Shortly after my first book hit the shelves, an acquaintance confided that she almost couldn’t finish reading it because she felt as if she were prying into my life. “It was just so… intimate!” she’d said. I was equal parts astonished that she actually thought it was autobiographical and flattered that she thought I lived (or once lived) such an exciting life. I mean, I love my life, but it’s vastly different from the fictional worlds I create for my heroines.
After I thought about it, I could see where she might have drawn that conclusion. While I’m a bit older than most of my heroines, I do tend to lend them characteristics and features similar to my own. Still, my heroines are not me. I don’t write about myself as much as I write about observations and what I find interesting.
Take, for example, my first book, REINVENTING OLIVIA. It was born one night when my husband and I were out to dinner at a trendy downtown restaurant. As we approached, I heard dance music pulsing from the loft condos above the restaurant. When I looked up, I saw a hand holding a drink over the balcony rail. I thought, wow, if I were young and single that’s where I’d live… and the story took off on its own. So, while Olivia was most decidedly not me, she was definitely a child of my imagination, born out of what-ifs and shades of possibility.
I’ll confess that within the pages of my twenty-five (and counting) books I’ve drawn strongly on my own life experiences (because the first rule of writing is write what you know). I’ve borrowed characteristics from real-life villains (uhh-hmm - bosses) and given them their comeuppance on the page, or rewritten an unsatisfying true-to-life experience so that it ended happily, but the majority of my plots and characters come from the most unexpected places. That was the case with my book WITH VIOLETS (HarperCollins) – written under my historical nom de plume, Elizabeth Robards.
I’ve always been infatuated with the French Impressionists. So when my husband and I went to Paris, I was anticipating a daytrip to Giverny, Claude Monet’s home and famous gardens. Before we boarded a train at the Gare Saint-Lazare, to make our way to Giverny, we stopped at the Musée Marmottan to see Monet’s famous ‘Impression, Sunrise’ (Impression: Soleil Levant), the painting that launched the French Impressionist movement.
Little did I know, but I was about to meet painter Berthe Morisot on the second floor of the Musée Marmottan. Not literally, of course, because she died in 1895. However, I saw her work for the first time and a photograph of her with her family. Something about the photo haunted me and urged me to research her life. In doing so, I discovered the tale of a deeply complex, richly talented woman who bucked nineteenth century convention to become one of the world’s greatest artists and the heroine of WITH VIOLETS.
The research and the story were labors of love. And while the Berthe Morisot I wrote is not really like me – well, except for her strong, independent streak and a great passion for what she loved – I think there’s a little bit of every woman in her.
In my next release A CELEBRATION CHRISTMAS (Harlequin Special Edition, November 2014). I drew inspiration from one of my favorite movies THE SOUND OF MUSIC. To make it my own, I gave it a Christmas twist. Here’s the back cover copy:
THE GREATEST GIFT OF ALL
Lily Palmer is in for the Christmas of a lifetime! When the nanny signs up to watch Dr. Cullen Dunlevy’s four foster kids, she’s got her hands full. The Thomas clan is the most mischievous group of youngsters she’s ever had to wrangle, but Lily loves the job. After all, what girl wouldn’t adore spending the holidays with a warmhearted new family—and their irresistibly handsome foster dad?
Cullen doesn’t mind Christmas, but his Scrooge-like facade is there for a reason—to protect himself. His tough childhood caused him to hide behind his work and avoid entanglements at all costs. That includes avoiding falling for the deliciously tempting new nanny that Santa left for him this year…
Anyhow, when a fertile imagination has its way with an interesting subject… Well, that’s how stories are born. Whether or not the plot is autobiographical, a writer can’t help but infuse a little of herself and the things she loves into the story.
Have you ever related to a fictional character so much that she seemed real? Who was it and what about her grabbed you?
One person who comments will win the book of her (his) choice from my backlist… Can’t wait to hear from you!
