I’m happy to present my interview with Ellie Eden. Her book Letting Evil In.
(blurb and excerpt below)
* * *
Hi Ellie, Thanks for stopping by to talk a little about your writing! Let’s jump right in. Tell me a little about the characters and the conflict in Letting Evil In.
Letting Evil In is a romantic suspense novel partly based on real life and the chaos caused by internet affairs. I found it fascinating and frightening that a laptop is a wide open window into your home. All sorts of people can come creeping in–people you would never, ever normally encounter.
My heroine, Kristi, gets caught in the fallout of her husband’s internet affair with Nara, a young Brazilian drug dealer. Kristi leads a happy life in the mostly safe suburbs of Livingston NJ. She loves her husband, Michael and their teenage son, and six-year-old twins.
Michael, the unfaithful husband, isn’t quite as content. He spends the cold New Jersey winter in hot Brazilian chat rooms.
Nara, the Brazilian girl, who Michael goes to Rio to meet, is self centered, poverty-stricken but upbeat and gloriously wild. The guy she really fancies, Azul, the Harley-riding drug dealer with the cold blue wolf’s eyes was fun to write about and definitely hot.
Kristi and her teenage son go to Rio in search of the vanished Michael and she turns to Tony, an Italian-Brazilian federal agent, for help. I fell in love with Tony, the sexy federal agent. He’s the hero and every girl’s dream, but is he too good to be true?
The ruthless drug lord, O Dentista, is someone I never want to meet. I would tell you here why he is called that but its too creepy. Lets keep the interview on a less nightmarish note!
Kristi’s young son is kidnapped in Rio. She finds herself alone in a strange and dangerous city with no one she can trust. A great situation for a heroine to land in!
Where’s the story set? How much influence did the setting have on the atmosphere/characters/development of the story?
Letting Evil In is set in Livingston, New Jersey and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I thought the contrast between the two cities and the contrast between the two main female characters would be fun to write and read about.
Rio is a marvelous place for a suspenseful book as it has awful slums, beautiful romantic beaches, wild rainforest, and even a spooky gothic cemetery. Once I saw the creepy mausoleums, I knew I had to include them in the plot.
Were your characters difficult to write, or did they seem to spring easily from your mind to the page?
For some weird reason it was easier to write about the bad guys. I really loved writing about Nara and her world. I loved her casual and quirky attitude to life. The other main characters slipped into their roles. I identified with Kristi as she feels let down and hurt by her unfaithful husband and starts to fall for the sexy and sweet Tony.
Tell us a little bit about the heroine and hero and the challenges threatening their love.
Kristi and Tony come from very different backgrounds. She has led a sheltered life in suburban Livingston, NJ. Tony is Italian-Brazilian and comes from an enormously wealthy, politically corrupt family in Brazil. Kristi does not want to fall for Tony and he certainly doesn’t want the problems of falling for a beautiful American woman with children and an unfaithful and missing husband.
What are some of your favorite characteristics of a good alpha hero? Do you have one from a book or movie you particularly like?
I like the strong silent type. And I like him good-looking and well built. Also a caring man, someone thoughtful. And tough of course, you can rely on him in a scary situation. Its fun if the two people don’t quite know what the other is thinking or wanting but the writer and reader can guess.
What are some of your favorite characteristics of a good heroine? Do you have one from a book or movie you particularly like?
I like a beautiful and determined heroine. It helps if she is somewhat rash and so gets into dangerous situations.
When did you begin writing and why?
I started writing in elementary school. I had this great story about a house where the four winds wailed. I wasn’t sure about the rest of the plot. Just the winds wailing!
What is your writing process like?
I research a lot. I think it enriches the plot to add a lot of interesting background facts.
Do you enjoy research? Or is research a necessary evil?
I love research. Almost anything becomes interesting once you begin to research it.
Do you have a favorite genre? Is it the same genre you prefer to write?
Romantic suspense and thrillers. Also travel books about bad vacations.
Do you have a favorite author who introduced you to the genre?
Daphne du Maurier
What do readers have to look forward to in the future from Ellie Eden?
I’ve writing a Dystopian book and enjoying researching for that world.
