Monday, April 25, 2011

Q&A and Giveaway with Author Kris Kennedy

The sizzling new medieval romance DEFIANT (Pocket Books; April 26, 2011) by award-winning author Kris Kennedy will take readers on an exciting journey where a rogue knight and an enchanting renegade join forces to right old wrongs.

Jamie Lost is the kin’s most renowned commander, a fearless lieutenant ordered to kidnap an exiled priest before rebel forces close in. The mission is simple—until he meets a mysterious thief who will steal his quarry and then his heart. Beautiful Eva is also seeking Father Peter, but she intends to protect him for a secret that could cost him his life. When a band of mercenaries abducts the priest, Jamie and Eva must form a volatile alliance. As civil war unfolds around them, they embark on an epic journey that betrays the truth about their hidden identities, their unexpected loyalties, and the simmering attraction that could seal their fates forever. DEFIANT by Kris Kennedy is a page-turner that will have readers intrigued and undoubtedly wanting to read on late into the night.


Kris Kennedy is also the author of The Conqueror and The Irish Warrior. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family. She welcomes readers to visit her at her website.

Welcome Kris Kennedy, to Romance Author Buzz. Is there a behind the book story for Defiant?

LOL—you mean one fit for public consumption? J  The story-behind-the-story actually started as much more of a Robin Hood story, and morphed as it went-radically.  J

The first kernel of an idea about this story came to me back in 2006 or 2007. I had an idea about a woman being taken somewhere she did not want to go. That story had a rather Robin Hood-esque feel, except for a few small details: the hero was the one taking her where she didn’t want to go, and the heroine was the Robin Hood-esque character. :-)

Defiant today bears very little resemblance to this, but I still see that story down there in the creative ‘well,’ so to speak. :-)

Are you a plotter or pantser? What is your writing routine?

I definitely write by the seat of my pants—my muse is a fickle thing, and comes in strong gusts like a wind, so I really like to grab those times when I can. Which is all fine and good, until you get the fabulous opportunity of having deadlines.

Deadlines and seat-of-the-pants writing are mortal enemies in my home, with a young child and little time to write.

What works best for me is to write and write and write, sometimes for 20 out of 24 hours, maybe for days straight. Then I crash.

Nowadays, I write for whatever time I can get during the day, which, depending on illnesses, school vacations, school activities, carpools, and related, is anywhere from 0 - 4 hours/day.

How did you start your career? Who was your first publisher?

My first book (THE CONQUEROR) was bought in 2008, and published by Kensington in 2009.

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on another sexy medieval adventure, of course! J   This one involves con men and bankrupt silk merchants…if all goes according to plan, that is. Which it never does. J

What news would you like to share with your readers?

I’m so excited about DEFIANT releasing! It just got a starred Publishers Weekly review, and I’m hoping readers everywhere love it.

How did you build the relationship between hero and heroine so that it felt real?

The heroine of the story, Eva, came fully formed. Like in my previous book, THE IRISH WARRIOR, where the hero Finian came fully formed. There’s sometimes some tweaking to clarify and intensify, but when character comes fist, it’s no effort at all to make their relationship feel deep and real.

Do you identify with the characters you write about?

Well, I’ve never been hunted by kings and barons, so there’s a certain ignorance that I simply have to guess my way through.  J But I hope that at their core, the emotional experiences of the characters are the kind of thing anyone can relate to.

The central emotions are pretty similar to what we experience in daily life. Loneliness, a sense of your own broken nature, fear of being rejected, unloved, of not belonging, of not being ‘Enough’ (good enough, strong enough, etc), and the deep-down knowledge that fear is stopping you from being amazing: these can be pretty universal experiences, and they certainly plague my characters.  In that way, J  I hope they are familiar to my readers.

Tell us a little about your favorite “hero” type guy.

Oh, I have a very clear sense of that guy! J  I call him the ‘good’ alpha.

The man who’s supremely confident in himself and his capabilities, so much so that he has no problem letting the heroine shine. He can be impressed by her, intrigued by her, and royally pissed off by her, without it ever making him feel threatened as a man. He’s the kind of guy who leads because everyone around wants to follow him.

Would you please describe the heroines you love to write?

I love fish out of water. I love the strong, competent heroine forced into situations that are totally unexpected, for which (she thinks) she’s totally unprepared.

I love the determined heroine with a sense of humor who does NOT get pushed around, even in a world where women are constantly pushed around.

How would you describe your life in only 8 words?

Sweet, loving, quiet, simple, family-focused. With a dog. J

What is your motto or maxim?

Hmmm… I’ll get a motto one day, swear! J

How would you describe perfect happiness?

Holy cow, this is tough! I guess the ability to know yourself and accept what you find, and be willing to change. The ability to find magnificence in the small things of life. The deep-down knowledge that you are blessed.

What’s your greatest fear?

Perhaps that’s not quite interview material. J

What advice would you give aspiring authors?

It’s two-fold, and they’re both equally important.

1) Focus on being a great storyteller, not a great fancy writer.

2) Be persistent. Do not stop writing, and do not stop improving.

If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?

I think I’d take my family to Ireland. In the summer.

What do you regret most?

Every time I let fear stop me.

If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?

Ohh, tough. There’s so many things I’m not good at but want to be. But there’s 2 that are at the top of my list.

A musical talent. My brother is astonishing at this—he can pick up a comb and make music out of it. I’d give up (small) body parts for that.

Design—the ability to see what’s needed in a space, and to know how to make it happen.

If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?

Hmmm…Lasagne! Or…key lime pie….

Do you have one sentence of advice for new writers?

Do it for love. It’s a craft, not a career. You can make a career out of it, but never forget you are a craftsman.

What comment do you hear most often from your readers?

I find I get three comments most frequently:

They love the Sexy in my books.

They love the heroes, how they’ve got that ‘good alpha’ thing going on.

They love the strong heroines.

Where can readers find you?


