It’s my pleasure to welcome the luscious Lily Harlem to A Hopeful Romantic today to share with us some of her inspiration for her hot novel, Shared, and to talk about how she finds inspiration in general. Welcome, Lily! It’s great to have you.
Hi KD, and thanks so much for inviting me over today to chat about what inspires me to write my books. It has been an interesting topic to mull over before getting around to sitting down and writing this post. It’s really made me think about the everyday things that produce the seed of a story and then go on to feed and water it.
I find it easy to recall my inspiration for some books. For example, Shared, my debut novel at Ellora’s Cave, came about from flicking through the local newspaper. For some reason, and it wasn’t because I needed a place to live, I glanced through the letting section. I came across an advert – Room to Let – Wanted girl to share. Well, me being me, with my dirty mind, I thought, what if that is literal, what if, two hunky guys actually do want a girl to share? And that was all it took. The story grew from there, beginning with creating a situation where a girl, Ariane, would find herself homeless in Cardiff and on their doorstep, and then working out the reasons why these two hot, successful men needed to share a woman, why they couldn’t have one of their own? So for that novel, that was all it took – a line in a newspaper. I wonder what the person/people who placed that advert would think if they knew it had inspired such a racy ménage story, with a sequel!
I have a series called Hot Ice, all about the bad boys of ice hockey. Inspiration for these books is simple – I lust after hockey players! They are so damn big, so fast, sexy and talented. Phew! The sport is getting bigger and bigger in the UK and I follow the Cardiff Devils, they are every bit as hot as their US counterparts, they just don’t get as much attention; that suits me, I don’t have to share as much. However, having a hunky hero does not make a novel. I had to add in a heroine and of course a plot. For my first book in this series, Hired, that came in the form of one scene spinning around my head like a day dream. It was a gorgeous couple on a paradise island, the perfect beach and every luxury you can imagine, but there was a secret, a secret between them that hung like a black cloud over their relationship.
Eventually I decided the secret was that she was being paid to be there, not to have sex with him, but being paid to keep him company, yet, because they were now having sex, what would that make her? Once I had that idea all I had to do again, like Shared, was think up the situation that would have landed her and him, in this situation. Hired was great fun to write, and a character from that story, you’ve guessed it, another hot hockey player, goes on to be the hero in Cross-Checked the second book, and again, a player who has been a secondary character in both the first two novels goes on to be the star of Slap Shot, the third book. I am currently working on the fourth in this series, and have gone back to my roots and heading down the ménage route again.
I have also, recently, been writing with the hugely talented Natalie Dae. We already have one contracted novel due for release next year, That Filth Book, and decided to write another. The way we start a book together is a bit like the game you probably played as a kid, when you fold up a piece of paper, someone draws the head, it gets folded over, someone else adds the body, the legs and so on. Then, when we have a good grip on our characters and a rough idea of the plot, we take it in turns with each chapter, but the middle and the end is not set in stone, we let the story take us away, like a white-water ride down a fast flowing river, and see where we ends up. For our latest book, it was my turn to do the first chapter. I pondered for several days, knowing Natalie was waiting, and then when I was researching a blog post I came across this picture.
Slightly creepy perhaps? Not much to see but a lot for an over active imagination to ponder on, and my-oh-my – what a sexy shin. I can’t tell you much more about this book at the moment, except he is our hero, but I wanted to share the fact that from a single picture, 60,000 words of erotic romance can grow.
Another area of inspiration for me is music. Lyrics and tunes often are a background to the emotions of a character, even if I never write the lyric down, the sentiment, or the meaning behind it, can be a core part of my hero or heroines needs/focus. It helps me to keep coming back to what it is they really want, how they feel and what keeps them strong when everything goes wrong.
Recently Total-E-Bound asked me to write for their new Bollywood series. It worked out very well for me, because when the email came through I actually was in Asia. However, since I was having some quality time with the delectable Mr. Harlem (who by the way is a constant source of inspiration!) I didn’t start writing until I returned home. I had an idea in my head, a girl who secretly wrote a BDSM column for a guy’s magazine, I say secretly because she lives in Mumbai and this second job would not have been at all acceptable to her family. The story grew from there, but it wouldn’t have become nearly as vibrant if it wasn’t for the wonders of the internet and all the information I gleaned about Hindu weddings. Also it was further enhanced by my crit reader who loved certain parts of the story which I then expanded and worked on. The Unwholesome Adventures of Harita is just out at Total-E-Bound.
