Saturday, November 17, 2012

Saturday Book Diver Interviews Captain Sterling Tristam from the Raven’s Crew series by Ashlynn Monroe

There’s something about the title “Captain” that conjures all sorts of sexy images -- a proud military leader, a dangerous pirate or a man as wild and exciting as the galaxies he’s explored in outer space. It’s hard not to fantasize about being the captain’s soulmate.

Good morning and welcome to the Saturday Book Diver! Every weekend I magically dive into fictional worlds to bring you interviews with fascinating heroes, heroines and villains from erotic romance.

Today I’m aboard the spaceship The Raven, captained by a man as powerful as he is handsome--Sterling Tristam. I’m seated in his quarters right now, where he’s agreed to answer a few questions. At the moment he’s busy on the bridge, but I don’t mind waiting. With all the danger in his world, I feel safer knowing that he’s on top of his game.

It’s not long before he enters the room. I rise and he shakes my hand then gestures for me to return to my seat. He sits on the chair behind his desk. His brow knits, as if he has a lot on his mind. No doubt he does.

SBD: Captain Tristam, I know you’re a very busy man and I appreciate you taking the time for this interview.

Captain Tristam: It’s my pleasure to speak to you.  Welcome aboard The Raven, as long as you aren’t with the Battalion you’re welcome on my ship anytime.

SBD: Thank you very much, Captain. I’d like to start by having you give us some background information about the state of your world and the purpose of you and your crew.

Captain Tristam: We’re rebels—smugglers, I started out believing the lies the Battalion spread about how they were going to make the world a better place, but when my wife and son died I knew I had to do what was right and leave the military.  I’ve been the captain of the Raven ever since.  Esta, she’s my right hand woman.  She and I have been through hell and back together.  My gunner is also the woman I love.  Raylin was brought on board as a teenager after her parents sold her for enough money to keep their younger kids alive a little longer.  She’s one of the few Galinian telepaths left in the universe.  It took me a long time to see she’d grown up, but when I did I belonged to her completely. Owen is a helluva mechanic and Doc’s a deserter from the Battalion military hospital.  He knows his stuff but he’s not a real doctor.  Zolly keeps the bird in the air, but he’s a terrible shot.  I’m glad he’s our pilot and not the gunner. We’re fighting for what’s right—for freedom.

SBD: Sounds like an amazing crew. I’m sure there’s never a dull moment on The Raven. Raylin sounds particularly interesting. What exactly is your relationship with her?

[I can’t help noticing that at every mention of Raylin, an indiscernible emotion flashes through Tristam’s blue eyes.]

Captain Tristam: She’s my soul.  I wanted to protect her when she was younger, but one day I opened my eyes and she was a woman.  I refused to let myself think of Star Shine that way, but when I tried to leave her behind for her own good she turned the tables on me and made me see how grownup she really was.  That woman’s been through a lot, but she’s never lost what makes her real.  Damn.  I don’t know how to explain our relationship.  We fight like cats and dogs, but at the end of the day she’s the most amazing thing I’ve found in the whole universe and she’s mine.  I’m a lucky man.

SBD: Does Raylin’s telepathic abilities make a relationship with her more difficult or less?

Captain Tristam: Much more difficult. You can’t hide what you feel from a telepath.  Her ability comes in handy during a firefight when there’s no time to talk, but it can be hell on the day-to-day living stuff.

SBD: Commander Bartholomew Tristam. Tell us about him.

Captain Tristam: [At the mention of his brother, Tristam’s expression turns deadly.]
He’s a bastard.  My own brother had my wife and infant son killed.  I can’t think of a better definition of soul less evil than that.  He hates telepaths with his whole heart and soul. Sort of makes having a family reunion a bit awkward since my woman is one.

[It seems all the alarming  rumors I’ve heard about Bartholomew Tristam are true. With my next question I hope to confirm disturbing reports about another man in the Captain’s world. ]

SBD: From what I’ve gathered, Bartholomew isn’t your only enemy. What can you disclose to us about the alien lord Xever?