Kris, thanks for allowing me to interview you at Romance Author Buzz

This contest is for US residents only.  To win an autographed copy of Defiant, simply follow Kris on Facebook, leave her a comment about the interview and come back here and leave your email address.  Winner will be announced May 26th.

Wendy Wax Talks About Ten Beach Road and Magnolia Wednesdays & Giveaways

On Sale May 3, 2011

Madeline, Avery, and Nikki are strangers to each other, but they have one thing in common. They each wake up one morning to discover their life savings have vanished, along with their trusted financial manager- leaving them with nothing but co-ownership of a ramshackle beachfront house.

Throwing their lots in together, they take on the challenge of restoring the historic property. But just as they begin to reinvent themselves and discover the power of friendship, secrets threaten to tear down their trust-and destroy their lives a second time.

First Time as a Mass Market Reprint
On Sale April 26, 2011

Vivien Armstrong Gray has spent most of her life fighting to make it in investigative journalism, only to have her dream crumble after a bullet lodges in her backside during an expose. Then she learns that she's pregnant, jobless, and very, very hormonal. Maybe that's why she said yes to covering a story in suburban Georgia. During her investigation she digs up her own long buried roots, and finds that maybe life inside a picket fence isn't so bad after all.

Welcome Wendy Wax, author of Ten Beach Road, Magnolia Wednesdays, The Accidental Bestseller and other popular novels to Romance Author Buzz.

Wendy you grew up in St. Pete Beach and on Pass-a-Grille Beach, yet this is the first time you’ve set a book there? Why this novel and not one of your earlier ones?

Actually, Tanya in The Accidental Bestseller got to live in St. Petersburg and on the very last page there are these movie-like blurbs at the end laying out the friends’ futures. Tanya’s rewarded with a home on St. Pete Beach and a sixty foot houseboat. So I guess even two books ago I was nostalgic about life on the water and back on the beach.

 In Ten Beach Road I put a derelict beachfront mansion at the heart of the story and, frankly, I rarely think ‘beach’ without the words St. Pete or Pass-a-Grille in front of it.

What was it like to grow up “on the beach?” And can you still do cartwheels?

It was wonderful. To this day nothing relaxes me like the feel of hard packed sand beneath my bare feet—I absolutely don’t believe shoes of any kind should be allowed on the beach. Add the sound of waves on the shore and the caw of a seagull (as long as someone’s not feeding it anywhere near me) and I’m happy. I tried hypnosis once to cure a fear of flying and when I had to come up with a relaxing image, that was it.

 I have to confess I haven’t tried a cartwheel in a long time. I’m going to be in St. Pete Beach again soon. I’ll have to try one. (I’ll just have to make sure no one has a camera out at the time!)

You have Madeline, Avery and Nikki escaping from their hard labor and relaxing Gulf side at a beachfront concession stand and other places such as The Cottage Inn. Are any of these real?

Almost everything on Pass-a-Grille in Ten Beach Road is real or a fictionalized version of an actual place. Whenever I’m in town I meet my friend Ingrid for breakfast at The Seahorse, and then we poke around the shops on Eighth Avenue before we walk and talk our way down the beach to the Don CeSar.

When I’m in town with my husband and sons, we often have breakfast at the Paradise Grille, which used to be a concession stand, and then walk back to wherever we’re staying. There’s also The Hurricane, which I’ve been going to since childhood, The Brass Monkey right on Gulf Way overlooking the beach, and The Black Palm, which I’ve heard great things about. There’s also a really neat artists’ collective called A Little Room for Art, where I’ve bought gifts and things for the house. And of course Evander Preston’s custom designed jewelry and Shadrack’s, an old school beach bar, have been sitting right near each other on Eighth Avenue pretty much forever.

The fictional Cottage Inn in Ten Beach Road sits where the real Island’s End is located. And I did ‘mentally’ knock down a condo on the spot I wanted for the fictional Bella Flora on the southwestern tip of Pass-a-Grille. The magnificent view from Bella Flora is very real.

OK, Madeline, Avery and Nicole enjoy margaritas (frozen and not), sunsets over the Gulf, sunrises over Boca Ciega Bay, pressed Cuban sandwiches—the list goes on. It begs the question—how much of TEN BEACH ROAD is autobiographical?

My affection for St. Pete Beach and Pass-a-Grille is very real. I hope that comes across in Ten Beach Road. However the story itself and the things that happen to those particular characters are a product of my imagination. As to the sunsets, they didn’t recently name St. Pete Beach the “Sunset Capital of Florida” for nothing.

Do you believe that setting plays a more important role in this novel than in other of your books?

Definitely. I could have put Madeline, Avery and Nicole’s sole remaining ‘asset’ anywhere, but I think this particular setting contributes a lot to the story and the protagonists’ friendship and growth. Another setting would have demanded a very different kind of house and a very different experience for the main characters. And, of course, you can’t conjure up a threatening hurricane just anywhere.

 As much as I believe in the importance of setting, I still tend to be spare in my descriptions of places and people. That’s mostly because, as a reader, I don’t enjoy tons of information about setting or character appearance. I only want the bare bones so that I can envision things myself.

You include glimpses of many different architectural styles that are an important part of the ambiance of St. Pete Beach and especially the Pass-A-Grille historic district. Which appeal to you most? If you were to build your dream house, what would it look like? And who among Florida’s architects past and present would you want to design it?

I’m very drawn to clean lines and a contemporary ‘airiness.’ When I first started antiquing ages ago with my sister, I was repeatedly drawn to Art Deco furniture and accessories, a style that Avery really loves. Architecturally, I’ve always admired the Arts and Crafts Bungalow and I’m a great admirer of Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs.

 While researching Ten Beach Road, I toured a number of wonderful homes in northeast St. Petersburg and absolutely fell in love with the Mediterranean-Revival style of architecture, which was so popular in Florida and California in the 1920s. I read a history of Addison Mizner, who was responsible for transforming Palm Beach architecture. I was fortunate enough to be invited to tour the one Mizner on the west coast of Florida. The owner shared a lot of her personal restoration stories and experiences, which really helped me flesh out my characters’ experiences with Bella Flora.

