December 24, 2012

Suspense: Cassandra by Starlight @SusanMacNicol7 #rlfblog

Cassandra by Starlight.

Susan Mac Nicol, welcome to Romance Lives Forever. Let's talk about your book, Cassandra by Starlight (The Starlight Trilogy).
Genre: Contemporary Romance Suspense
Publisher: Boroughs Publishing Group
Cover artist: Renee Yadaev
Length: 100,000+ words
Heat rating: Spicy
Tagline: A London woman is swept off her feet into the glamorous yet surprisingly dangerous world of an up-and-coming star of stage and screen.
Blurb: Unconventional though she may be, Cassandra Wallace leads the life of an average Londoner, from blind dates to rush hour traffic. Then, along comes Bennett Saville. Charming, erudite, the up-and-coming actor is like the hero of a romantic movie. He sets Cassie afire like he has the stage and screen, and defies the tragedy that brought them together. From the tips of his Armani loafers to their scorching hot first kiss, he’s perfect. Only, he’s ten years younger and from the upper class, and those emerald eyes invite dangerous secrets. The world is full of hungry leading ladies, and every show must have its villain. Yet a true romance will always find its happy ending.
What are your main characters' names, ages, and occupations?
Bennett Saville is the main male character. He is a London based actor, star of stage and screen, with his own TV series called ‘Gabriel.’ Bennett is 37 years old.
Cassandra ‘Cassie’ Wallace is a professional woman, who specializes in project managing process improvement for companies. She is 47 years old.


