Next week the fun begins!
Join me for a full schedule of St. Helena Vineyards Kindle World fun!
Next week the fun begins!
Join me for a full schedule of St. Helena Vineyards Kindle World fun!
Hey everyone! Thanks for having me Lulu!
I’m Kate Kisset waving to you from my car. Get ready, we’re going on a road trip today to celebrate the release of my third book AND I LOVE YOU. I’m about an hour’s drive north of San Francisco in California wine country, the setting of my series.
While Lulu’s running back into the house to grab her stuff, allow me to introduce myself.
Readers say my stories are “sexy, and refreshing, with complex characters and plots that serve up humor without holding back on heart.”
I took the phrase “write what you know,” to a whole new level :). My books take place right outside my front door. I use “real” wine country locations, actual events and pour genuine wine whenever possible.
Here’s the scoop on my series:
Love in the Vineyards is a small-town romance series centering around six very hot Italian brothers from a Napa Valley wine dynasty and three strong, passionate women who are roommates at nearby villa in Sonoma Valley. The Santino brothers are swoon-worthy, protective, loyal men who’ll do anything for the women they adore…
(FYI: You don’t have to know anything about wine. My characters just drink it.)
I have three books out so far: Love at Last, Love’s Home Run and my latest, And I Love You. All the novels are standalone romances and readers are loving them. Check out the hundreds of five-star reviews on Amazon to see what I mean.
Lulu’s getting in the car now, so buckle up. I’m going to take you to some of the scenes in my books and show you around California wine country…
*All the photos are my own, taken with my phone camera.
Let’s park at the villa. In Love in the Vineyards, the heroines of Love at Last, Love’s Home Run and And I love You live in this historic villa.
Lulu Castelli the landlady of what I call “Bella Villa” is more like family to my characters, Sarah, Danica, and Juliet.
In my story, Lulu is the great-granddaughter of a famous winemaker very similar to Agoston Haraszthy. Mr. Haraszthy, the self-proclaimed “Count of Buena Vista,” created California’s first premium winery in Sonoma Valley in 1857.
The actual building is an exact replica of the family home the “Count” built in the 1800s. The property is now Bartholomew Winery property in Sonoma Valley.
Moving along, we’re approaching the Sonoma Plaza in the center of town.
The series begins with Love at Last when Sarah Dupont moves to Sonoma after her fiancé cheated on her with a co-worker at their San Francisco bakery.
Sarah opens her own café on the Sonoma Plaza and gets tricked into giving notorious panty-dropper-actor Jamie Santino baking lessons for his upcoming movie role. (*Inside scoop: The “real” Basque Boulangerie Café just a few doors down from theatre was the inspiration behind Sarah’s Vine Café in the story.)
Their love affair ends up throwing Sarah for a loop. Her heart’s already been broken once. How can she believe Jamie isn’t acting when everything he says sounds too good to be true?
Let’s pull over for a second. A lot of people think Sonoma looks a lot like Stars Hollow from the Gilmore Girls. Do you notice a similarity?
(*Inside scoop: Jamie Santino shows up at a screening at the “real” Sebastiani theater at the end of Love at Last.)
Did I mention that every woman at Bella Villa and all the Santino brothers are getting happily-ever-afters in this series? Let’s head over to the ballpark, it’s just off the plaza.
Book two, Love’s Home Run centers around Jamie Santino’s baseball star brother, Luca. Luca and Danica Vargas (Sarah’s roommate) were childhood sweethearts. When Luca ends up back in wine country, Danica doesn’t recognize him.
She didn’t think he’d ever come home or she wouldn’t have “accidentally” kissed his older brother Michael.
(Inside Scoop: The Napa Crushers, Luca’s team in the book was inspired by Sonoma’s “real” indie team, the Sonoma Stompers.)
I’m going to head back to the put the car in park now. In book three, my latest release And I Love You, the scenes move back and forth from Sonoma to San Francisco.
Disc jockey Juliet St. John, (the third Bella Villa roommate), has been patiently waiting for her happily-ever-after and she finds one with single dad, Gabe Durand.
Here’s the short blurb:
She’s the overnight DJ desperate for a caffeine infusion.
He’s the late-night bartender who has just what she needs.
If they play their cards right they might both get the refill of a lifetime.
(Inside scoop: I used to be a San Francisco disc jockey and just like Juliet, I was demoted to the graveyard shift! I used to run from my car to the station every night praying I wouldn’t get mugged.)
I think this is a good time to wrap up our drive today. Thank you so much for having me Lulu! I hope you and your readers enjoyed the mini-tour of wine country and got to know me a little better.
I’m working on book #4 of the series, Michael Santino’s story now. This one’s a doozy. I’m sticking with the plan to “write what you know” and setting this story in the middle of the wildfires that hit northern California wine county last fall. It’ll be “hot” to say the least!
I’d love it if you followed me and we stayed in touch.
Here’s where you can find me:
Kate Kisset AMAZON PAGE (All Books)
A big believer in happily ever afters, Jen Doyle decided it was high time she started creating some. CALLING IT, the first book in her baseball/contemporary romance/romantic comedy series of the same name, has been winning awards since its inception, the most recent being the 2017 Best Banter Contest. (And it’s on sale through 4/5/18 for 99 cents!) She also writes the acclaimed HANSONS OF ST. HELENA series of novellas in the St. Helena Vineyard Kindle World.
Today is the beginning of baseball for the year and the first day of Jen’s 99 cent sale! The runs until April 5th.
I love to set a scene for our interview. It helps to give the readers a little more insight into you as a person. I’m not sure if we should be at a ballpark with hotdogs and drinks, or chatting quietly in the big comfy chairs at a library?
LOL! How about sitting on the beautiful porch of a library that’s situated in an old Victorian home and overlooks a baseball field? (I used the house in the picture at https://www.pinterest.com/pin/385620786821588739/ as my inspiration for, well, the Inspiration (IA) Public Library. So that’s the porch I’m thinking of. Which, come to think of it, kind of looks like the porch on the house in Field Of Dreams, which in turn looks over a baseball field. [See how I did that? ]) Oh, and don’t forget the Cracker Jacks!
Your first series centers around baseball and a small town in Iowa. So let’s start with baseball, I take it you are a fan? Who is your favorite team? Did you grow up playing as a kid?
I am! I actually just recorded a podcast with my sister where we talk about that. For me, baseball brings about memories of sitting in the living room and doing homework while my dad watched the game on the TV. He was a huge Yankees fan, so those games were a big part of my growing up. When I met the man who was to become my husband (we met in college), the fact that he was a Red Sox fan was a bit of a concern in my family…with good reason. We moved to Boston in 1996 and living in such a big baseball town it was hard not to begin to side with the hometown team. I officially converted in 2003 and am now raising three fairly rabid Red Sox fans, to (some of) my family’s dismay.
And now for small towns, you also write for St. Helena Vineyards Kindle Worlds, that also takes place in and around a small town. What drew you to these two small-town locations for your writing?
It’s weird, because I’m actually a city girl at heart, but when it comes to my fiction, I love reading and writing about small towns. I think it’s about these communities of people who know everything about each other and are in each other’s business all the time. Sometimes that’s a good thing, with communities coming together in times of hardship, and sometimes, of course, it’s not quite as idyllic, with small-town politics, etc. But being able to explore those themes—and play up those characters—is definitely one of my favorite things to do.
And to add on to that, what I love about writing in the St. Helena Vineyard KW universe, is the ability to play off the amazing characters that Marina Adair created in her original series and then either expand upon or bring brand new characters into the world. Plus, to be part of this community of writers…it’s like all the amazing parts of a small town rolled up into one.
Tell us a little about the Calling It! series. Is there a next book in the works, and what is that one about?
The Calling It series starts off with, unsurprisingly, LOL, Calling It in which a superstar major league baseball player Nate Hawkins returns to his small hometown of Inspiration, IA, in order to escape a scandal that he’s part of through no part of his own. He hasn’t told anyone he’s coming home, so when he arrives in town just before midnight, he decides to crash at his baby sister’s apartment, not knowing that she’s sublet it. When he’s confronted by a woman in her bathrobe—who is very much not his sister—he finds himself being more intrigued than he should be, especially considering she’s clearly ready to clobber him with a baseball bat. The woman, of course, is the local librarian, Dorie Donelli. Things proceed from there.
There are two more books in the series—Called Up, which centers around Nate’s baby sister (Fitz) and one of his best friends from high school (Deke), and Called Out, which centers around Nate’s former teammate and Deke’s sister Lola. All are standalone books, but definitely more enjoyable if read in order because of the way different characters are revisited. There’s also a shorter length book, Holiday House Call, that takes place in the same small town. It, too, is a standalone and more loosely related than the other books, however, it does bring back some of the same characters from the earlier books.
