I’m happy to present my interview with Kira Hillins. Her book Grand Prize.
(blurb and excerpt below)
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Hi Kira, Thanks for stopping by to talk a little about your writing! Let’s jump right in.
Do you prefer to extensively plot your stories, or do you write them as they come to you?
Though I do have a conflict and an ending in mind for the stories I write, I’m definitely a write by the seat of your pants writer. Plotting stories takes patience and time. With my busy lifestyle, time is something I don’t have a lot of. That saying, if I extensively plotted my stories, I don’t think I’d begin writing them. Grand Prize actually began during nanowrimo. I finished 30k words by the end of November and just kept writing after that. I had a lot of fun that month!
Tell me a little about the characters and the conflict in Grand Prize.
A nurse at the hospital, Melanie Cranberry rarely has time to find a meaningful relationship. Her cat Fred is her favorite companion. She wants to find love, but the local dance clubs offer nothing but one night stands. When her best friend Samone signs her up at a dating service, she wins a raffle that includes two men.
First prize is Cage Niching. Cage is a bit of a sex fiend. He has two girlfriends, but they can’t give him what he really wants. Love. Marriage. Kids. More importantly, he wants revenge for the people that killed his friend at a sex club he used to frequent with his friends. The dating service can give him everything he wants in one perfectly wrapped package. Of course, nothing ever works out the way it’s supposed to.
Second Prize is Victor Wine, a narcotics detective determined to get a drug called Rock off the streets. He’s known to his friends as a perfectionist and a bit of a workaholic, so he doesn’t have time for a love interest, nor does he want one. To get close to a meticulous drug lord called The Rock Maker, he agrees to go undercover at the dating service. There he meets Melanie who may just lead him to the biggest bust of his career and a love he never wanted to have.
All three characters have different goals for the dating service. Melanie wants to meet someone who doesn’t complain about her odd work shifts. She wants to fall in love and is hopeful. Unfortunately for her, the scope of her involvement is much bigger than she imagined.
Victor and Cage have a dangerous agenda. They’re using her to find out who killed their friend at the sex club. They need her to locate the Rockmaker and put an end to their lust for revenge.
Do you listen to music when you write? Does music ever influence your writing?
I always listen to music when writing. I always listen to music. Period. Music has a huge influence on me. Certain bands helped me work through despair and challenges life has thrown at me. I’ve also had a lot of good times. We can’t throw parties at my house without music.
What songs or types of music did you listen to while writing this story?
I’m a sucker for Seattle bands, but I listened to ambient music during the writing of Grand Prize. One of my favorite songs is Move For Me by Kaskade and Samantha James.
Do you have a favorite genre? Is it the same genre you prefer to write?
I don’t really have a specific favorite. I read The Wolfen by Whitley Strieber years back and enjoyed the nice mix of contemporary, horror, suspense, and thrills. The story also has an unusual love story, but has its place.
I prefer to write of love and unworldly anythings, whether it’s horror, science fiction, or fantasy. It really just depends on whatever feels right as I write by the seat of my pants. J
Do you have a favorite author who introduced you to the genre?
Margarette Weiss and Tracy Hickman captured my heart in The Darksword Trilogy. They introduced me to Joram, a dark tortured hero with no magic in a magical world, and I fell in love. The story is absolutely amazing.
If you had to write your memoir in five words, what would you write?
Move west or die trying.
What do readers have to look forward to in the future from Kira Hillins?
I have another book coming out in the Fall.
I will be signing books at Wicked Ways Masquerade Ball in Baker City, Oregon on Halloween weekend with my friend, author Kimberly Adkins.
Thanks again for stopping by, Kira! Readers can discover more about Kira Hillins here:
Two hot men. Twice the danger.
Melanie Cranberry joined the dating service to meet a nice man, fall in love, and spend her nights cuddling in bed. Who knew that one five-dollar ticket for a raffle would win her two men instead of one? Now, per signed contract with Match Making For Happiness’s Sake, she’s required to go out on a date with each man to discover which will win her heart.
