Crime Fictionista Nike Chillemi and Her Debut Novel

Can a sheltered young seamstress, disillusioned by the horrors of WWII, escape an arsonist who killed her employer and mentor? To do so Erica must decide if she can trust Lorne,  the dashing war hero who’s ridden into town on his Harley, especially when some say he’s the murderer. Burning Hearts is a mixture of arson,murder, action, and romance in equal measure, with a touch of humor by Nike Chillemi from Desert Breeze Publishing.

1. Where did the idea for Burning Hearts come from?

My stories are character driven. With Burning Hearts, I had a feisty young woman in mind as my heroine and a hero who’s a loner, but lives by a code of honor. I worked on their characterization, perhaps a bit like an actor would. I know how they take their coffee, what colors you’d find in their closets.  I could see Erica and Lorne vividly and I had to write their story.

2. Are there any personal touches or anecdotes in the story?

Erica Brogna, my heroine, is a bit like me. She wants to be a dress designer and I graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology and worked in the bridal industry. She’s independent and stubborn and it gets her into trouble. I’m independent and stubborn but it never got me into any trouble at all. Yeah, right. Something I didn’t realize until the book was in edits is that Erica’s mother is very similar to my Czechoslovakian grandmother. Mrs B. excels in the kitchen and has a great sense of humor. So did my grandmother.  I recall my grandmother swatting my dad with a kitchen towel. He’d laugh and hug her.

3. How did you decide on Desert Breeze as your publisher? Tell us about them.

First of all, Desert Breeze Publishing and Gail Delaney, its editor in chief, are wonderful. There’s no better place to be for a newbie writer. They have a tremendous support system in place and they put tremendous effort into promoting all the Desert Breeze titles. I submitted to them because other Desert Breeze authors I knew recommended them highly. I have not been disappointed.

4. Tell us a bit about your writing journey. How did Burning Hearts find its way to publication?

I’ve always been a reader. As a child, I loved the possibilities beyond my own life I found in novels. My first book, about horses, was written in Crayola. Then, as a teen, I penned requisite poems filled with angst. For years and years there was something niggling at the back of my mind that I’d write fiction. About five years ago, that nudging got more persistent. I began to conceptualize myself as a writer, began to sense a possible calling in that area. That’s when I began writing seriously for publication. Once I got the idea for Burning Hearts and could visualize Erica and Lorne, my main characters, the story grew organically. I’m the leader of an ACFW critique group. Although Burning Hearts didn’t get written in the critique group, it certainly got polished there  into something marketable.

5. What advice do you have for writers seeking publication for their first book?

Burning Hearts wasn’t my first manuscript. And to be honest, I would never tell a newbie writer they’re going to get their first book published. I wrote a really bad first story that will nevermore see the light of day, though I keep it around for laughs. While I was writing that one, I was also taking the Harlequin free online writing course offered at that time. My recommendation to new authors is that they take any free or affordable writing courses or workshops that are available. I’d also enter writing contests. Judges give wonderful feedback, though sometimes the writer needs a thick skin to read judges’ comments and not feel ill. It took a combination of getting rejections for the first story with a few valuable comments and taking that writing course for me to realize there was a huge difference between writing an “A” college paper and writing fiction. I started getting that there was a craft to writing fiction. So, I started on Burning Hearts and spent about two years on it from the first notes about plot until I submitted it to Desert Breeze Publishing.

6. What are your future book plans?

I’m working on GOODBYE NOEL, the second novel in the Sanctuary Point series, set on the Great South Bay of Long Island, NY. It’s set at Christmas and is kind of in the Mary Higgins Clark tradition–the body is found under the Christmas tree. Of course, I seek to shake my main characters up as much as possible, putting obstacle after obstacle and threat after threat into their paths. In my research for GOODBYE NOEL, I found it fascinating how in the 1940s Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany were simply part of the warp and woof of American lives. I tried to convey the ease and joy Americans had about these holidays at that time.

Nike Chillemi has been called a crime fictionista due to her passion for crime fiction. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the Edgy Christian Fiction Lovers (Ning). She was an Inspy Awards 2010 judge in the Suspense/Thriller/Mystery category and a judge in the 2011 Carol Awards in the suspense, mystery, and romantic suspense categories. She is the founding board member of the Grace Awards, a reader’s choice awards for excellence in Christian fiction. She writes monthly book reviews for The Christian Pulse online magazine. BURNING HEARTS is the first book in the crime wave that is sweeping the south shore of Long Island in The Sanctuary Point series, published by Desert Breeze.

Check out Nike Chillemi’s Blog:



  1. I’ve read and reviewed this novel on my blog. Loved it and her unique hero who rides in on a Harley. I love her book trailer, too. The fire looks like a heart and goes with the title of the novel. This is a great read, and I highly recommend it. Blessings for success, BJ


  2. Oh, Lisa, “a savvy author.” Now that sounds like something I sure want to be. 🙂

    Dana, My Czech grandmother was a lot of fun. When she came to visit one summer, oh when I was about 10, she grabbed blankets and pillows and she and my brother and I camped out on the porch one night. It was a great time. She also made the best strudle. When she was getting money together to leave Europe, she worked in German and Austrian bakeries.


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