Join us for an interview with the Christi Caldwell.
Please join me in welcoming the fabulously talented Tracy Solheim, who has a new must-see book, BACK TO BEFORE!
Fictional Jobs vs. Everyday Jobs
One of the best things about writing fiction novels is that I can give my characters interesting and unique occupations. A lot of us read for escape and we don’t mind if our hero and heroines are billionaires, super-star athletes or actresses. Or do we? In my first couple of books, my protagonists are professional football players, one paired up with a rich media darling and the other finding his happily ever after with a famous fashion designer. Exciting and glamorous, right?
Well, I got a little risky with the characters in my next few books. I went for normal careers.
In one of my novellas, my heroine is an accountant. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against accountants. In fact two of my dearest friends are pencil-skirt-wearing number-crunchers. But let’s face it, there’s not a lot of glamour in the profession, right? I have another heroine who’s a PhD candidate—in nutrition of all things. Yeah, who wants to be friends with some smarty-pants who tells us what we can and can’t eat? I probably should have made her the antagonist of the story.
My current release, BACK TO BEFORE continues that trend of normalcy—sort of. Our hero, Gavin, is an architect—a.k.a., a sexy smart guy with a pretty straight forward career. On the other hand, Ginger, our heroine, is constantly reinventing herself with a series of different career choices—although none of them were really her “choice”. She spent her life training to be a prima ballerina until a freak accident leaves her injured. Then she gets a break on a television soap opera, only to play the wicked teenager who all of America hates. When that career abruptly ends—her character falls down an elevator shaft—she finds herself working as an assistant for a friend who’s producing a home renovation show. Except her friend wants her to be the show’s makeup artist. No problem, if Ginger had a middle name it would be Pollyanna. To make things more interesting, I throw them both into a small, quirky, Southern coastal town where everyone has their own definition of “normal”.
What comes about is a fun romance with two characters who readers can relate to. Sure, we all aren’t going to appear on a television reality show—but Gavin and Ginger’s issues are very real. Both are banking on the crazy restoration show landing them back to where they were before fate messed with their lives—and their careers. Haven’t we all wanted a second chance at something? I write romance, so despite whether I choose to give my characters professions that are glamorous or more pedestrian, the books always end the same: with a happily ever after. BACK TO BEFORE is no exception.
And neither is my own life.
I’ve finally arrived at my happily ever after—the one that allows me to be a published author. But I went through my own series of crazy jobs to get here. My first job was at Manny Moon’s Pizzarant. I was a bus girl. Funny, at sixteen with two brothers and two working parents, that was pretty much my job at home. Next came Bonnie’s bakery. You’d think after working in such an aromatic environment, I’d blanch at the smell of pastries. Not so. There isn’t much I wouldn’t do for a smear of buttercream icing.
In college, I worked in the library checking in the periodicals. Seriously, they paid me ten bucks an hour to read magazines! Could it get any better? I also worked at the World’s Fair selling corn dogs and cotton candy. The downside was our booth was beside the Tilt-A-Wheel operated by a guy name Mickey who played his song twenty-four seven. I DO blanch when I hear Toni Basil belt out those first few lines of Mickey.
Real life brought a great career working for Congress and the ultimate Walter Mitty experience working for NBC Sports. But I’m happiest now, writing down the stories ricocheting around in my head. Where else can I spend eight hours with a chocolate maker and call it research?
So tell me about the fun or crazy jobs you’ve had. One person who comments will receive a signed copy of my book Back to Before.
Chances Inlet, North Carolina, has an infamous power for second chances. But its charms are lost on the town’s favorite son—until she comes along…
When his father’s sudden death puts his family’s construction business in serious debt, architect Gavin McAlister is forced to put his dream career in New York on hold. Making matters worse, his fiancée calls it quits. Desperate to return to his big-city life, he discovers an opportunity to save his family, one that has him reluctantly starring in a home restoration TV show.
Former soap star Ginger Walsh hopes this job as a TV makeup artist will lead to better things. So far it’s only brought her to a hamlet full of people who don’t like her—except Gavin. After a wild night out leads to Ginger waking up in Gavin’s loft—and the rest of town talking—the two of them soon wonder if getting back to before is what they want. Because being in each other’s arms certainly feels like what they need.
Buy it here:
Where to find Tracy:
Facebook: Tracy Solheim Books
After years of writing reports and testimony for Congress, Tracy Solheim decided to put her fiction writing talents to better use. Tracy is the international bestselling author of the Out of Bounds series for Berkley and southern novellas for Tule Publishing. She lives in the heart of SEC country, also known as the suburbs of Atlanta, with her husband and their two works-in-progress. When she’s not at the barn with her daughter or working out with friends (i.e. lifting heavy bottles of wine), she’s writing. Except for when she’s reading, but according to her, that’s just necessary research.
