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Lily Riley | Interview

Historical meets paranormal with sexy vampires.


Today I welcome paranormal romance author Lily Riley, creator of the Les Dame Dangereuses series. Historically set in 18th century France, these books explore vampirism as a plague—with all the spice! The newest book in the series, The Doctor and the Devil, is out now.


Thank you for joining me today. Can you tell me a little about yourself and what your publishing journey has been like?


Thank you for having me! Honestly, I’ve wanted to be a writer my entire life. I took a brief biology detour in college but found my way back to the written word. I’ve written books, stories, plays, a few embarrassing movie scripts, and…yes…angsty poetry all for myself, but I’ve managed to craft a career as a writer, as well, beginning with journalism and taking me through marketing and PR.


Marketing! Ugh! My nemesis. That has got to be nice advantage in this world. Can you tell me a little about your latest release, The Doctor and the Devil?


This is the third book in the Les Dames Dangereuses series. It follows Dr. Helsing (Mina) as she struggles to reconcile a 20-year heartbreak and find her place in a world that’s becoming increasingly complicated. I don’t want to give too much away, so I’ll go ahead and drop the book description here:


Betrayed by her first and only love, Doctor Wilhelmina Van Helsing fled to Paris intent on finding a cure for the blood plague devastating the country.

With her many talents and sheer force of will, she’s become the preeminent supernatural physician in all of Europe. It seems nothing can stand in her way—until her former lover shows up unannounced and quite unwanted.

Rafael Dracul is fiercely determined to regain Mina’s love after breaking her heart twenty years prior, but his plan is complicated by the fact that he’s being hunted by the Order—a shadowy organization now determined to stamp out the blood plague. If Rafael can’t clear his name, find the true origin of the plague, and convince Mina he’s a changed vampire, more than their future will be lost.

With the Order’s poisonous influence edging France ever closer to an all-out war between humans and vampires, Mina agrees to set aside her anger—if only to uncover the truth of the threats against her adopted homeland. But helping Rafael means getting close to him again, and soon she’s faced with an impossible choice—risk the lives of everyone she cares about, or risk her heart on forgiveness.


Sounds fantastic! Can’t wait to dig in. What draws you to write historical paranormal romance?


With The Assassin and the Libertine, I was inspired to write something set in France in the 1760s. I loved the idea of writing a sexy hedge maze scene, and the themes for the book took off from there. I was also writing this book during the beginning of the pandemic and wanted to include some parallels between what we were all going through at that time.

Paranormal romance might get an eyeroll from some, but I’ve always loved the genre because it often acts as a lens for broader issues. I’ve read so many paranormal romances that are layered with meaning, and I think that’s really special. And the undeniable sexiness of vampires doesn’t hurt.


Mmm. Yes. Vampires. Can’t really go wrong with vampires. What’s a great quote someone has said about your work?


When I was getting ready to publish my first book in the series, The Assassin and the Libertine, I had the opportunity to have author Sarah MacLean read my manuscript and she said: “I really loved this story -- I think you've nailed the hardest thing here -- Authorial Voice. You're a great writer, and the voice of the characters is so clear and fun. I laughed out loud numerous times, and I really love the whole setup, and my god Etienne is smoking hot.”

I will carry those flattering words with me to the grave, lol.


Oh, my! Yes! What a lovely thing for her to say about your book. That’s fantastic!

I love your presence on TikTok. What has your experience been like with the app? Love it or hate it?


Thank you! TikTok is such a strange beast. I’ve found some readers and been able to network with other authors and publishing industry professionals, and I’m constantly inspired by my reader and writer peers. I struggle with social media, to be honest. Despite a career in marketing, I can never seem to find the right balance of selling my books, and just being silly and having fun. I suppose that’s every author’s struggle.

Black and white photograph of author Lily Riley
Author Lily Riley

The struggle is real, my friend. Social media and I have a love-hate relationship. Speaking of love-hate, what are your favorite tropes and themes to play with in your work?


This is such a great and difficult question! As I said above, I love finding parallels between what we’re living through politically, economically, and culturally, and finding ways to tie those to historical moments. In Les Dames Dangereuses, vampirism is treated like a plague, there are tensions mounting between class inequality, and my characters often struggle with their perceived roles in society. I think those are all things we can understand today.

As for tropes, I’m a sucker for only one bed/forced proximity, and I seem to end up writing a lot of sexy bathtub scenes.


But for vampires, is it only one coffin?? LOL…dad joke of the day…anyway…

What do you find is the most challenging thing about being a writer?


My process is very chaotic. From writing to marketing and everything in between, I’m an absolute pantser. It’s hard for me to find the time to do everything I want to do right now, because I have a toddler and a full-time job, and I’m always jumping from one thing to the next.


