Inspiration: Captain Pike, the Orient Express, and Daddy Issues

One bright summer day, I was chatting with my good author friend, Brianna Hale, about an idea she had for a new story. An older man who falls for the daughter of his close friend. Her story was contemporary, set in a fictional European country and a train crossing the continent. But the concept intrigued me.

More than that, it took root in my mind. Why? What’s so special about this story idea?

The man who inspired the hero of her story is one of my favorite Star Trek captains. See, we’re both fans of Star Trek: Discovery and had been smitten by the new incarnation of Captain Christopher Pike. Any Trekkie will tell you the importance of his character and the horrible fate he experiences. His journey is engaging and thrilling. Truth is, we were both smitten by his silver fox charm, those soulful blue eyes, and of course, the matching dimples he flashes with a warm smile. Anson Mount is sinfully gorgeous.

The best part of her idea was the romantic pairing that kindled her book idea. In our discussions about the handsome captain, I discovered Brianna also shipped Captain Pike with Ensign Tilly. While these two never hook up on screen, I daydreamed often about the thousands of possibilities. The way he looks at her…freaking swoon. I even indulged in writing a short fan fiction, giving them a stolen moment of passion. *wink*

Using the basic premise that inspired Brianna’s book, I crafted my variation in the late Victorian era. I altered everything else to fit my spin on her original concept with her permission, of course. One of the biggest components I kept was the train. But I needed it to fit the era I chose to write in, 1899.

Enter the Orient Express. It filled in the blanks for the inspiration I needed showcasing travel in the lap of luxury in the early 20th century. I took a page from the history of the Orient Express and created the Alpine Express. A sister line to the world famous express. I mean, who wouldn’t want to take a trip through the alps on a fancy train with all the amenities.

Placing the characters together in close quarters on a train put them in a position where they couldn’t escape. It forced them to face each other and the truth of their attraction. Add in a little mystery, a long-lost friend, some political intrigue, and an avalanche and watch the chaos ensue. But this story wouldn’t be complete with a little forbidden romance, would it?

Matilda Hudson is in love with Major Anson Montgomery. The worst part: he’s her father’s closest friend. When she meets him for the first time at twelve years old, she falls hard. But when he leaves the country, he never returns. She sends him letters, which he kindly returns, but he shows no interest in his best friend’s daughter. Until he meets her again on her twenty-first birthday in Paris.

Oh, the torment and indecision.

When she chases after him, following him onto the Alpine Express, he’s left with no alternative but to return her to her father and wash his hands of her foolish notions. But deep down, he grows to care for her and everything falls apart.

As Brianna and I talked about our individual projects, we joked our heroines had Daddy issues and that’s why they fell in love with men so close to their own father’s age. While there’s no underage flirtation or taboo romance in my story, there are some who may dislike the whole age gap romance and the fact that she loved him since childhood. I absolutely understand this hesitation. These tropes aren’t for everyone.

Seduction on the Alpine Express has a special place in my heart. When I started this story, I did not know the wonderful secondary characters it would create. This story introduces us to the major’s friend, Nikolai Veronia, a Russian bodyguard. Nikolai stole my heart, and I wrote his story in Temptation on the Alpine Express. I’ll write his story’s inspiration in a later post.

A huge thanks to Brianna Hale who gave me the spark for this book. I hope one day she finishes the story she started using these characters as the inspiration. I’ll be first in line to read it.

If you haven’t seen Captain Dimples in action, I highly recommend you check out Star Trek: Discovery (he’s only in season two) as well as Star Trek: Strange New Worlds with Captain Pike at the helm.

As the good captain says, “Hit it.”

That sounds so naughty out of context. Oh, well.

All my love,

Kirsten

Inspiration: Cary Grant, Clint Eastwood, and Pin-Up Couture

When I started writing Confessions of a Fangirl, I never imagined it would spark two additional stories. Jen’s best friends, Maggie and Lily were too vibrant to be passive secondary characters. They deserved their own stories, and I followed my heart, giving them both the happy endings they deserved.

