Today, I have author Nikki Ali in the interview chair. We’re discussing her latest release Book of the Flower Garlands, book one in the Archeologists in Love series, an erotic m/m romance. Don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway.
1. Hi, Nikki. First off, readers have an idea of the writer you, but what about the everyday you? Can you share about your personal life?
Nikki: Hi! Yeah, I’d be glad to, great question! 🙂 I’m based in Newark, NJ, in the US, and I live with my wonderful partner and our kitty-cat. I love to dance and do yoga and other forms of movement and exercise. I’m also a giant hedonist who loves food, dessert, and shopping for beautiful art. 😉
2. Your latest novel is Book of the Flower Garlands, book one in the Archaeologists in Love. Can you tell me what inspired you to create a series about archaeologists?
Nikki: Yeah! In my professional incarnation, I’m a university professor, ancient historian, and archaeologist. So getting to write erotic romance about archaeologists, set in some of my favorite places in the world, is a real bridging of two sides of who I am. (As a Gemini, btw, I have soooo many sides to me! 😉
3. When first developing Book of the Flower Garlands, why did you decide on a May/December romance?
Nikki: Oooh, another great question! I love to play with anything that’s considered taboo. I also believe that love can grow for anyone, at any age, and in any kind of pairing. May/December romances help me play with a lot of those delicious, juicy edges, and also to send out that hopeful message that love really is for ALL of us.
4. What kind of research did Book of the Flower Garlands involve?
Nikki: Book of the Flower Garlands contains a lot of my knowledge of the setting, archaeology, and history of Athens, Greece, and some other lovely spots in the Mediterranean. These are places very close to my heart, and ones that I’m thrilled to be able to share with my readers.
5. Let’s talk about the main character Hassan Elsayed. What do you love most about him and what makes you want to shake him?
Nikki: Ha! You’ve got great questions here. I love that Hassan is willing to take a chance on a really unexpected romance at a time in his life when he thought maybe that possibility was closed to him. But I want to shake him during all the moments when he fears that he is “not worthy” of that kind of love. So I love getting to see his emotional transformation in that area throughout the course of this novel.
6. The same for the nineteen-year-old boy. What do you love most about him and what makes you want to shake him?
Nikki: Aww! So Marco, the nineteen-year-old love interest of Hassan, is one of my favorite characters that I’ve ever written, and he’s a reader favorite too. 😉 He’s a very complex person with a lot of layers. I love his incredibly sweet heart and that, even as he in some ways moves far away from the place he came from, both emotionally and geographically, he still tries to hold on to who he is. But he also sometimes takes himself too seriously and has a bit of a savior complex. Those are the elements of his personality that make me want to shake him.
7. Without giving away any spoilers, what was your favourite scene to write and why?
Nikki: Oooh, love this one too! I really love writing scenes of nightlife: dancing, partying, the sensuality of eating a luxurious meal… and everything that comes after, once you arrive back home. 😉 There are a couple of really delicious nightlife scenes in this book.
8. If a reader asked you why they should read Book of the Flower Garlands, what would you tell them?
Nikki: Flower Garlands is here to remind us that love is for everybody, in every body. It’s warm and delicious and sweet, and set in one of the most beautiful, and most ancient, and most magical, places on earth. Give it a try! 😉
9. What can we expect from you in the future? Care to share about your current WIP?
Nikki: Oh, yeah! I’ve got a whole lot going on, WIP-wise! So I run a small boutique publishing service, Mistress M’s Community Publishing House (MMCPH; follow me @mistressmwriter for all the news on that front!), and I’m working on some anthologies and collabs with other writers there that I’m very excited about.
The second book in my Archaeologists in Love series, tentatively titled Book of Circles and Triangles, is currently in the editing process and will be released in 2023!
And I’m currently working on a brand-new queer erotic romance. It’s set in the same story universe as Flower Garlands, but with different characters and a whole ‘nother linguistic and aesthetic flavor. I can’t wait to share more about that in the near future!
10. I enjoy doing random questions, so humour me:
- What’s your favourite movie?
So I actually… don’t like movies?! Haha! I’m at such a disadvantage with my students, who are always referring to movies and other pop culture stuff in class that I have never heard of before…
- What book is currently in your e-reader?
I’m currently reading this hilarious and satirical book called The Goddess Effect, by Sheila Yasmin Marikar. It’s kind of a spoof of the “wellness” industry—which, as I’m a total hedonist who also loves to work out, is like right up my alley.
- Who’s your favourite musical group?
