#StrongRomanceHeroines, Harper Impulse, Q&A, Reading, Writing

Q&A with Jane Linfoot

I’m a fan of everything vintage, so was delighted to get a chance to interview Jane Linfoot about her HarperImpulse novel, The Vintage Cinema Club!

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The Vintage Cinema Club reflects its characters love for everything vintage.  What do you think is so appealing about old-school fashion styles?

I think people love to choose vintage because it guarantees you something individual that no one else has. Retro will often give you classic design and fabulous quality, compared to newer things. It’s also a way of embracing recycling – being green, yet doing it with style. I heard someone say that modern vintage is looking forward through a window of the past. A lot of it is about rediscovering “pretty” too, after a decade of minimalism.

Friendship is at the heart of the novel, with three women working together and fighting to save their business.  Why do you think that female friendships are so prevalent in romance novels?

Female friendships are an important feature  of current romance stories because that reflects the way real women live their lives.

In the past, settling down as half of a romantic couple was the main aspiration for a lot of people, but women today look for much more than that. Today’s women like to get out there, have their careers, and live their lives on their own terms. Female friends are a crucial part of that dynamic. For most people finding “the one” comes a long way down the line, and it’s natural that our “besties” will be around to help us when love happens.

Female friendship is a fascinating area to explore for the writer. Throwing friends into the romance mix adds interest that takes the story to a different level. I think readers enjoy and appreciate that extra depth.

You’ve got three – very different – romance heroines, in The Vintage Cinema Club.  What do you think makes a strong romance heroine

First I have to admit that floppy heroines are my pet hate.

A strong romance heroine will know her own mind, she’ll have her principles and hang on to them, and she’ll never chase the hero. If she does get close it’ll be on her own terms. And she won’t be afraid to stand up to the hero when he’s wrong, and sometimes when he isn’t.

A strong heroine has to be gutsy enough to go on in there and challenge the hero in a way they’ve never been challenged before. Standing up to these guys, surprising them, playing them at their own game or even a different one, and coming out on top is the way my heroines like to play it. If they happen to make the hero fall in love along the way, it’s entirely accidental, because love is usually the last thing on my heroines’ minds.

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Writing from one perspective can be tricky enough, but you manage to balance and capture three different voices!  How did you manage to keep each character separate and not conflate them?

Izzy, Luce and Dida in The Vintage Cinema Club are all very individual characters. As so often happens with my characters, they marched onto the page pretty much fully formed, and immediately began ordering me around. This might be because they’d been bouncing around in my head for ages before I began to write, and I guess they never got mixed up because I knew each character so well.

When I was planning the story it seemed important to bring in characters who were very different rather than similar, which meant they are coming at us from different places, and have a different view on life.

In real life people are often drawn to friends who complement their own qualities. Quiet girls hang out with extroverts, wild women will have a sensible friend to keep them grounded. The contrasts between the characters in this book were a great way of shining a spotlight on each of the individual women and their different lives. Izzy’s feisty side is tempered by Luce’s calm, but when it comes to business, Luce wishes she had a share of Izzy’s courage. And what will it take to crack Dida’s hard shell?

I loved exploring the different qualities of each of the women in the book. I like writing about strong women, and I especially enjoyed writing about their interaction, as the women both clash and collide, sometimes ganging up on each other, but always working together. Their combined strength is an awesome power. I found the different combinations of three women in the scenes, and the progress of their relationships in pairs, singly, and all together, developed in a fascinating way, as the story played out. But I have to admit that a lot of the time it felt as if they were acting completely independently, and I was simply the one recording what they did.

What’s your current project and what will we be seeing from you next?

My writing is influenced a lot by things that happen in my life, and right now country weddings are featuring very large. And I’m still enjoying mixing the romance with the friendship themes.

The Vintage Cinema Club is out now and can be found at HarperImpulse , Amazon UK , Amazon US , iTunes , Sainsburys , Nook and Google play.

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Jane Linfoot writes fun, flirty fiction, with feisty heroines and lots of heart.  She lives in a mountain kingdom in Derbyshire, England, where her family and pets are kind enough to ignore the domestic chaos – happily, they’re in walking distance of a supermarket. For her, writing is cool because she gets to wear pretty shoes instead of wellies.

Jane loves hearts, flowers, happy endings, all things vintage, most things french. When she’s not on Facebook, and can’t find an excuse for shopping, she’ll be walking, or gardening. On days when she wants to be really scared, she rides a tandem.

To find out more about Jane, you can find her on Facebook , Twitter and Pinterest , as well as on her website.

#StrongRomanceHeroines, Harper Impulse, Q&A, Reading, Uncategorized

Q&A with D. R. Graham

I’m delighted to welcome HarperImpulse author, D. R. Graham, as we talk about her novel Rank…  The book has compelling characters, cowboys and more than a little heart.

