I’m so pleased to be making my debut on the agency’s blog today! I’m joined by a special guest who is celebrating a double whammy of a week with a birthday and a new book release. Kristen Strassel is the creator of The Night Songs Collection, which, so far, features a prequel novella and two paranormal romances. Book 2 in the series — the sexy, suspenseful, and rock ‘n’ roll filled NIGHT MOVES — hit eShelves everywhere on Wednesday.

Kristen Strassel and Night Moves Book Cover

We’re talking vampires, music, makeup and more! Enjoy!

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Hi Kristen! Happy release week + happy belated birthday! I’m so excited to talk to you about NIGHT MOVES today, the second book in The Night Songs Collection. What three words would you use to describe your latest release? 

Thanks, Estelle!  I’m excited that NIGHT MOVES is out in the world! Three words I would use to describe it are raw, sensual, and real. I know real is a funny word to use for a vampire book, but I tried to make each character as down to earth and relatable as possible. Relatable was important, because they do some bad things, and these characters need you on their side so you can understand what drove them to do the things they do. 

There’s definitely a lot of powerful vs. powerless going on in NIGHT MOVES but I liked that this didn’t extend to the main characters, Melanie and Ryder. They seemed to be on the same team. This isn’t always common in NA books. Were you conscious of this while you were writing them? 

I don’t know if I was conscious of that or not. I always love going back and seeing the themes that naturally emerge through writing. Melanie and Ryder come together fast, so they needed to have a common goal to really help expedite that relationship. The tag line of the book is “We bonded in darkness, over darkness.” They don’t always agree with each other, but they need each other. 

Now let’s get serious – would you ever date a vampire rock star? 

Do you know any? Because I have a big gaping hole in my schedule for Friday night! So if you were unclear on my answer, it’s a resounding hell yes. 

I love how Melanie gets a chance to hide out on during Soul Divider’s tour. It’s like every music fan’s dream come true. If you could do this with any band, who would you choose? 

Oh man!  I’m going to go totally over the top with this one and say Motley Crue, back in the day. I love reading rock n’ roll biographies, and The Dirt just captivated me because they did it all. And when I say all, they did and then had to make up more stuff to do. Plus they are just the ultimate bad boy rockers. I based Tristan, who only has a cameo in Night Moves but stars in the other books, on Nikki Sixx. Anyone who has died twice and lived to tell about it deserves a fictional character based on him.

I’ve had the pleasure—and adventure—of knowing quite a few musicians. Sometimes things get crazy, but sometimes things are so normal it’s surprising. It was natural for me to write about that aspect of my life, and I’ve weaved a lot of those experiences into The Night Songs Collection. 

With two books down, how much of the series have you had planned ahead? Did you know how it would end before you even reached book 3? 

The trilogy is complete, and WE OWN THE NIGHT, book 3, is just waiting for final edits. I had some ideas of how it would end.  Once I finished NIGHT MOVES, I took post it notes and a white board and wrote down all the storylines that had questions and things that needed to be continued. Seeing those, and being able to physically arrange them in a “to do” list, was very helpful. I let my characters take the reins in my books, so things never quite go as I plan them. Sometimes they catch me off guard, but I love it.

Who are some of your writing influences?

My favorite author is Pat Conroy. His novels are so beautifully written, they’re like a song. My favorite book of all time is a historical romance called Dirt Rich by Clark Howard. It’s out of print now, and my copy of it has disappeared, but that book captivated me. Of course, I have to tip my hat to Anne Rice for introducing me to my first vampires, Louis and Lestat. And Stephen King, because the way his mind works is twisted, horrific, and beautiful. 

Other than the actual writing part, what do you find are your biggest challenges as an author? 

Writing the books is the easy part for me. I don’t suffer from writer’s block, and I’ve got a good flow now. Getting them out in the world, as a new author, is hard. What works for one author doesn’t work for another. It doesn’t happen overnight. There’s so many great new authors vying for a piece of everyone’s attention, you need to make people trust you enough to try your books. It’s not something you can do once and forget. I’m not an introvert at all, so I don’t mind getting out there and talking about writing, but I learn something new about the process every day. 

