Lena Diaz – He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not

HE KILLS ME, HE KILLS ME NOT.

Four years ago, Amanda Stockton was forced to play a serial killer’s twisted game of chance. Since then, she has retreated from the world, bearing the scar from her ordeal and the burden of a terrible secret. But when another woman is found dead, clutching a long-stemmed red rose, Amanda knows she can hide no longer.If there were any other way, Chief Logan Richards would never ask the only surviving victim for help. But it’s clear this killer will not be stopped and Amanda is the only link. Torn between catching a madman and winning the trust of the woman he’s come to love, Logan is caught in a dangerous game with Amanda. And there’s no guarantee they’ll come out on top.

Tell us a little about your book.

A serial killer plucks the thorns off a rose one by one, playing a twisted game of HE KILLS ME, HE KILLS ME NOT with his victims. Amanda Stockton is the only one who ever survived the killer’s deadly game. Now the killer is back to finish what he started, and Amanda works with police chief Logan Richards to become a victor, instead of a victim. As Logan and Amanda try to stop the killer, they learn the power of love, and that it can heal any wound.

Where were you when you got your first book contract? Who did you tell?

I hold a party at my house for some author friends every year on the day when RWA (Romance Writers of America) announces the Golden Heart® and RITA® award finalists. We were at my party in 2010 when my agent contacted me to tell me that my debut novel–He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not–had sold to Avon Impulse (Harper Collins). So, naturally, my writer friends were the first ones to hear the news. And after that I called my hubby.

What draws you to write your genre and sub genre?

I love action and have always adored crime shows on TV, which made it natural for me to write romantic suspense. I see so much injustice in the world, and get so frustrated at all the horrible things that are reported in the news. Writing romantic suspense allows me to escape into a world where good ALWAYS triumphs over evil and there’s always a happily every after ending.

Do you have any tips for new writers?

Never give up, and write every day. Publishing is such a difficult business. You spend hours and hours alone, secluded from your family and friends. You polish your stories until they shine, then send them off, only to receive rejection after rejection. It’s so easy to get depressed and lose faith in yourself. Don’t give up. If writing is your passion, stick with it. Learn your craft. Practice, practice, practice. Did I mention, never give up? J

What is your guilty pleasure?

Reading! Seriously. I write so much and am so busy that I don’t get to read nearly as much as I’d like. When I have down time, the first thing I do is reach for a book.

Where can your readers reach you?

Hop on over to my website at

www.LenaDiaz.com. The contact page has my facebook, twitter, and email information. I’m a twitter junkie, so follow me and let’s tweet together! Oh, and I’m also part of a wonderful multi-author romantic suspense blog, www.KissAndThrill.com. We interview all of your favorite suspense authors and do lots of giveaways.

Are you working on another book?

Always. My goal after being published became – ‘stay published’. That means always having another contract. I have been very fortunate that this has been the case so far for me. At this point, I have two books published through Avon Impulse (Harper Collins) and am working on another proposal to hopefully contract with Avon again. But in the meantime, I have sold three books to Harlequin Intrigue, which will all be published in 2013. My first Intrigue – THE MARSHAL’S WITNESS – has a release date of February 2013.

Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share?

You can read full chapter excerpts on my website (

www.LenaDiaz.com), but here is the first scene from HE KILLS ME, HE KILLS ME NOT.

The sweet music of her screams echoed in his mind as he inhaled the lavender-scented shampoo he’d selected for her. He sat cross-legged on the carpet of pine needles, stroking her hair, his fingers sliding easily through the silky brown mass he had washed and brushed.

Underlying that scent, the metallic aroma of blood teased his senses. He traced his fingers across her naked belly to the sweet center of her. The temptation to linger was strong, but the ritual wasn’t complete.

He picked up the blood-red rose and tucked its velvety petals between Kate’s pale, generous breasts. Molding her cool fingers around the stem, he pressed her palms together, embedding the single remaining thorn in her flesh. As he stood, her sightless pale blue eyes stared at him accusingly, just like they had in Summerville the first time he gave her a rose.

Let her stare. She couldn’t hurt him anymore, not today.

A rhythmic pounding noise echoed through the trees, an early morning jogger trying to beat the impending heat and humidity of another scorching summer day. The sun’s first rays were starting to peek through the pine trees, glinting off the rows of swings and slides.

Thump. Thump. Closer. Closer. A cold sweat broke out on his forehead as he listened to the jogger approach. Was Kate coming for him again, already? No matter how many times he punished her, she always came back. He’d walk around a corner and there she was, condemning him with a haughty look, taunting him with her sinfully alluring long hair.

He risked a quick glance down and let out a shaky, relieved breath. She was still lying on the ground. She hadn’t come back to torture him.

Not yet.

After one last, longing glance at her body, he slid between some palmettos and followed his makeshift path through the woods. He emerged at the parking lot of Shadow Falls’ only mall, next to a row of dumpsters. Exchanging his soiled clothes for the clean ones he’d hidden in a plastic bag, he quickly dressed. Then he stepped around the dumpsters, pitched the bag into his trunk, and got into the patrol car.

 

 

How did you come up with the title?