I’m actually working on a proposal for a new series right now, but my next project is to write the first book in a spin-off series that will revolve around Dorie’s brothers back in Boston. And then—I hope!—back to Inspiration again as there are still some characters whose stories I’d like to tell.
You also have a paranormal romance serial out on Radish. Educate us a bit on what Radish is, and how readers access your work there.
Radish is an app that you would download—just like any other app—and then begin to explore the different genres. For those not familiar, serial fiction is made up of stories that are told over a period of time. With Radish, each story is broken up into difference ‘episodes’ which are posted throughout the week. So, for example, Butterfly Ops, my story in Radish, is posted three times each week. It’s part of the ‘freemium’ model, which means that the initial few chapters are free, and then readers can either choose to pay coins for succeeding chapters or wait until they become free over time.
You used to be a big mystery fan, do you blend your two favorite genres? Romance with serious who-done-its?
You know, I don’t! That’s so funny. I never thought about that. Butterfly Ops, although primarily a romance, does have an overarching mystery to it, and that was a lot of fun to write. But my contemporary romances don’t have any whodunit elements whatsoever. Hmmmm… I’ll need to think about that.
Do you listen to music when you write? What is the soundtrack to your latest book if you do?
I don’t really listen to music while I’m writing because there are already too many voices in my head, LOL. But I will say that I find music very inspirational and that it helps stir the creative juices when I’m more in the ruminating stage of a book. Or, for that matter, when I’m really stuck. I will say that I had a very difficult time writing Holiday House Call due to some things that were going on in my life, and although I had a contract deadline to meet, I was getting to the point where I was afraid I actually wasn’t going to be able to do it and that bothered me immensely. And then I stumbled upon Walker Hayes (specifically the video to You Broke Up With Me) and that finally got me going again. It wasn’t the song so much as the musician. He had all the characteristics I was looking for in Tuck, my hero for the book—not just the looks, although the whole chiseled jaw, ridiculously gorgeous arms thing didn’t hurt, but he brought to life a character that I was having a hard time visualizing and it made a huge difference. (Incidentally, Walker Hayes is an incredible songwriter and storyteller. I highly recommend boom., the CD he just recently put out.)
Who are your writing heroes, and how did they inspire you to become a writer?
You know how people say they knew from almost as soon as they could talk that they’d be a writer? Yeah. I’m not one of those. I actually didn’t even think of myself as a writer until about five years ago. Up until then, I considered it a hobby as the first thing I put to paper (well, virtually, of course) was a fanfic in the Buffy universe. One of my favorite characters left the show under circumstances that I wasn’t at all happy with, so I decided to write an explanation that I could live with. My writing career kind of spiraled from there.
As part of that experience, however, I ‘met’ someone named Diana, who responded to one of the first stories I ever wrote. (Incidentally, dear reader, she hated it.) But that turned into a ten-year relationship where she helped me make the journey from hobbyist to actual novelist. She’s the person who eventually told me that I had it in me to write a book—that, in fact, given what I’d done in the fan fiction world, I already had nine times over—and that I should think about it seriously. I can’t tell you how much it meant to me to be able to dedicate Calling It, my first published novel, to her.
The question I ask everyone is about their characters. How do your characters come to you? Do they show up and say “hi write me” or do they develop as you construct your story?
I’d say it’s a combination of both. Although I have a general sense of where my story is going to go, I find that the characters truly take me there. I’m definitely one of those writers who basically has scenes unfold in my head as I’m writing them (thus the ‘voices in my head’ I referred to earlier), and, as a result, characters basically telling me where they want to go. There are also some characters which take some time to develop—like Tuck, from Holiday House Call, who I didn’t even know was going to have a book of his own until, well, he did—and then some characters who are so vivid and strong that I’ve known from the second they appear in my head exactly how their story is going to play out. For example, Jack, the hero from Called Out (#3), is one of the first characters I ever conceived of even though he didn’t show up in person until the very end of book one. And although some of the background details may have changed a bit, he ended up exactly as I saw him in those very early days.
Which comes first the character or the story?
I guess I’d say the characters, but only by a little bit. I tend to see particular scenes in my head, and those scenes have characters in them—sometimes the romantic leads, sometimes a group of friends—but I have no idea what bigger story the scene is part of. Which, unfortunately, is a huge problem for me, LOL. (I HATE first drafts.)
Which do you prefer rom-coms or action adventure movies? Or are you an Oscars kind of flick person (of course this year a monster movie won, so that’s a bit of a change up, isn’t it?)
I like my movies the way I like my books—with happy endings. So, unfortunately, those big “important” films that tend to win the big awards don’t usually appeal to me no matter how amazing they might be. And although I do enjoy a good action adventure movie for, say, date night with my husband, or a family outing with the kids (have you seen the new Jumanji? It was AWESOME), I will always choose the rom-com if it’s just me. But it definitely has to have a happy ending. None of that Nicholas Sparks stuff for me!
Coke or Pepsi?
Coke. No question. (To the point where I went out to lunch last weekend and ordered a Diet Coke, and when the waitress asked if Diet Pepsi was okay, I had to give the big n-o and switch to Iced Tea.)
What’s on your pizza?
Well, I should probably say things like a lot of vegetables and easy on the cheese. But that would be a total lie. Pepperoni and extra cheese, please.
I really want to ask that credit card commercial question: What’s in your wallet?
Ha! My wallet is pretty boring. Credit cards, my driver’s license, and a bunch of old receipts that I stuffed into the inner pocket. My purse on the other hand…I’ve got toy cars (even though my kids stopped playing with them some time ago), cough drops, tissues, a book, my planner, pens, more cough drops… Oh, I could go on.
And with that, it looks like I’ve reached the end! Thank you sooooo much for having me! I’ve enjoyed sitting here on the porch and watching the game with you. Let’s do this again sometime!
Baseball player Nathan Hawkins needs to get away from Chicago. After a near career-ending car accident and with paparazzi surrounding his penthouse, Nate can only think of one place to go: home. But when he finds his old apartment occupied by a half-naked woman wielding a baseball bat, he’s not sure what to think…except that maybe his luck has finally changed for the better.
Librarian Dorie Donelli never thought she’d get to meet her fantasy man in person—much less in her bathrobe. To her surprise, her nearly naked run-in with Nate leads to more unclothed encounters. But Dorie is sure their fling is only temporary. As long as she remembers he’ll be gone once his life gets back on track, she won’t get hurt. In the meantime, she throws herself into enjoying their three weeks together before he has to report for spring training and go back to his old life.
For Nate, being with Dorie is the only time in months that he finds himself smiling. Laughing. And he has no intention of letting that go. He might even be falling in love…if only Dorie will let him say the words. What they have isn’t just a dream, but the start of a dream come true.
Anna J. Stewart is a USA Today and national bestselling author. Her work ranges from sweet romance, to not so sweet, romantic suspense. Her new release Always the Hero comes out tomorrow (March 1) and will be available as ebook from leading online ebook retailers.(edit: I’ve got links for you at the bottom of the page).
I like to set my interviews in a setting, gives us and the reader a little inside into where you would like to relax. As a self-proclaimed geek girl would we be at Comic Con, or hanging out in the lobby before the next Marvel Cinematic Universe movie?
Ooh, that’s a tough one. With a lot of movies coming out in the next couple of months AND a local Comic Con, it’s an even bet, LOL.
Speaking of MCU movies, what did you think of Black Panther?
I knew it was going to be good. People were raving ahead of time but I didn’t expect to be that blown away. I felt so empowered, so proud of what writers and filmmakers and amazing actors can do when they combine their efforts. And the message of the movie couldn’t be better timed. It wasn’t just a great comic book movie, it was a great movie. One I can’t wait to see again. Which I’m going to have to, because I was late for an appointment and missed the final extra scene. *whaaaaa!*
What were your feelings when watching Wonder Woman last summer?
For a writer, this is going to be a cop out, but indescribable. I’ve been waiting for a feature film of Wonder Woman since I was seven years old. Growing up, there were three shows I never missed: The Hardy Boys, The Bionic Woman, and Wonder Woman. Having read so much about the character, about her history, about the purpose behind her, Patty Jenkins (the director) put it all on the screen and while I wasn’t sold on Gal Gadot when she was first announced, I can’t imagine anyone else playing her now. It was my girl power dreams of childhood made real. Good storytelling, staying true to the character, and those Amazons. Woohoo! I still get chills. I think it was also, aside from the Dark Knight Trilogy, that DC finally got one of their characters right (as opposed to MCU). I’m crossing my fingers for Aquaman (then again, it’s Jason Momoa, so who really cares? I’m going no matter what, LOL).
Cos play yes or no?