So I guess in summary, and I won’t subject you to the inspiration behind all my books, ideas for me, that very first spark, light-bulb moment, come from a variety of places. I can’t force an idea arrive, and it would be easy to panic and scream ‘writers’ block’ when one book is finished and the next is waiting to happen, but I know that either from a newspaper, a picture, a song, a day dream, or just a day to day life experience will be all it takes. Something simple usually, but with a whole lot of potential, that’s all it takes and then I am off, typing away, ignoring the housework, racing through life until I can get back to my characters and get their stories down.
Thanks so much for letting me natter on today, KD, and I hope your readers found my thoughts interesting. And if anyone wants to share where their inspiration comes from, I would love to hear it.
Struggling artist Ariane Arlington flees the Welsh valleys after exposing her corrupt boss. But when the sun rises she finds herself jobless and homeless in Cardiff city with barely a penny to her name.
She responds to an advert in the local paper—Room to let, wanted, girl to share. What she doesn’t realize is that the two insanely gorgeous guys who live in the penthouse apartment really do want a girl to share, in every sense of the word. Fortunately for Ariane, rent is the last thing on their minds.
She discovers the men are bound together by a turbulent past. Liam, a computer whiz, keeps a painful secret hidden beneath his buff exterior, whilst Quinn, a pioneering neurosurgeon, wonders if he’ll ever meet a woman who can live with his controlling ways. They admit the one thing missing from their lives is a woman just like Ariane, who can handle them both in and out of the bedroom and who, together, they can keep satisfied, loved and most of all, safe.
An Excerpt From SHARED
Suddenly I was there. I exploded and shouted out his name. My body jerked and my spine arched. Quinn wrapped his free hand around my shoulders, held me tight as he continued to drive into me, eking out every last tremor of my glorious release. I felt another surge of wetness as my internal muscles pumped around his wickedly expert hand, and then I was panting, desperate for air and looking up at his face silhouetted by the bright ceiling light.
He was staring at me, not smiling, just wide-eyed. “Stunning,” he said. “You’re so responsive, so delectably reactive I can hardly believe it.”
“It’s been quite a while,” I confessed, dragging in lungfuls of oxygen and becoming aware once more of my surroundings. The marble really was hard and very cold on my naked behind.
Suddenly another deep, male voice ricocheted around the kitchen and invaded our private moment. “Glad you two are getting on so well.”
I looked around Quinn’s shoulder at the kitchen doorway. Liam stood, arms folded, feet apart, as he surveyed us draped over the marble island he’d designed.
“Hey,” Quinn said, turning but making no move to take his fingers from inside me.
My heart leapt and I pushed frantically against him. Prickles of mortification swept through the very core of my being as I squirmed and finally rid myself of his invasion. slid ungracefully from the island and tugged up my jeans. I heard a whimper of embarrassment escape my lips, squeezed shut my eyes and prepared to take flight.
“Hey,” Quinn said, reaching for me. “Ariane.”
“No.” I shrugged him off and sidestepped.
But it was no good. He was too strong and too quick. He scooped me against his chest and bent his head to my ear. “Ariane,” he said again, curling his arms around me in a vise-like grip. “It’s okay, really.”
“I have to go.” I twisted my neck away from where Liam stood. My heart was threatening to burst right out of my chest. He would think I was a tart, a whore, a slut. I’d been giving off serious signals of interest to him only hours ago and now he’d come out of his office to discover me sprawled wantonly over his breakfast counter being hand-fucked by his flatmate. “I can’t stay, not now, please, let me go. I have to go.”
I pushed against Quinn with all my strength and shoved backward, but something caught me. Not something, someone. Liam. Suddenly I was trapped between two rock-hard chests and surrounded by four determined arms.
“Don’t go,” Liam said into my ear. “I’m not mad at you.” He spoke with such softness that instantly my eyes filled with emotion. “I want you to stay.”
“We want you to stay,” Quinn added.
I felt a drip of shame spill over my lower lid.
“Why are you sad?” Quinn asked, tipping my chin. “I thought I just made you fly.”
“You did, but…” I dropped my head into the palms of my hands. “But I’m so embarrassed, you’ve been so kind, so helpful and you don’t even know me, somewhere to stay, clothes, food.” A juddering sob broke free. “And I’ve repaid you by behaving like a whore.”
