Monthly Archives: March 2021

Story Behind the Story: Lady Rample Steps Out by Shéa MacLeod

Apparently, when you dream a book, you should write it! Shéa MacLeod did just that, with a protagonist, Lady Rample, who burst from a midnight reverie as did Pallas Athena from Zeus. You might want to get into your head just as MacLeod did, because what she transmuted from dream to manuscript was a fun jazz-era English detective who was all parts Katharine Hepburn, no parts stodgy, and every bit feel-good solver of murders. (Or maybe solver of feel-good murders. Or both.)  If what’s in your head is anything like what’s in MacLeod’s, by all means, get it down on paper!

Lady Rample Mysteries feature Shéa MacLeod’s character from a dream.

What’s the theme behind your story?

I rarely have a conscious theme when writing. I simply start out to tell a fun story and somewhere along the way a theme sort of weaves itself in. If Lady Rample Steps Out had a theme, it’s about friendship, acceptance, and the wages of greed. 

What’s the logline?

When Lady Rample steps out, murder steps in.

What were you thinking about or what was happening when the idea for this series occurred to you?

I was dreaming. No, literally! I dreamed the character and two of the titles. It was incredibly clear, and I woke up just knowing I had to write about this woman’s adventures. It was about a year later that I put out the first book. 

How did you conceive of your characters for this story and how did they change?

As I mentioned, the main character, Lady Rample, appeared to me in a dream. She looked like Katharine Hepburn when she was young. She had zero forks to give, a cocktail in one hand, and a smirk on her lips. I’m not sure much has changed since then, except she does have more of a propensity for a bit of klutziness now and then. Other characters like Aunt Butty (of the crazy hats) came along later as I thought about the people who would occupy this woman’s inner circle. They wouldn’t be usual or ordinary. They would be quirky and a bit odd and thoroughly wonderful. 

Are you pleased with the results, or do you wish you had done anything differently in the story? Why or why not?

I love the story and I doubt I would do anything differently if I had the chance. I’m not the sort of person who dwells on stories already told—I’m too busy writing the next one! Besides, the beauty of a long-running series is that I can explore different aspects of personality, different characters, different experiences, and different locations. If I didn’t spend enough time on something as I wanted, I have the chance in the next book. It never gets boring!

Who would play the leads in the movie if (when!) you make a deal?

Well, since Katharine Hepburn is out, and so is Cary Grant (who would have played her best friend, Chaz), I shall have to search among contemporary actors! I think Evan Rachel Wood (although a bit young) would make a marvelous Lady Rample. Dame Judi Dench could play her eccentric, hat-loving Aunt Butty, and Dame Helen Mirren would be Aunt Butty’s BFF, Louise Pennyfather. Meanwhile, Lady R’s best friend Chaz would be played by Harry Lloyd, and her paramour, jazz musician Hale Davis, by Idris Elba.

What else do you want readers to know?

The Lady Rample Mysteries are set in 1930s London during the jazz era. Be prepared for lots of afternoon tea, vintage cocktails, lovely parties, madcap capers, and the occasional feel-good murder.

Bio

Shéa MacLeod is the author of over 65 titles including the popular cozy mystery series, Lady Rample Mysteries, and the bestselling urban fantasy/paranormal romance series, Sunwalker Saga. She has dreamed of writing novels since before she could hold a crayon. She totally blames her mother.

She resides in the leafy green hills outside Portland, Oregon, where she indulges in her fondness for strong coffee, Hopepunk, lemon curd, and dragons. She can usually be found at her desk dreaming of creative ways to off her characters. She quite loves a feel-good murder. Fictionally speaking, of course.

Buy Link

https://books2read.com/u/4Aw2vk

Story Behind The Story: The Highlander’s Rescued Maiden by Anna Campbell

How many times have you been inspired by a photograph, maybe of a place that made you wonder about its history? In Anna Campbell’s novel, a place was the inspiration, and she included photos of Coroghan Castle to demonstrate (and you’ve got to admit, it’s a beautiful, though forbidding spot!). 

