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Monday, November 07, 2022

Author Interview- The Color of Betrayal by Hollie Smurthwaite #ParanormalRomance #Suspense

What is the hardest part about writing? 

For me, the hardest part is staying on topic. I have so many story ideas that I often want to switch lanes when I come up against resistance.

What are your favorite scenes to write?  

My absolute favorite thing to write is altered consciousness. Fever/illness, drugs/alcohol, dissociative states from stress or trauma, anything where the mind goes sideways is so much fun to write. I think that's because anything can happen, and I love that freedom. And you can get weird. Sex scenes are fun to write too.

What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? 

The penis. Since I don't have one, I have to imagine what it wants and feels.

What are common traps for aspiring writers? 

Getting stuck at the beginning trying to get it right. It's much easier to fix the beginning once you know where the story is going. Not that I take my own advice on this.

What is your writing Kryptonite? 

Setting and description. I'd like to write a book that just takes place in a blank room.

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing? 

I realized that I need to have an idea of the plot or arc ahead of time. At least something. I'm not the only writer who kind of just wings it, but it makes so much more work on the back end. I've tried to add a little bit of plotting to my routine. It helped.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? 

The first thing that popped into my mind was the interior designer for my print books. I was seriously considering several lower cost options, but I hesitated due to a disappointing cover art experience. I decided to go for a professional, and boy was I happy with the result. There's something about seeing my book look so professional that raised my spirits immeasurably.

What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters? 

In fiction, you don't owe real people anything. For me, I can't use a whole person as-is, so I strip real people and other fictional characters for parts.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have? 

This is such a sad question. So, so many. The very first novel I finished was going to be a trilogy. I wrote the first two books and had notes on the third. I even shopped the first, but I eventually got specific feedback saying they liked the characters, but there was just too much going on in the plot. It immediately rang true for me. I hope to get back to it one day, because I worked for years on it and it's kind of like my first love. It should probably just be a one-book deal, though.

Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction? 

I think Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn helped me see how I could use structure to most effectively tell a story. The Color of Betrayal has a purposeful structure.

How many hours a day do you write? 

I write every day, and I usually spend at least a few hours every day on writing related work, like craft or marketing classes. I'm part of a few writer groups: critique group, accountability group, brainstorming, Just Write Chicago (we meet once a week to socialize and talk about writing and our projects). I spend more time on writing than on anything else.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

F-O-R-E-V-E-R. Seriously, though, it depends on when you clock the start and the stop. From inception or from when I first start writing? Until the first draft is finished? Until it's ready for professionals to look at? Roughly, from when I start, it takes me about a year. I’m trying to speed up the process, but it takes as long as it takes.

Could you write a romance without sex scenes? 

No! Just kidding. I could, but I don't want to do that. I've loved novels with no sex or sex behind closed doors. I've loved sweet romances. But what I feel compelled to write is the sensations and connections of attraction, and that's very much a part of sex.

What books have inspired you? 

I find inspiration in almost every book I read (either what works or what doesn't work for me). Every book consists of plot and character, and I usually cite Jeaniene Frost's Night Huntress series and Kim Harrison's Deathly Hallows series. Both feature a strong female protagonist, excellent world building, and great love interests. Bones from the Night Huntress series might be my all-time favorite. My books aren't set in a world with vampires and other supernatural beings, but it's also not the "real" world, in that there are essentially psychics (memory magic). 

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel? 

Twilight, maybe. It sold a lot and there are a ton of fans, but there's also a lot of ridicule around it too. Angsty teen and sparkly vampire. What can I say? It worked for me. 
Have you ever gotten reader’s block? Sometimes when I read non-fiction. Even if it's interesting, I sometimes can't get myself to read it. I find audiobooks are a good cure for that. 

What is your favorite childhood book? 

As a small child, Ferdinand was my favorite book. Mostly, I liked the picture of his little face when he was supposed to run into the bullfighting ring. 

The Color of Betrayal
The Psychic Colors Series
Book Two
Hollie Smurthwaite

Genre: Paranormal Romance, Suspense
Publisher: Hollie Smurthwaite
Date of Publication: 10-31-2022
ISBN: 978-1-7371189-6-1
Number of pages: 344
Word Count: 98,000
Cover Artist: Sarah Hansen at Okay Creations

Tagline: No Secret is Safe . . . 

Book Description:

As a memory surgeon, Jolene can slip into other people’s memories. She can see them, experience them, even steal them. To atone for her past, she’s been using her gift to help the Agency, a secret government entity, taking out drug lords across the US. After a screw-up on an assignment, she’s back in Chicago, where her own worst memories live.

The last thing she needs while trying to make up for her mistake is a sexy distraction.  Cass is a little sweet and a lot gorgeous.  The only problem: she can’t have him and the job.  But when he offers his friendship, she can’t resist. 

While Jolene and Cass try to pretend there is nothing beneath their friendship, her mission spins out of control. Now, both their lives are on the line. Will her growing powers be enough to save her? Or will secrets send her right back to the darkest depths of her past?

