I’m delighted to welcome Amber Belldene here for an interview today and to share a look at her her debut release, Blood Vine. Don’t forget to comment and leave your email address for a chance to win in her fun giveaway!
Hi, Amber, congratulations on your debut and thanks for being my guest!
Babette, thanks so much for having me on your blog. I’m very happy to be your guest, and to have the chance to tell you a little bit about my paranormal romance, Blood Vine.
Its hero, Croatian vampire Andre Maras, was forced from his homeland by his ancient enemies, the Hunters. He has grown weak in exile, as all vampires do when separated from their native soil. But for the first time in centuries, Andre has a reason to hope, and he is honor bound to share that reason with his fellow refugees. The problem is, he doesn’t know how to find them. So he hires a public relations firm to help. And when P.R. expert Zoey Porter arrives, she disrupts all his plans.
Blood Vine my debut novel, and I broke so many rules writing it—it’s got lots of characters and a complicated plot. But it was the story I really wanted to write, and I am delighted to hear from readers that they like the cast of quirky characters and the intricacies of the story.
Bites are an inconvenient bliss, exiled vampires are wasting away, and the fate of their kind depends on the perfect PR campaign. When public relations pro Zoey Porter arrives at an enchanting California winery, she discovers her sexy new client is the almost one-night stand she can’t forget. After her husband’s suicide, Zoey has vowed never to risk her heart again. But can she walk away from the intriguing winemaker a second time? Driven from Croatia by his ancient foes, vampire Andre Maras has finally made a blood-like wine to cure his fellow refugees. Now he needs Zoey’s PR expertise to reach them. After his wife’s death, Andre has a vow of his own—never to risk another painful blood bond. And one taste of the tempting Zoey would bind him to her eternally.
What are you working on now? Do you have any releases scheduled for this year?
Blood Entangled, the sequel to Blood Vine, will come out this year, and I hope the third book also, if I can find time to write it.
How do you come up with ideas?
This is a funny question, today of all days, because I am positively brimming over with ideas. I have two new projects I want to start, and a short story has dug its teeth into my backside and won’t let go. My crazy brain doesn’t lack inspiration—the problem is that I have to sleep, so I can’t write them all when they demand.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
I enjoy meeting the characters—imagining them, and then seeing them come to life. I don’t like to say good-bye to them at all when I type “The End”. I also like getting a tiny seed of an idea—a premise or a scene–and watching it grow into something wild and messy and twisty, crossing over in ways I never expected.
What is the best thing about being an author?
For me, the very best thing is to have people read things I wrote and tell me what they think—good or bad, as long as we can be friendly. I feel deeply honored when anyone takes the time to read a book I wrote, because time and attention are such scarce things in our world.
What is your favorite scene from this story and why?
The scene when Andre and Zoey have sex for the first time is actually my favorite chapter I’ve written, ever. The where and how they do it feels perfect to me—the perfect expression of why they want each other, and don’t, and who they are and who they could be. So much happens in that scene, besides just a bit of flesh on flesh. To me, nothing is worse in a book than when characters you love have sex that feels very generic and impersonal. And since I wrote this scene with Andre and Zoey, I have a high bar for any other love scenes I write.
How do you balance writing and everyday life?
I work full-time as an Episcopal priest, and I’m mom to toddler twins, so balance is not easy, and writing takes up all my spare time. For now, I’ve given up my old hobbies of knitting, gardening, and cooking. I try to exercise, but not nearly enough. Balancing my life is my most challenging work-in-progress, but I think this is true for a lot of people, whether they write or not.
What do you like to read?
I like to read everything. I love mysteries, historical fiction, literary fiction, erotica, and of course, romance. I like books that make me think, and help me understand things in a new way—either about a social issue or the human psyche. Books have made me a more open minded and compassionate person, and always remind me about the inner lives of others, and how mysterious we all really are to each other.
Who first introduced you to the love of reading?
My mom, who read to me non-stop, and named me after the heroine of the classic romance novel, Forever Amber.
Who influenced your decision to become a writer?
Two people. First, my mom again, because she reminded me that writing had been a childhood dream that I had abandoned to focus on a practical career. Second, my best friend Emily, who I went to seminary with. She is my sermon critique partner, and we talk on the phone every week, since we live across the country from each other. When I first started writing Blood Vine, I worried about whether I could do it, and she said, “A sermon is a kind of genre, and you write those all the time. A romance novel won’t be that different.” In surprising ways, she was right, and I am thankful for her encouraging words every day.
The view from the parlor at sunset stunned Zoey. A wall of French doors opened onto a narrow balcony and displayed a pink sky, flush against the verdant grapevines that trailed over gentle hills. The landscape was more than enough ornament for the room and Zoey was glad Andre had left the ivory colored walls bare.
He sat chatting with Pedro, and they both stood as she walked in. She had to look a long way up to meet his eyes. Pedro poured wine into three glasses.
“I should admit I don’t have much of a palate,” she said.
“Don’t worry, we’ll guide you.” Pedro handed her a glass.
As she lifted it to her nose, Andre watched her. “Hhhmm. It smells so earthy. It’s very unusual.”
“Yes, the grapes are from our family vines on Šolta, before they were burned,” Andre said.
“A fire?” How tragic, to lose so much heritage.
Andre sipped his wine before he said, “Yes, that’s why I—why my family came to the U.S.”
“When was the fire?” she asked.
“Eighteen forty-seven,” Andre replied. Her next question had formed on her lips when he added, “It is a very long story. Another time?”
“This wine was produced from the Šoltan vines planted when this estate was founded, and recently spliced onto the vines on my new land.”
“But,” Zoey checked to be certain she understood, “it’s the Zinfandel grape whose name I have no hope of saying in Croatian?”
“Yes, that one.” Andre nodded. “The vineyards we acquired several years ago bear a startling similarity to our vineyards in Šolta and the resulting wine tastes just like the ones we used to make.”
“Were you actually able to taste wines made by your family so long ago?”
He tilted his head. “Able to taste them? Oh, I see. Yes, I was fortunate enough to taste wine made from that vineyard.”
Why did she feel like he was evading her question?
She brought her glass to her mouth and glanced up to find him watching. She lowered her lids and concentrated. When the wine hit her tongue, she opened them wide again.
She ran her tongue along the back of her teeth, searching out words for the astonishing mixture of flavors in her mouth. “It’s as thick as blood…and it tastes like sunshine, raisins and peppery licorice.”
The flecks in his green eyes glittered. “Yes, Zoey, it does.” For the first time, he didn’t call her Ms. Porter. “Your palate is perfect.”
He looked delighted with her. She glanced away, her head suddenly light, as if she hadn’t eaten all day. Darting her eyes back to him, his face had gone neutral. She wanted the delight back.
Amber Belldene grew up on the Florida panhandle, swimming with alligators, climbing oak trees and diving for scallops…when she could pull herself away from a book. As a child, she hid her Nancy Drew novels inside the church bulletin and read mysteries during sermons—an irony that is not lost on her when she preaches these days.
Amber is an Episcopal Priest and student of religion. She believes stories are the best way to explore human truths. Some people think it is strange for a minister to write romance, but it is perfectly natural to her, because the human desire for love is at the heart of every romance novel and God made people with that desire. She lives with her husband and two children in San Francisco.
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For your chance to WIN a pair of Blood Vine wine glasses, leave a comment sharing your favorite drink (wine or otherwise) and your email. Amber will notify the winner by email on January 27, 2013.