Thanks again for stopping by, Ellie! Readers can discover more about Ellie Eden here:
When Michael goes on a photographic assignment to Brazil and fails to return, Kristi and her son fly to Rio de Janeiro, desperate to find him. Instead she finds that during the cold New Jersey winter, her husband has spent his time in steamy chat rooms with Nara, a young woman desperate for attention and involved in the Rio drug world.
As she searches for Michael in exotic but crime-ridden Rio, Kristi finds herself way out of her league. She turns to Italian-Brazilian Federal Agent Tony Lamazzo for help. As the harsh truth of her marriage brings a dose of reality to her life, she finds the temptation of getting closer to the strong, capable—and totally hot—Tony difficult to resist. She’s in Brazil on the Day of Dead, a day when Brazilians go wild. Why shouldn’t she go wild with Tony, for just one night, before returning home to start the new life alone she’ll have to learn to make for herself?
But when her son vanishes too, Kristi doesn’t know where to turn. Michael’s affair with drug-dealing Nara has exposed them all to the murderous wrath of a ruthless drug lord, and while she longs to trust Tony, she can’t trust his powerful and politically corrupt family. But in the dangerous slums and rainforests of Brazil, the danger mounts for both Kristi and her son, and a cold-blooded enemy has an agenda of his own. If she trusts Tony, she might save her son. Or it might just get them all killed…
An Excerpt from Letting Evil In
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Hips swaying, Nara made her way along the oceanfront mosaic pavement. The Girl from Ipanema, that’s who she was. Tall and tanned and young and lovely—and with some bombshell news. She couldn’t wait to see Lucina’s face when she dropped it on her. Her friend would be envious out of her mind. Right in the middle of the pavement, she did a happy twirl.
“Hey! How’s it going, kitten!” A muscled guy in a low-rider swimsuit jumped out of the way and grinned at her.
Nara giggled. She loved it here, down by the ocean. The sea sparkling. The palms swaying. And the people so beautiful. Ipanema was the best. She and Lucina were headed for Posto 9 where the cool, beautiful people hung out. As long as you had a cute bikini, no one knew if you were filthy rich or dirt poor. You could fake being anyone on the beach. The better you looked, the better you could fake it.
She walked closer to Lucina and lowered her voice. “Hey, check out that guy behind us.”
Lucina half turned. “Yeah. Cute. Works out at Muscle Beach, I’ve seen him before. Why?”
“He’s following us.” Flicking her long hair, Nara looked back and smiled sweetly. Muscle Beach Guy grinned and walked faster to catch up. Nara waited until he almost reached them and then gave him the finger.
Muscle Beach Guy slowed down a beat.
Nara giggled. “He thought he had it made there for one bright minute.”
“You’re one mean bitch.” Lucina giggled too.
“You got it! Guys like that just want one thing.” Nara said.
They hopped over the hot sand and lay down, sharing Lucina’s sarong. Nara hugged herself in anticipation. Lucina would just die when she heard her news. This morning she’d checked her email at the youth center, and her dreams were about to come true. Putting her nose right up to her friend’s nose she announced, “The American’s come to visit me!”
“There’s no way!” Lucina looked wide-eyed at her friend.
“He’s here! In a hotel at Copa!”
“How old is he?”
“If only. I bet he’s forty. And married.”
Nara glared at her friend. “He’s not. He’s twenty-five and divorced. And a hunk. He sent me a photo.”
“Bet he sent an old picture. Bet he’s fat. All Americans get fat.”
“Can you imagine? When are you going to meet with him? What are you going to wear?”
Nara frowned. Lucina was reading her mind. She was meeting the American tomorrow and she had nothing sexy to wear. She had to look good.
She scanned the beach. Marcelo should be here soon. She couldn’t wait to tell him about the American. Her thirteen-year-old brother would be so excited. Little Mosquito. She’d named him that when he was two years old because he was always buzzing around her, so cute with his skinny legs and bare bottom.
“Where you going to say you live?” Lucina asked.
Nara winced. Since her mother kicked her out four nights ago, she’d been sleeping in the piss-damp alley behind the voodoo store. There was no way she could go back home, her mom’s new boyfriend was always drunk and on the make. “Maybe I’ll say I’m a college student.”
Lucina nodded enthusiastically. “Yeah. And your mom and dad live in Sao Paulo.”
