Today I'm here with author Marilyn Barr as she discusses her new Christmas novella, The Spy Who Loved My Russian Tea Cakes. In all honesty, this had to be one of the saucier books I've had the immense pleasure of reading this year. Don't believe me? Check out my review
here: 5 stars for The Spy Who Loved My Russian Tea Cakes! Cassie is a reiki healer who works with patients suffering from an assortment of different ailments. Life continues to roll along for her at a steady pace until she’s confronted by Theresa, the mother of a coma patient. Even healers have rules, and healing without the patient’s consent is one of them…even if it is considered a “gray area.” For some reason though, Cassie agrees and winds up on a wild, sexually charged journey with a man she’s never met eye to eye, in a mind she never should have entered. But when Sergei, the man of her dreams awakens, the rules change, and Cassie may not be prepared for the consequences. Can a plate of Russian Tea Cakes bring them together, or will Sergei’s violent past keep them apart?
I mean, if that's not enough to pique your interest then I don't know what more I can do...or do I have another enticement up my sleeve? I have a couple actually...
Reiki Practitioner Cassie Bench is the black sheep of her family. She would rather work over the Christmas holidays than answer her family’s interrogation about her non-existent love life and career choices. She assures herself it has nothing to do with the handsome coma patient, Sergei Chekov who stars in her dreams.
Sergei wakes from blackness and dreams of a siren’s call. He isn’t sure who he can trust when the woman from his dreams walks into his room with his favorite childhood treat to jog his memory. Despite his attraction to her, he must escape to safety.
Cassie is heartbroken and left with nothing but questions. Who was the woman who convinced her to wake Sergei? Why is the FBI involved? And will she ever see Sergei again or will she be left to pine over the spy who loved Russian tea cakes?
“Of course, but I’m not a nurse. I’m the Reiki—”
“Yes, the spiritual healer. You are the one I meant to find. I knew it the minute I saw you.”
“Great, then lead the way.” I gesture to the stairs behind her and regret not asking her if she would prefer the elevator. Together we shuffle at a snail’s pace.
“My Sergei’s room is the first one at the top of the stairs, dearie.” She puffs with each step. I reach out to help her, but most of our residents find a helping hand to be a dig against their independence. I push open the door to the hall and wait for her to step through. She then waits regally for me to open the door to her son’s room. “Sergei is in bad shape. He needs you to wake him up. He’s in a coma, you see.”
“If he’s not consenting, then I don’t think I can—”
“He would want your help. I know it. As his only relative, I give consent on his behalf. You are his only hope.” She’s on the brink of tears. Her gnarled hands tangle handfuls of her sweater set like she’s wringing out a washrag. My heart pounds. Coma healing is a gray area in the number one rule of energetic healing. Never journey on someone’s behalf without their consent. Would Leslie fault me for calling her so soon after she left?
“Please, for a mother’s love.”
1. I don’t know much about Reiki, but Cassie sure does…is that something you practice as well?
Yes, I am a certified energetic and spiritual healer. While my specialty is Shamanic healing (both Arapaho and Hawaiian traditions), I got “my calling” through a Reiki session gone awry. It started when our NAET therapist started studying Reiki. My son and I have an alphabet soup of digestive diseases and food allergies, and we see a Natural Allergy Elimination Therapist (NAET) to reverse the food allergies.
On one visit a few years ago, she suggested giving my son a Reiki healing session to help with his food anxiety. Before starting any new therapy on my son, I always try it first. My Reiki session a few days later was a scene from a paranormal movie. It ended with the healer passing the message from my spirit team that I was destined to learn “light work”. I studied the International Association of Reiki Professionals curriculum while mentoring under a master teacher who channeled my attunements, just like Cassie in the book.
