Tag Archives: writing

Kristan Higgins interview – and giveaway!

Kristan HigginsWhile I was preparing for this interview, I cruised on over to Kristan’s website and stalked her did some research into her life. I clicked on the link to her blog and ended up spending TWO HOURS reading her posts.

I’ve never spent that long on anyone’s blog before – not even mine.

Kristan’s novels have the same effect on me. They suck me in and don’t let go until I’ve sobbed my way through the happily-ever-after. If you like romance featuring strong, quirky families, lots of dogs and even more smooching, Kristan Higgins is your gal.

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Kristan, and for giving away a copy of your latest release, UNTIL THERE WAS YOU!

Absolutely my pleasure, Kat!

1. One of countless things I love about your books is the strong sense of community you build. It makes me think that living in a small town must kick city-life’s ass. Is there anything bad about life in a small town (I ask this as someone who’s moving from London to the vast emptiness of the northern Netherlands, so please say no)? How do your communities challenge your characters and help them grow?

All I Ever WantedAnything bad about a small town? Er, um, of course not! Small town life is perfect! Especially if you love people knowing you perhaps a bit better than  you’d like, eating at the same restaurant over and over and over, being viewed as exactly the same person you were when you were thirteen and threw up in math class, no, there’s not one drawback!

I think life in a small town challenges my characters to be more than they were back when they were puking in Mr. Eddy’s class. But there’s an intimacy and caring that’s very evident in a small town; a person gets hurt, and there’s a spaghetti supper to raise money for medical costs.

I do think that’s true in big cities, too; cities are nothing more than a bunch of different neighborhoods, but there’s something about a small town that invites personal interaction.

2. Most of your novels are written in the first person from the heroine’s point of view, but UNTIL THERE WAS YOU is told in third person and lets us see things from the hero’s perspective too. What made you decide to switch things up for this one?

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At first scent: exposing the secrets of chemical attraction

Couple nearly kissing

© Geber86/istockphoto

Romance readers are familiar with chemical attraction – that unmistakable yet intangible sensation when your body recognizes your soul mate.

For horror and suspense writers, the most important chemical reaction is different: the scent of fear and hint of danger the hero detects that lets him react just in time to save his own life.

These may sound like cliches, but they’re based on real-life reactions our bodies have to pheromones.

Earlier this week I went to a lecture by Karl Grammar of the University of Vienna, one of the few scientists in the world studying human pheromones. He gave us an insight into how humans react to the scent of pheromones, and I thought some of it might be useful, or at least interesting, to my fellow writers.

Let me preface this by saying that I didn’t take notes on the scientific nitty-gritty, so some of what follows here may be educational while other parts will just sound strange. Take what you will and store it away – surely it’ll come in handy for a pub quiz one day.

What are pheromones?

Dr Grammar began by saying that in almost all animal species life is controlled by highly volatile substances made by the glands. These are pheromones. We breathe them in, and our olfactory system takes these scents (which we don’t even know we’re smelling) straight to the brain.

In other words, people give off these super subtle messages which our nose takes to our brain for interpretation.

What do pheromones help us do?

Pheromones help us do things like recognize our relatives, select our mates, and be aware when someone scary or aggressive is nearby.

We have hundreds – possibly thousands – of different pheromones. They’re transmitted through our skin; since we each have a unique genetic epidermal composition, our pheromones “smell” different. This makes it easier for us to identify our kin, but it also means romance novels are right: we can identify that one person who’s special to us, even if we can’t see them.

Weird pheromone facts

Boar

© osmar01/sxc.hu

Humans have some of the same pheromones as other animals. For example, one of the pheromones men have is the same as a boar’s. Dr Grammar explained that when a female boar smells a male boar’s pheromones, she assumes the copulation position. “It doesn’t work like this for humans,” he said.

Women share a pheromone in common with wasps. Yep, women smell sorta like wasps, men smell like pigs, and no one knows why.

