Saturday, August 21, 2021



Get a behind-the-scenes all-access pass to Laelia Starla's The Phoebe Braddock Book series!

Crystal’s Crucible is the tale of two sisters: Crystal, the shy genius, and Jade, the bold party girl.  When Crystal starts her new job in a pharmaceutical company, things start looking up for her until she stumbles across a corporate conspiracy that threatens her life.

Meanwhile, Jade finds more than she bargained for when she meets the new dealer at her favourite nightclub.  And both sisters are tempted by forbidden love.

The Phoebe Braddock Books started as a budding idea while I was drafting my debut novel, I Heart Mr. Collins.  The protagonist of this story published a novel of her own, inspiring me to write the book that Phoebe wrote.

The series has since grown into a rich universe of taboo romance, forbidden love stories, and reflections on difficult issues.  While each book can be read as a standalone, existing characters will return in the fourth title of the series and beyond.


What is the sub-genre and trope?  Did your characters lead you to this genre or was that decided before the story began?

This romantic suspense novel is a forbidden love story.  This trope is what binds the series together and I decided upon this when drafting the first book, I Heart Mr. Collins.

Are you more character or plot-driven?

Characters and their relationships drive the story.  I have also work hard to create a thrilling plot that will keep readers turning the page as they try to solve the mystery alongside Crystal.

With many main and secondary characters, how do you keep them separated in your mind?  Do you have a story/vision board above your workspace?

I create character sheets in a word document that includes pictures, descriptions of their appearance, personality traits, goals, motivations etc.  I keep this open on my second screen when writing.

I know from previous interviews that characters take on a life of their own.  Were any of the characters in this series determined to take their own direction instead of where you initially wanted them to go?

This has often happened for me before, but not so much in this case.  I planned this book with a very solid outline from the get-go, which meant there was not much wiggle room for my characters to take over the story.

Are any of the male POVs based on anyone you know?

Not at all. The men are purely fictitious.

Are any of the female POVs based on anyone you know?

Not directly, but aspects of Crystal’s personality come from me and my experience working in QA laboratories.

Was there any one scene that was harder to write about than the others?

A few of the action scenes took a bit of tweaking to make them plausible.  Fortunately, I had a great beta reading team to help point out such issues.

What is your favorite book in the series?

Crystal’s Crucible is my favourite of the Phoebe Braddock Books to date.  I am especially pleased with how much my writing craft has improved and it shows in this book when compared with the first two.

I know that we aren’t supposed to have “favorites” as far as our children, but seriously, who’s your favorite character and why?

Are we talking favourite across all my work, or just within this book?  My answer to the former question is Brendan Winters from the Winter’s Magic series because he is flirtatious, fun, and sexy.

As for this book, I guess I would have to say Jade because I had a lot of fun writing her story.

Series question - Who is your favorite couple and why did you decide on their dynamics?

This is a tough question!  My couples are all quite different and some of them aren’t just couples.

At this stage I would have to say Jade and her ménage à trois is favourite.  Given her deepest desires, it seemed most fitting for her HEA to involve two men.

One of them grounds her, giving her the affection she needs, while the other unleashes her wild side, providing an outlet for her kinks.

How do you get inside these character’s heads to find their perfect HEA?

I don’t.  They get inside my head lol!  A lot of the relationship dynamics play out in my head before I even put them on paper.  I believe that finding the right HEA involves understanding the characters’ deepest desires.

What scene in this book/series sticks out the most for you?  Why?

There is a particularly hot scene between Jade and Apollo that comes to mind.  It pushed my limits in terms of erotic writing, and it also contains one of my favourite quotes:

“He was the flint to her steel, igniting a spark as he struck her flesh with his own.”

—L. Starla, Crystal’s Crucible (Phoebe Braddock Books #3)

Series - Were any of the books harder to write than others?

The first three books came quite easily.  I am struggling a little more with the fourth one now.  This partly because of how dark and twisted most of the characters are, but mostly due to other life matters.

This question is if you write in MULTIPLE POVs not just the hero and heroine - I love the multiple POVs in a book.  It’s not just the hero and heroine, but we get inside the heads of multiple characters throughout this series.  I feel that it gives the story further depth.  Do you think you will write another book or series following this multiple POV outline?

I already write most of my books that way and will continue to do so.  I agree that multiple Points of View provide depth and give a broader picture of where different people are coming from.

I especially love writing scenes in the villains’ POVs, which I have done in Crystal’s Crucible.

How long did it take you to write this book/series?

The first draft took me just under 8 weeks!  It was a major achievement for me to write so much so quickly.  Admittedly, this was after several months of research and plotting while I worked on other projects.  I then put the manuscript aside and came back to edit it after a few months.  Polishing the book took another three months.

How did you come up with the title for your book and series?

The title Crystal’s Crucible is a play on words.

The crucible is a dish used by chemists for heating substances, but it also symbolises a trial by fire.

Crystal, the protagonist, is a chemist and puzzle sleuth. Her skills are put to the test when she attempts to unravel the conspiracy threatening to end her life.

The series title comes from the protagonist’s name in the first novel (I Heart Mr. Collins) because these are Phoebe Braddock’s books.

If you met these characters in real life would you get along?

