My Destiny Romance release buddy is the lovely Leisl Leighton with her debut book – Killing Me Softly. Combining a superstar, record producer, an isolated country estate and a campaign of terror, it sounds like a must read. I have Killing Me Softly downloaded on my iPad and can’t wait. So here to tell us all about it is the author herself.
Hi. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Tell us a little bit about your story?
Killing Me Softly is a romantic suspense set in the north of England. It’s about a publicity shy music producer, Alexia Deningham, who has built a successful career in an effort to escape the horror of her past and to build a new life for herself and her traumatised twin. When the opportunity arises to work with talented, yet troubled, rock star, Daemon Flagherty, Lexi jumps at the chance as another way to not deal with the issues from her past that keep haunting her. Despite the fact that both Daemon and Lexi have troubled past and don’t easily trust, a relationship builds between them, helped along by their shared passion for music.
But the past is not so keen to be pushed aside. A man with revenge on his mind has been stalking her, and now he has decided to strike.
Can you tell us what was the inspiration for Killing Me Softly?
I don’t think there was any one inspiration. I tend to dream in stories and I kept on having a series of dreams over and over that wouldn’t let me alone. In the dreams there was a rock star who had lost his ‘muse’ and a woman who he thought was the only one who could help him to find inspiration again. When I sat down to write it though, the story that began to be told at first was the woman’s and it seemed to turn from a contemporary romance into a romantic suspense, with a hidden past, a stalker and a traumatised twin. It kind of just grew from there.
During your career, you’ve been an actor, singer and dancer, as well as script writer, stage manager and musical director for cabaret and theatre restaurants. Did all this experience help for creating the characters of Alexia Deningham and Daemon Flagherty?
I think so. Music is very important to them, and while Alexia has always suffered from terrible stage fright (something I’ve never experienced myself), she longs to share her music and her love of music with people. Daemon loves all aspects of music – writing, recording, performing – which is something I could really relate to. There is nothing like the rush of getting up in front of people and making them laugh and cry and cheer. It is incredibly fulfilling. And there is a moment in the book when Daemon drags Lexi up on stage at a local barn dance and she is able to lose herself in the music and for the first time, experiences that rush she never knew when she was younger because of fear. It’s one of my favourite moments in the novel, because it is a real turning point for her, but also because I know that joy. Obviously, I also know a little about recording in a studio because of my past career, so that helped too.
I love romantic suspense, can you share what you believe are the essential ingredients to make this genre work?
For me, at the heart of a good romantic suspense, there must be a romance that fuels the story; that makes the reader’s heart swoon with desire, and pound with worrying about what is going to happen to the hero and heroine. Without a hot romance, I might as well be reading a crime novel. Then of course there is the suspense. It doesn’t matter how the suspenseful element comes about (the protagonists caught in the middle of a crime, a mystery to solve, murder, espionage, insane stalkers etc), or if we know who the ‘evil’ character is throughout the novel, but it does matter that tension is built constantly, that the pace winds up as each chapter plays out and that all the story/plot threads must come together at the end. I am never more disappointed when I finish a romantic suspense and I go ‘Huh? But that makes no sense’ or, ‘That didn’t just come out of left field, but from a totally different field altogether.’ And if questions are still left hanging, unless it is part of a series, I’m truly disappointed.
What is your favourite scene and can we have a sneak peek?
One of my favourite scenes is one early on in the novel when Lexi, unable to sleep at night, gets up to work on an opus of music she’s been writing and recording for the last eleven years. It is the musical story of her life. Daemon’s band has arrived that day, and he, unable to sleep, goes into the studio to do some work himself, and finds her playing something she’d just written. In that moment, Daemon sees who Lexi really is, and for him, it’s the start of the relationship – although he doesn’t know that until much later.
Placing the sheet music on the piano, she took a seat and began to play.
As she played she found a lead refrain creeping in from the last movement. Haunting and solemn, speaking of something missing, something lost. She frowned, tried to change the music, but it wouldn’t budge. This thing deep inside her was coming out unbidden, undermining the happiness. Frustrated, she banged her hands down on the keys.
