Message From The Author

Author's Message

FROM STORM-TOSSED SAILORS TO LAND-LOCKED LADIES, THIS FORMER COMPETITIVE ATHLETE SKIS FROM ONE EXTREME TO THE NEXT—AND SHE DARES TO TAKE READERS ALONG WITH HER

By Colleen Cusick

In some ways, kresley cole learned to write at sea.

Though her family had always insisted she'd be a great author, she was more interested in spending time on the water than in front of a computer. "When I was in high school, I had a fleeting thought that I might as well just cave and apply to a creative writing program," she recalls. "Then I learned I needed a fiction portfolio of 50 pages. 'Fifty pages!' I thought. 'Well, forget that!' All my life I'd done everything I could to avoid unnecessary writing."

That love-hate relationship with creative writing continued, even as she graduated from the University of Alabama, pursued
a master's degree in English from the University of Florida and drove boats and coached water-skiing for a living.

It wasn't until years later, when she finally gave in to her need to write and shackled herself to her desk to work on her first novel, that she realized how well her days on the water had prepared her for a career as a romance novelist.

As competitive waterskiers in Florida, Cole and her husband, Richard, were all about training, competing and winning. "We never took our eyes off the prize," she says. "We had blinders to anything that wouldn't help the skiing, then charged forward with everything we had. You know the saying, 'When the only tool you own is a hammer, everything begins to resemble a nail?' That seemed like a great plan to get published too."

If Cole's example is anything to go by, more aspiring writers should spend a few years shooting around buoys before firing off letters to agents. Her skiing-based strategy—sending out proposals and meeting with editors and agents at conferences around the country with the same zeal she brought to competitive sports—brought home the championship. "I sold my first two books fairly quickly, just over a year from the time I sat down to write."

Those two books, The Captain of All Pleasures and The Price of Pleasure, released by Pocket in '03 and '04, were clearly inspired by Cole's love of ships, the open sea, competition and sexy sailing men—with a dash of Victorian adventure lit (her
master's thesis subject) thrown in for good measure. And in an industry saturated with Regency novels and tame escapades in
the British Isles, her mid-Victorian, round-the-world epics were
a much-needed bracing sea gale.

Her super-alpha heroes and feisty, live-on-their-own-terms heroines didn't hurt either. The Sutherland brothers, Derek and Grant, were aristocrats and sea captains, used to controlling their fortunes, their company and their ships. Naturally, readers loved watching both of them brought to their knees by Nicole Lassiter and Victoria Dearbourne, unconventional women who refused to play by society's rules.

Cole's next series is a radical departure from her previous titles. Never fear, she's not leaving the alpha males or sizzling love scenes behind. But she is bidding farewell to the sea and bringing her unique brand of classic romantic adventure inland.

If You Dare, out this month from Pocket, the first in Cole's MacCarrick Brothers trilogy, takes readers to the principality of Andorra, one of the smallest independent nations in the world. It's about as land-locked as a country can be, nestled in the Pyrenees Mountains on the border of France and Spain. This may seem an odd choice for an author whose writing and life have revolved so much around the sea. But Cole captures the alpine charm of the ancient, secluded land beautifully.

Cole transports readers to Andorra circa 1850, when the
nation is in the grip of a brutal dictator and Highlander Courtland MacCarrick meets Castilian noblewoman Annalía Llorente. There's no shortage of obstacles for the lovers to face: Court's a hired mercenary, paid to ravage Anna's homeland; Anna is the mad dictator's fiancée; and a centuries-old curse placed on the MacCarrick brothers and the women they love could doom their relationship.

Court is an intense hero, even for Cole. He's a hired killer, one of three brothers who wage war for a living. While most authors would shy away from a character that could alienate readers, Cole embraced him. "I wanted to write the darkest alpha heroes I've ever created," she explains. "In my mind, they're intensely passionate—they do everything 100 percent—including falling in love. When my alpha heroes fall, it's headlong and forever. That type of hero dovetails with my idea of a fierce Highlander."

