RT's Morgan Doremus got sucked into the drama of Inez Kelley 's new steamy contemporary romance, Turn it Up. She raved, "Readers are sure to love this battle of wills between two very determined people." So, wanting to share the love for this frank and funny new tale, Morgan sat down with the author herself to take readers behind the scenes of Turn it Up.
At the very beginning of the novel, you have your hero confessing his undying love for the heroine — and then you still have over 300 pages left to go in the book. Generally romances are about getting to the big L word, but yours starts there. Bold choice.
Maybe. But it was what came to me. And although Bastian and Charlie platonically loved each other, I wrote the story of their accepting and embracing a romantic love and believing in each other.
Your plot is a friends-to-lovers scenario. What first made Bastian know that he wanted Charlie for his friend and vice versa?
When Bastian met Charlie, his marriage was rocky. His career was stress-filled. He was questioning if he was still a "real man." They met when she was a mime, playing and being silly. Charlie was a ray of sunshine that came at a dark part of his life. Their mutual love of classic Hollywood opened a doorway and she was so different from his everyday life that he gravitated toward her. She saw someone steady, solid and who represented everything she’d never had. When his life started falling apart, she was there to be his foundation. He never treated her like a sex object but valued her as a person. For Charlie, that was worth protecting and cherishing.
What spring boarded this friendship into love?
He liked her (and she liked him), which paved the way, but they had always had chemistry. Bastian healed, with Charlie’s help, after his life went off track. He slowly came to grips with his divorce, his infertility and how he viewed himself as a man. Charlie let down her defenses around him, letting him see who she was at her core. When she bared her butt for a tattoo, I think he realized that he didn’t want anyone else looking at her behind and that shocked him. His best friend was suddenly more. Love evolved out of deep friendship.
Bastian and Charlie have a radio show — Let’s Talk About Sex with Dr. Hot and the Honeypot — and just like the name suggests, they discuss sex, leaving nothing out. From sexual positions to birth control and beyond. Would you be able discuss such things in such a public forum?
LOL. Actually, yes, I would. As Bastian says, “Sex isn’t dirty and shouldn’t be taboo.” Let's Talk About Sex covers some sensitive areas for sure but it is done with humor, with good intentions and without judgment. I have 3 kids and I want them to be able to feel comfortable with their sexuality and in coming to me (or their father) with any questions or issues. From the very beginning, we’ve tried to discuss sex with them as honestly and frankly as possible. When they do have questions, we tell them the truth. Isn’t that what a parent is supposed to do?
Bastian would certainly agree. He does the show for the educational component, as he is a doctor. But what made Charlie decide that a live radio show that discusses sex was her dream career?
Charlie is a firecracker. She likes sex, was intrigued by something that has power over every aspect of human life (there is sex in everything, from politics to religion) but she also shields her inner self from people. The radio is a perfect place for that. She controls her airspace, her world and gets to share her experience without revealing her most private self. The only person she shared that part with is Bastian.
Turn It Up is a contemporary romance that borders on erotica, but not because of the sexual content more the frank language your characters use. You successfully turn a PG rated book into an R with just dialogue — I suppose this means you believe that the most erotic body part is the brain?
I do! There is even a line about that in the book. The largest sex organ is the brain. You have to engage that for all the other parts to work.
And speaking about the dialogue, it is cute, snarky and at time laugh-out-loud funny. How did you go about writing the interplay between your two main characters?
I created the characters and just let them play. If real people talked like that all the time, it would be false and boring. The radio station freed them up to let the banter fly without normal everyday conversation blocking it. But they *DO* have this verbal interplay that encompasses their interaction off the air. My best friends and I do this. We quip, we tease, we jockey back and forth with taunts and innuendoes and zingers that express our friendship. Bastian and Charlie maximize that. They flirted with words long before their relationship changed. That intimacy took the place of their bodies and helped to bring them closer. It also became their foreplay when things did change.
“…So I’m asking the listeners for help. How can an uptight sawbones convince a Honeypot to marry him? Tell me some way to win her heart, to show her sex might make the world go ‘round but love is what keeps it centered. She’s the center of my world. Help me make her Mrs. Doc.”