‘That was bloody marvellous. Why’d you stop?’
Lexi jumped, her hand flying up to stifle a scream. Eyes wide, she turned. Daemon leaned casually against the doorframe, hands in his pockets, black hair ruffled, his jaw darkened by stubble. He pushed away from the doorframe and sauntered into the room towards her.
‘I didn’t mean to frighten you.’
Lexi grasped her hands in her lap to stop them from shaking and endeavoured to sound natural. ‘No, it’s okay. You just startled me. I didn’t hear you come in.’
The amusement on his face was disarming. ‘You wouldn’t have noticed if the ceiling fell around you.’ He sat beside her at the piano and ran his hands along the keys. ‘I know that feeling myself.’
She coughed, edged away from him. ‘I didn’t expect anyone to be up this late.’
‘No-one else is. Just me.’
His eyes were vibrant blue in the semi-dark room. She could feel his gaze like a touch as it skimmed over her face, came back to her eyes, remained there. How could it feel as if he were drinking her in? She cleared her throat, shifted, tore her gaze away. ‘I like to come down here at this time of the night. I like the quiet. I can work without being disturbed.’
He laughed at her gentle barb, the sound sliding up and down her spine. She stood up abruptly. ‘How come you’re up at this hour?’ She sounded defiant, almost annoyed, but she couldn’t help it. He’d thrown her with his presence.
‘Same as you. I often work at this time of night. Can’t sleep, so I might as well do something productive. If I stay in bed I get angry with myself and start to worry about all sorts of things.’
He looked up at her with those searching eyes. Crossing her arms, she stepped back, chin rising. But before she could think of something to say, he turned to the piano, his long fingers picking out a tune.
No, not a tune - the basic melody of what she’d just written!
He turned to the music in front of him and began to play in earnest. The music soared around her, filling up the small studio with the resounding tones of the piano.
She wanted him to stop. Listening to him play her music created an intimacy she wasn’t ready for. She was reminded of that old song, ‘Killing me Softly’. He played her deepest thoughts and feelings, everything laid bare. She should stop him. He already looked at her with a gaze that pierced too deep. And yet, she couldn’t stop him. Under his fingers, her music sang to her in a way it never had before. The feelings of loss and loneliness were there, but they didn’t overwhelm. Within the refrain, she also heard a resilience and strength she’d never acknowledged. The music said, ‘keep going, show no fear’.
That was what she’d done. That was who she was. His interpretation brought out that strength.
The final notes tumbled to an end, vibrating with a deep resonance from within the polished mahogany piano case.
As she drew in a deep, shuddering breath, trying not to feel the music within her chest, around her heart, Daemon turned to her.
‘That was beautiful. What do you call it?’
Lexi pulled the sheets off the stand, thrusting them into the music folder she kept on a shelf beside the piano. The sheets rustled as her hands fumbled with the folder. She bit her lip. ‘Nothing. I might not even keep it.’
He stood up and took the folder from her trembling hands, slotting it smoothly on the shelf among the other folders and books of music. ‘You have to. That music is you. You can’t throw all that away.’
‘I’ll do what I want.’
You’ve had enormous success in the competition circuit, how does it feel now to be published?
Amazing. I’ve been working toward this moment for what seems like so long. The competition places and wins were great encouragement at times when I felt like I was going nowhere. It’s hard work being knocked down by rejections, picking yourself up, dusting yourself off and finding the joy to write again. But I really wanted this, so I did just that, worked really hard on improving and learning more about the craft and trying to write what brought joy to me, characters I could fall in love with. The competition successes told me I was heading in the right direction, but also taught me lots of great lessons about dealing with criticism and understanding that I can’t please everyone. It helped me to toughen up my skin and just become more determined. And then, finally, one magical afternoon at home with my son who was home sick from school, I got that wonderful ‘call’. It was the best feeling ever!
Thanks for popping by Leisl. I hope Killing Me Softly sells its socks off!
Thanks for having me here on LoveCats. It’s been a thrill.