When I first started reading romance, many years ago, the majority of what was available was the traditional historical romance. What many referred to as the bodice ripper because of the sexy clinch covers. I fell in love with these books from the likes of Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, Johanna Lindsey and Catherine Coulter. And then I found Amanda Quick and her historicals were a little different. I suspect that she is probably my strongest influence, as a writer, because none of my historicals are what you’d call ballroom romps or even the lush historical dramas that Woodiwiss for known for.
With Amanda Quick, there were suspense subplots and her heroes were often scholars – something I have always been drawn to – is it any wonder that I married a college professor? ☺ Her heroines were smart too and unique. I never set out to immolate her, but when RT Bookclub compared my books to hers in a review – well, that was just about the coolest thing ever. So without further ado, I give you the 5 hallmarks of a Robyn DeHart novel…
1. A Robyn DeHart heroine is unconventional, whether she be bucking society by going to medical school to become a physician, as with Anna from The Temptations of Anna Jacobs or whether she be a blind sculptress, as with Mia from The Secrets of Mia Danvers.
2. My heroes are smart and almost always the pursuer in the relationship. Once they meet the heroine, no other woman will do. They fall hard and they’re loyal to a fault. Not to mention smoking hot! They also usually have jobs, even if they’re aristocrats, as with Drew in The Temptations of Anna Jacobs, is working undercover for Scotland Yard, or an antiquity hunter for hire as with Fielding in Seduce Me.
3. Don’t be surprised if there’s a murder at some point. Quite obviously the Dangerous Liaisons books have killings in them, even scenes in the Rippers point of view. But even in my other books, I sometimes leave a trail of bodies, not always gruesome though (for those of you who have an issue with violence). The Raven, the villain in two of my Legend Hunters books (Seduce Me and Treasure Me) is rather wicked and does away with more than one person. Even in my novella that’s currently out, a Regency spy story, No Ordinary Mistress, chapter one opens up with a murder.
4. Amidst the carnage you’ll often find humor. Some books are funnier than others, but even if you don’t laugh out loud, there are plenty of happy, smiling moments. There’s one scene in A Study in Scandal where the heroine knocks a door into the hero’s head and every time I read it, it made me chuckle. That’s saying a lot because as an author we have to read our own books a lot and by the end, they get really old. ☺
5. My books are full of snappy dialogue. Almost every review and reader email I receive comments on both my characters and the witty dialogue. It’s where the books come alive to me when I’m writing, where the characters live, in the words that they speak. Dialogue is super important to me and an integral part of all of my work.
Well, I hope this has given you a little taste of what reading a Robyn DeHart book is like. If you’ve read me before, what are your favorite parts of my books If not, what do you usually look for when picking out a new author?
Allan McKinney here. You know–the hero in Kathy’s latest release BOUND BY A CHILD. :)
I’m in desperate need of some help. Seriously, it’s Valentine’s Day on Friday and I need a gift that will knock Jessi’s socks off. I think you should know that she finds big romantic gestures too grand and always says I’m showing off if I offer to fly her to Paris.
I know I need more than red roses and expensive chocolates. I got some help last week on Twitter and have booked us a nice spa weekend. But I still need a gift.
What’s the best Valentine’s Day gift/surprise you ever received? What’s the worst so I know what to avoid?
Kathy will be giving away an electronic copy of Bound By A Child to three randomly chosen blog participants today. Please, help me. Jessi will never let me live it down if I screw up our first Valentine’s Day together.
My mom died when I was in my early 20s. She and my dad had been married for nearly 27 years. My father, who was young for a widower, was bereft. We all were, but while my brother and I had our lives ahead of us, my dad had lost his best friend, his partner and soulmate. Never one to give up, about a year later, he started going to a support group for widows and widowers. Little did he know when he joined, that group would not only help him deal with his unspeakable grief, it would prepare him to love again and lead him to the next love of his life.
