Interview with Anna J. Stewart

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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:

Facebook

Twitter

Amazon Author Page

Book Bub

Instagram

 

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You can find Always the Hero at these retail ebook retailers:

Musing from the bread cafe, number 4

Random Thoughts

Uhm crazy lady doing yoga in line. She’s complaining that the guy in front of her ordered gasp bagels.

Oye.

Tonight I’m at a different location. Same chain, only this one is in a mall. I’m sitting behind a glass wall, and feel a bit like a goldfish. A really boring goldfish with all the people who are walking by.

Fortunately, I am not the subject of anyone’s attention. I didn’t put much thought into where I was sitting in regards to the mall but in regards to the other people in the cafe. Yeah. Next time I need to pay attention to the fact that people can see through glass walls.

On the other hand, I can also see through glass walls. This mall has a walker. Not a zombie, but someone who does their walking laps inside the mall. I haven’t seen that in a while. Then again it has been a while since I’ve hung out at a mall.

I’m considering entering a contest that is basically a sex scene write-off. Where two scenes go head to a-hem head, and readers vote for their favorite. I’m having a moment of “do I write hot enough.” (edit: apparently I don’t since I did not win my little write-off)

Which is directly at war with the whole “people I know might read this” and then again, the crazy part where my characters actually dictate how much heat they are willing to share on a page.

No seriously, I have some very private characters, they don’t want anyone reading about how they verb nouns and all of that.

Yeah, I know. I need to focus on my “brand.” The goal is to be a hot and humorous romance author, focusing more on the paranormal, but occasionally letting the normal shine through.

The Twelve Strippers of Christmas– what branding does this represent?

There are three paranormal stories, one sci-fi story, two virgins, two high school crushes, and a whole lot of feathers.

Humor, sexy, fun.

Musings from the Bread Cafe: the second installation

laptop at coffee house

I am inexplicably happy, the little book club men are back. They’ve been back several times now.

They all have the book open in front of them, and they are actively referring to passages they are discussing. They are too far away to overhear. I can only see them.

The book they are reading has an orangey- yellow cover. I know, helpful description. But they have been working on the same book for over a month.

Also, there seems to be another book group meeting. Its a bunch of ladies, I want to believe they are a romance book club. They are laughing a lot. I hope the book they are talking about is good. I wonder if they are actually talking about their book yet?

The other day there was a mother reading to her kids as they waited for their dinner to be delivered.

I’ve noticed a huge drop in how crowded it is here now that school is out.

I’m getting some good word counts in when I come here to write. I haven’t been able to come in twice a week as I had been because of changes to sports practice schedules, but that’s okay.

Last month there was some scary excitement. I heard a shuffle and the sound that a crowd makes as everyone gasps. I looked up and this woman was administering the Heimlich to a much taller person. She did not lose her cool, and managed to take care of the situation. The cops showed up and spoke with both her and the person she helped. I certainly hope the Bread Cafe people comped them some free goodies, both the hero of the day and the person who was choking. I’m glad that woman was calm and level headed. I’m glad this interlude had a happy ending.

Back to word count, and inappropriate search histories on my browser.

 

Kolin Mofield, author in the making

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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.”

or

“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.”

Um, yea.

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:

They can find me at all the usual places, @Kolinmofield for Twitter; KolinMofield on Instagram and KolinMofield on Facebook.

Playing with names

pexels-names

The naming of cats is a serious matter.

Cats are tough, characters are tricky. You have to encompass all that is that person into a few collection of letters.

Think about it. How does your name define you? You have had your entire life to create that definition for your collection of letters.

Typically my characters come with names. I am currently working on a collection of Holiday short stories for release in the fall. Sometimes the characters tell me their names, sometimes their names are a struggle.

In Bang a Drummer I knew the male was Lance. A friend laughed at me and told me that was appropriately phallic. I had NEVER made that connection before. I was having issues with the female lead, she wasn’t very forthcoming with her identity.

Since I am playing with some twists based on Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night, same friend (who laughed about Lance) helped me with some derivatives on names. She was smart and informed me that Viola is a variation of Violet, and this led to the name Lettie. Something I had not thought of: she Googled variations of the name. My idea of twisting names is to take the character I’m using as inspiration and mash it up with something I know. Example: Sebastian, so I, of course, think of Sebastian Stan, and thus the character is now named Bucky.

In Calling Bird, my main male character is a rocker turned stripper. He’s a “classic” rocker boy, ripped-off sleeves, leather, studs, long hair. And, because I appreciate the glam of hair bands, he wears a little guy-liner. I wanted a name that ended in the ee sound: Nikki, Johny, Robbie, Ronnie, Tony, Billy. Came up with a brilliant name, started writing with it, my character liked it, settled into it like a comfortable denim jacket. Then the name started to rub funny, it got uncomfortable and itchy. Turns out it was the name of a medical specialist we saw when my kid was an infant. Scratch that one off the list. Ended up with Lonnie Rose. He had at least three names before settling on that one. The heroine, she was easy peasy. Waltzed right in, her name is Ava, she’s a nurse. It was like she just handed me her credentials, I knew all I needed to know immediately.

These are the couple names I have so far for ...currently untitled collection of stripper shorts around a holiday theme…(titles thats a whole ‘nother ball of sticky wax when it comes to names)

  • Lettie and Lance
  • Ava and Lonnie
  • Clary and Josh
  • Rose and Jimmy
  • Glori and Blaze
  • Iona and Derrick
  • Bethy and Seth
  • Amy and Jason
  • Kris and Tom

Looking for names? Check out these name sites:

http://www.babynames.net/

http://www.behindthename.com/names/usage/medieval

http://www.fantasynamegenerators.com/

http://www.babynamesofireland.com/

WIP-It Wednesday: Alantu

I’m trying something new. I’m going to post unedited RAW, straight from whatever project I happen to be typing away on. I have no idea if or when these words will see the light of day. They could be edited away, they could be ditched, who knows.

bluesmoke

“Enough!” Xernes bellowed. “I don’t have time to for you to squabble on an acceptable tribunal.” He thrust his arm forward, fingers extended. “Let the djinn tell us the truth.”

The markings on his arm left his skin in a sudden swift jump. They hovered in the air for a brief moment before the shapes melted into grey-blue smoke. The smoke rolled from Xernes’s  fingertips growing thicker and denser, but never fully forming into a solid shape.

The cloud wrapped around Lilly in a caress, twining around her ankles then wrapping up her torso like a feline seeking attention.