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Author Interviews

Author Interviews Featured Authors

An Interview with Lucy Smoke

If you could escape into one of the worlds you’ve created in your books, what character would you become and why?

It really depends. Haha. Unfortunately, the majority of my characters have some sort of internal damage and I don’t know if I’d want that. But I’d love their strength and fortitude. I think, though, I’d personally like to go in as just myself and see how I would adapt to a new world–contemporary or fantasy.

What is your work schedule like when you are writing?

I’m a night owl, so my work schedule generally starts late afternoon and moves into the early morning. I usually do my research, outlining, and admin duties in the afternoons, and anywhere between 7 pm-1 am I’ll find myself writing. I’m addicted to writing, so I generally write every day if I can help it.

Do you have a favorite character that you have written? If so, who? And what makes them so special?

I love all of my characters, but with that said, I do love some more than others. In my fantasy works, Barbie is my favorite (from the Barbie: The Vampire Hunter series). In my contemporary works, Avalon is my favorite (from Sick Boys). These two have a lot in common. They’re both brash and aggressive. They don’t back down from challenges, yet at the same time, they have flaws and wounds from their childhoods. They’re special to me because of those flaws of theirs. 

Characters who are perfect and always good don’t interest me because I can’t see them being real people, but these two, Barbie and Avalon, aren’t always likable, but just because they aren’t likable doesn’t mean they aren’t loveable. 

Where do you draw inspiration from?

Pretty much anything and everything. I draw inspiration from real life, from my own past and childhood, as well as stories I hear on the internet, on the radio, from friends and colleagues. I want to make my characters as human as possible with their wants and desires and dreams. They may be fictional to readers, but in my mind, there’s so much beneath the surface of their characterization and bringing them to life on the page. 

If you could ask one successful author three questions about their writing, writing process, or books, what would they be?

Well, first, I feel like “success” is in the eye of the beholder so that makes it hard for me to determine who I would ask and what I would ask because those questions would change depending on the author in question and their expertise. Generally, though, I might ask about the mental fortitude it takes to be an author and what they do to cope or harness the varying levels of their craft and how they are perceived by readers. 

I can only be who I am and they can only be who they are, but other authors will understand that working in the publishing industry isn’t easy. If it was, everyone would be a “successful” author. We do it because we love it and I enjoy hearing people just talk about what makes them happy. So I’d ask what about this industry they love and why they keep writing. 

What’s next for you? Are you working on a new project? If so, can you give us a teaser and/or an expected release date? 

Currently, I’m working on the next book in the Sick Boys series. It’s become my most popular series to date under both my fantasy pen name (Lucinda Dark) and my contemporary pen name (Lucy Smoke). The original trilogy has been completed, but I have follow-up stories in standalone format for the side characters that everyone fell in love with. The expected release date is October 2021 (so next month!). 

Author Interviews Featured Authors

An Interview with Colleen Oakley

If you could escape into one of the worlds you’ve created in your books, what character would you become and why?

It would be a toss-up between the remote and quaint Frick Island (from The Invisible Husband of Frick Island) and Jubilee’s house in Close Enough to Touch because she lives in a gorgeous old Victorian with teetering stacks of books everywhere (dream come true!). I don’t know that I would necessarily want to be Jubilee, though—not being able to touch anyone would not be a fun way to live! 

Can you describe for us a typical writing day?

After shooing all my children out the door for their school day, I walk my dog Baxter, while listening to an Italian podcast (we’re going next summer, so I’m trying to get at least a minimal grasp on the language!). Then I come home, pour my second cup of coffee, make a smoothie and get to work. I generally write about 3-4 hours, take a break at lunch to squeeze in some time at the gym, and then write another hour or so before I meet my kids at the bus stop. When I’m on deadline, I’ll get up earlier, before the kids wake up to get some extra writing time in, and I’ll often go on a 3-day writing retreat by myself to pound out words.

When you’re writing an emotionally draining (or sexy, or sad, etc) scene, how do you get in the mood?

