Welcome my darlings. Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing the marvelous Gayle Cranfield, author of The Jasmine Tree.
Gayle: Thank you Amara, and thanks for inviting me to your blog today.
Amara: Hiya Gayle, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
Gayle: My background...I live in the UK and originate from the East End of London. Bit of a rough area. (posh now thanks to the Olympic village two miles down the road, but that's because they levelled half of the crappy bit to build it!) I met my now husband when I was 14 and 30 years later we have two beautiful kids who are both away at University. One in Cardiff, Wales and the other in London. I now live in Wiltshire in the South West of England slap bang in the middle of Stonehenge and Bath. I run a beauty salon part-time and the other part of my day I write.
Amara: What inspired you to write?
Gayle: I read FSOG, I know, I'm sorry, but one of my nail clients lent it to me and I kinda got hooked...but it got me into reading again. I found I loved reading Erotica and couldn't get enough of it. I read everything possible by Sylvia Day and then I realised how bad EL James was (or perhaps we should blame her editor more than her).
In the summer of 2014, I went on road-trip around California with my family and friends and downloaded some terrible books. I do try and finish everything I start but had to give up on two of them. That's when I thought...if these books can get published surely I can do something better than that. By Christmas I had written my first book which was 97000 words.
Amara: So, what have you written to date?
Gayle: I have written 4 books so far.
- The Right Turn
- The New Dawn
- The Jasmine Tree
- And The Forever Forest which has just been sent to a publisher.
Amara; What genre are your books, and what drew you to this genre?
Gayle: I write M/F thrillers although The Forever Forest (as yet unpublished) is a M/F Paranormal.
I love to write what I enjoy reading so tend to stick to thrillers. My books are full of twists and turns and I love to keep you on the edge of your seat throughout the whole book. You will never guess the end of my thrillers.
The Paranormal was out of my comfort zone but loved writing it as a change and I think I will explore that route again.
Amara: What are you working on at the minute?
Gayle: I'm just 3 chapters into a new thriller. This story begins with two children in Marrakech with their parents, one of the children is kidnapped and never found, my story is about the child that is left behind. A bad boy the mother wraps in cotton wool to protect but he joins the marines to escape her. We meet him seventeen years later when he is in The Special Boat Service (SBS) UK equivalent of The Navy Seals. I know the end, but haven't decided how I'm gonna get there yet!
Amara; Have you written any other novels in collaboration with other writers?
Gayle: No nothing.
Amara; In your opinion, what is the hardest thing about writing?
Gayle: The hardest thing is accepting criticism from your Beta readers. One of my Beta readers is also my proof reader and she has ripped apart my first chapter on two of my books. I loved The Jasmine Tree's first chapter, thought it was the best thing I had ever written until she ripped it to pieces (well I thought she had at the time. All she actually said was it needed something else.) I added some photos that my hero was looking at to explain his life to date instead of it being a catalogue of information, she read it and agreed it so worked and said it was a brilliant start to my book. I told her I f**king hate it when you're right.
Amara; Where can you see yourself in 5 years time?
Gayle: I'd love to make a living from this writing lark...but let's see.
Amara; What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Gayle: Never give up and always have the guts to say, actually this is pretty good. Never be frightened of rejection (I was rejected six times before The Right Turn was accepted, JK Rowling was turned down eight times allegedly, hey, I've just realised I got a publishing deal quicker than JK Rowling wha hoo! Although I think she's made a bit more money than me.)
Amara: Thank you for stopping by today to chat with me. It's been awesome! Muahs!
Gayle Cranfield was born in London and found her forever after, Mark at the age of 14.
After nearly 30 years of being together, they have two children and now live in Wiltshire in the South West of England somewhere between Stonehenge and Bath. They have one child at University in Wales studying Psychology and another at the London College of Fashion studying Make up, Hair and Prosthetics for Performance (Training to become a sci-fi makeup artist for film and TV basically.)
