Friday, May 31, 2013

Q & A with Nancy Barone by Lindsay J. Pryor

I’m super excited to welcome fellow Bookouture author Nancy Barone into the Hot Seat. THE HUSBAND DIET is out today, so I’m thrilled she was able to join us for the launch.

Erica Cantelli's life feels more suffocating than a size 4 dress. On the surface she's maintaining the image of successful career woman, perfect wife and a doting mother with two wonderful children. In reality she's running out of hours in the day; 6 dress sizes bigger than she wants to be; and the only man who shows her any affection is her gay best friend. In fact fantasizing about how to kill her increasingly disinterested husband is just about all that keeps Erica sane. That and a whole different type of fantasizing about the incredibly handsome new school principal, Julian Foxham. When her husband jokes about trading her in for two size tens, Erica knows something has to change. But is another diet really the answer? Or is getting rid of him the fastest path to happiness? Now if she could only stop thinking about the gorgeous Mr Foxham... For any woman who has ever felt under-appreciated, or thought about giving up on their dreams, Erica is a hilarious breath of fresh air.

And on with the grilling...

Q) You live in Sicily. In what ways has this influenced the story?
A) Hi and thank you for inviting me over! Living in Sicily would influence a hippo on tranquilizers! Seriously, nothing works properly in this part of the country (not that it’s any better up North, mind you) and you really have to shout if you want something done. But, oh, the weather, the colour of the sea and the changing hues as the  hours pass by (can you tell I live nearby?)! Not to mention the FOOD which got me into this mess in the first place! So yes, being in Sicily influenced me, made me impatient towards the Domani, domani  (tomorrow, tomorrow) attitude just like Erica, but Sicily really got my good side with all the beautiful people and places. I wish I could even come here on holiday- but I’m already here! It’s no wonder Erica’s dying to come to Italy!

Q) The Husband Diet is a superb title. How did you come up with it?
 A) Ah, wish I could take the credit- and for the cover! But in both cases I have the fantastic Oliver Rhodes of Bookouture to thank!

Q) Erica is a plus-size heroine. In what way is that integral to the plot?
A) If Erica had been a normal size (and that goes for me as well) this book would have never been written. She thinks all of her problems derive from being big, like not being able to run after her kids, tie her shoes without grunting and get on her husband’s good side. So I’d say that Erica drives the plot also because of that- only she comes out in flying colors!

Q) What came first – the heroine or the concept?  
A) They came together. As I just said, one can’t exist without the other. If she were someone else she’d be fighting men off with a stick, trying to decide which shoes or outfit she’s going to wear to Fashion Week, but no- Erica’s problems are much more nitty-gritty- like how to kill her husband, for instance!

Q) What makes Erica so unique or special than anybody should care enough to read about her?
A) I think everybody loves Erica because she is real- you have to root for her because she’s like your best friend who’s leaked out her most intimate secrets through clenched teeth when she’d rather be joking or dancing on a table sloshing a margarita around. But no, she’s bogged down by what she thinks she should do to please everyone else. I’ve done that (not doing it again) and I’m sure everyone at some point has made a compromise to please a loved one, but it’s not at all healthy if it doesn’t make you feel good! And Erica’s story makes you feel good!

Q) There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments in the book weighted with some deeply poignant emotional ones (I cried a lot). Keeping that balance is remarkable. How do you do it?
A) Thank you very much- now that makes me feel good! I didn’t do it, though. Erica is a woman in her own right and I think she even bosses me around. An example? When she planned to surprise Julian in her birthday suit, I wanted her to chicken out and go home, but she turned around and said to me, “And you want me to miss out on this? No way!” So she took off her clothes and waited for Julian. I didn’t have the guts to stick around, but she did!

Q) Ira (Erica's husband) is portrayed as the bad guy from the beginning. Is that really fair?
A) To be honest, I gave the guy a chance- more than one. But you know, when a man isn’t doing his best to please his woman and you don’t see eye to eye- and he becomes a jerk- what’s a girl to do?

Q) You have created a terrific balance of dialogue and inner monologue to really help us connect with both the internal and external character. Which of those do you find easier to write?
A) I’d say the interior monologue is easier for me because I’m abrasive only in my private world. At work or with people I don’t know that well I’m quiet and cautious. Even funny, sometimes. Like Erica- on the outside she’s funny. But that’s not my doing- it’s the situations she experiences that make her snarky and hilarious.