The day the sky fell changed Cassie Wallace’s world forever. She woke up that morning with the expectation that this day would be like any other. She also had a slight hangover from the abundance of wine she’d drunk the night before to try and get through a blind date organised by her work colleague, Sarah. The evening had been a total disaster. Not only had the man been an absolute misogynist, one of the cardinal male sins on Cassie’s unwritten list, he’d also had a habit of leering at her chest every time he spoke as if he thought it might talk back to him.
She’d smiled politely whilst thinking she’d like to take his smarmy public school tie and shove it down his throat. When she’d finally left at around eleven, she hadn’t been able to get away fast enough. She stood in her bedroom, checking her outfit in the mirror and sighed.
Was it too much to ask to find a decent man just to share things with and have a good time? They all seemed to be absolute idiots and in the old but true cliché, only interested in one thing.
Cassie had been out on a few dates in the past few months but somehow she never made it past the first one. A previous date gone wrong had told her she was too independent and perhaps a little bit ‘emotionally challenged, not affectionate enough’ for him. She’d shrugged this off but it had hurt her deep down especially as she knew it to be true.
My bloody expectations aren’t even that high, she thought in exasperation as she fastened her necklace. It’s not as if I’m such a great bloody catch myself! Middle-aged and not really all that exciting. I’ll take what I can get within reason.
Cassie smoothed her skirt down over her hips and picked up her handbag. When she left the house at six thirty, it was a typical dark English winter morning. Forty five minutes later she was sitting in the traffic on the motorway, listening to the news bulletin.
“Bloody idiot,” she mumbled in between bites of a banana that she had hastily grabbed on her way out. “He wouldn’t know a bloody budget if his life depended on it. Silly sod has got no idea how to run a bloody country.”
She crept forward in her Honda Jazz at about two miles an hour, watching the traffic in front which seemed to have ground to a halt for no reason at all.
I really need to try and find something closer to home, she thought, not for the first time.
This travelling lark is really starting to piss me off. Four hours a day in traffic is not my idea of time well spent.
Cassie wasn’t sure what other quality pastimes she’d be engaging in if she did have more free time, given her current ‘lack of male’ situation but she supposed she’d find something. Join a book club perhaps, or find more time to get to the gym. She might even start writing that novel she’d always planned on doing. Her fingers impatiently drummed on the steering wheel in time to a melody on the radio. In response to another bulletin by the newscaster regarding the level of binge drinking in the county, she burst into a further diatribe.
“For God’s sake, let the bloody idiots lay where they fall. If they had any brains they wouldn’t let it get that far so they needed an ambulance to take them to A and E. It’s my taxpaying money that’s looking after these morons!”
She glanced at the clock on the display. Seven thirty a.m. She’d be lucky to make it in on time today.
The story of my life, she thought resignedly. Slow death by traffic jam.
The traffic still seemed to show no signs of moving any time soon. She switched off the engine and took out her Kindle. She may as well catch up on her reading whilst she had nothing better to do. Her concentration span was low as she tried to read. Last night’s ‘date’ kept replaying itself in random snippets of conversation. Cassie could still hear Ron’s supercilious comment about women needing to have a man in their lives to keep them focused on what was important—the man and the provision of all his needs.
She’d almost choked on her wine when she’d heard this and only just stopped herself retorting sarcastically that as a man’s needs were so simple, the only ‘provision’ they really needed was a soft toy shaped like a pair of boobs to play with and talk at. As she had very little money in her purse other than her taxi fare home, she’d stopped herself.
After the hell she’d been through sitting and listening to Ron’s drivel, the least she’d make him do was pay for dinner.
Cassie had made a decision after last night. She’d stay home with her own company for the near future, with a bottle of wine and a couple of decent movies. She’d rather drool over a virtual Mark Harmon in NCIS than a real life douche bag like the Ronalds of his world. As for sex—well, that was what vibrators were made for.
It was nearly ten minutes later before the car in front of her re-started its engine and she followed suit and sped up to about twenty miles an hour as the queue took flight. She settled in as it got back up to the more respectable speed of fifty miles an hour. As she drove she glanced idly up at the foot bridges to see the people strolling with dogs, on bicycles and footing it on their way to work. At the bridge just ahead she saw a solitary figure leaning over looking down at the motorway below. She slowed down a little. Ever since those incidents a few weeks ago when someone had thrown a concrete bucket off the bridge at a passing car, she tended to be wary of people standing watching the traffic. The figure didn’t appear to have anything in its hands but then she had only caught a glimpse of it before turning her eyes back to the road. She increased her speed as the traffic flowed easier.
There was no warning, just a sudden deafening bang of metal as the windscreen of her car collapsed inwards. Cassie screamed in terror as glass flew towards her like wafer thin slivers from a frozen icicle. Her hands left the steering wheel in panic, her foot pressing down on the accelerator. The Honda Jazz went out of control, spinning around like a dirt dervish. Debris from the windscreen flew like lethal missiles around the interior of the car. Cassie cried out in pain as she was subject to a vicious assault by anything lying loose in her vehicle. She tried to cover her face in an instinctive reflex but her left arm seemed unresponsive, the pain horrifying. She whimpered as she glanced down and saw the bone shard sticking out.
In her pain and terror she didn’t notice that the car had stopped spinning. Everything went quiet. Cassie lay slumped in the driver seat, dazed and unresponsive as the shock set in. She could hear the sounds of people shouting and heard someone asking her if she was all right. She vaguely registered the sound of screeching metal as someone tried to pull the driver door open. It was as if everything was being done underwater. The sounds were muted and her brain was sluggish. The older man looking in at her from the road was speaking but she couldn’t hear what he was saying. Cassie looked at him blankly. She couldn’t see clearly, as if a can of fine red spray paint had been aimed at her and the nozzle depressed, coating her eyes. She tried to move her body but the pain in her right leg was excruciating.
The Magick of Christmas
She watched dully as the man outside starting pulling away metal struts and twisted the door to get inside to her. She could hear his voice vaguely now, a rough London Cockney accent as he spoke reassuringly whilst trying to free her.
“All right, darling? Just stay calm and I’ll try and get to you. The ambulance is on its way. They’ve told me not to move you so I just want to try get in and keep you company till they arrive. You look as if you could do with a bit of company. Just stay with me now. Don’t go anywhere.”
He smiled at her, trying to keep her reassured. With a final tug at the door, he made enough of a space to squeeze in slightly and he took her right hand, avoiding the bad condition of her left arm with its broken bone. Her hand was freezing and he rubbed it gently.


