Us (L & J #3)
by Emily Eck
Told from dual points of view, Elle and J must figure out how to bring down an MC, steer clear of flying bullets in Missouri and south of the border, all the while making sure Fernie is out of the line of fire. Elle's love for J is tested, as is her belief that she will ever find "normal" with the man she loves.
J is determined to make things right so he can give Elle the "normal" life she deserves. He just has to stay alive to make it happen. With his own personal sun by his side, he knows nothing is impossible. That is, until the bullets are redirected from his head to Elle's.
Elle: I held my hand up, showing him the ring he’d put on me. “This is us,” I told him. It was more than a ring. Well, to me it was more. “I promise to love you ‘til the day I die.”
J:"Us, baby. This is us. I'll love you 'til the sun ceases to shine."
Shawn and Michele Sit Down With Emily Eck
DI ~ What inspired you to write your first novel?
EE ~ My BFF turned me on to the Kindle and indie authors. I realized I liked the grittier romances with antiheroes. A story idea came to me and I sent it to an author I befriended. It was mostly a bunch of ramblings like, "What if this happened?" She gave me the thumbs up and told me to write it. I told her I wasn't a writer, and asked if she could write it. Of course, she declined, insisting that it was my story and I needed to write it. So I did.
As well, underlying the romance is a story of two undocumented teens struggling against life. It's a common story but one that doesn't get told. The L&J series was my chance to tell the story of so many youth I've come across in my life. I was able to give them the voice they are typically denied.
DI ~ What books/authors have inspired your life most?
EE ~ Illusions: the Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach
Love is Letting Go of Fear by Gerald Jampolsky
The Republic of East LA and Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
Walden - Throreau
Belinda by Anne Rice
Slow Burn by V. J. Chambers
DI ~ Whom would you consider a writing mentor(s)?
EE ~ V.J. Chambers was my mentor when it came to the actual process of writing and publishing. Her book, Slow Burn, was the first gritty romance I read. Previously, I was reading what my friends read, which was more Contemporary Romance and Erotica. I had this moment when I read Slow Burn that I said to myself, "Damn, I've been missing out on all this great action!" That's when I realized I could have action, romance, and steamy sex all in one book. Chambers also is the grammar queen. We exchanged various emails about commas, quotes, and when to use lay, lain, and laid. (And she actually knew!) Chambers was a high school English teacher, so she had the answer to everything. I couldn't have published Steel & Ice without her guidance.
I was used to academic writing—double spaces between sentences, light on the commas, and direct and emotionless descriptions. I struggled at first to put the emotion in the book that it needed. I ended up reading a bunch of old journals where I poured my heart out on paper (it was a rather depressing read) and used the ideas. There are a few places where I found things I wrote in my journal that went almost word for word into a book.
DI ~ What book(s) are you reading now?
- EE ~ Opposition by Jennifer Armentrout. Her witty commentary cracks me up. I just finished Love, in English and sobbed. Right before that was Thrive by the Ritchies. Sobbed on that one too. Next up is Crash and Burn by Jaci J. It's an MC romance. After that I promised my BFF that I'd read Carnage so she can talk about it with me. I am anxiously awaiting Fallen Crest Down by Tijan and Two Roads by Lili St. Germain.
DI ~ Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
EE ~ Lili St. Germain's Seven Sons series is pure brilliance. She's got me hooked on her series like a crack addict.
I also love K.S. Adkins Detroit After Dark series. We've chatted and become homies. She lives in Detroit, which is not far from where I grew up, so I relate to her books as Detroit becomes a character all it's own. There is something about the grittiness of Midwestern big cities. I blame it on the fact that we are under a few feet of snow for half the year. I lived in Southern California for a while where it's basically paradise, especially for a Midwestern girl. The sun shines everyday, the ocean is indescribable, and the hills and mountains are something out of a postcard. In Detroit and my hometown, you can go weeks without seeing the sun in the winter. It's depressing and the murder rate goes up around mid January. Adkins really captures this harsh living environment in her books.
Amelia Hutchins is another new-ish author who I like. She wrote the Fae Chronicles. I was obsessed with them! There are five and only three are out. I was so depressed when I finished the third book. I wasn't ready to be done. It's PA, but not super out there where I need to keep a list of all the made up words and their meanings.
DI ~ What are your current writing projects?
