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Guns & Smoke
The Fool’s Adventure Series Book 1
by Lauren Sevier & A. Smith
Genre: Dystopian Western Romance
In a world where safety is a luxury and honor is found only among outlaws, two people attempt to outrun dangers lurking around each corner and the tragedies that define them.
Bonnie is an outlaw on the run. Beautiful but dangerous; her dark past stalks her like the crater beasts that roam the desert. As the notoriously cruel outlaw Jones sends his henchmen to track her down and retrieve the gun she stole from him, Bonnie hopes she can stay one step ahead. Because if he catches her, a fate worse than death awaits.
Jesse always dreamed of leaving the farm to explore the ruins of the big cities he’d heard about his whole life. He just never imagined he’d be forced to flee after strange men burned down his rural mountain town and murdered everyone he loved. Responsible for his kid brother and searching for an uncle he’s never met before, he isn’t sure he can navigate the perils of life among con artists and thieves long enough to find him.
Their two paths collide as they find themselves thrown together on the adventure of a lifetime.
Together, they may just discover that life is about more than just surviving.
TRIGGER WARNING: This book contains depictions of graphic violence, language, sexual violence, attempted rape, depictions of child abuse, and depictions of human trafficking.
One small change in position and now each of my soft curves was pressed intimately against the tall, hard length of his unyielding body. His blue eyes blazed in the dim light of the alley, reading something on my face that urged him on. This was supposed to be my trap.
His hands were buried in my hair now, a thumb tracing over my cheek to land on my bottom lip. I knew what he wanted. Parting my mouth, I wrapped my lips around the pad of his thumb, my tongue flicking against it before sucking softly. A deep thunderous sound rumbled through his chest to shake me down to my bones. His hand in my hair slid to the back of my head, pulling my mouth closer to his. He wanted me to kiss him. He wanted this to be more than a transaction. He wanted me to want him back.
I brushed my nose against his, and he stilled. All other motion and sensation forgotten as his eyes landed on my mouth, inching closer to his. I drank in the taste of his breath, a faint echo of the taste of his lips from before. My head tilted to the side, and he brushed the hair away from my face to see me more clearly as I angled toward him. He swallowed down whatever desperate words were on the tip of his tongue, and I took his chin in my hand, mouths open and millimeters apart.
Lauren Sevier & A. Smith are long time friends and co-authors from southern Louisiana. Guns & Smoke, their first joint publication, began as a “short” story after having too much wine on girl’s night. Nine years later it is now the first novel in a Dystopian/Western Romance series. The duo has plans to publish several series together in the future. A. Smith spends her time with her two rescue dogs and rescue cat surrounding herself with books and Labyrinth paraphernalia. Lauren Sevier collects antique tea cups and tries to stay sane, though as the mother of a toddler she fails brilliantly most days. She also has a growing collection of crowns and tiaras and likes to act silly on Tiktok. Look for more thrilling novels from The Fools Adventure series in the future!
What is something unique/quirky about you?
I collect antique tea cups and saucers, but I don’t drink tea. LOL! I know, it’s really strange. There’s just something delicate and beautiful about them. I love collecting different designs from different periods in history and I have a TON of them. I have one from the late 1600’s that was made in Austria and several that were made in Occupied Japan during WW2. But hey, you can drink coffee (or whiskey) out of teacups the same as anything else, right?
Where were you born/grew up at?
Lauren and I both grew up in a small town north of Baton Rouge, LA. While it is close to the city, when we were growing up, the town was very rural. We spent a lot of time hanging out at each others houses because there was very little to do. Fun fact: we’ve known each other since we were four years old!
What kind of world ruler would you be?
I’d be a terrible world ruler. Completely selfish. Bossy. I really shouldn’t be in charge of other people. The reason my family works so well is that my husband balances out my Type A, way-too-driven, OCD tendency, crazy neurotic personality by being completely and utterly unflappable about anything and having a very Hakunah Matata approach to life. If I literally ruled the world… *shivers* Well, I don’t even want to imagine it.
What are you passionate about these days?
Rescue animals. I have adopted three (two dogs and a cat) within the last two years. I am always trying to get people I know to adopt animal that are in need of homes. I encourage everyone that I know they should adopt instead of shop for a pet, because there are so many rescue animals out there, especially ones that run a chance of being euthanized. I have three of the sweetest animals, including a two year old pitbull who loves every single person she meets, especially kids.
How to find time to write as a parent?
I just don’t sleep anymore! LOL! No, but seriously, having a wild and wonderful little boy who is still in his toddler years can be quite demanding. During naptime, on weekends when my husband is home, and after he’s been put down to bed are prime writing times for me. To be honest, writing isn’t one of my top priorities. That probably sounds pretty blasphemous, but children are only little for a little while and although I try to be an example to him of hardwork and perseverance as I chase after my dreams… My main priority is to spend quality time with him. Children don’t remember if they had the nicest shoes or the most expensive birthday cake. They remember the times when you gave them your utmost attention, when you were at every game cheering them on, or when you took the time to teach them things. I never want my son to look back on life and say ‘Mom was always working’. So, I made peace with the fact that I would never publish more than possibly one or two books a year because I just couldn’t devote enough time to writing, editing, and publishing. I think my readers appreciate my candor on such things, even if several of them have already been banging down my door for sequels. LOL!