“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” – e.e. cummings
Hello all! Many, many thanks for having me back on the blog today; a special thanks to the inimitable Shana Galen for hosting me a second time around!
I’m turning the big 3-0 this month, and I’ve been thinking a lot about the things I’ve learned over the past decade. The things I’ve learned about career, about passion, about relationships; the things I’ve learned about other people, my friends, my family; but mostly, the things I’ve learned about myself.
My twenties were, as Taylor Swift (love ya girl) so aptly put, “miserable and magical”; like T. Swift I was “happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time.” After I graduated from college, I went to work at an investment bank, thinking the “big” career with the “big” salary were the things I wanted – the things that would make me happy. I was going to be the ambitious, career-oriented gal I’d always dreamed of becoming.
Turns out, working at the bank was hardly a dream come true. I met lovely people there; I made great money and better friends; I worked hard, learned a lot, and traveled widely.
I was also miserable. Like, burned-a-hole-through-my-stomach unhappy. It wasn’t the job itself that was so bad; it was the fact that the job wasn’t me. I was a super sensitive, super creative introvert working on a loud, intense, raucous trading floor.
Needless to say, I cried in the women’s bathroom, quietly, a lot during those years. But I learned a very important lesson working at the bank: that no matter how much I wanted to be that girl with the big corporate job (and big paycheck), that wasn’t who I was; that job and that money weren’t going to make me happy.
I fought that lesson. I was terrified of falling behind my peers, most of whom were becoming doctors and lawyers, savvy investment bankers and advertising executives. I wanted to keep up.
But I also wanted to write. Badly. It had always been my secret dream (after dominating the corporate world) to write romance. I fought this dream, too. It didn’t jive with who I thought I should be; what I thought I should be doing with my life, my time. I would fantasize about my writing career, but I was too scared to take the leap, and make it happen.
Until one day I couldn’t fight it anymore; I could no longer fake it. I couldn’t fight who I was, and what I really wanted, apart from what everyone else was doing. I was unhappy, my stomach hurt, and I had had enough.
I was going to be me, for the first time ever. “You do you,” as my friend Janice wisely counseled.
And I did. I did me. I wrote. I still cried (turns out being who you really are is really hard!) but my stomach stopped hurting and I was, for the first time in what felt like forever, a pretty happy gal.
I explored this theme – of accepting who you really are, versus who or what you think you should be – in my latest release, THE MILLIONAIRE ROGUE. Lady Sophia Blaise, our heroine, thinks she wants “to make a brilliant match with the season’s most eligible bachelor, and a suitably large castle to go with him.” She believes trumping her fellow debutantes in the hunt for husbands will make her happy. She has, after all, been raised on Debrett’s; what greater joy than to land a Marquess with ten thousand a year?
But the hunt proves rather less exciting than Sophia had hoped. And those Marquesses – they are not exactly scintillating company.
Enter Thomas Hope – banker, orphan, foreigner – everything, in short, that Sophia doesn’t want.
Only she ends up wanting him, quite ardently. He is witty and smart and good Lord those wicked blue eyes of his. He makes her laugh; he makes her feel alive; he makes her feel all sorts of confusing, delicious, maddening things.
But unlike Sophia’s beau, the Marquess of Withington, Thomas does not have a title. Or a castle. Or, after an infamous diamond is thieved from his ballroom, much of a fortune. Which means Sophia must choose between what she thinks she wants – the man she should marry – and what she really wants – the man who makes her happy.
I think I had so much fun writing Sophia’s story, exploring this theme of accepting who you are and what makes you happy, because I know that struggle so well myself. And I think choosing your own happiness above all else makes for the happiest of happy endings, don’t you?
So tell me, friends – have you struggled to accept who you are? What have you learned about yourself in the past year, the past five years, the past decade? Comment for a chance to win a copy of THE MILLIONAIRE ROGUE!
Jessica Peterson began reading romance to escape the decidedly unromantic awkwardness of her teenage years. Having found solace in the likes of Rhett Butler and Mr. Darcy, it wasn’t long before she began creating tall, dark, and handsome heroes of her own.
A graduate of Duke University, Jessica worked at an investment bank before leaving to pursue her writerly dreams. She lives with her husband, the tall, dark, and handsome Mr. Peterson, in Charlotte, North Carolina. Check her out at www.jessicapeterson.com.