The woman who would eventually become his second wife (and I must add that I couldn’t have hand-picked a better stepmom) was in that same group. She’d recently lost her husband of decades and had turned to the “Rebounders” for help, too. It was so beautiful to watch two brokenhearted people become whole again and take a second chance at love. While neither could “replace” the other’s first spouse (or my natural mother or my step-siblings’ natural father), our families became whole again, too.
Their story of the healing power of love was the spark for my new book CELEBRATION’S FAMILY. My hero, Dr. Liam Thayer, lost his wife in a tragic accident. While my heroine, Kate Macintyre had never married, she’d still experienced more than her share of personal loss. Just when it seemed like life was at its darkest, they met and love lit the way to a brighter future together.
Just to be clear, my stepmom never goaded my dad into participating in a bachelor auction as Kate persuades Liam (Thank God! I must admit I probably wouldn’t have been as gung-ho about the idea as Liam’s little daughters are in the book. Come on, guys, this is my dad were talking about!). But the healing power of love is at the heart of both CELEBRATION’S FAMILY and my parents’ story. I hope it’s something we can all count on in our darkest hour.
Do you have your own “power of love” story? Or can you think of a movie or book that celebrates healing love? Or just tell me what you think of how they depicted Liam on the cover. Isn’t he gorgeous?! I’ll give away a copy of CELEBRATION’S FAMILY to TWO people who comment.
RT Book Reviews gave CELEBRATION’S FAMILY 4 stars and said, “Thompson’s broken, heartwarming couple are engrossing as they find love after tragedy in this terrific installment in the Celebrations miniseries. Supporting characters like the chocolitier /matchmaker will charm, and the doctor’s twin girls add the perfect “aww!” factor.”
Here’s a quick look at CELEBRATION’S FAMILY’S first scene (Q&A and contest follow):
A bachelor auction?
Dr. Liam Thayer waited for Cullen Dunlevy, Celebration Memorial’s chief of staff, to crack a smile, or indicate he and the pretty blonde in the business suit at his side were delivering a bad joke to lighten up the impromptu staff meeting.
Please. He could use a little levity to jolt him out of his bad mood. It had been one of those mornings. The twins, Amanda and Calee, hadn’t wanted to get out of bed. Five minutes before they were supposed to walk out the door, Amanda remembered that she was supposed to bring cupcakes for an after-school club meeting.
To spur the girls along, he’d said, if they left on time, they could stop at the grocery store on the way. But then the dog got out, running several victory laps around the neighborhood, before Liam had been able to wrangle, harness and deliver him home.
They didn’t have time to stop for cupcakes, and by the time he’d deposited the girls at Celebration Middle School, they were all out of sorts. Well, he and Amanda were. Not Calee, who lived in her own little world of sugar-plum fairies and nutcracker princes. As long as Calee was dancing, the world was a beautiful place. She was so much like her mother, who had also been a ballerina, before she’d given it all up to marry Liam and start a family.
He and Amanda, on the other hand, seemed to be cast from the same mold. This morning he’d left her with a promise that their housekeeper, Rosalinda, would leave a dozen cupcakes at the school’s front desk in time for this afternoon’s club meeting—which Amanda would have to cut short because she and her sister couldn’t be late for their dance class.
Amanda had been dubious and a little surly. She hadn’t wanted to go to dance class today.
“Why can’t Rosie take Calee while I stay at the club meeting? Then Rosie can come back and get me. Or better yet, why can’t I skip dance altogether?”
“Because you have a commitment, and Rosie doesn’t need to be running herself ragged to accommodate you. She’s already going out of her way to make sure you get the cupcakes.”
It had only made matters worse when Liam had snapped, “Next time maybe you’ll remember to tell me these things before we’re walking out the door.”
He shouldn’t have said it. Not like that, dammit. Even if it was true and a lesson she needed to learn. Now, as he sat there in the conference room trying to change gears from dad mode to doctor, he couldn’t get the image of Amanda’s sad face out of his head.
