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Second Skin by Jesse Pearl
Obsession is never just skin deep.
Sam Blanco’s greatest desire is to escape his abusive father and violent neighborhood the only way he can—by earning money as a tattoo artist for a street gang. He’s befriended their leader, the deadly Leo Reyes, and gained a measure of safety under their protection. But just when things are going right for the first time in Sam’s life, Leo’s girlfriend, Pilar Flores, walks in and requests a tattoo in an unusual location. Sam obliges, but the experience leaves them both reeling. Unable to focus for days, Sam finds himself craving Pilar’s touch, but she’s exactly the kind of trouble he doesn’t need.
Pilar Flores is her father’s daughter. Being the daughter of a drug lord is not an easy role to fill, but she aspires to live up to the title and make her father proud. But her father has no plans to allow her into the business, and Pilar hates being sidelined. She hates that Leo is away for days on end, and she especially hates being treated like an incompetent female by every man she sees. Except for Sam. She decides to take control of her life the only way she knows how—through seduction. But she’s not prepared for how eager and passionate a lover Sam is, or how deeply she’s drawn to him. Even though she knows their ill-fated affair can’t possibly end well…
Gustavo had needed to be taken care of, that fact had been clear to him for months. The only reason he hadn’t gone to Arturo Flores about Gustavo’s consistent series of fuckups was because of his promise to Pilar to leave her father out of it.
The deed was done, the memory of the corpse he’d left behind in the little shack in the Sonoran desert still left him ice cold to his core. He’d had to ignore the spark of memory of another pair of eyes whose light the same gun had extinguished two years earlier. Two years to the day, he thought.
Leo no longer regretted any of those bullets, starting with the very first one from his brother’s gun that had pierced his own chest. Each had brought him closer to her. Now all he had to do was claim what was his.
The phone at his hip buzzed as he made his way across the tarmac to the parking lot. He settled in his car and started the engine, turning the AC on full blast while he checked his messages.
911! Call me when you land!
It was from Pilar. Goosebumps rose up on his arms in spite of the hot August air that baked the interior of his car.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) of Second Skin to write and why?
The initial scenes between Sam and Pilar were the most exciting to write, probably due to the tension involved. In particular, I love the scene when Benny discovers Sam's illicit drawings of Pilar in his sketchbook. (Excerpt included)
What about your characters surprised you while writing?
They constantly surprise me. Sam can be a knucklehead and an occasional jerk, but somehow he still manages to be endearing.
How did you select the cover for Second Skin?
The cover was chosen by my publisher, but I couldn't have asked for a better one for this book. There were almost no changes after the first draft.
How long do you generally let a story idea 'marinate' in your head before you start the book?
Usually not too long. Within a week or so of coming up with the idea I will start playing with scenes and character sketches to try to get a feel for the characters and their stories. The plot will evolve out of that.
What are the most important elements in good romance writing, in your opinion?
Creating compelling characters that readers have an emotional reaction to is by far the most important thing. Even if that reaction is negative, as long as they feel connected to them in some way, then I've done my job. Ideally the characters themselves will be vivid enough for the readers to root them on and want them to be together.
What's your biggest challenge as a writer? How did you overcome it, or how are you working to overcome it?
Staying focused on the writing is probably my biggest challenge. I am easily distracted, so I generally have to take drastic measures, such as turning off the wi-fi while I'm writing. When I edit I might even print out my manuscript and go sit outside on my patio to avoid household distractions.
I really liked the Second Skin playlist. Do you prefer to write in silence or with music?
I'm glad you liked it! It is still a work in progress, too. I prefer to write with music and I'm always putting together new playlists for inspiration, but some days when I get super-involved in the writing, I am so in the zone that I forget about everything else around me, including putting on music.
Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
Seeing the good reviews and the sales bumps are always nice, but the most rewarding things are the readers who contact me directly and tell me that my writing has affected them on a personal level. One reader, for instance, told me my books helped her get through a particularly difficult holiday--her first family holiday since her mother passed away. It was incredibly touching to know that my writing had that kind of effect and especially that she chose to share it with me.
What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
I'm totally gay for dragons. I even make it a point to include little dragon Easter eggs in my books. There's one somewhere in Second Skin. See if you can find it!
Finish the sentence: One book I wish I had written is….
Prodigal Summer, but Barbara Kingsolver beat me to it. It's my favorite book about characters in a small, rural town, similar to the place where I grew up. I am in awe of her skill at writing characters that have real depth to the point you would just love to know them in person.
What project are you working on now?
I have too many projects! The sequel to Second Skin is just one (there will be five in the series), along with a Motorcycle Club romance trilogy that features a female biker protagonist. I also write erotica novellas under a different pen name (it's sort of secret, but you can find it on my website if you look hard enough - just look for the dragons).
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