Gayle was an Account Manager for a manufacturing company until 4 years ago when, after a weird shamanic experience in Brazil, she changed her life path and retrained as a beauty therapist. She now owns a successful beauty salon that she runs from home.
Whilst on a road trip around California in 2013, she read some disastrous books and when she returned home decided to write one of her own. Having never creatively written a word since school, she picked up her iPad and hesitantly started to write in secret thinking she'd write a short story. Her most productive time of the day was as soon as her husband left for work at 6am and before her first beauty client was due at 9am and then in between appointments if she had a spare hour. Before she knew it, she had 20 chapters and 97000 words!
Gayle's sister and friend both called Debbie, read it and with a bit of re-writing Gayle had a manuscript ready to send out to publishers at the beginning of 2014, where Siren offered her a publishing contract in March 2014 for The Right Turn.
"It is great to see your work come alive," Gayle says. "Although you have had various Beta readers telling you it is a great story and a real page turner until a publishing company says 'Yes we want your work' you only think your friends are being nice and trying not to hurt your feelings. Seeing the front cover being emailed to me for approval with my brother-in-law's photo of Bath in the background, was when the reality hit me that this was actually happening and people other than my friends and clients were going to read it.
Gayle now has three books published by Siren Publishing, The Right Turn and The New Dawn with the third, The Jasmine Tree was released on the 15th January and has recently been released to Amazon. Although Gayle writes Erotic novels which are Male/Female, they are also thrillers with a very dark twist. Her Fourth book, The Forever Forest is a dark Paranormal M/F And this will be submitted to publishers this week, and hopefully available later in the summer. She now wants to be able to write full time and hopes that in a few years the dream will become reality.
The Jasmine Tree
"The Jasmine Tree is my favourite book so far. I have grown as an author over the past year and although I love The Right Turn and The New Dawn, The Jasmine Tree is a much harder story with Michael and Lilly being strong people in their own right, but together they make the story come alive. I got the idea for The Jasmine Tree when I was in New Orleans in 2014. We went on a scandal tour where the tour guide explained how the Russian Mafia had taken over the seedier side of life in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and how they import girls from Eastern Europe with the promise of a better life in the USA, but realistically they are drugged and, put to work in the strip clubs in Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. When they are hooked on heroin and are burnt out, the girls go missing. It intrigued me and I couldn't wait to get home and put pen to paper (or fingers to ipad). Ten weeks later The Jasmine Tree was ready to go to my Beta readers and the feed back I got from my four strong team was that this was the best book yet. I hope you like it as much as us."
Michael Reynolds, ex Royal Marine and SBS (special forces) has been deep undercover in the Russian Mafia for two years. He hates his assignment, but because his mother was Russian, he was called upon to infiltrate the organisation by MI5. Now called Mikel, he has been tasked by his mafia bosses with finding girls in Eastern Europe who are to be put to work in the sex industry in New Orleans with the empty promise of a better life in the USA.
Mikel meets Lilly Summers in a Mafia owned club and starts a relationship with her, but soon backs away when he realises he is getting in too deep and doesn't want Lilly to get involved in his current life or to be dragged into the organisation he works in. But Lilly starts working for Mikel's Mafia boss and his love for Lilly grows.
When Mikel is encouraged to go further undercover by his MI5 boss he finds himself in a battle between reality and the counterfeit life he has been leading, although when he finds out Lilly is not all she is supposed to be, that is where his troubles really start.
But Michael is troubled in other ways....what is in his nightmares and what is the significance of the large tattoo that covers his back?
Michael stood in front of his bathroom mirror, running his fingers through his hair.
When did he stop recognizing his reflection? Apart from having a quick shave every other day, he hadn't really studied himself for a while. His forty-one-year-old weary, blue eyes looked back at him as he dragged his cheeks down and moved nearer to the mirror for a closer inspection.