“Yeah. And they’re very strict.”
Lucina began to giggle. “Religious! Yeah!”
Nara nodded seriously. That was good. That would make the American respect her. Maybe he would even marry her. And then he could adopt Marcelo. And they’d all go and live in sunny, filled-with-money California.
She tried to plan it all. Who would have guessed when she joined that Brazil Singles chat room she would link up with an American? Who could have imagined he would come to Rio! This absolutely had to work. She had to look her best. She was pretty with her long dark hair, latte-colored skin and slightly slanted hazel eyes. Very pretty. Lots of guys told her that. Plus she had the smallest, cutest waist and curvy butt. Men only like young women and already she was eighteen, so right now was her once-in-a-lifetime chance to get to America, the land of dreams come true.
A rich smell of grilling steak wafted over from the street stalls. She jumped up. “Let’s go find Marcelo and score something to eat.”
They dodged the tanned bodies and beach umbrellas and started down Avenida Atlantica. Arms swinging at her sides, Nara grabbed an orange from a street vendor’s stall. A black Harley with two riders roared up alongside them and came to a halt, engine revving.
“It’s Marcelo!” Lucina squealed. She gave Nara’s arm a hard squeeze.
Nara winced. “What?”
“Shut up,” Lucina whispered. “Who’s the guy with him?”
Nara took a close look. The guy with Marcelo had the right look—tight black T-shirt, tight black jeans, and a leather jacket—and he had the bluest eyes she’d ever seen. Blue, blue wolf’s eyes, cold and wary, watching. Sexy as hell.
Marcelo jumped off the bike. “Thanks, man.”
Revving loudly, the blue-eyed biker looked Nara and Lucina up and down. Then he grinned slowly and rode off in a cloud of exhaust fumes.
“Ooh,” Lucina said. “I’m just going to die right now out of passion and love. Did you see him?”
Nara nodded. She’d seen him, and he was smoldering hot.
“Did you see the skull on his Harley handlebars?” Lucina clapped her hands. “Glowing eyes. Cool, huh? So little Mosquito, who’s your friend?”
“Sergio. But they call him Azul. ’Cause his eyes are so blue, yeah?” Marcelo lowered his voice. “He’s a banger for O Dentista.”
Nara’s eyes widened. She’d heard of O Dentista, a big time drug lord who pulled out the teeth before he chain sawed off the heads.
“Look what Azul gave me.” With a move of his wrist, Marcelo flicked a six-inch switchblade open and shut. “How do you like it?” He stabbed at Lucina’s bare belly.
Lucina shrieked and jumped back.
Marcelo roared with laughter. “It’s fly, huh? Azul’s going to let me do a delivery for him.”
Nara frowned. “Drug runners end up dead. You don’t want to do that.”
“Sure I’ll do it. For fifty reais I’d do anything.”
“You got it. For half your fifty reais I’ll help you.” Paulo, a Rastafarian-looking teen, swaggered up. Marcelo spun the open knife, his hand just missing the sharp blade. Nara winced. Around Paulo, Marcelo always played the cool guy. Paulo was tough, like a stray dog ready to bite if you looked weak. Lots of the favela kids were like that. She wished Marcelo lived somewhere safe. Her little brother was the only person she cared about.
“Hey, Little Mosquito, you won’t believe it. The American’s right here in Rio.” Nara beamed at the astonished look on Marcelo’s face. “I’m meeting him tomorrow.”
Marcelo grinned. “No way. Hey, we can sell coke to the American. He’ll love a Columbian snow bomb.”
Lucina ruffled Marcelo’s jagged hair. “I want to meet that hot Azul guy.”
Nara snorted. “Get serious.” She turned to Marcelo. “Did Azul give you any coke to move?”
Marcelo shook his head. “Maybe next time.”
Nara looked thoughtful. “If he gives you some, I’ll help.” There were only two ways she could make money. One was to find a rich guy. The other was to deal drugs. Could be she was about to do both. She had a happy feeling her whole life was about to change. But first she had one more thing to do. She had to make sure of the American’s love. She needed a love potion. It would be hard to get money to pay for it, but it would be worth it.