In all the years she’d known him, he’d never played so dirty. Her temples throbbed in a sudden headache, and her vision tapered until he existed only in the narrowest slits of her eyes. “Tell me you didn’t just do that.”
“I did it and I meant it. I want to marry you. And I need all the help I can get.”
Dead air, the bane of disc jockeys everywhere, reigned for several deafening seconds as her brain fried. The phone lines lit, blinking small squares in hazy yellow. In the control room, Justine was frantic, answering calls and tapping computer keys. Bastian didn’t drop his gaze, nor did she. She snapped her body back to the control console.
“Nice little bombshell you dropped, Doc. But you left out half the story. You see, listeners, Doc’s suffering from a severe case of mistaken identity. He thinks he’s a broken ATM machine. He won’t put out.”
A tawny head crashed into his hands, just visible from the corner of her gaze. It didn’t slow her impassioned speech.
“Hard to imagine, but Dr. Hot is running cold in the bedroom. So you tell me, lovers, what’s the best way to get the good doctor to drop his pants and cough it up? Because this Honeypot doesn’t buy a car she hasn’t test-driven.”
“Touché.” Unbridled laughter flavored his tone as his face creased in humor. “So it’s an on-air battle. Who will say yes first?”
“You have a male appendage, Doc. All I have to do is get naked. You’ll be screaming yes before the next show.”
“Don’t count on it, Honey. I made it through Neuroanatomy and Organic Chemistry. I can handle anything you want to dish out.”
A flicker of enjoyment skittered through her stomach, and Charlie fought a smile. Fighting with Bastian was almost as much fun as kissing him. But he wasn’t getting off easy.
“Say hello to your palm then because I’m going be on your butt like those Fruit of the Loom.”
I think that passage perfectly shows how Bastian smart and funny. He is also a successful doctor, caring, honest, handsome. (All of which cause the other characters to refer to him as "Saint Sebastian".) On paper, it seems that your hero is a bit too good to be true. What are some things you gave him to offset his perfection?
He gets mad and let’s his mouth speak sometimes without his brain logging in. He’s restless in his job and his life, and is looking to change both. The ideal ‘man’ in his mind is something he still strives to be and he inadvertently judges his brother by that same invisible yardstick. Like any human, he feels he failed at many of his life goals. His marriage fell apart, his brother O.D.’d then became a distant stranger.
But Caz nails him with the real truth — Bastian ran from his bully. He’d wanted (and began training) to become pediatrician but when his sterility diagnosis came in, he switched specialties to Emergency Medicine. He can’t treat children without feeling that loss. He never explored other options such as adoption. Granted his marriage fell apart before that issue arose and Charlie was vocal about not wanting kids, but he never brought it up. I think in some ways, to him, that would have been an admission of failure he just couldn’t handle.
We don’t have to ask the same question about Charlie — she is riddled with flaws, but these just serve to make her all the more real. One thing that I liked is that she is not ashamed of her past, even though she has made some major mistakes — especially when it comes to men. However, even her poor choices empower her as she embraces her independence. Charlie is a modern woman with progressive ideas about sexuality, which is different from a lot of other heroines in fiction. Can you discuss your reaction to Charlie and how her character was created?
Charlie lived for a longtime in my head before she was in typeface. There was no thinking about her, she was just there. BAM! I first saw her dressed for Bastian’s surprise, in a black evening gown and long white gloves, but the back of the dress told me she was no debutante. To me, she was breath of fresh air. She was bold, sexual and in your face, yet underneath was vulnerable and scared. She’s a strong woman but has her self-doubts, her insecurities, her feelings of worthlessness. When she opened her mouth and I fell in love with her. She was a package that I couldn’t resist writing about.
And finally, are you done with this setting, or are we going to be getting another book with the secondary characters we have meet? (I am, of course, thinking perhaps finding out more about Basitan’s brother, Casper.)
I offer a short free read about Caz on my website titled "Wishing For Grace" but reader response has been so hugely in favor of a story from Caz that I haven’t ruled it out. He was kinda yummy, wasn’t he?