EE ~ I am writing a book that is 180 degrees from L&J. The heroine is still sassy, but not as hardcore as Elle. Whereas Elle is all me, the heroine in my new book is only a piece of me. It's hard to say much about it without giving it all away. The heroine has obstacles to overcome, obstacles that have debilitated her and her ability to live life to its fullest. As well, the person people see and the person she really is are different. Her major obstacle is one I had to overcome, and the public Emily and the private Emily are similar, but not the same.
The book is called Fighting Words, and I hope to have it out by early October. The heroine is in a band, so there is a lot of music in it. It is set in the Midwest, and again we will see a heroine go though a transformative journey. I can't think of much else to say at this time that won't spoil for ya'll. You'll just have to read it to find out.
DI ~ What would we find you doing when you're not at the keyboard?
EE ~ Exploring Mexico, possibly in a canoe, or listening to live music.
DI - What are your favorite setting(s) to read/write about?
I like gritty romances, so modern day settings. I have a degree in Anthropology, so culture is my specialty and books set in other countries interest me. I like some PA as well, but not too dystopian. I can't imagine writing PA, but maybe one day. Amelia Hutchins and Jennifer Armentrout make it look so easy!
I'm not a huge fan of the billionaires (other than Gideon!), major love triangles, secret babies (wth?!), or romances where the hero and heroine are their own cause of drama. I like books where some external force is the drama of the romance. I love me some Kellan Kyle, but there were times I wanted to smack Kyra and tell her to get her head out of her ass! She was just creating more problems for herself.
I adore the Rockchick series by Kristen Ashley because they are action packed and each book is different. As well, I look for strong supporting characters and KA is the master of that.
DI ~ If you could be any character in your book(s), which would you be and why?
EE ~ I'm Elle. Most of Steel & Ice is my story up until the ending. J is sadly pure fiction, but he is my idea man. The teens in the book are either based on a specific teen, or a mixture of a few. Fernie is two teens that I pulled different personality traits from. Many of the scenes at the Center really happened. Most of the bad situations that Elle talks about from the past in Steel & Ice happened to me, or are based on a situation I lived with a little extra something to take it to the next level.
After Steel & Ice, we get into pure fiction, but when I needed to decide how Elle would react to a certain situation I thought about how I would react or what I would do. She is hardcore, yet has deep emotions. She loves fiercely, has an inappropriate sense of humor, and is loyal to those she cares for. She may not seem like an overt nurturer, but she naturally takes care of the people around her. It's not a conscious action. It's just who she is.
The transformation she goes through during the course of the books is true, though it didn't happen like in the books. I did go through a transformation, and my teens helped me to want to be a better person, but I never had drug cartel shoot outs in Mexico!
I also worked at Applebee's for seven years as the only woman in the kitchen.
Top five favorite titles (these do not have to be favorite books)
I don't know why, but I am drawing a total blank on anything cool to write here! I feel like I need to scroll through my Kindle or something...
Felicia Wanted to Know:
Top ten authors?
In popular romance – Kristen Ashley, Tijan, Amy Harmon, Karina Halle, Lili St. Germain, Andrea Randall, Charles Sheehan Miles, The Ritchie Sisters, Amelia Hutchins, Madeline Sheehan, and probably about ten more I'm forgetting!
Other – Luis Rodriguez, Throreau, Richard Bach, and Rumi.
Author Sarah M. Cradit Asked
SMC ~ How many books have you written? This can include both published and unpublished works.
EE ~ I have five books in the L&J series:
Steel & Ice – We meet our main characters and get a feel for what Elle's life is life. The ending catapults us into the action that will carry us through the next few books
J Speaks – This is a 1.5 and is in J's voice. It's his account of a few things in Steel & Ice as well as some extra info that we were lacking in S&I. It's really a look into his head.
Melted & Shattered – This books deals with the aftermath of S&I's ending. Elle is trying to get her life in order, but just can't seem to move past J.
J Roars – Again, J gets his voice heard. We see some of M&S through his eyes, as well as find out what he was doing through most of M&S. It ends with some new information provided.
Us – This is not the end of the series, but it does culminate the tumultuous love affair of Elle and J. We find out if they can make it as a couple despite the various obstacles put forth in front of them.
Fighting Words – This is a work in progress about a singer trying to overcome some challenging life situations.
SMC ~ What does writing preparation look like for you? Do you do full outlines and character profiles, or do you just start with a general idea and write?
EE ~ I tend to get an idea in my head, always a "what if this happened?" type of idea, and I usually have the beginning and the ending right away. I make a super janky outline with the main events that need to happen to get us from point A to point B. Then I write, letting the ideas naturally come to me as I create the details of the story. Things often happen in my books that weren't initially planned. My hero in the L&J series wasn't Native American to begin with. He and Elle, the heroine, were chatting and she said something like, "I don't even know your last name." As I created this dialogue between the characters, he suddenly became Lakota, a culture we studied at length in a Native Americans of North America class I took in college. His culture is woven through the entire story.