The prequel to The Night Songs Collection is a novella called SEASONS IN THE SUN, which is a contemporary YA sweeping into a paranormal series. This is such a unique approach and I was wondering what played into your decision to piece the series together this way. 

We took art classes at makeup school. I went to Westmore Academy. You might know Mackenzie Westmore from Face Off, and Marvin, who I believe is her uncle, ran the school. The Westmores have been in the movie makeup business since 1901. Marvin believed we needed to understand traditional art to have a better understanding of makeup. He was 100% right, and it was one of the reasons I chose that school. Anyway, one day, I just could not follow the lesson. I had to do it a totally different way than the instructor explained it, because I hated doing it the way we were supposed to. That was one of those light bulb moments for me. It bothered me at first I couldn’t do the lesson the way it was intended, but then I realized it was art, and art had no rules. It stuck with me ever since. It actually comforted me. I march to the beat of my own drummer in pretty much all aspects of my life, so it makes sense I would do that with my careers, makeup artistry and writing.

The Night Songs Collection doesn’t follow the rules, either. BECAUSE THE NIGHT was written first, and I had planned two or possibly three books. I sent the first draft to a friend of mine and she told me she didn’t buy the connection that the main characters had, that my backstory was full of holes. In my head it totally wasn’t, but it didn’t come across on the page. I didn’t want to bog down the flow of the story with backstory, so instead, I wrote SEASONS IN THE SUN.  It takes place four years before BTN and everyone was still human, so to stay true to my backstory, I had a YA contemporary romance leading in to a NA paranormal romance. It didn’t seem unusual to me, since that was Callie and Tristan’s journey, until we started to piece the series together and other people pointed out that this was something different.

NIGHT MOVES started as a short story. I needed a break from Callie and Tristan for a bit, and Melanie introduced herself to me. As I built on the story, I realized that NIGHT MOVES fit into The Night Songs Universe.  I realize that some people might be surprised that I’m introducing new characters when BECAUSE THE NIGHT ended on a cliffhanger. The two stories come together at the end of NIGHT MOVES, and then both heroines and bands need to work together in book 3, WE OWN THE NIGHT, to fix the messes they’ve created.  

I know as a new author, I’m taking a risk with the way I decided to tell my story. But it’s fun that way. I wanted to try something new, that was uniquely me, and I think I’ve done that.

Taking risks is really important as a writer because it keeps you nimble, and it also keeps reader coming back. By introducing two new characters in NIGHT MOVES, do you think it’s also serves as a nice avenue for new readers to get into the series?

Because Melanie, Ryder, and the rest of the NIGHT MOVES crew come in to the story from a different perspective, I think (I hope!) that maybe people who either didn’t hear about BECAUSE THE NIGHT or thought maybe it wasn’t for them can give NIGHT MOVES a try, and now they have new characters to root for (or against) and fall in love with. Of course, when team NIGHT MOVES joins together with Team BECAUSE THE NIGHT, things get complicated. So you’ll get to see everyone in a new light going forward.

Last one — and it’s a fun one — best piece of advice about writing you’ve received, favorite social media platform to talk with fellow writers and readers, and (as a makeup artist!) product you can’t stop recommending…

Writing advice: “You’re still going to get criticized, you might as well do whatever the f*ck you want.”

Social Media: Twitter. All day, every day. @kristenstrassel

Makeup Products!: Pretty much everyone can wear Pepper lipstick from Bite Beauty. It’s a nice neutral pink that just makes you finished. I love Stila stay all day liquid liners. Because that ish is going nowhere. Yes, They’re Real mascara is good but you have to wiggle the wand! I’m also a huge fan of most Make Up For Ever products. The truth is, most of my bigger makeup clients are men, so I get really excited about mattifiers and concealers and other things that keep men feeling manly under my care.

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Massive thanks to Kristen for taking the time to speak with me today!
Be sure to catch her on the internet: KristenStrassel.com | Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr
And most importantly, check out NIGHT MOVES for your Kindle or your Nook!