He’s not someone to mess around with.  He’s a consciousness that inhabits bodies.  Hell, he’s probably the most powerful think in our whole galaxy.  The bastards in love with my woman too.  He’s partial to me, but damn it if he isn’t fixated on Raylin.  It’s hard to fight something with powers a human can’t fully comprehend.

[The idea of  someone with the ability to take over another person’s body is unsettling to say the least. After hearing about the kind of people Captain Tristam and his crew have been dealing with, I have to respect their resilience.]

SBD: Before I leave you to your duties, is there something I haven’t touched on that you’d like to talk about?

Captain Tristam: What Raylin and I have been through is epic.  We’ve had to fight every day for the right to live.  It makes holding each other sweeter, but it’s been a damn hard way to travel.

SBD: Last but not least, would you provide readers with one of your favorite excerpts from the Raven’s Crew series?

Laser blasts hit the steel doors ahead of her. The reverberation made her head
feel as if it might explode. Skidding to a halt, Raylin Fabian watched the metal bubble
and melt where the coin-sized blasts hit. Each of the numerous deadly projectiles
missed her by just inches. Thank God that traitorous bastard is such a bad shot!
She couldn’t hear her captain beside her anymore. Together they’d turned down
the corridor a moment ago. Raylin paused just long enough to look for Captain Sterling
Tristam, the man she’d flown with for the last decade, the only person she truly trusted.
Tristam wasn’t behind her. Panic rose like bile in her throat, making it hard to breathe.
Her heart pounded painfully. Raylin bit her lip, resisting the urge to scream his name.
Cap wouldn’t just leave her. He was -- he was the only noble man she’d ever met in
Free Space.

She turned and climbed back down the spindly metal ladder, leaving the crew
quarters. The only sound was her feet against the floor as she raced down the long unlit
corridor, turning again, almost making it to her destination. The sound of running
brought her up short and she paused to look for some place to hide on the enemy craft.
Turning again, off course and further from escape, she rushed down another hallway.
Seeing the cargo crates, Raylin rushed towards them and managed to wedge her
small body in the shadows between them, obscuring her slight form in the dark place
between two large containers standing nestled next to the wall. She held her breath.
Three men in Galaxy Battalion uniforms ran past her.

Damn it, Cap! I told you this was a trap.

Fuck. A produce transport out of Battalion-controlled space was too good to be
true. The second freedom war had been raging a full two years, and this time it was all
or nothing. The rebels would die before they agreed to peace after what the Battalion
army had done to them last time. They should have known. Food that good never made
it to the refugee camps, even if the majority of those refugees were helpless children.
Sterling, why do you have to be the one to answer every time someone needs a hero? She
should be glad he was, or she’d have been screwed, but right now, the endearing trait
was pissing her off.

The long narrow corridor was quiet now. Two turns and she’d be back at the
airlock. She’d press a button and Esta would send the shuttle for her. She’d have to
endure running ten feet across the flimsy emergency connector, nothing but two inches
of plastic between her delicate flesh and the vacuum of space, but she’d do it to get the
hell off this ship.

But she couldn’t leave without her Cap. She’d never leave him behind.
Tenuously, she worked herself out of the claustrophobia-inducing hiding nook
and scanned the path in both directions. Her way was clear. Now to pick a direction,
Raylin closed her eyes a moment and focused. Cap. Where are you?

Nothing. She had no sense of where he was -- no connection to him. Not a good
sign. She should be able to feel him. He needed her, she was sure of that fact. The
urgency she felt told her the powers she’d long suppressed were roaring to life.
Survival. The Galinian telepathy she’d pushed away for a decade hadn’t left her
as she’d hoped. She could feel the crew’s panic on Raven. Cap wasn’t back. He hadn’t
left her behind. Equal measures of relief and terror surged through Raylin. Cap! Her
mind sent the call without her conscious thought.

Leave me. Get away

She gasped. His returned thoughts were so weak. Sterling Tristam was a lot of
things -- privateer, rebel, freedom fighter -- but never weak. Help me find you. What
happened back there?

No… run!

Damn it, Cap, I’m not leaving without you. You wouldn’t leave me. I can’t live -- live
with myself if you die here. Cap, tell me or I’m just going to go looking.
Fuckin’ telepathy! I’m not getting off this ship alive, Raylin. Bartholomew paid Crandel
to set us up. I’m so sorry, Star Shine. Get off this bird!

