Here's a super Valentine's treat - a feature interview with author Nike Chillemi about her book BURNING HEARTS.
TK: Burning Hearts is set in post WWII America. What got you interested in this time period?
NC: I've been intrigued by the post WWII era (late 1940s) for a very long time. America was a boiling crucible, and yet there was an incredible spirit of optimism. The nation was recovering from devastating loss of life as result of WWII. Immigrants with little but the clothes on their backs were pouring into the country from Europe, particularly Eastern Europe. They were not always met with open arms. There were struggles and difficulties. Yet there was a 'can do' spirit. Americans of that time held themselves with a great deal of dignity and class.
TK: From what I know about it, I'd have to agree. What is it about mysteries and crime fiction in particular, that interests you?
NC: I guess I just like to figure out a puzzle. That's what murder mysteries and detective novels are to me. I'm always trying to figure out who the killer is. And I'm thrilled if I can't do it and the author surprises me at the end. I certainly want to write that way.
TK: Exactly! I love a good twist! What kind of research did you need to do in order to write this book?
NC: I put in an incredible amount of research as the foundation for the four book series I'm writing for Desert Breeze Publishing. My hero in BURNING HEARTS, Lorne Kincade, served under General Patton during the war in Europe. I read the nonfiction work, RAID!, THE UNTOLD STORY OF PATTON'S SECRET MISSION. I'm also taken with the styles of the era. I love the elegance of women's apparel and hairstyles. The design of the period's automobiles is another thing I'm drawn to, and its slang. I spent untold hours looking at fashion of the era, Youtube videos from that time instructing young women on the proper way to dress. I researched the music of the era, swing and the big bands. I also researched the automobile industry of that time. Did you know they stopped making civilian cars for the duration of the war and US auto manufacturers joined the war effort making military vehicles? I also looked up brand-name appliances and items sold in stores at the time.
TK: Wow! that's a lot of research. What can you tell us about the other books in the Sanctuary Point Series?
NC: Well, BURNING HEARTS is the first in the series. But I couldn't help myself. I had to bring a crime wave to that lovely little fictitious village of Sanctuary Point. GOODBYE NOEL is the second book and is set in the winter of 1947. In this novel, the heroine finds the first body is under a trimmed Christmas tree. The second body turns up as they ring in the New Year (1947), the third goes head long out a window. Then it really starts getting dicey. The third book in the series, PERILOUS SHADOWS, will be out in July. It reprises a few familiar characters and introduces a new independent miss as its heroine.
TK: I loved Good-bye Noel. (See my review here.) Where do you draw your inspiration from?
NC: I must live in a complete fantasy world, 'cause I just make this stuff up. Plot scenarios come to me at the weirdest times. I can be sitting in the dentist's chair dreading a root canal and a plot twist pops into my mind.
TK: The dentist's chair sounds like the perfect place to write a horror novel ... Oops. Back to the interview! How did you manage to make the dialogue sound so believable for the time period?
NC: I'm quite disciplined as a writer. I do a whole lot of research on idiom, slang, speech patterns and cadence of the time period in which I'm writing. I also listen to classic movies made at that time to get a feel for the language.
TK: When did you first start writing seriously?
NC: I penned my first fully illustrated story when I was a child. It was about horses and actually written in Crayola. In my teens and early twenties I wrote the requisite bad poems filled with angst. My thirteen year old is writing those types of poems now and it touches my heart. I think that's a right of passage for certain female types. I was one of those. I started writing seriously for publication about four years ago. I bumped into Steeple Hill (now Love Inspired) authors Cheryl Wyatt, Margaret Daley, and Janet Tronstad among others and they cheered me on, tirelessly. I took free writing lessons Harlequin offered at the time and still use a version of their suggested character bio sheet. A word to any newbie writers…if there are any free writing workshops or classes offered, take them
TK: Excellent advice. How has getting published changed your perception of writing, promoting, or any other aspects of the publishing industry?
NC: Well, I was thrilled when Desert Breeze not only gave me a contract, but contracted the Sanctuary Point four book series. I never dreamed that marketing would take up as much or even more time than the actual writing of the novels. But it does. I find myself constantly hawking my books.
TK: I think this is a little known fact for most new writers. You have a marketing and publicity background. How has this helped you in your career as an author?
NC:The biggest help was that I knew it had to be done. So, I got down to it and did it. Oh, I complain about it, but after a few minutes of that...I get back to it and publicize this or that. I know I have to keep a presence in the marketplace. I know I have to interact with people and let them know about my novels.
TK: Tell us something about Nike Chillemi that reader’s might be surprised to know.
NC: Something most folks in the publishing industry don't know is that I had a professional life BCFW (before Christian fiction writing) in the bridal manufacturing industry. I'm a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology. I've traveled to bridal fairs in Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta, and Las Vegas, and of course in my hometown, New York, NY. In that world, I'd hear the term fashionista bandied about. They'd say, "Oh, she's such a fashionista." So, I thought, why not crime fictionista? That's how I got my crime fictionista moniker.
TK: It's a very clever handle and suits you well. As a respected member of the ‘edgy Christian’ writing community, what are your thoughts on this emerging genre?
NC: I see authors moving slightly away from the term "edgy." I've been using the term realistic. I've heard phrases such as "approximating real life situations, even the not so pretty ones." I think edgy Christian fiction novels are finding their readership. A lot of younger readers (say college age) are drawn to the edgier Christian novels. But that's not necessarily so. I just got a compliment online from a seasoned-citizen Christian lady who said such nice things about my novels. One of the things she spoke of was the reality of the writing. I use the term realistic because I don't have any overly steamy scenes. But I might have a gritty crime scene.
TK: Is there anything else you would like to share about your writing, your inspiration, or your life outside of being an author.
NC: I've tried to be true to myself as a writer. I write what I feel compelled to write. I've tried to be honest in my public presentation of myself. I think I'm fairly transparent. Most of my readers get an idea of who I am warts and all.
Thank you for this wonderful peek into your life, Nike, and thanks for giving us a little more info on BURNING HEARTS. Check it out today at the purchase links below.
Nike Chillemi has been called a crime fictionista due to her passion for crime fiction. She was an Inspy Awards 2010 judge in the Suspense/Thriller/Mystery category and a judge in the 2011 Carol Awards in the suspense, mystery, and romantic suspense categories. She is the founding board member of the Grace Awards and its Chairman, a reader's choice awards for excellence in Christian fiction. She writes book reviews for The Christian Pulse online magazine. BURNING HEARTS is the first book in the crime wave that is sweeping the south shore of Long Island in The Sanctuary Point series, published by Desert Breeze. GOODBYE NOEL, the second book in the series was released in December, 2011. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the Edgy Christian Fiction Lovers (Ning).
Amazon (including Kindle).
Barnes & Noble (including Nook).