At that moment he missed his wife, Joy, so much it almost leveled him. She’d always taken care of things like cupcakes, permission slips and new ballet shoes. She’d had an uncanny ability to almost read their daughters’ minds or, on the off chance when they did end up in a bind—like they had this morning—she’d always been able to pull a rabbit out of her hat and make things work.
Liam didn’t know how she’d managed it. She had been perfect like that. Tiny, intuitive and good-natured, Joy had always been all about her family.
A series of sickening flashbacks transported Liam to that night when the cop had stood on their front porch and asked, “Is this the residence of Joy Thayer?” He’d told Liam that there’d been an accident but wouldn’t give him much information, just asked if he would come to the hospital. When he’d identified his wife’s body, his life and the lives of their daughters had shattered into a million irreparable pieces.
Liam scrubbed a hand over his eyes, trying to erase the memory. It had been two years. When would life without Joy get easier? When would the numbness give way to the manageable ache that the grief counselor had promised would come in time? Maybe never. Because part of his soul had died right along with his wife that night. The part that lived and laughed and felt.
Now his daughters kept him going. Because life didn’t stop to mourn. Hell, it didn’t even slow down to regroup. It kept marching forward, and, if you didn’t get on your feet fast, it would drag you right along behind it.
He refocused, irritated that he had to waste time this morning listening to the chief and this woman rattle on about…bachelor auctions? For God’s sake.
This had to be a joke.
But a sinking feeling warned him not to bank on Dunlevy delivering the punch line. Especially when his boss glanced over at the blonde and uncharacteristic warmth drew up the edges of his mouth.
“This is Kate Macintyre of the Macintyre Family Foundation,” said Dunlevy. “She and her staff have been working tirelessly to raise money for the new pediatric surgical wing here at Celebration Memorial Hospital. I’ll turn the meeting over to her and let her tell you more.”
The new surgical wing—Joy had been excited about it. In fact she’d been one of the first volunteers to organize a kick-starter fund-raiser.
“Good morning,” said the blonde.
What was her name again?
“Thank you, Dr. Dunlevy. I appreciate you letting me attend your meeting today. Even more I am grateful that each of you has agreed to help raise money for the final leg of funding for this very special project. This pediatric wing is extremely near and dear to my family and me. I appreciate you all taking an active role in making it a reality.”
Near and dear to her family? Liam glanced at her left hand. She wasn’t wearing a wedding ring. Reflexively his thumb found the back of the band he still wore. It was the touchstone that kept him grounded, and reminded him of what was and always would be important in life. Family.
The blonde smiled at Liam’s colleague, Charlie Benton, an internist, who was seated to her left. She held out a stack of pamphlets. “Would you mind taking one of these and passing them around, please?”
Eagerly Charlie obeyed.
Great. Judging by the look on his coworker’s face, Liam would bet, if she’d asked Charlie to run out to fetch her a bagel and a cappuccino, he would’ve fallen all over himself to oblige. Liam glanced around at the other men in the room. They all seemed transfixed, too. Apparently Liam was the only one immune to a pretty face and a great pair of legs.
“For the past three years, the Macintyre Family Foundation has partnered with the hospital to raise money to build a much-needed pediatric surgical wing,” she said. “During this time we’ve been diligently working with the hospital’s Department of Charitable Giving. They’ve been amazing. We only need 5 percent more to reach our two-million-dollar goal.
“That’s why we were delighted when Dr. Dunlevy agreed to the idea of giving you all, the doctors of Celebration Memorial, the opportunity to play a key role in raising part of the remaining funds. When I learned that I’d be working with seven single male doctors, I thought, what was the chance of that?”
Her blue eyes sparkled as she looked from one face to the next, radiating enthusiasm and sincerity. She was doing a credible job.
“With seven eligible men, it only seemed natural to hold a bachelor auction. So, everyone, please save the date—one week from Saturday—for our first-ever In Celebration of Bachelors auction.”
Liam shifted in his seat, resisting the urge to excuse himself. This bachelor auction was not a joke, but there was no way in hell that he was going to subject himself to the humiliation of being sold off to the highest bidder. Even if the shenanigan would raise money for a good cause.