What’s the theme behind your story?

True love can come unexpectedly, but when it does, it’s worth any risk. 

What’s the logline?

The Highlands just got hotter!

What were you thinking about or what was happening when the idea occurred to you?

In the spring of 2019, I visited the gorgeous Hebridean island of Canna in Scotland and found myself intrigued by what I thought was a ruined castle on the coast looking straight out across at the Isle of Skye. When I asked about it, I was told that it was called Coroghan Castle, and it was originally a jail! In the 17th century, a jealous husband locked his beautiful wife up in this small cell to keep her out of her lover’s reach. As you can imagine, this got my writer’s imagination working overtime. 

So my Rapunzel story was born. I changed the jealous husband to a tyrannical father and the beautiful wife became a lovely maiden, banished from her clan. The rather grim castle on Canna turned into a luxurious tower on a tiny islet out in the ocean. The guesthouse where I stayed looked out over the Atlantic toward an isolated lighthouse called Hyskeir, which became the basis for my heroine Ellen’s world.

You can read more about Coroghan Castle and the events that inspired the original idea for my story here: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-14837405

I’ve included a couple of pictures of Coroghan Castle that I took on Canna. While the setting is beautiful, it’s a rather sad and forbidding place and not really a setting for romance. You can see why I turned Ellen’s lonely tower into a haven of luxury! 

How did the original idea change as you went along?

My original concept for the story was as a grand adventure with much derring-do and swashbuckling, but when I sat down to write it, it ended up becoming something much more intimate and sensual. For most of the story, it’s just Will and Ellen learning how to trust each other and falling in love. 

How did you conceive of your characters for this story and how did they change?

My heroine, Ellen Cameron, was always a strong and intelligent woman who was a victim of unspeakable injustice. As I wrote her, the effects of ten years of lonely exile became clearer, so the final product is more complex and rounded than my original idea (that always happens!). I first thought of my hero as a dashing, cynical rogue who stumbled into true love much against his will. On the page, though, Will Mackinnon was much more emotionally aware than I’d planned. He’d scoff at the idea of anyone calling him a hero, but he definitely ended up being one! 

Are you pleased with the results, or do you wish you had done anything differently in the story? Why or why not?

The story ended up being more of a poignant emotional journey than I originally thought it would be, and I’m pleased with that. There’s an intensity between these two characters that I hope readers will like. The love story is always front and center. I’ve learned that sometimes you just have to follow the flow of the characters and events, even if that takes you a long way from your original idea. The good stuff is what comes up unexpectedly! 

Who would play your leads in the movie if (when!) you make a deal? 

Oh, I’d love this to be a movie! For Will Mackinnon, the dashing hero, I think I’d go for a younger Ewan MacGregor (although he’s still pretty appealing now!). He’s got that combination of humor and intelligence that would suit the character. I must say as I was writing it, Errol Flynn was in my mind, so if they invent time travel, there’s my hero! For my heroine, I had Michelle Pfeiffer in mind when I wrote her. She has the intelligence and beauty. Out of the current crop of actresses, perhaps Emilia Clarke in one of her blond incarnations. 

What else do you want readers to know?

This is the last of my Lairds Most Likely books (there’s a tenth coming out, but it’s already been part of an anthology). While The Highlander’s Rescued Maiden can be read as a standalone, it ties up themes and characters in The Highlander’s Defiant Captive (currently only 99 cents!) and The Highlander’s Christmas Quest

Bio

Australian Anna Campbell has written 11 multi award-winning historical romances for Avon HarperCollins and Grand Central Publishing. As an independently published author, she’s released 27 bestselling stories, including 10 in her latest series, The Lairds Most Likely. Anna has won numerous awards for her stories, including RT Book Reviews Reviewers Choice, the Booksellers Best, the Golden Quill (three times), the Heart of Excellence (twice), the Write Touch, the Aspen Gold (twice), and the Australian Romance Readers’ favorite historical romance (five times). 