Oh, it was bad. He hadn’t called her Star Shine in years. Sorrow filled her. No!

I’m on the cargo deck and I’m climbing to the crew quarters again now.

Go back. Press your emergency beacon. Esta will get you home.

There is no home for me without you, Cap.

She’s going to be yours, the Raven. Esta knows, she’s your ship now. You deserve her
more than anybody I know, even Esta. I’m sorry, Ray.

Don’t you fucking die on me, Cap. We’re a team. I’m at the kitchenette. Should I go right
or left?

Stubborn little girl, don’t you do this to me. I won’t let you die for me.

We all die someday. You’re dying for your war. I might as well die for you.

I’m in the corridor ahead of you. Take a right, then a left. Keep your head down, kid.

They’re coming back. I killed the one who shot me, but more are coming. I tried to get them off your tail, Star Shine. I wanted you to escape. I’m so sorry I didn’t listen to you about Crandel.

We should’ve left him on that rotting rock Alpha-Nine.

She followed his directions carefully, but still didn’t see him.

“I’m here,” Captain Tristam whispered loudly.

Raylin turned and saw him then, pressed up against the water recycling pipes.
He was holding his stomach, blood seeping between his fingers. “Oh, Cap,” she cried.

“Press your beacon, send the distress signal. What’s going on over there? I know
you can feel it.”

We’d better be quiet. Here, sorry, it’s bad isn’t it? Crandel radioed over and told Esta we
were staying for a drink. She knew right away that wasn’t right. The idiot has no idea how much you mean to that woman. She put her arm around her captain and pressed the button.

Esta already knew they were in danger. Raylin had felt the woman’s fear earlier.
Cap was heavy. Slowly they made their way down the corridor. They’d be easy
to track -- the blood drops were a dead giveaway.

Yeah, it’s bad. Esta is amazing.

You set the pace, whatever you can handle, but we need to hurry.

Bossy woman. She could feel his humor. Thanks for coming for me, but damn it, I’ll
kill you if you die. I have a responsibility to you, kid.

She hated it when he called her kid. She’d just turned twenty-six. Then the sound
of laser blasts distracted her. Ahead she saw Owen and Zolly. They’d come. Relief filled
her. Neither of them was great with a firearm, but they’d die for Cap. He just inspired
that in people.

Raylin cried out as pain radiated through her side. Her body crumpled and Cap
toppled with her. Glancing down, she saw the massive wound. A rather disturbingly
large chunk of her body appeared vaporized. She whimpered, unable to help herself.
She’d be good to her word. It was time to die for Cap.

Looking back she saw him struggling to hold his body together. Clearly the blast
he’d suffered had sliced him up badly. She didn’t realize she was crying until she felt
the cold tickle as tears trailed down her face.

With his free hand, he reached out to her and she took her beloved captain’s
hand. Above them laser fire blasted, but now it didn’t matter. The damage was done.

“I’m sorry, Star Shine,” Captain Tristam whispered.

“I love you, Sterling, always have, always will. I wish… I wish you’d seen me as
a woman.”

“Damn it, you’re going to tell me this now? I’ve worked so hard to ignore how
much of a woman you are. You -- you’re special, Star Shine, far too good for the likes of
me. You deserve someone who’ll be able to give you a soft life with sweet words.”

“I never wanted that. I only wanted you.” His face was becoming blurry.

Everything was growing dark. She closed her eyes.

“Star Shine!” He squeezed her hand but she couldn’t respond. “Raylin!”
Darkness won.

SBD: Wow! That was exciting!

After once again shaking his hand and thanking him for the interview, I’m ready to leave the world of Captain Sterling Tristam. After what I’ve heard about men like Bartholomew and Xerver, I can’t say I would like to linger. Still, at another time I would like to return to this world and perhaps speak to Raylin and maybe even Bartholomew and Xerver. It would be risky, but worth it to bring readers the villains’ side of this outer space saga.

Until next time, happy reading!

Want to know more about the Raven’s Crew series and Ashlynn Monroe?

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