Prize number one, attorney Cage Niching, joined the dating service to find a woman to settle down with, or at least, to settle him down—after he finds out who murdered his friend. All he has to do is get admitted to the secret, invitation-only level of a certain sex club, and all he must do to get the invite is bring his Match Making date, Melanie Cranberry, prove they’re in love, and have sex with her in front of as many witnesses as possible. Which doesn’t look promising as long as her second date keeps hovering around her…
Prize number two, narcotics detective Victor Wine, wasn’t looking for a date. Desperate to get the drug that killed his girlfriend off the streets, he’s joined the dating service to get close to the woman who lives near the hangout of a major distributor. Only thing is, he actually likes the Cranberry woman, more than he wanted to. And now his investigation has put her right in the drug cartel’s sights. Keeping her out of harm’s way and playing the perfect date won’t be easy. And there’s something about her other date that raises his hackles…
An Excerpt from Grand Prize
“And the winner is—delectable Melanie Cranberry!”
Melanie palmed her forehead. She’d won. She’d dropped a five-dollar ticket in the raffle basket and actually won. Not one prize, but two.
Sure. She’d lucked out winning a dollar here and there on scratch-off lottery tickets. She’d even won a plush teddy bear and red rose during a Valentine’s Day giveaway at the local grocery store. But this?—this was the Best. Prize. Ever.
The few “woos” during the crowd’s applause brought her to her feet. With the sporadic fist pumps above heads and shouts for her to “go,” she might as well be the ball runner at a football game instead of Night on the Red Carpet.
That’s what the coordinator named this event. Night on the Red Carpet was an accurate name, because darkness had indeed settled on Seattle. Melanie had kicked her shoes off during the teriyaki chicken dinner. The crimson carpet’s soft fibers had tickled her bare feet as several glasses of Merlot slid down her throat.
Melanie had secretly come up with a more appropriate name for this night. Prom Night for the Dating Impaired. Each woman wore high heels with sexy, bosom-popping dresses that didn’t quite stretch down to their knees. Expensive jewelry dazzled on wrists. Necks. Fingers. Black eyeliner and mascara covered every batting eyelash in the room. Mega-hair product kept blond curls, red spikes, and midnight strands in place.
All the thick red lipstick reminded her of her senior prom. Her best friend had caked makeup on Melanie’s face. She’d dressed her in a tight, pink dress that barely stayed up over her breasts. When the guy she’d gone out with had kept his eyes low the entire night, she’d sworn to never wear anything like that again.
Melanie glanced down at her plain-Jane black dress. The white flower print around the skirt hung slightly below her knees. The square neckline covered the curves of her breasts well enough that she could be sitting at a church function instead of finding a man.
At least her hair stayed in place. She’d curled her long brunette hair with a flat iron this afternoon, and the curls held without an entire can of hairspray.
The one-inch heels on her feet were comfortable. She would’ve been just as happy in flats or flip-flops. If she could’ve gotten away with being barefoot, she’d have left her shoes at home.
She may not be red-carpet-ready like the rest of these ladies, but at least she was comfortable. Until they’d called her name to accept the grand prize, her clothes hadn’t mattered. Now she wished she’d dressed in something tighter and shorter. A dress that showed more cleavage.
All eyes were on her as she smoothed the wrinkles from her skirt. She shoved her curls behind her shoulders. After a quick puff of air through her parted lips, she headed toward the stage.
“I knew you’d win,” Samone announced as Melanie walked by.
Samone Hatchet. Best friend. Co-worker. Redheaded vixen. This was her doing. She’d convinced Melanie to join this venue. If anything, she owed her a huge thanks.
Melanie’s cheeks burned. “Thanks, Samone.”
“I’m jealous, Mel.” Gail, a lady she’d met at the beginning of this escapade, leaned forward. Her bright red lipstick matched her short, spiked hair and powdered eyelids. “If you need help deciding which one’s better, call me. I’ll test them for you. I’ll even test them at the same time.”
Melanie laughed. “Oh, I know you would, Gail.”
Gail’s mascara-caked left eye winked. “Go get ’em honey.”
Watching the pointed toes of her heels, Melanie stepped up on stage. As she walked across the platform, her gaze slinked to Barbara Condrell, Seattle’s Match-Making-For-Happiness’s-Sake’s coordinator.