Ah, no. Although I did consider wearing a bullet proof vest with “writer” on the front to go as Castle one year. That said, there have been some pretty kick-ass female characters of late to emulate.
Please tell us about Always the Hero, and the Butterfly Harbor Stories.
Butterfly Harbor is my fictional homage to Monterey and the Pacific Grove area of California. As a born and bred California girl, I have a hard time setting my books anywhere else. I love it here. Butterfly Harbor is small town personified, with lots of fun, quirky characters who deal with serious real-life problems.
Always the Hero is the fourth story in the series and features Deputy Matt Knight, an Afghan war veteran who lost his leg in combat. He’s made a lot of promises to a lot of people and he’s not about to let anyone down. But sometimes it just isn’t possible to be all things to all people and unfortunately, he’s going to have to earn Lori Bradley’s trust again after breaking her heart. Lori has her own issues stemming from a difficult childhood that included the death of her little brother when she was only ten, and an event in high school that still haunts her even though she’s convinced herself she’s moved beyond it. She’s my first full-figured heroine, something I’ve been dying to put on the page. As someone who has battled her weight for most of her life, I wanted to explore those issues from a completely different perspective.
Is this a serial series we need to start at the beginning, or can we jump in at any point and still get a complete story?
They absolutely stand on their own so a reader can jump in anywhere they’d like. Hopefully seeing where the characters are now will entice them to read how they got there.
When did you and the writing muse discover each other?
I think I was always a storyteller. I used to make up stories all the time, probably because I was an only child and if I wasn’t reading or watching TV, I was lost in my imagination. Freshman year of high school, soon after reading my first romance, some friends and I started writing mini-romances featuring our favorite rock stars. They moved past it. I didn’t. It’s all I wanted to do. It’s really all I’ve been doing since.
How do your characters come to you? Some authors have described them as voices in their heads, others as a construct they create as they write. Where do your characters fall in that range?
Every story I’ve written has come differently. Sometimes it’s plot or story idea first, other times it’s definitely the character. When the characters appear, Most of the time I tend to know what they look like, but I spend an inordinate amount of time fleshing them out before I get writing. There have been times when I haven’t been able to wait and just jump in. For LOVE IN FOCUS, my second Kindle Worlds story for the St. Helena Vineyards series, Dante was just there (if you read the story, you’ll definitely see why).
Being a USA Today Best Seller is a huge goal, how did you feel when you found out?
I was very fortunate it happened very early on. It was a novella I wrote for a boxed set that I was asked to participate in right before my first Berkley book, ASKING FOR TROUBLE came out. I was thrilled and a bit stunned. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like adding that to my website and signature line, but that said? It’s still all about the stories for me and whichever one I’m working on at the moment.
You write both sweet romance to hot. How do you decide which is appropriate for your stories?
Honestly, my publisher decides, LOL. The Heartwarming line is Harlequin’s sweet (or as they call it, clean and wholesome) line. There’s NO sex on the page and even very little sexual/physical contact. It’s all about the emotions and the connection between the hero and heroine, which I happen to love. Not having a love scene to rely on has made me a better writer; I have to focus on more than the physical and really delve into why two people fall in love. That said, after writing a few sweet romances, I’m ready for some characters to hit the sack. Not that any of my books get particularly steamy. I’m tame by most people’s standards. I write what I like to read.
Do you have a preference for sweet or for the more detailed steamy scenes?
Totally depends on the characters. Going into any of my Heartwarmings, I know what I can and can’t include. I can push the boundaries a little with the romantic suspense and paranormal (which I just started publishing). If I had a preference? I’d fall somewhere in the middle.
I saw a teaser on your website that you plan on returning to writing paranormal and urban fantasy, how soon can we expect that to happen?
It did, actually! In February, I published the first of three short paranormal romances (all connected) in Heart’s Kiss Magazine. WARDEN OF MAGIC (book 1, February’s issue), WARDEN OF SIGHT (April’s issue), and WARDEN OF FATE make up one big story of three sisters vacationing in Edinburgh, Scotland, who each find themselves whisked into a magical storybook. From there, they each meet their heroes, imprisoned warriors, and together they must battle and defeat an evil focused on taking over the imaginary world…or is it imaginary? I’m having SO much fun writing these. It’s like coming home (it’s been almost 10 years since I’ve written any new paranormal stories).
The NSA checks out your browser history, what are they going to think of you?
Oh, trust me. If the NSA checks, you’ll be seeing me featured on the evening news, LOL. I’ve researched everything from pipe bombs (for a Heartwarming no less) to blood diseases to serial killers. Man, I love my job.
You can find Anna on these social media outlets:
You can find Always the Hero at these retail ebook retailers:
I like to set the mood for these interviews. So where are we? A coffee shop or a reading corner in an indie bookseller? And are you drinking coffee, tea, or some other concoction?
(I like the way you start it, set’s a tone).
We are enjoying NY style greasy pepperoni pizza for lunch at a small bookseller overlooking the Cumberland River. It’s a beautiful summer day with thunder off in the distance. (great, now I really want pizza)
At what point did you know you wanted to be an author?
I admire those people who state that they have always known they would be a writer/author and started writing beautiful prose in elementary school. My path has been far different. I was always a little different and knew that; not exactly a loner, but outside the norm. I would have imaginary stories develop at the oddest times, swimming in a pool I would find Aqua Man or alone at a social event/family event, I was slaying a dragon or finding a wild stallion meant for me, that only I could tame. I was often in my in my own little world, oblivious to my surroundings. I don’t know if it was an escape or just over-active imagination, but I didn’t realize it was the beginning of my “calling”. Fast-forward to the mid-1980s. I was divorced with two young boys, working two jobs and shopping in my parent’s pantry. I hated to be alone; I had not yet learned to like myself and those were the hardest times. My boys would have every other weekend with their father who I still refer to as Shit-Head and you can only clean the dingy apartment so many times. One of those weekends, I picked up a legal pad, you know, one of the 11 x 14 yellow pads and began writing. My first try was a historical romance entitled Whispering Cedars and filled ten legal pads and I haven’t stopped writing since.
What currently compels you to write?
Characters constantly stalking me wanting their story to be told. It is quite loud and busy in my head.
Tell us a little about what you write?
I have evolved into what I like to call thrilling mystery/suspense. Not quite a thriller, but more than suspense and mystery. Elements of romance dot the pages throughout their story, I mean, what is a story without love, it is part of the human contingent, if you ask me. Anyway, my primary character typically is an everyday person working an everyday job who is thrown into an extraordinary situation. Through their journey, we find out if they have what it takes deep within to survive. I, like the reader, never really know until the end of the story.
I began writing Historical Romance. My grandmother read every terrible manuscript I wrote (God, love her and rest her soul), said that my writing was very strong when I killed someone or the scene was dark, that I should look at murder mysteries. I have been working on them since that time. I believe she was correct and I have found my voice.
Authors are told to write what they know. How closely do you adhere to that philosophy? Tells us a bit about what you do know and how (if it does) does that leak into your work.
As to writing philosophies, I really don’t have any. Well, I take that back, I do believe that you should write the story of your heart, every time. Never, ever, write for the market. Now, there are those who have success that way and perhaps that is why I have yet to see a publisher’s contract. Shrug, who knows?
What I know for sure is that from my many, many professional positions, that experience leaks into story lines one way or another. My experience is so varied because, by the time I realized what I wanted to be when I grew up, I had changed jobs so many times, I learned several skill sets which worked quite well for the author in me.
The closest to contentment in my day job was as a police officer and worked with my small town as a reserve for four years. Had I found this earlier in my life, I would have been happier in my “day job” and worked as a cop full time. But as they say, hindsight is 20/20.
I did have ride alongs with Metro police and it was invigorating. Seeing the dark, nitty-gritty streets of Nashville certainly has its benefits with ideas, new storylines, etc. Moreover, being able to experience the brotherhood of cops is the most moving for me as an author. Being affiliated with them has been one of the greatest honors of my life.
What are you currently working on?
I refer to my novels by the heroine’s first name. Typically, their name shortened to a nickname that could be misconstrued as a man. I am not sure how this came to be; but it has become part of my brand, if you will.
Anyway, Jess is completed and I am editing her story. She meets up with three friends from high school to rekindle their relationship before their reunion. Jess finds one friend dead in her hotel suite and one by one, her friends are found dead and she is forced to escape into the Smoky Mountains and then to the city streets of DC to find the killer.
Jo is half-way done and set in Colorado where she returns to her first love’s ranch as a housekeeper. She must clear her name after being set up and implicated in the murder of the Pennsylvania governor.
Charlie is fleshed out; I do know that she is a Coroner’s Investigator and is working with the police on a string of drag queen murders.