Music! I generally pick tunes that fit the scene I’m working on. For Before I Go and You Were There Too, it was a lot of James Bay and Leon Bridges and Sam Smith—these soulful, emotional tunes that kept me in that headspace. For Close Enough to Touch and Frick Island, which both had a lot more fun, quirky scenes, I listened to music like the Beatles’ lighter songs, as well as Lake Street Dive, a band that’s upbeat and has a lot of character.

Which of your books were the most enjoyable to write?

I would have to say Frick Island because I had so much fun making myself laugh with the cast of quirky characters and their laugh-out-loud quips. I really needed something a little more light-hearted and happy after writing You Were There Too—and I think readers needed something light and happy too, considering all we’ve been through (and are still going through!) these past few years. 

If you could ask one successful author three questions about their writing, writing process, or books, what would they be?

Ooh! This is a fun question. I would love to sit down with Ann Patchett and just find out how her mind works—her story ideas are so unique and involved and so fully realized. Reading her work is like witnessing magic.

What’s next for you? Are you working on a new project? If so, can you give us a teaser and/or an expected release date? 

Yes! I’m super excited to share that my next book, The Mostly True Story of Tanner and Louise, will be released in February 2023. It’s about Louise, an 84-year-old woman who may or may not be an international jewelry thief, and her 21-year-old college-dropout caretaker, Tanner. The two end up on the lam from the police—while Tanner is trying to figure out who Louise actually is.

Author Interviews Featured Authors

An Interview with Jennifer Hillier

What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book?

I used to be very rigid about my writing schedule, and for years I was an evening-to-the-wee-hours-of-the-morning writer. And then all that changed when I had my son. When he was a baby and toddler, I’d be zonked by dinner time, so the only time I could write with any focus was in the morning for 3-4 hours, with the help of a babysitter. 

Now he’s six, and more able to do things on his own, but then the pandemic hit. He spent nearly the entirety of first grade in virtual school, which eliminated any kind of writing schedule I’d hoped to have. I wrote when I could in between helping him with school – an hour here, twenty minutes there – and as I neared my deadline, all night long when everyone was asleep. At least my husband was working from home, so he would help with mornings to let me sleep in.

What risks have you taken with your writing that have paid off?

Probably the biggest risk I’ve ever taken was letting people actually read my work. Which sounds strange, but I was a “closet writer” for a long time. It was hard for me to tell people – especially close friends and family – that I was dreaming of being a published author. I didn’t want anyone to know that I wanted something so badly but was scared I wasn’t good enough. And for years, that was fine. I wrote, but I didn’t have the courage to send my work out anywhere. I didn’t send it, I couldn’t be rejected, right? Which meant I could keep dreaming. 

But then the day came when something switched. The fear of never knowing if I was good enough outweighed the fear of failing, so I started submitting. Sending out that first query letter and writing sample to a literary agency was terrifying. 

Do you play music while you write — and, if so, what’s your favorite?

I actually can’t listen to music while I’m writing, but I do listen to music in between writing spurts. I make playlists for every book, and I don’t delete them until the book is completely written, edited, and ready for publication. For my first book, Creep, I listened to a lot of Radiohead (shocker, I know). Jar of Hearts, my fifth book, was inspired by two songs: Christina Perri’s “Jar of Hearts” (again, shocker) and “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails. 

My playlist for book seven is mostly 90s R&B, as a chunk of the story takes place in the 90s.

What is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given about writing?

I’ve received a lot of writing advice over the years, but the one that was most helpful was: write the book you want to read. And what I wanted to read was a really dark, obsessive, gritty thriller with a love story weaved in, where the sex scenes didn’t just fade to black. I wanted a fast-paced, twisty, murdery book that allowed me to peek into the characters’ bedrooms as well, and that’s when I wrote Creep

 Whom do you trust for objective and constructive criticism of your work?

I’ve had the same literary agent my entire career, and I trust her judgment completely. She always tells me what’s working and what isn’t, and that any advice she offers comes from a place of wanting the best out of me, as well as the best for me. I’m also fortunate to have a fantastic editor who is always so respectful of my vision for a book and finds the best ways to help me fulfill that vision without changing it. I’m really, really lucky.

What’s next for you? Are you working on a new project? If so, can you give us a teaser and/or an expected release date? 

