Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions! Why don’t you start off by telling the readers a little about Branded As Trouble, book 6 in your Rough Riders Series?
Very briefly, it is a friends to lovers tale. With lots of steamy hot, any-way-they-want it sex.
India Ellison is a tattoo artist with her own style and piercings. I love tattoos; I see them as a form of art. How did you come up with her character?
India blew into the picture, piercings jangling, blue hair flying in Cowgirl Up and Ride. She definitely isn’t the normal type of woman you find in a small Wyoming town, and the prospect of a fish out of water story appealed to me. I fleshed her out in Tied Up, Tied Down, which features her sister Skylar’s story with Kade McKay, and I knew she’d be a tough enough woman to deal with Colt McKay’s past, as she has a pretty shady past of her own, yet, she wasn’t afraid to be tender, despite her bad girl appearance.
Colt McKay has this bad boy persona who in reality is a softie. Time and again he gets knocked down by his family for his past behavior. Did you write his character after someone you know? If not, how did you come up with him?
No, Colt is his own entity. He was a hard character to write in the earlier Rough Rider books, knowing what I knew about him but no one else did. I had to make his problems real, and serious, not only to himself, but to his family. That can make readers suspicious and automatically not like a character, especially when Colt was squaring off against characters I’d already proven to be standup guys (Colby, Cord, Carter and Kade). I’d always planned on redeeming Colt, but in order to get to that point, he had to hit rock bottom. Which he did, quite spectacularly!
And I purposely stretched out the time frame in my fictional world **slight spoiler**Colt starts spiraling into more drinking and womanizing in Rode Hard, Put Up Wet, he ends up in treatment at the end of Cowgirl Up and Ride, in Tied Up, Tied Down, a year has passed and Colt is still clean and sober, another seven months have passed in Rough, Raw, and Ready and he’s holding it together. So in Branded As Trouble, three full years have passed since he straightened up his life. Colt needed time to heal and come to terms with himself and who he is now, as opposed to who he used to be, or who other people see him to be.
Both India and Colt struggle daily with Alcoholism and drug addiction. I found your depiction of their characteristics to be very real. Why did you choose this topic?
I didn’t really choose it. We all know alcoholics and former drug addicts, oftentimes not really knowing what they’re going through on a day-to-day basis, so not dealing with it would’ve been a cop out, and a cheat to all those people who have kicked addictions.
This story stresses how both India and Colt are judged on their past behavior or how they look. In much of the story, the subject matter could be considered controversial. Do you find yourself testing the waters and trying to get a rise out of people with your different topics?
No! I’d be much easier to write my way around those controversial topics. But I’d rather be honest and realistic to what I’m writing than politically correct. The way things are done or are looked at out here in the west, are completely different than in other parts of the country. It’s not right or wrong…it just is. Bearing that in mind, I took some hits with Long Hard Ride for including a closeted cowboy and his bisexual lover subplot. I took some hits on Rode Hard, Put Up Wet for having a dual storyline with an older and younger couple. I took some hits with Cowgirl Up and Ride because I killed a character that happened to be gay, and because some one or two of the sex scenes were uncomfortable to read, which was intentional. I see the Rough Riders series as a long running western family saga…bad things happen to everyone. To shove it under the rug and plaster happy smiles on everything doesn’t appeal to me. Yes, the books are first and foremost romances, but sometimes the happily-ever-after is a little sweeter for the adversity it takes to get there.
I can personally say I have a tendency to be prejudice of people who are alcoholics or drug users. After reading your novel though, I saw those people in a new light, a softer light to be sure. Were you attempting to send a message to people like me, who have a tendency to judge others?
No, but I think we’re all guilty of believing people we know—or think we know—are incapable of change.
There are other characters mentioned in this story but two that stick out are Domini and Cam. Please tell me if there is a story for them? (I really hope so!!!)
As an author you have to be careful how much emphasis you give on secondary characters, especially characters whose story is next in the queue, or else you’ll be accused of “series baiting” – but I usually try to give a hint in each book of the next book or two that’s coming up in the series. So to answer your question, yes, there is a book in the works for Cam and Domini. If I hit all my deadlines it’ll be out in August of this year.
In the novel there is talk of a Little Buddies program. Did you base this off of any real program?
We have Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization around here. I know they’re always looking for adults to volunteer. I admire those men and women who share their life with kids who need a mentor.
Branded As Trouble is in eBook format. Will there be a print edition available?
Usually the books are available in print 11 months after the eBook is released, so Branded As Trouble will be in trade paperback form in February 2010.
Your website www.loreleijames.com mentions you practice yoga. I have heard some people do it for exercise and others to calm them. What is it about yoga that does it for you?
I’ve been practicing yoga for eleven years. I’ve taken some breaks in that time, but I always come back to it. For me, yoga is the one place where I can actually tune out the stories/characters clamoring for attention in my head, as my focus is only on poses, stretching and breathing. Plus, it’s great exercise, you sweat, your muscles get tired and sore, but there’s nothing like it in the world.
While we are on the subject about websites, can you tell the readers if you have any other sites? Such as MySpace, Facebook, a blog, etc.
I’m avoiding getting a Facebook account and becoming a Twitterer…I have a hard enough time keeping up with my multiple email accounts, blogs, two websites, my James Gang loop my deadlines, and the little bit of time I spend on my MySpace pages, I can’t imagine adding more to my plate. So at this time the only place you’ll find me is on MySpace.
I noticed you have an alter ego as a mystery writer. Would you tell the readers a little about her?
Since 2005 I’ve written four books in mass market paperback for Medallion Press in the Julie Collins mystery series, BloodTies, Hallowed Ground, Shallow Grave, and Snow Blind, under my “real name” Lori G. Armstrong. These contemporary mysteries are set in western South Dakota. My female lead is a private investigator, a real tough chick who smokes too much, drinks too much, and has lousy taste in men. She’s still grieving over the unsolved death of her Lakota half-brother, and righting that wrong is part of what drives her to right other wrongs, personally and professionally. Despite her tough outer shell, Julie is way more vulnerable than she wants to admit. These books are pretty much “pure” mystery, not romantic suspense, although a shady male love interest is introduced in book two. The series has been well received (Shamus nominations for Blood Ties and Hallowed Ground, a Willa Cather Literary Award for Hallowed Ground and a nomination for Shallow Grave, a High Plains Literary Award nomination for Shallow Grave, and Daphne du Maurier Award nominations for Hallowed Ground and Shallow Grave). Julie was a great character to write, but SnowBlind is the last book in the series. I have the first book in a new mystery series coming out in hardcover from Touchstone/Fireside (Simon and Schuster) in January 2010, entitled, No Mercy. My other website: www.loriarmstrong.com
Now we get to a couple of fun and silly questions.
Getting back to India and her tattoos, if you were to design a tattoo, what would the tattoo be and why?
I love love love the scrollwork and roses that the fabulous cover artist, Scott Carpenter, uses on all the Rough Rider books (and aren’t my covers amazing?) so I’ve actually kicked around the idea of getting a “tramp stamp” using that as a design.
Since you write quite a bit about cowboys, do you have a favorite cowboy?
No, I like ‘em all J
And one more question I like to ask all my interviewees. In keeping with the Coffee Time theme, if you were to be described as a flavor of coffee, what would you be and why?
Strong and plain. Simple. Cheap, I’m very anti-Starbucks!
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, no matter how quirky. Branded As Trouble is available through Samhain Publishing www.samhainpublishing.com