I’d love to live in a historically significant home—but only if I had the wherewithal to pay professionals to restore it. No one in our family is allowed to own tools.

As TEN BEACH ROAD progresses, you expand the cast of characters, adding Madeline’s pregnant twenty-something daughter Kyra and Chase’s two teenage sons. Is this the first of your novels to give a large role to the children of one of your protagonists? When you first gave Kyra a voice, did you know that she would evolve into a fully developed character and contribute so much to the story?

I have actually had strong secondary characters in many of my other books and typically work with a large ‘cast of characters.’ Sometimes this is planned, but sometimes characters do seem to grab on and become more than I originally intended. Lacy in The Accidental Bestseller was one of those characters; she was originally only meant as an insult to Kendall, but became the fairy godmother of the story—that person who still believed in the power and purpose of publishing.

 In Ten Beach Road there are five women, all very important to the story, who spend the summer at Bella Flora. I must admit by the time I finished I was swearing my next book would be a single character written from one point of view. But of course, that’s not at all what seems to be happening.

You’re known for exploring the importance of women’s friendships in your work. In Magnolia Wednesdays, Vivi seemed to have to learn how to be a friend. In The Accidental Bestseller, four women may have been guilty of taking the strength of their friendship for granted. In TEN BEACH ROAD you seem to be taking a closer look at issues such as trust, risk taking, honesty, and mother/daughter relationships. Do you agree? Did you start out in this direction? Or did the characters take you there?

I don’t start out with ‘themes’ in mind, but I seem to have some issues that I keep coming back to. In fact, I’ve had a number of interviewers point out that I seem to keep writing about ‘secrets.’ When asked why, I didn’t have an answer, so I now say “that’s a secret.”

 The mother-daughter relationships in Ten Beach Road were intentional, but I didn’t know how they’d play out until I began writing. Watching a story and characters evolve in unexpected ways is one of my favorite parts of the writing process. There are a lot of things you simply can’t know or imagine about a character until you’ve spent time with them.

Your recent books bring in bits of your own life. Magnolia Wednesdays is set in Atlanta, where you live. The Accidental Bestseller invokes a milieu you know well—the world of writing and publishing. Do your characters, especially those in TEN BEACH ROAD, reflect people you know?

Every character I’ve ever written is some sort of mixture of me, bits and pieces of others I’ve encountered, and imagination. I write fiction and I do my best to keep it that way.

Did your past life as host of the Tampa radio program “Desperate and Dateless” have anything to do with you choosing matchmaking as Nicole’s high-profile career?

Well, I’d like to say yes but the truth is I was a radio person who ended up hosting Desperate & Dateless back when I was both of those things. Nicole was inspired by an article or two I saw, which led me to read a book about a real dating guru/matchmaker. I was kind of fascinated with the idea of making a living that way. I made her a matchmaker to the affluent, because I wanted her rise from poverty to be marked, and the loss of her fortune deeply emotional.

Can you tell us anything about your next book? Setting? Situations? When it may be published?

My next book, currently titled Reality Check, is scheduled for release in June 2012. Two estranged friends living very different lives are about to mix it up in ways they may never imagined—but I have!

Wendy, thanks so very much for stopping by Romance Author Buzz and talking about Ten Beach Road and Magnolia Wednesdays.

Where to find Wendy Wax:


Thanks to Wendy's publisher, Wendy will be giving away a copy of Ten Beach Road and Magnolia Wednesdays.  To win a copy, friend Wendy on Facebook, tell her what you thought about her Q&A here at Romance Author Buzz.  Come back, post your comment and leave your email address.  This contest will end May 31st.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Q&A With Joanna Trollope and Giveaway

Joanna Trollope Bio:

Born in her grandfather's rectory in the Cotswolds in December 1943, Joanna Trollope has always felt that her birthplace in the Cotswolds was her real "home". Joanna says — “It gave me - still gives me - not just a sense of rootedness, but a capacity to value landscape and weather and the rich life of smallish communities. It wouldn't matter where I lived now, I'd always carry that centred feeling of having come from somewhere very well defined with me.”
Joanna’s family is hugely important to her. She is the eldest of three, the mother of two daughters and the stepmother of two stepsons, and, now, immensely enjoying being a grandmother.

Her school days, in Surrey, were really not a happy time and, in fact, Joanna says that she actually rather dreaded school. She says, “I only started to enjoy education when I got to university. No school can be blamed, however, it was more my childhood and adolescent sense of being an outsider, of not belonging (a very formative sense, I now know, for being a writer) that made me miserable at a time when 99.9% of children long to conform. But, I was very well taught, however, and I think I sensed this, even then.”

After winning a scholarship to Oxford, Joanna joined the Foreign Office and then became a teacher. She began writing 'to fill the long spaces after the children had gone to bed' and for many years combined her writing career with working as a teacher. It was in 1980 that Joanna became a full time author but says: “My first novel was written when I was 14, all about myself, of course (it is now kept under lock and key in case my children find it...) I suppose I wrote it for the same reason that I still write - to communicate. I don't think we should ever underestimate the power of story - story is how we negotiate with each other, how we build up relationships, how we learn. And nothing is so fascinating as good narrative - nobody of any age can resist What Happens Next ...”

Joanna Trollope has been writing for over thirty years: she first wrote a number of historical novels now published under Caroline Harvey, then Britannia’s Daughters - a study of women in the British Empire and more recently, her enormously successful contemporary works of fiction, several of which have been televised. The Choir was her first contemporary novel, followed by A Village Affair and A Passionate Man. The Rector's Wife was her first number one bestseller, and made her into a household name. Since then she has written eleven more contemporary novels: The Men and the Girls, A Spanish Lover, The Best of Friends, Next of Kin, Other People’s Children, Marrying the Mistress, Girl from the South and Brother and Sister, Second Honeymoon, Friday Nights and the newly published, The Other Family.