The lines that were appearing around his eyes seemed to be getting deeper by the day. Dragging his fingers through his hair once again, he could just see the beginnings of gray coming through the dark brown. Where had that come from? He wondered if he could pull off the George Clooney look a few years down the line but decided he had a harder life than Mr. Clooney so probably not.
“I'm getting too old for this shit!” he said to himself in the mirror. “And talking to yourself, Mikey-boy? That's not going to go down well at your next psych eval is it?”
Walking back into the main room of his pokey bedsit, he sat down on the edge of his bed and put his head in his hands and massaged his aching skull with his large callused fingers. God he missed being himself, he was tired of this counterfeit life, he just wanted to climb to the highest point in London and shout, “I am Michael Reynolds!”
He got off the bed and knelt on the hard wooden floorboards and picked up his mattress. Stretching deep into the middle of the underside, he reached and felt for the cut he had made in the soft furnishing and pulled out the envelope he was fishing for. Sitting back down on the floor he opened the flap and carefully laid the three photographs in front of him.
The first picture he picked up was taken on the day of his passing out parade with the small group of friends he had made in his fifteen months of officer training in The Royal Marines. He had always dreamed of being an officer just like his father and it was one of Michael's proudest moments when he finally received his green beret. Throughout his long career he eventually made Major, one rank above his father, which Michael knew would have made him so proud, if he'd lived to see it.
The next photo showed his mother stood next to him on that same day. Although she sat in the audience and smiled for the camera that sunny afternoon, that smile never reached her eyes as deep down she hated his career choice. She loathed the Navy and the thought of her baby leading the same life as her husband distressed her greatly.
Nadia detested being an officer’s wife, especially being a foreigner. The other wives were very cliquey and she never felt accepted into the fold. Her husband was often away on tour for long periods of time and she became a very lonely woman. It was only Michael that kept her going, a son she totally idealized. When Michael's father was killed in 1982 in The Falklands Campaign at the age of forty-three, his mother returned to her native Russia and Michael was sent to boarding school in England at the age of ten. Nadia desperately wanted Michael to continue his English education as she felt he wouldn't have the same opportunities back in Russia, but she would always regret her decision to leave him.
Michael was fluent in Russian and from a very young age his parents insisted he would only speak Russian to his mother and English to his father as they were determined he would not lose his heritage. He spent many summer holidays as a child with his grandparents in Russia and had very fond memories of the country. He could also speak French and German along with a good amount of Pashto, one of the two Afghan languages, but it was for his Russian connection that he was chosen for this most recent mission.
He had been working in the Special Boat Service or SBS for five long years on covert operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. He would be sent in, eliminate his target or pull them out for further questioning and move on, no questions asked. It was hard life and he hated it but it was a job he felt he had to do, a job he needed to do. When eventually he was put out to pasture and semi-retired, he found himself living the life of a hermit on Grand Cayman, the largest of the three Cayman Islands which was sixty miles south of Cuba. He had been renovating a bar that he bought and was just beginning to enjoy his new life when he was approached to go deep undercover within the European Russian Mafia by the British Intelligence agency MI5. The Russians had been reportedly taking over European cities at an alarming rate, moving into distressed and run down areas, taking over districts that the Italians, Irish and Triads had abandoned.
MI5s files had been beginning to stack up against the Russian criminal gangs, when they inadvertently stumbled upon a strong and credible connection with their UK-European investigation with Louisiana in the USA. There had been reports of “merchandise” being shipped from mainland Europe, through the UK and onto the USA, but shipments of what? Whatever it was had only ever been referred to as “merchandise.”
MI5 started liaising with the CIA and they learnt from their American counterparts that following Hurricane Katrina, the Russians had made themselves very much at home running all underground activities in New Orleans and now protection rackets, drug dealing and gun running were quickly spreading throughout the US like a disease as the Russian mafia gangs grew in size and power.
Michael had been tasked to infiltrate the Mafia in London and build dossiers on individuals within the UK operation. He became known as Mikel Kozlov and had to quickly learn and memorize his new history and life of the man he had now become.
