from “MAGNOLIA HOTEL” BY SKYE WARREN
Maybe Liam still had that spark of humanity, of compassion, I’d once loved as a child. And even if I knew my brother was partly to blame for his situation, I couldn’t leave him to the wolves. Namely, one wolf. Liam.
I turned to my childhood friend who looked so different now with the glint of scruff on his face, with a bend in his nose where it had been broken. He looked some much more distinguished. In fact, he looked intimidating.
“Please let him go. Even if he… I know what he did. But he’s my brother. I can’t leave here without him. Take the two thousand. I’ll get you more, soon. I promise you. Just don’t hurt him.”
“Do you know how much he owes me, Grace?”
I swallowed. “Five thousand dollars?”
His face pulled into a slight grimace. He sighed. “Fifteen.”
I stood there, stunned. Unable to gasp or even breathe. Fifteen thousand dollars. I would never have that much money, not ever. But he was my brother.
“Please,” I whispered, reduced to begging.
Liam looked away, and for a horrible second I thought it was a refusal. My stomach pitched wildly, in fear and doubt and desperation. How could I fix this? I couldn’t, I couldn’t. My brother was going to be beaten or killed.
Then he turned back to me, a hard glint in his gunmetal eyes. “There is a way you can help. You can be mine, Grace. Mine to do whatever I want with.”
Seconds passed with excruciating slowness as my mind protected me. Then reality slammed into me—all at once. He meant sex. I was almost sure he meant sex. Then I laughed at myself, hollow and jaded. What else would it mean?
I hadn’t thought it possible to hate Liam more, but I did, because he’d setup an impossible choice. For fifteen thousand dollars—and for my brother’s safety—I had to agree.
What did that make me? A prostitute? A sex slave?
I looked at my brother as the offer stood in the air. He wouldn’t meet my eyes. Couldn’t he at least put up a token protest? At least try to protect my honor? But I was getting a clearer picture of Benny than I had our whole lives. Letting himself fall to this level was one thing, but dragging me into it was the last straw. I would do this for him—and that was it.
“Never again,” I whispered.
I would never drain my bank account and come running to help ever again. Never sell my body for him. Never trust my brother again. It was like losing a family member. The only one I had.
Benny nodded, or maybe he was just drifting out of consciousness, his head bobbing slightly. Who knew? I was done. I would do what Liam required of me, and then I would be finished. Finished with family. Finished with criminals.
I’d be alone then.
I nodded grimly. “I’ll do it.”
ABOUT AUDREY LUSK
Audrey Lusk has led a life that reads like fiction. As a voice actor, Audrey’s performances of many steamy stories grace the Audible “shelves.” And yet, for someone who spent time in modern burlesque, made and sold her own Goth clothing line, and ran professional murder mystery parties, she’s a surprisingly evasive and retiring individual—and insists that these things found her, not the other way around. Now that she’s finally found a way to make writing and recording her main focus, she plans to stick to it, averring triumphantly “I don’t have to get dressed.”
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