But Cole insists that as brutal as Court can be, he's never cruel to Anna. "He's ruthless to protect the woman he loves—never ruthless to the woman he loves."

Cole also had other, more personal reasons for wanting to make her heroes Scots. "Some members of my family began researching our ancestry and traced us back to 13th-century Scotland. I grew interested and began doing more research. The more I learned, the more irresistible a Scottish hero grew to me," she explains before adding, via e-mail, "Discovering the hottie actor Gerard Butler [of the recent film version of The Phantom of the Opera] didn't hurt either. How does one spell a wolf-whistle?"

Cole may joke about the actors who inspire her fictional men, but the real hero in her own life is husband Richard, a financial analyst and native of Sweden whom she met on the University of Alabama waterskiing team, informed of their relationship status two hours into their first date and married 10 years ago.

"Richard's incredibly supportive," she gushes. "And he's involved in every aspect of my career. I need to appreciate him more! He's a fantastic line editor even though English isn't his first language. He combs industry magazines for essential information so I can take more time to write. And he arranges most of the promotion for the books."

His role is much more than that of de facto business manager, however. When Cole sold her first novel to Pocket, Richard left pictures of kangaroos (the Pocket logo) all over the house. "He always leaves little sticky notes with funny messages everywhere to cheer me on," Cole says. "And the best thing of all is that he never pressures me."

Though Cole and her husband have given up the globe-trotting life of competitive athletes, they still enjoy waterskiing, white-water rafting and fishing together. They also love their lakeside home in central Florida, from where they can watch the fireworks at Walt Disney World surrounded by miles of orange groves.

Though Victorian Europe might seem worlds away from Florida in the backyard of the Magic Kingdom, it's closer for Cole than the alligators in her lake.

"There was a feeling prevalent in the [Victorian] era that anything was possible," she explains, voicing a philosophy with which Disney himself would surely have felt comfortable. "The unofficial motto of the period was, 'To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield,' from Tennyson's 'Ulysses.'"

Selling five books and an anthology short story in only three years, this 21st-century Southerner has proved herself to be a lot like those high-achieving Victorians. And she shows no sign of yielding, with Pocket already slated to publish yet another of her series, this time several paranormals about "kick-ass, supernatural valkyries… who've lived for centuries but look like co-eds and worship pop culture." (A short story will appear in a February 2006 anthology and the first full-length book, A Hunger Like No Other, is set for an April 2006 release.)

No doubt about it, this skier's got momentum, on or off
the water.

EXCERPT FROM KRESLEY COLE'S IF YOU DARE

"I know the treasures you hide. I've seen them."

He rasped the words against her damp skin, and she trembled… He'd begun loosening her hair, and she wanted him to.

With each kiss, Annalía wanted to show this brutal Highlander more of her, to bare her breasts and let her hair down so he could run his fingers through it. But when it fell about her, he didn't touch her
so gently. He wrapped the ends around his fist as his lips returned insistent to her neck. His tongue flicked her skin, and her eyes flashed open then slowly slid closed.

But he tensed and drew back, releasing her.

"Què li passa?" she murmured in Catalan. As if coming
out of a daze, she opened her eyes and repeated in English, "What is it?"

She heard it then—the coming of riders into the
manor's courtyard.

"Stay here," he ordered, his face more menacing than she'd ever seen it. "Lock the door behind me and doona
come out for any reason. Do you ken?"

In the space of a heartbeat, the fierce look of intent had vanished, replaced by one of barely controlled fury. Her lips parted in surprise.

When she didn't answer, he cupped the back of her neck. "Anna, do you understand?"

"Yes," she began, but the deep voices of several men sounded, just before a pounding on the door.

They were Scottish.

"We're lookin' for Courtland MacCarrick," a man shouted.

MacCarrick relaxed and put his forehead against hers. "They're no' known for their timing."


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