Hello, hello, everyone! Welcome back for another exciting interview–this time with Melissa Cruz of Layla Reyne’s AGENTS IRISH AND WHISKEY series! She’s one of my absolute favorite characters, so I am thrilled to have her here today!
LEAH: Good morning, Mel! Is that okay? Can I call you Mel? *laughs* Sorry if I’m a bit rambly, you’re just an 11 on the 1-10 #lifegoals scale.
MC: What can I do to make it 12? *winks* And Mel is just fine.
LEAH: Awesome, thank you. *smiles* Now, you reached an incredibly high position in the FBI–Special Agent in Charge, for those who don’t know–before you left and are currently the Chief of Security for Talley Enterprises. While I’m aware the whole Talley family is involved in the business, with the exception of Aidan, both of these career paths are generally male dominated. Can you tell us a bit about what was, and still is, like for you to work in environments that are primarily staffed with men?
MC: Truth time. It’s been a battle every step of the way. I came into my FBI Academy class able to out-shoot and out-maneuver anyone, and still, what most people—classmates and professors—saw first was a tall, lanky woman of color. Not an expert marksman nor a black-belt. Except Aidan. I outshot him on day one and he was the first in line with a “congrats” and “teach me,” even though he was damn good already. But I digress… Even at TE, men I supposedly jumped because I was married to the boss thought that’s why I got the job; not because I had the requisite skill set and was better at exercising those skill than them. That said, it’s sadly nothing new. I’ve been proving myself my entire life—to my father, to my family—so I soldiered on, found my people, and if anyone doubted me, I delighted in proving them wrong.
LEAH: Yeah, I can imagine, but like I said, you are impressive Goals. So. Normally, I would assume that the shipping business is a bit less intense than working for the FBI, but I heard about the Christmas party. I’m so glad all y’all got out safely. Other than that, though, has working at Talley Enterprises been a more lowkey position, or are the jobs more alike than one might think?
MC: Some similarities, some differences. They both involve a lot of juggling, and Talleys. With the FBI, it was a full caseload. With TE, it’s various aspects of security, whether that be personnel, cargo, special events, or IT infrastructure. One wrong move at either job put lives and livelihoods on the line. But the difference now is that this is my family’s lives and livelihoods at stake, and that’s both extra rewarding and extra pressure. But I also wouldn’t trust their lives and future to anyone else.
LEAH: Of course! And knowing the Talleys, I’m confident they keep you on your toes. *chuckles* Through the course of your life you’ve done quite a bit of travel. What’s been your favorite place? As I’m sure you’ve visited many of them for your job, are there any places you wish you’d been able to explore a bit more?
MC: I don’t know that I’d call it my favorite—Ireland and Vienna are tied for that spot—but perhaps the most intriguing is Croatia. I chased a bounty into a frozen sunflower field there last year, and I had occasion to go back this summer. It’s absolutely gorgeous in bloom, bright yellows and rich browns, but it’s also absolutely deadly, full of undetonated landmines from the war. A fate my war criminal bounty ironically met. In the larger Croatian cities, like Zagreb, it’s a charming mix of modern conveniences and old world Europe, and on the coast, it’s a beautiful collection of cliffs and villas. It’s a country of contradictions, and it intrigues me to no end.
LEAH: I feel like that field of flowers is a good analogy for you: beautiful but deadly. I’ve seen some pictures of you and Danny out and about, and y’all seem really happy. How’s married life treating you?
MC: Extremely well. I found my person—the person who gets me, who respects me, who doesn’t expect or want more than I can offer—and to think it was my best friend’s little brother all along. Though he’s not so little *smirk*
LEAH: *snickers* Good to know for all of us who’ve been wondering! Now, please share your secret. How did you learn to do literally everything in heels? I am in awe.
MC: As tall as I am, my brother was taller than Jamie and my father taller still. I was determined to look them, and anyone for that matter, in the eyes when I was younger. That mindset continued as I grew older. Heels help make that happen, and they’re extra weapons, in a pinch.
LEAH: Makes total sense, and you are totally right about the extra weaponry. How about some fun questions now, yes? What are some of the songs on your workout playlist that get you the most pumped?
MC: My work-out play list consists of Lauren chattering while we run or spar, or Danny making certain other noises when we work out together *wink*
LEAH: *chokes* Okay, I should’ve been expecting that last part, but somehow I wasn’t. *laughs* I know you’re a big fan of tequila, but what’s your favorite dessert? And Danny doesn’t count! *laughs*
MC: Taking the fun out of everything! I do love arroz con leche, though maybe not as much as Aidan. I’d probably go with a cheese plate as my dessert of choice. As much as I travel, I love trying cheeses from different places, and there’s always that option on the menu. And when I’m at home, it’s perfect because no cooking required. All I have to do is slice it off the block, and my knife skills are impeccable.
LEAH: Cheese is always the right answer, my friend! If you had to choose one animal personality each to describe Danny, Aidan, Jamie, Nic, and Cam, which would you choose?
MC: They’re not going to read this, right? Eh, who the fuck cares, none of them are stupid enough to come at me… * taps nail against her lips * Nic’s the easiest. He’s a porcupine – prickly as all hell. Cam’s a gorilla – looks big and tough, but he’s really a big ole’ softie. Aidan’s a lion – big mane of red-gold hair, super protective of his pack, and likes to be in charge. Jamie’s a giraffe, for obvious reasons and for some of other less obvious reasons mentioned in this article I recently read, something about necking and mating quickly. As for Daniel, I’d say he’s a dolphin. He’s a very social creature, highly intelligent, playful, sleek and graceful, while also being altruistic, caring, and protective of his pack. And there’s that whole home on the sea thing.
LEAH: Those giraffe facts….I love it, hah! And now, the most important question. *mock serious face* Star Wars or Star Trek?
MC: While I feel a certain kindship with Spock, I feel a certain something else for Han and Leia. Yeah, both of them *winks*
LEAH: Oh, a woman after my own heart! Well, Mel, it’s been a joy to have you on today, thanks so much for coming for a visit! Enjoy the rest of your day!
MC: Thanks so much for having me, Leah, and if you ever want a running-in-heels lesson, call me anytime!
Author Layla Reyne was raised in North Carolina and now calls San Francisco home. She enjoys weaving her bi-coastal experiences into her stories, along with adrenaline-fueled suspense and heart pounding romance. When she’s not writing stories to excite her readers, she downloads too many books, watches too much television, and cooks too much food with her scientist husband, much to the delight of their smushed-face, leftover-loving dogs. Layla is a member of Romance Writers of America and its Kiss of Death and Rainbow Romance Writers chapters. She was a 2016 RWA® Golden Heart® Finalist in Romantic Suspense.