I knew I wanted to write a serial killer book. And I wanted the killer to have a unique ‘signature’, something the killer does which is like a fingerprint to tell the police the victims are all from the same person. I wanted something creepy, and I thought that if he left a rose with each victim that would be creepy. But that’s been done before, so I wanted my own twist. I came up with the idea of a game, where he breaks the thorns off the rose one by one to decide whether to kill his victims or give them a chance to escape. That naturally led me to the ‘he loves me, he loves me not’ child’s game – or at least that was a natural leap in my twisted mind. I changed that to ‘he kills me, he kills me not’, and the title was born.

Do you work on one project at a time or multiples?

Is there one particular thing that you find challenging about writing?

Who is your favorite author?

What are you reading now?

Are your characters a reflection on you or anyone you know?

Do you use more than one pen name? Why?

What do you do to get in the mood to write?

I’m always in the mood to write. I write all the time. But, if I really need to focus and tune out distractions and really pump out pages, I have to shut myself away from my family. I go to my office and sit for hours and hours with no other noise.

What is your favorite thing about writing?

To quote author Cherry Adair, I love ‘having written’. The actual process of writing the first draft is horrible. I hate it. Seriously. I think the reason is that my confidence gets shaken by how BAD my first drafts are. I worry that the story will never be good enough, that the writing is awful, and on and on. I’ve had to learn to not beat myself up over my first drafts, and have incorporated that into my process. I’ve learned to just power through my first draft as fast as I can. This is my idea stage. I spill the plot out on paper. Once that’s done, I re-arrange scenes if needed. I drop scenes, add scenes, do whatever it takes to make the plot make sense. And I’m one of those authors who doesn’t know my characters very well until after the first draft. So during the revision stage I go back and layer and revise to make the characters consistent and to strengthen their motivations. I LOVE REVISIONS because that’s when the story magic happens, at least for me. That’s my process. So, I’d have to say I love revisions, and then having finished the book, as my most favorite parts about writing.

If you were a supernatural creature, what would you like to be and why?

How long have you been a writer?

I submitted my first manuscript to a publisher in 2006. Prior to that, I fiddled around with beginning chapters of books for many years but never managed to complete a manuscript until I joined Romance Writers of America. My first book was published in August of 2011.

How many books have you written? How many have been published?

Great question! I always like to know that too about the authors I read. Short answer – at this moment I have two published books and have written a total of five manuscripts.

Now for the longer answer. The first book I wrote was called THE AWAKENING and was a paranormal romance featuring a special kind of vampire I called a Guardian. I LOVE that story. But no one else did. I only submitted it to one publisher and it was rejected, never published. One day I may rewrite that book and try again. But for now I’m focusing on romantic suspense. I have contracted for five romantic suspense books. Two have been published. Two more are complete and are scheduled to be published next year. And I’m currently writing the fifth one which is also scheduled to be published next year.

Do you have a favorite character from one of your own books? Who and Why?

What is the easiest and hardest thing about writing?

Do you find love scenes difficult to write?

YES! My critique partners joked about my first manuscript – the paranormal I mentioned – that it was an inspirational vampire story. It really wasn’t THAT bad. It had a love scene – one. But most paranormals are far more steamy, which is part of why that book didn’t sell. My first romantic suspense has some pretty hot love scenes. But I struggled and struggled with those. They were important to the story because it showed how the hero tenderly helped the heroine overcome the baggage of her past. But they were very difficult to write. I always struggle with love scenes–mainly because I get embarrassed and worry about family and friends reading them. I need to work on that!

Are any of your personal experiences reflected in your writing?

How long does it usually take you to write a book?

This is such a hard question to answer. I know that sounds strange, but each of my books has taken a different amount of time to write. It depends on where you are in your career, whether you are under contract, the timelines in your contract, things like that. My first book was written in 7 months. But it was awful (the vampire book) so I don’t count that one. My first romantic suspense book, which ended up being my debut novel, was rewritten so many times over the course of a couple of years that I couldn’t even tell you how long it took to write. My third book I wrote in four months. That was a full-length single title (Simon Says Die). And let me tell you, that about killed me. I think to comfortably write a single title, I would like to take six months. For Harlequin Intrigues, three to four months is sufficient. I pretty much write the draft in two months, then spend the next month or two revising.

Do you set timelines when you’re writing or write when the feeling hits you?

I write every day, with few exceptions. This is my career. I can’t sit and wait for a muse. I have to push through and get those pages done.

Do your characters talk to you?

No! I hear other authors talk about the people in their heads all the time. Honestly, I’ve never heard a character in my head. I’ve never understood that.

Who controls the storyline, you or your characters?

I do – but – I control the storyline based on what makes sense for the characters. The most important question an author can ask is WHY. If you ask why at every step of the story, then you make certain your characters are consistent and the story will grow organically.

What is your writing day like once you start a book?

Do you promo your backlists when you’re writing a new book, or dedicate your time solely to writing?

How many books do you write in a year?

Again, being such a new author, it’s hard to say. I started out writing one a year. That’s way too slow to grow a successful career, in my opinion. I’m very comfortable now writing two a year, but I’m stretching myself and trying for three. My goal is to write one single-title a year and two or three Harlequin Intrigues a year. So, ultimately, I’d like to write three to four books a year. But that’s a blistering pace and I’m not sure I can keep it up. So, I guess I’d say a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 4 – mileage may vary.

 

 

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