● By Robert Frey
By Shanna Perkins
One would imagine that authors who pen tales of love and passion must lead lives basked in candlelight and showered in zealous devotion. But what is romance without a hint of mystery? One New Iberia local is steaming up the romance genre with her book series: “The Vessel Trilogy,” “The Vale of Stars” and “Tales of the Black Lily.” By day, you likely know her by a different name – she could be a friend, colleague or neighbor. By night, she delicately conceals her identity, spinning sultry sagas behind her pseudonym…Juliette Cross.
“It’s liberating,” Cross says of secret identity. “I know many writers experience a sense of catharsis when they write. I can tell you, it is certainly so for me. Letting my imagination go as far as my muse will take me without boundaries, and to tell the story in my heart is one of the most amazing and satisfying feelings as a writer.”
There is a long-running and heavily debated question, are good writers born or made? Cross is another example to the point that writers are born to do just that – write. She recalls as a young girls being enamored by the notion of writing a novel. In high school, Cross was tasked with writing a creative short story. From then on, she became fixated with creating worlds and crafting characters. After graduating with a creative writing degree from LSU, her love of writing fell third to raising her family and working diligently as a teacher. Then, entered her alias, allowing her the freedom of exploring the paranormal romance genre.
“I knew I wanted something feminine,” she says of her pseudonym. “I also wanted it to have a hard edge to suit my genre. Juliette is a tribute to my love of Shakespeare, but I used the French spelling as an ode to Louisiana. The name Cross hit me while I was sitting in mass one day staring up at the altar. It was well suited as so many of my stories are about good versus evil.”
The Garden-of-Eden-esque balance of good and evil is one that is ever present in literature and has perpetually captivated readers. The opportunity to experiment with this balance is what initially drew Cross to the romance genre. She refers to herself as a “hopeful, sappy, optimistic,” always searching for the “happily ever after,” the triumph of good over evil. And when it isn’t present in the real world, she creates a world in which it is. Truth be told, creating the evil is equally as intriguing for Cross.
“Vampires, werewolves, the monster under the bed, they have always piqued my interest from a very young age,” Cross explains of her love for the paranormal. “I’ve always had an inner Goth girl who is drawn to the dark and mysterious, especially when there’s romance involved. Dark content and romance are much more complementary than they are contrasting. The haunting backdrop and imminent danger only add to the excitement for the romantic couple to fight their way through the darkness to reach their happily ever after.”
She points to the classics: “Jane Eyre,” “Wuthering Heights,” “Frankenstein” and “Dracula.” She also notes that the father of horror, Edgar Allan Poe, was, like herself, a hopeless romantic. When it comes to painting a misty and menacing backdrop for a love story, Cross does not have to look far for inspiration. The people, landscape and culture of south Louisiana heavily influence her work. It was her love of New Orleans that inspired her entire series, “The Vessel Trilogy.” The creation of the characters who will live and love in this augmented atmosphere is a different matter entirely.
“Most of my characters are a combination of people I know or they are straight from my imagination,” the novelist illustrates. “What’s important in creating compelling characters is to understand what makes them tick – their fears, ambitions, desires, hobbies. I have to know how they walk, talk, eat, drink, everything! I always write out a character sketch and description before I begin writing so that I have a solid idea of what motivates my hero and heroine, and how that is going to create both interesting conflict and a fascinating love story.”
“Fascinating” is not an inapt word to describe Cross’ love stories, but “phantasmagoric,” “spellbinding” and a bevy of other supernatural adjectives will do the job as well. Her series “The Vessel Trilogy” is an urban fantasy that follows a demon hunter through New Orleans. “The Vale of Stars” is a contemporary fantasy romance set in a world where dragon hybrids live alongside humans and where love has no boundaries in a world of prejudice and hatred.
Her newest series, “Tales of the Black Lily” with Entangled Publishing, LLC, is a four-book retelling of fairytales in a vampire world. The heroine in book one, “The Black Lily,” is Arabelle who goes to the ball not to kiss the vampire prince, but to kill him. She is the leader of the underground resistance determined to overthrow the vampire monarchy…just a slight twist on the classic “Cinderella.” The first three books of this series will be released throughout 2017, with the fourth set for January 2018.
It’s difficult to imagine that the woman responsible for creating these fantasies is likely sharing an aisle with you at the grocery store or giving neighborly waves to you from across her driveway. Maybe one day Juliette Cross will reveal her true identity, but for now, there are love stories to be written and paranormal universes to create.
“I’m currently writing book three in “Tales of the Black Lily” series. But, I’m already planning for a new series. I’m currently brainstorming and plotting a potential seven-book series, which will be a dark and edgy urban fantasy romance. I remember my first grade teacher used to complain I daydreamed too much. And now I know why.”