Name  Arika Stone

Age 37

Where are you from I was born and raised in New York City, but I now reside in New Jersey.

A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc  

My background is diverse; I have my BS and MS degrees in Criminal Justice with minors in Studio Art and Business Administration – but my career hasn’t been in any of those areas!  In 2003, I opened up my own e-commerce business (www.littlethingsfavors.com) which sells wedding favors, accessories, and party supplies.

I am a mom to three sons and three furbabies.  I love painting, writing, lemon drop martinis, travelling and spending time with my family.

Fiona: Tell us your latest news?

My debut novel, The Sanctuary (Eros’ Edge Book 1) was recently released by Liquid Silver Books on June 8, 2015.

Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?

I began writing in my teenage years and a few of my poems were published in Teen magazine (going way back to the ‘90s!)  I’ve always been writing in some way or another: for my business I write all of my content and blogs.  I’ve had my writings featured in wedding related books as well.

I began my fiction “career” in my 20’s. My first novel is still collecting dust on an old computer and my current novel (The Sanctuary) was written in 2008 and its sequel (The Society) was written in 2009.  I didn’t think people would be interested in my writing, so they were shelved until last year.  I discovered them as I was cleaning out an old computer, re-read them and was immediately drawn into my story line.  I knew I had to get them edited and published.

I began writing because I always was a daydreamer by nature and an avid storyteller.  Creating things has always been a passion of mine – I love the arts: painting, writing, dancing.  Maybe I’m just an entertainer at heart.

Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I’m not sure if I’ve ever considered myself a writer – even though I have been doing it all of my life in some way.  Perhaps I will consider myself a writer once writing becomes a full time career – which I hope one day it does.

Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?

Am I allowed to be a fangirl for a moment?  In 2007, a Finnish metal music group (HIM) released an album called Venus Doom. The title track, Venus Doom, actually gave me the inspiration to write The Sanctuary.  The lyrics, “give her a kiss worth dying for” and “show me her life worth living for” inspired the beginning of the story: Eve travels to Finland to find her muse again after being hurt by her ex-fiancé.  She wasn’t expecting to find love, but it found her, in a small café in the heart of Helsinki.  The rest of the story blossomed and took a life of its own after the initial inspiration from HIM.

I was a fan of HIM for years and always wanted to travel to Finland to see them live in concert in their home country but never had the opportunity.  After I wrote the book, I knew I had to visit so I could bring a touch of authenticity to the novel.  In December 2008, I traveled to Helsinki for the first time and upon my return wrote the second book in the series.  Helsinki fascinated me and I developed a fondness for the people, the culture, the food, and of course the music – I basically fell in love with the country.

Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?

I’m a pantser by nature, I never plot anything out!  I’ll get an idea in my head and daydream about it while I’m working out on the treadmill.  By the time I’m done working out, I usually will have the next few chapters sketched out in my mind.

Fiona: How did you come up with the title?

The hero in my story, Val Ruska, is a musician and artist that works from home.  He refers to his basement, where he composes, as his “sanctuary” – it is also the one and only place that they “play” together.  In a sense, it is his safe place – a place where he can be who he truly is.

Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

While The Sanctuary may come across as an erotic romance, it’s not just about sex! Eve is an event and wedding planner who is in love with love – but never has been able to find a love to call her own.  She longs to find the one mate she can settle down with and build a family that she never had.  When she meets Val, he wants to give her everything she needs and she is ready to give up everything she’s worked for – for him.  To her friends, it looks like she is being manipulated, but she’s not – sometimes you have to risk it all to find exactly what you’ve been searching for.  The book is about transformation, and self discovery.

There are subtle but deliberate showings of this transformation: Valo Ruska’s (the hero) name has a meaning. Valo is the Finnish word for light, Ruska is the Finnish word for the changing of the seasons (namely, how the leaves of the trees turn to fall colors).  He is the light that guides her to true happiness, and the book begins from the fall season through the following summer.  You’ll also see many instances where Eve is shown “waking up” in the beginnings of chapters – while my editor wasn’t fond of these (she felt it was too repetitive) it was to signify her awakening.   There are many more little messages within the book, but I will let the readers decide on their own interpretations of them.

Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?

I would say at least 99% of the book is fiction.  There is a splash of reality mixed in, but it’s mainly found in my descriptions of Helsinki.  For example, in the first chapter, Eve is looking down a cobblestone street and she pictures Victorian era romance.  That street is Sofiankatu in Helsinki which I fell in love with when I visited.

Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

I can’t say that I ever experienced any part of the story myself.

Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?

When I was a teenager the two most influential books were The Story of O and The Sleeping Beauty Trilogy (which is now a Quartet).

However, one of the characters in the second book was heavily influenced by a “mentor” so to speak.  He was a professional Dom and music producer whom I befriended online and would talk to me about the lifestyle so I would have a better understanding of it for the second book.

Fiona: What book are you reading now?

With my current workload, I am not reading anything at the moment, but I do have a list of books to read.

Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

I wouldn’t say new, but I recently discovered a few blogs that have mentioned Kitty Thomas – and I have her books on my TBR list.  I love dark romances.

Fiona: What are your current projects?

I am currently editing the second book in the Eros’ Edge series, The Society and I am in the process of writing the third book The Secret.  I have a few other stories that I haven’t started yet, but will be soon.

My novels tend to be on the long side (The Sanctuary is 122k words,  The Society 114k) so they take time to write and edit.  Some of my future works will be a bit shorter and stand alone.

Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.

Next to my family, my friends and boyfriend are my biggest supporters.

Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?

I would love to be a full time writer.  If I could, that would be my dream career.  Hopefully, one day it will be.  But right now, there are not enough hours in the day to devote to it full time as I need to focus on my business as my primary profession.

Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

If I could do it over again, I would have published it earlier.  But everything happens for a reason and maybe it was meant to be published now.

Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I first started writing poetry after being burned by an ex-boyfriend.  It was a way for me to release my hurt.  Later, stories became the means to express myself and to live in my own little fantasy world in my head.  Book boyfriends are the best boyfriends – you can make them do or say anything you want.

Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?

I slammed the door to our home, attempting to make my point over the loud banging coming from below. It was pointless. Nothing could be heard over the sounds of the power tools. I had no idea what was going on. All I knew was construction workers had been in our home for the past two days finishing up what Val called a “project.”

I plopped the groceries on the counter. It was Christmas Eve, and we’d cancelled our trip to Lapland, partly due to the weather, partly due to my change of heart. I wanted our first Christmas together in our house. We were planning on spending tonight alone and tomorrow with his family. I had to bend tradition. His family usually celebrated tonight. Luckily for me, he routinely gave into my every whim, my every desire. Whatever I wanted was mine.

I stared out the window. Snow was gently falling. It was the perfect weather for Christmas. I felt his lips on my neck. “I didn’t hear you come in.”

“How could you with all that noise? When will they be done? It’s Christmas Eve.”

“Why don’t we go out and buy a tree like you wanted? By the time we come home, they’ll be gone.”

“And how do you suppose we get a tree back to the house? A reindeer-pulled sleigh? In case you forgot, the Vespa only fits you and me.”

“I could have arranged for a sleigh ride. If we were in Lapland.”

“Well, we’re not, so we’ll have to make do here.” The banging continued, even louder than before. “What the hell are they doing, Val?”

“Nothing, it’s just a little home improvement.” His eyes twinkled like miniature tree lights. “Why don’t we go out for dinner then?”

“That’s the best idea you had all day.” I kissed him. “Where do you want to go?”

“Most of the restaurants are closed, but there is this little Indian place near the center.”

I wrinkled my nose. “You know I hate Indian food.”

“But you manage to eat something. Come on, we haven’t had it in ages.”

“Didn’t you have Indian yesterday?”

He pouted, and I couldn’t resist. “Fine, but don’t try and persuade me to eat anything spicy.” I only agreed because I needed to escape the pounding blasts coming from below.

