INTERVIEW WITH NAIMA SIMONE
Hello, friends. Happy Tuesday!
Today on Okie Dreams, we are thrilled to share our author interview with Naima Simone. You’ll find a discussion on the author’s latest release, Jessie’s Girl, and on what readers can expect next. Plus, we have a book excerpt, some gorgeous graphic teasers, and book info and purchase links.
In case you aren’t aware, Jessie’s Girl is the first book in Simone’s The Trapper Keeper Diaries series with Oliver Heber Books. The series is inspired by 80’s music, with each book centered around a classic 80’s song. This book, Jessie’s Girl, is inspired by the classic Rick Springfield song of the same name, and features a hero who has struggled with his feelings for his best friend’s girl for years… until he’s forced to finally confront them.
INTERVIEW WITH NAIMA SIMONE
Hi, Naima, welcome to Okie Dreams. We are excited to have you here with us today, and of course, to talk about your newest release, Jessie’s Girl.
Can you share a little bit about yourself and tell us about your new book?
Naima: Hi, Deanna! Thank you for having me!
So a little about myself? Well, I’m a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance and erotic romance. I love to write the books I enjoy reading—which are ones with heart, heat and humor. In other words, give me all the angst, hot sex and snark! LOL!
If you love 80s music, then you have a great idea what Jessie’s Girl is about. I’m an unabashed lover of all things 80s, and driving home one day, this Rick Springfield classic came on the radio, and I asked myself, “What would’ve happened if dude had told Jessie’s girl how he felt about her? Would she have rejected him? Or maybe she’d been eyeing him all along and they gave in to the desire between them? Did Jessie find out?” And that’s what Jessie’s Girl is about. Answering all of those questions.
When thinking about drafting this book, what came to you first? The story, or the characters.
Naima: The story definitely came to me first. As I mentioned above, while listening to the 80s classic, I started thinking about all the alternate ways their story could’ve panned out if Jessie’s best friend had let the cat out the bag. Or if his secret came out in some way. So all the possible scenarios popped in my head, and the story formed around those. And out of the story came the characters and their individual back stories. Which is funny, because usually it’s the other way around for me.
I love this series name so much. It reminds me of my youth. But I am curious what it means to you. So, my question is, why the Trapper Keeper Diaries? And why this title, Jessie’s Girl?
Naima: The Trapper Keepers are symbols of the 80s to me. Of my youth. And they were some of the happiest, most amazing times for me. But they also had wonderful music, movies and books. It’s when I discovered romance! So for me, it’s the symbolism of that colorful folder/binder that we all kept our papers in was perfect. Because for me, it wasn’t just where I kept homework. It was also where I kept my handwritten stories. My first—and oh my Lawd, awful! LOL!—romances. I hid them away in my Trapper Keepers. And as for Jessie’s Girl, it’s because the story is based on that song. All the books in the series will be based on 80s songs. ‘Cause that’s my era and those were—are!—my jams!
How did you know the two protagonists, India and Asa, were the perfect ones to tell this story?
Naima: I knew by the time I got to the middle of chapter one. And I knew because I got really, really excited. They were having this emotional, painful conversation about Jessie’s infidelity and how she felt like a fool, and he waged this internal war against his loyalty to his friend and his love for this woman and the need to comfort her. The angst! On both of their parts! I was like, “Oh this is going to be amazing!” I knew their chemistry was going to be off the charts, but at the same time, their journey to their happily ever after wouldn’t be easy. And that was exciting too.
Do you have any favorite lines or quotes from Jessie’s Girl?
Naima: I have several, and some of them are, um, NSFW. LOL! But one of my favorites is when Asa describes what India is to him.
“This has been my existence for years. You. I have been, and continue to be, wrapped up in you.”
What about a favorite scene or character moment?
Naima: While I love all the scenes with Asa and India, but Rose, Asa’s ten year-old niece, was a joy to write. And so were any scenes involving her. She’s lost her mom, Asa is her guardian, and she loves him—even though she’s so long-suffering at times with him, especially when it comes to doing her hair. LOL! She’s also very outspoken and precocious. Yes, that’s the word for her. LOL! Any scene with her is my favorite.
Is there a scene or moment in Jessie’s Girl that was difficult to write for you? Why do you think it was tough?
Naima: The most difficult scene was the black moment. From the beginning of the book, the reader knows that at some point the ish has to hit the fan with Jessie. And writing that scene with all the emotion of the fallout was one of the more difficult scenes simply because of the emotion from all three characters even though I had to remain in the point of view of one.
