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!

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.