In most cases, yes, I think I would.  Although some of the men might be a little too arrogant for my liking and there is no way I could tolerate Crystal and Jade’s mother.

Series question – Did you know in advance that you were going to write this as a series or did one of the characters in book one demand their own story?

I did not know at first.  It was only when I wrote about Phoebe’s debut novel that the idea came to me to write her book.

The more I thought about this idea, the more I thought it would be good to make a series linked by the themes of forbidden love and difficult issues.

The more books I write in the series, the more ideas I have for bringing other characters to life within their own stories.

If your book were made into a movie, which actors do you see as playing your characters?

Karen Gillan as Crystal, Chad Michael Murray as Adam, Juliette Lewis as Jade, Chris Evans as Dieter, Apostolis Totsikas as Apollo, and Josh Brolin as Greg.  That covers the main characters.

Can you give us a hint as to what we can expect next?  Whether a new book and series or a sequel to an existing series?  Can you share a small tease?

The fourth book will be a prequel telling Lucinda’s story.  Lucinda is Adam’s ex-wife and they divorced because she cheated on him.

The book will explore some very difficult issues and because adultery is a large aspect of the story, I won’t be categorizing it as romance.

It is still a love story with a HEA, but not a romance according to the genre’s strict definition.  You can also expect high society drama and backstabbing along with a suspenseful plot.

Here is a teaser:

“She followed him outside and down the path to her purgatory, the road to her ruin.”

—L. Starla, Undeniably Wrong (Phoebe Braddock Books #4)


Laelia Starla is an Australian author who often raided her mother’s shelves for any form of fiction she could get her hands on.  Her first love was the horror genre, but she owes her love affair with the romance novel to her high-school English teacher, who started her on the classics.  Given her earlier reading, magical realism and paranormal romance were a natural progression.  Along with steamy romance, these are the genres she writes.


Her books include contemporary and paranormal romance with themes of forbidden relationships, complexities of love, romantic suspense, enemies to lovers, second chances, slow-burning chemistry, and polyamory.


She loves spending her spare time playing tabletop and video games, paper crafting, singing, dancing, and watching anime.

Check out all my interviews & reviews for Laelia Starla!


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I might have described myself as innocent a few months ago, but that was before my schoolgirl crush turned into something real and passionate beyond my wildest imagination. Now my lustful appetite has awoken and there is no going back.

The problem is, no one else can know what I do when alone with Mr. Collins because it would jeopardize his career. Other people wouldn't understand what we have.

At least graduation is just around the corner and I will strike off lying and deception from my current list of sins. That is my hope, but will I find the courage to be completely honest with everyone?

Warning: While minimal, there is some sexual violence in this book that may be a trigger for abuse victims.

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Haunted by visions of a mysterious stranger making love to her in the dark, Sophie is torn between affections for the guy she’s had a crush on for years and strong yearnings for the man of her dreams. And she can’t shake the feeling that there is something familiar about her fantasy lover.

Then one fateful night, her dreams come to life at the debutante ball where Sophie is swept off her feet for several blissful minutes. But when the masks come off, she is forced to accept the shocking truth: her enigmatic lover is no stranger.

Does she deny her deepest desires or pursue a forbidden passion?

Note: This is a spiritual successor to "I Heart Mr. Collins" such that it is the first book written by the protagonist of that story. There are not any characters in common and it can be read as a standalone.

Warning: this book contains incest (consensual), explicit scenes, and coarse language that may offend or upset some readers.

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The laws of attraction are quite beyond science.

Crystal loved rules. A set of principles governed her life. That is why the physical sciences appealed to her. Logic and reasoning kept her afloat amidst the sea of family drama. Intimacy was not part of her equation; she had excluded that variable years ago after a string of disastrous relationships with men who wanted nothing more than sex.

The day she walked through the doors of Aludel Pharma, locking eyes with Adam Fairfax, everything changed. The chemistry between them brought her carefully constructed system crashing down around her. He was her boss, completely off-limits. Crystal thought he was safe to admire from a distance. She was wrong. With the magnetism pulling them together, Crystal needed to choose which opposing rules she would break.

And she needed to act fast because a conspiracy was brewing in her department, threatening to bring her down or take her out.

Note: This is the second book written by the fictional character, Phoebe Braddock, who you meet in I Heart Mr. Collins. The books of this series can be read as stand-alone stories that are linked by theme, but there will be cross-overs planned for the future.

Warning: This book contains coarse language, explicit scenes, situations where consent is dubious, along with graphic depictions of violence, sexual assault, and drug use.

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There are many sides to every story and Lucinda’s tale is no exception.

Lucinda’s affair damaged Adam Fairfax and it took him years to recover. Most painted her as the villain, but did anyone think to ask her why their marriage collapsed? Why did she cheat on him?

I dare you to turn back the clock and delve into a warped web of high society schemes and veiled threats. This is a world where people poison everything they touch and make a blood sport of betrayal. With all the lies and deception swirling around her like a murky swamp, it is no wonder Lucinda bought into it, letting it taint her soul and relationships. Yet none of them pose a greater risk than the shadows of her past.

Note: This is a love story, but it is not a romance novel.

Trigger Warnings: Cheating, sexual violence, domestic abuse, miscarriage, and sex scenes, including f/f.

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