Vic is the only female cop/detective in a good ‘ole boy southern town who discovers what is the first of many bodies left in the intricate cave system in Tennessee. She has been fun to work with in this scenario from my own small town experience to pull from, but also she has some compelling OCD issues that I didn’t know about until recently. This has been a challenge for me as her storyteller.
Scottie is a new character for me and we are getting to know each other right now. She kind of reminds of Rizzoli on Rizzoli and Isles drama.
What is your publishing dream?
I suppose the ultimate dream for me is to be walking somewhere like an airport or in a park and see someone reading my book. There is no greater compliment and that would be the time I knew I made it.
I’m fascinated with how different authors experience their characters. How do your characters come to you?
They yell at me, they appear from nowhere and want their story told. Jo, who I mentioned earlier, she yelled at me for years from the pew of a church for at least ten years until I finally began her story. She would turn and look back at me, raise her eyebrows and ask when was it her turn. They poke my imagination until I begin their story. It’s quite fun finding out what makes them tick.
I understand you are a big hockey fan. Do you play? Do you skate?
No, in hockey terms, I am a bender which means I don’t have strong ankles. I barely can skate and don’t play hockey, but love the game. My boys are the ones who dragged me kicking and screaming away from little league baseball. However, after the first game, I have never looked back. It’s the best youth sport to watch; fast-paced, team oriented and competitive. Yes, I am a huge hockey fan and I am excited to say that as of this interview, my Nashville Predators have just won the Western Conference and are now waiting to see who they play in the Stanley Cup. This is so exciting for me, for our city and for the many youth hockey players who were told by others to “play a real sport.” As a goalie mom of two and one college hockey goalie in Grand Rapids, Michigan, it is a stressful job as a parent as they are either the hero or the bum. Tough, tough job, but my boys handle it well. I love the sport, the family of hockey fans/players/families. In a way, it is similar to that of the cops. It’s a brotherhood and I tend to be drawn to those who are loyal and beyond reproach. (Unfortunately, the Preds did not win the Stanley Cup, but man, they came close.)
So tell me about your experience trying to get farm fresh eggs. (cause this is funny)
Laughing. Wow. One of my best friends had chickens and they had to go to a hockey tournament for a week. I told her I would feed her chickens and get the eggs. How hard could it be? Well, let me tell you, it’s not easy for someone who grew up in the suburbs. Thankfully, my better half grew up on a farm and although having a good laugh at my expense. Did you know that chickens growl? Well, they do and they peck when you try and get the eggs. The chickens sit on the eggs and you have to steal them and it’s painful. I had no idea. Then, you find a rogue rooster wild eyes, it’s quite terrifying when it chases you into a car. Oh yes, the bird from hell. Spouse filmed it and I am glad, outside of comedic viewing, I used what happened and allowed Jo experienced it as well and with many more chickens, of course, that I did that day. It wasn’t pretty.
If someone were to look into your browser history today, what would they think of you?
They would be very concerned and probably contact the FBI. (grin)
Action movies or rom-com?
Action movies with strong plots. Good horror flicks.
Saturday morning cartoons or monster movies?
Neither; coffee and meditation.
What’s the one question you always like when people ask authors?
As I have yet to be published, I have not yet really had questions asked. However, what I do get:
“I have a great story idea. We need to talk, you can write it and it will be a bestseller.”
“Where can I buy your book?”
“Well, I am not published yet, have been almost for years, but not yet.”
Insert pitiful look here
“Let me know if you need help with the sex scenes.”
If someone asks me where I get my ideas from, I find that hard to answer. So many places, a news story, an investigative show, an article in a news paper. Many times, ideas just come to me as “what if…”. All I really know for sure is that my family is very thankful I have an outlet.
Here is my website:
Q: If we were having a real in-person conversation, where are we? Beach, bar, talk show, radio?
A: I’d have to combine two and say beach bar! We’d enjoy the warmth of the sun while sipping on a frozen daiquiri, listen to sea birds, and watch boats come and go in the harbor. Doesn’t get much better than that!
Q: Tell us about the Jewel intrigue series. Would you describe them as adventure with romantic element or romance with adventure?
A: Well, I’ve been accused of being plot heavy in the books. Like that’s a bad thing or something. *Snort* So I guess I’d have to go with adventure with romantic elements. I suppose there could be some truth to that statement though. I usually work through the plot first. The romance is second. Is that wrong of a romance writer to admit to?
Q: Of the three novels, which hero is your favorite?
A: Holy cow. That’s an impossible question. Each has elements that I’m drawn to, so I love them all. But…don’t tell anyone…I do have a favorite of my three books. It’s Phantom Pearl. Maybe because it’s the latest one, but it’s really more about the storyline – Yamashita’s Gold and a WWII mystery. I was fascinated by the research!
Q: Will there be more Jewel Intrigue books?
A: I hope so. My contract mentions an option for a fourth book, and I’m waiting on word from the publisher. If so, I have a secondary character in my first book…Jason Harvick. He had such a strong personality and kept trying to steal the scenes. Which shows, I guess, because I’ve had several demands to get busy writing his story.
Q: What else have you written?
A: I have a completed YA novel written in the same adventurous style. It’s set in the Amazon River basin in Brazil. But my first book ever was a historical. I love reading them, so naturally I thought it’s what I’d write. Nope. Turns out, it takes a special sort of voice and I honestly don’t have it. Critique partners kept asking me… Have you ever considered writing contemporary? I hadn’t. I eventually gave in though, and switched. That’s when I found my niche.
Q: What can we expect next?
A: I’ve got another adventure series in the planning stage. And I’m working on a mystery collaboration with my critique partner. And of course, book 4 in the Jewel Intrigue novels. Right now though, I’m trying to figure out this newsletter thing. Believe it or not, it’s more daunting to me than the prospect of writing another book!
Q: You are quite an adventurer, how much of your own exploits do you include in your writing?
A: Guilty. I’m constantly doing this. I think all writers draw inspiration from personal experience. You can’t help filtering book events through that lens and I believe it adds flavor to the writing. We can all look at the same thing and see it multiple ways. That’s a great thing!
Q: What has been the most harrowing experience you have encountered so far (facing down lions on safari? Seeing a real bear in the woods while hiking?)
A: I’m not sure. I’m an adventuress, but I do have limits. I don’t like heights, so climbing Mt. Everest isn’t in the cards. Neither is rock climbing. No way. But I’ve never shied away from exploring new places, learning to scuba dive, taking a hot-air balloon ride, or hiking the back country. I’ve been pretty close to Alaska’s brown bears while visiting Katmai National Park, but they weren’t interested in me, they had salmon on the brain. Haven’t yet been on a safari, but it’s on my short list. I can only hope to see lions!
Q: What has been the most exciting adventure you have been on?
A: Oh my word. That’s a tough one. I guess I’d have to go with climbing the ancient Mayan pyramid at Chichén Itzá, in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. We flew from Cancun on a small 10 seater prop plane and landed on a grassy runway carved out of the jungle. It was fantastic. We spent all day exploring the ruins, and topped it off by climbing to the top of the pyramid. Let me tell you, the energy up there is freaky strange, but the view is spectacular. The climb down was steep though, and pretty frightening for someone who doesn’t like heights. There were no guard rails or safety features, nothing but ancient crumbling rock, steep stairs, and a sign that said climb at your own risk. We did. And it was completely worth it.
Q: Where do your characters come from?
A: I start with a loose idea, a type of character, then focus on plot. Once the story begins to form, personalities begin to take shape too. Take book one in my series, Diamond Legacy. I knew my heroine was going to be a dental zoologist. I got the idea from a newspaper article regarding the Nashville zoo. Seems they had an orangutan that needed a root canal and they had to get on a wait list to fly in a vet specialist. WOWZERS! That intrigued me and Miranda Parrish was born. She’d be tops in her field, travel extensively, and have to go to Botswana where she’d stumble into diamond smuggling. I knew the hero would be an undercover agent in the dark world of conflict diamonds and gunrunners, he’d also be driven by a personal vendetta. That’s the way all my books start – shadowy idea of a character, while the plot takes center stage. Eventually, that flips.
Q: What was the last book you read?
A: Reading is a luxury anymore. It’s a time thing. But I do have a 45 minute commute to the day job, then 45 back home. So audio books are a Godsend. Last one I listened to was a Steve Berry book. He’s a favorite because his books are a twist of historical mystery and contemporary thriller. Before that it was a Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg novel. They co-write the Fox and O’Hare series. A female FBI agent and a dashing con artist. The books are irresistible!
Q: Do your books have soundtracks that helped to create them? Or what do you listen to when you write?
