Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Virtual Book Tour and Giveaway: Stripped by Tori St. Claire

Today we're welcoming author Tori St. Claire to the blog on her tour with Goddess Fish Promotions for the erotic romantic suspense novel available from Berkely Heat, "Stripped".

Tori is giving away a $25 Amazon GC to one randomly drawn commenter. So comment today AND follow her tour (if you click on the banner above, it'll take you to a list of her tour stops) -- the more you read and comment, the better your odds of winning. You could be introduced to a great new author AND win a GC!

First off, what's "Stripped" about?

Body of secrets…

As a member of the CIA’s elite, Black Opals, Natalya Trubachev must live a lie, working undercover as the lover of Dmitri, a Russian mob boss. His business is trafficking vulnerable Las Vegas strippers overseas for twisted sex games. Natalya’s business is to blow the ring wide open and bring down Dmitri and his American contacts. But the stakes are raised when she learns that the next target is her own sister Kate, a dancer in the famed club Fantasia. Only now does Natalya realize how personal her mission has become, and how far she’s willing to go to complete it.

Body of lies…

The manager of Fantasia is Brandon Moretti, an undercover detective who keeps a close eye on his girls, and an even closer one on his sinfully sensual hire. For Natalya, working the club could be the break she’s been waiting for. But for Moretti, Natalya is a possible link to a killer. Only he never counted on her being so lethally seductive or so dangerous to get close to. As every forbidden pleasure between them is stripped away, his own secrets threaten their security, but it’s Natalya’s that could destroy them both.

Oh, WOW!! Sounds really amazing. I'm sure you'll share an excerpt later, right? Now, time to find out more about YOU.

What are the challenges of small press, standard print, and two pen names?

I think it goes without saying that meeting deadlines is probably the most challenging aspect. But in many ways, my situation has been blessed, and while the diversity may seem challenging on the surface, it really isn’t quite so demanding.

First, this last year, I’ve been in the lucky situation that all of the books contracted with both my standard print houses (Berkley and Tor) under both pen names (Claire Ashgrove and Tori St. Claire), were all written, except one, at the signing of the contract.

Secondly, I’m extremely prolific, and I write quickly. So in one sense, the diversity is mandatory for me. I have a wonderful arrangement with my agent to accommodate this, and she understands that for me to keep enthusiastic about projects, I need to write different genres. Otherwise, if I’m locked in at one thing, it will quickly become stagnant for me.

Third, I didn’t choose a secondary pen name to “hide” behind. I chose it in the interest of clarity for my readers. I didn’t want someone who wasn’t a fan of erotic romance to pick up a book by Claire Ashgrove and be shocked. So Tori St. Claire came about to keep that distinction present. Because I openly tie myself to both names, that’s made promotions far easier. For instance – I have one Twitter account. If my readers want to know me, I’m in one spot. I do have two different blogs, two different websites, but again that’s more content related, and on each you’ll find obvious links to my alter-ego. It’s a little more work that way, but not terribly, given my background in web design and maintenance.

It’s far more difficult to keep the cat out of my lap or off my keyboard when I’m at the computer, than it is to keep up with all my to-dos!

Where did Stripped idea come from?

The very core, very basic idea came from the Ke$ha song, Take it Off. It gave me a visual of a scene (that didn’t make it into the final creation) that set the stage (pun not intended) for a plot around a strip club. I can’t begin to put into words where all the intricacies came from. Russia is a fascination and has been for many, many years. It was somewhat natural to incorporate it in my writing. Female spy? That’s a product of my fascination with 007, which began as early as I can remember while watching Bond with my father. Only, I prefer my characters far darker than 007, and I made a few adjustments there to incorporate that edginess. In all truth, the story just flowed, and layers built on layers without a lot of pre-planning.

What kind of research was required?

Not too terribly much. The vast majority was done on human trafficking and creating the plausibility that would have America as a source country, as opposed to a destination country. I also had to do some digging into which Russian mafia outfit I wanted to use, and that led to a lot of reading about different organizations, what they had done, people involved, as well as their scope of influence. I did do some research on guns. I did a smidgeon of research on Dubai. And I had a heck of a time window-shopping online to determine what kind of car Brandon Moretti was going to drive.

Interesting writing habits or quirks?

Mmm… sadly… other than a coffee IV, no. As I mentioned above, I do have to fight the cat. I don’t mind that he likes my lap, and he’s 17, so I try to cater to him whenever possible. But I can’t sit still that long, and changing position in the chair is near impossible when he’s curled up for the long haul. Usually I throw him a sweatshirt and put him on the table, and that seems to pacify us both.