All of her life Joanna Trollope has had a huge commitment to people. She says, ‘I mind more and more about people, especially vulnerable and disadvantaged ones.’ She devotes a quite considerable amount of time to supporting her particular charities and says, “I’ve found a powerful speech aimed at roomful of men, seems most effective in getting them to reach into their pockets, rather than being photographed with ‘dear disadvantaged children’ For me, it’s no good just being warm-hearted about charity, you have to be practical. If I can persuade people to support a worthwhile cause, then I’ve done a good job.” At present Joanna is the Patron of the March Foundation; Patron of for Dementia and Patron of Mulberry Bush. Joanna also supports RNIB — especially the Right to Read Campaign (Joanna's books and Audio CDs are available from RNIB's National Library Service); the Meningitis Trust; Macmillan Nurses, Breast Cancer Care and the Gloucestershire Community Foundation.

Joanna is one of the judges for the Melissa Nathan Award and she joined the Advisory Board of the Costa Awards in 2008, having chaired the Judging Panel for the 2008 Awards.

When asked to comment on who, or what, has been the greatest influence on her writing — Joanna’s response was: “Simply - just life, I think. At certain stages - I'm sure this is true of everyone - a particular person or book or idea or movie can strike a huge chord, but, looking back, I can see a whole series of influences - personal, educational, social, professional, economic - that have shaped me rather than being able to point to one single colossus and say "It was him, or her". Very few writers who could be said to be prophets, true inventors, What most of us are is inventors, translators. We take the old human truths that Shakespeare and Sophocles described inimitably, and we re-interpret them for our own times, in our own voices, coloured by as it were, our own messages to the world. The pen is there to illuminate, to describe the human condition in contemporary terms, to – in fiction’s case certainly, - describe ourselves better than anything else can – except for the simple struggle of just living life. Writers aren’t there to tell you what to think. They are there to beckon you into a book and join them in the thinking.”

Joanna Trollope has been married twice and now lives on her own in London. Women friends have always been a vital part of Joanna’s life. She maintains the core group of friends that she has had for the past thirty years, and writing has also brought her many friends in the world of writing. When she considers what has happened to her career in the last ten years, she often thinks, as her friend Jilly Cooper once said, “You’d believe it, wouldn’t you, if it happened to someone else”.

Book Description:

Rachel has always loved being at the centre of her large family. She has fiercely devoted herself to her three sons all their lives,and continues to do so even now they are all grown up. They are, of course, devoted to her – she and Anthony, their father, hold the family together at their big, beautiful, ramshackle house near the wide, bird-haunted coast of Suffolk.

But when Luke, her youngest, gets married, Rachel finds that control is slipping away. Other people seem to be becoming more important to her children than she is, and she can no longer rely on her role as undisputed matriarch. A power struggle develops which can only end in unhappiness; her three daughters-in-law want to do things their own way, and so, to her grief, do her sons...

Joanna, welcome to Romance Author Buzz. How long have you been writing and what was your call story?

Since childhood….which was so long ago that I really can’t remember the answer to the second part of your question!

What are you currently working on?

So sorry, but I can’t ever talk about work in progress…I have a superstition that if I talk about it, I won’t be able to do it any more…

Do you plot your stories or let your characters lead you?

Both. I start with a theme, then make a cast list, then I plot the first quarter of the book or so, and the ending, so I know where I’m going, but I don’t know exactly how I’ll get there.

Of all of your characters, do you have a favorite you identify with and why?

I always love writing about children and teenagers. I like the way that they are full of promise and capacity, but not set in themselves yet, so still open to possibility and change.

What is the best thing about your job as an author? What is the hardest thing?

The best things are being paid to do something I love, and my truly amazing and loyal readers. The harder parts can be the solitude – I get so very sick of myself – and the very necessary but painful vulnerability that comes from working alone.

Describe a day in the life of Joanna Trollope.

Very dull. Very disciplined. Up, shower, dress, tidy house, scribble scribble scribble till mid afternoon, brief collapse, desk for all admin and business, early bed....See? I told you...

Scene you like most and would never cut.

Anything with children or animals in it.

Thing your heroine would never be caught dead doing/saying:

“All I want is to marry a rich man”.

Scene in the book that moved you the most as you wrote it, or made you the most happy?

The scene that touched me most was a little boy called Rufus, in “Other Peoples Children”, learning, to his utter dismay, that the woman he had learned to love as his future stepmother, wasn’t going to marry his father after all….

Have you learned or found any bizarre facts while doing research?

Plenty – but too many to list….Human beings are much odder than people in fiction!

What is one thing in your history that has influenced your writing, whether it’s a character, your work habits, or your favorite plot conflict?

Probably, boringly, my work habits…I wish it was something more glamorous..

What’s next?

The next book!

What are you currently reading?

Ann Patchett’s new novel “State of Wonder” – brilliant.

Before I let you go is there anything I forgot to ask that you want the readers and fans to know?

Only how grateful I am to them – there would be no point in writing without them!

Joanna's Website
This context is open to US residents only.  Thanks to Joanna's publisher you will have an opportunity to win a copy of Daughter's In-Law.  Are you a mother in -law?  If so what is your relationship with your children's spouse?  If you are a daughter in-law, please share your experience with us.  This contest will end May 20th.  Please be sure and leave your email address so that you can be contacted.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Q&A with Author Judy Serrano and Giveaway

Judy Serrano Bio

I am a part time substitute teacher and a full time wife and mother. I have four children, (all boys) five dogs and have been happily married for 15 years. Although I am originally from upstate New York, my family and I have been living in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area for a little more than seven years. I just graduated from Texas A&M University, Commerce in May of 2010 with a BA in English. I make sure I always have my flash drive on me, so when opportunity strikes, I can steal a moment alone with my series.