A: No soundtrack. Music is too distracting. I need quiet in order to concentrate. What I do though, is create a wall of pictures. I print out character images, setting locales, anything and everything that has import in the book. I tape them into a collage on the wall by my computer. For Phantom Pearl I had images of Dallas and Riki, pictures of Australia and Singapore, the crashed WWII plane, the treasure, and locations of all major events. It really helps me visualize the story.
Q: Cake or pie?
A: Pie. Specifically…Key Lime Pie. Food of the Gods.
Q: What’s on your pizza?
A: Funny you should ask. One of my first jobs was a waitress at Pizza Hut. It was a lot of years ago, but one summer they came out with this incredible Taco Pizza. During the rollout we had to wear a sombrero and shout out Ole! whenever someone ordered it. Totally goofy, but the pizza was da bomb. Can’t find anything like it today…but the memory lives on. Sigh…
Q: If you win big on the lottery would you buy a ticket on a Virgin Galactic?
A: Umm…no. I love to fly. Like, for realz. Big planes, little planes, sea planes, helicopters, hot air balloons, even parasailing – I’ve done them all. Skirting the atmosphere on a space flight? I can’t begin to tell you how much that freaks me out. Same with parachuting out of a perfectly good airplane. Never, never, never. Not gonna happen, no matter how rich I become.
(edit: someone who understands why would you jump out of a good plane?)
Africa-where diamonds are the currency of the weapons trade, and trust is the only option between two strangers…
History didn’t always get it right. Sometimes the past is changed by a
two-hundred-year old journal written by a man history declared insane…
Vendettas and government secrets make a bad combination…
These are available from
Adventuring is in Monica McCabe’s blood. She’s addicted to travel, National Parks, & exploring new places and mysterious locales. She’s climbed glaciers and ancient Mayan pyramids, dived shipwrecks and reef caves, camped in Sasquatch country, and drove across the USA three times. When not traveling she’s writing romantic suspense and adventure, goofing off outdoors, or researching that next big trip.
Monica is currently working on the Jewel Intrigue Series for Kensington’s Lyrical Press.
You can find Monica McCabe at:
Victoria Raschke wrote her first short story at 10. Her mother said it was brilliant but pointed out she had written “cereal” instead of “serial.” She still can’t spell but did manage an M.A. in English from the University of Tennessee and a Culinary Arts degree from Nashville State Community College. Extensive travels in Eastern Europe led to spending a year in Slovenia, where her daydreams and upcoming book are set. Victoria lives in Knoxville with her cats and human family who really appreciate that culinary arts degree.
Who by Water is out today, links below for acquiring a copy!
If I were interviewing you for TV, is this a late night comedy show or a daytime talk show? Are we gonna have a lip-sync battle, or dance badly and give stuff away?
– I think a late night talk show, something in between couch chatting and dancing badly.
This is your first novel with Griffyn Ink, have you been published previously?
– I haven’t published a novel previously. I’ve had a couple poems published (ages ago) and I write for a beer magazine as my side, side gig.
Tell us a bit about Who by Water. How many books are planned for the Voices of the Dead?
– Who by Water is an urban fantasy novel that colors outside the lines of urban fantasy. It isn’t set in London or L.A. or New York. It’s set in the small Slovenian capital, Ljubljana, and draws on Eastern European history but isn’t about vampires. The protagonist, Jo Wiley, is a fortysomething mom who refuses to act her age. Though there is a vein of romance, finding love isn’t Jo’s focus in life. It’s also in third person rather than first person, but the dialogue is still pretty snappy.
When I started thinking about the long arc of the series, I thought there were five books but when I finished WBW, I realized it was really better as a quartet. I’m about halfway through writing book two now.
When did you first get the urge to write?
– In fifth grade, when my English teacher had us all write limericks and haiku. I’d kept a diary as soon as I could write sentences, but that was the first time I realized writing stuff other people would see was an option for me. It spurred a very bad mystery short story called “The Corporate Cleaners” about a janitor who discovers her murdered boss. I’m pretty sure it was a pastiche of Murder, She Wrote episodes or something like that.
Do you have a favorite author who inspired you to start writing?
– There wasn’t an author who inspired that bad, fifth grade poetry, but there were several writers who inspired me to write more speculative fiction. I adore British sci-fi and fantasy writers: Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, Warren Ellis, and Jasper Fforde. I’ve also always read mysteries and have spent the last few years actively seeking out women writing speculative fiction and mysteries because that list of British authors I love was all dudes.
If you could sit down and interview any fictional character, who would it be and why?
–It’s probably cliché, but I would love to have a cup of tea with Dr. John Watson. I’m fascinated by sidekicks and how much they shape and steer protagonists. I love all the permutations of Watson’s character over the years in books, films, and television. My current favorite Watson is Lucy Liu’s portrayal on Elementary.
If you could sit down and interview any of your characters, who would it be and why?
–I am all about the sidekicks, so I would probably interview Jo’s best friend and business partner Vesna Kos. She’s a bit of a still pond in the first book but her character and story develop more in the second book. Of all the characters in the series, she’d closest to being like me and I’m overly interested in getting into and rooting around in my own brain.
You used to be an instructor for a college culinary department. Do you have any plans on incorporating that into your writing?
– There’s definitely some of that in Who by Water. Jo, Vesna, and Gregor own a punk teahouse together and there are kitchen scenes plucked straight out of my past in the restaurant industry. Jo is obsessed with Indian food and winds up eating or cooking it at some point in both books to date.
As someone who knows how to make good foods, which makes you cringe more: blue foods or bright red foods?
– Definitely blue food. There is no natural food that color – not even blueberries. They’re purple. My family laughs at me because I love M&Ms but I pick the blue ones out.
What’s higher up on your list of things-I-would-buy-when-I-start-making-all-the-money-from-my-books shoes or tattoos?
– Definitely tattoos. I have one, a seagull for my mom and the women in my family. I already have ideas for ones for writing, Slovenia, and ginkgo trees. Don’t get me wrong, I love shoes but I’m practical about them.
The first time we met, you had recently returned from Slovenia, and you just returned a few weeks ago again. How many times have you visited Solvenia? Did visiting spark the idea for your novel, or did you first visit as research for your novel?
– I studied at the University of Ljubljana in the early 1990s when Slovenia was a brand-spanking new country. I lived there for about 15 months during very formative years and always carried that time around with me. Life intervened in a big way and it took me about 20 years to go back. In the last four years I’ve been three times and am perpetually planning a way to go back again.
When I went back the first time, I thought I was going to write a memoir about that formative experience there. I did write it but it’s god awful and will probably live in a virtual drawer forever. I’ve joked with my son that he can publish it after I’m dead. When I went back the second time, I was touring Roman sites and had this vivid flash of a body on an ancient piece of mosaic floor. That sparked the novel.
Do you travel a lot? Any plans of joining the Traveler’s Century Club and visiting 100 countries?
– I love to travel, as does my family, but I like to marinate in a place more than just going to say I’ve been there. A weekend or a whirlwind trip isn’t as interesting to me as the opportunity to spend weeks or months getting to know a place and absorb the rhythm. I feel like I could visit a place like London every year and still not really ever know London. I’ll probably never make it to 100 different countries just because I keep going back to the same places to try to figure them out. I’d also really like to improve my Slovenian which seems to only get better when I’m there as I’m too lazy to practice much at home.
–I’ve included the opening chapter. It sets the scene and tone for the book and therefore has the setup built right in.
Who By Water Final [Excerpt]
click to download the first two chapters
Victoria is totally cool, you need to follow her on ALL the social media outlets!
There’s also an easter egg blog that Jo “keeps” for the shop: www.jowiley.si if you think it makes sense to include that somewhere.
Erica has successfully self-published fiction under the name E.K. Henry, and adult coloring books as Erica Henry. Today she tells us about self-publishing both, and if socks and sandals are ever appropriate.
Tell us about your YA novel Freak.
Freak is about a lower-class human named Juniper Rayne who lives in a world where vampires rule. No matter how hard she tries to fit in, she’s labeled a freak. When her dad signs the family up to take part in a reality television show, Juniper hopes that it’ll give her the edge she needs to shed her freak label. Unfortunately for Juniper, vampires aren’t that accepting. She decides to take control of her life and become a vampire hunter, instead of continuing to live in her own personal hell any longer. She will regain control or die trying.
Are you working on more YA novels? What can we expect to see from you next in fiction?
I actually don’t have any YA novels in the works right now, but that doesn’t mean that won’t change in the future. I took time off of YA because I contracted to write several romance novels under a secret pen name. Since those novels have been completed, I have written several middle-grade novels that are still trying to find a home. YA is where I got my start, and I am positive that I will find my way back to it.
You hit the adult coloring book market right as the trend took off. Do you follow market trends to be able to time participation, or did you hit the timing just right?