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After only three weeks of dating, Jolene and Colton had fallen into a routine: dinner (both) and drinks (him), binge-watching various flavors of CSI at his downtown Boston condo (him), and a few hours of surreptitiously delving into Colton's memories (her). Jolene's practice run as a spy in the field was going well.

The late August night was cool enough for Colton to crack open the sliding glass door to the balcony to let the night air clear his lingering cigarette smoke. Jolene kicked off the stiletto heels and inwardly sighed. After some complex maneuvering, she managed to tuck her aching toes under her too-bright skirt.

The next part of the evening promised to be worth the discomfort of a thong up her ass crack to avoid panty lines.

Without asking Jolene what she would like, Colton switched on the obscenely large TV and pulled up Hulu, lounging like a czar on his pristine white couch, which was a stupid color for anyone but particularly ludicrous for a smoker who drank too much and worked with dangerous people.

In another life, he would have been regal with golden hair, long limbs, straight nose, and a boyish, charming smile. But this wasn’t another life.

As a midlevel lackey in the Red Flames criminal organization, he was not proper boyfriend material, even if he made enough cash to buy a downtown place on a high floor and have it professionally, if foolishly, decorated all in white.

Jolene wiggled her toes into the plush cushion and ignored the stale-smoke smell mixed with Colton’s spicy cologne. Any moment, Colton would slip into a CSI coma, and she would slip into his memories.

“This looks like a good one,” she said. What she always said, because why mess with what worked?

“Yeah,” Colton agreed, as he always did. He lit a cigarette and “politely” blew the smoke toward the balcony doors, tapping the ash into an antique crystal ashtray on the glass coffee table already holding three butts.

The first week, she'd been terrified he'd somehow feel her inside his mind, though she'd never had that happen before or heard of anyone sensing the process. Not that Jolene still had contacts in the memory-surgeon community, small as it was, but that sort of revelation would put memory surgery back in the 24/7 news cycle, like when they’d first been legitimized. Semi-legitimized.

This first assignment was nothing more than an exploration of what she could do on a real mission. Since Colton was a gangster and she had no close backup, fear nibbled, but confidence had outpaced her worry.

Jolene rested her head on his shoulder, slipped her arm through his, and slid her hand down his button-down shirt to rest on his hand. As soon as skin-to-skin contact was made, she mentally reached out to him. Colton's mind rose up inside her own. To boost her concentration, Jolene closed her eyes.

Within the blackness, bubbles sharpened. The different shapes and colors bobbed and slid around one another. In her mind's eye, she moved into the middle, staring at them as if in an aquarium. The memories never touched her, but she could reach out and sink into any of them. If she did, she experienced the memory in its entirety, exactly as Colton had lived through the event at the time. If she wanted, she could remove memories, but that was a level of violation she resisted unless absolutely necessary. Besides, if she took something, she had to keep it, and she didn't want to keep anything of Colton's.

Jolene already had an entire dossier in her head of all things Colton. She’d cataloged his fears: multilegged insects like millipedes terrified him, as did his brother when his eyes went icy, and his jaw shifted to the right.

Shame occupied its own section: bed-wetting for a month when he was twelve. The time he'd slapped his girlfriend after she'd gotten pregnant and decided she didn't want it. Red Flames passing him over for job after job.

Still, inside, people were infinite, and she had more to learn. She avoided the pink bubbles, as they were filled with his worst memories, and her reactions to living them were difficult to hide. Reds gave her the best intel so far. Angers, suspicions, smackdowns.

Truthfully, she should have wrapped up the mission a week ago since she wasn’t finding anything new. But playing spy and the unfettered access to Colton's recollections had been too enlightening to quit quite yet. Her skills had grown, and she didn’t feel guilty about messing in his brain because of his criminal history. She was three weeks into her two- to three-week mission, so she needed to skip out soon.

Jolene decided to make a game to test her memory-reading skills. She had recently learned how to peek and not immediately experience a memory. It allowed her to see more since she didn’t need any emotional recovery time, and she processed what she encountered more quickly.

Tonight, she wanted to test how many memories she could scan during commercial breaks, since Colton was too cheap to pay for the commercial-free version of Hulu. She’d hop through his memories like jumping into puddles.


A mahogany memory: his brother, Walther, stood over him, watching over his shoulder as Colton did algebra homework. Whenever Colton squirmed in his chair, Walther flicked his ear. It didn’t hurt much, but Colton’s face burned every time, and his muscles shook with the stress of not moving to avoid Walther’s attention. “Knock it off,” he grumbled, earning another sting. Colton tensed—

A buttercup-colored memory: “Mama, Mama, Mama,” Colton said, running around his mama as she walked in the park. If he ran fast enough, he would fly, his head already lightening. He stumbled and giggled, his mama laughing. Something shiny glinted in the sun. What was it? His mama scooped him into her arms before he grabbed it. She smelled of flowers and oranges.

About the Author: 

Hollie Smurthwaite is a paranormal romantic suspense author of The Color of Trauma and The Color of Betrayal. The Color of Trauma was the winner of the 2020 Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project in adult fiction. She lives in Chicago with her husband, son, and too few pets. In past lives, she's been a checkout clerk, massage therapist, office manager, recruiter, magazine staff writer, pepper spray hawker, and belly dancer.

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