Q) The emotional level in some of the scenes is deeply moving. Is any of it inspired by personal experience, however loosely, or are you just empathetically gifted?
A) I’d like to say being big has never bothered me but I’d be lying. Who hasn’t tried to squeeze into a dress, regretting last night’s French fries? And dessert? But that’s about it. I have a cool sister, a close-knit, loving family and a great husband and my mum is nothing like Marcy.

Q) Your writing style is simple yet superbly effective. That’s quite a skill. Do you naturally write that way or did you have to develop it?
A) That’s very kind of you- can we keep these compliments coming forever? LOL. I have a pragmatic mind. Practical. There’s a story. Show all the best bits. No one cares what colour a dress is unless you’ve managed to fit into it and you’re going to knock your date out!

Q) Your cover is fantastic. A perfect reflection of the book. How did you feel when you saw it?
A) I immediately thought, ‘Yes! That’s Erica.’ Although her toes look a lot like mine. Hers are prettier, though.

Q) You’ve been published before. Have you learned anything on this new part of your journey?
A) Absolutely! I’ve learned that I like writing both romance and women’s fiction and I swing between the two to recharge my batteries. But I must say that I feel super-pampered by Bookouture- there is a professional but caring relationship between writer/ publisher/ editor. Oliver is absolutely great, with a wide, strong vision of what readers want and Emily Ruston is a truly top-notch editor who won’t let anything slip, not even with her busy life. You are amazing, Emily! Please work with me again!

Q) What made you decide that Bookouture was the right home for THD?
A) First of all, the video introducing the company. They are truly so unique and optimistic! Plus at Bookouture they don’t have straight-jacket rules where you can’t be yourself. They don’t want to pidgeon-hole you as a writer. If they think your story is good they’ll take you on board.

Q) I hear that The Husband Diet has an awesome HEA. What constitutes a HEA for you?
A) For me, a HEA is not always about ticking off every item on your wish-list, but it’s about putting big smileys next to the ones that you have ticked! We can’t have everything, but we can sure try and be happy, which is half the battle!

Q) Do you have any tips for writers looking to be published?
A) You’ve heard it before but it’s all true.
If I may: never stop writing. Don’t waste time. If your MS is with a publisher, keep going, write as much as you can. Make sure it’s all quality stuff or in any case stuff that you can improve.
Listen to professional feedback and always be courteous and professional in return.
Join writing associations that can help you hone your craft. I’m with the RWA and I love it! Also, I have my precious Matera Brainstormers in Italy- foreigners who’ve chosen Italy as their home or dream-home in any case. Great people who give me plenty of support.

Thank you for having me!

It’s been our pleasure, Nancy. Thanks so much for coming to visit! We wish you loads of luck with the success of your book. 

And here's a little more about Nancy...

Nancy grew up in Canada, but at the age of 12 her family moved to Italy. Catapulted into a world where her only contact with the English language was her old Judy Blume books, Nancy became an avid reader and a die-hard romantic. 

Nancy stayed in Italy and, despite being surrounded by handsome Italian men, she married an even more handsome Brit. They now live in Sicily where she teaches English. Like Erica, the heroine of The Husband Diet, Nancy is of Italian descent, but she swears that is where the similarities stop. And she’s absolutely never fantasized about murdering her husband.

Nancy has had a number of romance novels published, but The Husband Diet is her first Women’s Fiction book. She is a member of the RWA and a keen supporter of the Women’s Fiction Festival at Matera where she meets up once a year with writing friends from all over the globe.

And the buy links for THE HUSBAND DIET...

eBook Version

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Overplotting~In Which A Pantser Tries To Change Her Stripes

by Ami Weaver

I am a pantser, all the way. I'll own it. It makes writing a little tricky, to say the least, but I know I'm not alone in this. I have tried, over the years, to make it a little easier on myself by doing some pre-plotting--kind of a *very* loose layout of scenes. I wouldn't even call it an outline, exactly. Just kind of a collection of signposts to make sure I'm on the right path. These are all subject to change in terms of order, though interestingly enough, the scenes I lay out and write ahead of time usually need virtually no editing down the line. I've learned to trust them when they come.