Adult coloring definitely has trends. I will say that I follow trends to a degree. For instance, I was actually one of the first to start putting out grayscale adult coloring books. I was seeing one book’s pages starting to pop-up in some of the Facebook groups I belong too and I fell in love. I decided right then that was going to become a big part of my coloring books. I started before it because a really popular type, and luckily others shared my love of grayscale coloring and it became a very popular trend.
You are quite creative, in that your published works include fiction and producing coloring books, what other create outlets do you pursue?
I also create art, and YouTube videos. My YouTube videos are normally art and coloring themed, but they are a big passion of mine. I love getting in front of the camera and teaching people from around the world because that is how I learned to create art. Some people find it interesting, but I never went to art school. I am completely self-taught and YouTube taught. I have spent so many hours experimenting with different techniques and mediums until I found what worked for me.
Make sure to leave a comment because I love getting feedback.
What inspired you to start writing? What keeps you writing?
I have always written poems and short stories for as long as I can remember, but I didn’t seriously start writing until after my son was born. I was stuck in the house with a baby that had colic and a hernia, and I about when crazy. One day after having only a few hours of sleep and trying to function in my zombie state, I sat down at my computer and started typing, and I haven’t stopped since.
You’ve been involved in self-publishing for many years, how did you first decide on taking that route to publishing?
Freak was my third novel that I had written, but it was the first one that I felt was good enough to query agents with. When the rejections started rolling in, I was devastated. I started completely doubting myself and my talent. I was about ready to give up and I opened up an email from an agent that was not just the form rejections I had received. It was a rejection that was personalized and actually suggested I self-publish because the big six were not buying paranormal books anymore.
At first, I thought it was a crazy idea. Everyone else had rejected it, so it must not be good enough.
Well, six other emails came in from agents that pretty much said they loved the book but couldn’t sell it because publishers were moving from paranormal.
As each of the emails came in, my confidence was built back up little by little, and eventually, I decided to take the plunge and self-publish Freak.
What aspects of publishing YA and coloring books overlap?
This is a very interesting question. There are actually many aspects that have overlapped for me.
#1 – I had to become very familiar with formatting my document for the printer. For coloring books, there isn’t nearly as much formatting as there is for fiction, but my written portions had to be formatted.
#2 – Because I had self-published Freak, I had already researched print-on-demand companies that were available to use. This was a big timesaver for me. As soon as my first coloring book was complete, I knew that I would start off with publishing it through Createspace.
#3 – I was already used to creating websites, promotional activities, and advertising because I had previously published my fiction novel,
Have you learned something in one publishing field that you unexpectedly were able to carry over to the other?
Coloring books were a whole different beast when it came to preparing the files for print. The first time that I upload my coloring book, I had like 1,000,000,000,000,000 error messages. It was very frustrating and unexpected. I had to learn so much about preparing images for print because it was very differently than just printing words.
What’s probably the hardest part of being self-published?
The hardest part for me is time management. There are only so many hours in the day, and it is hard to decide what aspect of self-publishing I need to focus on. There are so many things that need to be done. There is creating the pages, editing the pages, creating books, coloring pictures from my books, connecting with colorists, making social media posts, and creating YouTube videos. There are certain parts that I enjoy more than others, but all have to be done.
What’s the most rewarding part of being published?
The most rewarding part for me is that I have complete control over what books I put out there. When I talk to colorists and they tell me what they want to see, I don’t have to get permission to create the book I just create it. It makes me so happy to have input from colorists and to be able to make something that is exactly what they want.
Your book gets picked up to be made into a movie, who is in your ideal cast?
Oh man. As long as Jennifer Lawrence played Juniper I could care less who else was picked. I am a huge fangirl of Jennifer Lawrence.
What’s your favorite color? What does that color mean to you?
Oh, I hate this question! There are sooooo many gorgeous colors out there that I can never pick. One day it will be a shade of purple, the next sky blue, and so on. But I will say that I tend to be drawn towards cool colors.
You’re at the movie theater, what are you going to see?
Anything scary or action packed. This girl is not that into Rom-Coms.
Do you load up with popcorn and candy?
I usually skip the candy but always go for popcorn with extra butter.
Are socks with sandals acceptable or not?
Socks are a must have. Unless I’m in flip flops, you will almost always see me in socks. Shoes on the other hand are very unacceptable.
You can find Erica online at:
So, if we were sitting somewhere out with drinks having a conversation, are we at a bar or are we at a coffee shop? Just so we know the mood for the rest of this. And what would you be drinking?
Oh, we’re at a bar, a very specific bar in Nashville called Holland House. They have amaaaaaaazing cocktails. If I’m not having something seasonal, I’ll be drinking the Blood and Sand (Pig’s Nose Scotch, Chai Vermouth, Orange Juice, Cherry Heering) – I don’t know much about all of the fancy-schmancy spirits in the mix, but I do know it’s tasty and that I’ll be feeling no pain after one.
And I won’t be driving. Safety first, boys and girls.
What do you write? What have you written, and what’s the next thing we can expect from you?
I started with contemporary romance and have done a couple of contemporary romance microstories for anthologies, but I’m more at home in the paranormal romance/urban fantasy genre. My big projects include the Southern Elemental Guardians Paranormal Romance Series and a soon-to-be-published Urban Fantasy Series. I need to come up with a title for the series before my publisher shoots me, but I’m still brainstorming. Waking the Dead is the first book in that series and the first book I ever wrote. I thought I was going to sit down and write a short story back in 2008. Boy was I wrong! And I’m glad!
In the Southern Elemental Guardians, Bruce, hero of Firestorm, and resident smart-ass in the other books is my favorite. Where did he come from? As a character did he just fill a need, or did he stroll in open his arms wide and say he was the answer to all your problems–ok that last bit is totally how I picture it, but what really happened?
Bruce is one of those characters who appears out of nowhere, comes and goes as he damned well pleases, and steals every scene he’s in. He was part of a subplot in Book 1, and he just came to life as I stared at my computer screen thinking, “What the hell? Who are you and what are you doing in my scene, man?” I had no choice but to sit back, follow his lead, and let him add humor, heart, and a bit of whimsy to Book 1, and then Book 2, and Book 3 (his own – also figures big in Novella 2.5). He’s already weaseled his way into Book 4 and will probably just keep on popping up because that’s just how he rolls. He’ll tell you that he has the answers to all of your problems—and as an empath and purveyor of happiness and light, he probably does (the cheeky bastard)—but he won’t just tell you. He’s all about the journey, meaning you take the journey and he cheers you on/wheedles you/watches you fall/picks you up along the way.
Yeah, I love him. Don’t tell him, though. It’ll go to his big fat head.
I’ll include a little excerpt from Firestorm (Southern Elemental Guardians Book 3) at the end so your readers can get a sample of the Bruce experience.
Where do your ideas come from?
Hmm, on some level they come from my long-standing fascination with mythological creatures and tales of gods and goddesses of old. I rather like the older notions of divinities as flawed entities that represented all of the best and worst of humanity. I love what old myths can tell us about the people who once embraced them. That’s definitely where the supernatural stuff comes from, which is weird given my uber-rational/skeptical brain. Then again, I see them as metaphor and that’s how I use them. On a psychological level, it’s kind of a safe place to explore scary experiences and ideas. I do more of that in Waking the Dead. Of course, every character a writer conjures has to be some part of herself or himself. I can see that in my work for sure!
Not to sound crazy, but do your characters talk to you? Do they contribute to their stories or do control everything about them?
See above with Bruce. Most of the time they just appear. When I’m writing the first scene (total pantser here), I get am image of the character doing something while they’re thinking. I get to be a voyeur as they go about their business, and they’ll reveal something to me that’ll be important to their story. That’s how it usually works. If I already know a character from a previous book (side character or character who’s come back to help/hinder the protags of a subsequent book), it’s easier to dig in because I already know that character and have a good idea of the motivation and obstacles. With a new character, it’s wonderful and exciting to “meet them.” Take Vance Idol from SEG Book 1. He showed up sitting on stage in an empty venue, looking wounded and sexy (as rock stars do), as he played and sang with his whole heart and soul. It was beautiful, but there was no joy in it. All of that talent and he just…didn’t seem to care. It made me mad. And, by extension, it infuriated his heroine, a mermaid who couldn’t sing because of her deadly siren call and would give ANYTHING to have the freedom he had. That’s how it started with Book 1. Seems to be my process.
For your day job you are a heavy duty medical scientist, how do you mesh your worlds of science by day and author of magic and myth by night? Do you have any internal conflicts as a scientist when it comes to writing about the supernatural?