Since I have begun my writing career, I have had some exciting things happening. I was interviewed by Cathy B. Stucker, which can be viewed here and I have been reviewed by Patricia Folts of Way2Kool Designs, which can be viewed here.

I am a member of The Writer’s Guild of Texas and The Writer’s Market. I have done book signings at Hastings Entertainment, the Quinlan Library and will be doing signings at Barnes and Noble and Half Price books in the next few weeks. I did a reading at the Dallas Library and a signing at the Library’s bookstore, BookEnds. For more information please check out my website at

Book Description

My first novel, Easter’s Lilly, is a story about a young innocent girl who gets herself mixed up inadvertently with the Mexican Mafia. She gets pregnant by a low ranking drug dealer who abandons her and finds herself married to the king pin of the Montiago organization. Easter Sunday is the day her life begins to spiral out of control.

Lilly tells the story of her life -- and the lives of her children -- with childlike innocence, yet she's desperate for security and companionship. The hint of forbidden love and betrayal that ultimately puts brother against brother adds to the suspense and intrigue. The syndicate engulfs the Montiago family as they turn each other inside out over the love of a woman. Easter's Lilly is an inspired journey from the idyllic to the darker side of self-discovery. Read as the over-privileged brothers embark on their journey that twists and turns down the road of unbridled passion in the first book of the series.

Welcome Judy Serrano to Romance Author Buzz. Is there a back-story to Easter's Lilly?

As the book progresses you will see how Lilly eventually ends up belonging to Easter.

How long have you been writing and what was your call story?

I have been writing since I was a little girl. I actually wrote novels for fun as a child. My first novel was released in December of last year and I am looking forward to releasing the second book of the series soon.

When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?

I have always been a writer in some capacity, although nothing professional until now. I have written songs and poetry all my life. When I went back to college, I realized that this is something I wanted to do. I have been obsessed ever since.

Do you plot your stories or let your characters lead you?

Although many great authors write outlines first, I tend to let the characters take me on their own adventures. I plug in my flash drive, read the last chapter that I wrote and continue the story. I often dream of story lines as I sleep and wake up feverishly writing notes.

Of all of your characters, do you have a favorite you identify with and why?

My favorite character is our protagonist, Lilly Montigao. She expresses such raw vulnerability that I can’t help but feel what she’s feeling when she’s feeling it.

What are you currently working on?

Currently I am working on two things. I am finishing book four of the series and simultaneously writing a young adult spin off featuring one of Lilly’s children.

What is the best thing about your job as an author? What is the hardest thing?

The best thing about my job as an author is that I love what I do. I write whenever I have spare time and can’t imagine doing anything else. The hardest thing is finding the time to write as much as I want to write. But it will come.

If Oprah invited you onto her show to talk about your book, what would the theme of the show be?

Page-turners! My most frequent comment in my reviews on, Barnes and Noble and even from my readers is that they could not put the book down until they had finished the novel. What a joy that is to hear.

Describe a day in the life of Judy Serrano

I get up in the morning and turn on my Mac. I check my social networking connections and my web page before I get started. I plug in my flash drive and write notes on whatever new ideas I woke up with that morning. Then I read the last chapter I have written from the day before and Lilly takes me on her inspiring journeys.

What is something you definitely want readers to know about you?

How important I think dreams are to follow. If there is something in your life that you want, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. What are dreams for if not to realize them.

When the time comes for you to retire from writing, what would you like your readers to remember the most about you and your writing?

I don’t ever want to retire from writing. But I would like to be known as a writer whose books take you on a memorable journey, as the reader is incapable of putting the book down.

Who is your favorite author?

Nora Roberts. I love the strong male characters and the romance involved in the passion.

Before I let you go is there anything I forgot to ask that you want the readers and fans to know?

I hope that the joy I feel when I write brings joy to others when they read. My goal is to reach not just readers but non-readers as well. I hope I can make reading fun for everyone.

Judy Serrano, thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview with me!


Facebook Page:


Will give a free, signing copy to the person who writes the best essay on what makes a book a page turner for you. Tell me what components you think are necessary for you to be unable to put the book down.

Please post your entries on the blog at Easter's Winners will be announced on the web site and on twitter May 16th, 2011This contest is International

Monday, April 11, 2011

Q&A with Author Kate Walker and The Proud Wife Giveaway

Welcome Mills and Boon and Harlequin Presents author Kate Walker to
Romance Author Buzz.

Welcome Kate, to Romance Author Buzz. To read Kate's bio, you can find it here at her website.  While you're there, check out Kate's current releases and her blog.


Her husband wants her back!

Marina thought her dreams had come true when her husband placed a wedding band on her finger. But their marriage was not the fairytale she'd hoped for, and eventually Marina walked away, her heart broken.

But two years on Pietro DInzeo no longer haunts Marina's dreams. She knows the time has come to move on, and even a summons to join him in Sicily won't deter her However, with his wife standing before him, about to sign on the dotted line of their divorce papers, Pietro wonders why he ever let her go?

Kate, is there a behind the book story for The Proud Wife?

A small part of the story of The Proud Wife comes from my own life. Before my son was born, I had another pregnancy, one that ended in miscarriage. My husband and I hadn’t been married very long at the time and we both dealt with the loss of the baby in very different ways. So when I was working through Pietro and Marina's reactions, I remembered those days and the complicated intense feelings that went with them. I also wanted to explore the theme that my web designer has put into the great banner for this book on my web site – that sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got until you’re about to lose it.

Are you a plotter or pantser? What is your writing routine?

I’m sort of half and half really! A plotster? I always start out with the ‘seed’ of a book – just an idea. Perhaps a line of dialogue or just a ‘what would happen if . . .’ Then I take it from there. Sometimes I plan out the scenes ahead- these are the times when the book has to develop a very definite way or when I know a scene that has to come in later. Other times I’ll just ‘ travel hopefully into the fog’ and see where the characters will take me. Because for me the characters are the most important – they are what make the story. It’s their story and I have to tell it for them. So I need to know my characters very well so that I can understand how they will behave and how they will react to what happens to them.