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What was your favourite scene to write in Rank?

Billy and his brother Cole have a complicated relationship, and I enjoyed writing all of the scenes that show their reluctant loyalty to each other. My ultimate favourite scene in RANK, though, is when Billy and Shae have their first unplanned date. It is so sweet and real. I like how Shae brings out the best in Billy. Here is a sneak peek at how it starts:

I parked facing the fence that surrounded the playground area. Shae-Lynn was sitting on a bench talking to a little boy who looked as if he’d been crying. He nodded at something she said. She held his chin gently and said something else that made him smile. She tousled his hair before he got up and ran over to join some other kids who were lined up to go down the slide. After she watched him for a while, she turned her head and saw me sitting in my truck. Her expression was a mixture of surprise, confusion, and happiness.

I got out and walked over to lean my elbows on the fence. She reached for a pair of crutches resting against the bench behind her, hoisted herself up, and balanced with the crutches under her arms. She was wearing khaki shorts and a white polo shirt that had the logo for the daycare stitched on the chest. She made her way over to me and smiled in a way that made me glad Lee-Anne had sent me to pick her up.

“We discourage strange men from lurking around the outdoor play area,” she said like a teacher.

“I’m here to pick someone up.”

“Do you have some identification? We can’t release the children to just anyone.”

I pulled my wallet out of my back pocket and passed her my driver’s licence.

She nodded as she read it. “William Raymond Ryan from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. You’re a far way from home, cowboy. What is the nature of your visit? Business or personal?

“Both.”

“Do you have a criminal record?”

“Yes.”

Shocked, she looked up at my eyes to check if I was being serious. “For what?”

“Not kidnapping.”

Her expression shifted as if she just remembered something. “Did they arrest you for assaulting Tawnie’s abusive ex-boyfriend?”

Although I already assumed she would hear about that, I shook my head and pushed my hat back to pretend like I was surprised. “Did Rochelle tell you that?”

“Maybe. Don’t blame her. Tawnie’s the one who blabs everything.”

“I didn’t get arrested for that. He did.”

I could tell she was still curious about what I had been arrested for, but she let it go. “Who gave you permission to do today’s pick up?”

“Lee-Anne Roberts.”

“Why?”

“She was busy. You can call her if you don’t believe me.”

“I just might.” She stared at me for a while and smiled as if she were impressed. “Did you just get a haircut?”

“Yeah.”

“And is that a new shirt?”

“Yeah.”

Her eyes scanned down to check the rest of me out. “Nice boots.”

“Thanks. Some girl told me my other ones were ratty.”

“They were.” She smiled, happy that I took her advice again. “Wait here a minute. I have to get my bag.” She turned and pushed off the crutches to make her way over to the door of the daycare. One of the ladies she worked with said something to her and they both looked over in my direction. Shae-Lynn nodded at something that was said and the woman waved at me. I waved back to be friendly. It seemed to embarrass Shae-Lynn. She disappeared inside and came out a different door that led directly into the parking lot.

I rushed over to the passenger side of the truck and opened the door for her. She turned and handed me the crutches. The truck was too high off the ground for her to reach the seat, so I leaned the crutches against the side and lifted her by the waist to help her in. She had to use her arms to pull her legs into the cab one at a time. Once she was settled, I closed the door and laid the crutches in the back.

“Bye Shae!” a little girl shouted and waved from the back seat of her mom’s car.

Shae-Lynn waved back as I hopped behind the wheel. The adoring way she was smiling made her look so beautiful. I was still staring at her when she turned her head to look at me. “What?”

“You seem good at your job.”

She shrugged modestly. “It’s just babysitting. It’s not that hard.”

“You make them feel special. I can tell by the way they look at you.”

Her cheeks turned pink and she stared down at her hands folded in her lap. “Thank you.” She snuck a glance at me. “What are you really doing here?”

“Kidnapping you. You should have followed through on that criminal record check.” I backed the truck out of the parking spot and turned right onto Clark to head to the strip mall…

 

Rank is classed as a New Adult novel – what do you think the definition of the New Adult romance-subgenre is?

For me, New Adult is only a term used to describe an age category of 18-25 year olds. Even before it was a marketing term used in publishing, I wrote stories with characters transitioning out of youth into the independence of adulthood. The late teens and early twenties are such a pivotal time in a person’s development, and although books with protagonists aged 18-25 years have always existed, only in the last few years someone decided to call that age category and life stage New Adult.

Then someone else decided New Adult meant erotic or 18+, which of course isn’t true. There are New Adult books in all genres — historical, sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, horror, etc. Book stores and libraries don’t typically have a section specifically for New Adult, so books with characters aged 18-25 years will usually be shelved in the adult section. In my case, because of the crossover appeal to a Young Adult audience, my books tend to be shelved in both teen and adult sections. As a result, I prefer to say I write cross-over stories about young people in love, transition, or crisis.

