Alexis Duran was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. At the University of Oregon, her fascination with people and relationships led her to major in Sociology, but her main love has always been creative writing. She has worked in museums, in fashion, in finance and film production. Her favorite job so far was Administrative Assistant in a haunted Victorian Mansion. She’s had several short stories published in the mystery, horror and literary genres, and one contemporary fantasy novel. Her fiction has won several awards including the Rupert Hughes Award from the Maui Writers Conference. She’s thrilled to enter the realm of erotic romance with the publication of her novel Touch of Salar and is currently working on the next in the Masters and Mages series and several other m/m erotic novellas.
Ink Motions – Interview
How do you get an idea for your novel?
Ideas come to me from everywhere, including dreams, news blurbs, historical nonfiction and snippets of conversation. The idea for Touch of Salar was inspired by my love of massages and fantasies I had about what a magical healer could do with his hands. The important thing is to look for the synergy of idea and character. A great idea is nothing until the right character comes along to claim it.
What is your writing style? Do you just sit down and write or do you create character sketches, outlines or notes?
When first starting a story, I totally wing it. Usually a character taps me on the shoulder and says, “Time to write my story” and I just start spinning it out. Setting and conflict flow out of the character’s personality and flaws. I do make copious notes and then when the plot demands that I start making sense of things, I’ll work out a simple outline, but those change all the time.
Who is the “Writing Muse” in your life? I.E. who gets your juices flowing when you are blocked?
I don’t want to jinx myself, but I very rarely get blocked anymore. Writing is like breathing for me. The trick is to develop a schedule and stick to it, come hell, headache or bad mood. But when I do get momentarily stuck, I get up and take the dog for a walk. So maybe Lazlo the Border collie is my muse? Is that sad? Should I say something sexy like Lenny Kravitz?
How many novels have you written including all work in progresses you are currently working on?
I’ve finished five novels and I’m kind of embarrassed to say how many first and second drafts I have waiting around (more than a dozen, less than fifty). Touch of Salar is my first to be published under the name Alexis Duran.
Who is your “writing idol”? I.E. Who do you like and what is it about their writing that captures your soul?
Tom Robbins. (Jitterbug Perfume, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues) He was the writer who really inspired me to trust my own voice. He’s totally silly and heartbreakingly profound all that same time. He writes with a joyful, reckless abandon. I never want his stories to end and I want to live in the worlds he creates. Doesn’t get much better than that.
What is you favorite plot line type?
I love stories of “ordinary” people finding their special power or destiny. I write fantasy, so usually there is magic involved, but the true power comes from within. We all know magic has a price, and the hero has to overcome his fatal flaws in order to seize the elixir. Combine this with a story of redemption, a villain on the brink of self-annihilation in desperate need of a hero to save him, and you’ve got some seriously hot chemistry.
Is there any advice you can offer to anyone who would like to write?
The only way to learn to write is to write. So write, write, write. No matter what your circumstances or any discouraging comments you get, just keep writing. Join a supportive critique group, attend workshops, listen, edit and submit. Never surrender, never give up!
What is a good villain?
The best villains are alluring in some way. They’re attractive, confidant, mysterious, intelligent and oh so sexy. That’s what makes them dangerous! The classic example is Count Dracula. A good villain doesn’t have to use violence to subdue his enemies. Dracula’s victims invite him in to their bedrooms. Readers want to be swept away into the dark world of the handsome stranger.
About Touch of Salar
In a world ruled by tyrannical kings and fickle gods, the young monk M’lan finds himself at the center of royal intrigue as his healing powers attract the attention of his superiors. When he learns the handsome warrior whose body he’s tending to is not only a noble, but a king’s assassin, any attachment to him might prove fatal. Despite the danger, he can’t stop himself from falling in love. Can he risk the abandon of passion when a slip of the tongue might force his lover to execute him?
Major Jamil Jarka comes to the temple
Excerpt from Chapter 2 of Touch of Salar
Jamil strode through the cool temple corridors and noted that his hamstring had loosened and there was no sensation of a catch as he walked. He’d had the symptoms since that day fourteen passages ago when his instructor had struck him down. Maybe there was something to this healing-energy business after all. His mood felt lighter than it had in ages as he entered the treatment room, once again awash with the amber tones of dawn.