With The Prod Wife, I knew that my hero, Pietro, was going to push for a divorce - but that he would never reveal what his real reasons for doing so were. He thinks that his marriage is over and that the best thing to do is to end it cleanly and definitely so that he and Marina have a chance to move on. Marina thinks that this shows there is no chance for their future so she is resolved to accept nothing from him in the divorce settlement - and that is what makes them both stop and think.

This book is really very typical of how I work. I knew these details about my characters at the beginning, and I knew why their marriage had failed, what had driven them apart. But once they came together I was working more as a ‘pantser’ – seeing how they would react to each other and how they would then take that further. For me the really hard work in a book is the ‘thinking time’ before you are actually writing the story. That’s when you have to ask yourself (and your characters) a lot of questions and most of them begin with ‘Why?’ I try to work on my writing – or something connected with it every day. But I don’t really have a routine other than to make myself sit down at the desk and work. Sometimes the words flow and sometimes they don’t. On the really good days, I can work for hours – and still be at my desk at 10 at night. But I also need to make sure that I get a chance to unwind.

How did you start your career? Who was your first publisher?

If we’re talking about novels, then Harlequin Mills& Boon were my first publisher. I had my first novel published by them – The Chalk Line – in 1984. Before that I had had some short stories published in small magazines but nothing very much. I always wanted to write and even as a child I was writing stories

What are you working on right now?, always scribbling in notebooks. I wrote a long story in instalments that my friends read like a serial and that was very romantic so when I left work to have my son I looked back at the things I had enjoyed writing and realised that romance was the sort of novel writing I liked best. I also remembered a friend of my mother who had written for Mills & Boon when I was growing up so I decided to give it a try., My first attempt was rejected (not surprisingly, it was pretty bad!) but my second attempt got a response from a Senior Editor telling me what was wrong with what I’d submitted and asking me to try again. Of course I did and The Chalk Line was the result. They wanted some small revisions and that was my first acceptance.

What news would you like to share with your readers?

I’ve just had some really great new – fabulous news! One of my novels from last year – The Konstantos Marriage Demand - was shortlisted by Romantic Times for their Reviewers’ Choice Awards – for the Best Presents Extra and it was just announced in the new issue of Romantic Times that I had won! I was so thrilled. I’ve been nominated twice before for this award - with The Twelve Month Mistress and Bedded By The Greek Billionaire but this was my first win. And I’ve just learned that RT gave The Proud Wife 4 1/2 stars so they really seem to like what I’m writing right now.

How did you build the relationship between Marina and Pietro so that it felt real?

I always work the same way on building my characters - I have to get to know them really well. So I spend a lot of time thinking about who they are and what has happened to them in the past – then what happened between the two of them and the most important question ‘why’? I knew, obviously that they had been married but the marriage had broken down but I needed to know what had been the cause of that breakdown and how it had made them both feel. The problem for these two people was that they had married in a rush because Marina was pregnant, but they didn’t know each other well enough to survive the grief and pain when Marina lost the baby. They shared a powerful physical passion but they needed more than that to cope with what life threw at them. Grief does terrible things to people. Some couples can be drawn together by it, others are torn apart. And because Marina and Pietro didn’t know each other well enough to understand what each of them was going through that grief opened up the cracks in their marriage and they didn’t know how to communicate what they were feeling to each other. They still had the burning passion that had brought them together. But passion wasn’t enough to keep them together. In the end, Marina couldn’t take the emptiness any more and she left. And believing separation was what she truly wanted, Pietro let her go. I try to dig deep into my characters to understand what they are really feeling – and that’s not what they say they are feeling. So many times people put on masks’ to hide what they’re really feeling – I had to make them take those masks away.

Do you identify with the characters you write about?

Oh yes – I think you have to to be able to write them really well. I don’t just tell my characters’ stories, I try to get inside them, into their hearts and their minds. I want to feel the way they are feeling, understand their anger, love, pain - all the emotions that run through them. I may not have experienced everything they live through - or I might not do what they would do in a certain situation but I need to understand it and believe in it so that I can communicate it to my readers and get them to believe in my hero and heroine and the way they think and feel and act.

Tell us a little about your favorite “hero” type guy.

I love the way that Executive Editor Tessa Shapcott once described the powerful Alpha Male as the ultimate nurturer. I know a lot of people wouldn’t associate that word with some of the powerful Presents heroes, but what I love about the heroes I create is that they are really trying to do what they think is for the best. They may have got it all wrong through misinformation or something but they are aiming to do what seems right to them. I also have to show a pure thread of honour in a man before I can call him a hero – that goes with him trying to do what’s right. Sometimes this can make it seem as if he is too domineering or forceful but that’s because he feels things so strongly and thinks he knows what’s needed so he can’t see why everyone else – specially his heroine - isn’t doing the same. I can understand mistakes and getting things wrong but there needs to be that honour. Then when he acknowledges his mistakes it’s not a sudden transformation or ‘redemption’ - I would find it hard to believe that a man who needed redeeming would really know how to love. I love a hero who is strong – not just physically – dependable and isn’t afraid to acknowledge how much he cares. It might take him a while to say so because he doesn’t have the right emotional vocabulary to show his feelings easily but when he does say it, it’s well worth hearing!

Would you please describe the heroines you love to write?

I love to show a heroine with a quiet strength. They can look sweet and gentle but they are no pushover. I love to write a heroine who doesn’t just lock horns with a hero and challenge him – that might seem brave but in fact it’s like waving a red rag at a bull. The heroines I enjoy writing are those who are caught in situations they don’t like or understand but they are going to try and find a way out of it – or, at worst, to cope with it until they know how to handle it best. They use a very different approach to dealing with their hero – a feminine way – with patience and skill and understanding. They’re comfortable in their own skin, sure in their femininity, and they have a great inner strength as a result.