I’m right about to dive into edits for my seventh book. It’s a bit lame, but I’m superstitious about revealing anything specific about a new book until the edits are done. But it is another psychological thriller, set half in Toronto and half in Seattle, with some of it set in the 80s, some of it in the 90s, and some of it in 2018 (pre-pandemic). And we still don’t have a firm title, so I can’t even tell you that! But it will be out in Spring 2022.

Author Interviews Featured Authors

An Interview with Mary Balogh

What’s the strangest thing you have ever had to research for a book?

I can’t think of anything that would qualify as really strange. However, I should mention that for many years after I began writing (in 1983) there was no internet. It’s hard to imagine now when it is so easy to check details and even whole topics. Research then meant hunting down books and making annual trips to Britain to see things in person. Often it was not easy. Historical facts (like wars and treaties) were no problem, but social facts were more difficult to find. What did people eat at their banquets, for example? What did they wear? Talk about? How long did a journey from Point A to Point B take? We couldn’t just google the answer in those days.

What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?

I wouldn’t be telling you anything you don’t already know if I said that men and women are totally different in the way they think, speak, act, and emote. Writing from a man’s point of view is a challenge. It has to be credible. I can remember the first time I knew of a man (a British medical doctor) reading one of my books. I wanted to bury my head in a deep hole and keep it there.  It was a huge relief when he commented without any prodding that I got the guy’s point of view exactly right. As a writer one always has to apply the believability test. The hero can’t think or say or do something just because it is convenient to the plot. It must all be consistent with his masculinity.

What special challenges did you face making your story stand out from others in the genre?

I don’t think I ever thought of my writing in those terms. I have never felt I was in competition with anyone else. I can remember a friend telling me when I was first published that I might be the second Danielle Steele. I told her I didn’t want to be the second anybody. I wanted to be the one and only Mary Balogh. I have always aimed for consistently excellent prose and love stories that combine an intensity of emotion and passion with realism and an aura of wonderful romance. I have always aimed for characters I (and therefore the reader) know soul-deep. I have always wanted my books to stand out from one another. I would hate to discover that readers were coming to find the same old same old in my plots or characters. It is difficult to be fresh and new after you have written more than a hundred novels and novellas. It takes constant hard work.

If you could have been the author of any book ever written, which book would you choose?

That is a fascinating and fun question. I have to be consistent with what I said above, though. Although I have some firm favorites among the many books I have loved and admired, I have never wanted to be the author of any books but my own. As writers we all have our own vision and values and–most important–our unique voice. I am very happy to be the author of my body of work. No one else could have written those books–just as I could not have written anyone else’s book, much as I might (and do!) love what certain other authors have produced.

What is the biggest surprise that you experienced after becoming a writer?

That’s an easy one. The biggest surprise was discovering when a New York publisher decided to buy my first book (A Masked Deception) that they were offering me a two-book contract. “What?” I thought. “Now I have to do it all over again?” Another surprise followed that. I did it! And then I did it again and again and… One does not, it seems, run out of ideas after a certain number of books. The more I write, the more I know I can write. Surprise, surprise!

What’s next for you? Are you working on a new project? If so, can you give us a teaser and/or an expected release date? 

I most recently published Someone to Cherish in June. It is the final book in the Westcott series–Harry’s story. Then there will be an add-on book in November, Someone Perfect, the story of Lady Estelle Lamarr, a character in the Westcott books but not strictly a member of the family. Both those books are written. I am about to start a wholly new series, the Wares of Ravenwood Hall. I plan seven stories–for a mother, her three sons, her two daughters, and her late husband’s illegitimate son. I can’t give any more detail than that. I will be starting next week (on March 1). My stories take shape as I write. I am not a planner! 

Author Interviews Featured Authors

An Interview with Amanda Ashley

What three qualities does an irresistible love interest have to have?

  • Sex Appeal
  • Humor
  • Kindness

How do you find new inspiration when you’re feeling stuck? 

I have no clue. New ideas just pop into my head. Sometimes it’s just a first line, which was the case with one of my old historicals. The line was, “He was dying, and he didn’t care”. (Midnight Fire) Well, that prompted a lot of questions. Why was he dying? Why didn’t he care?

