Monday, September 14, 2009

Wendy Watson

Interview with Suzanne

Suz: Welcome to the Bandit, Lair, Wendy. Pull up a barstool and we'll have one of the cabana boys fetch us a margarita. So congratulations on the debut of I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM, the first in your cozy mystery series. Please tell everyone what the book is about.

Wendy: Cocktails! Fantastic! Had I known we were having snacks, I would have brought along some of Tally's avocado gelato. Maybe next time ...

I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM is about Tally Jones, proprietor of Dalliance, Texas's ice cream parlor, Remember the A-la-mode. With a struggling business, a crumbling historic home, and a motley assortment of family members depending on her, Tally swallows her pride and agrees to provide ice cream for her ex-husband's company luau. But when her ex's arm-candy girlfriend drops dead, Tally finds herself scooping for her life, hoping to find a murderer before she finds herself locked in the hoosegow.

Thankfully, Tally's cousin Bree, Bree's daughter Alice, and Tally's high school beau Finn Harper are all on hand to help her out.

Suz: I've been looking forward to this book since you first announced it at one of our chapter meetings. How did you come up with the concept?

Wendy: Funny you should ask. Normally, I start with a very vivid scene, and the characters and plot flow from that. For I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM, though, I started with the hook: ice cream. My agent and I had a brainstorming session, trying to think of ideas for a cozy series, something that I knew about and was passionate about and that people would find relatable. Well, friends, this girl knows food. Cooking it, eating it, reading about it, dreaming about it ... I {puffy heart} food. And the mother of all foods, in my opinion, is ice cream.

As soon as I said the words aloud, Kim and I knew it was the perfect hook for me. And it has been. My husband jokes that he can always tell when I've been writing "ice cream procedural," the passages where Tally is making or eating ice cream, because I get all keyed up and he can't drag me away from the computer.


Suz: Tallulah, "Tally" Jones is the star of this series. She has a lot to overcome, but doesn't come off perfect. How did she first make her appearance to you?

Wendy: Ice cream equals indulgence. It's sensual and luscious and fattening as heck. I wanted a character whose life was the opposite of that. And thus Tally Jones was born. She's all about duty and responsibility and being a good girl and not making a scene. At least on the outside. She's got ice cream in her soul, though, and getting down to that vibrant, raw, passionate person is going to be tons of fun.

Suz: The secondary characters in I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM are a hoot. How do they play a part in Tally's life?

Wendy: Wow. You get right to the heart of the matter, huh?

That's a big theme in the book, how we define ourselves relative to the people around us. My extended family lives in a small town, and everyone is defined by their relationships to one another: "Roberta's boy," or "Junior's ex." We moved around a lot when I was growing up, so for me, those sorts of relationships were largely impermanent; I didn't have a place in some vast interpersonal web, but was mostly floating free. As a result, that small town feel intrigues me.

In this book, I play a lot with that notion of being defined by the people around you, both your relationships to them and their expectations of you. On the one hand, I find that sort of belonging seductive. On the other, I can see how it could be stifling, oppressive. For Tally, it's both.

Gee. Didn't mean to get all heavy, but you really touched on one of the more emotional themes of the book. And while I love to laugh--and hopefully make others laugh, too--I want Tally's story to touch people's hearts, too.

Suz: Speaking of Finn Harper, is there a future romance in the works between him and Tally?

Wendy: LOL! Yes, one of the most delicious threads of the story (to me) is Tally's struggle to define her relationship with her high school boyfriend Finn. When the book begins, she hasn't seen him in nearly two decades, not since she broke his heart in the Tasty-Swirl parking lot on the eve of their high school graduation. When he comes back to town and into her life, he stirs up all sorts of feelings she'd rather not examine too closely.

Do they have a future? Hmmmm. Maybe. Finn and Tally have a lot of past to overcome before they can start thinking about happily ever after. And, well, there might be a competitor for Tally's affections just around the corner .....