Buy link

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Highlanders-Rescued-Maiden-Lairds-Likely-ebook/dp/B08XW97KMJ/

Story Behind the Story: Family Skeletons by Josie Malone

The latest in the Story Behind the Story series is the latest in Josie Malone’s Baker City Hearts and Haunts series, about a town that is teeming in ghosts, and seems to be fairly comfortable about it. I did some early editing on Malone’s first entry in this series, and I remember thinking about the town, and how it must feel to be that close to its ancestors! Josie is also offering a free ebook raffle of the first book in the series, so drop a comment at the website and I’ll choose a winner.

What’s the theme behind your story? 

Moving on doesn’t mean forgetting.

What’s the logline? 

Baker City Hearts and Haunts, “Where love is real and so are the ghosts!”

What were you thinking about or what was happening when the idea occurred to you? 

Family Skeletons is the third book in the series, and Tate Murphy, the career soldier hero, charmed me when his friends in More Than A Spirit (book 2) repeated what he said, that if he wanted a wife, the Army would issue one to him. He met the heroine, Sullivan Barlow, the night she buried her best friend, Raven, who’d died in combat. Neither of them immediately realize they’re being haunted by Raven, who plays Cupid for them.

How did the original idea change as you went along? 

Raven became a stronger character than I anticipated, but she was always enjoyable, especially when she began interacting with the town medium. 

How did you conceive of your characters for this story and how did they change? 

They both grew during the story, especially the heroine who learns to “embrace the suck,” as the hero says, and that she doesn’t have to give up her best friend, even if Raven isn’t what could be considered “real” any longer. Then again, what is “real”?

Are you pleased with the results, or do you wish you had done anything differently in the story? Why or why not? 

I always love the books when they’re finished. For now, the story is perfect. Of course, in ten years when I know more about writing and crafting stories, I’m sure some error will jump out at me.

Who would play your leads in the movie if (when!) you make a deal? 

Jennifer Lawrence and Sam Claflin. I could definitely see them kicking butt in a movie version.

What else do you want readers to know? 

Here’s the back-cover blurb:

Sergeant First Class Sullivan Barlow has plans for her future, and none of them include the guy she slept with in a night of weakness. Intending to forget the devastation of losing her best friend in Afghanistan, Sully woke the next morning still alone. Her only solace — she hadn’t told the man her real name. 

A career soldier, Tate Murphy has three more years in the Army until he’s eligible for retirement. Seven weeks ago, he met a woman in a hotel bar and spent the night with her. He hasn’t been able to get her out of his mind and can’t believe his luck when he finds her again.

Then they discover their first night together resulted in something they never expected. She’s pregnant and Tate immediately proposes. Pregnant and struggling with survivor guilt, the last thing Sully needs is to learn her best friend may have died, but hasn’t left yet. 

Tate says, “Sometimes courage is an act of survival.” Sully fears trust is a casualty of war. Will she and Tate ever find it again either by themselves, or with the help of those who have passed on before? 

Bio:

Josie Malone lives and works at her family business, a riding stable in Washington state. Teaching kids to ride and know about horses since 1967, she finds in many cases, she’s taught three generations of families. Her life experiences span adventures from dealing cards in a casino, attending graduate school to get her master’s degree in teaching, being a substitute teacher, and serving in the Army Reserve — all leading to her second career as a published author. Visit her at her website, www.josiemalone.com, to learn about her books. To sign up for her newsletter, go to https://sendfox.com/josiemaloneauthor

Here’s the link to the Family Skeletons trailer! https://youtu.be/g1jE6gnvXQA 

Buy links:

Amazon-ebooks – https://amzn.to/2PHqBp3

Amazon Print – https://amzn.to/3cfKyeo

Nook Press – https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/family-skeletons-josie-malone/1138969574?ean=2940162220930

Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1072858

Kobo – https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/family-skeletons-5

Story Behind the Story: Snowbound with the Sheriff by Laurel Greer

With my background in Wall Street, Laurel Greer’s story about a Wall Street hedge fund manager coming home to Montana had me curious about the romance take on the financial scene—what do Wall Street whistle-blowers do when they have to get out of town? I was pleased to find out that they go home and find romance! 