Within the hour, we were strolling through the city center hand in hand. Although the shops were closed, the windows were decorated, the street lanterns danced, and people hustled to and fro to their Christmas activities. It was all very magical to me. It had a certain Old World charm that was missing in the States.

Val leaned into my ear. “I have a gift for you when we get home.”

“I thought we agreed no gifts.”

“Who said it was a Christmas gift?” He smiled mischievously.

“What else could it be?”

“You’ll see.”

“Don’t keep me in suspense all night. You know how I hate surprises.” I playfully slapped him.

“Oh, you hate Indian, and you hate surprises, but you love me anyway.” He chuckled.

“Does it have to do with the construction?”

He pressed his lips together. “No, that’s for my pleasure. You’re not going to get it out of me.”

“Your pleasure?” I pondered the meaning behind his words.

“Stop trying to figure it out. You need to wait. Enjoy the suspense.”

I furrowed my brows. He knew how much I disliked it when he did this to me.

“If you keep it up, darling, I’ll make sure to make dinner painfully long for you.” He leaned in and kissed me on the cheek. “I actually have two surprises for you. But first let’s eat. I’m starving.”

It didn’t matter that I stopped questioning him. He dragged out dinner for as long as he could anyway. His appetite was only big for sex, not food, and after three hours of sitting at the same table, my patience for his game was wearing thin.

“You’re not planning on ordering dessert, are you?”

A wicked grin flashed across his face. “No, darling, that’s what you are for.”

“I’m dessert? Now, that could be interesting.”

“It could be, for me anyway.”

I smirked. I had no idea what he planned, but whatever it was, I was getting quite bored of it. He finally paid the check after another half an hour of torture. We headed home in silence. The snow was falling heavier than before, covering Helsinki in an unearthly resemblance to a Norman Rockwell painting. This is what Christmas should look like, I thought to myself, as we made our descent down our block.

I slipped the key into the lock and turned it. The house was eerily silent and dark. I reached out for the light switch and flicked it on. And lo and behold, in our living room next to the fireplace, a Christmas tree illuminated.

“Oh, Val.” I choked up. “So this is why you dragged out dinner.” I hugged and kissed him. “I love you. It’s beautiful, thank you.”

I knew that holidays were not on his important “to-do” list. He’d rather they just passed us by. He’d made it clear to me that he never decorated and that Christmas had become so commercialized that it held no significance. I gave up on the hope of a tree. But like Thanksgiving, he found a way to make it special. He understood how important it was to me.

“I’m glad you like it.” His smile was warm and endearing. “Come, there’s more.” He grabbed my hand and led me toward the rear of the kitchen.

“There’s more?”

“I told you I had two surprises for you, but I lied. I have three.”

“Now you’re making me feel bad. I didn’t get you anything.”

“Oh, this has nothing to do with Christmas. I wanted to give you something.” He led me down the familiar steps to our basement sanctuary. It had been weeks since the two of us were here, expressing our animalistic desires. I wondered what he had done.

“Wait here,” he said, leaving me by the steps. He walked to the fireplace and lit a match, igniting the wood already in place. Scooping up something on the floor on the way back, he purred, “Close your eyes.”

I closed them as he requested. I felt the cloth being wrapped around my eyes and tightened around my head. I knew he was blindfolding me, and I accepted my fate in his hands.

He tenderly took my hand in his and whispered in my ear, “I’m going to take you somewhere you’ve never been before.”

My mind raced with excitement. Was it going to be “one of those nights”? I dared not speak a word. I did not know if we were playing already.

“Follow me.” He drew my arm out, and I obeyed his touch, moving in unison next to him.

“I’m very happy you fell into the role, and I didn’t have to ask you to do so.” He kissed me on my shoulder, sending chills down my spine. It was going to be one of those nights.

I heard something move, something heavy. It was similar to the sound when he opened the passage to his recording studio. He shifted me ahead of him. “The walkway is too narrow for both of us.” The door closed behind us with a soft thud.