Lily’s story is a bit different from the first two. She doesn’t lose herself in fandom or video games, but she struggles to find balance between work and chasing her dreams of being a famous designer. Lily gives a lot of her time and herself to those inside her inner circle, her friends, her roommates, and even her job. Cutting ties with the toxic relationships in her life leaves her frustrated and alone, but in the end, it helps her grow and finally achieve her dream of being a pin-up couture designer.

When I first wrote Mr. Roberts’ character, I didn’t think much of his role over the course of the series. He was just Jen and Lily’s boss. But in my head, I imagined Cary Grant in all his silver fox glory. I’m a sucker for age gap romances and wanted to indulge in this trope with Lily’s story. She happens to be a fan of older men, so pairing her with her dashing boss fit perfectly.

The age gap, office romance storyline doesn’t work for everyone, but these two tropes ended up being the keystones to Lily’s romantic adventure. Sprinkle a little mutual pining and holiday fun, and there’s a spicy romance hot off the press.

Mr. Roberts is the quintessential stunning silver fox. Why would I not have him channel that vintage Hollywood leading man personna? Lily’s a fan of all things vintage. It makes sense why she would be attracted to a handsome, older man who carried himself with confidence and class. She wears exclusively vintage styles with a pin-up girl flair. It’s like these two were made for each other.

While Lily lusts for her dapper boss, she’s also drawn to the idea of the rough and rugged cowboy. Enter Sam, a cowboy from Wyoming she meets in a Discord chat room. Lily’s never been farther West than the Poconos, let alone set foot in what her father would call a flyover state. But a newfound friendship with Sam opens doors she otherwise wouldn’t have explored.

Is this a love triangle? Perhaps. Read the story and see for yourself how it plays out. But I can tell you that Sam took his inspiration from Clint Eastwood, and we all know how sexy Blondie was in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. *swoon*

I love both the dapper gentleman and the rough and tumble cowboy. Lily’s story let me explore the delights of both types of men. It was no hard task to let my imagination run wild with both fine men. *wink*

This is a romance novel straight to the core, and it should go without saying that Lily’s undying devotion to her dream of creating vintage inspired pin-up couture lies at the center of it all. This dream of being a pin-up fashionista is her one true love, her heart’s desire, and both Sam and Mr. Roberts know and support her.

Did I mention she’s also an amazing cook? But don’t let her sweet exterior and kind heart fool you. If you cross her or mess with anyone she loves, she will not hesitate to strike back. Ask Gavin, her roommate and best friend since seventh grade. She punched a bully in the face for messing with the new kid. Lily’s dedication to her craft and those she loves only endears her to me more.

Seeing her in Confessions of a Fangirl and again in Confessions of a Gamer Girl made me want to write her story. She’s a wonderful character who deserved a happy, fresh start with a supportive man by her side.

Maybe we’ll see more of Lily, Maggie, and Jen in the future. I’ll never say never, so keep an eye out for Easter eggs and guest appearances in future books.

If you could fan cast a movie version of Confessions of a Glamour Girl, who would you have play Lily, Jackson, and Sam? And for funsies, you can cast Maggie, Gavin, Shaun, and Jen too. Tell me in the comments!

Inspiration: Assassin’s Creed, Teresa Medeiros, and the Sarcastic Muse

My foray into medieval romance didn’t begin as Jen Bradlee with The Prince of Whispers. It began with the Shadow Guardians a long time ago. These two books drew vastly different inspiration than Jen Bradlee’s trilogy.

The book took on life years ago in the kernel of an idea I had for a story when I was fifteen. I made some notes and tucked them into a folder where they sat for years. It wasn’t until I joined a writer’s group in Clarksville, Tennessee, in my mid-20s that I really considered writing anything of length and substance. Until that point, my writing remained confined to poetry and journaling. But I always wanted to write a novel. This group encouraged me to do so.

