I love all kinds of book genres. My bookshelves reflect that as well–classics and lit prize winners across to chick lit and murder mysteries. I have a soft spot for really good fantasy fiction. I love enjoy historical fiction. And I even have a few erotica novels on the shelves (but not the Gray one, because the only requirement for my bookshelves is quality writing and from what I hear… Anyway.)
So when I met Susan Mac Nicol and learned that she had written a romance, Cassandra by Starlight I thought, “Fantastic, I haven’t read a romance for a while!” and off I went to download it. Sadly, I can’t put a download on my shelves because this is quality writing and it would be great to include it there. Susan has an incredible ability to create real characters with very few words–within minutes of getting into the story I had an idea of who these characters were and thought about them as People whenever I put the book down. And even better than that, she writes a fast paced, engaging story. I was wrong about one thing though, this isn’t just a romance. There’s mystery and intrigue thrown in as well, creating a deeper story that went well beyond the frisson between the protagonists. Heavy issues like schizophrenia and male rape are dealt with expertly, and the romance develops believably with several rather exciting (a-HEM!) passionate scenes along the way. I also love how well she’s handled the age difference–with the older woman. It’s a grown up book for people who want passion within an engaging, fast paced mystery.
And I was lucky enough to get an interview out of Susan! (You know how I love interviewing people!)
You’ve created a very charismatic male character, where did you get your inspiration?
My family cringe every time I answer this question, especially my poor husband. It’s no secret I have a ‘thing’ for the wonderful Mr Benedict Cumberbatch, he of ‘Sherlock’ fame. I decided there and then I wanted one. A Cumberbatch I mean. Knowing of course this was never going to happen, I had to create my own.
So, being in the market for a leading man for my novel, I created Bennett Saville. He’s urbane, charming, passionate, hot tempered and sarcastic with a penchance for great one liners. I wanted him to be his own man so I developed his character and his back ground to be unique, but I think there are still definitely some similarities between the two men. They’re both actors, live in London, both perform in the medium of screen and stage and both of them are on their way to the top.
There are some dark issues in your novel, was it difficult deciding if they were appropriate for the story?
Some of the topics are based on personal experience. I had a bad car accident and fractured my femur like Cassie and was lucky to live through it as there were complications afterwards. The drunk in the story talking to Ian earlier in the book was in fact based on the real life story of a close family member. There are other topics in the book which hit close to home and are based on fact but I’ll leave some of those to the reader’s imagination to decide which ones.
The most difficult scene to write was the female on male rape scene where Bennett’s stalker takes things to an extreme with him. I had to do a lot of research on this topic as it appeared fairly controversial. I found a wonderful article by a male rape survivor called James Landrith and used that as the basis for my writing. Interestingly enough, James contacted me by total fluke after I tweeted about this topic and made reference to my book and we were both blown away when I told him he’d been the inspiration! He actually did a wonderful blog post on my book and in fact, he’s reading it at the moment.
Creating a romantic story with a female protagonist older than the male is an unusual take on a traditional subject–why did you decide to do this?
I wanted a Cumberbatch+I’m older than he is. The two together should answer that question I imagine….
Seriously, I wondered how this would pan out if I actually made the woman in the story older than him. It was a conscious decision to do this, as I felt a May – December romance would be something that wasn’t always ‘traditional’, as you’ve said.
Cassie is very much based on my experiences and my character and holds a lot of views that I do so it seemed a natural progression to take someone I admired, my own story and put them together to see what happened. I’m glad to say it seemed to work for them both. Although I’m sad to say I look nothing like her…
What came first, inspiration for the story or the characters who needed a story?
The inspiration for the story came first. I read in the local newspaper earlier this year about a woman who’d been badly injured when some idiot threw a concrete block on her car. My active mind started wondering what would have happened if that had been a person, what if that person had jumped and what if the whole event started a cascade of events that led to two people meeting each other and falling in love.
I’m not a particularly romantic person, but this whole story line in my head, then seeing Benedict Cumberbatch on the television making the perfect leading man for me- oops, I mean, for Cassie- just seemed to make perfect sense and I found that I developed a real passion for getting Cassie and Bennett’s story out there.
Thank you Susan, for taking the time to answer my questions!
Readers, if you’d like to know more about Susan and Cassandra by Starlight you can check out Susan Mac Nicol’s personal website (where you can see more of her books, as well), her Susan Mac Nicol Facebook Page, the Cassandra by Starlight Facebook page, and you can tweet with her on @susanmacnicol7. To buy a copy of Cassandra by Starlight check out these Amazon links: