Favorite Reads of 2012: The Countermeasure Series by Chris Almeida and Cecilia Aubrey..interview, reviews and links

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Today’s offering is a new feature on this blog:  Favored Reads of the year.  The books here will provide you with some new reads you may not already have seen, as well as help you in deciding just what to get for, or what to ask for Christmas.

Today I am thrilled to present The Countermeasure Series by Chris Almieda and Cecilia Aubrey.  Read on to see an interview with these two very approachable and really funny authors, then see my reviews of this series that is part romance, part adventure and part mystery: all wrapped up with international venues, national security issues and characters you just want to know.

Let’s start with the “why you want this series”.  It’s really fun – appeals to both men and women, and can’t really be pigeonholed into romance, adventure, suspense, action, or travelogue: it’s a little bit of all of that.  Of course, the sex starts hot in book one and slowly but surely builds to flaming hot by the end of the series – that’s one good reason.  At the core, however, is a well-researched, well crafted and timely series with situations that could be, may be, might be possible: characters that you can relate to (even if that relationship means whacking someone with a cast-iron pot): and humor. The characters are developing and growing and becoming more like those you want to spend a night with over a pint of Guinness and a plate of chips.  It truly is a 5 Star Series!
Read my reviews of all 5 books in the series at Countermeasure Reviews
I just reread the entire series in order (I had done it out of order before) and I saw the difference in understanding some motivations and statements from characters that weren’t as clear before.  And well – it’s a series – and a while until the next one comes out…so I suggest that you take full advantage and grab them now

Get your Countermeasure here:  Where to Buy

Now – to read the interview with Chris and Cecila – and to find out how to stalk  meet them – read on..

So now – let me introduce you to Cecilia Aubrey and Chris Almeida

Thanks Cecilia & Chris for answering these questions. Your books are all credited as a partnership, but do you each have specific areas that are “yours alone” where your input is primary?

Cecilia: Ours is a true partnership, seriously. Both of us are strong in different areas. You could say subject matter experts (SME) in those. For example, Chris has a strong programming and web design background, mine is steeped in business and research. Our mothers are both from different Latin countries. We both have traveled extensively and I grew up as a military brat living both abroad and in the states. 

When we write, we discuss the mechanics of what we are about to embark on and then we jump in. There are no “yours alone” chapters or scenes. Basically, we write each chapter together. There is not one paragraph or page in which only one person touches it. They are a Vulcan mind melding of us both.

What about writing in the voice of the opposite sex? All of your characters actually ‘feel’ very grounded in their bodies and selves, the change in Trevor’s voice to Cassie’s is palpable – even when she is in her “CIA mode”.  Is that because their dialogue and description are written by different people – or is it a really good collaboration?

Chris: It is REALLY good collaboration. We do divide our work by POV. It’s the simplest way for us. If a chapter starts with Cassandra’s POV, Cecilia starts it and if it’s Trevor’s POV, I start it. Whoever starts, writes until that person hits a wall. We pass the chapter to the other for additions and edits. We continue to pass it back and forth like a ping pong game, building upon it until we are satisfied. Line editing with each pass, until we feel we can go into deeper editing.

The whole thing has become so fluid that even if we start chapters out of order, when it gets to deep editing, it has been shaped to fit the story. We are so in tune with the others thoughts and ideas that there is not a big divergence of opinion regarding the direction of the story and, as far as the character’s POV, we respect the other’s depth of understanding of the character we play. So if I write something in Cassandra’s POV, Cecilia always goes through it to “Cassiefy” it and if she writes a Trevor piece, I “Trevorize” (or geekify) it. 

How do you choose the locations for the action? First it was a trek through Europe and not really ‘focused’ on pirating and tech fraud in a specific area – then you were in St. Petersburg in Russia, which has been in the news as a ‘country of note’.  Are you taking those scenes from life – or is life going to imitate art?

Cecilia: Because the series is a contemporary romantic suspense thriller, we have to stay in tune with what’s current around the world. World events are our playground. 

When the pharmaceutical data theft plot idea for Countermeasure surfaced, we wanted certainty that something of magnitude of the original idea could happen for real. We spent weeks prowling the internet and libraries reading everything we could get our hands on. We made a wonderful contact that actually had firsthand knowledge of the pharmaceutical world we were exploring who validated the premise for our story, corroborated our information, and provided us with a wealth of knowledge. 

Next we folded in the location. We used France as the backdrop for Countermeasure because it does not have an extradition agreement with the U.S., eliminating the chance that the perpetrator of the theft would be extradited. Monaco was also selected due to the aspirations and tastes of one of our villains. 

For To Russia with Love, we started once again on a journey of discovery asking questions, searching the internet to exhaustion, and checking out a gazillion books from the library. We confirmed that Russia had indeed become a mecca for hackers and that they focus on online fraud. A great number of infiltration attempts into financial institutions’ systems come from that part of the world. 

Additional research revealed the role the Russian mafia played and its hierarchy. We researched them thoroughly, watched numerous documentaries on the Vory, and gleaned what we could to ensure that we portrayed our villains in their true environment. Many lived and breathed around one of the largest metropolitan cities, St. Petersburg, our setting for the majority of the story. 

For our current work in progress, the third novel of the series, we are once again diving into current events. This time our eyes are focused the Middle East, a powder keg of politics and religious strife, where every day is lived on the edge. The more we read, discuss, and digest, the faster our pulses race. It will prove to be a rush of a ride and possibly Trevor and Cassandra’s most difficult case to date. 

Although we take the scenes from life at times, it does imitate art. We got a good chuckle when eight months after we had finished the original manuscript for To Russia, we read about a raid on a Russian mafia’s stronghold and a number of men arrested, including a member of the St. Petersburg police force who was involved in the mafia operation. Crazy when a big dose of reality shows up in our fiction. 

What about the sex scenes: they read as very real and full of the emotion of the participants.  I know that imagination is a writer’s playground – but do the scenes and the writing of them draw from real life? How is it that you are able to not make them read like a penthouse forum letter, but still manage to provide enough ‘new’ to spur the imagination and daring of your readers?

Chris: We definitely feel our background as role players has benefited us in this aspect. When writing we both become the characters and the flow and action comes naturally. In the case of the main characters in Countermeasure and To Russia with Love, we wore their skins for months before formally committing their story to the page.

In essence, we are Trevor and Cassandra. We feel their emotions, desires, pain. As a result, when we come to an intimate scene it flows as naturally as their banter. Whatever the setting, whatever the position, it may be just a touch, kiss, a caress, or other delicious…you get the picture, Trevor and Cassandra are in control and we follow their lead.

There are times when we thrive on seeing how much we can make each other squirm and there are times that we have to step away for a breather—more like find a fan—because the intensity of their love can be overwhelming. It’s thrilling to receive comments from readers telling us how those scenes made them feel, how they made them squirm, too. 

The shorts are wonderful vignettes into the ‘at home’ life of Trevor and Cassie when they aren’t ‘working a case’.  Are there plans to do similar with other couples who have emerged in the stories? Are those written more with you in mind; the characters won’t leave you alone until you tell that story or encounter: OR are they more for the readers who are anxious for more of their story while they patiently (or not so) wait for the next installment?

Chris: The stories are there for all the reasons you stated (picture us grinning). Most importantly, we definitely hear our readers when they tell us they need a fix to tide them over until the next full story. Trevor and Cassandra are clamouring in our heads so it is never a chore to push out a little byte of their life. Keep your eyes out because the next three installments (London by Midnight, Blinded by Love, and Blindsided), which take place between To Russia with Love and Alternate Connection, will include other characters from the novels.

And now – the fun things – Pick One:

Dictionary or Thesaurus? Thesaurus is our buddy.

Favorite mixed drink?  Chris – Orange / Carrot Juice (lightweight)
Cecilia – Jack and Coke (sponge)

Coffee or Tea ?  Chris – Tea  Cecilia – Coffee

Socks or Slippers? Socks

Mittens or Gloves?  Chris – Mittens (hates being cold)
Cecilia – Gloves (loves to use fingers)

Best characteristic your writing partner has?
Chris – Cecilia’s outrageous humor and ability to put up with my snarky self.
Cecilia – Chris’s brilliant plotting mind and total acceptance of my randomness.

Strangest quirk your writing partner has?
Chris: Cecilia has a love/hate relationship with zombies (Shakes my head).
Cecilia: Chris has to wear socks no matter what time of year. (Would wear them in the pool if could, just saying.)

Who has the neatest desk? Uhm…do we really need to answer that one?

And – what’s the first book you remember reading – and the last book you read for pleasure?
ChrisThe Lost Island (by a Brazilian author) & The Tribesman by Paul Freeman

Cecilia Love Story by Erich Segal (bawled my eyes out) if you don’t count Sleeping Beauty when I was a child and Stolen Fury by Elisabeth Naughton

Where to follow:

Website  Φ  Series Website  Φ  Series at Facebook  Φ  Facebook Group Φ Author Page

Individual Links to Facebook:   Chris  Φ  Cecilia 

Twitter: Chris  Φ  Cecilia  Φ  Combined 

Goodreads:  Cecilia  Φ  Chris

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