Suz: So what's next in the MYSTERY A LA MODE series?

Wendy: SCOOP TO KILL is slated for a July 2010 release. Tally's precocious niece Alice is finishing up her first year at Dickerson College, and when the annual Honor's Day festivities turn bloody, Alice enlists her Aunt Tally's help in solving an ivory tower murder.



Suz: At the end of I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM you have a delicious recipe for "Tally's Tropical Sundaes", which sounds delicious by the way, is this going to be something you do with each book? If so, I can see one dear husband wanting me to buy more books!

Wendy: Trust me, that ginger-lime-coconut sauce is highly addictive (great for dressing up carrot cake, too!). There will be recipes for ice cream goodies in every book, all using store-bought ice cream and all designed so even "can't boil water" cooks can craft something company-worthy.

So dear readers...what is your favorite ice cream and/or toppings?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

interviewed by Suzanne

Bandits and readers let me introduce you to my friend, Celya Bowers. Welcome to the Lair Celya, pull up a cushy chair and I'm sure we can find a cabana boy around here to bring us some refreshments!

Suz:
ANYTHING BUT LOVE is one of my favorite Celya Bowers books. Can you give us a little look into the story?

Celya: ANYTHING BUT LOVE is a contemporary romance about two very A-type personalities who don’t want to date, but end up doing just that. Kendall Matthews is a very talented doctor in a prestigious hospital. Her world get turned upside down when her past comes back to greet her. Coletrane Highpoint was her first love and now he was back in town. He hadn’t noticed Kendall when she 16, but he notices her now at the tender age of 40.



Suz: Your heroine and hero have a past history. How did that mold them into the people they are now? And how does it affect their relationships both together and with other people?

Celya: Kendall always carried the hurt of Cole’s dismissive attitude toward her all these years. It formed her into the very focused woman she is now. She’s determined not to let another hurt her again. At first Cole can’t understand why Kendall has such an attitude about him, but when he realizes she was still harboring ill feelings from the past. He tries to rectify it.

Suz: Both characters have strong family ties. Is this important to you to show that part of their lives?

Celya: I’m very close to my family. I couldn’t imagine not speaking to someone in my family at least weekly. There’s such negative images of the African-American family, I’d like to show the world that there are still solid families on this earth. All my books have strong family ties.

Suz: Your secondary characters also have a second parallel love story. Do you feel that adds to the richness of the main story?

Celya: Yes, I do. I think it helps adds a much needed layer to a romance. Nothing is worse than being so focused on someone else’s romance you don’t realize you’ve fallen in love yourself.

Suz: So what's next for Celya Bowers?


Celya: My latest release is a Celya Bowers book and is called 2 GOOD.

2 GOOD features a plus size heroine, Madisyn O'Riley and wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys, Aidan Coles. Madisyn is tired of playa-playas and wants to find just one good man. She's had her fill of two legged dogs. When she volunteers at Aidan's charity, she can't believe that he's actually interested in her. Aidan is immediately attracted to Madisyn because she's not swayed by his wealth. Is she 2 Good to be true? When her security is threatened by an ex-lover, Aidan jumps at the chance to show her how much he wants her. Madisyn had begun to think men like Aidan didn't exist anymore, but is so glad she was wrong.

Suz: Can't wait to read 2 GOOD. I love football players as heroes! You also write as Kennedy Shaw. What’s up next for her?

Celya: The next book by Kennedy Shaw is called TOUR OF DUTY, and
will be released December 2009. This is a romantic suspense and is concerning unauthorized military testing with our troops in Iraq. It features high school sweethearts Mikerra Stone and Drake Harrington. This story is set in Wright City, Texas. Mikerra has a secret. She's been living in New York working as an editor, and seeing a married man. Now that man wants her dead. Mikerra returns to her hometown for safety. She never dreamed she'd run into Drake. He still habors bad feelings toward her for the break-up. Drake is a an army ranger, home on leave after a tour in Iraq. Unfortunately, he's been suffering from headaches since his return from the desert. The one person who holds the key to his headaches is the same person who broke his heart all those years ago. Can he put his hurt aside and listen to Mikerra?