But they weren’t the only ones. While living on the border of Kentucky and Tennessee, I had the opportunity to meet and hang out with bestselling historical romance author, Teresa Medeiros. She loved the idea of my Shadow Guardians and encouraged me to write it. I’m a huge fan of her work and always wanted to become a romance author. Her kind words and support sparked a renewed desire to write a novel.

Between Teresa Medeiros’ encouragement and my monthly writer’s group, I had finally uncovered my calling. This writer’s group consisted of a variety of authors from several genres, but I was the only romance author in the group. Even so, they helped me polish my voice and strengthen my prose. When I left the group (thanks to a military PCS), I kept in touch with a handful of the authors from the group and we started our own writer’s blog/group called The Sarcastic Muse.

The Sarcastic Muse no longer exists, but their influence lingers. They gave me the support and encouragement I needed to write a full length novel. One of the members sat with me on Skype every day as I wrote the first draft during National Novel Writing Month in November of 2012. Often we would sit in silence and work, occasionally bouncing ideas off of one another and brainstorming in those moments between writing sprints. I wrote 50,000 words in one month. The most I had ever written up to that point. And I couldn’t have done it without my fellow writers cheering me on.

But where did the idea for An Irresistible Shadow come from?

Well, the very first idea I had for the book was for a spirited princess who disliked all her father’s knights to fall in love with one of the mysterious warriors who appears at court. As you can see, the idea evolved into a story about Baron’s daughter who preferred her independence over the traditional expectations placed upon her by society. Of course, she falls in love with a mysterious, hooded stranger who claims loyalty to none and has deigned himself to be her personal protector. A Shadow Guardian.

Where the hell did I get that idea?

Blame Assassin’s Creed. One day I saw a picture of Ezio, and the faded outline of my Shadow Guardian took hold of my muse.

I borrowed some of Ezio’s design and created my secret protector. Most notably, the deep hood covering his identity. Gabriel became my first Shadow Guardian in An Irresistible Shadow. He’s a knight of sorts, with a heavy investment on the unstable activity along the English and Scottish border in the 14th century. His passion is only exceeded by his skills.

Evelyn, my brash, independent heroine, was heavily inspired by Merida from the Pixar movie Brave. She’s the perfect complement to Gabriel, and together they make a formidable team.

I loved writing their story. Now, I look back on their book with fond memories. My first novel. My first big publication. My first everything.

This book brought me so much joy and tons of experience. It paved the way for me to enter the publishing world and taught me a wealth of knowledge for editing and marketing. I waded through the tangled process of becoming a published author and came out with a shiny novel. An Irresistible Shadow will always have a special place in my heart, even with its newbie flaws.

And of course, it spawned a second novel thanks to two very persistent secondary characters.

I wouldn’t be the author I am today without this novel and those who encouraged me to write it.

Thank you, my friends, for having faith in me and showing unwavering support and love. I appreciate it more than you can possibly imagine.

You never know when inspiration will strike or where it will come from. Write all of your ideas down and tuck them away. There just might be a novel hidden in those random thoughts. I hope this inspires you to write it.

All my love,

Kirsten

Inspiration: Shemar Moore, the Duke of Hastings, and Video Games

This book was never supposed to exist, but this is true for most of my stories, so bear with me as I explain how Confessions of a Gamer Girl came into existence.

When I set out to write Confessions of a Fangirl, it was supposed to be a one and done kinda book. I had an idea for a story, and I wrote it. The end.

But when I wrote Maggie’s character in Fangirl, I knew she deserved to have her own story. The moment Lily’s roommate, Gavin, waltzed onto the page during game night, I knew I would write Maggie’s book next. Both Maggie and Gavin had strong personalities that lit up the scenes they were in. I couldn’t ignore the tension simmering between them.

Fortunately, when I plotted their book, their story flowed naturally. With both of them being avid gamers, their competitive natures brought a great source of contention between them. They were both successful and independent, but they grew to love and crave the benefits a partnership could bring.