As a pediatric hospitalist and a single father to two teenagers, he didn’t have enough time to devote to his daughters on a good day. He certainly didn’t want to waste a night going out on a date with a woman who’d bid on him like a steer in a cattle sale. He might have been providing all the necessities, but he hadn’t been able to give his children as much of himself as he wished he could. Not like his wife, who had always been there for them emotionally.
And, he had to admit, at the root of everything, participating in something like this felt disrespectful to Joy. Even if she was gone, it didn’t mean he felt any less married. Certainly not single.
“Is something wrong, Dr. Thayer?” Cullen asked. “You look like you smell something.”
Liam clicked his ink pen. He wanted to say, There’s nothing like the stench of a bad idea first thing in the morning. But one glance at Kate Macintyre’s hopeful expression—Kate Macintyre, that was her name—and he was weighing his words. “Is this bachelor auction idea a done deal? Do we have any other options?”
Q: CELEBRATION’S FAMILY has been getting some nice reviews!
Nancy Robards Thompson: I’m so grateful that it has been well received! RT Book Reviews Magazine gave it four stars and said, “Thompson’s broken, heartwarming couple are engrossing as they find love after tragedy in this terrific installment in the Celebrations miniseries. Supporting characters like the chocolatier/matchmaker will charm, and the doctor’s twin girls add the perfect “aww!” factor.”
Q: That’s great news! Where did you get the idea for CELEBRATION’S FAMILY?
NRT: Liam and Kate’s story is the fifth book in the Celebration’s, Inc. series. My heroine, Kate Macintyre, has been featured in a couple of other books in the series and it was high time she found her soulmate. I’ve always been intrigued by the thought of a bachelor auction. What could be more fun than an auction full of eligible doctor bachelors?
Q: Tell us about the hero of the book? Why will we fall in love with him?
NRT: Dr. Liam Thayer believes true love only happens once in a lifetime. He fell in love with and married his high school sweetheart. They had two perfect decades together before she died in a tragic accident. The loss turned life upside down for Liam and his thirteen-year-old twins.
Q: Tell us about the heroine. Why is she the absolute perfect woman for the hero?
NRT: Kate Macintyre would like to believe in true love and happily ever after, but she’s never experienced anything remotely like it. Well, until she falls in love with the grieving Dr. Thayer and his adorable daughters.
Q: What life-lesson do your Hero and Heroine have to learn before they can find their happily-ever-after?
NRT: Liam believes that true love happens only once in a lifetime and Kate has never been in love. To reach their happily ever after, Liam has to believe that looking to the future doesn’t mean he has to forget about or devalue his first marriage. Kate has to allow herself to be vulnerable and open to love. Together, as they become a family, they heal each others’ wounds and become whole again.
Q: What was your favorite scene to write?
NRT: That’s a toss-up between two scenes: the bachelor auction, because, of course, Kate’s seemingly foolproof plan to get Liam off the hook by placing the winning bid for the date with Liam goes absolutely awry; and the Doctor’s Ball, which takes place in the ballroom of a swanky Dallas hotel. I love writing scenes like the Doctor’s Ball because they’re so glamorous and romantic.
Q: Is there an underlying theme to the story?
NRT: CELEBRATION’S FAMILY is about the bond of family and second chances at love. Those are powerful themes to which so many of us can relate, and that’s why I believe readers will enjoy this book.
Now, I have a question for you: What themes do you like to read about? Family? Love at first sight? Friends to lovers? Reunion stories? In “celebration” of her new release, I’m giving away a $10 Amazon gift card to one lucky person who posts. Check back on Sunday when I post the winner’s name.
This is Nancy’s eighteenth book for Harlequin and the fifth book in her Celebrations, Inc. mini-series. For more information please check out her website NancyRobardsThompson.com or connect with her on Facebook (Nancy Robards Thompson Author) and Twitter @NRTWrites.