Suz: Why do you write as two different pseudonyms? What is the advantage in doing that?

Celya: Kennedy Shaw’s story are usually set in the fictious city of Wright City, Texas. Every now and then Kennedy Shaw will have something different.

I wanted to keep those stories separate from Celya Bowers.

When you write totally different stories, it’s best to do it under a different name, so your loyal readers won’t be offended.

Suz: What do you see as the advantages of being a romance writer who happens to be African American? The disadvantages?

Celya: When I first started writing, there weren’t many African American romances out there. Now there’s more opportunities for writers of color, which I’m so grateful for. I try to write uplifting stories that give a reader hope. That’s why they’re paying to read my book. Escapism, but with the thought “hey, this could be me.”

To me the biggest disadvantage is that most mainstream readers think the minute they see AA on the cover, it’s going to be a story about the hood, drug dealers, and so on. I don’t write those kind of stories, because frankly, I don’t know that life style. I don’t write about baby mama drama, baby daddy drama. That’s just not my cup of tea. I write from my heart and things that occur around me. None of my friends are doing drugs, so I can’t write about that.

I guess I would like people to see my books as just romances. I don’t want it labeled a black romance just because of the color of the characters.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

by Suzanne
Oh hey, y'all! Give me a second to finish putting on my Kevlar vest. There! Now I'm ready to sit and chat with my good friend, Kay Thomas, who once again has brought us another intriguing book with bullets flying.

Suz: Kay, welcome back to the Lair. BULLETPROOF TEXAS is your second novel for Harlequin Intrigue and this is set, of course, in the Hill Country of Texas. Tell us a little bit about this book.

Kay, eyeing the vest: Sure, Suz. Thanks so much to you and the Banditas for having me back in "the Lair" today.

The bulletproof action continues when a pharmaceutical research scientist and a brooding caving guide are forced to work together extracting cancer-eating bacteria from a flooding Texas Hill Country cave. As the sparks fly and passions rise, so do the dangers when a competitor decides this potential cure shouldn't see the light of day--and is willing to kill anyone who gets in the way.

Suz: Can you tell us how you came up with the idea for BULLETPROOF TEXAS?

Kay: My family and I were in Carlsbad Caverns a couple of years ago for Spring break. I was listening to an audio tour that talked about cancer-eating bacteria found in Lechuguilla, another nearby cave. This bacteria is showing promise for cancer treatment in the research world. From the moment I heard the details of the discovery, I was fascinated with the idea of setting a romantic suspense novel against a cavern backdrop. I'd just finished a manuscript with a biomedical edge and a pharmaceutical company's machinations as part of the plot that would later be my debut novel, BETTER THAN BULLETPROOF (Harlequin Intrigue, January 2009). This new idea seemed the perfect fit for a sequel.

Suz: Your hero in BULLETPROOF TEXAS, Zach Douglas is a Park Ranger with a fascinating background. Can you tell us how you used it in the book?

Kay: Zach is the twin brother of Tammy Douglas from BETTER THAN BULLETPROOF. In the opening scene of BULLETPROOF TEXAS he makes the discovery of a lifetime (Devil's Hollow Cavern) and gets the news of Tammy's murder, both within moments of each other. The next scene takes place three months later. He's quit his job with the park service and is now a free-lance caving guide for the heroine, Maxine (Max) O'Neil.

Suz: Maxine O'Neil isn't your typical research scientist. How has she had to prove herself in her field and why?

Kay: Max is a woman with the body of a "Hooter's girl" and the brain of a rocket scientist. On the surface she appears to have it all. But her success has come at a huge price and her personal life is a wreck. She's just left her unfaithful fiance' at home in New York.

