By Azam Gill
WHITE COLLARED, Shelly Bell’s pulsating four-part series of erotic suspense, is a boost to maintain this sub-genre that shot to popularity in the nineteen eighties with the success of, among others, BLUE VELVET and FATAL ATTRACTION. The eloquence of the synopses speaks for itself.
In WHITE COLLARED, PART ONE: MERCY, third-year law student Kate Martin outruns her tragic past. She becomes an intern for her idol and secret crush, the powerful attorney Nicholas Trenton. She is thrilled when Nick assigns her to represent his best friend and client, millionaire Jaxon Deveroux, the prime suspect in his submissive wife Alyssa’s murder.
Kate knows they have only a few days to find the real killer. Since signs point to a member of the BDSM community, she volunteers to go undercover as Jaxon’s submissive at Benediction—the private sex club where he is a member—to covertly investigate Alyssa’s last few months. For years, Kate has kept her dark fantasies a secret, but a chance to explore them with sexy, dominant Jaxon is just too tempting to pass up.
WHITE COLLARED, PART TWO: GREED, has Kate reeling from a threatening phone call and frightened that her past will be revealed. She turns to the one man she can still trust: Nick. She can’t deny her attraction to him, yet she craves the passionate connection she has with Jaxon.
Undercover at Benediction, Jaxon introduces Kate to the sensual pleasures found in exhibitionism and voyeurism. While they mingle with the club’s patrons, Jaxon and Kate unearth clues about his wife Alyssa’s last days that could lead them to her killer. But as she investigates further, Kate is shocked to learn of a cold case that is eerily similar to Alyssa’s murder, and when the evidence ties Jaxon to yet another death, Kate begins to question everything she knows about her enigmatic lover.
WHITE COLLARED, PART THREE: REVENGE, starts with a gruesome discovery. The men in Kate’s life unite to protect her from imminent danger, but Jaxon becomes consumed by the fierce desire to possess her fully. Kate trusts him enough to surrender to him in the bedroom, but she still fears the vulnerability of complete and utter submission.
Jaxon continues to push Kate’s sexual and emotional boundaries, penetrating her defenses and crumbling the walls she has built around the painful memories of her past. But just as she opens her heart and accepts a future with Jaxon, the devastating truth about Alyssa’s death shatters the tenuous bond they share, testing their relationship and propelling her directly into the path of a desperate murderer.
Finally, in WHITE COLLARED, PART FOUR: REVENGE, with Alyssa’s murder solved, Kate attempts to fix the damage to her relationship with Jaxon. However, with his reputation and career destroyed by false accusations, Jaxon asks for time to consider their future. Yet as hard as Kate tries, she can’t extinguish her desire for Jaxon, or forget the pleasure she’s found in submission.
In an attempt to convince Jaxon they truly belong together, Kate allows him to dominate her completely, signifying her trust and proving her love. But just as everything she’s ever dreamed of is finally within her grasp, Kate discovers a chilling secret from Alyssa’s past that brings her world crashing down, and reveals a murderer hiding in plain sight.
Readers will be clamoring for more—so no rest for the wicked, Shelly! On your marks, get set, pound that keyboard!
Is Shelly Bell your real name?
Yes, it is my real name. When I began writing, it never entered my mind to create a pen name. After my stories grew more sexually explicit, I toyed with the idea, but the thought of maintaining multiple websites and social media platforms seemed daunting. These days, the Internet makes it almost impossible to maintain anonymity, especially if you do any public appearances. A search of the author’s name will bring up a photograph. Besides, thanks to my mother and my husband, everyone in my community knows I write romance and erotic thrillers.
Could you tell our readers a little about yourself?
I’m a corporate attorney in Detroit, Michigan, where I work as in-house legal counsel for my family’s metal recycling company. I’m the fourth generation in the business, and I work alongside my father, brother, and cousin. While I enjoy the law, I grew restless without a creative outlet. I needed something that I could do from home since I have two elementary school aged children. I tried baking, scrapbooking, and rug hooking, but I was terrible at all of them. That’s when my husband suggested I try my hand at writing a book. Now I’m President of the Greater Detroit Romance Writers of America and I attend a couple of conferences a year. So much for finding something I could do from home!
What influenced you to write erotic-romance thrillers where both elements are in full play?
I write what I enjoy reading, and for me, the hotter the better. I made the conscious decision to write erotic thrillers because I love both erotic romance and thrillers, but there are very few books that fuse the genres. Either the love scenes in the thriller fade to black or the erotic romance doesn’t deliver on the suspense. As a reader, I wanted both.
Why did your husband drag you to the store and buy you a laptop?
Plenty of people say they want to write a book, but not everyone does it. He believed in me and encouraged me to follow my dreams. At the time, we shared a computer along with our two small children. Since I was always on the go, a laptop afforded me the ability to write whenever I had a free moment. I’ve written at Cub Scouts meetings, gymnastics, karate, and dance classes.