Barbara stood between Cage and Victor, the two handsome men who had become Melanie’s prospects. They’d joined the group of single people the same time Melanie had and braved the entire program to become Barbara’s guinea pigs for this raffle.
Twenty people had met at Mistletoe Café, a small coffee shop on the corner of 4th and Spring. The huge front window of the building offered plenty of natural light for the ten men and ten women hoping to find true love.
Each couple sat through thirty-minute sessions, drinking coffee while talking about their lives. After one session, the women moved on to the next table until they’d chatted with all men. Next day the men moved through the tables.
This went on for four days.
Best four days of Melanie’s life.
Each man chose his woman. Each woman chose her man. Since Victor and Cage were the most popular items on the menu, they’d become Barbara’s raffle prizes.
Twenty-eight year old Cage Niching, lawyer at Niching and Company and heir to the Niching family wealth, came from generations of lawyers. The blue-eyed charmer knew how to talk, especially to the ladies.
She’d laughed throughout their chat sessions. He cracked little jokes and could practically carry on a conversation by himself. The man loved to talk about sex. Not that she minded. Sex was part of being in love. By Cage’s very outspoken word, he reallywanted to be in love.
Cage was rich. Good-looking. His love for lifting weights and exercise gave him the body of a hulking god. Like Thor, his lovely blond locks stretched down his neck and rested on his broad shoulders.
Cage liked dancing at nightclubs. That was a plus in her book. Grooving at Tattle’s Bar was one of her favorite pastimes. When he told her he loved walks on the beach and Sunday drives near his home in Normandy Park, she’d become smitten.
Now Cage stood on stage looking as comfortable as could be in front of a crowd. He screamed sexy in relaxed Levi jeans and a purple button-up shirt that fit snugly on his huge, muscle-y body. Tonight he’d slicked his hair back behind his ears to show off his perfectly chiseled jawline. Thor held nothing on this man.
He was hers for two nights. If she wanted him after this was over, all she had to do was say the word, and he’d be her man forever.
Melanie’s eyes shifted to prize number two.
There was strikingly handsome Victor Wine.
Victor stood, dressed to kill in a black, long-sleeve shirt and slacks. His fabulous six-foot three body towered above everyone else. Short, jet-black hair. Bangs stuck up in tufts. Hazel eyes shimmered under the hanging lights over the stage. Fair skin and a shadowed jaw gave him a sophisticated look—a “don’t mess with me, I’m a badass” look no woman in her right mind could resist. A sense of safety and danger was all wrapped up into one gorgeous package.
Victor spoke in a deep, soft tone. Gooseflesh had spread over her body during their chat sessions. Parts of her ached for his touch. Rather than meet his striking, stern eyes, she’d kept her attention on the dark-brown panels of the walls in the room. Or she’d watch his long fingers tap against the top of the bistro table. When she found the courage to meet his gaze, she’d calmed the urge to wrestle him to the floor as if he were one of the bad guys he chased down on his job.
Their second session was worse. Thoughts of Victor ripping her dress from her body had invaded her mind. Fantasizing about his mouth over hers, and those strong, warm hands fondling her flesh had made their conversation about his career as a detective non-existent. Handcuffs had worked into her daydream before his remarkable voice brought her back to the bistro table—back to her senses. That’s when she’d realized drool had pooled at the corners of her mouth.
His dark brows had furrowed. An incredible grin had spread across his face as he cupped her burning cheek with his soft, cool hand. He’d dabbed her wet lips with the white cloth napkin from their table, setting her entire body ablaze.
Victor was toned, not overly muscled like Cage’s colossal physique. Victor had no flaws. None she could see anyway. He was perfect. Sweet. Intelligent. Courteous. Drop-dead gorgeous.
Each man had their pros. Both were beautiful. Both had remarkable careers. But Melanie’s desires swayed toward Victor. It seemed too good to be true that she’d met someone like him at a dating service. He didn’t belong here like the others.
As Melanie neared the men, Cage ran his palm over his shiny hair. His large muscles flexed as he placed a bouquet of red roses in her arms.
“Congratulations, Melanie,” he said in her ear. “I’m glad you won me. You’re conservative, but easily the best-looking gal in the room.”
