Posts Tagged ‘Interview’

Interview with Meljean Brook — Plus a Contest!

Monday, October 19th, 2009

Photo of Author Meljean BrookWoot!! Meljean Brook is here! In case you don’t know, Meljean’s book Demon Forged hit bookstores the same day as Indiscreet. What you may also not know is that there is a character in Indiscreet whose last name, by a huge, amazing coincidence, has the last time Brook. Hard to believe, isn’t it? Hah. I was desperate for a name for this guy, and there was Meljean’s book. . . Brook. That name is teh awesome! said I. So I stole her name. It’s in my book now. Forever.

Meljean writes the awesome Guardian series, and if you like paranormal I really do urge you to read her books if you haven’t already started. I love this series. I really really do.

Read on to the end of this post to find out how you can, if you’re really clever, get yourself in a position to win a signed copy of Indiscreet AND Demon Forged.

Demon Forged, by the way, was a Romantic Times Top Pick, so you know it’s good. (Hoo boy is it!)
Cover of Demon Forged by Meljean Brook

Carolyn Interrogates Meljean

1. Thinking back to yourself at, say, five years old, were there any clues then that you’d end up writing novels? If so, what were they? When did you know you had the writing bug?

At five, definitely not. By sixth grade, though, I was reading constantly and making up my own stories. Most of them remained in my head, though I scribbled out ideas and scenes. By eighth grade, I was practicing my pseudonym autograph all over my notebook covers (it looks almost exactly the same as it does today.)

For a long time, though, it wasn’t something I seriously pursued. I wrote all of the time, but I didn’t think of it in terms of: I’m going to be published and make a living this way. I just really enjoyed writing, and I especially enjoyed writing the kinds of things that I loved reading. After a while, though, and a few trips through other (sensible) career choices, I decided: I’m going to try to do this. And then I got a little unexpected help in that area, and actually did it.

2. Regarding your fan fiction, can you talk a little bit about how, why, when and how long you were writing it?

As I mentioned above, I’d been fiddling with stories for a long time. I’d already noticed that I had a tendency to include romance and fantasy elements in my work, but I didn’t really finish anything. I’d have great ideas that just petered out along the way. For a long time, this didn’t bother me, because I was just having fun … but then it started irritating me more and more. I wanted to write a romance (not as a career yet, but just to write it) but I knew I needed to finish it. But something just wasn’t clicking.

And at the same time, I was in college, and the writing was kind of a side-thing. So were comic books, and reading fanfiction. And it just happened that I read a fanfic that inspired me, and I became obsessed with a certain couple — Batman and Wonder Woman — and so I wrote a chapter in a fanfic romance. Then another. And I said to myself: This is it. This is where we find out if you can finish a novel-length story. It took me a couple of months, but I did … and I loved not just the story, but the process. So I wrote another fic, and another, for about two years.

But I realized I wasn’t satisfied with writing these characters anymore, because I’d begun writing mostly alternate universe fics (where the characters are different versions of Batman and Wonder Woman — alternate timelines, different worlds, etc). I still had a lot of BM/WW stories to tell, but I wanted to start writing my own characters. I also decided that I was going to finish the story, and submit it, and work toward being published. So I began altering and expanding on of the alternate universe fanfics, and that eventually morphed into the Guardian series.

And in what might have been the luckiest moment of my life, my fanfic caught the eye of my editor, who was a BM/WW fan. She asked if I had anything original to submit at the time I was working on what would become Demon Angel. That story wasn’t strong enough yet for a contract, but she offered me a spot in the Hot Spell anthology.

3. Your style of story telling reminds me of some of the Epic Fantasy writers, whose complex characterizations unfold with such incredible richness. Is this a deliberate choice or is it just the way it works for you?

It’s both, I think. The simple answer is that it’s just the way it works for me — it’s the way my style and my voice just are. But it’s also a choice as I’m writing. I love to peel away the layers, I love characters with complexity, who aren’t easily defined. I love digging into them, and hurting them, and making them laugh and love. Plus, this is romance, and love is rarely simple — so I do my best to show every side of a character, so that I am convinced (and hopefully the reader is, too) that the love is deep, and true, and will truly last an eternity.

4. How the heck did you come up with the idea of someone who looks in a mirror and sees Hell instead of his face? (Colin from Demon Angel) And a blacksmith/metalworker heroine (Irena in Demon Forged) explain that one, too.

For Colin, it was a combination of playing off of the classic "vampires can’t see themselves in a mirror" myth, and me trying to think of the absolute worst thing that I could do to him. He’s incredibly vain, so not seeing his reflection might have been enough — but throwing in a curse and making him uncertain about whether the hell that he sees is a reflection of his soul (until he discovers the truth and learns that he’s just seeing another realm)? Ah, the pain. It’s delicious. And it adds another dimension to his vanity, one that makes his character a little more sympathetic, and ties into the plot of the books. It was just one of those ideas that started out very small (me, wondering whether I should let vampires see their reflection) and just worked on several levels.

Irena’s character began in a similar way: just a tiny idea that grew into something bigger. In Demon Night, I introduced her, but didn’t even mention her by name. She creates a little metal piano for Charlie (which was more about Charlie at that point than Irena), and Charlie describes her as, "a hard-edged female." And that was it.

But I knew I wanted to use this character, I knew she was going to be important in the series (I knew I was going to need a female character who fills the role that Irena eventually takes in Demon Forged) so I began developing her backstory. Once I did, the pieces just fell into place, and much like Colin’s curse, her Gift played into both her character and the plot on several levels. I ended up making her into exactly what I needed from that one tiny line in Demon Night.

5. Since we’re on the subject of Demon Forged, can you talk a little bit about the ideas and characters of the book? Have you had them bumping around in your head for a while?

To answer the second question first: Yes and no. In this series, I have a general outline of Where I Am Going and What Needs To Happen On The Way, but I don’t have a habit of introducing or creating future heroes and heroines before I need them (with a few exceptions, like Michael). So I am usually about two books ahead when I begin deciding who is going to do what, and how they are going to do it. My process of creating Irena is a good example — I’ve known from the beginning that I need someone to [avoiding spoilers] do what she does at the end of Demon Forged. I had a vague idea of what kind of a character could do it. And so I’ll begin to shape the character as I go along, and I might begin to define and refine that shape in the books that come before hers — so in that sense, they are in my head for a while, but not from the beginning of the series. Irena wasn’t in my head at all as a character when I was writing Demon Angel, for example; there was just a Female Who Fulfills This Role Eventually blank to fill in.

And I think Irena filled that blank spectacularly. She’s one of my favorites so far — a sixteen-hundred-year-old former Roman slave turned Guardian, who has a Gift to manipulate metal, who is rough around the edges and blunt to a fault.

Then there’s Alejandro, who is essentially her opposite: subtle, quiet, and with an aristocratic background. No, actually — "opposite" is probably the wrong word. He’s her complement. What she isn’t, he is, and so although this makes for some wonderful tension and friction, they fit together wonderfully.

6. If you had a bazillion dollars, what would you get me? What would you buy your daughter?

I’d scour the world for a man who looks like Michael, pay for his wings to be surgically implanted, and then airlift him to your doorstep. Or, you know, just a drink at RWA, because I think that would be awesome to hang out.

I’d probably buy a bunch of plane tickets for my daughter, so that we could travel together. But she’d rather receive a pink unicorn doll or, "a dress with rainbows and stars and hearts on it, and rainbow socks, and sparkly heart shoes, and a ribbon with rainbow colors."

7. You write the most amazing, strong heroines. Please explain how you go about creating your heroines. The more detail the better because I need tips.

Pffft. I’ve read your heroines. You don’t need tips.

But it’s basically just starting with an idea, even a stereotype — a heroine who is a demon, a geek, a recovering alcoholic, a Victorian-type of lady — and then piling on the layers. I think that when the book is finished, it probably reads like I’ve been peeling away layers, but it’s really just a matter of piling them on as I go and then digging into them.

So for Irena, I had my basic idea, and then I had to make a decision which adds kind of a shallow layer: She’s angry.

Then I have to ask: Why is she angry?

And the answer might be as simple as: Because a demon hurt her.

But then it’s: But why did that affect her so deeply?

And that’s where I get to the fun stuff with my characters. It’s not just knowing what happened to them, because everyone has crappy things happen — but some things, we can shrug off more easily than others. So it’s figuring out why it matters so much. What did that demon touch inside her that all of the demons she fought and killed before didn’t?

When I hit that, it informs so much in the story: her character, of course, but also how she interacts with other characters, how she views the world, what issues she has to overcome or address when she falls in love, how and who she trusts … and so even though I have plot points that I have to hit in this series, that I would have made happen no matter what character ended up being the heroine in that book, the way that the character approaches that plot point is so personal, it feels organic rather than just: Okay, this is where Some Random Female Fights A Dragon. At that point, it’s not just about getting my series from point F to point G — it’s about Irena winning, and how she wins, and what it means to her.

At least that’s how I hope it works.

8. Just why do you love Wonder Woman so much?

I can’t deny that some of it is nostalgia. I loved Wonder Woman in Superfriends and I loved Lynda Carter’s show, and so the character holds a special place in my little-girl heart.

But I know it’s more than that. Part of it is that I’ve always been drawn to female superheroes and strong female characters on TV — Charlie’s Angels, the Bionic Woman, Firestar in the Spider-Man cartoon, Diana in V (even more than Julie, the heroine of the series), just to start. Why am I drawn to them? I couldn’t say. But I do know that Wonder Woman seemed to represent the best and the strongest of them all.

So I think it’s fair to say that for a long time, it was just that she represented something. It wasn’t the character herself. But then I began reading comic books, and found more there to love. The idea that she will fight, but first she’ll try to find a way to solve problems without violence. That she’s not about making people better, but about people making themselves better … whatever "better" means. Which, when written down, sounds really corny — but I also think it’s something that resonates with me. I’m like Mulder, I guess: I want to believe. Not believe that Wonder Woman is real, but that whatever she represents can be.

Then again, maybe it’s no more corny that believing that romantic love can be a powerful, transformative, wonderful, complicated, and GOOD thing, and writing a series of books exploring that idea.

But it’s not just feelings and ideas — she’s had some kickass stories, too. There’s a great series on livejournal that talks about them: When Wondy Was Awesome ( by bluefall. I don’t agree with everything bluefall has to say about the character and her adventures, but I do a lot of it.

9. Complete this sentence: Michael belongs to Carolyn because . . . If you can’t explain (or won’t because it’s just so obvious) then can you tell us about how his character evolves through the series? Any hints about what happens to him and when his book is coming up?

Michael belongs to Carolyn because … I’m afraid of being hurt if I say he doesn’t.

Ha, I love questions about Michael, because I just can’t answer a lot of them. Michael is a difficult character to write because he’s SO old, and he’s so powerful, and he’s seen so much … and yet I have to imagine all of that and what it would be like. So as much as I love his character, I also recognize that he’s kind of unknowable … and that I’m going to have to make him knowable in order for his romance to work. So, to that end, I’m completely destroying him (so that I can show what he’s made of when I put him back together.)