It’s a strange dichotomy, but I’m lucky that it doesn’t come with conflicts. A wise person once told me that today’s magic is tomorrow’s science (AJ Scudiere), so I figure there’s a logical explanation behind the mermaids, dryads, flying men, and Phoenix I write about even if I don’t yet understand it. I even have a few characters in Book 2 who are working to map genetic similarities and differences between shapeshifting merfolk, humans, and hybrids. Maybe they’ll tell me what they find out someday, and then I can tell you.
Have you been able to integrate your real world thesis work into your fictional world? Is that something you have thought about?
Oh, man, I TOTALLY did that in my first published work, Red Shoes for Lab Blues. Cancer researcher juggling biomedical research with a social life? Yeah, that one’s close to home. It was fun, but I’ll tell you, writing something that close to what I do was a challenge! My editor and betas had to help me cut out the mundane details of laboratory work that I included that, while interesting to me personally, were total pace killers. I may revisit the lab in a future story, but for now it’s more fun and easier to escape into fantastical worlds where I can make it up as I go along.
As an unapologetic feminist, how do you justify/defend being a romance author?
Women love sex, and feminists are no different. We love sex with men who are our equals and who view us as equals, so I *try* to write heroes who respect their heroines. Consent is a must, and often enough my heroes ask for it directly or make certain their ladies are on board with the program. They respect the heroine’s intelligence and work with them rather than trying to think or act for them. That’s sexy as hell. Plus, often enough, my heroines are the powerful paranormal creatures falling for mortal/hybrid men. I love that twist and I hope readers enjoy it as well.
When did you start knowing you wanted to be an author?
Around 2008, when I figured out my short story was going to be longer—like maybe 2-3 books!
Can you remember the first romance novel you read?
I don’t know if it was the first, but an early one that really sticks out for me is Montana Sky by Nora Roberts. It made a pretty big impression and I became enchanted with the romance genre after that.
Where you a big reader as a kid and teen? What do you like to read?
HUGE reader! I loved (and still love) Stephen King. Right now I read an eclectic mix of romance (all genres), mysteries and thrillers, and nonfiction related to my field and personal interests. I’m in the middle of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, and HIGHLY recommend it. It’s a great (true) story that touches on cancer research, medical ethics, issues of class, race, politics, and the molecular genetic revolution that does and will continue to affect us all.
Tesla or Edison?
Tesla! He was robbed. Big time. Didn’t seem to have Edison’s PR skills, at least from what I’ve read. Plus, as a fan of The Oatmeal, I have a Tesla bias.
How much time do you get to focus on writing, actual writing? About how many manuscripts do you average in a year?
Wow, that’s a tough one. I don’t have a set schedule (advantage of being Indie/Small Press), but I try to write a little bit each day after 8:00 pm and whenever I can squeeze in more words throughout the day. If I have a deadline, I tend to do lots of sprints and exhaust myself. If not, I take my time. I actually had 2 ½ books written in SEG before I started publishing, along with 2 ½ novels from another series and a half-written Rom Com. This year, I wrote 2 novellas from scratch, finished one novel, revised and edited another, and am 1/3 finished with another SEG Book. I published 2 novels and 2 novellas this year, so 2016 has probably been my most productive year.
Do you work on multiple ideas at a time, or do you focus on one story until it’s finished?
I used to work on multiple projects, but now that I’m focused on new material in a single series, I work on one project at a time.
Names are hard, your characters have great names. Do your characters show up with their names, or is that sometimes a struggle for you?
I STRUGGLE with names! Seriously bad at them, and often enough my publishing partners talk me into being sensible and changing difficult to pronounce ancient mythological names with more conventional names.
What’s your not so secret party trick?
Does making Sangria and other wonderful boozy concoctions count as a party trick?
(me: I’m pretty sure it does.)
Adult coloring books (including Psychedelic Marbles), kitchen experiments, and backyard bug hunts with Kid 2.0.
Do you model any of your characters off of any favorite actors or characters?
I do, but after the fact. The character comes first, then an actor/actress with those physical attributes or charisma.
Which would you prefer to have your books to be picked up for a feature film with theatrical release and be true to the story, or a cable TV series where they veer wildly off your established plot?
Ugh, that’s tough. I’d love to see an adaptation and, let’s be real, the cash would be awesome. But given what HBO did with True Blood after Season 3, um, yeah, I’d rather have an adaptation stay as true to the plot as possible.
What’s the funniest thing you have ever read/ seen?
That’s so hard, because I know LOTS of funny people (present company included) and spend way too much time on Facebook. The funniest thing I’ve seen recently is Granny Potty Mouth. Check her out. Seriously. You’ll pee your pants laughing! I want her to adopt me.
Oh, and someone keeps sending me really awesome/funny short stories about strippers. Good stuff!
Award-winning author D.B. Sieders was born and raised in East Tennessee and spent her childhood hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains, wading barefoot in creeks, and chasing salamanders, fish, and frogs. She and her family loved to tell stories while sitting around the campfire.
Those days of frog chasing sparked an interest in biology. She is a working scientist by day, but never lost her love of telling stories. Now, she’s a purveyor of unconventional fantasy romance featuring strong heroines and the heroes who strive to match them. Her heroes and heroines face a healthy dose of angst as they strive for redemption and a happily ever after, which everyone deserves.
D.B. Sieders lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband, two children, three cats, and her very active imagination.
“Can your brother fly?” he yelled over his shoulder, surprised and pleased that Sera had followed him rather than trying to escape or staying to sulk back at the clearing. He scanned the skies, reaching out with his senses, but he got nothing out of the ordinary.
“No. We don’t fly. Too risky.”
Bruce snorted. “Right. Too risky to spread your own wings, but perfectly reasonable to strap yourself to a mortal and jump out of one of their flying machines.”
Uh-oh. Just got a little warmer.
The air vibrated around them with something akin to water on the verge of boiling. He turned to find Sera standing in the middle of the small clearing, stiff with tension, her brother’s urn in hand. Her eyes screwed shut and her lips pursed, she held her hands in tight fists at her side. Probably counting to ten. Maybe one thousand. He had that effect on most people and was self-actualized enough to admit it.
Oh well. She’d calm down. Eventually. Time was wasting.
“It wasn’t the best plan, but it did have advantages,” she said, opening her eyes and staring him down with defiance.
“Oh? Do tell.” Learning about this harebrained scheme might give him clues as to where and how it had gone wrong. “I doubt it was coincidence that a rogue hybrid interfered with your plans.”
“Probably not,” she conceded, blowing out a breath and looking around. She bent and ran a gentle finger over one bit of scorched earth. Gods, the weight of her sadness nearly brought him to his knees, as did the reek of failure and regret. “Hawk masked his signature well. Almost as well as I can.”
Bruce shook off the vile taste of her negative emotions and tried to lighten the mood for both their sakes. “So you do have some skills. Concealing that level of power isn’t easy.”
She shrugged. “It’s what I’ve been doing since I was twelve. Brandt taught me as soon as my powers started to manifest. It’s probably why his trail’s gone cold. He’ll have gone into hiding.”
“Who taught him to mask his power?”
Rising, she dusted bits of ash off the clothing she’d conjured, a tight, shimmering body suit of gold that accentuated subtle curves he hadn’t fully appreciated before. She wasn’t buxom, but her sleek, streamlined form would work well in flight and held a natural grace. The wings were gorgeous. Yeah, the ancient Phoenix race had been feared, but also held in awe and venerated. Bruce could see why.
“He learned a bit from other elemental guardians, or so he told me,” she answered with some hesitance. “I think he disguised himself as a low-ranking Lampade hybrid and sought help with the basics. He didn’t like to talk about it. I think whoever helped him must have grown suspicious.”
So he could add Lampades to his list of elementals to investigate. A clue and more questions. So many questions. Where to begin?
Well, the beginning would probably be a good start. “Who and where are your parents? Why didn’t they train you? And how many others of your kind are there, anyway? As far as we knew, the Phoenix went extinct ages ago.”
She scanned the skies and scented the air. Good instincts, this one. He could train her in more than the basics given enough time. Whether that was a good idea or not remained to be seen.
“We never knew our father or mother. Brandt rose from ash with little memory of a former life, assuming he had one. Whoever sired us left his urn, a book of instructions for hiding and surviving in the mortal world, and my ashes. I rose later.”
“Why did your brother allow you to rise?” he asked. “Seems risky for a race as dangerous as you claim yours to be.”
Anger flared from her essence. Good. If he could get her to question the necessity of this death wish she harbored, maybe he could convince her to stop pursing it.
“He needed me!”
“Why?” he asked. Given the latest spike in temperature, he was probably pushing his luck. Still, pushing boundaries was one of the things he did best.
She threw her hands up in the air. “To help him, of course. He couldn’t scatter his own ashes after immolating.”