She sighed when Cage pressed his warm lips against her cheek. Great. Plain Jane played in her mind again. Maybe she should’ve taken Samone’s advice and worn the short, blue V-neck dress that showed the inner curves of her breasts.
Victor palmed her back. Her body shuddered as he handed her a bouquet of pink roses. He’d told her he loved to see a woman in pink and obviously meant what he’d said.
“Cage is an idiot.” Victor flashed a beautiful white smile. “You could be barefoot in pajamas, and I’d still think you were the most stunning woman in the room.”
Melanie breathed in Victor’s heavenly woodsy scent. The man smelled divine and had a way with words. He was indubitably perfect.
“Thanks, Victor,” she said with a dreamy sigh.
“I didn’t mean to be rude.” Cage shrugged his heavy shoulders, grin on his smooth tanned face. “I only meant it’s refreshing to see a woman dress with class and dignity.”
Victor’s brows lowered against his eyes. “She knew what you meant.”
Cage’s eyes slanted. “We know which guy she’ll pick when it’s all said and done.”
Victor chuckled. “Yeah. Me.”
“In your dreams, Wine.”
Melanie couldn’t stop the smile creeping across her face. Wow. Two guys were fighting over her. No. Two gorgeous men squabbled to win her affection. This was intense. Flattering.
Before Samone forced her to join this silly matchmaking service, Melanie had spent her nights in her little apartment with Fred. Not that she didn’t appreciate her fuzzy feline keeping her feet warm at night, but it’d be nice to have a man’s strong arms around her for a change. How lovely it’d be to have warm fingers stroking her skin, fondling her flesh in places that hadn’t been touched in…
Holy crap! Had it been an entire year since she’d had sex?
“Come on, people,” Barbara nudged. “Let’s get you three into my office to go over details.”
With Cage’s hand on her back and Victor’s on her shoulder, Melanie could’ve melted to the floor. Luck was on her side. Getting whisked off stage by her guys was an ultimate thrill. From now on, that’s what she’d call them. Her guys.
Barbara led them through the kitchen and into the manager’s office. “Sit down.”
Victor placed his hand on the back of the center chair the same time Cage did. Both men held out a free hand, offering Melanie help into the seat.
“I offered first,” Cage muttered as he grasped Melanie’s hand.
“Don’t be pushy with her,” Victor said with a growl. “Let the lady decide whose hand she wants to hold.”
“All right, boys.” Barbara rolled her blue cat-like eyes. “Just let her sit down. We have important things to go over before I let you three loose on each other. No innuendo intended.”
Melanie sat down on the folded-out chair. The soft velvety-green fabric of the seat cooled her heated bare legs. Her face burned as Victor sat on her right and Cage on her left. Both, in unison, scooted toward her. Sandwiched between them, she draped her right leg over her left knee and drew in a deep breath.
Cage folded his huge arms over his chest. “Go on, Barbara.”
Victor placed his hands on his knees. His left pinky gently rubbed the exposed skin beside her knee. She shuddered. God. That felt nice. How in the world would she get through this, when all she could think about was Victor’s hips moving against hers while Cage stood naked close to her head?
A short gasp escaped her parted lips. Oh my. Both men were in her daydream, waiting on a turn to be with her. Or was this the three of them together at the same time?
Melanie screamed inside. How could she think such a thing? She wasn’t that type of girl.
Melanie swallowed hard. “What do we do now, Barbara?”
Barbara doodled on a sheet of lined yellow legal paper as she spoke. “One date is chosen by the man. One chosen by Melanie. If you can’t do the math, that’s two dates each. Melanie will make her decision on who’ll be with who afterward.”
“Whom,” Cage said.
Barbara growled. “Whatever, Grammar Police. I shouldn’t have to remind you of the agreement you signed in your very binding contract, but I’m going to anyway. Our number one rule is sexual intercourse during these official dates is NOT allowed.”
“Damn, Barbara.” Cage belted out a laugh. “Get to the point.”
“I am getting to the point, Mr. Niching.” Barbara’s eyes slanted as she looked at Melanie. “The reason we don’t allow sex is because of fairness. Sex causes fights and arguments that lead to death threats and jealous rage by the other party.”