My musical tastes are a bit eclectic, I suppose. I love Middle Eastern music, both pop and classical. (I’m a belly dancer, so that tracks!) I also enjoy listening to EDM while writing. I used to be a HUGE goth metalhead in my younger years, so black & death metal will also always have a place in my dark little heart. 😀
- What song puts a smile on your face?
My current favorite song is “Aicha,” by the rai musician Cheb Khalid. I listen to it every time I sit down at my writing desk/altar to write!
11. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Nikki: Just a big ole thank you! Thanks for this brilliant interview, and for promoting me on your blog! Thanks to all my readers, reviewers, and supporters! All this used to only be a dream… and now it’s a dream come true! Love to you all.
Title: Book of the Flower Garlands
Series: Archaeologists in Love, book #1
Author and Publisher: Nikki Ali
Tropes: Forbidden love, first times, age play
Themes: Coming out, intimacy & vulnerability
Release Date: November 16, 2021
Genre: Erotic M/M romance
Length: 118 000 words / 347 pages
Heat Rating: 5 flames
A steamy MM erotic romance of first times & lush settings. Will these unlikely lovers find a way?
Blurb: Hassan Elsayed wants to find himself and follow his dreams–at fifty-four, he’s about two decades too late, but who’s counting, really? He’s left his hometown of Luxor, Egypt for Athens, Greece, and fulfilled his lifelong dream of becoming a writer.
Now, he’s hungry for love. The woman he’s loved for half his life has married someone else. When Hassan meets a beautiful nineteen-year-old boy one summer, their attraction and chemistry are instant, insistent, and impossible to ignore. But it’s his first time with another man, and Hassan is terrified to step into this new fire. Will he let himself be engulfed by the flames? Will he open his heart to this unlikely love he never saw coming?
Note: It is not a standalone book. It is the first to be published in its series. It ends with a sort of “happily-for-now.”
Set in the lush, sun-drenched Mediterranean summer, to the backdrop of the ancient ruins of Athens, Book of the Flower Garlands weaves a warm, romantic story of sex, sensual pleasures, first loves and first times.
In the evening, Marco and I take a long, slow walk around Kolonaki as the sun is setting. My neighborhood is quiet, steep, cobblestoned. Some parts are narrow and rambling and old, some are lit up, gilt-edged, gleaming with signs for Prada and Gucci. There are trendy new restaurants and the older tavernas, like the one where I work. Young people are drinking cappuccinos at the coffee shops, tourists are taking endless photos of the sunset. I have tried to make this city home.
We decide to walk up Mount Lycabettus. It’s often part of our morning running route, but then it is an opportunity for hill work, not a site for its own enjoyment. Tonight we take a leisurely pace. Children from a family of German tourists scramble up the hill around us. We stop to admire the intricate patterns on the doors of the church on Lycabettus, delicate black tracery on glass, illuminated from within by warm golden light.
“These old churches almost make me wish I were Christian,” I tell Marco.
“I see what you mean,” he says softly, his eyes traveling over the shape of the church, the little white dome on top and the crowning cross.
On an impulse we decide to have dinner at the restaurant near the summit. “I’ve always wanted to eat here,” I say.
“Then let’s eat here,” Marco says, shrugging. He stops. “Let me treat you.” “Sweetheart. You don’t have to.”
“Let me. You’re always paying for stuff and cooking for me and taking care of me. Let me take you to just one dinner at a place you’ve always wanted to go.”
“Okay,” I say. I’d say my Arab ancestors were turning in their sandy desert graves, but surely those venerable old men have long since abandoned me. I am head over heels for a boy less than half my age.
Our breath is duly stolen by the view at our table, placed right at the edge of the mountain, beside a low stone wall. It’s twilight, and every moment the light flees, bleeding from the sky. That has its own bittersweet significance, but then, as the night grows blacker, the lights begin to glow to their fullest perfection. The neighborhoods are tiny handfuls of houses, each block outlined with veins of dark green summer trees. The lights are coming out like the stars we cannot see, like the lanterns the white-shirted waiters come out and set on each table. In the far distance we can see the softness of the sea, in the middle distance the magic radiance of the Parthenon sprawled on the acropolis.
“My God,” Marco says. “I will remember this view for the rest of my life.”
Nikki Ali creates high-quality erotica where love is for everyone, dreams come true, and sensuality is an integrated part of our life.
Nikki is also the editor-in-chief of Mistress M’s Community Publishing House (MMCPH), a new, boutique-style, full-service small publishing house founded on the principles that no matter what our hearts desire to create, there is an audience seeking it; that, by putting our work out into the world, our audience will find us; and that there IS space in the marketplace for the offerings of our hearts.
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