Jen: Today we welcome Donovan J Brooks to Romancing the Book. Donovan, will you share a short bio with us?
Donovan: Inspired by characters such as Captain Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter, black and white films, and vintage burlesque, Donovan seeks to capture the forbidden and erotic side of a decade rich with vibrant hues.
He has an affinity for the 1940s, parboiled detectives, murder mysteries, and sexy, sultry dames. Erotic moments can be triggered by a brush of the fingers, a heated glance, or a daring confession. Donovan seeks to capture these scenes and paint them with words. Romance varies but should never be limited, especially when the characters speak in authoritative tones.
Jen: Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
Donovan: A Dame to Die For is a detective, noir, erotic romance set in 1946 New York City. It has all the elements of a heart pounding adventure. Mystery, intrigue, secrets and lies, burlesque performances, and fractured familial ties. All set against an exciting post-WW2 American background.
I got the idea from a friend of mine who’s half in love with Chris Evans. She showed me some pictures of Chris in a fedora from one of his films. Then she showed me a lovely picture of Hayley Atwell in 1940s evening wear. Well, that sparked a story in my mind. And since I harbor quite a crush on Ms. Atwell, I decided to run with it. I’m so glad I did.
A glance over my shoulder allowed me to catch her movement as she slipped on the shimmering blue silk evening gown. It hugged every inch of her body, accentuating every asset she possessed. Goddamn it. Smart and sexy. I’d never met a woman who drew me in as she did.
I looked away before she caught me watching, pinched my eyes closed and took a few breaths to calm my pulse and my raging erection.
“How do I look?” she asked.
I turned around. She pulled the pin from her hair and let the mahogany curls drape across her shoulders.
My perusal began at her feet and slowly traveled upward. By the time I met her eyes, I was aflame. I wanted to touch every single inch of her, exploring with my fingers and mouth. She tilted her chin up and smiled like she could read my mind.
“Blue’s always been a good color on you.” I brushed invisible lint off my sleeves in an attempt to redirect the fire burning hot between us. “When do we go on stage?”
She winced at my brusque tone but quickly masked what looked like disappointment. Without hesitating, she crossed to the vanity and sat down to fix her lipstick.
A knock at the door, then a shout through the wood. “Five minutes.”
“Thank you, five,” she replied absently before glancing at me in the mirror. “That answer your question.”
“Yeah.” I picked up the mask.
“Put it on.” She dabbed the red onto her lips.
“It’s better if they don’t know who you are.” She set the lipstick down and turned to face me.
“I’m beginning to wonder if you’re playing games with me here, Lily.”
She stood and took the mask from my hand. Stepping close, Lily reached up to fasten it around my head. “If they know I brought you here, I’ll be out on my ass faster than you can say strip.”
I caught her by the wrists. “Why me then?”
She met my stare and held it, her lips quirking. “Because, you’re the only I can trust to can find Ginger.”
“I don’t think that’s the only reason.” I leaned closer, my lips hovering over hers.
“I need you, Jack.”
“Never thought I’d hear you say those words.” The double meaning didn’t escape my notice. My gaze dropped to her mouth. “You’re lucky you’re wearing that shit on your lips right now and that we have to be on stage in a few minutes.”
“Why’s that?” she asked, her eyes glinting in challenge and amusement.
“You and I have unfinished business.” I released her wrists and backed away. “Remember that.”
Lily would break me, one way or another.
She snatched the hat from the couch and set it atop my head.
“Just try to keep up.”
She led us out the door, and I hoped she wasn’t leading us both to slaughter.
The sway of her silk-clad hips drove me to distraction. I was supposed to be finding a missing girl, not falling into the same goddamn pit I’d dug my way out of five years ago. Taking a deep breath, I followed Lily.
Jen: Are you a plotter or pantser?
Donovan: Panster. 100%. I wrote both of my stories with no notes, no guidance, no outline…nothing. I find that letting the story grow organically that way is more fun for me as a writer. Not saying I’ll never be a plotter, just haven’t been one so far.
Jen: Describe your writing in 3 words.
Donovan: Sensual, visceral, noir.
Jen: What kind of research did you do for this book?
Donovan: I researched New York City in the 1940s as well as burlesque shows during that era. I watch a lot of noir films, so I let them influence a bit of the décor and description. I found a great interactive map of NYC in 1941. It really helped me map out where the characters lived and where to locate The Shining Star (burlesque and jazz theatre.)
Jen: If this book was made into a movie, who do you see playing the main characters?
Donovan: I’d cast Chris Evans as Detective Jack Hunter. I know he’d be able to pull of the gritty, hard-boiled detective, especially after seeing his performance in Snowpiercer.
For Lily, I’m going with Hayley Atwell, since she inspired the lovely burlesque dancer in the first place.
Jen: What’s the most interesting comment you’ve received about your books?
Donovan: A good friend of mine read my story and his exact words were, “I had to reread the dance performance scene a few times. That is by far the hottest thing I’ve ever read.” It was a wonderful compliment, and I’m very proud of that scene.
Jen: What’s next for you?
Donovan: I’m going to take a little breather and flesh out an idea that came to me after I wrote ‘Til the End of the Line, my first story. Kelley and Hunter have been begging me to finish their story, and interestingly enough, it involves a third party…a woman. In case you haven’t figured it out, Kelley and Hunter are both men, soldiers who served together. It’s a complicated story, but you’re welcome to read it in their short. I’m not sure when I’ll get to their next installment though. Although they both make an appearance in A Dame to Die For.