He pushed me forward into the darkness, guiding me with his hands. “Are you ready, love?”

“Yes,” I replied, not knowing how much I could speak.

“Keep your eyes closed until I tell you to open them.” He reached for my blindfold and slipped it over my hair, dropping it to the floor.

“Open your eyes.”

My eyes fluttered opened. He had converted the small stone room next to our sanctuary into a little Moroccan-themed love nest. The ceiling was lined with silk, and the floor covered in antique rugs. The walls were lined with comfy, authentic couches, and there were pillows everywhere. A deep red light illuminated the room, accented by lanterns that hung from above. There were two low tables perfect for the theme and a hookah to smoke.

I was awestruck. I had mentioned to him we should convert the room into a love nest or a dungeon. I thought for sure he would have chosen the latter of the two.

“Do you like it?”

“I love it.” I kissed him. “You are so thoughtful. How did I get so lucky?”

“I ask myself the same question every day.” He embraced me, holding me in his arms.

Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

When I originally wrote The Sanctuary, I found it difficult to describe a place I had never visited before.  However, after visiting so many times, I was able to infuse my writing with touches of my visits.

The other obstacle I face is time.  With my business and children, I find it hard to find the time to write every day.

Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

One of my all time favorite books is The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.  Even though it explores the struggles of society’s expectations versus her own wants in the 1950’s, I feel that the themes are still relevant to today.  Even in today’s society there remains certain expectations surrounding a woman’s role. We still struggle between wanting what we long for and what is expected of us.  Sometimes those external and internal expectations put so much pressure on us, we can break.

Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?

I have traveled to write them – I’ve been to Helsinki several times over many years.  I’ve explored the countryside from Helsinki to some of the most northern parts and loved every moment I spent there.  I haven’t traveled yet to promote them – but I hope to someday.

Fiona: Who designed the covers?

Valerie Tibbs of Tibbs Design www.tibbsdesign.com

Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?

I didn’t find the writing to be overly challenging, but I found self editing to be daunting.  The book was originally 173,000 words and I knew that if I wanted to have a chance at getting it published I would need to pair it down to 120,000 words.  I managed to get it to 128,000 words before submitting it to publishers. 

Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

I learned that it takes perseverance to make a dream become reality – writing is hard work, it is truly a labor of love.

Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?

Don’t give up. There are so many authors who have submitted to agents and publishers and have received rejections, but have gone on to be successful writers.  Just keep writing and good things will happen.

Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Go pick up a copy of The Sanctuary and read it today.  Seriously, click on over to Amazon, Amazon UK, BN, iBooks, Kobo – or whatever company you like purchasing books from and grab a copy of the book.   Then let me know how you liked it.  I love reader feedback and would love to hear from you.

I’m also giving away 10 signed paperback copies via a Goodreads giveaway (Ends July 8, 2015) and you can enter here: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/141686-the-sanctuary

Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?

I was reading before Kindergarten so I can’t say that I do.  Reading has always been a passion of mine since I was young because it takes you away from reality for a little while and brings you to places you only dreamed about.

Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?

My family says I have a 5 yr old boy’s sense of humor.  The dog farts, I laugh.  My children tell me silly knock-knock jokes I laugh.  But I also have a very “adult” sense of humor too…

I cry easily… I don’t like seeing friends or family in pain.  When I love, I love deeply and when I hurt, I hurt deeply too.  I can’t watch sad movies or I’ll be in tears.

Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?

Although I met them many years ago, I would have to say the band HIM for writing music that inspires me to write.

Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?

I rather not a headstone.  I rather be cremated, my family can keep a vial of my ashes if they wish and the rest of my ashes can be scattered among all the places I loved to visit.

Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?

I love spending time with my family and painting.

Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?

I’m currently addicted to Orange is the New Black.  But I’m also a fan of Sex and the City and Dexter.

Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music

Favorite Food: Eggs – I love breakfast.

Color: Green

Music: My favorite band is HIM of course, but I love rock and rock stars!

Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?

 I would have liked to be an art instructor or a gallery or museum curator.

Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?