How would you describe your life in only 8 words?

Busy fulfilled loving happy creative challenging enjoyable – great!

What is your motto or maxim?

Life is not a dress rehearsal.

How would you describe perfect happiness?

Being with those I love and knowing they are happy and fulfilled.

What’s your greatest fear?

I have been married to my husband for 38 years in July – I’ve known him for 40 years. The inevitable fear that comes with loving someone so much for so long is the thought of ever parting from them

What advice would you give aspiring authors?

My first piece of advice is always to read, read, read. I’m always stunned by the number of people who tell me they want to write – whether romance or any other genre - and then they follow up that remark by saying ‘well, I’ve never read any, but . . .’ In Romance it is particularly important to read so that you get to know the line you’re aiming for, the sort of books they buy, the tone of the emotion, the sort of characters, plots and conflicts they want. Reading shows you what the editors are looking for much better than if they spent an hour listing what they want.

The other important advice for would-be romance writers is to write from the heart. What sells a romance is the emotion that goes into the story so you need to put yourself into the place of your characters, into their minds and hearts and feel what they’re feeling, care about the things they care about. A lot of would-be writers get too concerned about their plots when what they should be concentrating on is the characters. Getting to know your hero and heroine from the inside is what matters. If you truly understand them and know what drives them, then this will make writing so much easier because you know what they will do and how they will react in an situation.

Treat the genre with respect and don’t see it as silly books written by silly women for other silly women to read. The romance market is huge – huge numbers of reader, potentially huge numbers of sales. They love what they read – and they read if for enjoyment. And they can be highly critical of what they read. If you can love what you write and write it for enjoyment – your and theirs – you’ll have a chance of winning them to your books. Cynicism, or the fact that a book is just ‘dashed off’ or ‘churned’ out’ to make a fast buck shows and turns the readers away.

How did you come up with the idea of your 12 Point Writing Guide?

It all began with an Instant Message conversation. I was chatting with a friend .about writing and as I’d read some of her unpublished novels I’d asked if she’d ever thought of writing for Presents. This took the conversation on to The 10 Most Important Things about Writing for Presents. I don ‘t remember much detail about that discussion, but I do know that the top three of that Top Ten most important things were:



And The Question Why?

Sometime later I was asked to do some writing workshops. I do some regular teaching here in the UK, at Writers’ Holidays and at festivals and of course the RNA Conference. This was an Internet workshop with a writing group based round eHarlequin. Now where had I put those Top Ten Most Important Things? After a quick hunt I found them again, realised that really, they weren’t just for writing Presents but, if looked at within the guidelines of each line, they applied to all romance writing. I also wanted to make the Top Ten the Top Twelve, and then I used those twelve points for the workshop, which was a great success. Suddenly I found that people were asking me for the details of the ‘twelve points’ – but I realised that just giving them the points without any explanation wasn’t exactly helpful. For example, how do you define the difference between sensuality and passion? Or what exactly is that ‘vital vulnerability?’ And don’t people get all conflicted about conflict? So I put some of the details – this was a very very shortened form of the workshop – into a pamphlet and had that printed to use when I was teaching.

It was that pamphlet that I showed to a publisher when he asked me if I’d write a ‘How To’ book on writing romance. It needed a lot of expansion and detail, but the basic skeleton of the book was there. Could I write the whole thing? At the time the publisher was known for his educational text books, they had a set format, lots of bullet points, were like revision aids and quite frankly they were rather dry. I wanted my book to be different. I wanted it to be as close to coming to one of my writing weekend workshops as it was possible to be. I wanted it to be like a conversation, as if I was – as I had been doing in the original IM conversation – chatting with the reader about writing. And most of all I wanted it to be a workbook.

That had been the important part of the original workshop. At the end of each session, I had given the students a set of questions relating to the topic we’d dealt with and then added ‘Something to Think About’ and ‘Something to Write About’. Because the best way to put something into practice is to write about it yourself. And in the workshops everyone had said how useful they found those sessions. So they went into the book too.

If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?

I’m very happy right where I am – at home with my husband and cats and family nearby. But I love the beautiful city of Galway in Ireland - in fact I love Ireland because it’s the country my parents both came from.

What are your most overused words or phrases?

My son would tell you I say Yes too easily – agree to take on too much!

What do you regret most?

That my mother never actually held a copy of my first book in her hands – she was diagnosed with terminal cancer in the same month as I got my first acceptance and sadly she died before the book was published. But she knew it was coming out

If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?

I’d love to be able to draw – I have no artistic ability at all. And I’d love to be able to sing. If I do try to sing I clear rooms! And I love music and songs so it would be fabulous to be able to join in and not upset people!

What’s your fantasy profession?

I’m doing it already – I wanted to be a writer from my earliest days - (I always wanted to be an air hostess and a vet and a nurse!) So I’m doing just what I dreamed of doing. I did enjoy the work I finally ended up doing before this - I was a Children’s Librarian - but I love being a writer much more.

If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?

Oh that’s a terrible question! As soon as I think of an answer, I want to change it. I love salads – does that count as one food or lots?

Do you have one sentence of advice for new writers?

Read lots to learn the sort of things that editors are looking for and understand the differences between the lines – and write from the heart.

(I’m being really good here and not saying as my one sentence ‘Buy the 12 Point Guide To Writing Romance’ – but that book does have the best advice I can think of in it.)

What comment do you hear most often from your readers?

That they love the emotion and tension I put into my stories. I’m a mean, cruel author who loves to make my readers cry and when they write and tell me that a book made them tear up at some point then I’m happy. Readers also say they love my ambiguous devasting heroes – that’s what I always hope they’ll feel so I’m happy with that!

Where can readers find you?

