Release Date: February 3, 2014
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Secret Agent Marissa Jones has a gift. A con artist to the core, after deep hypnosis she can turn into someone else entirely. Marisa’s gift has gotten her into hot water over the years, but now more so than ever. With her smoking hot partner by her side, she needs to convince him that not only is she her true self, but also that she can be trusted—even in spite of her past.
…or traitors to the cause?
Trevor Harris has his own issues with the mission, he’s got revenge to seek, a cursed painting to secure, and Marissa’s sugary-sweet alter-ego to ignore. But when he releases Marisa from her mental cage and things get a little too hot, he ends up finding out what falling for a con artist really means—bigger trouble than ever before.
Seleste started on her career path as a young child. Stories of talking animals soon gave way to a love of superheroes and science fiction. Her first foray into the world of romance came at age twelve when she envisioned a sweeping epic love story of two people thrust together and torn apart again and again by fate. As she recalls, the plan was for them to admit their love on his deathbed. But, as is often the case with pre-teen girls, a story of that depth gave way to other pursuits, and sadly it is completely lost other than vague memories.After that, she occupied herself with short stories for a while, and then poetry until after she had earned a degree in chemistry, spent time as a high school teacher, and became a mother of two. Then she delved into writing fiction once more.
She never lost her love of the fantastic, and her stories now always reach into other realms. The worlds and people she creates occupy as much of her time as the real world, and she is most fortunate to have a family that understands her idiosyncrasies and loves her anyway.
1 How did you become a writer?
In some ways, I’ve always been a writer, but that’s a cop-out answer. I wrote a lot as a kid. When some were dabbling with drugs, I dabbled with poetry and novels. Then it was hammered into me to get serious about my future (because there was no future in writing, obviously) and I went to college to study engineering. (I ended up with a degree in chemistry and a teaching certificate—don’t ask.) But in that time, I stopped writing, not because I didn’t love it but because I didn’t have the time. Even the poems fell by the wayside after a while.
Then I gave the kids in one of my classes a book report project and wrote a sample for them to look at. One of my students, Amy, wrote me a note asking why I wasn’t an author. I laughed it off at the time, but it stuck with me. Then, after my son was born (and I was no longer teaching), it kept coming back to haunt me. Once he was old enough that he was toddling around and getting into trouble, I started trying to write again, and it was so much harder than I expected it to be.
I wrote the first few chapters of that first book over and over and over again over the course of a couple years. (Yes, years.) Then I finally found an online writing group and joined. A member of that group tore the hell out of those chapters, but she made me want to get better, so I kept busting ass. And really, after that, it was just a lot of work and stubbornness. I kept trying, kept submitting, and eventually, I had a project sell.
2 Who inspired you to write?
The student I mentioned above, of course. Also my kids. I was always a staunch supporter of the “follow your dreams” school of thought (mainly because I was told not to), but my actions were speaking louder than words so long as I didn’t write. Another big influence was Kelley Armstrong. Not only was my writing group on her website, but she pushed me (more like ordered me) to go to my first RT (Romantic Times Booklovers’ Convention) and pitch agents and editors there. She wasn’t a hand-holding influence but she was definitely an ass-kicking one.
3 How old were you when you wrote the first book?
The first novel I finished was in 2008 (started for National Novel Writing Month 2007 which would have made me about 35 when I wrote it). It was…not good. The first one I sold I originally wrote for NaNoWriMo 2009, but it was worse than that first one LOL. I re-wrote it in early 2010 and sold it that spring (Badlands). The first book in the Agents of TRAIT series (Gaming for Keeps) I wrote in, I think 2012 (which would have made me 39). So, yes, I’m one of those “you’re never too old to follow your dreams” people.
4 Your favorite books:
There are a lot, so I’m going to try to narrow it down a little…
Favorite children’s book: The Velveteen Rabbit. Forever and always I will love this book. It still makes me cry.
Favorite YA: Break (by Hannah Moskowitz). Oddly, I’m not sure this would have hit me as hard when I was a teenager, but as a mom it ripped my heart out. I have never cried so hard over a book as I did this one.
Favorite romance: The Trophy Wives series (by Dakota Cassidy) These books are helping me survive my divorce and I have to save them until I hit a low point otherwise I would have read them all in the first month. I only have one left. Hoping that means I won’t need more after…
Favorite urban fantasy: The Otherworld series (by Kelley Armstrong) More than any books I read when I was young, this series made me wish I had supernatural powers.
Favorite erotic romance/erotica: The Original Sinners series (by Tiffany Reisz) OMG, people, you must read these books—and all of them. They’re nothing short of brilliant.
Book that gets the “favorite book” designation when I’m only allowed one: Phantom (by Susan Kay) It’s an extended retelling of The Phantom of the Opera that goes into Eric’s history and explains how he became the Opera Ghost and fell in love with Christine. This was the book that taught me how very important backstory is to understanding a character.
5 What inspired you to write CONNING FOR KEEPS?
Am I allowed to say Gaming for Keeps? Honestly, I loved Trevor and Marissa when I wrote them into the first book. They were such opposites that I could see them butting heads in so many ways. When I was discussing plans for the series with my editor (wherein I went through why different agents were with TRAIT as opposed to a “normal” intelligence agency), those two as a couple came up and then it was just figuring out how to pull off the fire and ice romance I knew they’d have. (And yes, my love of both Leverage and Warehouse 13 came into play a little.)
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