Review copy was received from Author. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Drop Dead Gorgeous by Suki McMinn
Series: LA Vamps #1
Published by Self-Published on January 4, 2014
Genres: Paranormal Romance
Derek Randall had a perfect life as an L.A. supermodel falling in love with Clara Devereux, his dream girl. But when he's murdered and becomes a vampire, his world is turned upside down by his evil maker, Madeline. He struggles with his new existence, finds help from his nest of brothers, and goes to Clara. They renew their love and hatch a plan that will get him back in the modeling spotlight, but it's a dangerous game, and as Madeline circles closer, Derek has to choose: his life or Clara's.
Yummy Man – Derek Randall
Kick Ass Chick – Clara Devereux
Drop Dead Gorgeous is a story written by Suki McMinn, a wonderful friend of mine. I have known her for about five years through fanfiction. I have loved her stories there. I have hosted some successful contests on fanfiction and she has been one of my judges every time. She has also won more than one contest. So when I heard she was writing a book for publication it seemed a natural fit for me to review her book.
In any book, the author and the reader start by getting to know the world or situation. This is especially true in paranormal romance or urban fantasy, where there is much more world-building involved than a straight “human” type story. For me, many things influence my enjoyment of a book. Sometimes, it’s the mood I’m in or whether the book is what I expect it will be. But it always starts in my head. I struggle to understand the situation, the people, what is happening; I’m organizing what I know and trying to make sense of it. Then at different rates for each book, it makes its way into my heart.
From that point, I am connecting to the characters, caring about what happens to them, feeling with them, hoping, laughing and crying, riding along with my emotions. If I don’t end up in feelings, and stay in my head, then I don’t fully experience the book and I probably didn’t enjoy it or like it much. All this is especially true with the paranormal romance and urban fantasy books, both because they have the world building with more to understand in my head and if I stay in my head, they sometimes seem ridiculous (not realistic), because they aren’t exactly realistic.
The beginning of Drop Dead Gorgeous, between the new world and the memory flashbacks, was a little harder to get me going. Then I began to root for the couple and hate the villain and care about their friends. I liked Clara. She felt real to me, strong, smart, honest and loyal. Derek was, of course, handsome and initially wealthy. He was also very sensitive and loving to Clara. I just wanted him to be stronger and smarter, figure out more about his situation and how to protect Clara. And I really wanted him to be honest with Clara.
Because Derek was a new vampire and not fully aware of his world, I wasn’t either. In fact, I still feel like I don’t know much about this vampire world. Surely, there were other vampires besides Madeline and her horde? I also wish we had learned more about the brothers, developing their characters just a bit more. Are there other supernatural beings besides vampires? Some of these questions kept me a little bit in my head instead of just going with the emotional flow.
But even with that, I did enjoy this book. I really connected to Clara and worried about her since Derek didn’t tell her enough, at least in my opinion. I wanted Derek to be, well, smarter. I get that it was all new to him but other than being good at not being followed, he didn’t seem to figure things out too quickly. So really I’m mad at him for not protecting her while he chose to put her in such danger.
The situation with Derek’s being a newbie and Clara not knowing anything didn’t give them as much time together as I would have liked. The story is told from both points of view so we do hear what both Clara and Derek are thinking, what is going on inside their heads, whether they are together or not but as a couple, I wanted more intimate dialogue between them. Honest conversations.
The sexy times were hot, well written, with enough but not too much detail. And it seemed appropriate since they were a couple already.
I did really enjoy the little bit where Derek starts to get to know and work more with some of his brothers. Billy is a great character and I love Derek’s interactions with him.
I have those lingering questions about the world, so I definitely want to read the next book, Die Laughing, which is due out later this year. Also, based on the title and premise, I hope it will have more humor than this first book. I know the author is very funny. And I hope there will be more of Billy’s story. The brothers will provide a great basis for stories to be written in the future.
Interview with Suki McMinn:
For those readers who don’t already know and love you (like me), can you talk about how you came to participate in fanfiction? How did it help you with becoming a published writer?
I discovered fanfiction reading True Blood’s IMDb message board. People were talking about Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse book series (True Blood’s source material) and looking for “more,” and I followed a link to fanfiction.net that opened up a whole new world for me. At around the same time, I’d started attending a women’s writing workshop, and as I began to write, I posted stories on fanfiction.net and fell in love with the whole process.
Over the next few years, I posted many fanfiction stories online (70 as of today), entered contests, made lots of friends, and became really immersed in the fanfiction world. I also started writing original stories and began shopping my work to agents and publishers. I hadn’t had any luck until I heard from another fanfiction writer about a new romance e-publisher called Temptress Press who was looking for launch titles.