* * *
Mother Isadora’s Voodoo Store was in the basement of a crumbling tenement building at the entrance to Rocinha favela. Nara found the hot, musty smell of the building familiar and comforting; she’d slept there in the alley many times when her mother kicked her out of the house. She loved the store’s dark corners and shelves filled with shimmering little bottles, the devil dolls with their empty eyes, the spooky white skulls, and the painted statues of the saints.
From the room inside, the dark room where Mother Isadora cast her spells and called up the magic of the invisibles, she could hear a woman sobbing and the murmur of Mother Isadora’s soothing voice. She checked out the stuff on the shelves. She needed a powerful love potion. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. A real live American. Better to be safe than sorry.
She picked up a flower-patterned sachet with a fascinating name: Love-me-long Powder. Yes, she’d try some of that. And another sachet labeled Lilith Feminine Power—Assert Your Power in Matters of Love and Sex. She’d take them both. A Chase-me, no-more-rivalbracelet was tempting too. The tag promised that it worked extremely fast. Longingly she fingered the yellow and black beads.
Mother Isadora came in, so beautiful, so tall and slender, dressed in a filmy, long white dress and smiling her sweet, calm smile. “Nara. I haven’t seen you for a while. What can I help you with, my child?”
Nara cleared her throat nervously. Mother Isadora always affected her like that. “I want to buy these love potions.”
The priestess looked at the sachets and raised her eyebrows. “You seem very nervous, my child. Is this something that is important to you?”
Nara nodded. “It is my whole future, Mother Isadora.”
The priestess nodded. “I can say a powerful prayer for you. Would you like that?”
Nara blushed. “I don’t have much money for an offering, Mother Isadora.”
“I will accept a ten reais offering. The prayer and the sachets.”
It would be worth it, Nara thought. Totally worth it. She nodded her agreement.
Mother Isadora led the way into a darkened room. Nara looked around, wide eyed. She’d never been into this inner sanctum before. Statues of the invisibles surrounded her. On a red velvet altar, red candles flickered, and wisps of blue smoke and the sweet smell of incense and herbs filled the room.
“I will say a prayer to Pomba Gira, the protector of women. That’s her statue over there.” Mother Isadora pointed to the small statue of a beautiful gypsy-looking woman dressed in a flared red dress. Pomba Gira’s eyebrows were arched and she smiled devilishly.
Chanting softly, Mother Isadora arranged red roses, fully blown but still beautiful. “Pomba Gira loves roses,” she said. “She is a goddess for the independent women of today. Women who do not rely on men. Women who choose their own lovers. Women who work for their own financial security and do as they please.”
Nervously, Nora nodded again. She wasn’t sure where this was all going. Actually, she didn’t want to work. She wanted to marry the wealthy American and never, ever work again. Maybe this Pomba Gira was the wrong goddess for her. But she didn’t dare interrupt Mother Isadora who seemed to be on a roll. The thick smoke made her dizzy and the room spun slowly.
“Who is this man you wish?” Mother Isadora asked.
“An American,” Nara whispered. “He’s an American.”
Mother Isadora nodded. She thought for a minute and then lifted up her hands and began to chant: “Hear me, my queen Pomba Gira Maria Padilha of the Seven Crossroads, Mistress of the Night. Go wherever the American is. Don’t let him rest, don’t let him be cheerful, don’t let him feel pleasure, until he talks to your faithful servant, Nara.”
Nara was amazed, delighted, at the prayer. Head bent, she murmured in agreement.
“Hear me, Pomba Gira,” Mother Isadora said. “I ask you to bring this American to your servant, Nara. Move air. Transform fire. Move air. Transform fire. The wheel turns. The wheel turns. It brings the American to your servant, Nara. He won’t desire another woman. He will be happy only at Nara’s side. He will ask her to never let him go. He will want Nara and will not stop thinking about her. It is and it will be.”
Nara kept her head bent. It sounded good. Very good.
“Hail Pomba Gira,” Mother Isadora continued, her voice growing louder. “Hail Seven Skirts. Defender of women. My kind and glorious princess, know your strength and your power. I ask the following: I ask that this man’s body burn with desire for your servant, Nara. He will be blind for other women; they will not give him pleasure. Your servant, Nara, is the only one who will have this power. Hail Pomba Gira, I know you are already blowing Nara’s name into the American’s ears and he will not eat, sleep, or do anything unless he is with her. We trust the power of the Seven Crossroads and will continue spreading this powerful prayer. Like this it is, so it will be.”