Petite Maggie packs a punch. When I saw her in my mind while writing Fangirl, I had a clear vision of her style and personality even though I didn’t have a specific person I modeled her after. Gavin was a completely different creative process.

When Lily introduces her roommate during game night, the first person who came to mind was Shemar Moore. The handsome charmer became the inspiration for not only Gavin’s looks but his personality as well. I loved his portrayal of Derek Morgan in Criminal Minds, so I allowed it to inspire me. I mean, who wouldn’t want him to whisper baby girl in their ear? But he wasn’t the only one who inspired Gavin.

The Duke of Hastings certainly made an impression on me when I watched Bridgerton Season One. Rege Jean Page’s swoonworthy performance in season one held me captive. How could I not be inspired by such a dapper duke? I mean…look at him. *swoon* The combination of these two men served as the perfect amalgamation for Gavin in Confessions of a Gamer Girl.

Now, I’m not going to lie. I was insanely intimidated writing a POC hero. I’ve never written any characters who weren’t white, not because I didn’t want to, but because I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes. Fortunately, my best friend and biggest supporter is also a person of color with a rich, vibrant cultural background. She helped me through the process and encouraged me every step of the way. For that, I am eternally grateful. Thanks, Niki.

Since I was a kid, video games have always fascinated me. Because I’m an 80s baby, I feel like video games and I share a lifetime. They evolved as I grew up. Even now, seeing how far we’ve come in gaming is amazing. Now, I’m not a gamer, but I have many friends who are avid gamers and I love watching others play. While Maggie’s obsession with gaming isn’t something I can relate to, I know many people who can.

I watched my brother take on the neighbor kids in Super Mario and battle on our first computer in Duke Nukem and Doom. My roommate in college spent many nights playing Counterstrike, where I’d fall asleep to the sound of gunfire and smack talk. Even my best friend in college was an avid gamer who had an obsession with Legend of Zelda and a tattoo of Link to prove it. And today, I love taking my kids to the local arcade for pinball and watching them play Battlefront and Assassin’s Creed on the PlayStation.

Video games have become an integrated part of our popular culture, and it felt natural to write a story centered on two peoples’ love of gaming. Especially after writing a book heavily focused on the struggles of being a fangirl. But in the same vein of Fangirl, I wanted Gamer Girl to showcase the struggle with finding balance and discovering what’s truly important in life.

Writing this book taught me to reach beyond my own comfortable bubble. I’m proud of Maggie and Gavin’s story. Their characters are dear to my heart. I’m excited to see if they pop up again in future books. One of my favorite things to do is tie in the characters from other book series I’ve written, like I did with Ben, Evan, and Andrew in Gamer Girl. (If you’d like to read their stories, you’ll find Ben’s in A Lockdown Love Affair, Evan’s in A Holiday Love Affair, and Andrew’s in Mistletoe and Mistakes.) You’ll definitely see Gavin, Maggie, Jen, and Shaun again in Lily’s story, Confessions of a Glamour Girl coming in September.

Thanks for all the support and love. Happy reading, my friends.

All my love,

Kirsten

Inspiration: Fangirls and The Hiddleston Obsession

Confessions of a Fangirl holds a very special place in my heart. Well, all of my books do, but this one especially. Ten years ago, I was a little obsessed with an actor who played a villainous role in a very prominent film franchise in 2012. Yup, you know who I’m talking about. Tom Hiddleston, life ruiner extraordinaire.

Now, allow me to clarify. I’ve been a fangirl for a lot longer than that term even existed. Granted, I never wrote fan fiction for Fifth Element, Willow, or Saved by the Bell. Hell, I didn’t even know that was a thing. But I had my celebrity crushes going back into the early 90s. Yes, the world before everyone had cell phones and internet access.

My celebrity crushing reached an all-time peak with Loki. Don’t ask me why? I wish I knew. Blame it on Tumblr, I guess. Having instant access to fan fiction, movie stills, interviews, etc. made fangirling so easy.