I like snacks nearby. Junk food. Particularly chocolate. If I don’t at least have chocolate in the fridge to get up and munch on, it’s a very sorry day in relation to production.

I used to be able to write in almost any environment. Now I find I prefer silence. So usually I write when the kids are abed, the critters have all finished their last potty-break outside, and everyone is in snooze mode, except me, the persistent night owl. I sprawl out with the laptop on my dining room table from around 10pm until 2am – on the weekends frequently 4 am.

I also frequently talk to myself while I’m typing.

What’s coming up?

I have a lot of things coming up in 2012.

As Tori St. Claire, the second book in the Black Opals series, LIE TO ME, will release this year. I’m working on some other projects there too and have a couple proposals on my editor’s desk. Fingers crossed!

As Claire Ashgrove, I released the first book in The Curse of the Templars, IMMORTAL HOPE, at the same time STRIPPED released for Tori. The second book in that dark paranormal romance series will also release in 2012.

Further, I had a moment of insanity at the end of August last year, and decided I would start a series of paranormal short stories as Claire Ashgrove – Inherited Damnation. Eight total. Book 4 is slated for early Feb and the remaining 4 follow the Pagan holidays throughout the year.

I’m also working on some independent projects with a couple fellow authors. And I have been tinkering with a fantasy story that is completely unrelated to any other project or genre I’ve written in before. If luck is in my favor, I’ll get to finish that in 2012.

Last but not least, Claire also has a proposal in for what is, at the core of its being, a sci-fi theme. That’s all I’m going to say there.

Anything you'd like to ask our readers?

I’m curious – do you find yourself following the author if he/she writes under different pen names, or do you primarily find yourself following the work/series/genre that you first fell in love with?

Oooh.... good question! I can't wait to see how it's answered. Thanks for letting me pick your brain a bit. Now ... about that excerpt...

Sitting forward, Brandon folded his hands on the stack of papers atop his desk. “You worked with Kate. That was when? Ten years ago? Have you danced since then?”

“Fifteen, and no. But I’m quite capable.” Only because Dmitri made her dance for him. She supposed she could consider that a benefit. If he hadn’t insisted on private pole dances, her body would have forgotten how.

The reproachful arch of a dark eyebrow hinted at doubt. “What makes you certain you can compete with the girls who’ve been doing this for years?” His gaze dropped to her breasts, then slid slowly back up to lock with hers. “Beyond the obvious.”

Natalya’s body flushed with heat. She crossed the opposite leg over her opposite knee, unsettled by the blatant appreciation in those tawny eyes. How many times had Dmitri looked at her with the same suggestion in his gaze?

How long had it been since she’d liked being stripped bare with a mere glance?

The sudden tingling of her skin disturbed her. Moretti could very well be one of Dmitri’s faithful—he had more than one cop on the take. While Dmitri understood her job required a bit of . . . feminine finesse . . . he’d only grant her so much leeway. If she gave him a reason to suspect her allegiance, he’d slice her throat before she could see the knife glint. And the way her body was warming beneath Brandon’s heated stare spelled trouble.

Determined to ignore his blatantly sexual gaze, she focused on the small white scar across Moretti’s chin and dredged up every reason she could think of to convince him into giving her the job. “I danced well. Was the crowd favorite for a while. I held the job all through college, and two years in, the girls were coming to me for dance suggestions, costuming, on-the-spot fixes for breakdowns. Advice on how to handle the more exuberant customers.” She took a breath and began counting items off her fingers. “I hired. I fired. I kept the drugs out of the dressing rooms. I trained the girls on the pole—Kate said you needed someone strong with the pole. My core body strength—”

“You’re hired.”

Natalya snapped her mouth shut. Slowly, she blinked. “What?”

“You’re hired.” Moretti stood, stretching out his muscular thighs that even his loose denim jeans couldn’t disguise. He shoved his left hand into his hip pocket. Against her will, Natalya’s gaze dropped to his crotch. Her breath caught at the tightening of his fly, the hard ridge that evidenced arousal.

When she yanked her gaze back to Brandon’s, his eyes flashed dark gold, telling her he knew exactly where she’d been looking. His voice, however, belied his awareness. “We open in three hours. I’ll need you here early to help get the girls settled in.”

“The girls?”