Tell us about your latest book, including its genre. Does it cross over to other genres? If so, what are they?
My latest books are a trilogy, contemporary Romance crossing over into Romantic suspense. The Starlight Series takes the story of Cassie Wallace and Bennett Saville from their first fateful meeting after a tragic accident, right up to just after the three years they are together and are finally tying the knot on an idyllic Fijian island. The incident bringing the two together is the suicide of Bennett’s younger brother, Eric, who throws himself off a motorway footbridge. Unfortunately, he lands on Cassie’s car, injuring her badly. Bennett feels responsible and goes to see Cassie in hospital. He’s intrigued by her looks, her compassion and her bravery in dealing with the incident. She in turn is struck by his youth, film star persona, his obvious demons and the fact that he seems to have no one he can really turn to. The couple strikes up a romance that transcends the age barrier and they find in each other a way to both appreciate each other and provide what the other needs.
What is the single most important part of writing for you?
That would be bringing the characters into a reader’s living room, writing scenes and dialogue that is both believable and real and helps the reader to identify with the characters and the situations they find themselves in. The greatest compliment for an author is to be told that a reader could really get into the minds of the characters and that the story line was well paced, i.e. they simply turn the pages as if it was a seamless read that flowed well and made the reader feel comfortable.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
Writing for me is not a hobby, it’s a passion. I’ve been writing for a long time, for my own pleasure, and it’s only since the Starlight Trilogy and getting my first book published that I’ve truly come to appreciate the magic that exists in sitting down and creating something that until then exists only in my imagination. The most incredible thing I can think of to do is take a name of my own creation and build a character about that until he or she seems almost real. I love to put them in situations that I’d either love to be in myself, or create one where I can control it and make the decisions that get them out of the predicament they find themselves in. It’s the most fun anyone can have in playing the Creator in your own little universe and knowing that it’s only fiction and you can make anyone do anything you want to.
I also enjoy the variation of writing different things and of being given the opportunity to showcase a different style. As well as writing these three novels, I also wrote a short story for my publisher’s ‘Lunchbox Romance’ line. These are short, fun stories designed to be consumed in the lunch hour. This new story, called ‘The Magick of Christmas’, was a little bit of whimsy created especially for the line and as I myself have a great interest in Wicca and love Christmas, it made sense to combine the two in a feel good contemporary Romance story about love and magick at Christmas time.
Where do you start when writing? Research, plotting, outline, or...?
I am a fly by the seat of your pants writer. I literally started out with Cassandra by Starlight using an Excel spreadsheet with half a dozen names on it, about five lines per character, defining age, look, what they did and a very brief description of their character. I had no idea when I started that Bennett’s mother was going to be schizophrenic, that Cassie had an ex-husband, that Bennett had a crazy stalker who was an former terrorist, or that he’d have a gay best friend called Dylan who’s quite an irreverent character. It all simply flew from the tips of my fingers onto the screen as the characters developed and I thought of the next line.
Research wise – for Cassandra there was a lot of research required, especially around the world of the theatre and movie-making, the issues of schizophrenia and stalking and of course, one of the most controversial topics in my book, the female on male rape scene. The latter was researched using case histories of people who had actually been subject to rape and in fact, after the book was published, the gentleman who wrote the original article that I used as the basis for my scene in the book, James Landrith, got in touch with me. It was a very moving moment to be able to communicate directly with the man whose grim experience formed some of the basis for my book.
What did you learn from writing your first book?
I learned that I knew nothing about formatting or writing for publication and about the nightmare of point of view and what not to do and how not to head hop. I’m still learning that one…
I also learned how a good editor was worth her weight in gold and one who worked with you and guided you, worth a lot more.
