Today we would like to welcome Kallypso Masters in her SOMEBODY’S ANGEL tour! We had the opportunity to ask her a few questions and here’s what she had to say.
Marc and Angelina went through a rocky patch somewhere along the way in the series, and after their book. Did you always know that they would get a whole second book? How did their story evolve from when they first came to you?
Oh, no, I did not! I knew Marc still hadn’t opened up to me (or anyone, actually), so Nobody’s Angel (Rescue Me #2) was much more about Angelina’s journey into the world of BDSM. It was at that point that I realized I wasn’t going to write stand-alone novels in this series, too. There were so many things left unexplained (like why “the lie”?). I figured at some point, Marc would lower his barriers, so I would just wait for him to be ready to share his “inner pain” in a later book (as a subplot!).
Well, when the issue was revealed during the New Year’s Eve weekend in Aspen as I was writing Nobody’s Perfect (Rescue Me #4), I started working on that subplot to take them closer to their Happily Ever After. But then all hell broke loose (literally) and I saw that the issue was too big to deal with in a subplot. Not only would they distract readers from Damián and Savannah’s story, but it wouldn’t allow me to do more than a surface-level look at the issue and I don’t like to shortchange my readers. I also learned that any time Kally makes plans, her Masters just have a good laugh amongst themselves—and do whatever the hell they please. So, a month before I released Perfect, I announced to my fans that the lineup had changed and that book #5 would now be Somebody’s Angel and would be about Marc and Angelina. (Anyone who has e-books with copyright page revision dates older than December 2012 for the first three books or January 2013 for the fourth will have the wrong lineup listed. Time to ask for updates!)
To further illustrate how this was such a last-minute decision, I had already written the epilogue for Nobody’s Perfect, which left Luke in a cliffhanger, usually a tip to readers that story would be up next. But the opening of Somebody’s Angel actually backtracks in the Rescue Me series timeline to Christmas night (2011—my story is based on real events in Fallujah, Iraq, so it’s not a generic, always present timeline). So this would be the same Christmas day in Nobody’s Perfect. Luke isn’t in the predicament at all yet. There were lots of hints in Perfect that Marc and Angelina were having difficulties, but because I only went into the heads of Damián and Savannah in that book, you really only knew what they knew (which wasn’t much).
So Somebody’s Angel won’t rehash what readers already know. There are very few “mirror” scenes from the last book. Events in that book are mentioned, but there are only a couple instances where I “replayed” a scene from Marc’s perspective to reveal something important readers needed to know about him.
Your storylines are all packed with emotion, and a lot of them are very personal to you as well. What do you think is key in conveying all that emotion in your books?
I’ll answer that on two levels. Yes, I do tap into my own feelings and experiences when I write, so I think that authenticity comes through. (But I also am not a believer in writing what you know. I write about lots of things I only know through research and talking with others who know—the Marine Corps and military life, BDSM lifestyle, places I write about.)
But the stories I tell are gut-wrenching and I pull from all kinds of places inside and external to convey those emotions. I’m always open and honest with readers (through my books, at personal appearances, and in social-media settings). I ask the same of my characters. If they want to have me tell their story, they have to agree to go to hell and back to explore the origins of the feelings (often long buried) in order to find healing and sometimes closure, if possible. Marc goes through things in this book only he would do. (No sane person would, for sure! But he’s a risk-taker and believes in going to extremes. When he sees he’s going to lose the one woman worth risking all for, he’ll pull out all the stops. He gives Adam permission for a RACK (Risk Aware Consensual Kink) scene that has no safeword and no limits—all in an effort to keep himself from running from himself any longer. This is the FIRST time I’ve written a scene that isn’t Safe, Sane, and Consensual, too. Definitely took me out of my comfort zone. I have a number of psychology-savvy folks (including two practicing psychologists) on my team to make sure I stay within the realm of reality, but I think I pushed some buttons with this scene.
I try to write from the heart and, even though my own life experiences aren’t the same as those of my characters, there are universal emotions felt by those who have suffered abuse that I’m able to tap into for my characters’ innermost feelings. Readers connect with them, as well, and at least once a week (more often when a new book is out), I’ll get fan letters/e-mails saying how they found healing alongside my characters because they felt that deep emotional connection. These people are real to them, not fictional characters in a novel.
Now for the second way to respond to that question—sharing a writing technique I use to get readers to feel that emotion with the characters. I write using a technique called Deep Third-Person Point of View (POV). Some say they write in First Person POV because the story is “too personal” for third person. Well, I disagree with the assessment that you can’t achieve that with third-person. My readers probably feel the story even more intensely because they get more than one character’s perspective and thoughts. (I do NOT head hop—hate that—but with clear breaks I’ll go from one person’s head to another to tell the story.)
If you write well in Deep Third-Person POV, your reader will have no trouble connecting, sometimes to the point of feeling they actually are INSIDE the character’s head. I don’t include much description, but readers write all the time saying I described it so well, they felt like they were in the scene. That’s because the reader’s mind filled in the descriptions (details). I think if there’s too much description in a contemporary romance, it jars readers out of the story as they try to place this object there and this one here and then you just described the character in a way that clashes with her fantasy of what he should look like. (I have many male readers, but think having our fantasy guy in our heads is a thing we women readers do more.)