There is a very fine line between a loose collection of scenes and an actual outline. And outlines are where I get into trouble.  I LOVE outlines. They are so pretty and neat and organized. Everything is right there, at your fingertips, all you have to do is flesh it out! (Can you see how much I don't use them? I don't think it's that easy, even for plotters.)

So, I tried, a few years back to plot out a book. No, I didn't try. I *did* plot it from beginning to end. It was fairly loose, but it was all there. All the turning points, the full character arcs, all of it, tied up in a neat little bow at the end.

I was SO EXCITED thinking I'd finally put my pantser days behind me and could be a real plotter. So I opened up a new document and checked my outline, typed CHAPTER ONE--

And stopped.

For days.

I could not for the life of me figure out where I'd gone wrong. I had the whole book, right there, in my outline! Beginning to end (okay, mostly--the middle was a little sketchy but still), the whole shebang. I did manage to cough up a Chapter One, eventually. But it was lackluster and flat and I was no longer in love with the book.

I finally figured out what had happened. For all intents and purposes, I'd written the whole book--in the outline. I knew what was going to happen and I'd taken the magic out of it. So as far as my brain was concerned, we were done with this one. Next.

As it turns out, I need the mists. I need to only have a vague idea of where I'm going, bracketed by those few scenes I mentioned above. I need to trust that I'll figure out where I'm going, that if I keep those scenes in the back of my mind, I'll get there eventually. I *need* that strange alchemy of chaos and magic to make my process work.

I'll never be a plotter. I take great care not to overplot.  I do still write those anchor scenes as they come to me. But otherwise I just ask myself "What comes next?" and hang on for the ride.

How about you? Are you a plotter, a pantser, or somewhere in-between?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Romance Heroines We Love, by Natalie Charles

I love talking about romantic heroes. Whether you love billionaires, sheiks, dukes, single dads, or military men, romance offers a selection of heroes hot enough to make any reader swoon. But what about the smart, fesity women who bring those men to one knee? Today I want to talk about them, and I want to know: what do you look for in a romantic heroine?
Some readers seem to enjoy placing themselves in the role of the heroine and experiencing a story through her eyes. For those readers, it may be important for the heroine to have a relatable lifestyle, family, or outlook on life.
While I of course want to sympathize with the heroine on some level, I'm not in the vicarious living school of readers. I don't care if the heroine is someone whose life I want to experience. I want my heroines to be kick ass and edgy -- Eve Dallas in J.D. Robb's In Death series is a good example. I've also been enjoying Tess Gerritsen's Rizzoli and Isles series. Rizzoli and Isles may not be romantic heroines in the traditional sense, but they are bad ass women with brains and flaws. Sometimes the flaws are annoying, but that's cool. I can handle imperfect. I was also crazy about Cecilia Grant's heroine in A Lady Awakened, prickly as she could be, and Sarah Mayberry's heroine in Her Best Worst Mistake.
I confess to struggling a bit with Mary Sue heroines, though I'm not sure if it's because I find them dull or because I lied earlier about living vicariously through heroines. I can't relate to characters who are perky and kind and inexplicably have no idea how beautiful they are. Something about that is grating. But hey, I also struggle with a lot of alpha male heroes, so maybe I'm strange.
So let's hear it: Do you like to live through your heroines? What do you love in a romance heroine, and who have been some of your favorites?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Q&A with Harper Impulse Author Romy Sommer

I am so thrilled to be chatting again with my friend Romy Sommer, who just released her first book WAKING UP IN VEGAS through Harper Impulse. Romy's been quite busy over the past year, and we're delighted to have her back today to discuss her latest book. 

What happens in Vegas…

Waking up to the bright lights of Vegas in an unfamiliar penthouse suite, cocktail waitress Phoenix Montgomery finds she’s covered from head to foot in gold glitter and not alone – aside from the empty bottle of champagne, there’s a mystery man in the shower and a huge sparkly ring on her finger!

Stays in Vegas?

There’s no denying Max Waldburg’s demi-god sex appeal but commitment-phobic Phoenix doesn’t do relationships. Only it seems her new husband (agh!) has other ideas…he’s trying to keep that ring on her finger and his wife firmly back in his bed. The only question on her lips is – why? Or maybe, why not?