As a top pharmaceutical researcher in her field, her looks have been a handicap and she isn't always taken seriously in this "boys club" because of her stunning appearance. Over the years she's developed a very "hard case" personna. From the moment she and Zach first interact, there are fireworks.

Suz: The relationship between Max and Zach sizzles on the pages, are you finding it harder or easier to pack both steamy romance and plot into the category size books?

Kay: In this case it was easier to write because these characters just couldn't keep their hands off each other. Their relationship is more intense from the beginning and their personalities dictate a more physical relationship from the start.

Zach is angry with himself that he's attracted to a woman who infuriates, yet fascinates him at the same time. What he feels for Max breaks through the wall he has put up since his sister's death.

Max is drawn to Zach despite all her best intentions to keep him at arm's length. She's very aware of her responsibilities on this project and being in charge at Devil's Hollow, plus she's just broken off her engagement. She doesn't feel she's in a good place for a relationship or a casual fling because of how it would look to the others on her research team. But all those objections fall away once she and Zach start spending time together. Their chemistry is unstoppable.

Suz, grinning at Kay: Okay, since we're good friends, I know you did some interesting research for BULLETPROOF TEXAS. Want to tell our readers how far you went to be authentic in your story?

Kay, rolling her eyes at Suz: Oooh, I knew you were going to ask me this. : )

Much of the book's action takes place in a cave and since I'm too claustrophobic and too chicken to try actual "on-my-belly-in-the-mud" caving, my husband and I went to a rock climbing gym for the climbing part of the research. I was determined to feel my rear end in the rappelling gear, to feel the exhilaration of sliding down that rope and to get great pictures for my website. (For the record, my agent begged me not to do this! She thought I might get hurt. I assured her I would be fine! Note to self. Always listen to your agent.)

After the initial stomach churning experience of climbing to the top of the thirty-foot wall, (Did I mention I have this thing about heights, too?), I was having a fabulous time. Once I got over the nausea and rappelled down a couple of times, I was feeling very proud of myself...quite accomplished. What had I ever been afraid of? My husband was "on belay." He does lots of this kind of stuff a lot, so I wasn't worried.

A few minutes later, on my last climb of the afternoon we had a major "equipment malfunction." I was about twelve feet from the ground and my rope kinked. The ascender thingie (that keeps you from falling) jammed and I plummeted straight down. Flat on my back. The earth moved. Some of you may have felt it there in Australia. I scared those teenagers running the place half to death. Not to mention my sweetheart. It wasn't pretty.

After an MRI and multiple hours on a massage therapist's table, the doctor decided I did not have a compression fracture and cleared me to travel. For a month I had been planning (and packing) for a big writers' conference in San Francisco that started a few days after my umm...tumble. The doctor gave me a raft of muscle relaxers, anti-inflammatories and pain-killers to get me through RWA National. This conference is always a wonderful and wild time, but a backache in high heels, even when you haven't fallen on your rear the week before.

Suz glances over the rim of her glasses in that omnipotent way of hers: And what did you ultimately learn from this adventure?

Kay, laughs: Well, this could be a whole other blog post about how I learned not to be stupid while researching.

Number one. About my agent.
Always listen to your agent. After I fell, the first thing that ran through my head (as I was lying flat on my back and trying to breath again) was: "My agent told me not to do this. I should've listened."

Number two. About my research.
Always, always in these kinds of situations rent the "how to DVD" and
interview the hot athlete. Have your picture made with him for your website (The photo of my behind in that sling is something that will never see the light of day!)

Number three. About my husband.
When I've had an MRI because my husband thinks he dropped me, I can buy as many pairs of shoes as I want and he won't say a word. In fact, he may ask if I want to buy a purse to go with them! However, I do not recommend this as a path to Jimmy Choo.

Number four. About myself.
I am a writer. I do not necessarily have to experience things to write about them. (I know, not exactly an epiphany, but apparently I need to be reminded of this "truth" from time to time!)