Mother Isadora took a deep breath. The very candles seemed to shudder. Nara could almost feel the goddess in the room. Wow! What a prayer. That was totally worth ten reais. The American would be hers.
“If the goddess grants your desire, make sure you reward her.” Mother Isadora said. “Wear red in her honor. Keep a red rose in your room. Never, never make her mad or neglect her. This is a powerful goddess. See Pomba Gira’s one hand is up bestowing her favor, and the other is down, denying it.” Mother Isadora gave a low chuckle. “My child, if this man treats you badly make sure you come and tell me. See the switchblade in Pomba Gira’s high-heeled shoe? The goddess is the switchblade sister who will defend you.”
Nara nodded, her head spinning triumphantly. “Thank you Mother Isadora. Thank you.”
As she walked out into the urine-smelling street, she could feel the aura of the goddess protecting her. Almost, she could swear, she could smell red roses.
* * *
Brimming with anticipation, Nara strolled into the hotel lobby. The Copacabana Rio Palace was cool, right on Avenida Atlantica overlooking Copacabana Beach. She checked out her reflection in the gleaming mirrors and reassured herself she looked hot. With the help of Lucina’s clothes, she’d put together a sexy college-girl look; cut off denim shorts, a tight striped white and blue T-shirt, and high-heeled sandals. She couldn’t wait for the American to appear.
In the mirror, she noted the concierge watching her. She didn’t like the way he looked at her as though she had no right to be there. As though she had done something wrong, or was about to. Maybe he could tell she’d spent the night under cardboard in the alley. She was tempted to give him the finger but decided probably better not. As nonchalantly as possible, she sat down on a leather sofa near the door.
The elevator door opened and the American came out. She recognized him immediately from his photo. He was older than she thought he’d be, more like thirty-five, but tall and fit. She liked the way his blond hair fell over one eye. He wore designer jeans and had a thin leather jacket slung over his shoulder. He carried a black backpack and a leather camera case. He looked wealthy. And sophisticated. She tried not to look too excited though she felt like jumping up and down. He hurried over to her, smiling boyishly.
“Nara! I’m here. You’re here. I can’t believe it.” He looked her up and down and kissed her cheek. She stood self-consciously waiting for him to tell her she was beautiful, but he didn’t.
When he opened the door to the suite, she tried not to look impressed. Everything was so pretty, the blue and cream flowered quilt, the paintings of palm trees, and the view of the ocean. Suddenly she felt sick.
“So. How was the flight?” She fidgeted with her T-shirt. Did her clothes look right?
“OK. Long.” He looked tense. “The plane food was awful. Shall we get something from room service?”
“Sure.” She was hungry, as usual, so room service sounded great. Michael ordered two cheeseburgers and two beers. They ate in silence. She caught herself gulping her food and tried to chew slowly. She wished he’d bought a few more beers. She could hardly swallow.
“I absolutely have to have a shower. I never realized Brazil was so hot.” He picked up his backpack and made his way to the bathroom.
She sat on the edge of the bed biting her nails. Why had he taken his backpack into the bathroom with him? Maybe he thought she was going to steal his stuff. She picked up the New York newspaper he’d left on the bed and looked at the advertisements of beautiful girls wearing great gear. When she got to America, maybe she could be a model like that.
Michael came out of the shower wearing only a white towel wrapped around his waist. Her first thought was he could use a tan. But if he was pale because he spent so much time working and making money, that was probably a good thing. Everyone in Rio had tans, but not too many had money like Michael.
“Want to shower?”
She wasn’t sure how to take that either. Did he think she smelled sweaty? Closing the bathroom door, she took off her clothes and sniffed under her arms. She thought she smelled fine, but just in case, she smoothed on some Brazilian nut lotion from a fancy little bottle on the vanity counter. She admired her reflection in the wall-to-wall mirror. It looked so cool the way she was tanned all over except for the paler skin where her bikini had been. Yeah, she looked good enough to eat, smooth skin all shaved and waxed, a really thorough Brazilian wax job, done rather roughly by Lucina. Agonizing at the time, but worth it. She wrapped a fluffy white towel around her body. She wished Lucina could see her now.