The monk M’lan stood just out of reach of the sun’s rays, head bowed. Strands of blond hair glinted as a gentle breeze stirred them. He did not react as Jamil entered, and he kept his eyes down, as was proper. This gave Jamil a chance to observe him more closely. The monk had been in his thoughts since the other morning, as a constant irritation and source of pointless distraction. All harmless enough, though time moved ever slower as he waited impatiently to feel the monk’s hands on him again.
Today the monk’s face was expressionless, a mask of inner peace and outward aloofness. Probably the sensual impact of the treatment was an inadvertent side effect. Jamil felt slightly disappointed and wondered if he could cast a ripple across the smooth facade.
“Greetings of the dawn, M’lan,” Jamil said. He was rewarded with a quick, surprised look, a flash of umber eyes that became cold and distant as they lit on Jamil’s smile.
With eyes down again, the monk asked, “How are you feeling, Major?”
“Sore. You did hurt me, as promised. But that old sword wound has ceased to bother me, so it was worth it. Maybe today you can heal my hand.” He held out his injured right hand and tried to flex the fingers. They bent reluctantly, and he winced as he tried to close them farther.
“That, Major, will take time. As I said, we must start at the surface and work our way down.”
“That seems backward to me. The sword wound on my leg happened when I was a lad. This is fresh.”
“It is the depth of the injury, not the age, that counts.”
“You’re the expert,” Jamil conceded. He let his robe drop and lay again on the table, determined this time to relax and not fight whatever sensations came, as they appeared to aid his healing.
Again a charge jolted him as M’lan laid hands on him, and then a warm tingling sensation along every nerve in his skin as fingers slid, smoothed, and dug into the seemingly endless knots in his muscles. Today the treatment was more businesslike, though the monk’s touch was pleasant and, in an odd way, comforting. Jamil felt like a pet cat being stroked by an attentive master.
Master. This image made him tense up somewhat. If he relaxed too much, the monk might gain the upper hand. That was ridiculous, but Jamil had rarely allowed anyone full control of his body. It seemed to him that they’d both decided to retreat from the dangerous territories they’d so briefly touched on the previous day.
The monk was focusing on Jamil’s neck today, and the pain was again intense. His thumb dug into the muscle at the base of Jamil’s nape until a trigger point there suddenly gave way.
With this release, Jamil flashed back to the fight with a southern rebel. In the tight quarters of a cave, they’d fallen to hand-to-hand combat, and the enemy had gotten his huge hands around Jamil’s neck, choking the life out of him. That was one of three times in his life when he was sure he would die. He still remembered the sensation of struggling for air, life fading away.
The monk’s hands began to shake, and he gasped. His hands slid from Jamil’s body.
Jamil instantly missed their warmth. He waited and then asked, with his face still down, “Calling on the healing energies again?”
“You can really tell that the bones there were bruised once?”
“There is a great deal of scar tissue built up there, and three of the vertebrae in the neck are out of alignment.”
“That too was long ago.”
“You seem to hold on to your injuries, Major.”
“Not on purpose, I assure you.”
The monk made no further comment. He pressed tentatively on the neck for a while longer and then asked Jamil to lie on his back. Jamil rolled over and stared at the arched ceiling. A fresco in muted colors depicted waterfalls descending over boulders in a lush landscape similar to the one that surrounded the monastery. The painting was ancient. The entire place was a remnant of an empire long since fallen.
The monk was working on his hand after all. He held it palm up in both of his and toyed with the fingers, then began to circle his thumbs in the center of the palm. There was no pain, the touch gentle, and for some reason this felt more intimate than all his previous poking and prodding. Something about the hands—holding hands, simply innocent and yet bonding.
Jamil again relaxed and felt blood flow to his penis. It swiftly stiffened and became erect. He chuckled and said, “Take care of that for me, monk.”
The monk’s thumbs stabbed deeply into Jamil’s so recently shattered bones, bringing tears to his eyes, but it did nothing to discourage his lust. He watched M’lan’s face. The monk was staring at him with an icy expression—a monk’s haughtiness that didn’t suit him in the least.
Jamil said, “You would like to, wouldn’t you?”
“It is forbidden.”
“Forbidden fruit is the sweetest, or haven’t you heard, locked away in your temple?”
The monk’s breath caught, and he looked away, then back at Jamil’s cock, then at his face. Jamil grinned. His suspicions were confirmed. The monk was not beyond normal desires. To his surprise, M’lan first raised Jamil’s hand and pressed cool, moist lips to his knuckles and fingertips.