…and that’s all I can say about that.

His book has always been planned as the last book, and I’ve known who his heroine is since Demon Angel. His book should be the eighth full-length book, which is only three away: first is Demon Blood, then another untitled Guardian book which will feature a h/h from Demon Blood, and then Michael’s book.

10. What else are you working on? I understand you have a Steampunk book coming out.

The steampunk series is something that has been germinating since I first submitted my Demon Angel manuscript to my editor. If she didn’t like that, I was going to write a steampunk proposal. So that’s been in the back of my mind for years now, and so last year, the chance came up to propose it again. I pitched it as League of Extraordinary Gentlemen meets The Pirates of the Caribbean, called it the Iron Seas series, and my editor gave me the go-ahead.

The pitch isn’t accurate, although the basic elements are there: There are pirates, and there’s an alternate Victorian atmosphere with clockwork and steam-based technology. There’s also giant squid, nanotech, zombies, dirigibles, and some sexy, sexy times.

And I love writing it. I don’t have a release date yet for the first novel, The Iron Duke, but the first novella will be coming out in August 2010, in the anthology BURNING UP, with Angela Knight, Nalini Singh, and Virginia Kantra. Huge, huge fun.

The Contest Low Down

For a chance to win a signed copy of Meljean’s Demon Forged, all you have to do is leave a comment. If you want to add in something about why Michael belongs to me, that would make me feel happy, but not affect the chances of your being the winner, who will be randomly chosen on Friday, October 23. If you don’t leave me a way to contact me, then check back here Friday or Saturday to see if you won.

For a chance to win a signed copy of Indiscreet, head on over to Meljean’s blog. I’m over there today where I’m sure she’s being super nice to me.


Interview with Author Courney Milan – Plus a Contest

Monday, October 5th, 2009

The funny and fabulous Courtney Milan stops by today to talk about her debut, her attack cat, some future books and all manner of other things you’ll enjoy hearing about. She’ll be giving away some copies of the novella, so read through to the bottom to find out how you can come away with one for yourself.

Courtney Milan
This Wicked Gift in THE HEART OF CHRISTMAS, HQN, October 2009

The Interview

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Photo of Author Courtney Milan
I was born in a Russian gulag, and learned to read by scraping twigs against the….
Oh my God! Courtney, you too? Didn’t those twigs really–

Oh. Wait. You want me to tell the truth?
Well, only if it’s no trouble.

All righty then. I’ve held about nine or ten very different jobs, ranging from sales to graphic design to administration of a Linux cluster to animal training. Also, I’m a liar, so some of the things I say may not be 100% true.

Q: Why historical romance?

This one is easy: I can’t write contemporaries, because I know absolutely nothing about popular culture. Nada. Not a thing. This is not to say you need to be a pop culture maven to write contemporaries, but it’s just one of those little things I’ve learned: Never lie about subject matter to someone who knows more than you do. You’ll never fool them.

Q: Team Eric or Team Bill? Edward or Jacob? (If you answer Bill and Edward, I won’t hold it against you. Promise.) Why?

Um, who are Eric and Bill? (See above question.) As for Edward versus Jacob, that’s easy. Bella can keep Edward. She deserves him. 🙂

I will email you some references. Because I’m just generous that way.

Q: Did you train your cat to be an attack cat or did you just get lucky? Do you have a picture you can share?

The cat came pre-trained to attack. We were very lucky with this cat; we got him because a "friend" asked us to watch him over his vacation. Vacation ended and the "friend" never showed up to pick up his cat. Needless to say, we kept the cat and ditched the friend.
Good move. An attack cat is invaluable.
You can see a picture of him, prepared to attack my carefully-built fortress of author copies of my novellaPicture of Courtney Milan's attack cat and book fortress

Q: Are you a plotter or a pantser or somewhere in between?

I’m definitely a plotter. And I plot by writing. The way it works is that in order to really get going on a story I need to know the beginning, the middle, and the end. That may sound like the whole story, but really, it’s about 30,000 words–there’s the part after the beginning but before the middle, and then the part before the middle but after the beginning and after the part after the part after the beginning…. trust me, it’s just as confusing inside my head. So I basically have three scenes in my head when I start writing. Everything else I figure out in writing.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the kind of stories you write?

Some people write stories about good people who have bad things happen to them. I write stories about good people who make bad mistakes. In some sense, I think my characters always bring the meat of the story upon themselves, by making choices that while often well-intentioned, are fatally flawed. This is not to say that my characters get into bad situations by their own stupidity–quite the opposite. In fact, if anything, I think that relying too much on intelligence and overthinking are more likely to get my characters in trouble than, say, foolish choices made without thought.

I like writing stories like that because I feel it really pushes my characters to grow emotionally, to discover things about themselves, to rediscover the notion of honor and to decide that they are worthy of respect and love. I really believe it’s hard to love another person if you don’t love yourself, and so it’s crucial that during the course of the story, my heroes and heroines learn to trust themselves as well as the people around them.

Q: I’m pimping you, Courtney. Tell me about your upcoming single title.

On January 1, 2010 (that’s a lot of 1’s!), my single title debut, PROOF BY SEDUCTION, is coming out. Proof by Seduction is the story of Gareth Carhart, the Marquess of Blakely, an inveterate scientist who is stunned to find out that his cousin and heir has been visiting a fortune teller for advice. He decides to prove Madame Esmerelda is a fraud. But what he assumes will be a simple task becomes drawn out by a simpler occurrence: He sees her almost naked. And once he’s seen behind her disguise, he realizes that she is far more complex than a simple fraud. False as Madame Esmerelda’s predictions might be, the woman who plays Madame Esmerelda, Jenny Keeble, is more compelling than any of the fortunes she manufactures. And before he can understand what’s happening, he realizes that the way he feels about her can’t fit inside a scientific proposition.

To put it in visual terms:

My Usual Approach is Useless Here, Cartoon by xkcd


PROOF is also the story of Jenny Keeble, an illegitimate byblow who has never known her parents, and who’s struggled for respect all her life. She’s found a measure of that respect telling rich people what they want to hear. She has money, security, and people who look up to her. But when she meets Gareth, she begins to realize that all of that means nothing if she can’t respect herself.

That sounds so awesome. I can’t wait to read it.

Q: What else do you have for us to look forward to?
Cover of This Wicked Gift
Sometime in 2010, after PROOF BY SEDUCTION, the follow-up, TRIAL BY DESIRE, will be released. TRIAL BY DESIRE is the story of Ned Carhart, the cousin of the hero of PROOF BY SEDUCTION.

But before we even get there, sometime in late November/early December I’ll be posting a free read. You know how Harlequin Historicals sometimes have titles like, "Smashingly Drunk Lord, Feisty Maiden?" This will have a similar title. Completely similar. Except… totally different.

Smashingly Drunk Lord, Feisty Maiden was one of my fav reads of 2005.

Q: Can you provide a fun fact or two about your story?

Fun facts! Oh, man, whenever I hear "fun facts" my brain automatically translates that into "lies." What does that say about me? Nothing I haven’t already said, I suppose, but alliteration sounds so immediately hyperbolic that it gets me thinking about all kinds of things that are fun. And you know what else alliterates with "fun" and "fact"? Yeah, you got it. Fake. So I will tell you three fun facts about my novella, but one thing I say in this section will be completely fake.
We here at Writer’s Diary are all about really good lies. Lie on, Courtney. Lie on.

  • I named the hero of my novella after a famous football star.
  • I originally described this novella as Dickens’s A Christmas Carol meets, but it really ended up being more like The Damnation of Faust takes polite tea with, but then goes on its merry way to a happy ending.
  • Hidden inside this Christmas novella is a shocking truth: My novella almost never mentions Christmas. Hidden inside the lack of mention of Christmas in this novella is an even more shocking truth: Chapters of the novella parallel the libretto of Handel’s Messiah.

What’s the lie? Identify it in comments–and two people who correctly identify the lie will win a copy of my novella! (If nobody correctly identifies the lie, I will give out three copies at random.)

The Important Stuff

Read an Excerpt

Buy a copy of This Wicked Gift

And leave a comment. You could win big!


Interview With Author Marilyn Brant – CONTEST!

Monday, September 28th, 2009

This week I’m interviewing author Marilyn Brant, who’ll be giving away an ARC of According to Jane. Read through to the end for instructions about how to get your reticule in the ring for a chance to win!

About Marilyn Brant

Marilyn Brant is the award-winning women’s fiction author of ACCORDING TO JANE, the story of a modern woman who receives dating advice from the spirit of Jane Austen (October 2009), and her second forthcoming novel about three suburban moms who shake up their lives and their marriages (October 2010), both from Kensington Books.

As a former teacher, library staff member, freelance magazine writer and national book reviewer for Romantic Times, Marilyn has spent much of her life lost in literature. She received her M.A. in educational psychology from Loyola University Chicago, dabbled in both fiction and art at Northwestern University, studied the works of Austen at Oxford University and is an active member of the Jane Austen Society of North America. Her debut novel won RWA’s prestigious Golden Heart Award© in 2007.

Marilyn lives in the northern Chicago suburbs with her family, but she also hangs out online at her blog "Brant Flakes." When she isn’t rereading Jane’s books or enjoying the latest releases by her writer friends, she’s working on her next novel, eating chocolate indiscriminately and hiding from the laundry.

Check out her website:

About the Book

Cover of According to Jane by Marilyn Brant In Marilyn Brant’s smart, wildly inventive debut, one woman in search of herself receives advice from the ultimate expert in matters of the heart. . . It begins one day in sophomore English class, just as Ellie Barnett’s teacher is assigning Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. From nowhere comes a quiet "tsk" of displeasure. The target: Sam Blaine, the cute bad boy who’s teasing Ellie mercilessly, just as he has since kindergarten. Entirely unbidden, as Jane might say, the author’s ghost has taken up residence in Ellie’s mind, and seems determined to stay there.

Jane’s wise and witty advice guides Ellie through the hell of adolescence and beyond, serving as the voice she trusts, usually far more than her own. Years and boyfriends come and go–sometimes a little too quickly, sometimes not nearly fast enough. But Jane’s counsel is constant, and on the subject of Sam, quite insistent. Stay away, Jane demands. He is your Mr. Wickham.

Still, everyone has something to learn about love–perhaps even Jane herself. And lately, the voice in Ellie’s head is being drowned out by another, urging her to look beyond everything she thought she knew and seek out her very own, very unexpected, happy ending. . .


A warm, witty and charmingly original story.
Susan Wiggs, #1 New York Times bestselling author

An engaging read for all who have been through the long, dark, dating wars, and still believe there’s sunshine, and a Mr. Darcy, at the end of the tunnel.
Cathy Lamb, author of Henry’s Sisters

This is a must-read for Austen lovers as well as for all who believe in the possibility of a happily-ever-after ending.
Holly Chamberlin, author of One Week In December

An October "Fresh Pick" from Fresh Fiction!!