Michael was sitting on the bed typing away on his computer. He slammed down the cover and smiled. “Come over here.”
A rush of jealousy ripped through her. He couldn’t even wait for her to shower without emailing someone. Who? “Are you emailing home?”
“Yeah. Just letting my work know I’ve arrived.”
I bet, she thought. What if he had a girlfriend at home? He said he was divorced. But maybe he was still in touch with his ex-wife. Never mind, she told herself. Make sure he has such a good time he never wants to see the bitch again.
Smiling sideways, she slid between the cool sheets. Her heart raced. Michael kissed her gently and stroked her. Then he kissed her harder and stroked her some more. But there was a problem—his pica wasn’t hard. Why didn’t he find her sexy?
He moved away. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. This has never happened before.”
“Maybe you’re tired.”
“Yeah. Jet lag. I guess it’s jet lag.”
She tried to look understanding. She’d never known a tourist with jet lag like that before. Particularly on a first date. Michael downed a bottle of beer from the bar fridge, and then he fell fast asleep.
Miserable, she lay there. If there was one thing she knew, it was that she’d never get this guy to take her to the U.S. if she couldn’t even get him to fuck her. Moving over to the far end of the bed, she touched herself forlornly. She felt soft, silky, smooth. Why didn’t Michael think so? She pictured that hot guy on the Harley coming burning up into the hotel and into the room. What was his name again? Azul. Yeah that was right. The guy with the blue, blue eyes. And the expression of a wolf. Ooh, yes. And the hard body. Azul wouldn’t have all sorts of hang-ups in bed. Azul would think she was soft, silky, smooth. He’d be right down there into it. It would be wild. His body, her body. Azul coming into her again and again. She stroked herself faster. Fuck, it was Friday night. She wasn’t going to just lie here, playing with herself. Quietly she slid out of bed and pulled on her clothes.
Michael opened his eyes as she was slipping on her sandals. “Where you going?”
“To get some smokes. I’ll be back soon.”
On the street, Samba music drifted down from an overhead balcony and her step quickened to the rhythm. Like some sort of wish come true, a motorbike revved up behind her. She whirled around to see Azul, all leather jacket, tight jeans, and blue, blue eyes grinning at her. “Yo, baby. Want to go for a ride.”
“Let’s do it.” Hopping up on the seat behind him, she wrapped her arms around his waist. As the bike headed into the tunnel, she pressed against Azul’s hard back and took a deep breath of the leather jacket. He smelled so good, like leather and sweat. The roar of the engine vibrated through her, and she clenched her thighs tight against his body. She could feel his ripped abs under her hands. The dark in the tunnel whirled by on either side. Unexpectedly, Azul grabbed her hand and pressed it down on his groin. Momentarily losing her balance, she grabbed at it. The bulge down there felt hard too.
“Easy,” he said. “It’s all yours baby.”
They roared up a winding road to a small high-rise building. For a moment Nara hesitated. She should tell him she had to go back. Michael would start wondering what had happened to her. But hey, she was really having fun. And Azul was the guy who knew O Dentista, the big boss guy, and could get all the coke. Maybe she could persuade him to make her a dealer.
She followed him into his apartment, stepping over clothes and beer cans, and looked around eagerly. His place was cool, with a big caramel-colored sofa and a huge TV screen only someone dealing loads of coke could afford. Azul headed for the kitchen and came back with a beer in one hand and a rolled joint in the other. She could see the gun tucked into the waistband of his jeans. Oh, fuck. How hot was that? Sitting down on the sofa, she took a deep draw of the joint, coughed, and then gulped the cold beer.
“Hey, save some for me.” He pressed his lips up to hers, and she giggled as the cold beer trickled from her mouth to his. Then his hands ran over her body, and she gasped in pleasure as he pinched her nipples hard. Eyes closed, she let him push her back on the bed and wiggled as he pulled down her shorts. Lifting her legs and separating them, he licked her and then turned her over. With his body curved around hers from behind, he stroked her until she was writhing in sensation. Then he rammed into her. Thrills ripped through her. This was just like she’d imagined it. If Michael was wondering where she was, well she didn’t care.