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Interview with Joanna Bourne – and giveaway!

After I graduated from college I stopped reading romance for seven years. Those first three years, I lived in Prague, where English books were extortionate and none of the handful of bookstores sold romance. Then I moved to London and did an MA, which required hours and hours of reading legal and academic articles.

I finally picked up a romance novel again in 2009, and was hooked all over again. But I had ideas of what the genre was like—as if it wouldn’t have evolved—until I read about an author who’d released a novel the year before to huge acclaim.

Joanna BourneJoanna Bourne’s second debut (because it came out 25 years after her actual debut), The Spymaster’s Lady, changed everything I thought I knew about romance. With its clever, resourceful heroine and lyrical language, the novel helped me realize that romance can be literary and smart as well as entertaining.

I’m so thrilled to have Jo as my guest today. She’s giving away the hotly anticipated  BLACK HAWK (which comes out tomorrow, people!) to one person who leaves a comment, but first: Welcome, Jo!

1. Your debut novel, Her Ladyship’s Companion, was published by Avon in 1983 (you write beautifully about your first sale on Dear Author) and then you embarked on a career globe-hopping with the federal government. What made you decide to start writing romance again after a 25-year hiatus writing for the government?

Spymaster's LadyFairly straightforward answer to that one.  I stopped working overseas and returned to the United States.  It was work I loved, but it was time to move on.  Letting go of an 80-hour-a-week job does leave you with a little more leisure time.

Now I can use all those exotic impressions from all those foreign places in my writing.

2. Readers have been antsy for years waiting for Adrian’s story. Your last novel, The Forbidden Rose, is set when Adrian is twelve, and on the All About Romance website you say, “Think of the worst twelve-year-old you’ve ever known, and then hand him a knife. That’s Adrian.” How would you describe Adrian as a romantic hero?

Forbidden RoseY’know, it’s really hard for writer to analyze her own characters.  At least, it seems hard for me.

Folks tell me Adrian is a ‘bad boy’ hero.  A sort of James Dean.  Adrian is the lad from the wrong side of the tracks.  Dangerous, because he doesn’t play by the rules.  Unpredictable.  A little ruthless.  Definitely not safe to love.

I try to take that aspect of the young Adrian and run with it.  What would a ‘bad boy’ — a very, very intelligent bad boy — make of himself?  Black Hawk, the book that’s going on the shelves November first, is partly a Pygmalion story telling what Adrian created out of the raw clay of a street rat and thief.

I hope folks enjoy reading about the teenaged Adrian as much as I enjoyed writing him.  I hope folks like seeing him change.

In maturity, Adrian is still dangerous, still ruthless, still unpredictable.  Just — he’s not at all a ‘boy’ of any kind.

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Ten tips on writing characters with accents, by Rose Lerner

Rose LernerAnyone who’s read one of Rose Lerner’s novels (In for a Penny and A Lily Among Thorns) will know that her characters come from a wide range of backgrounds. Rose is a master at writing accents so a reader can hear her characters’ distinctive voices.

She’s very generously written this post on how she writes characters with different accents, and she’s giving away a copy of A Lily Among Thorns to one lucky commenter!

Hi everyone! Kat already wrote a great post about how I used accents in In for a Penny and a really awesome post on writing accents generally…I’ll try not to repeat myself, or her!

British people pay a lot of attention to accents. People from different regions and different social classes have marked differences in speech, and everyone is very conscious of that fact. Of course this is true in the States as well, but I really don’t think the degree is comparable.

I can think of several British memoirs off the top of my head that extensively discuss accents, either by referencing others’ accents by specific type or talking about the memoirist’s own accent (poor Roger Moore practically had a complex about not sounding posh enough!), and anyone remember that Monty Python sketch where no one can understand the rural accents and slang at the airfield?