Describe yourself in 5 words or less!
Kind, Organized, Hard Working, Passionate, Empathetic.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I considered myself a writer from the time I was 8 years old and started writing little stories. I did a lot of fan fiction writing and text based roleplaying growing up, but I always knew that I wanted to write original, novel length stories of my own. It wasn’t until I was out of college that I allowed myself to really dive into that dream because that voice in the back of my head always told me that I wasn’t good enough to do it, but I fought back against that. I have so many stories that I plan on sharing with the world.
Do you have a favorite movie?
I have had a lifelong love of the 1984 Jim Henson film Labyrinth. I saw it when I was a child, and then rediscovered it when I was in high school. There’s something about David Bowie in tights with 80s hair singing alongside a slew of puppets about stealing a baby that touches my heart. Three of my four office walls are covered in Labyrinth paraphernalia. If you’ve never seen Labyrinth or only ever saw it as a child, I highly recommend rewatching it as an adult. It’s a lot of fun!
Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?
Guns & Smoke. I have always been able to see Bonnie and Jesse in my head as real characters in real locations. Guns & Smoke has a lot of action and adventure, which would appeal to fans of action films, as well as the romance tie in, which would appeal to fans of romance! Could you imagine seeing the dusty streets of gang-filled Vegas in a post-modern world?
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
MERMAID! LOL! I mean, not just as a writer either. I frequently tell people that when I growup I hope to be a mermaid. It’s literally my goal in life to just waste away my days singing on a rock, combing my hair, searching the sea floor for shiny things to collect. Luring men to their deaths. You know, just a typical Tuesday afternoon! LOL! I’ve been obsessed with mermaids since I was little, my husband and I even danced to ‘Part of your world’ at our wedding. So if I have a spirit animal for anything, it’s definitely a mermaid.
What can we expect from you in the future?
So much! Guns & Smoke is the first in a four book series. In addition to those four, we have a couple of sequel series, a prequel series, a few novellas and an anthology set in The Fools Adventure world. We also have plans to write a Victorian-esque fantasy romance as well as a paranormal romance series together. Individually, Lauren is working diligently on the sequel to her YA Fantasy debut, Songs of Autumn, and I’m working on a Fantasy Romance novel with the intention to traditionally publish.
Do you have any “side stories” about the characters?
There is one side character in Guns & Smoke who pops up out of nowhere. It’s someone who was a big part of one of the main characters’ lives.
Where did you come up with the names in the story?
Love this question! So,because this novel is a Dystopian/Western Romance it’s set in a not-so-distant future where the world has been ravaged by the effects of nuclear warfare. It’s the American Southwest and in a lot of ways, society has reverted back to a time much like the chaos of the Wild West from a not-so-distant past. There are themes in this book about history repeating itself and that’s definitely the case with the names of the characters in this book. Bonnie, for example, is literally name after Bonnie Parker of the infamous Outlaw duo Bonnie & Clyde. She explains in the book how she got her name. Jesse is also literally named after a murderous outlaw from the past. Jesse James. Only in his case, his father thought it would be funny to name him after an outlaw from his childhood and his mother lost a bet. Harry, Jesse’s younger brother, is affectionately coined ‘The Kid’ by Bonnie early on in the novel and this completes the main cast of characters, however, there are several other characters who share their fate with having wonderfully outlaw-inspired names throughout the book and the series as a whole.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
Really delving into romance. While all of the projects I’ve written before have been centered around a romance, I’ve never embraced the genre until Lauren proposed it to me. Being able to fully dive into these characters in an adult genre really made them pop off of the page and come to life.
What is your favorite part of this book and why?
My favorite part of the book are the quiet moments, when Bonnie and Jesse aren’t at each other’s throats and they’re actually being vulnerable with one another. There’s just something about two characters that push past their defenses and come together that really touches my heart. There’s this really great scene between Bonnie and Jesse in chapter ten of Guns & Smoke where they’ve just gone through something really terrible. They open up to one another, which leads them farther into the unknown, but also closer together.
Have you written any other books that are not published?
Literally tons. I have a novel that I’ve been working on for fourteen years. I have really terrible depression and anxiety, and I continually get in my head about it. The story has literally changed so many times, and it’s still not ready for the public just yet, but get this: a secret society of witches, New Orleans, and romance. I also have more than a dozen works in various planning stages that I cannot wait to write.
Do you read yourself and if so what is your favorite genre?
I read almost anything that I can get my hands on! While Fantasy is probably my favorite genre right now, I have always had a soft spot for dystopian literature like Divergent or The Hunger Games. I’m really big into Sarah J Maas right now. I really love her mental health representation, plus Cassian from A Court of Thorns and Roses is basically my one true love.
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?