Jane Austen fans will revel in this modern day unique twist on a classic, as well as learning interesting facts about Jane herself. There is just enough mystery of ‘why’ to keep you guessing, and the ending is thoroughly satisfying. This was a truly, irrevocably inspiring novel.
Kelly Moran, Bookpleasures (5 stars)

Just when you think Jane Austen could not appear in anything new, a refreshing reincarnation occurs as Marilyn Brant provides an engaging modern day take on the writer. Ellie is a terrific lead character as she adapts to the voice in her head while Sam is her nemesis…readers will thoroughly enjoy this fun contemporary romance that also provides insight into Jane Austen and her characters.
Harriet Klausner (4 stars)

According To Jane is a delight from beginning to end…a definite keeper that I can see myself returning to time and again, just for the happy pick me up feeling it gives me. I’m eagerly looking forward to Ms. Brant’s next book.
— Manic Readers (4.5 stars)

All I can say is, again without any spoilers is that Marilyn Brant you have a new super fan and I am singing your praises…5 STARS–LOVED IT! COULDN’T PUT IT DOWN.
Book Junkie (5 stars)

According to Jane is an intriguing, appealing story full of warmth and wit…a fast read, perfect for the busy woman and the author has a definite gift for keeping you turning those pages. This is a book you don’t want to miss if you’re a fan of Austen, romance, coming of age, women’s fiction, or if you’re just looking for a highly entertaining story from an author with superb style and fresh voice.
Working Girl Reviews (5 shoes/best book)

The Interview

Q: Tell us about your latest release and the inspiration behind it.
My debut novel, According to Jane, is the story of a modern woman who–for almost two decades–has the ghost of Jane Austen in her head giving her dating advice. I first read Pride & Prejudice as a high-school freshman. Like my heroine Ellie, I raced through the novel way ahead of the reading assignments. I loved both the story and Austen’s writing style immediately. Her books changed the way I perceived the behavior of everyone around me, and I spent the rest of freshman year trying to figure out which Austen character each of my friends and family members most resembled! Also like Ellie, I had a few (okay, a lot) of less-than-wonderful boyfriends, and I would have loved to have been given romantic advice from the author I most respected and the one who’d written one of my all-time favorite love stories.

Q: Any great fan/fan mail stories you care to share?
The book was just released on September 29th, so first impressions are still coming in, but I’ve gotten some truly wonderful emails from people who read the ARCs this summer. One of my favorites is from a woman who won a copy of the book in a contest and emailed me to say that she’d finished the book in a day and was on an emotional high from reading it. She added, "Sometimes I go through phase where I’m so blase about reading fiction and focus mainly on non-fiction (my usual staple), but once in a blue moon, a book grips me and makes me fall in love with fiction again. Thank you. A very grateful reader." I will always, always love that message!

Q: Which scene in your novel did you love writing? Why?
One scene I had a lot of fun with was the bar scene in the first chapter where my main character runs into her ex-high-school boyfriend for the first time in four years. It was a situation I had never experienced personally, but I could imagine the comical possibilities so clearly and feel and the frustration of my heroine as if I’d been the one standing there, facing the jerk and his latest girlfriend, while Jane Austen ranted about how "insufferable" he was.

Q: What were some of your favorite books as a kid?
In junior high and early high school, I loved The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, A Separate Peace by John Knowles, Love Story by Erich Segal, Illusions by Richard Bach and, of course, everything by Austen. When I was an elementary schooler, I also loved Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink, Escape to Witch Mountain by Alexander Key and all the Nancy Drew mysteries.

Q: Which ‘craft’ book has inspired or helped you the most throughout your writing career?
I’m a BIG fan of craft books, so I have more than one! I used Blake Snyder’s SAVE THE CAT! almost religiously in the plotting of my past several books. I’m still very sad that he’s no longer with us. As far as a great reference guide, Robert McKee’s STORY is incredible. It has more information about writing craft than I can ever internalize. Also, whenever I need a more emotional pick-me-up, I grab the Ralph Keyes book THE COURAGE TO WRITE. I recommend it to everyone.

Q: If you could ask one author (in all of history) for one piece of advice, who would you ask and what you would want to know from them?
Oooh, getting to be like my main character here! If I could have asked Jane Austen for advice before I was married, it would have definitely revolved around which type of man was the right one for me. (She would intuitively know the answer, I’m sure.) However, even without Jane’s help, I was fortunate to find "my Darcy." J Now, I would ask her for her thoughts on the crafting of a perfect novel. What were the qualities she felt a great piece of fiction should possess? What was she consciously trying to achieve with her novels?

Q: Do you have a sample chapter posted?
Yes! On my website I have a segment of Chapter One available for anyone interested in reading. Also, if you go to the Amazon page for According to Jane there’s a "Search Inside This Book" feature, and people can read samples from scenes throughout the novel.

Q: What is your author fantasy?
I’m secretly, unrelentingly ambitious, even when I have no right to be. Of course I want to hit the NYT bestseller list and get a movie deal. Also, I’d like an Oprah invitation and a few RITAs. However, these are not quite enough to satisfy every daydream I’ve ever had. I’d greatly enjoy winning an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, a Tony and an Olympic gold medal (in both ice skating and gymnastics). The fact that I’m pathetic on skates and terrified of the uneven bars is, in no way, a deterrent from these unrealistic fantasies. My simple ability to imagine them, makes them almost real. Furthermore, I like shiny things (although I don’t like to dust them), so I hereby promise that if I win ANY heavy golden statuettes–ever–I will dust faithfully. Especially that Grammy award. Really.

Q: What’s next for you?
I get to visit a number of book clubs that chose my debut novel, According to Jane, as their monthly book pick–wildly fun!–while also starting the production/promotion process all over again for my next women’s fiction project. That second book is done, but we’re still working on finding the right title. It’s a modern fairytale about three suburban moms who shake up their marriages and their lives when one woman asks her friends a somewhat shocking question… That comes out in October 2010.

Q: Name 3-4 of your favorite musical artists/groups. Did you use any musical references in your novel? If so, do they play a significant role?
Oh, yes! I use an ’80s soundtrack through the entire novel and songs of that era play a pretty significant role in the story. "True" by Spandau Ballet, "Make Me Lose Control" by Eric Carmen, "I Want to Know What Love Is" by Foreigner and "You Give Love a Bad Name" by Bon Jovi are four of the biggies, but there are so many… I think high school is always a time in a person’s life where the music is especially memorable. What’s on the radio when we’re teens becomes the soundtrack of our youth, so the lyrics of those popular songs tend to take on heightened meaning and get all wrapped up with our burgeoning adulthood. The result of this combination can be delightfully melodramatic. ’80s music aside, I love the songwriting of Rob Thomas/Matchbox 20, Coldplay, Rascal Flatts, the Goo Goo Dolls, Keith Urban, Eagles and post-Eagles Don Henley, Jackson Browne and just about anything Andrew Lloyd Webber composes.

Q: What’s one piece of writing advice you’ve found valuable on your journey to publication?
Don’t follow trends just because you think it’ll be an easier sell. And write the books that fit your voice. If what you love writing happens to be a hot-selling genre, great. If your writing voice happens to be perfect for the genre you want to write in and love to read, that’s awesome, too. But–if not–write long and hard enough to find what DOES fit you and your style best. Because then, even if it takes longer to make that first sale than you expect, you’re writing the kinds of stories you most enjoy, and that passion has a way of working itself into the projects you’re creating.

Q: Did you have any input on the cover, and are you happy with the finished product?
I was asked for input on the cover by my editor, and I sent Kensington pages of possible scene ideas, plus a plot summary and descriptions of the main characters. In the end, I have no idea whether or not my notes were helpful, but the cover didn’t look anything like I’d imagined it–it looked far, far better! I couldn’t be more pleased with the way our cover designer, Kristine Mills-Noble, envisioned the look of the book. I’m really excited to see what she’ll come up with for my second novel.

Q: What do you think readers might be surprised to know about you?
This has absolutely nothing to do with writing (which is, perhaps, why it’ll be surprising), but I was a member of a touring dance group in college and spent six weeks dancing through Europe the summer I was 19. We performed at festivals in France, Spain, Switzerland and Italy, and I met some absolutely fascinating people. That experience solidified both my love of travel and my lifelong adoration of the jitterbug. It also greatly aided in my appreciation of European men…

Q: Where do you write? Describe your writing space – is it a cluttered mess or minimalist heaven?!
I write in my home office–a messy, absolutely cluttered place–I won’t deny it! There are stacks of paper and towers of books everywhere, but also a very nice window overlooking our backyard. Sometimes I’ll write at a local coffee shop (either with my laptop or, most often, just with pen and notebook paper), and that location has the advantage of endless cups of coffee and occasional snacks.

Q: What are you reading at the moment?
Some entertaining Austen-inspired fiction, like Beth Pattillo’s Jane Austen Ruined My Life, and the amazing Shaffer/Barrows novel The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Q: Are you a member of a writer’s group? If so, how has it helped your writing?
I’m a member of Chicago-North RWA, and it’s an incredibly strong critique chapter. Every month, three members have the opportunity to have up to 20 pages of their work critiqued by those attending the meetings (usually between 25-30 published/aspiring authors). The feedback is excellent, and it really helped me when I was a newbie to hear what more experienced writers were saying about some of my earlier work. Not only what confused them or what they thought was structurally unsound, but also what they felt were some of my writing strengths. That’s priceless insight when you’re just starting out. I can contrast this experience with semester-long university-level fiction workshops, which I personally didn’t find to be nearly as constructive. In my opinion, if a new writer ever finds herself surrounded by people whose main objective is to show off how clever they are or to alter a piece of writing in a way that messes with her author voice, she should sprint, not merely run, to the nearest exit. It worth hunting for a group that will help you build upon your writing talents while, at the same time, assisting you in strengthening your weaknesses.

Q: Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale (including the title and publisher)?
Aside from being on the newspaper and yearbook staff in high school and publishing some academic work in college, I didn’t take writing seriously until I was about 30. I was a stay-at-home mom with a baby and desperately in need of a creative outlet, so I began writing poems, essays on being a parent and educational articles for family magazines. I wrote my first book having never taken a creative-writing class or even having read a book on the craft of fiction. (The lack of craft is very evident when I reread chapters from that first book, btw! I don’t recommend this level of ignorance. . .) I got some feedback though–mostly negative–from a prominent literary agency, which led me to study fiction formally, delve into craft books and, eventually, go to my first writing conference. It was there that I heard about RWA. I joined, wrote three more unpublished manuscripts and, then, came up with the idea for According to Jane. My agent signed me on this book and submitted it to editors, but it needed to be significantly restructured before it sold. Nine months after it won the Golden Heart and was revised (again), it finally did sell–to John Scognamiglio at Kensington–on a sunny and surrealistic day in April 2008

Buy the Book

Title: According to Jane
Author: Marilyn Brant
Publisher: Kensington Books (trade paperback)
Price: $14.00 U.S./$16.95 Canada
Release Date: October 1, 2009 (on-shelf date: Sept. 29, 2009)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7582-3461-2
Pages: 288

Kensington’s page about the book

Buy from Amazon

How to get your chance to win an ARC (Advanced Reading Copy) of According to Jane

Leave a comment to this post in which you tell me what advice you wish you could get from Jane. Like, say, should I wear the pelisse or the spencer? Or maybe, does this carriage dress make me look fat?

