Today I am so pleased to welcome Liv Rancourt to Joyfully Jay. Liv has come to talk to us about her latest release, Change of Heart, an Hours of the Night story. She has also brought along an exclusive excerpt and a giveaway. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
Thanks so much for having me back on the blog, Jay! I really appreciate the chance to connect with your readers.
This visit is different because I’m here promoting a solo project. My last two releases – Vespers and Bonfire – were co-written with the fabulous Irene Preston. Though my new release, Change of Heart, is a distant prequel to the other two books, it’s my own baby.
So…why and how 1933?
There’s an easy answer, and a more complex answer. I’d agreed to write a novella for an anthology, and the story had to be set in New Orleans. At the time, Irene and I were working on Vespers, so those characters were dominating my thoughts and it made sense for me to create something that would tie in to that story.
Our vampire character Thaddeus Dupont was born in 1900 and turned by a vampire in 1925. About ten years after that, he went to work fighting demons for the Catholic Church. Those ten years jumped out at me, making me wonder what Thaddeus was like as a young man vampire.
In Vespers, we refer to the relationship Thaddeus once shared with Leo Killian, and while it was tempting to write a Thaddeus-and-Leo-fall-in-love story, I decided to bring others to the main stage. Somehow, from my weird internal black box that generates ideas, I came up with the love story between Clarabelle and Vaughn.
I picked 1933 because of where it fell in Thaddeus’s life, and because there was so much going on in the world. The ‘30s saw things like the Great Depression, the Golden Age of Hollywood, and the huge differences in civil rights compared with modern times. These are all rich concepts to weave a story around. Research was both easy and challenging – easy because it’s possible to find a lot of broad-strokes information, but difficult because some of the things I needed to know weren’t written down anywhere.
The ’30s were a glamorous time, with stylized make-up and hair, and flowing, graceful fashion. For those who can afford it. Clarabelle is a child of the Depression – I see her as sort of a Dorothy Gale character – who only possesses three nice dresses and a single pair of shoes. She’s a skilled seamstress, and used to hard work. For her, fashion is a tool she uses to keep her job and to fulfill society’s expectation that she appear neat and clean.
For Vaughn, on the other hand, fashion is both an expression of her real self and camouflage, something she hides behind. I’d read intriguing stories about transgender people who lived before medical science could do much in the way of gender reassignment, but finding information on how a transwoman would have dressed in the ‘30s proved pretty much impossible – or would have taken a lot more time and academic access than I had available.
Instead, I consulted with my sister, who has a degree in fashion and works in L.A. doing costumes for movies and television. I learned about gaffs, and tucking and taping, and the physical cues like her Adam’s apple and beard shadow that can give a transwoman away.
My sister and I had a long text conversation about how someone in the ‘30s might refer to a gaff, the small, super-tight underwear a drag queen wears to keep her front flat. We ended up calling them scanties, which was kind of an educated guess (heavier on the guess). If you’re reading this and have a better answer, please tell me in the comments!
Another element in the story that took some educated guessing was the issue of race. The everyday interactions between black people and white people, especially in the Southern US, were undoubtedly very different than what we would tolerate. In doing my research, it was easy to find variations of “black people were treated poorly”, but I struggled to fill in the details.
For example, I had to dig around a bit to find something as simple as whether black people would have been hired to work in white nightclubs.
I struggled harder with balancing a historically accurate description of race relations without turning off modern readers. At one point Clara refers to the musicians in a band as “those Negros”, which I decided was both accurate and less inflammatory than another, related term, but I’ve had two reviewers call me out for using the N-word. (Apologies if I’ve offended anyone reading this post!)
Change of Heart came together out of ideas I’d been pondering and the desire to take another, earlier look at Thaddeus Dupont. 1930s New Orleans provided a fascinating backdrop for the story, and I hope you’ll give it a chance. Today’s the last day to enter the rafflecopter giveaway Irene and I are running for a $10 gift card, and it’s also the last day to grab a copy of Change of Heart at the low price of $0.99. Thanks so much!
I pushed through the double doors, swallowing hard on my nerves. Vaughn and her friends were so worldly, and while my peach crepe dress was pretty, she’d seen it a bunch of times before. Despite the heat, my hands had gone cold from nervousness, but I made myself walk in their direction.
“It took you long enough.” Vaughn jumped to her feet. A few of the waiters were still cleaning up, and even the musicians had already packed away their instruments. “Come on.”
She all but pulled me off my feet, leading me away from the table.
“Are you snatching your little wildcat away?” Leo lolled in his seat, a shade too close to Mr. Dupont.
Vaughn drew me close to her side. “Shut up, Leo.”
She caught my eye and I blushed, ignoring the way Momma and the preacher were yammering in my head. Vaughn had something in mind, and while I didn’t want to burn in hell, I followed along behind her.