Your heroine, Shae-Lynn, is described as “the sweet good-girl-next-door”, but there’s a strength to her which is really impressive.  What do you think makes a strong romance heroine?

What makes Shae-Lynn special is her self-assurance. She is grounded in a strong sense of self and values. She’s sweet and sees the good in others, but isn’t a pushover. Very often strong female characters are defined by physical strength and male-like toughness. Although there is nothing wrong with a kickass female character, Shae’s strength is more subtle. She’s unwaveringly patient and quietly determined. She is the perfect person to gentle someone wild like Billy.

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Critics often deride romance as being a light and fluffy, but you deal with any number of darker issues in Rank, including the effect that one event can have on a family, and gambling addiction.  Why do you think it’s important to address these issues within a romance narrative?

When I’m not writing, I’m a therapist in private practice, so my books always have a slightly edgy psychological angle. I like to explore anything that has a strong emotion tied to it — grief, family conflict, personal struggles, and, of course, love. I don’t actually write true romances that follow the traditional arc. I write love stories, and love isn’t only about a partner. Sometimes it’s about your family, your siblings, your self.

In RANK, the brothers struggle to cope in the aftermath of their father’s traumatic death, which is complicated by the fact that Cole has a mental health condition. Billy’s struggles to be a good man and take care of his family make RANK a New Adult contemporary family drama. Finding out whether Billy can earn the love of someone as special as Shae-Lynn is what makes RANK romantic. And I love having both elements in the books I write.

What’s your current project and what will we be seeing from you next?

My current project is a Young Adult horror titled Hitching. The projects releasing next are a three-book Young Adult Action Romance series titled Brampton Beach (HarperCollins) and a WWII Historical Romance titled Interned.

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Rank is out now and can be found at Apple iBooksAmazonKobo and Barnes and Noble.

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D.R. Graham is an author for HarperCollins and Entangled Publishing. She worked as a social worker with at-risk youth before becoming a therapist in private practice. The clients she works with are children and teenagers, and her novels deal with issues relevant to young and new adults in love, transition, or crisis. She is also an award winning columnist for the Richmond News. She currently lives in Vancouver, British Columbia with her husband.

To find out more about Danielle, you can find her on her website, her blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Goodreads.  Her street team can be found here

#StrongRomanceHeroines, Guestpost, Harper Impulse, Q&A, Reading, Writing

Q&A with Alexandra Brown

Today is the day that Alexandra Brown’s latest book, The Great Village Show, is released in paperback.  The book is a delightful blend of village community and hilarious exploits, with local school teacher Meg at its heart.

I was lucky enough to interview Alex about her book and her take on #StrongRomanceHeroines…

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1)  What does a romance heroine look like to you?
Pretty much any woman, I like my romance heroines to be typical and relatable.
2)  What is the key thing that makes an “Alexandra Brown” heroine?
A reader once told me that she loves my heroines because they are flawed and don’t make her feel inadequate, they are women that other women want to be friends with.
3)  In your latest novel, The Great Village Show, Meg is a very determined heroine who takes on numerous challenges throughout the novel, most notably the dwindling numbers of applications to  the local primary school for which she is acting head.  There’s a very real sense of place, and also sense of frustration when Meg is faced with what seems like an insurmountable problem.  What is it about Meg as a character, that you feel helps her decide to tackle the problem head on?
Meg is a fighter, she’s also very passionate and loves Tindledale, her home, the village where she has brought up her son on her own in addition to building a career for herself. I think when you’ve previously triumphed over adversity, it’s very hard to let a problem defeat you.
4)  It’s also important to note that Meg isn’t a twenty-something – her son, Jack is away at university – what do you think has caused the growth of novels with older heroines in recent years?
Older authors? Seriously though, I’m not a twenty-something woman without any responsibilities anymore, so it doesn’t really feel authentic for me to be writing about heroines that are.
5)  Strength of character is something that permeates all of your books.  What is it that you think makes a strong romance heroine?
A woman with hope! Without hope there really is no point to living or doing anything very much. Hope spurs us on, it propels us and gives us strength.
The Great Village Show is out now!
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Growing up in Brighton, Alexandra Brown left school at sixteen to run away to London with dreams of being a writer. On realising that she needed a proper job too, she went to work in an office. Throughout her fifteen year corporate career, Alex survived many dull meetings by writing a cheeky scene or two, until she could bear it no longer, collapsed in a heap and then lounged on a chaise waiting for the muse to arrive.

She now lives in a rural village on the Kent and Sussex border in England, with her husband, utterly adorable daughter (fondly known as QT) and one very shiny black Labrador called Puppy Oscar.

Visit her website, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter for more updates.