If you don’t leave me a way to contact you if you win, then you must commit to checking back on our about Monday, October 5 to see if you’ve won.

Easy! Go forth and enter.


Interview with Hank Phillippi Ryan

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

Today I have the very great pleasure of introducing you all to a really wonderful writer. A couple of disclosures first: I have a serious jones for Hank’s shoes. (The first step is admitting you have a problem.) She knows which ones I mean. Also, we have the same fantastic agent, Kristin Nelson and because of that, I was lucky enough to be at a dinner where I was seated next to Hank’s husband who is the nicest most brilliant man you’d ever want to meet. And, I was also the winner of Candy of the Month from Hank (from Brenda Novak’s Diabetes auction) so every month our household is delighted with a delicious delivery of something yummy from Hank.

She also writes great books. Check out this page to buy Air Time or read more about the book.

About Hank Phillippi Ryan

Award-winning investigative reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan is currently on the air at Boston’s NBC affiliate, where she’s broken big stories for the past 22 years. Her stories have resulted in new laws, people sent to prison, homes removed from foreclosure, and millions of dollars in refunds and restitution for consumers.

Picture of Hank Phillippi Ryan
Along with her 26 Emmys, Hank’s also won dozens of other journalism honors, including 10 Edward R. Murrow Awards, and highest honors from Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) and The National Association of Science Writers. Hank’s been a radio reporter, a legislative aide in the United States Senate, and in a two-year stint in Rolling Stone Magazine’s Washington Bureau, worked on the political column Capitol Chatter and organized presidential campaign coverage for Hunter S. Thompson. She began her TV career in 1975, anchoring and reporting the news for TV stations in Indianapolis and then Atlanta.

Hank and her husband, a nationally renowned criminal defense and civil rights attorney, live just outside Boston.

Air Time Summary

Star reporter Charlotte (Charlie) McNally enters the glamorous and high-stakes world of high fashion . . . and soon discovers when the purses are fake, the danger is real.
Cover of Air Time by Hank Phillipi Ryan
To break her latest big-money blockbuster, Charlotte must go undercover–but what if the bad guys recognize her? This savvy TV journalist must face more than her fear of flying when her inside scoop on designer duplicates suddenly turns deadly.

Carrying a hidden camera and dressing to deceive, Charlie finds she’s not the only one disguising her identity. Nothing–and no one–is what they seem. And that means nothing–and no one–can be trusted. In her high-risk job and in her suddenly steamy love life, how can she tell the real thing?

Charlie is forced to make some life-changing–and life and death–decisions. With only a split-second to act and with her own life in the balance, Charlie knows if she chooses wrong it will be the last decision she ever makes.

Real-life investigative reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan devises a scheme so timely and innovative you’ll wonder why someone hasn’t tried it. AIR TIME takes you behind the scenes of TV news–and reveals what can happen when a savvy, sexy journalist turns from hard-working reporter into becoming a killer’s target.

“Sassy, fast-paced and appealing. First-class entertainment.”
Sue Grafton

“I love this series!”
Suzanne Brockmann

“AIR TIME is a fun, fast read with a heroine who’s sexy, stylish, and smart. I loved it.”
Nancy Pickard

Check out this page to buy Air Time or read more about the book.

Hank Phillippi Ryan Q & A

Q: Charlotte (Charlie) McNally is an investigative TV reporter, and so are you! What qualities do you share with Charlie, and how are you different?

When my husband talks about Charlie, he calls her “you.” As in–when “you” are held at gunpoint, when you track down the bad guys, when you solve the mystery . . . and I have to remind him, “Sweetheart, it’s fiction. It didn’t really happen.”

But a couple of things: I’ve been a TV reporter for more than 30 years. (Yes, really.) And so it would be silly, in writing a mystery about TV, not to use my own experiences. Think about it–as a TV reporter, you can never be wrong! Never be one minute late. Never choose the wrong word or miscalculate. You can never have a bad hair day, because it’ll be seen by millions of people! It’s high-stakes and high-stress–literally, people’s lives at stake–and I really wanted to convey that in the books.

And everything that TV people do and say in the books is authentic and genuine. (Of course, Charlie can say things I can’t say, and reveal things I can’t reveal.) We’re both devoted journalists, and over-focused on our jobs.

But Charlotte McNally is different, too. She’s single–I’m happily married. She’s ten years younger than I am, and so is facing different choices and dilemmas. She’s braver than I am, certainly. Funnier. And a much better driver.

Cover of Face Time by Hank Phillipi Ryan

Q: Charlie has some exciting adventures in your mystery series–going undercover, confronting some really bad guys. Tell us about some of your adventures as an investigative reporter.

There’s a huge been-there-done-that element to the books–I’ve wired myself with hidden cameras, confronted corrupt politicians, chased down criminals . . . been in disguise, been stalked, and threatened and had many a door slammed in my face. I’ve had people confess to murder, and others, from prison, insist they were innocent. So when that happens to Charlie, it’s fair to imagine me. Although the plots are completely from my imagination, those are real-life experiences.

Q: Your job sounds very demanding. How (and when) do you find the time to write? Do you ever take a vacation, and, if so, what do you do with your time off?

Short answer–no. I don’t take vacations anymore. We used to! We love Nevis, a tiny island n the Caribbean with empty white beaches and nothing to do. We love to go to western Massachusetts, to Tanglewood, to go to plays and the symphony and museums. We love to go to Cape Cod, to Truro, to sit on the beach with pals and read, then go out to wonderful dinners. All in the past. Now, I write. And Jonathan lounges in the back yard. Luckily, we have a lovely yard, with a pool and beautiful gardens.

Q: Charlie is afraid of flying, and the airlines are constantly losing her luggage. When you write in Charlie’s voice about these dilemmas, you sound like you’re writing from experience. Is this true?

Sigh. Yes. I am a luggage-loss magnet. If they can lose my bags, they will. It’s almost funny. Almost. As for fear of flying, yes, I am afraid. (Although not as much has I used to be. I’ve worked very hard and tried a lot of things to get over it.) I was once covering a very bad plane crash, in a major airport, and was in a room with a lot of the bleeding and upset survivors of the crash. I often wonder if that bad energy someone affected me.

Q: Even though Charlie has a love interest, basically she’s married to her job. You are married to a very successful criminal defense and civil rights attorney. Is it difficult to maintain a balance between the demands of your careers and your relationship, or do your exciting careers help “keep the fire going.”

Fire? Well, hey. We both really respect each other, and we each think the other is really attractive and funny. We each understand when the other is immersed in work–in a story, or a writing a book, or handling a big case. We think each other’s work is fascinating. Jonathan is incredibly patient. An endlessly interesting. It’s wonderful for me to have in-house counsel to make sure my books are authentic when it comes to legal issues–and it’s fun for him to have a writer-wife who had advised him on his dramatic closing arguments.

Q: Since you write about what you do, do you ever have ethical dilemmas of your profession that cause conflicts between Hank, the author, and Hank, the journalist?

Ah, no. The closest I’ve come to an ethical dilemmas trying to make sure that no one is the books is a representation of a real person. I’m careful about that. There’s no real Franklin. Or Josh. Or Penny. (Is there a real Charlie? Well, that’s possible . . .)

Q: You have won 26 Emmys and 10 Edward R. Murrow Awards. Tell us about the stories that won a couple of these distinguished awards for you.

Here’s a list! We proved the state’s 911 system was sending emergency responders to the wrong addresses. We found there was not one person of color on the federal jury pools in parts of Massachusetts. We discovered why thousand of people were never called for jury duty. We found there were thousands of warrants for peoples’ arrests that were never served . We found people convicted of drunk driving who were still on the road. We found unsafe big rig trucks on the highways and found they were illegally ignoring the weight limits on the state’s bridges, thereby causing expensive and dangerous damage. We found school buses with massive mechanical problems. We found the unit pricing in stores was completely incorrect. We found unscrupulous mortgage companies luring people into foreclosure. At least four–maybe five?–laws have changed as a result of our stories and people have gotten literally millions in refunds and restitution.

Q: Tell us about your writing process. Are you a plotter, or do you wing it when writing? Do you work on one book at a time or more?

Cover of Prime Time by Hank Phillipi Ryan

Such a great question. In PRIME TIME, I totally winged it. I had no idea what I was doing or where I was going, so I just blithely typed away. I typed The End, and then took it to be printed. It was 723 pages long! I had to cut half of it. Yikes.

It was a real editing education but also taught me I needed to be a bit more organized. And a lot tougher as a self-editor. (Now, I outline. Like crazy. My outlines are 60 pages long. I loathe writing them, but I adore it when I’m finished.)

I must say, though, that in writing PRIME TIME with no plan, I surprised even myself. I got about half-way through the book, and realized I’d chosen the wrong bad guy! I literally (as I remember it) sat up in bed, and thought–wait! The person who I thought did it–didn’t!–and it just dawned on me who the real culprit was. It as all I could do not to run downstairs to the computer and see if I was right. The next morning, as I read over my 40,000 words–I barely had to make a change.

The real killer had been lurking in my very own pages–I just hadn’t realized it! Talk about a surprise ending.

And yes, I only work on one book at a time. Well, no, not really. The next book is always forming in my head and just pushing to come out. Sometimes I have to hold it back!.

Q: In addition to the demands of your two successful careers, you seem to have close friendships with other authors. How do these friendships nurture you?

It’s been a long time since I was the new kid! My paIs in the mystery world have opened doors and shown me the way. I could never have figured out his new world without them.

Q: Were you always a public person, comfortable in front of the camera and with a microphone in your hand? Or is this a skill you had to develop? How early did you know you wanted to be a TV journalist? When did you have your first inkling you wanted to be an author?

You know, I have a funny juxtaposition of desire to be in the spotlight–and sheer terror of being in the spotlight. I love my job in TV–and have to go live and unrehearsed all the time. Confession: I’m still terrified every time. I want to be perfect, and when you’re on live, you can’t possibly be. That’s one reason why I love investigative reporting–there’s more time to work, and dig, and polish, and produce. It’s like making a little movie, and I can make it as perfect as possible.

My sisters and I used to create shows when we were all young and perform for our parents in our back yard. I did acting in high school and college. I wanted to be a DJ on the radio for a long time!