So if, like me, you tend to write romances that have major characters from a variety of places and social classes, paying attention to accents is important. Here are a few guidelines and tips for how I do it:

1. I never write an accent phonetically.

Writing a particular word phonetically because its pronunciation is so different or it’s unique to a particular accent, okay. Writing all a character’s dialogue that way, no. Apart from being sometimes confusing for the reader, I’m going to come right out and say that I think this is rude.

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More hot men are concerned about your breasts

I don’t usually drool and post pictures/videos of ripped men…unless I can find a way to relate it to writing.

Remember last week I shared that video by Rethink Breast Cancer? The one featuring hot guys showing you how to check yourself for lumps and also served as a great lesson on providing a unique twist on the same old content?

Mmmm…

Sorry – I mentally wandered for a second there. Well, yesterday stars from the British TV show Loose Women (basically The View) had the incredible opportunity to visit London rugby team Harlequins…and wander around the locker room where the players were nekkid.

For copyright reasons, I’ll be a good girl and won’t post the pictures here. But you can see them here. Don’t worry – the men have strategically placed balls.

Rugby balls, that is.

Good thing rugby balls are long.

I couldn’t figure out whether the photo shoot was related to Harlequins’ support for the charity Breast Cancer Care. They’ll be supporting the charity on 29 October at their Ladies’ Day match. My husband’s a season-ticket holder for their cross-town rival, and that’s our last day in London, so I won’t be going. I hope everyone who does will donate, though.

Whether the photo shoot is for a good cause or is purely gratuitous, it’s still great for me – I’m in the process of rewriting my contemporary romance featuring a London rugby player. These pics have inspired all sorts of ideas…which you’ll get to read if this novel is published.

How many ways are there to describe abs like this?

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Interview with Jeannie Lin – and giveaway!

Jeannie LinA couple of years ago, Jeannie Lin burst onto the romance scene with her Golden Heart contest entry, set in China during the Tang dynasty. Romance readers had to wait over a year to be able to read Butterfly Swords, but everyone agreed it was well worth the wait—and it certainly revitalized my interest in historicals set in unusual eras.

Welcome to my blog, Jeannie!

1. What drew you to Tang Dynasty China in the first place?

The Tang Dynasty was the Golden Age of imperial China. It was a time when China was truly the center of the world and traders and merchants all over Asia and Central Asia came to the capital of Changan. I felt it was both a time of wealth and elegance, but also a time of danger and intrigue. And on top of that, it was visually inspiring. Great cinematography for a story, you know?

The most important aspect for me was that it was a time when women had more independence. It was a historical period with ideals of meritocracy and empowerment that resonated in modern times.

2. What’s the strangest thing you’ve learned about Chinese history during your research?

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Interview with Victoria Dahl – & giveaway!

Victoria DahlVictoria Dahl could scribble a grocery list on a Post-It and I’d clear my schedule to read it. Her books are full of the same kind of sarcastic, witty people I like to surround myself with in real life. And her novels are emotionally gripping but still manage to be so hot I’ve found myself blushing and glancing furtively around when reading in public.

Her contemporary series this year is set around the Donovan Brothers Brewery in Colorado. The first, Good Girls Don’t, was released last month. The second, Bad Boys Do, comes out this month, and the last, Real Men Will, is released next month. I’ve had the privilege of reading them all, and it’s without a doubt one of my favorite series of the year.

I’m so glad you’re here, Victoria! Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions.

Thanks so much for having me! And thank you for the very kind words about my writing.

1. You first got published writing historical romance. What made you decide to write contemporaries as well, and how do you manage to be so prolific and still so awesome in both?

Talk Me DownWell, at first, my historicals didn’t sell. I couldn’t get a contract. Then my paranormals didn’t sell. Finally, my wonderful agent suggested I try my hand at contemporary. I thought she was mad. I was terrified. But I tried it out, and that book was TALK ME DOWN, my first contemporary.

As for being prolific –I’m sure I can’t speak to awesomeness- going from contemporary to historical, and vice versa, is a bit like a palate cleanser. The change makes it easier to write faster. Just looking forward to the change makes it easier.