Defensive much? He wondered if she’d ever pondered the conundrum inherent in her logic. Only one way to find out. “If that’s true, who was supposed to scatter your ashes? Did he have a plan, or did he leave you to figure that one out on your own?”
“I told Brandt I could manage. And I would have, too. I will,” she said, more to convince herself than him, he sensed. “I owed him that much. As you said, he let me rise, gave me a chance to live for a time. It was good for him, too, I think. He wasn’t alone anymore.”
And neither were you.
The sweetest tastes of love and devotion swept from her and he drank deeply, inhaling great gulps of the goodness that sustained him.
“What are you doing?” She’d stepped closer, expression painted with curiosity and a smile of reminiscence on those full, enticing lips.
No use being coy. “Sylph, remember? We thrive on positivity and light. Keep thinking about your brother. It makes you taste much better and will keep you focused on finding him.”
Her eyes went wide and she took a step back. “Taste? You actually taste emotions? I thought it was more like an extra sense kind of thing. More…cerebral.”
Oh, wasn’t she just adorable when she blushed? Maybe he could deepen that enticing shade of rose flooding her cheeks. “Little sparrow, it’s more than just cerebral, I assure you. It’s soul-deep, visceral, and can be quite carnal, at least for me. I’m a bit of an anomaly. It’s a family trait.”
With the added bonus of a curse that heightened his sensitivities, but there was no need to bring that up and spoil the moment.
Ah, that’s the shade he was looking for. She bloomed crimson, his favorite color.
Then she frowned and his sweet treat disappeared.
“So what happens when you get a taste of something less pleasant?”
Shit. He gave what he hoped was a casual wave of dismissal and said, “Meh. A little heartburn. No big deal.”
The look she gave him practically screamed “bullshit,” but fortunately something else caught her attention. “Look! Over there.”
Sera jogged past him and over to a cluster of shrubs. The rich flavors of exhilaration and triumph flowed from her as she lifted a brilliant crimson feather. “It’s his!” she cried. “He left a trail— that way!”
He shifted his gaze to the direction she pointed, but she was gone before he could blink. Running gave her a bit of momentum and her wings lifted her a few feet from the ground with each leaping bound as she ran down the trail. Bruce followed until they reached a small clearing.
The grass appeared undisturbed, as did the surrounding foliage. Still, Sera seemed to sense something. Blood ties or experience, perhaps. Best let her sort it out. She moved with more confidence and grace when focused, her intensity masking those horrid emotions that rumbled just beneath the surface. How fascinating she was, such a small, delicate form filled with such untapped power. What would it be like to taste her heat flesh to flesh? He might not survive the experience, but he’d die a happy Sylph.
She bent low to examine the ground. Oh, gods. She had a great ass, too.
He’d best stop ogling, though, before she caught him and sent a jolt of fire to his balls.
The wave of triumph that surged through her inspired a much more pleasant sensation in his balls and had his cock standing up to take notice, too. She unleashed a small flame, fortunately not in his direction, but into the center of the clearing. Orange and red flashed, then blue and white-hot flames emerged and flowed until the seared earth spelled symbols in black char. He didn’t recognize the symbols, but clearly Sera did.
“He left me a message. ‘Save yourself and the book. I’ll find you.’”
She hesitated, confusion and mistrust emanating from her aura. Lots of symbols littered the ground. Too many for such a short message. “You may as well tell me the rest,” he said, and then added, “I gave you my solemn vow of protection, remember? Trust me, Serafina.”
She turned to face him, eyes narrowed and jaw clenched. “Can I trust you, Bruce?”
Uh-oh. “Why do you ask?”
“Because the rest of Brandt’s message reads, ‘Don’t trust the Sylphs.’
Today, Savannah’s newest series Touch of Magick is released. The entire series, so you don’t have to chomp on your fingernails waiting for the next book!
I was lucky enough to get her to answer some questions for us about her books, writing, and sock preference.
Your first contemporary romance series, the Wilder Books, follows the lives of each member of the band Wilder. In Touch of Magick what is the common thread that ties the three stories together?
The Touch of Magick series follows a family of witches — Tristan, Delilah, and . . . well, the youngest sister (Juliet) is deceased (more on that in book 1-WishCraft.) Delilah’s story is first and the second book goes to Yasmin, one of the employees in the family’s magicks store. Tristan finally finds his place in book three.
Can you provide a Twitter-length description for each book?
WISHCRAFT – Delilah is heartbroken over her sister’s betrayal and her own broken marriage. She’s picking up men in bars and casting forget spells on them. But Brandon’s spell just won’t take and he keeps coming back.
DREAMWALKER – Yasmin (tired of waiting on Tristan to notice her) casts a love spell (which she knows she shouldn’t do.) Messing with destiny leaves her with police protection in the form of one Luke Salzone, non-believer.
LOVESPELLED – Megan is fleeing an abusive family situation. Her ‘gift’ is that she can hear what everyone around her thinks and feels. The bolt that Tristan feels when he touches her may not be enough to make up for all the ways he doesn’t understand her.
Will we see more paranormal stories from you, or do you plan on focusing more on contemporary romance?
All my stories are contemporary–I’d even call these contemporary. Though they have a paranormal element, the stories are still based in real-life love. I do have plans for other series in the future with paranormal elements, though.
What’s the next series we can look forward to, and when should we look for it?
The Hollywood Nights series will release the first two books on May 4th, 2017. There’s already a link to those books on my website, so you can see blurbs and more. The remaining two books in that series will be out later in the year.
You write other genres under different names. Would you mind sharing?
I write dark, twisted suspense under the name A.J. Scudiere.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I don’t even know. I know I wrote my first ‘book’ at age eight. It was 80 pages and I thought it was an adult romantic suspense novel. It wasn’t. I’d always told myself I’d be a published author by the time I was thirty. Then one day I realized thirty had passed by and I hadn’t even given it a shot. That very day, I made a plan to finish a novel and get it submitted.
What inspired you to start writing romance?
The same thing that inspires me to write anything. I have stories–almost like full-emotion movies–playing in my head. Some have been in there for more than a decade. Writing them releases them so I can move on to the next story. Some of those stories are suspense and some are love stories. So I had to write romance.
The Wilder Books released in June of this year, and now Touch of Magick is released 6 months later. Approximately how many books do you write in a year? And how far in advance do you write?
There is no average year! My first book took a year and a half to write. The second only two months. I thought I had this writing thing nailed and got pulled up short when the third book took almost three years to finish! This year, however, I will complete four full-length novels, beginning to end, edited and everything. So that’s a really good pace.
On your website you say you believe in characters with human flaws, how do you find your characters? Or do they find you?
It’s both. They find me and I also work to make sure the characters are fleshed out. I hate when characters do dumb things or out-of-character things because that’s where the author (or tv show writer) decided the plot should go. Some things just don’t fit. And real people are full of flaws and troubles and even things they don’t see. So there’s plenty to use to write a good, real story with. And I personally need more than just a ‘that’s nice, they’re together now’ ending. I love when I fall in love along with the characters and I try to give my readers that same experience.
As an author what’s been your biggest book-related thrill?
Honestly, there are a lot of them. I loved the feeling of awe when I held my first copy of my first book in my hands. Though I admit it’s not the same anymore, there is still a good sense of the world stopping when you get your new book. My day is made when people write to me and tell me how much they loved one of my books. Or when I see a new review. The first time someone stopped me and asked if I was ‘her’? That’s unreal!
I’m a big fan of the Wilder books. I totally want one of their albums. What band or combination of bands would you recommend listening to get the Wilder sound?
Oh! That’s so great! So, I taught myself to sing “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen like a singer–all the deep lungfuls of air, all the diaphragm movement. I wanted to know what TJ felt. I had songs in my head the whole time. I have pieces of “Jump” — the song TJ writes for Norah — in my heart. And later, after I wrote that book, I finally heard Keith Urban’s “Once In A Lifetime” which has that same vibe. I hear a male version of the Dixie Chicks when I’m thinking of Wilder and their sound. And some Rascal Flatts with all their harmonies. I hear sweet but southern sounds like Phillip Phillips’ “Home” and old INXS — so it’s definitely a mix!
What’s your hidden party trick?
That for everything above–about me singing like a singer and writing songs–I have absolutely zero singing and musical talent! ha.
Coke or Pepsi?
Mexi coke. Hands down. Nothing else.
One last important question regarding socks. Why is it shoes and socks and not socks and shoes? On a more personal note is it sock-shoe, sock-shoe, or sock-sock, shoe-shoe?
Linguistically, it’s “shoes and socks” for the same reason it’s a “big, red wagon” and not a “red, big wagon.” For me, it’s sock-sock, shoe-shoe because I have no natural body heat, so those socks have to get on fast. The second foot cannot even hang out bare while the first gets a shoe!