My mother says she always knew I would be a television reporter–but I think that was just her way of rationalizing that all I did as a pre-teen and teenager was read books and watch TV.

I knew from my first Nancy Drew that I loved mysteries. Nancy was my first best friend–I was a geeky unpopular kid, and it was such a relief to go home and hang out with Nancy. She was smart and made it be okay to be smart. She was confident and inquisitive and resourceful. I loved that.

I got into TV by chance. I had worked as a radio reporter (hired because, as I informed the radio station, they didn’t have any women working there! Hey. It was the seventies.) But after a few years working in Washington D.C. (on Capitol Hill as a legislative aide and then for Rolling Stone Magazine), Rolling Stone closed its Washington office, and I needed a new job.

I went back home to Indianapolis and applied for a job as a TV reporter. It was 1975. I had covered politics in Washington, and the news director of the station figured he could teach me to be a TV reporter. (This was incredibly risky–I had never taken journalism and didn’t know one thing about TV. But I wasn’t afraid–and knew I could do it.)

Problem was, I should have been afraid! I quickly learned I had no idea what I was doing. I went home every night for the first two weeks–sobbing. Because I thought I would never understand it. Soon after–it hit me–oh, I get it! And I have adored it ever since.

When I do seminars and classes, students ask me how I got started. I tell them, I’ll tell you the story, but it won’t work that way anymore!

Q: Your career in journalism has taken you to several metropolitan areas. Tell us about your odyssey and what brought you ultimately to Boston.

Ah–I worked in television in Indianapolis for a year. As these things sometimes happen, a news director from Atlanta was in town, saw me on TV, and offered me a job in Atlanta. I packed up my stuff, left all my friends and family, and moved to a city where I knew absolutely no one. I stayed there for five years–loved it–and then got the job offer in Boston. Same deal–packed up and started anew. TV is very nomadic–all reporters work to move up the ladder. I’m very happy in Boston!

Q: Which authors do you admire? What books are on your nightstand to be read? Is your husband a reader? If so, do you have a two-person “book club” where you discuss what you’re reading? If so, what book have you recently discussed?

Let’s see: Thomas Wolfe. Tom Wolfe. Mark Helprin. Edith Wharton. I pretty much majored in Shakespeare in college and still love to read the plays. Stephen King. (I called in sick in 1980 so I wouldn’t have to stop reading The Stand. Don’t tell anyone.) In mystery world, Alafair Burke. Julia Spencer-Fleming. Sue Grafton. Margaret Maron. John Lescroart. Michael Connolly. Alex Berenson. Oh, way too many to tell!

Yes, Jonathan is a big mystery reader! And sometimes we do read together. (We’re reading Girl with the Dragon Tattoo now–but he’s way ahead.) I’m judging books for a contest now–so my TBR pile is stacked with entries! Can’t talk about that right now.

Q: What do you wish readers knew about you?
I’m a pretty good cook! I love arranging flowers. I’m…nice. I have such a tough persona on TV–I’m always confronting someone, asking tough questions, being just a tad pushy–so people are always surprised to see me smile. I think I’m pretty funny, too . . . but that may be just me.

What would you like to know?

Q: What is your idea of a relaxing day?

A relaxing day? I must say, haven’t had one in a long long time. (I’ve had some very exciting ones, but not relaxing.)

Let’s see. It would all start with coffee . . . no, wait. The alarm is not set. I can wake up whenever I want, no responsibilities. I smell . . . coffee. My husband comes in and says–amazingly, Starbucks has delivered lattes! Oh, I say, how lovely. We go outside with our lattes and sit at the patio table. There are blueberries and peaches. Our garden is in full bloom, hydrangea, lilies, the first of the dahlias.

We read all the newspapers, and I play with the New York Times crossword puzzle. I remember to check the best-seller list and I’m on it.

Friends come over, and we loll around the pool, floating on inflatable rafts, and reading our books. We do that for, lets say–all day. (Someone brings lunch, magically, somehow. And someone cleans it up. Somehow.)

Cocktails and appetizers on the patio. A lovely dinner–maybe at our local wonderful restaurant. We think about going to a movie, but decide to watch one on TV instead. I fall asleep in the middle of it, as usual.

Doesn’t that sound nice?

Q: Tell us about Charlie’s fourth outing, Drive Time, which will be published in February.

Drive Time brings Charlie’s impossible decision. What happens when you get everything you always dreamed of–but it all happens at the same time. And you cannot possibly do it all?

She’s successful at work–so successful she’s offered a wonderful new job. In another city.

Finally, at age 47–she’s successful at love. But if that’s to continue–she can’t leave town.

And it seems, everyone has a secret. And they’re all asking Charlie to keep them. Does she tell? And when? And how does she balance her loyalties to her job and to her personal life?

And as her decisions unfold, parts of her life become dangerous and threatening: Someone dies. And then someone else. And someone she loves is accused of murder. What if that person is guilty? What will that do to her hope and fears?

There’s blackmail. Extortion. Murder. And a deadly scheme so diabolically clever–you’ll wonder why someone hasn’t tried it! (Yes, perhaps I should have chosen a life of crime–well, I guess I did. It’s just fiction!)

Suanne Brockmann says: “I love this series!”

Q: What is your work in progress?

Balancing my life! Okay, really–I’m working on two other ideas for series . . . but my first love is Charlotte McNally. Will there be more Charlie stories? That depends on you readers! What do you think? Let me know, okay?

Q: How can readers contact you?

Just go to my website and click on contact. Your email will come directly to me!


Interview with Author Joanne Rendell

Saturday, September 5th, 2009

Today I’m interviewing author Joanne Rendell. Her new book, Crossing Washington Square should be perfect for anyone who loves Jane Austen. And if you love Bridget Jones’s Diary even better. Read on to find out about the book and the authors. Thanks for being here, Joanne!

About Joanne Rendell

Photo of Author Joanne RendellJoanne Rendell was born and raised in the UK. After completing her PhD in English Literature, she moved to the States to be with her husband, a professor at NYU. She now lives in faculty housing in New York City with her family. Visit Joanne’s website at


Cover of Crossing Washingtom Square by Joanne Rendell

Across Washington Square live two very different women . . . with their very different love of books.

Some women follow their hearts; others follow their minds. In this "charming, witty, and cerebral" second novel from the acclaimed author of The Professors’ Wives’ Club, we return to Manhattan University, where two strong-willed women are compelled to unite their senses and sensibilities.

Professor Diana Monroe is a highly respected scholar of Sylvia Plath. Serious and aloof, she steadfastly keeps her mind on track. Professor Rachel Grey is young and impulsive, with a penchant for teaching popular women’s fiction like Bridget Jones’s Diary and The Devil Wears Prada, and for wearing her heart on her sleeve.

The two conflicting personalities meet head to heart when Carson McEvoy, a handsome and brilliant professor visiting from Harvard, sets his eyes on both women and creates even more tension between them. Now Diana and Rachel are slated to accompany an undergraduate trip to London, where an almost life-threatening experience with a student celebrity will force them to change their minds and heal their hearts. . . together.


"As readers spend time with these bright and engaging women, Rendell offers an interesting debate about the merits of studying popular fiction in an academic setting." The Romantic Times

"Rendell’s second novel is thoughtful and open, with plenty of interesting academic debate for truly bookish readers." Booklist

"For every reader who has ever wondered why nineteenth century novels about women are called ‘the canon’, but contemporary novels about women are called ‘chick-lit’ comes a charming, witty and cerebral novel about Rachel Grey, an Austen-worth heroine fighting for love and respect in the academic shark tank." Nicola Kraus, New York Times bestselling coauthor of The Nanny Diaries

"Joanne Rendell has done it again! Crossing Washington Square is a book that will stay with you long after you turn that final page. Curl up on a park bench somewhere, watch the leaves fall, and spend some much beloved time with Rachel and Diana." Jessica Brody, bestselling author of The Fidelity Files and Love Under Cover

"Joanne Rendell admirably reveals the hypocrisy of an academic culture that claims to want to understand people and the world they live in, but refuses to take seriously the forms of culture that matter to them." Professor Lawrence Grossberg, Morris Davis Distinguished Professor of Communication Studies and Cultural Studies at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


"Alternately amusing and serious, with a little literary mystery thrown in for good measure, Rendell’s smart and pleasing tale of friendship and self-actualization has broad appeal." Booklist

"[A] fun read about a wonderful group of friends." Kate Jacobs, NYT’s bestselling author of The Friday Night Knitting Club

"charming. . . a delight." Christina Baker Kline, author of The Way Life Should Be

Where to Buy



Barnes and Noble


The Interview

Q: Any fan/fan mail stories you care to share?

My first novel was The Professors’ Wives’ Club. A couple of months after its release, a woman contacted me and said she’d read and enjoyed the book. She told me she was a professor’s wife and after a few emails, she revealed that she was the wife of a very distinguished professor of cultural studies whose work I’d read, who I’d seen giving keynotes talks at conferences, and whose work greatly influenced the writing of Crossing Washington Square. Not really a "rock star" moment, but still exciting to know the wives of influential professors (professors I really dig!) read my book.

Q: Where do you write?

I write at my desk at the front of our apartment. We live on a very busy street in Manhattan so my writing is "lulled" by taxis honking, firetrucks hooting, and jackhammers pounding. With all this practice, I could probably keep writing through an asteroid shower!

Q: What was your inspiration behind your latest novel?

The idea for Crossing Washington Square evolved over a few years. As someone who has lived the academic life (I have a PhD in literature and now I’m married to a professor at NYU), I’ve always loved books about the university — novels like Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys, Richard Russo’s The Straight Man, Zadie Smith’s On Beauty, and Francine Prose’s Blue Angel. But what I noticed about such campus fiction was the lack of female professors in leading roles. Even the female authors like Francine Prose and Zadie Smith’s novels focus on male professors. Furthermore, most of these male professors are disillusioned drunks who quite often sleep with their students! I wanted to write a novel with women professors taking the lead and I wanted these women to be strong and smart and interesting — instead of drunk, despondent, and preoccupied with questionable sexual liaisons!

Q: What line or section of your novel are you most proud of?

Rachel Grey and Diana Monroe are both literature professors in the old boys club of Manhattan University. While this should create a kinship between them, they are very much at odds. Rachel is young, emotional, and impulsive. She wrote a book about women’s book groups which got her a slot on Oprah and she uses "chick lit" in her classes. Diana is aloof, icy, and controlled. She’s also a scholar of Sylvia Plath who thinks "beach" fiction is an easy ride for students. My favorite scene is where these two women face-off in a department meeting. Neither of the professors is a shrinking violet and thus sparks really fly! The scene was such fun to write.

Q: If you were in charge of casting the movie adaptation of your book,
who gets the call?

Crossing Washington Square loosely echoes Austen’s Sense and Sensibilty — with one professor being led by her sense, the other by her sensibility. I love the Ang Lee adaptation of Sense and Sensibility with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet playing the two very different Dashwood sisters. I’d love Emma and Kate to play my professors too!