What special challenges did you face making your story stand out from others in the genre?

I don’t really worry about that. When I write, I write mainly for myself and hope that what I like, my readers will like. I love writing paranormal stories because I can let my imagination run wild. Witches and werewolves, vampires, and time travel. There’s a whole world of possibilities.

If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?

Nothing. I’d just be a stay-at-home housewife.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?  

Joining the Orange Chapter of Romance Writers of America. I learned a lot at the monthly meetings, met a lot of published authors. Even got to meet Fabio, who was on the cover of one of my books.

What’s next for you? Are you working on a new project? If so, can you give us a teaser and/or an expected release date? 

Just published is In the Dark of the Night, one of my fav stories. The back cover copy says:

In a time of desperation, Lorena Halliday’s father sells her into service to wealthy Lord Fairfield. After years of servitude and unwanted sexual advances, Lorena finds the courage to run away, only to be accosted by a man with a knife.

Standing on the roof of his home, Demetri witnesses the attack and goes to the young woman’s rescue. After dispatching her assailant, Demetri takes the unconscious woman to an inn and procures a room for her. After paying for a week in advance, he carries her up the stairs and tucks into bed. She is young and beautiful and her blood calls to him like no other.

Needing to see her again, Demetri returns to the inn and offers the lovely redhead a position in his home as his housekeeper. Desperate and with nowhere else to go, Lorena accepts. She soon discovers that her mysterious benefactor hides many secrets. Nevertheless, Lorena finds herself falling in love with a  man who lives In the Dark of the Night.

June 28th is the expected pub date for Surrender the Dawn. The back cover copy reads:

Angelina Rossi has always been fascinated with vampires. She loves the movies, the TV shows, the books. After reading a love story between a woman and a vampire, she finds herself yearning for a love like that. What if vampires really do exist?  

Determined to find out, she searches every Goth club in the city, ending up at a nightclub called Nick’s Nightmare. The attraction between Angie and Declan Nicolae, the club’s owner, is instant and undeniable.

Declan is an ancient vampire who, having once tasted Angie’s blood, is determined to never let her go. For a time, romance blooms and all is well, until Samantha, Angie’s best friend, becomes one of the Undead and Angie learns vampires do exist — and that the man she loves is one of them.

Travis and Sara would likely never have met if Travis hadn’t chosen her as his prey. Was it mere coincidence that brought the two of them to the same sleepy little town? Or the hand of Fate?

August 24th will see the publication of the last book in my Children of the Night series – Night’s Illusion. The cover copy reads:

Giovanni Lanzoni may just be the world’s oldest male virgin. Or at least, the oldest male virgin vampire. Giovanni has clung to the vows he made a thousand years ago as a mortal priest—yet he is no longer either of those things. Others of his kind have settled down since claiming immortality, finding love, even raising children. Sensing his loneliness, Mara, Queen of the Vampires, eagerly sets out to find Giovanni the perfect mate. But only one woman, met by chance on a dark night, truly tempts him . . Cassie Douglas has never met a man she trusts as much as Giovanni. Yet the shocking truth he reveals makes her question their deep connection. There are other urgent obstacles too. Giovanni’s sire, an ancient, dangerously powerful vampire, is awakening after centuries of slumber, with vengeance on his mind. And in the battle unfolding around them, everything is at risk—their lives, their loved ones, and a passionate eternity together . . .

These are all vampire romances.

I just finished a Western titled Kade, the first one I’ve written in a while. I’m really happy with it. I don’t have the cover copy yet, but it starts like this:

He stared up at the vast blue vault of the sky. He had always known this day would come. Any man who lived by the gun usually died that way. Even now, blood from the gunshot wound low in his left side was leaking through his fingers, soaking into the dirt beneath him.

         Only a matter of time, he thought. He might have had a chance of finding help if his horse hadn’t been shot out from under him. But maybe that was a good thing. When a warrior died, the People killed his favorite mount so the warrior’s spirit wouldn’t have to walk to the happy hunting ground. Kade grunted softly as he glanced at the dead mare. At least he had a good horse to carry him to the land of spirits.

         Resigned to his fate, he closed his eyes and waited for death.