What’s the theme behind your story? 

Can we find redemption after past mistakes, and if so, what does it look like?

What’s the logline? 

A humiliated hedge fund manager is trapped with her sheriff ex-boyfriend during a blizzard and must face the pain of the past to break down the protective walls holding her back from love and fulfillment.

What were you thinking about or what was happening when the idea occurred to you? 

I really wanted to sell another trilogy to Harlequin Special Edition, and it was my first chance to sell three books in one arc and one contract. Starting with dogs seemed like a good plan, so I hung the trilogy on a family working together to start up a search-and-rescue dog training facility. Stella, the heroine of Snowbound with the Sheriff, is the angel investor. With her book coming third in the series, I was able to learn pieces of her history and dysfunctional relationship with her half-siblings while plotting the previous two books. One of the first things that came to me about her book was the title—I knew I wanted to call it Snowbound with the Sheriff. Forced proximity is a great tool for taking away a character’s ability to run from their problems, and a little cabin in the Montana woods seemed like a perfect place to make that happen to Stella and Ryan.

How did the original idea change as you went along?

I struggled with getting the beginning right for a long time. I originally had it start in New York with Stella deciding to come home. It just didn’t work. So I fast-forwarded to Stella arriving in Montana and getting pulled over for (marginally) speeding by Ryan on a snowy night. With the shorter word counts of series/category romance, it’s more effective to have the main romantic protagonists meet/interact in chapter one. My new beginning meant getting to the romantic conflict faster.

How did you conceive of your characters for this story and how did they change?

Ryan came to be as a tertiary character in Sutter Creek Book 3. Sheriffs make popular characters in series romance, and I knew I wanted him to be one of the heroes in my trilogy. With both Stella’s siblings being Sutter Creek homebodies, it made sense that she hadn’t lived in town in years, and that she had a past relationship with the now-sheriff that had ended in an ugly way. She needed a reason to have missed some big recent developments in her siblings’ lives and still be heroic—that’s where the whistleblowing came in. Another change for Stella was her having a different mom from her younger siblings. I had originally envisioned all three of them having the same parents.

Are you pleased with the results, or do you wish you had done anything differently in the story? Why or why not? 

I’m pleased with the results of this story. When I wrote it, I was going through a period of depression and was really disappointed with it. But my critique partners assured me it was fine, so I submitted it to my editor in order to make my deadline. Five months later when it was time for revisions, I was better managing my depression and was surprised to find I loved what I had done with Snowbound. I do have stories where I’d love to change things, but not so much with this one. 

Who would play your leads in the movie if (when!) you make a deal?

Oooh, fancasting—always fun. My cover characters look a little like Brad Paisley and Emily Blunt, so maybe them? LOL. Other choices would be Timothy Olyphant with slightly darker hair circa when he was in Catch and Release(time machine!) and Rachel McAdams with blond hair.

What else do you want readers to know?

Snowbound with the Sheriff is the third in a trilogy, but all my Special Edition books are written as standalones and can be read without reading any of the others in the series. If a reader started with this one, it would be obvious that Stella’s siblings had recently had their own love stories, but nothing is lost from Stella’s story. Also, I’m now writing a third Sutter Creek trilogy, and the first heroine is one of the side characters in Snowbound—Emma Halloran. It’s so much fun to get to pull secondary and tertiary characters from previous books and give them HEAs of their own. My other big project this year is an M/M second-chance romance (another one, I know—it’s often part of my core story) set in Sarina Bowen’s World of True North, about a Montreal businessman who returns home to Vermont to save his dad’s struggling artisan letterpress business and has to work with his hot, Scottish, college ex-boyfriend. What to expect: competence porn, interfering family, groveling, and a large helping of artisan stationery geekery.