In the book I'm currently writing, a song lyric inspired me. It's a Weezy song where he raps about a hoe named Tammy, and voila, one of my characters was nursing a broken heart from being cheated on by Tammy, "the hoe." (I hope no one named Tammy is reading this! If so, no offense. Blame Weezy)
In the L&J series, I didn't intend for undocumented youth and immigration to become such an integral part of the book. As the story unfolded in my head and on the computer screen, the nature of the story demanded it. I didn't intend to mix politics with my romance. It just happened. Though if you know me, and know that Elle is me, you would know that it makes sense. With this info in mind, read the books and you will see why.
SMC ~ Editing is a challenge for many writers. Give us some of your tips for editing efficiently and well.
Research is another challenge writers face, but is an important part of the writing process. What are some of your research tips?
EE ~ I am still at the stage where I beg my friends to edit. I have found a few readers who now edit for me as well. Melinda was a blessing. She does transcriptions for the courts, so she catches most everything. She didn't start editing until the 2nd book, and I swear you can tell! I don't edit much as I write. I wait until the end and then do a full read through. Then I send it out to "editors" and do one more full read through once I've received all the edits and input them.
I've not yet had to research much. All locations in Mexico are ones I've been to. The stories of the kids are all from my life. I've just started to have to look into some music terminology for Fighting Words, but that has been mostly in the form of asking musician friends.
SMC ~ What genre do you write in? What are some of the challenges to writing this particular genre well?
EE ~ I don't think I write in a particular genre other than contemporary romance. I write what I know. There is a part of me and my life in all my books. I am currently an American living in the middle of Mexico. Not Cancun or Acapulco, but a real city where there aren't many foreigners. I thrive on adventure, so I supposed you will always find that in my books. Or at the very least, a variety of different settings. As well, my characters are diverse in culture and race due to the variety of friendships I've made over the years with people of different races.
SMC ~ What advice would you give to a writer who is starting out?
EE ~ Don't be afraid to go all in. If you fail, you pick yourself back up. Or if you're life me, don't tell anyone until your book is published in case no one likes it! I waited until I had sold 1000 copies of Steel & Ice before I told my mom!
SMC ~ What are your writing, editing, marketing, and research goals for 2014-2015?
EE ~ Finish Fighting Words.
I have two more books outlined, one of which I wrote the first chapter to.
The L&J series will continue with more books from other characters POV. Chris is next. Then Jose. Maybe Fernie and Genesis, but we'll see.
I also want to write a book about my experiences in Mexico, though I am not sure what that will look like at this time.
SMC ~ Finally, is there anything else you would like your readers to know?
EE ~ Something I related to in Amelia Hutchins' books, is that it was clear her writing got better with each book. Steel & Ice was the first fiction book I ever wrote. It's a little rough around the edges, but please keep going. When my mom read Melted & Shattered, she said, "Wow, honey, your writing has really improved." It was a compliment, but I was also like, "Uh, thanks Mom... I think."
Also, Steel & Ice has a lot of drug usage in it. It's not there for shock or some random reason. Part of Elle's journey deals with her excessive weed smoking, and how she finds her way to a different type of life. You need to see how deeply enmeshed she is in the drug world in order to grasp the gravity of how she pulls herself out of it. At the same time, as you read through the series you'll find there is much more to Elle and the story than just drugs. Though it may seem like a dominant theme in Steel & Ice, by the time you get to Us, Elle has so much more going on in her life that the drugs takes a back seat to the adventure and romance, as well as her personal transformation to a different lifestyle.
About the Author
Emily is a Midwestern Gal hailing from the United States, but could be anywhere as you read this. Currently residing in Mexico, adventure feeds her soul, and offers great writing material. She loves kids and working with kids, but can only handle caring for four-legged furry friends. A crazy dog and laid back cat have trained her to be their partner in life. After coming from a snowy climate, Emily and the animals are loving the sun Mexico has to offer each and every day. Vices include Swedish Fish, ignoring chores in favor of reading, and caring too much for people in her life. She chose to write this bio in third person as she is an Aries, and found writing in first person ended up with her writing an excessively long life story. Aries like to talk about themselves. It is something Emily is working on being more mindful of. You can contact her on any of the social media platforms below and she will respond, as her mom gave her the gift of gab.