Silence is the death of my writing! I have to have music. Lauren and I both will find one song when we’re writing a particular scene that encapsulates the mood and listen to it over and over again. When there’s silence or I have background noise, I struggle to focus, so I plug in my earbuds and just go!
If you could have been the author of any book ever written, which book would you choose?
Harry Potter. Because I’d be set for life!
Pen or type writer or computer?
Computer. All the way. I’m no good with dictation software and I think I need the textile feel of the keys on the keyboard to get into a good writing rhythm. There are times when I long-hand scenes that I need to sit with and really nurse the words to make them sound exactly right, but that’s when I can take my time with a section. I write a LOT slower than I type, so for initial drafting and not refining or re-writing, it’s always the computer for me.
Tell us about a favorite character from a book.
I feel like people are sick of thisanswer from me, but Kaz Brekker from the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo is currently my favorite character. He’s almost like the rebirth of the anti-hero in modern fiction and I’m living for it. I have a soft spot for misanthropes and anti-heroes in literature, I seriously fall way too hard in love with them. The amount of character development Bardugo was able to write into his character is still something that astounds me to this day.
Advice they would give new authors?
I feel like I give this advice so much, but I feel like it is the one thing that has really helped me: read. Read every single thing that you can get your hands on. You have to study the craft of writing, which doesn’t mean just reading non-fiction craft books. It’s important to read what is big in the market and find the things that you enjoy in those novels and figure out how you can incorporate that feeling into your own work.
Describe your writing style.
Generally speaking, I have a really lyrical and emotionally grounded writing style. It’s more pronounced in my solo works like my debut YA Fantasy novel ‘Songs Of Autumn’, but there’s a definite lyrical quality to the sections I write. I’m a fan of alliteration with purpose and finding almost musical beats in storytelling. I think just like the composition of a great song, story structure is very similar and that probably has something to do with it.
What makes a good story?
Relatable characters with flaws and realistic stakes. I read somewhere that a problem a character can walk away from is a book a reader can put down and I don’t think I’ve ever felt any piece of writing advice so acutely before. The characters don’t necessarily have to be likeable, but they should be relatable. What’s more relatable than a person who isn’t perfect struggling with a problem that seems overwhelming or impossible to solve? I think I’ve felt that way in my own life so often that it just makes sense to me that other people will have too.
What is your writing process? For instance do you do an outline first? Do you do the chapters first? What are common traps for aspiring writers?
I am notoriously bad at outlining and having any sort of plan whatsoever when writing. Abbie is actually the one of us who keeps me in line and on track.She usually helps keep timelines on track, and points out when a character’s perspective is missing. Or when we need to accomplish actual plot things in a chapter instead of it being all fluff and nonsense. Honestly, our readers should thank her for the fact that the book isn’t just an absolute mess. LOL! No, but really, drafting for me is all about discovery writing, while editing is where I’m able to tame the story into a believable plot and really make it shine. Abbie helps us to stay on track so that we can draft cleaner and have less overhaul to do in the editing process.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Personally, a bit of both. Just like in life, writing is all about balance. We’re conscious of reader expectations but still make decisions based on what feels right for the characters and the story. Overall, we want readers to be satisfied but sometimes that means making decisions that aren’t exactly what they expect. It’s that moment of ‘Oh, I didn’t see that coming’ that will help them keep turning pages and keep being invested in the tale we’re weaving. But to completely ignore your audience and the genre expectations is really just asking for poor reviews. So, we try to balance both as best as we can to deliver a novel that’s familiar but new at the same time. Something that peaks your interest but you can’t predict where it’s going to end up.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
Lauren has always told me that I am really good at writing men. As a CIS woman, I think one of the most difficult things about writing male characters is getting into the little nuances of being a male that aren’t inherently female. For example, Jesse was almost a little too polished, which is because I like to write male characters in how I would like to see a man. So including genitalia jokes isn’t something that comes naturally to me like it would a man, but it’s those little things that really make a character feel real to readers.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Drafting a noveltogether is actually really quick for Abbie and I. We wrote the first draft of Guns & Smoke (it’s current iteration) in less than a month, and the sequel (which is even longer) we cranked out in 26 days. We’re currently working through the first draft of book #3 in the series so that we can hopefully cut down on time between publications for reader satisfaction.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
Ha!I’m going to get some heat for this one. Writer’s block doesn’t exist. I thought it did for a really long time. I thought I was stuck in the throes of it for even longer. What I’ve discovered is that you can suffer from lack of confidence in yourself, or you can have an ‘editing block’ where you stop drafting to edit what you already have, psych yourself out, and end up never finishing. Or you can be struggling with ‘imposter syndrome’. Or you can be suffering from not taking enough breaks and refilling your creative well. But the writing is always there. There’s no block to it other than the obstacles you put in your own way. Once I realized that the thing stopping me wasn’t some concept of a ‘writer’s block’ that I couldn’t escape, it was clear to me how to move forward. I won’t say ‘easy’ because I don’t think it’s easy to get out of your own way. In fact, it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But, it’s clear what path to take when you realize that the only person stopping you is yourself.