Suz: BULLETPROOF TEXAS is Kay Thomas's second novel from Harlequin Intrigue and is on US store shelves this week. Romantic Times gave BULLETPROOF TEXAS 4 stars calling it "taut, tricky and worth the read." Cataromance gave it 4 ½ stars calling it "non-stop action, nail-biting suspense and fiery passion." Her debut novel BETTER THAN BULLETPROOF was released in the US in January and in Australia in March. For excerpts, to enter Kay's April contest, and more please visit www.KayThomas.net.

Kay: So, readers, what’s the silliest thing you’ve ever done against good advice? Or if you really don’t want to share that particular experience ‘cause trust me, I know we’ve all had some “never-want-to-think-about-it-again” adventures. What’s the best thing you ever did against good advice?

You’ve already heard about one of my sillier moments. Now for the best thing I ever did against good advice….I got married! I’d only known my husband seven weeks when he proposed. Some friends thought we’d lost our minds. But I knew this was the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. Twenty-one years later—we’re still together and ridiculously happy. Not listening to those friends was the best thing I ever did against good advice!

So…your turn…best thing you’ve done against good advice or silliest mistake made against good advice? One random commenter will get a copy of my new Harlequin Intrigue, BULLETPROOF TEXAS.

video

Thursday, February 19, 2009

By Suzanne Welsh

As many of you know I'm the resident vampire of the Lair. Not so much because I drink blood, but because I work at night, which means I also prowl the Lair at all hours in the dark. So it seems rather appropriate that I invite my friend Jaye Wells to the Lair after hours to discuss her Urban Fantasy series.

Suz (offering Jaye a glass of Merlot):Welcome to the Lair, Jaye. Have a seat here near the fireplace. Please excuse the sleeping cabana boys and poor Sven the masseuse over there. They've had a hard day taking care of our Banditas and Bandit buddies. RED-HEADED STEPCHILD is your first book. We love "call stories" in the Bandit Lair. Care to tell us yours?

Jaye:(takes a long swig of wine and settles in) Thanks, Suz. Okay, I love telling this story. My husband left for Japan the week my book went on submission. At the time, we laughed about what would happen if I sold while he was gone. So funny, we thought. Little did we know.

Fast forward eight days. I'm sitting in a play area with my son. We were cutting snowflakes out of construction paper when my cell rang. Now, I'd convinced myself that if The Call was coming it would happen before noon. I don't recall why I thought this. So when my phone rang at like five on a Wednesday evening and I saw it was my agent, I was convinced he was calling with bad news. I figured he was letting me know we'd gotten the first rejection.

So I pick up and he says, "Are you sitting down?" I sighed, still thinking it was bad news, and went to sit on a stool that was literally a foot off the ground (kid's area, remember?). So I'm squatting there, waiting for the bad news, when my agent informs me that he's gotten an offer for a three book deal.

I leapt off the stool and screamed "OH MY GOD!" Then I promptly burst into tears. Remember: I'm in the middle of a play area surrounded by tired mothers and toddlers. I'm sure they thought I was insane.

After I'd calmed down a little and assured my son that I was crying because I was happy, my agent drops the next bomb. Since this was the first response we'd received, he needed to call the other editors. Then he said words I never thought I'd hear, "We'll probably go to auction."

Well, sure enough two days later, my poor tired husband gets off a plane from Japan. I literally walked in the door from picking him up and got on the phone. The next several hours flew by with me pacing around the house as I fielded phone calls from my agent. Toward the late afternoon, he called to tell me Orbit had preempted. So at 5:30, ten days after my book went on submission, I had myself a three-book deal. And my husband made it home just in time to drink champagne with me.

Suz: What a great story! I've read Paranormal Romances for years, what is the difference between and Urban Fantasy and a Paranormal Romance? Also, how is an Urban Fantasy different from Sci-fi or Epic Fantasies (ala Lord of The Rings)?