Bio

Desperate for a hot hockey-player fix during an NHL lockout, Laurel picked up her laptop and started writing. She branched out from hockey romance while on a research trip to Montana. As she traveled along the Gallatin River, the town of Sutter Creek came to life and is now the setting of her six-book (soon to be nine!) miniseries with Harlequin Special Edition. She is also working on second-chance, M/M romance to be released in May 2021 in Sarina Bowen’s World of True North. She fills her creative well by staying up way too late reading romance novels, chugging vats of tea, and falling down Pinterest rabbit holes.

Buy link

https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/snowbound-with-the-sheriff-3
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/snowbound-with-the-sheriff-laurel-greer/1137325557

Story Behind the Story: 1000 Kisses by Jody Wallace

Jody Wallace specializes in quixotic stories, mean kitties (but not really), and surprises around the corner. In 1000 Kisses, the second in her Fae Realm series, the unexpected is key in exploring a familiar trope of meeting your One True Love: You may have a destined mate, but what if you don’t like each other?

What’s the theme behind your story?

1000 Kisses is the second book in my Fae Realm series that has been on pause since I completed 1000 Kisses. In writing it, I was toying around with the popular trope in paranormal romance of “fated mates”—as in, what if you and your fated mate don’t like each other? What if your fated mate tells you no? What if there’s no biological drive toward a fated mate, but more of a philosophical one, and the mates in question can accept or deny it if they wish? I hadn’t seen that particular situation in paranormal or fantasy romance before, so that was all my brain needed to scooch off down the rabbit trail.

What’s the logline?

Magic might go by the book, but love doesn’t play by the rules.

How did the original idea change as you went along?

Well, the cat who plays matchmaker, kind of, took over and decided to be a major part of the story. Like cats do. And then the gnomes wanted a piece of the action, because they’re greedy little jerks, so the book did not end up where I thought it would. I am sure the cats guided me in the correct direction, though! 

How did you conceive of your characters for this story and how did they change?

The characters were introduced in Book 1, Survival of the Fairest. SPOILER ALERT: In Book 1, our hero of Book 2 thought his “fated mate” was the heroine of Book 1, so he was the driving force behind chasing her down when she went AWOL in the human world. Turns out the fiery, spontaneous Talista from Survival of the Fairest was NOT his fated mate—it was her quiet, calm twin sister Anisette. The book then explored how quiet and calm and thoughtful can be just as strong and brave, if not stronger, than more obvious trappings of courage, as the hero himself, Embor, is kind of a stiff, uptight, quiet guy.

Are you pleased with the results, or do you wish you had done anything differently in the story? Why or why not?

I’d have added more cats in Book 1 and sold more copies of Book 2 so it would be worth my while to finish Book 3! Does that count as doing things differently??

What else do you want readers to know?

To buy Book 2 and encourage me to finish Book 3? So far it is AMAAAAAAZING and also chock full of gnomes, cussing, kissing, cats, fighting, unexpected turnabouts, mystery, and adventure. The heroine is the sister of the hero from Book 2 and the hero is someone we haven’t met in the previous books. 

Bio:

Jody Wallace’s 30-plus titles include SF/F romance, paranormal romance, and contemporary romance. Her fiction features diverse protagonists, action, adventure, and humor. Her readers frequently comment on her great characters, suspenseful stories, and intriguing and creative world building. When describing her methods, Jody says: “There are two sides to every story. I aim to tell the third. And I add cats regardless.” 

Outside of her fiction career, Jody has employed her master’s degree in creative writing to work as a college English instructor, technical documents editor, market analyst, web designer, and all-around pain in the butt. You can learn more about her at https://jodywallace.com

To buy:

Buy link https://books2read.com/u/mq0Zr9