To illustrate, Jack, a Marine Master Sergeant who became a fan earlier this year, said he liked that I keep the military details vague. “You say he grabbed a rifle, but you don’t tell me which kind of rifle and then have it do something it can’t.” Because of his expertise on weapons, that would jar him out of the story. So his mind sees what I say the rifle can do as he reads, and then he fills in the blank as to what kind of weapon it is.
For descriptive details, I focus only on what the point-of-view character can experience with the five senses, or his/her thoughts. I have a lot of internal narrative. My characters spend a lot of time in their heads. But I try really hard to only put what that character would think into internal narrative, so that I’m not inflicting my thoughts and opinions on the reader. (That also would pull readers out of a story, which is not good.) So as they read, people have a visceral connection to the character in whose “head” they are. One tip for any writers reading this—what helped me understand the difference between third-person omniscient and deep third-person POV, is to NEVER say things like, “But she didn’t see [whatever] …” If she didn’t see it, then you just yanked your reader out to move the “camera” to a spot up above the scene to an omniscient perspective. Find other ways to foreshadow—or just blindside the reader every now and then. (One wrote me once that she loved my stories because she never knew where the “dark moment” would be—she’d just turn the page and BAM!)
From the reader’s perspective, Deep Third-Person POV allows for a much more intense experience than they might get in books that play out like a movie in their heads as they read. This technique actually pulls the reader INTO the movie as one of the actors, if you will. Better yet, for many, because this series tells of such realistic situations, many believe these are fictionalized books about real people I must know because they come across as so real. (Sorry, while I’ve met some people very similar to these characters after I wrote three or four of the books, they are all figments of my overactive imagination. But they DO come across as real to me. When they talk to me, you’d better believe I sit down and take down what they tell me. Then I share it with you readers in a scene!)
I know all your books usually take a toll on you to write them. Can you tell us a bit about the hardest part to write about SOMEBODY’S ANGEL?
Just getting to the bottom of what Marc’s issue was in the first place probably was the hardest. He’s dealing with hurts that go back to a very young age, before he has cognitive memories. (So I apologized for all the times I screamed at him: “What are you HIDING from me, Marc!?!?!”) His issues have affected all of his relationships with women, and even how he relates to Adam and Damián. (And, no, this is NOT another book about a child-abuse survivor.)
I am fascinated by the psychology of healing (even though I use alternative methods to achieve that healing, usually BDSM ones). So once Marc was “diagnosed” I had to do a lot of research to understand how that might have manifested thoughout his life. Oddly enough, I’d already portrayed him as having exactly the issues he might if dealing with this in real life in scenes I wrote for Masters at Arms and Nobody’s Angel. It amazed me how his thought processes and the scripts in his head were dead-on what someone with that past might think and do.
I’ve always been blessed with some kind of sixth sense with these characters. I wonder sometimes if I “channel” them when I write. That happened with Adam, as well. By the time I knew why he’d run away at sixteen I was on book three, two books after initially sharing that information with the reader in the bus station in Chicago. There are still secrets in Masters at Arms (the free introduction to the series) that won’t come to light for another book or two. But whenever something is revealed by a character, I backtrack to see if that really can happen based on what has come before in the series. I always find that the truth was there. I just didn’t interpret it correctly originally.
What is one thing that you like to put into a scene that will always spice up a story?
Spice up? Well, if you mean sexually, it would be BDSM elements. Love it when the guy goes all Dom on his girl—a stare, a command, a pull of her hair. I also love to include humor when readers least expect it, often during sex scenes. I love humor in the bedroom—or wherever they might be fooling around.
What’s next in the Rescue Me series? 🙂
Luke! At last! Cassie has been haunting me since September to get working on that story because she wants “that man” out of her cabin sanctuary! So, I expect she’ll give me a couple days with family for the holidays (after Somebody’s Angel releases) by New Year’s Day, I’ll be seated at the laptop working on Nobody’s Dream (Rescue Me #6).
I have hired a new assistant to help with the day-to-day stuff (she’s more a personal assistant than a virtual one—even helped with my son’s wedding as one of her first duties!). I’m going to pare back on things in my life that keep me from writing, and will set a daily writing goal that must be met. So I hope to get a lot more writing done—and if my plans work, I also want to write and publish a holiday novella next year, too (with Adam and Karla).
The series will go on for decades (including a “next generation” spin-off series). I also see a spin-off for Angelina’s brothers—a fire fighter series, but probably not BDSM). New characters are always showing up—including a few more in Somebody’s Angel. So there are many stories to come!
When Marc d’Alessio first rescued the curvaceous and spirited Italian Angelina Giardano at the Masters at Arms Club, he never expected her to turn his safe controlled life upside down and pull at his long-broken heartstrings. Months later the intense fire of their attraction still rages but something holds him back from committing to her completely. Worse, secrets and memories from his past join forces to further complicate his relationships with family, friends, and his beautiful Angel.
Angelina cannot give all of herself to someone who hides himself from her. She loves Marc, the BDSM world he brought her into, and the way their bodies respond to one another but she needs more. Though she destroyed the wolf mask he once wore, only he can remove the mask he dons daily to hide his emotions. In a desperate attempt to break through his defenses and reclaim her connection to the man she loves, she attempts a full frontal assault that sends him into a fast retreat, leaving her nobody’s angel once again.
Marc finds that running to the mountains no longer gives him solace but instead leaves him empty and alone. Angelina is the one woman worth the risk of opening his heart. Will he risk everything to become the man she deserves and the man he wants to be?