Q: Is writing your main job? If not, what do you do for your real source of income and how does it impact your writing?

When I’m not writing, I’m hanging out with my six year old son who is homeschooled. Although, "homeschool" is somewhat of a misnomer as we spend a relatively small amount of time schooling at "home." We live in New York so are lucky enough to have an amazing array of fun and educational places on our doorstep. Benny and I, together with his homeschooled friends, are always out on trips to the Met, the Natural History Museum, aquariums, zoos, galleries, libraries, and parks. When we’re not out and about, Benny and I love to read — either together or separately. I’m so thankful he loves books like I do!

Q: What is one of the nicest compliments that you have ever received about your book(s)?

One of the nicest compliments I’ve gotten for Crossing Washington Square (so far. . . I hope there are more to come!) was from Lawrence Grossberg who is a distinguished professor at The University of North Carolina. He is a very big deal in the world of academia and I was so excited that he not only read it, but also said the book "admirably reveals the hypocrisy of an academic culture that claims to want to understand people and the world they live in, but refuses to take seriously the forms of culture that matter to them." The book is not just for "high fallutin" professors, of course! But it was exciting for me that a distinguished professor liked it.

Q: What’s next for you?

I’m working on final edits for my third novel (which was bought by Penguin last fall). The novel tells the story of a woman who thinks she might be related to the nineteenth century writer, Mary Shelley. On her journey to seek the truth and to discover if there really is a link between her own family and the creator of Frankenstein, Clara unearths surprising facts about people much closer to home — including some shocking secrets about the ambitious scientist she is engaged to. The book is told in alternating points of view between Clara and the young Mary Shelley who is preparing to write Frankenstein.

Q: New readers want to know about your book! In 2-3 sentences, can you tell us the basic premise?

Crossing Washington Square is a story of two very different women and their very different love of books. Rachel Grey and Diana Monroe are both literature professors in the old boys club of Manhattan University. While this should create a kinship between them, they are very much at odds and when a brilliant and handsome professor from Harvard comes to town and sets his sights on both women, sparks really fly!

Q: Did you have any input on the cover, and are you happy with the finished product?

I received the first draft of the cover via email. I opened it and instantly fell in love! I really had no suggestions to make it better. I thought it was perfect and really captured the spirit of the book. It kind of looks like a Penguin classic (with the square title box and the particular typeface), but it is coupled with the very modern photo of the girl. This juxtaposition really captures what the book is about. In other words, how some people love classical books, other like modern, popular books, but how all books — whatever kind — can unite people in the end.

Actually, I recently contacted Melody Cassen who designed the cover for Crossing Washington Square and the cover of my first book The Professors’ Wives’ Club. I told her how much I loved her work. She was so pleased and said that she rarely hears feedback from authors about their covers. So, tip of the day for authors, if you like your cover, drop the designer a line and tell them!

Q: Who’s your favorite character and why?

That’s a tough one! My knee jerk response is to say Professor Rachel Grey because, out of the two female leads, I identify most with her. Rachel teaches chick lit in her classes and has to defend her work and the genre to her stuffy colleagues who think only the classics and literary fiction should be studied. As a grad student, I would be reading classical literature and poetry by day, but then secretly read popular women’s fiction at night (Bridget Jones’ Diary, I have to say, is one of my all time favorite books!). Rachel is also flawed and emotional, yet good and honest and brave. I like that about her.

Every time I revisit the book, however, I like Professor Diana Monroe more too. She’s super smart and has great poise and grace as a teacher. She’s the kind of uber-professor that every academic secretly wants to be. She’s also pretty darn scary in her austerity and brilliance. But she has a vulnerability too and her life started out pretty tough and therefore, every time I revisit the book, I like her more.

Q: For you, what is the most difficult part of being an author?

Settling down to write. Once I get going, I love it. But there’s just that hurdle of getting going which is so hard — especially these days when there are so many demands on authors to go online and promote our books. It is wonderful to meet people and connect and learn through the internet, but the web is also a huge procrastination vortex! I sometimes kid myself I’m doing promo work, but really I’m just wasting time snooping around on Facebook or reading other people’s tweets about what they ate for breakfast!


Interview with Author Carleen Brice

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

I’m thrilled to be hosting author Carleen Brice today. Read through this post to find out how you might win a free signed copy of her book, Children of The Waters.

About Carleen Brice

Photo of Author Carleen BriceCarleen Brice’s debut novel, Orange Mint and Honey, was an Essence "Recommended Read" and a Target "Bookmarked Breakout Book." For this book, she won the 2009 First Novelist Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and the 2008 Break Out Author Award at the African American Literary Awards Show. Orange Mint and Honey was optioned by Lifetime Movie Network.

Her second novel, Children of the Waters (One World/Ballantine), a book about race, love and family, just came out at the end of June. Booklist Online called it "a compelling read, difficult to put down." Essence says, "Brice has a new hit." You can read an excerpt at her website

She is at work on her third novel, Calling Every Good Wish Home, and she maintains the blogs White Readers Meet Black Authors ( and The Pajama Gardener (


Cover of Children of the Water by Carleen Brice

I was exhausted and singing the blues the hour I began Carleen Brice’s new novel, CHILDREN OF THE WATERS. Five hours later, I’d finished this fresh, free-rein novel about mothers’ secrets and children’s sorrows and was shouting ‘Hurray!’

–Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean

In CHILDREN OF THE WATERS, Carleen Brice manages to explore the difficult, messy and unpleasant details of life with both humor and wisdom. The parallel journeys of sisters, Trish and Billie, will resonate with everyone and anyone who has questioned their identity and place in this world. Once again, Carleen Brice has crafted a thoroughly enjoyable novel that gets at the heart of the human experience.

— Lori Tharps, author of Kinky Gazpacho

CHILDREN OF THE WATERS (A One World Trade Paperback Original; On Sale: June 23, 2009) by Carleen Brice—author of the #1 Denver Post bestseller and Essence Book Club Pick Orange Mint and Honey—explores the connection between love and race, and what it really means to be family.

Brice’s compelling, eagerly anticipated new novel CHILDREN OF THE WATERS strikes deep emotional chords and poses the intriguing question: Can two strangers become sisters?

Trish Taylor’s white ancestry never got in the way of her love for her black ex-husband, or their mixed race son, Will. But when Trish’s marriage ends, she returns to her family’s Denver, Colorado home to find a sense of identity and connect to her past.

What she finds there shocks her to the very core: her mother and newborn sister were not killed in a car crash as she was told. In fact, her baby sister, Billie Cousins, is now a grown woman; her grandparents had put her up for adoption, unwilling to raise the child of a black man. Billie, who had no idea she was adopted, wants nothing to do with Trish until a tragedy in Billie’s own family forces her to lean on her surprisingly supportive and sympathetic sister. Together they unravel the age-old layers of secrets and resentments and navigate a path toward love, healing, and true reconciliation..

Essence wrote that Orange Mint and Honey "will have you hooked from page one" –and so will Brice’s latest.

By Carleen Brice
A One World Trade Paperback Original; On Sale: June 23, 2009
978-0-345-49907-3; $14.00; 224 pp

The interview

Tell me a little bit about the book
A: Still reeling from divorce and feeling estranged from her teenage son, Trish Taylor is in the midst of salvaging the remnants of her life when she uncovers a shocking secret: her sister is alive. For years Trish believed that her mother and infant sister had died in a car accident. But the truth is that her mother fatally overdosed and that Trish’s grandparents put the baby girl up for adoption because her father was black.

After years of drawing on the strength of her black ancestors, Billie Cousins is shocked to discover that she was adopted. Just as surprising, after finally overcoming a series of health struggles, she is pregnant–a dream come true for Billie but a nightmare for her sweetie, Nick, and for her mother, both determined to protect Billie from anything that may disrupt her well-being.

If your protagonist were to wake up one day with a super power, what would that super power be? Alternatively (or both!) if your protagonist were to wake up one day with an intense craving for something, what would the craving be?
A: Billie would like the power to heal people. Trish would like to be able to talk with animals and understand what they say back.

Would your villain (or antagonist) prefer to be Emperor Ming The Merciless or Darth Vader? Why?
A: I don’t really have a villain in this story.

What do you consider the heart of your story? That is, what is the issue or emotion that propels things forward? Spill your guts on this one.
A: The heart of the story is the importance of family. What really makes people family. Is it blood? Is it history? Is it love, shared experienced? And what’s the definition of family. . . aren’t we all related if you go back far enough?

If you were in charge of casting the movie adaptation of your book,who gets the call?
A: Halle Berry as Billie. Idris Elba as her lover Nick. Jennifer Anniston as Trish.

Is there a scene you cut from the book that you kind of wish you could put back in?
A: Not with this one.

Do you have a sample chapter posted?
A: I’m an overachiever-posted the first 3 chapters!

Tell us why your editor is the best editor ever in the universe.
A: She’s a genuinely good person, and I really appreciate the fight she fights in-house for me.

For a chance to win a free, signed copy of Carleen’s book, Children of the Waters all you have to do is leave a comment on this post. If your profile doesn’t link to a valid email, PLEASE either include your email or commit to checking back on Tuesday, July 28 to see if you’re the winner.


Interview with Author Samantha Wilde

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

Today, I interview author Samantha Wilde.


Samantha Wilde is the mother of two born in under two years. A graduate of Concord Academy, Smith College, Yale Divinity School and The New Seminary, she lives in Western Massachusetts with her husband and children. She is the daughter of novelist Nancy Thayer. When she’s not mothering her toddler and baby, she writes, teaches yoga, and moonlights as a minister. Although she never sleeps, she’s never once been tempted to give her children away to the highest bidder (well, almost never). She’s currently using nap times to write her second novel for Bantam Dell. You can visit her at

About the Book

This summerCover of This Little Mommy Stayed Home by Samantha Wilde, Samantha Wilde makes her literary debut with THIS LITTLE MOMMY STAYED HOME, a fresh and funny novel about a new mother who discovers the wonders and terrors of motherhood–one hilarious crisis at a time. The book was published as a Bantam Trade Paperback Original on June 23, 2009.

The novel introduces Joy McGuire who has gone from being skinny and able to speak in complete sentences to someone who hasn’t changed her sweatpants in weeks. But now with a new baby to care for, she feels like a woman on the brink and as she scrambles to recapture the person she used to be she takes another look at the woman she is: a stay-at-home mom in love with her son, if a bit addled about everything else. As a new mom herself, Wilde, a graduate of Yale Divinity School, wrote THIS LITTLE MOMMY STAYED HOME after the birth of her son when she was experiencing the ups and downs of new motherhood. According to Wilde, "I wrote the book because I couldn’t not write it. I took my lap top to my bed during my son’s naps and wrote and wrote. I wrote the book I wanted to read. The book takes a hard look at the effects of new motherhood on a woman and on a marriage through the eyes of one stressed but insightful woman. It’s a story that will keep mothers going when they think they can’t go any further."