“Absolutely not,” Quinn confirmed. “What you just did made us both very happy and we won’t have you corrupting it.”
My mind was reeling. What on earth were they on about? I had just made them ”both” very happy with my terrible display of sluttiness? “I behave like a loose-moraled tart and that makes you happy?” I asked, stunned, taking my hands from my shame-stained cheeks.
“If you say that again, or anything like that,” Quinn said in a decidedly dangerous growl by my ear, “I will put you over my knee and spank that sexy little ass of yours, Ariane.”
My mouth dropped open in shock as my body trembled at the kinky suggestion.
Liam took full advantage of my open mouth and suddenly he was kissing me, gently and slowly but with a harnessed passion that had me opening for more in spite of my confusing predicament. He cranked up the heat, our teeth touched briefly and then he delved his tongue into my mouth and began devouring me like a starving man. He tasted different to Quinn’s dark, chocolate heat. He was lighter, fresher, like he’d not long since brushed his teeth. But he was equally delicious, equally sexy, equally hot.
Quinn brushed my hair to one side and began to rain kisses onto the supersensitive part of my neck, just below my ear. I groaned in appreciation and curled my fingers into Liam’s t-shirt to hang on. Two pairs of hands began to roam my body, dipping into my waist, smoothing over my butt and thighs, reaching for my breasts.
Quinn’s erection prodded at the small of my back at the same time Liam’s hit my stomach.
I snapped my mouth away. What was I doing? What the hell was going on? My sudden movement caught them both off guard and I was able to slip free.
“No,” I said, retreating at speed. “I don’t know what’s going on here but no…how can you both…?
“Shh, it’s okay,” Liam said, taking a step toward me.
I backed away, throwing up my hands defensively. “No…” I said breathlessly. “I have to go.”
“But where?” Quinn said, shaking his head. “You can’t go back.”
“I don’t know,” I said, aware my voice sounded shaky.
A sudden manic beeping filled the kitchen. Loud and insistent it echoed like the shrill ring of a phone in an empty hall. “Shit,” Quinn muttered. “Worst timing ever.” He reached down to his pocket.
Liam raised his eyebrows at him. “Isn’t it always?”
“What, what’s that?” I asked as I pushed a damp strand of hair from my face.
“My pager,” Quinn said, narrowing his eyes at the small flashing screen. “I have to go.” He walked toward me. I backtracked and hit the kitchen wall. “Liam will deal with you,” he said through tight lips. “Anything he says goes for me too.” He looked across at Liam who’d folded his arms and tipped his head.
“I feel the same way he does,” Quinn said.
“Don’t stop this,” Quinn interrupted. “Don’t stop this before it’s even begun, Ariane, please… I beg you.”
And then he was gone. His expensive leather shoes tapped over the wooden floor of the living room and then the front door slammed with a thud.
I wrung my hands together and rested my back against the wall. What had just happened? I’d kissed Liam with the same enthusiasm I had Quinn only moments before. How could I have generated so much passion inside my soul for one man and within seconds convert it to another? I’d always been faithful, I’d never cheated on Geraint, never even been tempted. Yet here I was getting mashed between two very aroused men and, I had to admit, enjoying it immensely. Thank goodness I’d come to my senses and stopped before anything else had happened.
“Ariane,” Liam said quietly, “you’re thinking about this way too much.”
I touched my fingertips to my lips, still tingling from where he’d just kissed me into oblivion. “What do you mean ‘this’?” I managed.
“Us, me and Quinn.” He paused. “And you.”
“I don’t understand.”
“What’s not to understand?” He stepped closer. “I like you, Quinn’s clearly into you, and from what I just saw and felt—you, Ariane, are into both of us.”
There, he’d said it, the disastrous truth. I was into both of them. How could I not be? Both were devastatingly gorgeous and both had an air of irresistible sex appeal. It was a different nature of sexiness—whilst Liam’s felt gentle, seductive, beautiful and to a certain extent nurturing, there was something about Quinn that felt fast and furious, perhaps even dangerous. There was an element of bad boy unpredictability about him. How could a girl choose?
There was only one option—I would have to leave and not have either of them.
“I have to go,” I said again. “Really, I’m sorry, I can’t stay.”
“No.” Liam frowned, creating a neat horizontal line between his brows. “Leave in the morning if you want, but not in the dark, and…” He had a distinctly sharper edge to his tone. “Leave because you don’t want us, not because you do.”