As for social networking and how to self promote - when I started writing these books in February this year, the only thing I had was a business LinkedIn account, gathering dust, and a very meager Facebook page. The mere mention of Twitter and tweets was enough to make me hiss like a vampire having a necklace of garlic thrust around her neck. But, as well as writing and doing the editing to make my stories suitable for publication, I had to get out there and learn everything I could about the art of social networking. I’m pleased to say I’ve got the knack of it, and I am beavering away valiantly to build my ‘community’ and draw readers into my books.
How do you balance a life outside of writing with deadlines and writing muses?
I work full time in the city of Cambridge which is about an hour’s drive from my home. I leave the house at seven in the morning and am back in around six p.m. I am very fortunate to have a very supportive family and to be honest, (and bear with me on this train of thought!) my saving grace (in my view, my mother and family would agree) is that I’m not really a domesticated animal. I don’t like cooking, I don’t bake and I will run like hell if an iron ever comes near me. I’ve always been a professional working woman, working long hours and have gotten used to this way of life. So having a husband and kids who can cook, and like to cook, to me, is an absolute boon and they are very happy to take up this mantle, which gives me the time from seven p.m. to midnight and sometimes longer, to write and retreat into the ‘bear cavern’ so called because my daughter has warned the family ‘not to poke the bear when she’s writing. She growls.’
What do you hope readers take with them after reading your work?
My biggest desire for a reader is to simply enjoy the moment and live in the world I’ve created and feel comfortable doing so. I want readers to almost feel bereft when they finish my book, to feel as if they want more. If they think about the characters and the events after they’ve put down the book, even if it’s just a day or two afterwards, and I accomplish this, then I think I’ve done what I set out to do.
If money were not an object, where would you most like to live?
I have always wanted to live in a country manor where there is a lot of land and a lake and I can simply spend my days writing in my huge, book-laden study. This could be either here in England or in France. I’ve never been to France but one of the places I would truly love to go is Carcassonne in the south of France. I became entranced with this place when reading Kate Mosse’s ‘Labyrinth’ and ‘Sepulchre’ and I think a beautiful castle overlooking this area would suit me down to the ground.
If you were a tool, what would people use you to do?
I would definitely be a blunt instrument as that describes me so well. I suppose a hammer is the best fit.
Picture yourself as a store. Considering your personality and lifestyle, what type of products would be sold there?
Comfortable clothing that made you feel warm and fuzzy, chocolate of any description, books, anything geeky like smart phones, tablets, gadgets, time machines, holographic devices, Benedict Cumberbatches, (an English actor I have a particular passion for), anything to do with magic or witches, chunky costume jewellery that sparkled in a myriad of colours and a selection of really sexy men to pander to my every need when the Cumberbatch is having a well deserved rest.
If you came with a warning label, what would it say?
This item is hard wearing and tough, has a tendency to switch off when in writing zone mode and can prove extremely fractious when disturbed.

Please Fill in the Blanks

I love pizza with bacon.
I'm always ready for bedtime.
When I'm alone, I live in my own head.
You'd never be able to tell, but I am actually listening to you.
If I had a halo it would be a little tarnished.
If I could time travel I'd go back and catch Jack the Ripper.
I can never give up because I’m driven.
Susan MacNicol

Books Coming Soon

Books 2 and 3 in the Starlight trilogy – tentatively titled ‘Together in Starlight’ and ‘Starlight and Promises.’
‘Saving Alexandria’ – a novel about a flawed woman who finds an unexpected and sexy saviour who helps her overcome both her fears and the demons from her past.
Currently working on another Lunchbox Romance short story

Find Me Here

Cassandra by Starlight Facebook page


  1. Kayelle, I know this is a bit late and I'm a little confused (not unusual) but I left comments for all the posts for Boroughs and I can't seem to see these reflected on any of them. I'm not sure what went wrong but I wanted to let you know I was really glad to be featured on your blog and appreciated the opportunity. It's great having people like you out there helping authors like me to promote their work.

  2. Kayelle, thank you so much for show casing me on your wonderful blog. The opportunity, as always, is very much appreciated.


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