AMAZON || B&N || AMAZON UK || All Romance eBooks

Congratulations on your deal with Harper Impulse! Can you tell us a little about Waking Up in Vegas?
What happens when a restless cocktail waitress with no strings wakes up married to a man who believes in fairy tales and happy endings - and who doesn't believe in divorce? Worst of all, he comes with more strings than a marionette. The result is Waking up in Vegas.
The journey toward publication is usually filled with ups and downs. Can you describe the path that led you to this moment?
Phoenix and Max have been with me for a very long time, and just wouldn't leave. When I finally wrote their story, thanks along the way to a little inspiration from Katy Perry, the story practically wrote itself. I loved writing this book and really believed it was going places, so when I received rejections from the only two publishers I deemed 'worthy' of this story, I didn't let it get me down. I knew Phoenix and Max had a future in more ways than one, so I prepared to self-publish.

Then I spotted a tweet that changed everything: the announcement of a new imprint from Harper Collins.

Harper Impulse is a digital first romance imprint led by Kimberley Young, who I'd met at the RNA conference last year. And this was Harper Collins!! I decided to delay self publishing to give them a chance to reject me first - and instead I got The Call.

My full call story is up on my blog here and here.

Everyone loves a Call Story. Details, please!
Oops, already answered that. Getting the call was scary, nerve-wracking, thrilling and wonderful. And none of those words truly encompasses the amazing feeling when you receive The Call.
What inspired you to write this book?
It all started with a dream I had one night in 2009. I wouldn't be surprised if I had it after watching the Julia Stiles movie The Prince and Me. I dreamed of a coronation scene followed by the newly crowned prince making a speech on the steps of a cathedral and calling the love of his life out of the watching crowd.

I wrote the book during Nanowrimo of that year, but it was a very rough draft that never went anywhere. I set it aside and gave it no more thought. Until 2012, when I was listening to the Katy Perry song Waking up in Vegas and thought "Wow, that would suit those characters". I rewrote their story from scratch during Nanowrimo that year (incidentally, those are the only two years I've succeeded at Nano!)

You'll have to read the book to see if the scene I dreamed made it into the final draft!
Do you have a favorite scene or character in this book?
I love the scene in which Max and Phoenix ride motor bikes through the Westerwald countryside. There's nothing like the rush of a bike ride!

I loved all the characters in this book, but there are a few supporting characters who have a special place in my heart. Khara gets her name from the Savvy Authors group I did last year's Nanowrimo challenge with (thanks for keeping me going, Team Khara!) and Rebekah and Claus owe their existence to The Vampire Diaries. Since my dear friend Maya Blake included references to our favourite show in her novel The Price of Success, I thought I'd do the same!
Waking up in Vegas is the first in a planned three-book series. Any hints about what's in store for the next two books?

Rik's story is up next and I'm not giving away any secrets except to say that he's very different from his brother Max. He's dark and brooding and angry.
Book three ... well, if you've read Waking up in Vegas, you might remember the third ring, the missing ring ... that's book three.

You have a full-time job and two children. How do you work your writing into your daily routine?
I don't sleep. No seriously. I've learned to cope on six hours a night, occasionally less, and though I'm grumpy a lot of the time because of it, I figure that won't be the case forever. Roll on the day I can quit the day job and catch up on all the missed sleep!

I've definitely found that I have to keep the momentum going and write every day (even if just for half an hour). If my head is in the story all day, every day, then writing is much easier and the words flow quicker.

You also write historical romance under the name Rae Summers. How do you balance your time or shift gears between the two?
Rae Summers will be taking a little break for the next few months, though she still has stories to tell. I'm a Gemini, so multiple personalities come easy to me. Rae has a lyrical voice and her stories and far more sensual, whereas Romy has a sense of humour, and a fun, flirty, far more contemporary tone.
Can you tell us what you're working on at the moment and what readers can expect next?  
I'm working on Rik's story, so watch this space...
Thank you so much for hosting me!

Thank you so much for stopping by, Romy! To learn more about Romy Sommer and her new release, please visit her at

Monday, May 13, 2013

Five Reasons Why Moms Make the Best Heroines

Hi, all, Jennifer here!