Jaye: To me, the main difference between paranormal romance and urban fantasy to be one of focus. In paranormal romance the plot centers around a budding relationship and usually ends in a happily ever after. In urban fantasy, the central plot revolves around one character's goals--be that defeating the bad guy, saving the world or what have you. You often find romantic elements in urban fantasy but you're much less likely to get a happily ever. But all this flies out the window when books get into bookstores. A lot of books I'd consider UF are being shelved in romance right now.

As far as UF versus science fiction or epic fantasy, the biggest difference for me is world building. Science fiction and fantasy don't occur in "our" world. Generally the author creates a unique world--another country or planet or galaxy. But in UF, the world is more like an alternate reality where vampires, werewolves or what have you actually exist in our modern world.

It's difficult though because there are exceptions to both these answers. Urban fantasy is really such a blending of genres that there aren't a lot of hard and fast rules or formulas--just generalities.

Suz: What sparked your interest in Urban Fantasies?

Jaye: There's a swagger to Urban Fantasy, a bit of rebelliousness that appeals to me. I love the blending of genres and the challenge of world building and the sense that I'm going on a journey with the characters.

Suz (reaching for the wine bottle and topping off both glasses): I had the pleasure of reading a copy of RED-HEADED STEPCHILD. In it, your heroine, Sabina Kane, is an assassin for the Vampire race. That's not a typical career choice for heroines. How did you make her sympathetic to the readers and did you find that hard to do?


Jaye: That's a good question. Honestly, some readers won't find Sabina sympathetic. She's foul-mouthed, has anger issues and is really good at self-deception. She's also got no qualms about violence. With a character like that, the goal isn't sympathy--it's empathy. You aren't supposed to feel sorry for Sabina, but you do need to understand why she does what she does. And that is achieved by showing her motivations and how her situation affects the choices available to her.

Suz: You did some "other world" building in RED-HEADED STEPCHILD. Can you tell us about the world you created? Was it difficult coming up with unique characters for all the worlds?

Jaye: When I sat down to create Sabina's world, it was important for me to understand where the dark races came from. So I started at the very beginning--literally. The dark races--vampires, mages, etc.--all started with one important event. According to some Jewish traditions, Eve wasn't Adam's first wife. Instead, a female named Lilith was created from dust just like Adam. When she demanded Adam let her be on top during sex, she left him and went to go consort with demons at the Red Sea.

I basically took this folklore and reworked it so the affairs Lilith had after she left Adam resulted in the creation of the dark races. Everything else just kind of came together from that, including the changes I made to the vampire mythos. For example, there's a direct connection between the fact Lilith left the Garden of Eden before the fateful forbidden fruit incident, and the fact apples can rob vampires of their mortality.

Coming up with main characters was pretty easy. Some of it comes from instinct based on the needs of the story, and other times they just pop up while I'm working. Vinca, who is Sabina's nymph roommate in the book, is an example of a character who just appeared. She ended up being one of my favorite characters.

Suz: Without giving anything away, you have a romantic interest in the book for Sabina. Do you want to tell us about him and will he continue to play an important role in the other books?

Jaye: Adam is a mage who initially causes a lot of trouble for Sabina. But he ends up being an ally and mentor of sorts, who helps Sabina get in touch with her magical side. Yes, there's also some sexual tension, but their relationship is far from a romance at this point. He will continue to play an important role in the overall story, but whether he and Sabina will end up together? Well, I'll just say there's a lot of story left to tell and you never know what might happen.

Suz: Are you planning more stories for Sabina?

Jaye: Absolutely. Right now I'm contracted for three book in the series. The second book, MAGE IN BLACK, is scheduled for release in January 2010. Plus, short story prequel of sorts will appear in the Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance, vol. 2 this winter.

Question for the readers: If you were a character in an Urban Fantasy novel, would you rather be a mage or a vampire?

Jaye is giving away an autographed copy of
RED-HEADED STEPCHILD to one lucky commentor.