“You boys are here to see the boss, right?” she said. “You don’t want a couple of girls listening in on one of your bull sessions.”
Leo brayed loud enough to turn heads, and for a scant second I wondered why Vaughn put up with him. Vaughn’s happiness could warm a whole room, while Leo’s harsh humor left a bitter taste in my mouth. I couldn’t tell about Mr. Dupont. Someone that quiet could be thinking any ol’ thing.
“Come on, baby doll.” Vaughn spoke low, right in my ear, sending off a wave of shivers. I kept hold of her hand and followed. “Mr. Dupont and the boss have business dealings.” She pulled me along toward the rear hall. The only things back there were the kitchen and the boss’s office. We stopped at his office. She drew me into the room and locked the door.
I breathed so fast my head got light, overwhelmed by the scent of roses and my own sweat. At some point the boss would have to put my cash drawer away. Nervousness swelled into fear. “What are we doing?”
“Now.” Vaughn leaned against the door, still holding my hand. “No one’s going to bother us for a while.” Her gaze traveled over my body, leaving a trail of heat. “Such a pretty thing.”
I hitched a hip on the boss’s desk, and she crossed the room, moving slowly, as if we had all the time in the world and the boss wouldn’t be banging on the door any minute.
“I’m just…” The slink in her walk dried my voice like a stream in July. Her soft rose scent washed over me, followed by the heat of her body. She didn’t stop till our knees were touching.
“So,” she whispered.
“We shouldn’t be hiding out in here.” Though nothing under the sun could make me leave.
She ran a fingertip along my jaw. “Why not?” Her smile got saucy. “The boys’ll keep the boss busy for a while.”
Vaughn eased closer, and I arched against her. “It’s a…” Sin. My words were cut off by the press of her lips against mine. Pretty soon I learned that the taste of another woman’s mouth drove the preacher’s talk right out of my head.
This kiss was better than our first one because I knew what to do. She got a hand around my neck and pulled me closer, and, God help me, I let her. Her hands travelled over my shoulders, and our bubs rubbed together, sending tingles to the pit of my belly.
Things blurred, my body lighting up. Too many sensations came at me all at once. She licked my lips, and when I parted them, the touch of her tongue on mine made me gasp. So new. So good. Her arm circled my waist, pulling me tight against her hip. Her fingers teased my nipples through the flowing fabric of my dress.
She only paused when I tried to return the favor by reaching for the buttons of her blouse. She caught my hand and drew it back down to her waist.
“Nope, when I get drunk I get bossy, and I want to play.” She giggled, and I got it. I’d tasted gin along with the lipstick, smelled the booze on her breath. She wasn’t blotto, but she’d started well before they’d cajoled an after-hours pour out of our bartender.
“You”—she tapped the tip of my nose—“make me think all kinds of naughty thoughts.” Her lips tightened for a second, but then her smile brightened and chased away the passing dim. “Here.” She threaded our fingers together and drew my hands to the top of my head. “Now keep ?em here.”
“What?” I let go as soon as she did. “I’m not going to—”
“Shh.” She grasped my wrists and returned my hands to my head. “I told you I want to play. Do you trust me?” She rested her forehead against mine. “Do you?”
My heart jitterbugged all the way up into my throat. “Yeah.” The word came out strangled.
A body reaps what they sow, and Clarabelle’s planted the seeds of trouble. The year is 1933, and not much else is growing in the Oklahoma dirt. Clarabelle’s gone and fallen in love with her best friend, so she figures it’s time to go out and see the world.
If she’s lucky, she’ll find the kind of girl who’ll kiss her back.
Clarabelle heads for New Orleans, and that’s where she meets Vaughn. Now, Vaughn’s as pretty as can be, but she’s hiding something. When she gets jumped by a pair of hoodlums, Clarabelle comes to her rescue and accidentally discovers her secret. She has to decide whether Vaughn is really the kind of girl for her, and though Clarabelle started out a dirt-farming Okie, Vaughn teaches her just what it means to be a lady.
I write romance: m/f, m/m, and v/h, where the h is for human and the v is for vampire … or sometimes demon … I lean more towards funny than angst. When I’m not writing I take care of tiny premature babies or teenagers, depending on whether I’m at home or at work. My husband is a soul of patience, my dog’s cuteness is legendary, and we share the homestead with three ferrets. Who steal things. Because they’re brats.
I can be found on-line at all hours of the day and night at my website & blog (www.liv-rancourt.blogspot.com), on Facebook (www.facebook.com/liv.rancourt), or on Twitter (www.twitter.com/LivRancourt). For sneak peeks and previews and other assorted freebies, go HERE to sign up for my mailing list. Come find me. We’ll have fun!
Irene Preston & I are offering a $10 gift card to celebrate Change of Heart’s release. The giveaway will end on 3/8/17. Thanks for entering!
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