This is where the first idea for this book came into existence. Someone posted on Tumblr about the Stages of Fangirling, and my mind started spinning with ideas. What if there was a story that followed the evolution of a fangirl through the fangirling stages?

I made up my own stages reflecting my personal experience.

At first, this idea took on shape as a stage play. I thought the visuals would be more powerful in this format, but here’s the thing: I’m a novelist, not a playwright. So I ended up setting the project aside for a few years.

During that time, my fangirl obsession for Hiddles slowly waned. This is the natural progression for me. Find an actor, obsess, lose myself, find balance, and then have the cycle start all over again with a new actor. It did not surprise me when I picked up the project again to find I fit the profile of the main character perfectly. Jen bore a strong resemblance to me.

Knowing my strengths as an author, I morphed the project into a contemporary romance novel with rom com vibes. But I gave Jen her own life. Her own dreams and desires. Her own personality. The more I worked on outlining this story, the more I realized the depth of her character. Even though I used some of my personal experiences and emotions in this book, Jen dealt with them in her own unique way.

Now, I couldn’t very well use a real person in my book. So I made up an actor and a fandom. Nicholas Hughes became a conglomeration of several actors I’ve admired over the years, as well as his famous role as the villain, Captain Korbin Ransom, in the Space Vendetta Series. Here’s a little sneak peek at the document I used to create the actor of my dreams:

In the end, Hughes and Ransom became amalgamations of Tom Hiddleston and Adam Driver, both in their personal details and their famous roles. Choosing to create an actor and a fandom made the creative process so much more fun.

Jen’s journey doesn’t just follow her obsession with a famous actor. It showcases her relationships and reveals the toll her obsession takes on them, especially with her new boyfriend, Shaun. So while the story is a true blue contemporary rom com, it has deeper roots, revealing the importance of finding balance in our lives.

While you may not be a fangirl, there’s still meaning to be taken away from Confessions of a Fangirl and laughs galore. I’m just thankful I could make sense of my own obsessions and turn them into something positive, humorous, and entertaining. Fangirling can be stressful, but I choose to harness the emotions it creates and channel them into my stories. Thanks to all the actors who inspire us with their roles, you’ll keep me writing for years to come!

And the best part of Fangirl…it sparked a whole series. I couldn’t leave Lily and Maggie just hanging there. *wink* Their stories are coming soon. Maggie’s story, Confessions of a Gamer Girl, releases on June 28th, and Lily’s story, Confessions of a Glamour Girl, releases on September 27th. (New cover coming soon.)

Hope you enjoyed this adventure behind the scenes. Thanks for the support and the love.

xoxo,

Kirsten

Are you in the Mood?

I need to talk about my new favorite thing. Okay, well, it’s not really a new concept, but it is to me.

Anyway…I’ve started making mood boards for each of my books. It helps me get a better picture of the story, the characters, and the overall vibe of the story itself. I started making them in 2020 when I wrote A Lockdown Love Affair, and I never stopped. At some point, I’d like to go back and make some for my previous historical romances, but I just don’t have the time to do that at the moment. Put it on my never ending list of things to do.

Here are my mood boards so far. Let me know if one catches your eye…

What do you think? Do they catch your attention? I know they help me stay focused on the story I’m writing. Just a disclaimer, I’m currently working on Can’t Fight This Feeling. The rest of the books in my 1985 series, She Gives Love a Bad Name, Owner of a Lonely Heart, and Just What I Needed will be releasing next year. So I hope you’re ready for some retro romance. It’s not historical and it’s not contemporary…it’s the 80s baby!

I hope you enjoyed this little visual trip into my writer’s brain. Careful, it’s easy to get lost in there. xoxo

Which mood board is your favorite? Tell me in the comments.