With THIS LITTLE MOMMY STAYED HOME, Samantha Wilde brings a candid and hilarious light to the universal story of new motherhood.

The Interview

Q: Are your children readers and have they become more so because you write? What do they think about what you do and the pursuit of your dream?
A: My babies, three and one, both love to read. My son, who can’t actually read, often "reads" to himself, making up stories. He treats books like special blankets. And the nice part is, even though he is so young, he can understand what it means that "mama wrote a book." Meanwhile my daughter, at one, loves the cover. She’s crazy for pictures of babies.

Q: When deadlines hit, what happens in your house?
A: I get more tired. The toilet bowl has to wait until late at night to be cleaned. I "stay-at-home" with my kids, so that’s my real job. If anything suffers during deadlines, it’s the house, which is not so tidy to begin with. No, that’s not true. It’s me who suffers. I won’t nap, and I’ll stay up later. I’ll forego a shower or a walk. So I guess I’m saying that I get stinky and fat. That doesn’t sound very good, does it?

Q: If you weren’t writing, what would you be doing instead?
A: I’d teach yoga, which I do once a week anyway. And be with my kids more, though it hardly seems possible. Or maybe I’d just be lying in bed reading and eating chocolate. That would be nice. But then you didn’t mean if I wasn’t writing AND was wealthy, did you?

Q: Have you given your favorite names to characters yet or are you waiting for that special character and book?
A: I’m saving my best names for my children.

Q: What’s your idea of the perfect travel destination and why?
A: My backyard, so to speak. I love to drive from home and wander to nearby towns that we’ve never been too. Really, what I like to do is pay attention to things near me. I don’t have much lust to wander. I long to pay attention to the things close that I may have never seen before. It’s amazing how much I haven’t seen before.

Q: Which scene (or scenes) in your novel did you love writing?
A: Why? I loved writing the fights between Joy and her husband. It was more fun than fighting and used up all my crankiness. Actually, I enjoyed writing most of it. Joy is so sassy and funny, I looked forward to what she might say or do.

Q: What would you change about your life if you became the next Sophie Kinsella?
A: Oooh, good one. That’s such a good one. I’d do what I’m doing on a bigger scale. I’d have more children. I’ve always wanted more children. I’d adopt some children. I’d have more friends for dinner, and more dates with my husband, and spend more time with family. I’d use the money for our children’s education and I’d buy as many books as I wanted. And it wouldn’t be bad to have a kitchen from this century. Or a house with a entry way for dirty shoes!

Q: Any tried and true tricks for beating procrastination?
A: Who has time to procrastinate? Have some young kids. You will not have the privilege of indulging it.

Q: What was your inspiration behind your latest novel?
A: Life with babies. The incredible transformation into motherhood. A growing fascination with mothering, what it means to mother, what becomes of a woman who becomes a mother. And what becomes of a marriage when a baby is born. I wrote the story I wanted to read, essentially.

Q: Since becoming a writer, what’s the most glamorous thing you’ve ever done?
A: I bought new bras! Of course that’s not so glamorous but I went to the expensive bra store and had a proper fitting and paid a LOT for them and wore them for my book signings. That IS glamour when you live in the country.

Q: Is writing your main job? If not, what do you do for your real source of income and how does it impact your writing?
A: The "real source" of my income is my husband. What do I do with him? Send him to work! He’s a professor of chemical engineering. I "stay home" with the kids, which includes a great deal of being elsewhere. I adore being with my children—even if it is honestly the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. By training I’m a yoga teacher and an ordained minister. I do keep up with both of those occupations, teaching a weekly yoga class, and "free lancing" by officaitng at weddings and blessing babies. My real job is mothering.

Q: If you could get a rave review in People magazine, what would you want it to say about your new book?
A: "Powerfully honest, roaringly funny, compelling and true. THIS LITTLE MOMMY STAYED HOME is the mother of all motherhood novels." That was fun!

Q: Do you have show and tell with your first draft? Who do you trust for honest reaction, or is so fragile you show it to one you love who you know will be kind?
A: My mother, Nancy Thayer, is almost always my first reader. She’s just published her 19th novel and as a bestselling writer who’s been in the industry for thirty years I trust her opinion. She’s a good critic for me, not too soft or too hard, and I always know she has my best interests in mind.

Q: What has brought you the greatest joy since you were published, and what has caused you the greatest angst?
A: Publicity has been difficult. I find self-promotion challenging on many levels. I don’t know what I’m doing, but I know I need to do something. My greatest joy? Probably realizing that my happiness has nothing to do with my book. I know that’s counterintuitive, but here’s the thing. When you long to be a published writer your whole life, you imagine when it happens, something will change—fireworks, lottery-style money, fame, etc. Getting the book published has put my dreams into perspective. I feel so blessed to have the book out there, but I am also relieved to find that my life is rich enough to sustain the possibility that it is—simply—a book. My treasure is in my children and my family. Strange kind of joy, isn’t it?

Praise for Samantha Wilde:

"Here’s a talent: when a narrator’s doldrums make a reader laugh out loud. Samantha Wilde’s inkwell must be filled with truth-serum because this brave and funny book gets the postpartum peaks and valleys so very, winningly right."
–Elinor Lipman, author of Then She Found Me

"Think of the funniest person you know, give her a baby and a month without sleep, multiply by ten and you’ve got the incomparable Samantha Wilde rocking the hilariously appalling realities of motherhood and the modern marriage. This book belongs on the bedside table of everyone who’s ever been a mother, or had one."
–Karen Karbo, author of The Stuff of Life and How to Hepburn

"[This] is the funniest novel I’ve read in a long, long time. What a treat! Mothers everywhere deserve this book."
–Ellen Meister, author of The Smart One

"Samantha Wilde is the irreverent, knowing, laugh-out-loud, brutally honest but most treasured best friend that every new mommy craves and every reader relishes. They should issue this smart, hilarious novel along with newborn onesies and nursing pads."
–Pamela Redmond Satran, author of Babes in Captivity

"Riotously hilarious, unabashedly honest and positively impossible to put down. Samantha Wilde’s debut is a must read for all moms and non-moms alike."
–Jessica Brody, author of The Fidelity Files


Interview with Sheila Curran

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

Today, I’m hosting author Sheila Curran who has a wonderful new book out, Everyone She Loved. A book to read, folks, and summer is the perfect time!

About Sheila Curran – in her own words

While I’m essentially the same person you can read about from my 2005 ABOUT THE AUTHOR page, I’ve had a recent brush with a somewhat rare form of tonsil cancer.
Photo of Author Sheila Curran
Oddly, my tonsils were removed when I was ten. Apparently however, there was enough of a molecular launch pad to set off a chain reaction that began with surgery (a breeze) followed by radiation therapy (best not mentioned in polite company) and ended with a rather anti-climactic convalescence from the effects of having one’s mouth, tongue and throat fried, refried and blackened for good measure. Smoothies and soups. Smoothies and soups. Repeat as necessary.

While this experience has eroded my opportunities for food evangelism and martini drinking, it has certainly reinforced the truth of my final things you might want to know about me, in 2005.

I have been kept alive, literally and figuratively, by the affection and support of my family and friends, whose sum total is my proudest boast and matters much more to me than my bank balance or intelligence quotient.

About the Book: Everything She Loved

A wise and triumphant novel about powerful bonds among four women who’ve come of age together only to discover that – when it comes to the essentials – life’s little instruction book will always need revising.
Penelope Cameron, loving mother, devoted wife and generous philanthropist, has convinced her husband and four closest friends to sign an outlandish pact. If Penelope should die before her two daughters are eighteen, her husband will not remarry without the permission of Penelope’s sister and three college roommates. For years, this contract gathers dust until the unthinkable happens. Suddenly, everyone she loved must find their way in a world without Penelope.
Cover of Everyone She Loved
For Lucy Vargas, Penelope’s best friend, and a second mother to her daughters, nothing seems more natural than to welcome them into a home that had once belonged to their family, a lovely, sprawling, bed and breakfast on the beach. This bequest was only one of the many ways in which Penelope had supported Lucy’s career as a painter, declaring her talent too important to squander. But now, in the wake of a disaster that only lovable, worrisome Penelope could have predicted, Lucy has put her work on hold as she and Penelope’s husband, Joey, blindly grasp at anything that will keep the girls from sinking under the weight of their grief.

With the help of family and friends, the children slowly rebuild new lives. But just when things start to come together, the fragile serenity they have gained is suddenly threatened from within and the unbreakable bonds they share seem likely to dissolve after all.

In this moving and uplifting novel, Sheila Curran explores the faith one woman placed in her dearest friends, the care she took to protect her family, and the many ways in which romantic entanglements will confound and confuse even the most determined of planners. A story about growing up and moving on, about the sacrifices people make for one another, about the timeless legacy of love, Everyone She Loved is, above all, about the abiding strength of friendship.

Reviews and Buying The Book

You can read reviews of Everyone She Loved at her website

If you’d like to buy this wonderful story you can find several links to sources at Sheila’s website.

The Interview

Q: Tell me a little bit about the book.
Four women, friends since college, live in a charming southern beach town. One of them, Penelope, has more money than God. Which may be why she insists on playing the deity from time to time. Despite her beauty and inherited wealth, she becomes preoccupied with what might happen to her husband and children if she died. So she talks her husband into signing a codicil to her will. If she should die, he won’t remarry unless the new wife (and more importantly) mother, has been approved by her sister and three best friends. Years go by, the codicil gathers dust, and more than its share of hilarity, until the unthinkable happens and everyone she loved must find their way without Penelope. Simply told, it’s old money in the New South, romantic confusion, legal entanglements, and the unbreakable bonds between four women — and a man.

Q: If your protagonist were to wake up one day with a super power, what would that super power be?
She would be able to change the electro-magnetic field of the earth so that all weapons were useless and all bullies became physically helpless.

Q: Would your villain (or antagonist) prefer to be Emperor Ming The
Merciless or Darth Vader?

Darth Vader. Because his backstory is so complicated, it makes the hero’s actions carry more emotional weight.

Q: What do you consider the heart of your story? That is, what is the issue or emotion that propels things forward? Spill your guts on this one.
The story is about how those who are in mourning often battle guilt. They sometimes sabotage their own well-being out of that guilt. It’s about how fragile we are as humans, at least those who are emotionally connected, and that connection can both weaken us against people who don’t share our sentiments, and also strengthen our powers to bounce back.

Q: If you were in charge of casting the movie adaptation of your book, who gets the call?
Patrick Dempsey (McDreamy on Grey’s Anatomy) or Liam Neeson could play Joey Adorno. Jessica Sarah Parker or Kyra Sedgewick could play the interloping nutritionist. Penelope Cruz or Holly Hunter would be great as Penelope. Lucy, Kate Winslet, Scarlett Johannsen, or Catherine Keener, who played Harper Lee in Capote and the love interest in 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN. Martha: Frances McDormand, Cameron Diaz or Ellen Barkin. Susannah: Sandra Bullock, Tea Leoni or Kate Hudson.