What do you love most about reading and writing romance?
Naima: I love reading and writing about the journey that two flawed and often broken people find to redemption, healing and, of course, love. And then, most definitely, there’s the HEA. Everyone deserves a happily ever after, and in romance, there’s a comfort and security in knowing that these characters, who have been through hell, will deservedly receive theirs.
What do you want people to take away from reading this book, and reading your work in general?
Naima: First, I just want people to find escape into Jessie’s Girl. I hope it gives them moments where they can break away and fall into this couple and leave everything else behind. And then I want readers to take away that love makes a way. It makes room and it makes a way.
Do you have a core story or theme that you see pop up throughout all your books?
Naima: The recurring themes that tend to pop up throughout all of my books are redemption, forgiveness and healing.
What is coming up next for you?
Naima: I’m super excited about the rest of 2022! After Jessie’s Girl, I have Heated, Book 1 in my new Burned, Inc. series with Montlake. That releases July 5th. And on August 23rd, Black Sheep Bargain, Book 4 in my Billionaires of Boston series with Harlequin Desire releases. Then, Don’t You Forget About Me, Book 2 in the Trapper Keeper Diaries comes out on October 4th. And on November 15th, Ravaged, Book 2 in the Burned, Inc. series releases.
Did I mention it’s going to be a busy year? LOL!
Anything you are currently working on and can tell us about?
Naima: I just finished the fourth book in the Rose Bend series, currently titled Mr. Right Next Door. I’m writing another Rose Bend novella called Trouble for Hire and the first book in a new Desire series. In other words, I’m writing and breathing. Writing and breathing. That’s all I have time for. LOL!
“You knew,” India accuses me in that hoarse voice that sounds as if a carpenter took several feet of sandpaper to it.
“It wasn’t mine to tell.” My voice, even and deep, doesn’t reveal how there’s an angry, wounded animal howling inside me. It’s demanding I go to her, wrap myself around her like a living blanket to soak up the hurt, that agony that damn near vibrates in her husky tone.
“Wasn’t yours to tell?” she repeats. A harsh, hollow bark of laughter follows as she tips her head back and stares at the ceiling for a brief moment. When she looks at me again, anger flickers, mingling bright and hot with the pain. “You were supposed to be my friend.”
“I am, India.” The fingers of my right hand curl into a fist. One I wish I could plow into the nearest wall. Or my best friend Jessie’s face. “I am your friend. Never doubt that.”
“Yeah,” she scoffs, her full mouth with its plump bottom lip twisting into a bitter caricature of a smile. “That’s why you let me walk around with my head up my ass for how long? You let me live a lie. You let me be a fool.” She shakes her head so hard, her dark brown, tight curls brush her cheekbones. “And for the life of me, I can’t figure out which one is worse. Finding out the man I loved—the life I lived with him—was a figment of my dumb ass Pollyanna imagination. Or that I was a willfully blind idiot, and everyone I trusted was in on the joke. The joke being me.”
“Baby girl,” I murmur, risking her wrath, her disgust, and stepping across that line in the sand to stand in front of her. To… touch her.
I’ve been very careful about touching this woman. Brief hugs. Deliberate but friendly distance. Even a fucking pat on the head. But now, with her hurt beating off of her in red-tinged waves, I can’t not put my hands on her. Even if it’s just her slim shoulders. But it might as well be on those just-less-than-a-handful and utterly perfect breasts. Or those feminine, rounded hips. Or that ripe peach of an ass.
It doesn’t matter where my palms skate or where my fingertips press into her gleaming chestnut skin. It’s all sexual. It’s all dirty.
Because it’s all her.
For me, it’s always been her.
My fantasy. My sin.
My joy. My regret.
My best friend’s woman.
Copyright © 2022 Naima Simone
The Trapper Keeper Diaries #1 | 162 Pages
Pub Date: May 24, 2022 | Oliver Heber Books
You’ve been his for years, and I respected it. Maintained my distance.
Kept my silence. My secret.
Until that night you came to me, disillusioned, angry and hurt. God helps us both, but I crossed my carefully drawn line before you left, disappeared.
Now, you’re back, and my need for you is a beast that hasn’t been fed and has grown hungrier in the years since I’ve seen you. I remind myself we can’t be more than friends, that you’re off-limits to me. But it doesn’t stop me from secretly craving what can never be mine.
My fantasy. My sin.
My joy. My regret.
My best friend’s woman.
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