All my love,

Kirsten

Some Writing Meme Levity

I’m a meme/gif kind of girl. It’s the most effective way for me to communicate on social media. There’s a meme or a gif for every occasion. This week’s been a rough one for me, so I’m going to embrace the opportunity to post some funny writing memes I’ve created. Enjoy!

It’s the HEA/HFN life for me. ❤ I hope you have a great week.

Be kind to yourself and others.

xoxo, Kirsten.

Inspiration: A Tumblr Blog, The Trickster, and Wicked Whispers

Once upon a time, I had an unquenchable addiction to Tumblr and roleplaying fan fiction for multiple fandoms. Fortunately for my writing career, it was short-lived. But not before I stumbled across this gem of a blog.

Before you click that link, let me warn you. Some of those posts are highly NSFW and dark, which makes sense, considering they’re about our favorite trickster god, Loki. Proceed at your own risk. I’ve only included a tame one on my blog, but check them out later if you’re so inclined.

First, let me tell you how this blog inspired a trilogy.

There I was, minding my own business, when one of these whispers floated across my screen. I was already a fan of Tom Hiddleston and Loki, but this sparked something different in my mind.

I heard a voice speak to me. No, not speak, whisper. He convinced me to write a few of his whispers down, and from that evolved a full character: Prince Crispin Saville.

The more I explored his whispers and his character, the deeper it drew me into his world. I created Meradin, a small kingdom among the already established kingdoms of the era, placing it where Ireland, Wales, England, and Scotland all converged. Crispin vowed to rule this land even though he was not the first born son of the king. He took on a life of his own complete with strong opinions and no moral compass to guide him.

I created Henry to provide him with an external conscience at the very least. But it was Ruby who gave him a reason to mature and grow.

Alas, he does neither of these things during the course of the first book. However, books two and three provide him with ample opportunity and motivation to examine the state of his soul and set his feet on the proper path. I shall give no spoilers, but I will provide a gentle reminder that while he may be brash, selfish, callous, and spoiled…he finds redemption for all his faults in the end. But they come at a cost.

Loki heavily influences Crispin’s character. If you’re a fan of Tom Hiddleston’s portrayal of the Norse god, then Crispin will charm you. But I will reiterate my warning. He is not a good man, nor is he a moral one. There are some scenes that will leave you with conflicting emotions and a thousand questions. Fear not, there will be resolution by the end of Book Three.

This trilogy was difficult for me to write because it’s different from the other books I’ve written. The tone and theme are darker. In the beginning, the hero is unlikable. The conflict woven throughout is heartbreaking. So, after writing the first book, I chose to publish it under my pen name, Jen Bradlee, for fear it would alienate my readers.

Unfortunately, life got in the way, and I could not write the subsequent two books until last year. I never intended for it to take this long to finish.

Determined to give this series the best possible success, I revisited the first book with fresh edits, a new title, and a few adjustments. I also had pretty new covers made for all three books. Once called, The Prince of Whispers, Book One is now His Wicked Whispers, and I’m releasing it on May 10th.

Seduction Most Wicked, Book Two, releases on July 12th, and Reign of Wicked Temptation, Book Three, will release on August 9th.

I kept the pen name as an homage to the author I was then. But Jen and Kirsten’s styles have morphed into something similar, so I no longer felt the compulsion to keep them separated any longer. Although I may not publish as Jen Bradlee with nearly the frequency I do as Kirsten in the future, there will be a few stories that fit Jen’s personality much more than my own. So, I’ll keep the possibility of publishing more stories as Jen Bradlee open for the time being.

It amazes me how one simple meme can ignite a story idea that transforms into something like this: A trilogy with characters who take on a life of their own in a world of my imagination. Inspiration can be a fascinating thing.

Now, go check out that Tumblr blog if your curiosity is gnawing away at you.

If you’re looking for a wicked hero to take you on an epic adventure, join us. The Prince of Whispers awaits your presence, and when he whispers, you will come.

Thanks for stopping by.

With love,

Jen Bradlee/Kirsten S. Blacketer