I contacted them and introduced myself, and told them I was Suki59 on fanfiction.net. I submitted Drop Dead Gorgeous, and they said yes! Unfortunately, shortly after they published Drop Dead Gorgeous, they had to close and so I immediately self-published. I feel lucky that I found them when I did because mine was the last book they published, and while the book was only out nine days (crazy, right?), I got the benefit of their editing and cover design skills. My path to publishing wasn’t what I would have expected, but the result is that my book is out!
What job(s) did you have which helped you write this book? Were you a booker or manager or something?
After college, I was trying to find a way to use my English Lit degree from the University of Tennessee, but started modeling instead. I moved to Los Angeles, and began a long and diverse career both in front of the camera and behind the scenes. While modeling and acting remained my primary professions, I had many other jobs to make ends meet along the way. I did hold very brief positions as a modeling agency receptionist and a booker to fill in when my agency was short staffed, and I was a freelance fashion show coordinator, photographer’s assistant, makeup artist, wardrobe assistant, … well, you get the picture. I did a lot within that industry including work in print, fashion shows, commercials, and music videos as a model/actor. I also have many friends in the business, and I draw from all those sources when I write.
Who are a few of your favorite authors and why do you like them? Or just what kinds of things do you enjoy reading?
Jane Austen is probably my favorite author. She makes a small world where really very little happens incredibly compelling. Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain haunts me. Laura Kinsale’s Flowers from the Storm is my favorite romance novel. I love reading both fiction and nonfiction, and always have a long list of books I want to get to but never seem to have time for. I just joined a women’s reading club, and am looking forward to discovering new authors, knowing I’ll read more because I’ll have a deadline and it will force me to make more reading time in my life, which is always a good thing.
What’s the most unusual place you’ve ever been recognized as an author or talked with someone about your books?
I’ve only been a published author for mere days so no one’s recognized me yet. And I don’t think anyone from the “real” world has ever known me from my fanfiction. I can tell you the strangest conversation I’ve had about my work happened when my dad called this morning and told me he was so surprised and delighted at reading the sample chapters of Drop Dead Gorgeous. He seemed genuinely shocked at how much he liked the writing, and said he was going to buy the book right away. I warned him that there was sex in it. It was a conversation I never dreamed I’d have with a parent, and it still makes me squirm a little thinking about it.
What’s next in your writing plans?
Right now, I’m writing Die Laughing, the sequel to Drop Dead Gorgeous. In Drop Dead Gorgeous, the first book in my L.A. Vamps series, I create a nest of hunky vampire men from which I can pluck an endless supply of sex partners … um … I mean fictional heroes. In Die Laughing, I pair a famous dead painter who also happens to be a hot L.A. vampire with a booker who does stand-up comedy on the side. I continue to explore the modeling business in L.A., but also take a peek behind the scenes of the art world and stand-up comedy scene.
Okay, Flash Four time
Flash Four questions about books and writing ~
How long, from start to end, did it take you to write “Drop Dead Gorgeous”?
I wrote the first draft in about 3 months, set it aside for a couple of years while I wrote other things, and polished it for another month or so before submitting it. Temptress Press and I took six months to edit it for publication.
Did you see yourself being a writer as you were growing up?
No, although I recall a teacher once telling me I should write, and that made me feel good. After I got my English degree, I thought I’d do some writing at some point, but many years passed before I seemed to have anything to say. Then, you couldn’t shut me up (see fanfiction.net: Suki59).
In what room of your house do you write from?
I’m very lucky to have an awesome office just off my bedroom. It’s a little glass room with a built-in desk, a view of our backyard, a doggie door, and a heated tile floor that seems to be the perfect temperature for sleeping Chihuahuas.
Do you tend to come up with the title for your book before you start writing it, while you’re writing it or when it’s all done?
I start with a working title, but usually change it as the story progresses. For example, when I started Book 2 in the L.A. Vamps series, I labeled it Drop Dead Again just to keep the files easy to find on my computer. But as the stand-up comedy storyline developed, it became Die Laughing.
Flash Four questions about random things –
Sweet or salty snacks?
Why, yes, thank you! Don’t mind if I do. Got any chocolate?
What color is your toothbrush?
Hmm, it kind of looks like my gym shoes. White with colorful swirlies and swooshes and with patterns pressed into the rubber for a better grip.
Your high school experience: good or bad?
Yes, it certainly was. I had wonderful girlfriends, and boys completely ignored me. It was kind of like being on fanfiction.net.
What do you like on your pizza?
Fresh mushrooms, fresh tomatoes, sometimes pepperoni if I have a decent stash of Tums standing by for later.