Twitter: I don’t have a Twitter account




Kate, thanks for allowing me to interview you at Romance Author Buzz

Kate is offering her UK version of The Proud Wife to one lucky International winner.  In order to win a copy, answer the question below:

Question:  What does Pietro send to Marina at the start of the book? (IT’s in the excerpt on Kate's web site)  Email me with your answer.  Don't forget to leave your email address here so that you can be contacted.  Winner will be announced May 1.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

April 11 through 14th - Autism Awareness Blog Hop

April is Autism Awareness Month. To help spread the word about Autism we are hosting a giveaway hop.

Each participating blog will host their own giveaway. There is no requirement on the minimum or maximum value of your giveaway. It's up to you to decide what to give away but it must be related to Autism or Aspergers in some way.

For More Information about Austism:

Autism Speaks


Autism Resources

This book was chosen by Mills and Boon as their Book of the Month.  It's an excellent romance.

Kiss me,’ he growled… ‘And make it believable.’

Alone and scared on the dark streets of Moscow, staid, bespectacled Paige Barnes has no choice but to comply with the handsome stranger’s command… Little does Paige know she’s been rescued by Alexei Voronov – a Russian prince and her boss’s deadliest rival. Now he has Paige unexpectedly in his sights, Alexei is prepared to play emotional Russian roulette to keep her close and discover her true motives. But in his splendid gilded palace his game of chance spins out of control and passion takes over…

It’s only when she’s back home that Paige realises she’s pregnant with the Prince’s baby…

To win a copy of this book, follow Lynn Raye Harris on Facebook here.  Don't forget to leave your email. 

Also, check out Susan Mallery's contest here on this blog.  It ends tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Jill Shure - A Clause for Murder and a Giveaway

Jill Shure has written books, screenplays, and TV scripts. She won the prestigious Ben Franklin Award for Night Jazz. She lives in Southern California where she is
working on her next novel.

Book Description:

Courtney Farrow is a woman other women despise. She will steal your lover or husband, leave you crying, and wash her hands in your tears. Her special victim is Betsy Ross. Ever since Courtney bought life insurance from Betsy and insinuated herself into Betsy's circle of friends, Courtney has used all her charms to seduce every guy in Betsy's life.

So when Courtney turns up deader than a cooked Brussels sprout in a neighbor's garage after an ugly confrontation with Betsy at a party, more than a few fingers point to Betsy as the murderess.

So begins Betsy's life as an amateur sleuth in A Clause for Murder, where in order to save herself from being the prime suspect, Betsy must discover who killed Courtney Farrow, a woman too many men loved and too many women despised. A woman who made men and women pay for her favors.

Q: Welcome, Jill, to Romance Author Buzz. Is there a behind the book story to A Clause for Murder?

A: Yes, I lived where Betsy Ross lives. And I sold insurance, too.

Q: Are you a plotter or pantser? What is your routine?

A: I outline, I write, I do more outlines. I throw away outlines, I wing it. I do everything.

Q: What advice would you give aspiring authors?

A: Give yourself time to learn. Learn grammar. Learn writing skills. Don't rush to sell your first efforts. They may not do you justice.

Q: How did you start your career? Who was your first publisher?

A: I studied in workshops, won awards, then published with Writers Club Press.

Q: What are you working on right now?

A: I'm currently writing a second book in the Betsy Ross Series, the one following A CLAUSE FOR MURDER.

Q: What news would you like to share with your readers?

A: I think my new novel, DEATH AND DISMEMBERMENT, will be as funny, sexy, and fast-paced as A CLAUSE FOR MURDER.

Q: Where can readers find you?

A: Pretty much on any bookseller's website in the world.

Q: How do you build the relationship between these two characters so that it feels real?

A: In a romance or a mystery (because I always include a huge romance in all of my books), I like the woman to be a bit insecure but realistic. And the male to be complicated and difficult. There's usually an initial attraction followed by difficulties arising from commitment phobias or other issues arising from the plot. But I basically like decent people so my protagonists are good people with all the issues most of us have.

Q: Do you identify with the characters you write about?

A: Absolutely. My female leads have a lot of me inside them. They may be younger, prettier, or more accomplished, but their energy is my energy. I do, however, put them in situations I have never encountered because this is fiction.

Q: Tell us a little about your favorite “hero” type guy.

A: He's strong, handsome, worldly, with a track record with women. At heart, he's very kind and human. But he's usually a scoundrel to some extent. He breaks hearts without meaning to.

Q: Would you please describe the heroines you love to write?

A: My heroines are very romantic but realistic, too. They're steeped in reality. Hence, they fret, worry, plan, and go to bed and eat ice cream when things get too tough.

Q: How would you describe your life in only 8 words?

A: I'm a very lucky woman with a loving husband.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?

A: Work hard but enjoy life because it goes by in a flash. And remember, time really does heal all wounds.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?

A: Good times with my husband and my dogs and cats. Writing, seeing friends, traveling, painting, playing tennis and horseback riding.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?

A: Dying too young from cancer. Or living too long and ending up in a nursing home.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?

A: Today, exactly where I am. Next week, who knows. I love traveling, especially in the U.S.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases?

A: I'm drawing a blank. Maybe, “You know?”

Q: What do you regret most?

A: Being too sensitive.

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?

A: Being fearless in sports and in life, in general.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?

A: Being a regular on a sitcom I love.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?

A: Ice Cream.

Q: Do you have one sentence of advice for new writers?

A: Learn your craft and don't publish until you're ready.

Q: What comment do you hear most often from your readers?

A: They think my books are always funny and fun to read.

Jill, thanks for allowing me to interview you at Romance Author Buzz.

Where you can find Jill:
Jill at Twitter
Jill Shure at Facebook
Jill's Website
Jill has generously offered to give away a copy of one of her books from her previous Night series (Night Jazz, Night Glitter, Night Caps).  To win a copy tell us if you've ever experienced someone trying to flirt or try to take away your significant other?  US Residents only.

For additional chances to win, friend Jill on Facebook, follow her on Twitter or comment about this Q&A on her Facebook page.  Come back here and post a comment and don't forget to leave your email address so that you can be contacted.  The winner will be announced May 1st.


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