Hope all you mothers out there had a fantastic Mother's Day!

As I was going through my bookcase, I realized something. Most of the romance books I've read involved heroines who were (or expecting to be) MOTHERS.

So I put my author's hat on and got to thinking.
Mothers really do make the best heroines and here's why:

1) they're self-sacrificing—most of the "mom" heroines in romances have given up their dreams, sometimes their families, and even their schooling to have a baby out of wedlock to raise on their own.

2) they're sympathetic—every reader can relate to what the "mom" heroine is going through because even if you're not a have or have had one.

3) they're loving—the "mom" heroine shows that she's capable of giving a lot of love to her future hero through the way she interacts with her child/children. Instant likeability.

4) they're savvy and hardworking—somehow with all the sacrifices this "mom" heroine has made to be a single mother, her children are not starving nor are they collecting food stamps. Obviously, this heroine knows how to balance a checkbook and make a dollar stretch.

5) they're independent—they all can cook and take care of themselves. Maybe the "mom" heroine is not the best cook in the world (although sometimes she is), but this character knows more than how to boil water. And her children—and future hero--appreciate whatever she puts on the table as well as the fact that she does not need to rely on anyone.

Now what hero wouldn't want to be with a woman like that?

See? They're ideal heroines.

Funny, but I've personally only written one heroine who was already a mother before she met my hero. It was my first book published: The Role of a Lifetime. But every other book I've written involved heroines who became mothers or hinted to the fact that they would make great future mothers. And isn't that the ultimate happily ever after in so many romance novels?

Some of my personal favorite romances involving a heroine who is a mother are:

Nobody's Baby but Mine—Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Expecting Royal Twins! by Melissa McClone

Crazy Little Thing by Tracy Brogan

Three River Ranch by Roxanne Snopek

Somebody to Love by Kristan Higgins

Maid for Love by Marie Force

Big thanks to my own mom on this post-Mother's Day day. She is a woman who encompasses all those traits I mentioned and more and has inspired a lot of my best heroines. :)

It's obviously very romantic to be a mother! :)

Do you think mothers make great heroines too? Do you have a favorite book that involves a mom as the heroine?

About Jennifer Shirk

Jennifer Shirk is a sweet romance author for Samhain, Montlake and Entangled Publishing who also happens to be a mom, pharmacist, Red Sox fan, P90x grad, and overall nice person. Check out her latest release: A LITTLE BIT CUPID at an e-tailer near your computer. :)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Before and After

by Ami Weaver

Ahh. The life of a newly published author. The glitz. The glam. The huge advance checks. The magic wand that produces the next book....

Wait. What? Oh, sorry. I was dreaming!

In all seriousness, though, what I’ve learned over the past year is being pubbed is a whole new world of the exact same thing. It’s still hurry up and wait--hurry to submit the next book(s), then wait until the editor can get to them. Even though you have an ‘in’ so to speak, editors are crazy busy people (I can’t even imagine everything they do on a daily basis) and while there’s a time period built into the contract it often comes down to that wire. In the meantime, what do you do?

Write the next book. But not too much of it, because you don’t want to get too far and have to rewrite it anyway. This has been the hardest for me. Usually, I start a book and let it rip. It was hard to judge about where the third chapter would end (allowing for editing) since the way I draft means chapter one has thousands of words. Sometimes the whole draft is listed under chapter one. Then I start another one, and do the same thing--polishing the first chapters to a shine, just like always. 

The fun part, though, is learning all that happens to the book as it moves through the publishing process. It helps alleviate some of the stress of waiting. The first time I got AAs (Author Alterations) from Harlequin I had NO IDEA what they were or what I was supposed to do with them. Thankfully, other authors were very kind and generous and didn’t laugh (too hard) at my panic. I filled out my first Art Fact Sheet (which Olivia blogged about earlier). Saw my first cover. Held the book for the first time.

Glitz? Glam? Big money? Not for me, no. I put in a lot of hard work and sweat and tears. We all do, as writers,  no matter how we publish. But it was worth all of it to hold that book for the first time.