You have a full plate! Respect! What is the strangest thing you’ve ever researched for your writing?


I’ve spent a lot of time researching 18th-century medicine and a year or so ago, I stumbled onto an article about the lucrative black market for human body fat in the 16th and 17th centuries. I am truly fascinated by the grosser side of human history. I couldn’t tell you the dates for probably any war, but if you want an in-depth discussion of instances human cannibalism in cultures throughout history, I’m your gal.


I have to admit that’s my favorite question to ask because I CANNOT predict the answers I’m going to get! Wonderfully morbid!

Let’s change gears here for another fun one: if you could be transported anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?


Well, it’s been a pretty cold and rainy winter/spring up here in the Pacific Northwest, so I’d love to travel somewhere warm and sunny. If anyone wants to buy a thousand copies of my books and help send me to Hawaii for a few days, I wouldn’t object.


Sunny holidays are the best. Take me with you!

Back to writing, what’s something you wished you’d learned sooner about the publishing industry?


I wish I’d spent a little more time figuring out how to define success for myself when I started my publishing journey. Initially—and perhaps naively—I thought success would mean being able to quit my day job and spend all day writing. If only! It’s nice to earn money from any creative endeavor, but I think if I’d spent time thinking about “success” as creative fulfillment or as a way for me to connect with other romance-loving authors around the world, my milestones would have looked a lot more different and I would have considered myself successful from the beginning.


That is an extremely wise way to look at it. What’s the best money you’ve ever spent as an author?


Commissioned art, for sure! Whether or not you’re using it as free swag or merchandise, having an artist bring your characters to life is one of my favorite parts of being an author.


This is something I have yet to do and I think you’ve pushed me to go for it. What are you working on right now?


I have a few projects in the works right now! I’m working on an upcoming sci-fi adventure romance that’s a bit like Firefly meets Tomb Raider, and I have another series in the works that’s more urban fantasy. I’m enjoying hopping back and forth between the two!


You had me at “Firefly meets Tomb Raider.” Take my money! And thank you so much for chatting with me today. This was fun! Let’s leave some links here so readers can connect with you and your work.



Excerpt:

The devil does not age.

The thought struck me like a bolt of lightning as I stared into the onyx eyes I longed to forget but would always remember. I’d just finished locking up my clinic for the evening, intent on getting a much-needed bite of supper and a moment’s respite from work, but had tripped over my skirts. I braced myself for the pain the fall would undoubtedly bring, but it didn’t come. Strong arms righted me, capturing my body in a painfully familiar embrace that afforded me flashes of something much worse than the sting of a scraped palm. With that, two decades of scar tissue ripped open the wounds on my long-broken heart.

“Good evening, Mina.”

The words were deep and low, soft and guttural—an elegant growl wrapped in velvet. My heart pounded against my ribs, a mixture of panicked fear and dusty memories of aching pleasure. He looked exactly the same—of course he would. Still beautiful, still magnetic, still powerful, still untouched by time itself.

“Rafael!” His name was a furious whisper on my lips. I felt the blood drain from my face. I recognized the signs of shock accumulating in my body, and I forced myself to inhale slow, deep breaths.

“Mina,” he repeated. Lord, how many nights had I dreamed of that hypnotic voice murmuring my name? Even though it had been twenty years, I still couldn’t comprehend the way it stirred my soul.

No! He made his choices, you silly woman, and they were never for you—or about you. Gather your wits and do not let him in.

It would have been easier if he wasn’t holding me upright in the middle of the street. How long had I been clutching at him? Seconds? Minutes? Oh, Mina!

I pushed him away, nearly tumbling again. Attempting to recover from the surprise and embarrassment, I brushed off my skirts and fixed my askew spectacles.

“That’s Dr. Van Helsing,” I snapped.

He arched a brow. I hated that he was as handsome as I remembered. Lean muscle wrapped in moon-pale skin; dark eyes that felt both hot and cold when they gazed upon me; those high cheekbones and patrician nose that spoke of his family’s royal lineage. His full lips parted over those frightening white teeth—two gleaming sets of fangs that I’d never seen on another vampire—and he spoke again.

“So, your father finally allowed you to study,” he said. It sounded like he was smiling, but his lips were set in a firm line. “I should have expected that you would wear him down eventually. Congratulations on becoming a physician, Mina.”

The words stabbed at painful memories and I flinched. Is it possible that he doesn’t know about Papa?

“What are you doing here, Rafael?” The shock at seeing this ghost from my past had faded some, and now I found myself looking nervously over my shoulders. People—powerful people—were looking for him and had been unable to find him. Yet here he is.



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