Readers, please give a hale and hearty welcome to historical romance author Theresa Romain. Theresa’s latest, Secrets of a Scandalous Heiress, released on Tuesday, and it’s a fabulous conclusion to her Matchmaker trilogy. Keep reading to find out how to win your own copies of the first two books in the trilogy!
Shana: Welcome back, Theresa. First things first! How was your holiday? What was Little Miss R’s favorite gift?
Theresa Romain: Hi, Shana! Thanks for the chance to visit the JQs again. I brought extra pine nuts for Jaunty this time so I could stay on his good side.
We had a quiet Christmas, with no traveling. But it was a nice holiday. Little Miss R got a LOT of craft supplies, which she adores. Those have been helpful in passing the days of her long break from school. How was your holiday and Princess Galen’s break? These future romance heroines don’t take kindly to calm and quiet.
Shana: Princess Galen also got lots of craft kits and supplies! She also got quite a few books. It was a lovely holiday.
Tell us about Secrets of a Scandalous Heiress. I just loved Augusta and Joss. I always love a scandalous heroine and a dark hero.
Theresa Romain: Thanks! I like it when the heroine has a wild streak too. Secrets of a Scandalous Heiress features characters who appeared in my previous Matchmaker romance, To Charm a Naughty Countess, but their story can stand on its own. Augusta is heiress to a cosmetics fortune, and though she has friends in the ton, she doesn’t fit into polite society. Joss is Anglo-Indian, cousin of a baron but impoverished. He works as his cousin’s man of business. Joss and Augusta meet in Bath when he’s chasing the baron’s blackmailer and she is dealing with a series of losses by hiding under a false identity. They wind up keeping each other’s secrets—and, of course, falling in love.
Shana: The reviews for the book so far are amazing! Publisher’s Marketplace said, “Romain concludes her Matchmaker Regency trilogy (after To Charm a Naughty Countess) with irresistible brio and wit.” Was the book fun to write? Sometimes I find writing humor enjoyable, and sometimes it’s way tougher than writing “straight.”
Theresa Romain: It was sometimes fun and sometimes very difficult. So, it was just like writing most books! My favorite scenes to write are usually the ones in which characters argue (I’m not sure what that says about me…). Since Joss and Augusta are both stubborn and determined, they butted heads a lot, and I liked writing their interactions. The Sutcliffes—Joss’s cousin and his wife—are a little more comic. Sutcliffe, who is all impulse and id, was inspired by my interactions with toddlers. (Don’t tell my daughter.)
Shana: My lips are sealed! This novel is set in Bath, which is a refreshing location. Why did you choose to set it in Bath, and did you learn anything interesting or unusual in your research?
Theresa Romain: I don’t know why I chose to set it in Bath—a bolt from the Muse, maybe?–but the setting was one of the first things I planned. I just decided on Bath, and the setting informed a lot of the story’s events. There are several characters in need of healing, though not always of the kind that could be helped by Bath’s famous mineral waters.
Bath had a culture all its own during the Regency, and I liked learning about the things that made it unique. For example, the chair-carriers had to be licensed, and they had a set schedule of fees they could charge. And the two major assembly rooms coordinated their schedules so they could take turns drawing large crowds. I pored through some 1800-era tourism info and learned so much!
Shana: Finally, tell us what you have coming next.
Theresa Romain: Secrets of a Scandalous Heiress wraps up my Matchmaker trilogy, so my next book will be in a new series. Actually, I am working on two new series! I can’t share all the details yet, but I’m looking forward to telling more Regency-set stories with characters and settings that are new to me.
Readers, now it’s your turn. Though its main focus is romance, Secrets of a Scandalous Heiress also has its comic moments. What are some books that make you laugh? I’d love your recommendations!
One reader who comments will be randomly chosen to win print, Kindle, or Nook copies (winner’s choice) of the first two romances in the Matchmaker trilogy: It Takes Two to Tangle and To Charm a Naughty Countess. This giveaway is open internationally. The winner will be announced and contacted Sunday.
Historical romance author Theresa Romain pursued an impractical education that allowed her to read everything she could get her hands on. She then worked for universities and libraries, where she got to read even more. Eventually she started writing, too. She lives with her family in the Midwest, where she is working on her next book.
ONE GOOD PROPOSITION DESERVES ANOTHER…
Heiress Augusta Meredith can’t help herself—she stirs up gossip wherever she goes. A stranger to Bath society, she pretends to be a charming young widow, until sardonic, darkly handsome Joss Everett arrives from London and uncovers her charade.
