Maggie Blackbird

Romancing Canada's Indigenous People

Today, I have USA Today and national bestselling author Anna J. Stewart in the interview chair.  We’re discussing her latest release Exposed, book one in the Circle of the Red Lily series, a romantic suspense.  Be sure to read my review.  And don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway.

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1. What/who are your top ten favourite books/authors?

Anna:  Only ten?! Top of the list: Nora Roberts/JD Robb (she’s why I got hooked on romance back in the day). The entire In Death Series is my favorite of all time. Stephen King (The Stand and Carrie). Dean Koontz (The Watchers and Lightning). Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God). Sherrilyn Kenyon/McQueen (Night Play) Jayne Anne Krentz (everything she’s written, LOL). Allison Brennan’s thrillers are always must-reads. Melinda Curtis and Cari Lynn Webb (two of my best friends, but I love their books). Seriously…I could go on forever.

2. What book do you think everyone should read?

Anna:  The Stand. It’s quite possibly one of the best books ever written, IMO.

3. How long have you been writing?

Anna:  I started when I was fourteen, so… almost forty years! Yikes.

4. Do the characters all come to you simultaneously or do they come to you as you write?

Anna:  I often have characters pop up while I’m writing a story. One of the reasons I don’t plot—I love surprises both story-wise and character-wise.

5. What kind of research do you do before you begin writing a book?

Anna:  Depends on the book. I like to use different types of jobs, unexpected careers or living situations. I’m more of a research as I go kind of person unless, like in EXPOSED, I had a lot of work to do getting a feel for Los Angeles and Hollywood. Happily, that meant watching a lot of movies!

6. Do you see writing as a career?

Anna:  Absolutely. It’s what I was meant to do and it’s my dream job.

7. What do you think about the current publishing market?

Anna:  I wish publishers would take bigger chances on authors’ ideas. But it is what it is. I’m glad authors have so many options these days. For me, traditional publishing was always my goal and it continues to be, but knowing self-pubbing is out there should I choose it? That’s a good thing.

8. Do you read yourself and if so what is your favourite genre?

Anna:  Not as much as I used to, but I’m a lifelong romance fan. Second is thrillers/suspense and horror.

9. Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?

Anna:  I actually listen to one CD and have for years. It’s a mix of instrumental music with ocean sounds. It drops me into my zone almost immediately. I find it hard to write without it, actually.

10. Do you write one book at a time or have several going at a time?

Anna:  Once upon a time I’d write one at a time, but in recent years I’ve had to write more at a time. I think I was working on three different books while writing EXPOSED. Necessary to meet those deadlines!

11. Pen or typewriter or computer?

Anna:  Laptop, but I love the sound of a typewriter and when I get stuck, I shift to pen and paper. Different part of the brain, LOL.

12. What made you want to become an author and do you feel it was the right decision?

Anna:  When I first started reading romance, I would often change what I wanted to be when I grew up—or what major I’d choose in college. It finally occurred to me that as a writer, I could be anything for the length of time it took me to write a book. I could be all the things! It was absolutely the right choice for me. I can’t imagine doing anything else.

13. Do you have any advice to offer for new authors?

Anna:  Write and read. That’s really what it comes down to. Also, embrace your own thing. Write what you love. Read what you love and what anyone else thinks about either does not matter. You’re the only one who can walk your path. You may as well love what you’re doing while you’re doing it.

14. What makes a good story?

Anna:  From a writer’s perspective, I’d say character motivation and internal conflict. Both of those elements create growth for characters and a place for the story to go. Without them? There’s no story to tell.

15, What is your writing process?

Anna:  I don’t plot, but I have a general idea of where the story is going. I know what the conflict is between the hero and heroine. I know the changes they need to undergo to earn their happily ever after. For example, in EXPOSED, Riley has serious issues with the police, both from personal experience and from witnessing certain actions over the years. It made sense to pair her off with a cop because it would challenge her belief systems and be a catalyst for change. So if I know issues like that, it’s really all I need to start the story. I also write from word one, chapter one, straight through. I can’t skip around. Kudos to those who can, but nope. Tried it. It was a disaster, LOL.

16. What are common traps for aspiring writers?

Anna:  Assuming another author’s process is going to be your process. I’m a firm believer in every author finding what works for them. By experimenting. By just sitting down and writing. As many authors as there are out there, that’s how many ways there are to write a book. No one’s process is wrong, nor will one person’s process work for someone else. Dig deep and find what does work for you and embrace it.

17. What is your writing Kryptonite?

Anna:  I’m Dory on speed. Seriously, I can be distracted by fluff in the air. The closer I get to deadline, the better and more focused I get, but I will literally clean the kitchen or do laundry before I get my butt in the chair.

18. Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

Anna:  Absolutely. I always want to create something a reader hasn’t seen before. I don’t want to be predictable, although sometimes that’s really difficult to avoid. If I end up with a cliché, I’ll be the one to point it out and laugh at it myself before anyone else can. But I do always strive for orginality.

19. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Anna:  Stop playing around and get to work! I don’t think I was ready to be published before I was, but I do wish I’d gotten there sooner.

20. What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from other genders?

Anna:  Keeping it realistic. My heroes are definitely idealistic and romanticized—it’s how I like to think a lot of men actually are. But I always have to keep in mind that men aren’t talkers by nature—makes writing conversations and relationships quite difficult, LOL.

21. How long on average does it take you to write a book?

Anna:  Most of my Harlequins are about 70,000 words. And I do track as I write. On average, they take me 34 days, writing 3-4 hours 5 days a week. Books like EXPOSED are longer—I think it came in at just over 102,000? I believe it took 40 days using the same schedule.