2. How did you come up with the idea of Cassie and Sergei? They are so different yet fit together so well!
While I decided to write a book around my mother-in-law’s cookie recipe, I wanted the story to reflect her interests. Theresa loved gritty crime and spy novels, like those by Patricia Cornwall, John LeCarre, and Robert Ludlum. The television shows she liked to watch were too scary and intense for me like Wire in the Blood and Foyle’s War. Sergei represents these interests.
She was also a hospice nurse before her death from cancer in 2008. The OH center where Cassie works is modeled after the Kobacker House in Columbus Ohio where Theresa’s home-visit hospice nursing was based. Theresa didn’t work within the facility (just checked in and out with assignments) but did volunteer there when she had patients transferred from home visits to facility care. Her dedication to providing dignified end-of-life care was unparalleled.
3. I feel like there is so much more to Sergei’s story…will there be a sequel?
There is a prequel. When The Spy Who Loved My Russian Tea Cakes was in the final approval phases, I was irked I never added how he became comatose. With his spotty memory and secret identity, the big reveal didn’t have a place in the story. I wrote his backstory which brings him from Siberia to Ohio in The Spy Who Was Out Cold.
In the novella, readers learn more about Sergei’s secret organization, what happened to separate him from his mother, and how he freed himself from human trafficking. The reader also meets his two childhood friends, Katya, and Ito, who are Sergei’s last assignment. The Spy Who Was Out Cold is free with a newsletter to sign up here - https://dl.bookfunnel.com/n2qqgi0ecy
4. Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m a plantser or middle-of-the-road writer. I love research and world-building which takes most of my pre-writing time. I will check out every book on a subject our library has to offer, watch hours of YouTube videos, and even take courses to learn the professions of my characters. Cassie’s job is similar to my day job, so I understood her immediately. To create Sergei, I read my husband’s Nick Carter collection, watched every James Bond movie on repeat, and interviewed members from my local FBI agency.
After a fair amount of research, I design character collages, character statements of motivation, story arc graphs, and a master outline. I’m a fast drafter so The Spy Who Loved My Russian Tea Cakes took less than two weeks to write, and less than two days to leave behind all my careful planning. I love to ignore a beautiful outline. The original ending did not happen in West Virginia. It happened in Siberia. Perhaps the alternate ending will be one of the bonus scenes I post in the member’s only section of my website for those who downloaded The Spy Who Was Out Cold. The scene considered too hot for publication from The Spy Who Loved MY Russian Tea Cakes is already there.
5. What was your favorite part of writing this story?
I loved demonstrating the partnership between spiritual healing and western medicine. Many people believe your health is either in the care of western doctors or eastern healers when the partnership between them—with a focus on wellness—is a powerful way to stay healthy. For example, someone with high blood pressure would benefit from dietary changes, nature walks, anger-managing meditations, and blood-thinning pharmaceuticals as a lifestyle change for their health.
All the meditation in the world will not stop a bleeding wound or counteract a diet of garbage. However, pain and anxiety can be managed with many holistic options which are often ignored before narcotics are prescribed. I wanted to show Leslie and Cassie working alongside nurses, doctors, and therapists as a team for the benefit of the patients. Their relationship is like my household where my husband creates FDA approval packages for new medicines (and often the medicines themselves) while I practice as a Shamanic practitioner.
It’s not a competition of which methods are most popular but what is the best fit for the individual. In a world where you can get your burrito customized in a million different ways in one restaurant, we should be able to customize our wellness care.
Marilyn Barr currently resides in the wilds of Kentucky with her husband, son, and rescue cats. She has a diverse background containing experiences as a child prodigy turned medical school reject, published microbiologist, special education/inclusion science teacher, homeschool mother of a savant, certified spiritual/energy healer, and advocate for the autistic community. This puts her in the position to bring tales containing heroes who are regular people with different ability levels and body types, in a light where they are powerful, lovable, and appreciated.
When engaging with the real world, she is collecting characters, empty coffee cups, and unused homeschool curricula. She is a sucker (haha) for cheesy horror movies, Italian food, punk music, black cats, bad puns, and all things witchy.
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