Q: Is there a scene you cut from the book that you kind of wish you
could put back in?

Not in this one. In my first novel, set in England, my first line was Diana Lively is naked under her shiny yellow Mac. My editor at Penguin told me that too few Americans would understand that Mac is short for Mackintosh, or raincoat. So we changed the line to Diana Lively is naked under her bright yellow raincoat. The reason she’s standing there in her shower, wearing her raincoat is because she’s phobic about insects and has just discovered her pre-schooler with a packed of "Walking Stick Insect eggs" her brother has sent away for in the mail. Originally, the infestation was head lice but my friend Jane Ulrich told me lice are too "icky." I trusted her, but I hated to lose the head lice because they provided such a perfect contrast for the opulent living conditions at her husband’s suite in the Oxford colleges.

Q: Do you have a sample chapter posted?
Please go to my my website to read the first chapter. I dare you not to want to read the rest!

Q: Tell us why your editor is the best editor ever in the universe.
Because she picked up a nobody like me. Her other writers are Jodi Picoult, Vince Flynn, Brad Thor and Jennifer Wiener. And she took a chance on me! Plus, when I didn’t like the first cover they sent, she actually listened and had the new one made. Plus, she’s got a knack for cutting out superfluous and self-indulgent prose. PLUS, she came up with the title, and I think it’s a gem. It’s short, sweet, and can be understood on so many levels.


Interview with Judi Fennell

Monday, June 1st, 2009

Today, I interview debut author Judi Fennell. All I can say is Mermen rock. Read on, and check her out awesome contest, too!

About The Author:

Judi Fennell has had her nose in a book and her head in some celestial realm all her life, including those early years when her mom would exhort her to "get outside!" instead of watching Bewitched or I Dream of Jeannie on television. So she did–right into Dad’s hammock with her Nancy Drew books

Photo of Author Judi Fennell

These days she’s more likely to have her nose in her laptop and her head (and the rest of her body) at her favorite bookstore, but she’s still reading, whether it be her latest manuscript or friends’ books.

A three-time finalist in online contests, Judi has enjoyed the reader feedback she’s received and would love to hear what you think about her Mer series. Check out her website at for excerpts, reviews and fun pictures from reader and writer conferences, and the chance to "dive in" to her stories.

About the Book

In Over Her Head
Sourcebooks, June 2009
ISBN # 9781402220012
Cover of In Over Her Head by Judi Fennell
When Erica Peck, one terrified-of-the-ocean marina owner, finds herself at the bottom of the sea conversing with a Mer man named Reel, she thinks she’s died and gone to her own version of Hell. When the Oceanic Council demands she and Reel retrieve a lost cache of diamonds from the resident sea monster in return for their lives, she knows she’s died and gone to Hell.

When they escape the monster and end up on a deserted island, she amends her opinion – she’s died and gone to Heaven.

But when Reel sacrifices himself to allow her to return to her world, she realizes that, Heaven or Hell, with Reel, she’s In Over Her Head.

What people are saying:

Nora Roberts? Danielle Steel? Much acclaimed romance writers should step aside. There is a new romance writer in town and she is certainly causing a great splash with her debut novel, In Over Her Head.

I truly found a pearl in my oyster when I read this delightful tale. I was surprised how good of a book In Over Her Head is. It is extremely well-written, the storyline flows and I was hooked from the first page.

IN OVER HER HEAD is a delightful, quirky blend of humor, adventure and passion. All in all, this is a fast, fun read and a great way to spend a snowy afternoon or a sunny day at the beach.
— Lynda K. Scott, Star-Crossed Romance

In Over Her Head is a heartwarming, but action-packed story of two people-one human and the other of the seaworthy body-joined together in an adventure. I enjoyed this story immensely.
— Dawn M. Ekinia, Armchair Interviews

A delightful underwater adventure… full of good-natured humor and fun. A strong first effort by a promising new talent.
— Romantic Times

A playful debut… sincere wit.
— Publisher’s Weekly


To celebrate the release of each of her books, Judi Fennell and the Atlantis Inn ( and the Hibiscus House ( bed and breakfasts are raffling off three romantic beach getaway weekends. All information is on Judi’s website,

The Interview

1. Tell me a little bit about the book.

When Erica Peck, one terrified-of-the-ocean marina owner, finds herself at the bottom of the sea conversing with a Mer man named Reel, she thinks she’s died and gone to her own version of Hell. When the Oceanic Council demands she and Reel retrieve a lost cache of diamonds from the resident sea monster in return for their lives, she knows she’s died and gone to Hell.

When they escape the monster and end up on a deserted island, she amends her opinion – she’s died and gone to Heaven.
But when Reel sacrifices himself to allow her to return to her world, she realizes that, Heaven or Hell, with Reel, she’s In Over Her Head.

2. If your protagonist were to wake up one day with a super power, what would that super power be?

Heh. I think Erica would love to be able to fly. That’d get her out of the ocean in a flash if a shark showed up. The fact that it’s also the superpower I’d love to have could be totally coincidental. But probably isn’t. Alternatively (or both!) if your protagonist were to wake up one day with an intense craving for something, what would the craving be? Kajiki – swordfish sushi. Paybacks are a bitch.

3. Would your villain (or antagonist) prefer to be Emperor Ming The Merciless or Darth Vader? Why? (If you’ve never watched Flash Gordon, feel free to Google or substitute the villain of your choice.)

Darth – Ming ruled a planet. Darth has a bigger focus; he wants every universe out there. Ceto has a bone to pick with The Gods and she wouldn’t mind having more power than them.

4. What do you consider the heart of your story? That is, what is the issue or emotion that propels things forward? Spill your guts on this one.

Reel’s realization. I didn’t see that one coming, and, no, I’m not giving it away here. But it touched me when I wrote that scene. There’s one line in there that just took my breath away when I wrote it about being a son and a father.

5. If you were in charge of casting the movie adaptation of your book, who gets the call?

I laugh when I get this question because I hadn’t really thought about it until I had to start doing promo because everyone asks it. Matthew McConaughey’s character in Failure to Launch inspired Reel’s devil-may-care attitude, and he does look like him and I think Matthew could do Reel really well. I love Sandra Bullock playing opposite Matthew, and her character in Two Weeks’ Notice — the chattiness and sarcasm to cover her insecurities – would play well with Erica.

6. Is there a scene you cut from the book that you kind of wish you could put back in? (Feel free to include a URL to it, it you have it posted on line.)

Nope. Everything I wrote is in there.

7. Do you have a sample chapter posted?

I have an excerpt at:

8. Tell us why your editor is the best editor ever in the universe.

Because she loved my story enough to buy it! And the next two in the series on proposal. Seriously, she and I had formed a great relationship through industry functions and she wanted to make something work for us – when this came across her desk, it was the right one.


Interview with April Henry

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Today, April Henry visits the blog and is interviewed by yours truely! Yay! Her release Face of Betrayal sounds right up my alley. I love stories like this. Here we go…

About the book – Face of Betrayal

When 17-year-old Senate page Katie Converse goes missing on her Christmas break near her parents’ white Victorian home in Portland, Ore., law enforcement and the media go into overdrive in a search for clues. Three friends at the pinnacle of their respective careers–Allison Pierce, a federal prosecutor; Cassidy Shaw, a crime reporter; and Nicole Hedges, an FBI special agent–soon discover that Katie wasn’t the picture of innocence painted by her parents. Did Katie run away to escape their stifling demands? Was she having an affair with the senator who sponsored her as a page? Has she been kidnapped? Is she the victim of a serial killer?
Cover of Face of Betrayal

About the authors

April Henry knows how to kill you in a two-dozen different ways. She makes up for a peaceful childhood in an intact home by killing off fictional characters. April had one detour on her path to destruction: when she was 12 she sent a short story about a six-foot tall frog who loved peanut butter to noted children’s author Roald Dahl. He liked it so much he arranged to have it published in an international children’s magazine.
April Henry
By the time she was in her 30s, April had come to terms with her childhood and started writing about hit men, drug dealers, and serial killers. She has published six mysteries and thrillers, with five more under contract. Her books have gotten starred
reviews, been on Booksense (twice!), translated into four languages, short-listed for the Oregon Book Award, and chosen as a Quick Pick by the American Library Association.
April firing a Sig Sauer at Firing Range
April co-wrote Face of Betrayal with Lis Wiehl, a legal analyst on FOX. They have a contract for three more Triple Threat mysteries.

In March, April’s young adult thriller, Torched, came out from Putnam.

What others are saying

Publishers Weekly
"A sizzling political thriller. . . The seamless plot offers a plethora of twists and turns."

Romantic Times
4.5 stars [and they don’t give out five stars] "Wiehl and Henry have penned a winner that seems to come straight from the headlines. Captivating suspense, coupled with tightly written prose, will entertain and intrigue."

"Readers are in for a treat as trial lawyer/commentator Lis Wiehl and mystery author April Henry team up for a political thriller."

Find out More!

April’s Website
April’s blog

The Interview

Q: Tell me a little bit about the book (Back cover blurb is fine)
A: My latest book, Face of Betrayal, was co-written with FOX legal analyst Lis Wiehl. It publishes April 7 from Thomas Nelson. In it, three women who fight crime are also friends. Allison Pierce is a federal prosecutor, Cassidy Shaw is a TV crime reporter, and Nicole Hedges is a FBI agent. The book begins when a 17-year-old Senate page goes missing when she’s home on Christmas break. The prime suspect is the senator who sponsored her – and who might have been having an affair with her.

Q: If your protagonist were to wake up one day with a super power, what would that super power be?
A: We have three protagonists. Allison would like to always know the truth. Cassidy would like to look great all the time without having to make any effort. And Nicole would like a guarantee that her daughter will always be safe.

Q: Would your villain (or antagonist) prefer to be Emperor Ming The Merciless or Darth Vader? Why? (If you’ve never watched Flash Gordon,feel free to Google or substitute the villain of your choice.)
A: Voldemort. All that power !

Q: If you were in charge of casting the movie adaptation of your book, who gets the call?
A: Kristen Stewart to play Katie, Jennifer Garner to play Allison, Thandie Newton to play Nicole, and Cameron Diaz to play Cassidy.

Q: Is there a scene you cut from the book that you kind of wish you could put back in?
A: The editor was worried that the book was too downbeat. So we moved a major life moment for one of the characters into the second book. It was a great solution, because we got to save the scene, which I loved, and also not make the first book too heavy.

Q: Do you have a sample chapter posted?
A: Read Chapter 1

Q: Tell us why your editor is the best editor ever in the universe.
A: She is full of praise. I have worked with editors who are blunt and sarcastic. I tell you, it’s lot easier to work with one who sandwiches her criticism between sincere praise. And she gets the books. She gently points out areas that need to be stronger, and has suggestions for how to approach the problem.