He fished a set of keys out of the top right desk drawer and held his fist over her hand. “These are to the dressing rooms. I have a copy, you have a copy. No one else. Kate’s our star. She goes on at ten, and every two hours after. Jill follows. Beyond that, you’ll have to talk to the girls.”

Natalya moved her hand beneath his, palm up, waiting for the keys. “And me?”

“I need a housemom more than I need a dancer.” His fingers brushed the base of her wrist.

Ignoring the chill that raced to her shoulder, she blinked again. “A housemom?” He had to be kidding! She needed to be onstage. Scoping out the crowd. Looking for Discovery, as he was bound to be looking for potential targets.

Brandon lifted his hand a fraction. “A housemom.”

Or the job wasn’t hers. The hard line of his chiseled jaw voiced what he didn’t say.

Hell, not if she had anything to say about it. She was here to crack a case, and she couldn’t do that locked away in the back of the house.

About Tori:

Tori St. Claire grew up writing. Hobby quickly turned into passion, and when she discovered the world of romance as a teen, poems and short stories gave way to full length novels with sexy heroes and heroines waiting to be swept off their feet. She wrote her first romance novel at seventeen.

While that manuscript gathered dust-bunnies beneath the bed, she went on to establish herself as a contemporary, historical, and paranormal author under the pen name, Claire Ashgrove. Her writing, however, skirted a fine line between hot and steamy, and motivated by authors she admired, she pushed her boundaries and made the leap into erotica, using the darker side of human nature and on-the-edge suspense to drive grittier, sexier, stories.

Her erotic romantic suspense novels are searingly sensual experiences that unite passion with true emotion, and the all-consuming tie that binds -- love.

Tori can be found at:
Twitter: @claireashgrove


  1. Thank you for hosting Tori/Claire today.

  2. I find that if I read and like a story, I usually read more by that author. I like many genres but it is the writing style that I enjoy the most.

  3. MomJane - I'm like you, personally. I'll fall for the author, not necessarily the series, and I usually follow them across pen names.

  4. Tori, you are a busy woman! Loved the excerpt.

    I'm like MomJane, too. I like to "try" a new author by buying and reading a novella; it's a good sample for me. Then, I'll buy more of the author's works.

    Tracey D
    booklover0226 at gmail dot com

  5. Many of my favorite authors write other genres, some use pen names, some do not. I follow them for information about coming projects in the genre I prefer. In most cases, I probably haven't read their works in other genres. I guess I have blinders on.

    What characters are the hardest/easiest for you to write: The alpha hero, the alpha heroine, the villain (or villainess), the secondary male & female characters? What are the most fun to write?

  6. I tend to haunt an author not matter what name they use. For me, its all about the storytelling. So if the story works for me, on the wish list it goes.

    caity_mack at yahoo dot com

  7. Stripped sounds like a great read! I'm definitely adding it to my TBB list!

    elizabeth @ bookattict . com

  8. Waves at Tracey -- recall the "Chaos" remarks! This is why.

  9. This sounds like a terrific start to a new series. I have this on my wish list and can't wait to read it. Thanks so much for taking part in the book tour.
    June M.
    manning_j2004 at yahoo .com

  10. Karen -- My heroes are almost always the easiest for me to write. Usually the story begins in my head with something relating to the hero. (Though this one originated with Natalya).

    Villians come next. I love villians, and I love creepy villians. THose with strong motivations, who can be human despite their vile ways. People who can, perhaps, be the person sitting next to you.

    Heroines are usually the most difficult for me to develop. Though with STRIPPED Natalya jumped up and screamed at me from initial concept.

  11. Cathy & BookAttict -- Good to see you! Stripped isn't for everyone (rather, Natalya might not be) but if you like dark and edgy I think you'll really enjoy the story!

  12. June -- Thanks for participating, yourself! Be sure and stop in at the Forbidden Bookshelf tomorrow. They are revealing an exclusive excerpt.

  13. I think it's a case of being aware of the pen names authors use. If I love an author than I will haunt their website & blog & so will know. New authors to me I may be missing out by not knowing.


  14. Well, I've always been more of a non-fiction reader and I'm just discovering different genres and contemporary authors. So I would cross genres to follow an author I like.


  15. I find that if I enjoy an authors writing no matter which genre they right I will always check it out !! Im always happy to read a new authors work,, and then If I enjoy it hunt up al that I can as far as whats available.. I love to review so If Ive enjoyed a book Ill always review it.. whether Ive been asked to review or just brought it myself !!
    cant wait to read this one !

    kat !


So... inquiring minds want to know: what do you think?