“Hey,” she said, kissing his neck, “if you don't think you're going to make it home, let's start as we mean to go on…”
“Sorry?” he said, confused.
“Meet me at the ladies’ in five minutes, not before, not after.”
She looked directly into his eyes. “Does this face look like I'm taking the piss?” she said as she got up from his lap and walked away.
That five minutes passed so slowly. He had finished his drink and was counting down the seconds until it was exactly four minutes thirty seconds after she had left. He got up and walked to the ladies where he found a sign hanging on the wall saying “out of order.” He opened the door carefully and she dragged him in by the tie, locking the door behind him. It was a large plush bathroom with two cubicles and a velvet chair that he presumed she had dragged into the middle. She pulled him in further into the room and sat him on the seat.
Standing in front of him Lilly proceeded to untie her halter-neck dress. As she pulled the bow, the whole dress floated down her body and pooled at her feet, leaving her totally naked except for those black shoes again.
“Fuck Lilly, you are just perfect,” he said breathlessly.
Mikel went to get up but she walked toward him and pushed him back down onto the chair. She stood back. “What do you want, big man?” she asked.
“You, here riding me.” He grinned and pointed to his lap. She pinched both her nipples between her fingers and Mikel ran his fingers through his hair in pure frustration. He wanted to get up and touch her, but now knew that wasn't the game.
Her hand sunk lower down as she started to touch herself. Mikel groaned and unzipped his fly and slowly started to masturbate his long, thick, heavy cock. She walked up to him, reached down into his jacket pocket, took out his wallet and opened it up. She found what she was looking for and slipped his wallet back into his pocket. “Always prepared.” She smiled as she ripped open the condom packet and took out its rubbery content. She rolled it over his penis and when she was happy, sat on his lap and sunk herself down, stilling as she took all of him. He held onto her hips expecting her to move, but she didn't.
Lilly looked into Mikel's eyes and grinned. “Well what are we going to do now?” she asked.
“I get a feeling you are just about to fuck my brains out.” He laughed.
“I get that feeling too, but only on a promise.”
“You do love a promise.”
“I do. I want you to promise me that we will stay together tonight. You don't have anywhere to go tomorrow do you?
“So will you stay with me?”
“You are into blackmail then?”
She pulled herself off him and sunk back down. He groaned loudly. She slowly pulled at the knot of his tie, undoing it and dragging it through the collar, opening his top button. “You know how good it feels together, we can fuck all night long and into most of tomorrow too.” She leant over to him and gently kissed him his bared neck. “It's going to be so good, that you'll never want to leave.”
He knew it would be and that was what he was frightened of. She slowly pulled herself off him and got off his lap, coming round the back of him. Confused, he sat waiting for her as she wrapped the tie around his neck gently coaxing his head back to look at her upside down as she leant over him and kissed his lips. She sat him upright again and whispered in his ear from behind, “Promise?” She slowly let the cool, silk tie drag over the heated skin on his neck.
She took first one wrist and then the other tying him to the chair with his own tie. What the fuck? he thought as she walked back around to his front. Lifting her leg over his lap she lined herself back up and sat back on his rigid penis.
“Do you promise?”
“Yes, I promise.” What else could he do, he was totally at her mercy and would have promised her the world at that point.
She lifted herself off and back down again. “What do you promise?” she asked seductively into his ear as she clenched her internal muscles around his thick cock.
“I promise I will stay the night with you.” He strained. She was the sexiest woman he had ever met and he knew this one experience tonight wasn't going to be enough.
She started to move up slowly, using the nape of his neck as leverage, then sinking back down. He was desperate to kiss and suckle her breasts but they were just out of his reach. If he had use of his hands he would pull her back and bite her nipples until she screamed. He could feel her muscles tightening around his already overstimulated cock and her breathing was becoming labored. Slowly and carefully she continued to torture him. He wanted to feel himself throbbing deep within her and she was keeping him on the edge.