Now they’ll weave their way through the pitfalls of the polite world only if they’re willing to be true to themselves…and to each other…
The Jaunty Quills are excited to welcome historical romance author Erin Knightley. Erin’s newest offering, The Earl I Adore, releases tomorrow! Keep reading to find out how to win a signed copy of The Baron Next Door, the first in the Prelude to a Kiss series.
Shana: Welcome, Erin. I can’t believe you’ve never been a guest on the blog before! What a glaring oversight. We’re so excited to have you here. Tell us about The Earl I Adore and the Prelude to a Kiss series.
Erin Knightley: I’m so glad to be here! Especially with the two of us sharing the release week – woohoo! The Earl I Adore is the second in the Prelude to a Kiss series (the first book is The Baron Next Door), which is set in a summer music festival in Bath. These books are (obviously) romances, but there is also a strong storyline about the three heroines’ friendship. They formed an impromptu trio in the first book, and their relationship with one another blossoms over the summer as each of them discovers love.
In The Earl I Adore, Sophie has been in love with Evan since the moment she met him, and though she’s normally loquacious, she can hardly bring herself to say a word to him. But when a looming family scandal leaves her with little choice but to try to capture a husband before the news breaks, she finally has the impetus she needs to pursue the handsome earl.
Shana: I love that premise! This novel is set in Bath. Why did you choose Bath and did you learn anything interesting while researching the location?
Erin Knightley: I visited Bath years ago and was quite smitten! It hasn’t changed much since Jane Austen’s time, and it was easy to imagine my characters strolling along the River Avon and waltzing the night away in the Assembly Rooms. I was especially pleased to have the opportunity to return there this past fall!
I think the most interesting thing that I learned about the city was how far back its history really goes. I had fun researching why the ancient Romans and subsequent inhabitants thought the waters of the baths were both hot and healing. I even included this little exchange in The Baron Next Door between the hero and a friend just because I thought the reasons were so interesting!
Sandburne paused, considering Hugh for a moment before coming to sit beside him. “They say the waters get their healing properties from the necromantic powers of the fabled Prince Bladud. Poppycock, of course,” he said, stroking his damp white beard. “There have been theories of angel’s tears, underground volcanoes, or water from the center from the earth.
“I, however,” he said, extending his leg and rubbing at his knee, “think it is probably more simple than that. People needed a place to go to give them hope, and God gave them one.”
Lifting his brow, Hugh gave the old man a sideways glance, trying to gauge what he was really saying. As lighthearted as his conversation tended to be, he seemed to hold serious stock in his words. “Is that so?”
“Not sure if it needs to be, if that’s what it is in execution.” Winking, he came to his feet and waded toward the edge. “These springs may run more or less consistently, but it is hope that springs eternal.”
Shana: I do enjoy all the Roman influence in Bath and its long history. So fascinating.
I loved reading your Facebook posts about your recent travels to the UK. Do you have a favorite place you’ve been?
Erin Knightley: Are you asking me to choose a favorite child? LOL – there were so many wonderful things about each of the places, it is hard to choose! Of course Bath was magical, but I also loved the gardens of Stourhead and the breathtaking house and grounds of Chatsworth House. The historical sights of London are awe-inspiring, and the quaint town of St. Albans was wonderfully charming. In only 9 days my mother and I traveled over 450 miles, and I wouldn’t have done a single thing different!
Shana: I also adore seeing the book cover Christmas cards you do each year with Mr. Knightley. Mr. Knightley is a good sport! What’s your favorite cover of all of yours so far? They’re all gorgeous!
Erin Knightley: HA! Poor Mr. Knightley. I think he thought it was a once in a lifetime thing when I coerced him into recreating A Taste for Scandal three Christmases ago. Alas, I have roped him into another two parody covers, and I don’t imagine he’ll get out of doing more If I had to choose a favorite, it would probably be the Flirting with Fortune cover, simply because I love the way he looks in that one
Shana: Finally, tell us what you have coming next.
Erin Knightley: Of course you know The Earl I Adore releases this week (yay!). I recently finished The Duke Can Go to the Devil (Jul ’15), which is May’s book and the third in the series. I am so excited about this one, as she was a very unique heroine to write: daughter of a sea captain raised halfway around the world before being unceremoniously dumped on her aunt’s front door when her mother dies. May is unconventional and strong-willed, and definitely meets her match when it comes to the duke. I really hope the reader feels their sparks as much as I did when I was writing it!
Readers, now it’s your turn. What’s your favorite place to visit or the place at the top of your bucket list? One reader who comments will be randomly chosen to win a signed copy of The Baron Next Door, the first in the Prelude to a Kiss series. This giveaway is open to US residents only. The winner will be announced Sunday.
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