2. What would you say are the biggest differences between writing a successful contemporary and a successful historical romance (other than making sure you’ve set it in the right time period, of course!)?

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Interview with Jill Shalvis – and giveaway!

Jill ShalvisThere are a handful of authors whose books I’ll buy without waiting to read a review. There’s an even smaller number whose books I’ll preorder without any qualms. Jill Shalvis is among the few, the proud, the best contemporary romance authors out there.

I’m thrilled she’s joining me and is giving away a copy of Animal Attraction, the second book in her Animal Magnetism series! I’ve got my copy pre-ordered, but you can win yours by leaving a comment below.

Welcome, Jill!

Simply Irresistible1. This year, you’re releasing two contemporary series, each with a different publisher. Are you the world’s most organized writer, or were you blessed with the power to freeze time for everyone but yourself? How do you do it?

I’m possibly the most unorganized person on the planet in every possible way … except for the writing.  I have a lot of stories to tell, apparently.  🙂  I like working on two different series.  I don’t get bored and it suits my ADHD.

2. What got you started writing and how long did it take you to first get published?

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Judith James interview – and giveaway!

Judith JamesFor me, the best thing about reviewing books is the chance discovery of an author whose writing blows me away and turns me into a gushing fan-girl. That’s what happened last summer when I was asked to read Libertine’s Kiss by Judith James (you can read my review here).

I honestly struggled to express how wonderful the novel was; it was everything I love in a romance—steamy, intensely emotional and full of historical detail that didn’t intrude on the story’s passion.

Judith James’ latest novel, The King’s Courtesan, hit bookshelves on September 1st, and it’s one of the books I’ve most looked forward to reading this year.

I’m thrilled to have Judith on my blog today talking about adventures in British history and modern publishing. She’s also giving away a copy of The King’s Courtesan to one very lucky commenter.

Thanks for joining me, Judith!

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Interview with Rose Lerner – and giveaway!

Rose LernerHistorical romance novelist Rose Lerner debuted last year with IN FOR A PENNY, and immediately won my forever-fanhood with her brilliant prose and unique characters.

She solidified my adoration with her September release, A LILY AMONG THORNS, which I had the pleasure of reading early for review. If you love thoughtful-yet-sensuous stories populated with intricately drawn characters, take my advice: pre-order LILY now.

Rose: EEEEEE!  I’m so excited you’ve read and liked the book!  It’s always nervewracking when something new comes out and not very many people have read it–there’s this irrational fear in the back of your mind, “Oh no, I’ve lost it, everyone’s going to hate it.”  Hearing nice things from friends really helps.

I’m thrilled to welcome Rose to my blog today as part of my Hearts and Minds giveaway, where we’re giving away a copy of either IN FOR A PENNY or A LILY AMONG THORNS (winner’s choice). Welcome, Rose!

1. Other than a love of Georgette Heyer, what draws you to the Regency period?

Well, I think it’s mostly that.  Not just Georgette Heyer, of course, but that I read a lot in the genre and the stories being told about the Regency era are the kinds of stories I like to read.  I love the way that Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer comedy-of-manners stuff blends with the more passionate stuff. (See question 5 below!)  So I already knew I was going to write Regencies before I ever did any research or really learned much about the era.

That said, it’s a really fascinating period.  A lot of things were in flux, economically and socially.  England was making the shift to an industrial society, and from a limited monarchy to…well, to a much more limited monarchy, but the whole way people thought about government and their relationship to it was changing.  The modern past-time of Talking About How Reading Girly Books Rots Women’s Brains was just gaining popularity.

The more I read about the era, the more familiar it sounds in many ways, and the more neverendingly, incomprehensibly different it sounds in others.  I love that contrast.

2. Your novels are so richly detailed that I imagine your bookshelves are bursting with historical reference books. What are your favorite sources for research?

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