Is your husband a writer too?
My husband isn’t a writer, but he’s my greatest supporter. He’s a fan of thrillers, so I bounce ideas off him. My ideas start out more complex than necessary and he helps me simplify them—often in the middle of the night!
Amazon keeps the focus on the erotic element in your novels. Is that a response to marketing dictates or do your stories revolve around erotica? If so, why?
That was a decision made by my publisher, Avon, and I believe it was the right one. I’d hate for a reader to think she’s picking up a typical thriller only to discover its erotic nature a few chapters into the book. The eroticism and the suspense are equally important to this story and neither could exist without the other.
What made you choose the title WHITE COLLARED?
There are several references to the term “white collared” both literally and figuratively in the book. The most obvious is that the story’s murder victim, Alyssa Deveroux, is wearing a white BDSM collar when her body is discovered by her husband, Jaxon. It also has significance in terms of the heroine, Kate Martin, who is struggling with her identity and who she wants to become.
How long is each novel in the WHITE COLLARED series?
Each is novella length, running around one hundred print pages. The first three end on cliffhangers in both the romance and suspense. In the past year, serials have become more popular in the romance community and I love to read them. When I began writing WHITE COLLARED, I knew I wanted to write it as four separate parts.
Why are all the WHITE COLLARED series out simultaneously?
They’re being released one week apart. I wanted to build the suspense and then leave the readers with a cliffhanger, but I didn’t want them to have to wait too long between installments. Publishers are trying different tactics from releasing them all on the same day to months apart. A week between the parts give readers a chance to read it and get excited for the next one without forgetting the details of the previous installment.
Can they be read in random order?
Not unless the reader wants to be completely confused!
Do you write to an outline or just record the story as it comes?
I write a full synopsis before I start and then I break it down into chapters. Then I create a spreadsheet of characters, props, and settings. I’m awed by those who can write by the seat of their pants and those who don’t know who the killer is until the end. For me, I need to know who the villain is in order to create his motivation.
What about characters? How do you create them?
Before I start my synopsis, I sketch out the main characters as well as the villain(s). Even if it’s not relevant to the book, I can tell you everything from their favorite color to their relationship with their parents. The characters become as real to me as my friends. I’m not sure if it’s leftover from the years of theater I did as a child when I had to create backstory for the characters I played or whether it’s a result of my background in psychology and social work. I don’t want my characters to be two-dimensional or stereotypical.
How much of your time do you spend reading?
I read about three hours a day. Even in law school, after I’d finish eight hours of reading and summarizing case law, I’d read a book for pleasure. At that time, I was hooked on legal thrillers from authors Perri O’Shaughnessy, Steve Martini, and Phillip Margolin. Now, as soon as I put my kids to bed for the night, I start reading. Since I’m a speed reader, I usually read a book a day.
What do you read?
These days, I mostly read romance, although I enjoy thrillers, suspense, and some urban fantasy. There was a period in my life when my kids were really young that I couldn’t read more than an article in a magazine. Then a few years ago, I spent my lunch break looking around a bookstore, eventually picking up and reading TWILIGHT by Stephenie Meyer. She hooked me from page one and I haven’t stopped reading since.
What inspires and nourishes your creativity?
Sadly, real life events and the news nourishes my creativity. WHITE COLLARED was inspired by a real Michigan murder. I began writing it in response to the ill-informed and prejudicial media reports that sensationalized the case due to the alleged suspect’s involvement in the BDSM lifestyle. The book I’m working on now also takes bits and pieces from different things I’ve heard on the news recently and weaves them together.
How do you manage to balance your family life, writing, and social networking?
It’s difficult, but I’m fortunate to have a supportive husband who is home most of the day. Somehow I make it all work, although I’m not quite sure how. I enjoy writing and social networking, so it doesn’t ever feel like a burden to me and I multi-task. I’ll write while I help my kids with their homework or go on Facebook while we watch television. I also don’t get a lot of sleep!
And your job as a corporate attorney?
I’m a corporate attorney for a metal recycling company. Technically it’s full-time, but since it’s a family-owned business and my boss is flexible, I work from home a lot and am able to go back and forth between my duties as an attorney and those as an author all day and evening. The main difference is I no longer have a Monday through Friday workweek which ends when I arrive home. I work seven days a week at all hours of the day and night, depending on whatever I have on my plate.
How do you like to spend your spare time?
I don’t get a lot of spare time! During the summer, I like to go to the racetrack and see my family’s horses race or go to the pool with my kids. The winter was so terrible this year I didn’t leave my house very often. Any spare moment was spent reading under the covers.
A sucker for a happy ending, Shelly Bell writes sensual romance often with a bit of kink and action-filled erotic thrillers with high-emotional stakes for her alpha heroes and kiss-ass heroines. When she’s not working her day job, taking care of her family, or writing, you’ll find her reading the latest smutty romance.
To learn more about Shelly, please visit her website.