Cage let out a hefty grunt. “I’ve known Victor all my life. I think I would’ve already killed him if I’d wanted to.” His gaze turned to Melanie. “Of course, this lady may be worth dying for.”
Victor shrugged, a half-grin on his face. “Threatening a police officer is against the law.”
“Not like I can’t get myself out of jail if I have to.”
“Yeah. Forgot you’re golf buddies with all the judges in town. No wait…” Victor bumped Melanie with his elbow. “Cage’s daddy is buddies with the judges.”
“Screw you, Vic.”
“Enough,” Barbara said in a scolding tone. “Just…save your fun for when you’ve made your decision and your contract at MMFHS has expired.”
“To be honest, I’d be OK if she screwed Victor,” Cage said.
Melanie glanced up at him, shocked he’d say such a thing.
“I mean, at least I’d know you like him instead of me. I’d stop wasting time and money on something that isn’t going anywhere. Unless you like threesomes, Melanie. Do you like threesomes?” Cage’s brows arched as he stared at her.
Melanie’s mouth popped open but she couldn’t respond. That crazy daydream of the three of them came to mind. It was naughty to think about. Very, very naughty. A ménage would be immoral and wrong. Wouldn’t it?
Victor punched Cage’s arm. “Knock it off, Cage.”
“Read my lips, kids. Absolutely. No. Sex. Of any kind.” Barbara set her black ballpoint pen down on the paper. “We had a man here who liked one of the ladies. When he found out she’d done the nasty with one of the other men in the group, he took a baseball bat to the man’s noggin.”
“I remember that case.” Cage glanced at Victor. “The guy’s wife of ten years dumped him for another man. He took his pent-up rage out on the guy from the dating service.”
“Oh. He snapped and went straight to prison.” Barbara sighed. “We’ve learned to do a much better job at getting to know our clients before we allow them to join.”
“Exactly. You’ve done thorough background checks on us.” Cage glanced from Victor to Barbara. “You know what we do for a living.”
“I realize you both work in law. But when it comes to sex, all thought processes go out the window. I just can’t allow it.” She hemmed and hawed before continuing. “We’re following you on your dates with the video camera. The end of Melanie’s dates end up at her apartment to be taped. Victor’s date ends up at his apartment. And Cage…well, you get the point. If you slip up, and one of you has sex with the other, I’m sure you understand we will take action.”
“Video?” Melanie said. “Nobody said anything about a video.”
“It’s in your contract,” Barbara replied.
Cage squeezed Melanie’s hand. “It’s true, Mel. We consented when we signed the contract.”
Victor grasped her other hand. “You won’t even know it’s there.”
“Victor’s right.” Cage’s left brow arched. “Afterward, we’ll be free to do…whatever we want together.”
Melanie sighed. She could see it now, saying something stupid in front of the camera. Clumsiness was her worst enemy. Stage fright was something she’d never gotten over. There would be a million hits on YouTube with all the commenters laughing at her for tripping over a crack in the sidewalk and landing in the water fountain at the city’s park.
Scratch out romantic walks in the park.
The pier near the lake was definitely out.
A ferry ride? Forget it.
Well. At least she didn’t have to worry about anything leading to sex. She hated one-night stands, especially if she really liked the guy. That’d happened once, which was one too many times.
Tattle’s Bar wasn’t the best place to find a man to settle down with, though. It had great atmosphere for drinking with friends and dancing the night away. It was also a perfect place to find a guy to have a good time with.
Melanie was ready for something else. Something real. She wanted love. True love. A happy ever after kind of love. She was Cinderella and Victor or Cage could be her prince. All she needed was the proper attire and she could easily replace Drew Barrymore in the movie. She did have the same cat eyes, perky nose, and voluptuous lips.
Melanie laughed inside. This rule was a good thing. No sex. It’d just be four fun dates with two fantastic, relationship-type guys who looked too good to be true. They were her princes. Her protectors. All they needed to do was slide the right glass slipper on her foot. Whichever one measured up to her expectations would be the one she chose.
She glanced down at her hands. Victor’s thumb slid back and forth across her skin. Cage held her other hand. His grip was comforting. Strong. Both sent chills through her body, an ache she could barely contain.
Choose one man.
Oh boy. This was going to be a really tough decision.