22. Do you believe in writer’s block?

Anna:  Before Covid, I didn’t. Since? Yep. Production is reliant on focus and attention. Uncertainty and stress kills both, LOL. But I also think there’s emotional writer’s block, when the words just aren’t there and you have to set it aside, and then there’s story writer’s block—when you literally come to a dead stop and have no idea where to go with the plot. Usually, that means I’ve dropped the conflict, so I do a quick read to see where it vanished. Nine times out of ten, I find it, go back and pick it up and the block resolves itself.

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Title: Exposed
Series: Circle of the Red Lily, Book 1
Author: Anna J. Stewart
Genre: Romantic Suspense

Some secrets should stay buried…

Blurb:  Working as a Hollywood photographer means Riley Temple has seen it all, but that theory is put to the test when she finds herself staring at the chilling image of a dead woman. When her questions about the film’s origin results in an assault, a murder, and an attack on Riley herself, she finds herself reluctantly turning to the only person who assures her he can help: Detective Quinn Burton. Her history with the LAPD is complicated, but to find those responsible for harming her friends and to protect those closest to her, she’s willing to do anything. Even trust a cop.

After more than a decade on the job, Quinn Burton knows a dangerous situation when he sees it and Riley Temple is neck deep in trouble. But not for the reason she thinks. Those pictures she stumbled onto could very well overturn a notorious murder conviction–a conviction partially secured by Quinn’s own police commissioner father. Quinn has always prided himself on being loyal, but seeing this case through means he’ll have to betray someone: his job, his family, or the woman he’s falling in love with.

As Quinn and Riley’s relationship deepens, their investigation reveals the false conviction is only a small part of a much bigger conspiracy. They soon find themselves targeted by The Circle of the Red Lily, a secret society that for decades has maintained influence and violent control over Hollywood’s powerful elite. A group that, until now, has remained hidden in the shadows.

A group that will stop at nothing to keep their secrets buried.

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I read and reviewed a previous novel by the author, so when this came up for review, I was in.  Anna J. Stewart is an excellent writer.  She really brings it home with her writing, so I couldn’t wait to dive into her latest novel.

Riley is part of old Hollywood.  She lives with her eccentric Aunt Moxie.  Works as a paparazzo.  And doesn’t trust cops.  They’ve done her and her family wrong in the past, so they can all take a hike.

Quinn is from a history of cops.  He’s a generational cop, and good at his job.  As flighty and quick-acting as Riley is, Quinn likes to weigh his options and use logic over emotion.  These two make a great pairing when they have to work together to solve a murder.

The title is very appropriate and catchy.  Great job, author.  Not only is Riley a photographer, but when a photo is exposed, it also sets the ball rolling.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  The meet-cute is wonderful.  She’s there when a dear friend is hurt, and Quinn is present as the lead detective investing the case.

The plot is strong.  As well as the mystery.  Little by little, everything becomes exposed.  The vibe is noir, something I enjoy because I read another romantic suspense with that same feel, and the author did a great job presenting old Hollywood meets modern day.  The same for the prologue.  It also sets the vibe.  I hate prologues.  Really, I do.  But this one shows a prologue should be done, and when to have one.  Right from the start, the author sucks a reader in for the ride.  And it’s quite the rollercoaster.

The setting is also told well.  I really felt like I was in Hollywood, running around with Quinn and Riley.  The cast of characters is used very well, too.  They add to the plot of the novel, along with aiding Riley and Quinn in unravelling the mystery.

I do have a quibble with some of the conversations that do lead off-track.  I will admit I tend to skim that kind of stuff if it’s not pertinent to the plot.

Yes, not everything is wrapped up at the end since this is a series, so I’m guessing it’ll be part of the arc, but it has a satisfying ending of Riley and Quinn completing what they set out to do.

It’s a great first book in the series.  I recommend you give it a read.  The author, as I keep saying, is an excellent writer.  She really nails the voice for the novel, the tone, and her characters.  The same for her dialogue.  It is fresh and true to each character’s personality.  Do yourself a favour and get a copy.

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A geek at heart, USA Today and national bestselling author Anna J Stewart writes “refreshingly unique, quietly humorous, and profoundly moving romance.” (RT Book Reviews) Her books include The Butterfly Harbor series for Harlequin Heartwarming, along with the Blackwell continuity series. She also writes the Honor Bound series for Harlequin Romantic Suspense and has written in the ongoing Colton family saga. As her first love is paranormal romance, she’s published a number of novellas, including the Tome Wardens trilogy collection. EXPOSED, her first book of The Circle of the Red Lily romantic suspense series with CAEZIK Romance will be released in November of 2022. Readers can get a taste for what’s to come with her Nemesis Files Trilogy (light romantic suspense), available on audio through Scribd.

NYTimes bestselling author Brenda Novak says “The talented Anna J Stewart delivers every time!”

Anna lives in Northern California where she deals with a serious Supernatural & Jason Momoa addiction, surrounds herself with friends and family and tolerates two devious cats named Sherlock and Rosie.

Follow Anna:  Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Bookbub | Amazon | Goodreads

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5 thoughts on “Anna J. Stewart – Exposed

  1. Debbie P says:

    This sounds like an excellent read.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beatrice LaRocca says:

    Thank you for sharing your review of Exposed, the author’s guest post, bio and book details, this sounds like an excellent read and I am looking forward to it

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Diana Hardt says:

    It sounds like a really interesting book. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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