Ami Weaver's debut book is an April 2013 Harlequin Romance  release. Visit her  on Twitter @writerlygirl or at her website

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Dirty or Clean...Draft?

by Jennifer Faye

When starting a new book, I’ve learned from experience that I need an outline to follow. Not an outline like you learned to do in school with the roman numerals and letters. No, what I’m talking about is more like a long synopsis. But sometimes I’ll included chunks of scenes. If they come to me in that moment, I’m not going to pass up a chance to record it. The only thing that my outline must have is chronological order. Anything about and beyond that is fine by me. It’s there to keep the juices flowing and remind me of where the story is headed. NOTE: my stories/characters don’t always play along with the outline. Detours are not uncommon, but they don’t detour too far from the program and eventually they meander back to the outline.

Next comes the first draft. I must confess that I thought I wrote messy, dirty drafts, but I’m coming to learn that they aren’t so messy after all. My scenes, for the most part, are in the right order. Once in a while, I jump the gun and have something happen too soon. That’s when my wonderful editor taps me on the shoulder and suggests I move such and such later in the story. And generally she’s right and it strengthens the story.

BUT, and yes, that’s a big but, the first draft of my first chapters is usually very messy. I don’t know how else to dive into the middle of characters’ lives without just throwing down words and seeing what happens. In the opening chapter, I move scenes around. I move dialogue around. I change settings, weather, days of the week, POV’s. You name it, I probably change it. By chapter two, I’m usually cooking with gas and know where I’m going. Things are really picking up by now. ;-)

As such, I am in awe of those writers who can sit down and write clean first drafts the whole way through. Now, I’m not referring to those people who write a page or two and then tinker with it until it shines before moving on, but rather I’m referring to the people who sit down and write really clean drafts from the get-go. Those are the writers who only need to do light editing before submitting. I actually know some of those people and they amaze me.

How about you? Are you a messy writer? Or a clean one?

Jennifer Faye is hard at work on book #3. Her debut, RANCHER TO THE RESCUE, is available for Pre-order now. She’d love to hear from you via Twitter, her website, or Facebook.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Calm Before The Storm. Again.

Hello all, Rachel surfacing here briefly, slightly dizzy and bemused as I’m in between books, writing them that is! Surrounded by post-deadline piles of paper, dust and pen lids I've been having a little think about all the things that I should be doing with my time right now, but not actually getting very far.

I've recently sent off my latest Entangled manuscript, A Sicilian Engagement, and I’m waiting to hear what my editor thinks of it (bites lip in clich├ęd romance heroine-type way). Even though this book is already contracted, the wait is still as nerve-wracking as submitting a manuscript to a publisher cold, except worse in a way because I can’t just shrug my shoulders and walk away. If it’s not up to scratch I will have to fix it, not just shove it in a cyber-drawer and drink comfort wine until the nasty rejection becomes a memory. That’s being a ‘contracted author’ for you, big girls’ stuff, no messing about!

I do thank my lucky stars each day that I have those contracts and an editor keen to receive more proposals from me. I have plenty of work which is fantastic in the current economic climate and not something that I would ever take for granted, but I’m also a firm believer in the restorative power of rest. Rest for the body and rest for the mind.

This past year has taught me that being self-employed and working from home makes it very difficult to switch off. You can’t just clock out and finish for the day like I used to be able to in an accounts office and part of me doesn't want to because I love my new job so much. But the well does need refilling from time to time and creativity dries up when you’re staring at a computer screen or notebook most of your waking hours and do nothing else …

So, as we start a long bank holiday weekend here in the UK, I’m giving myself permission to log off and live for a few days before getting back to work next Tuesday. On the agenda is Iron Man 3 (yes, okay,it’s a screen, but it’s a big one and Mr Downey is very restorative) and dinner for two in a harbor restaurant while Nanny takes charge of the kids.  The sun has finally come out of hiding so I may even venture out into the garden – possibly with a book.  And I still have this beautiful indulgence to slather with beeswax and polish:

Did I mention all the laundry and cleaning that’s built up while I've been writing like a maniac on a deadline?  No, I didn't, did I? Good!

Do you set aside a time to unwind? What do you do to relax and indulge?

There’s a bottle of champagne languishing in the boiler cupboard now I come to think about it … so if any of you have some summery cocktail recipes I’d love to have them. And perhaps some nibbles to go with them. Why not? It’s the weekend!

Have an amazing one. :0)