Thursday, February 25, 2010

A February Picnic...with Mr. Knightley

Today and tomorrow at VVB32 Reads, there is a most interesting event in progress: "Mr. Knightley's Picnic". Here is the official invitation:

Mr. Knightley's Picnic
February 25-26, 2010
2-day event

An event post will be up every hour from 5am - 5pm PST (join in anytime)

Don't mind the snow or rain storms outside. Grab your picnic basket of goodies and join me for a virtual Regency period picnic hosted by the dashing hero from Jane Austen's Emma, Mr Knightley. The sky will be clear at Mr Knightley's estate, Donwell, and fun times shall be had.

I should mention that Mr. Knightley is an eligible bachelor at this event. Here's your chance to meet and dazzle him with your charms (a-hem) ;-D

Be prepared for:
- guest posts
- interesting encounters (could be of the other-worldly sort)
- and yesssss, giveaways

Books featured:
Mr. Knightley's Diary by Amanda Grange
According to Jane by Marilyn Brant
Other surprise books to be mentioned during the event

To prepare for the festivities, you may want to read Emma by Jane Austen or watch any of the movie adaptations as a quick refresher.

Sounds fun, doesn't it?! I just so happen to know about one of those "interesting encounters"...so pop on over if you have a chance, grab a strawberry tartlet and take a look around. As new posts are added, there will indeed be further surprises and many virtual treats ;).

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Megan Crane's Everyone Else's Girl

The Girlfriends Cyber Circuit has had the joy of announcing so many great releases and events this month, and we now have the pleasure of visiting with USA Today bestselling author Megan Crane as she celebrates TWO releases in February: Everyone Else's Girl (out now in the U.K.) and, writing as Caitlin Crews, Pure Princess, Bartered Bride (Harlequin Presents).

Megan has written five women’s fiction novels, many work-for-hire young adult novels, and five category romances (as Caitlin Crews) since publishing her first book in 2004. Her novel, Frenemies, was a BookSense Notable in July 2007. She teaches various creative writing classes both online at mediabistro.com and offline at UCLA Extension's prestigious Writers' Program, where she finally utilizes her MA and PhD in English Literature. Megan lives in Los Angeles with her comic book artist/animator husband and too many pets.

About Everyone Else's Girl:

Meredith does things for other people. She irons clothes for her boyfriend, she attends her ex-best friend's horrendous hen party for her brother (who's about to marry the girl) and she moves back to her parents' house to look after her dad when his leg is broken. She's a good girl and that matters. But when she gets back home, all is not as Meredith remembered. Especially Scott, that geeky teenager from her old class at school. He's definitely different now. And so, it seems, is she. One by one, her family and old friends start to tell her some home truths and Meredith begins to realise she's not so perfect after all. Maybe it is time she stopped being everyone else's girl and started living for herself.

Of the book, Meg Cabot wrote: "Megan Crane rules! Cancel your evening plans: You won't want to stop reading until you've devoured every delicious word."
And Kirkus called it: "Amusing, heartfelt and emotionally sophisticated chick-lit."

She had a chance to pop in and answer a few quick questions about her book, and I'm delighted to have her here. Welcome, Megan!

Did you use any musical references in your novel? If so, do they play a significant role?
I am currently obsessed with Fleet Foxes, A Fine Frenzy, Lissie, Owl City and Broken Bells. And the title of this book comes from one of my all-time favorite Tori Amos songs, "Girl." She's been everybody else's girl/maybe one day she'll be her own. That's Meredith's journey in a nutshell.

I've never been able to choose just one favorite food, but do you have a clear preference?
Chocolate. Seriously. I'm a complete addict. I like it dark, rich, and life-altering. (THAT is a perfect description! Life-altering...yes. :)

Would your high school friends be surprised to discover you'd become a novelist?
I don't think they're all that surprised. I used to walk around with black and white notebooks into which I was always scribbling my stories. I think I thought I was some mixture of Veronica from Heathers and Harriet the Spy. Either way, I was always writing!

Do your neighbors/hometown acquaintances know you're a published author or did you just choose to tell those closest to you?
I pretty much trumpeted it to the entire world. And continue to do so. My mother hands out books to people she meets out and about in my hometown. So, it's not much of a secret!

What's one piece of writing advice you've found valuable on your journey to publication?
Everyone who tells you to just sit down and write. Because that's the unvarnished truth, and the only way to do it. Everything else might make you FEEL better about your choices, but the only way to write a book is to... sit down and write it. (Oh, so true...)

Thanks for stopping by, Megan, and congrats again on your new releases!!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Hank's Giveaway Winners PLUS a New Austen Challenge

Without further ado, there are contest winners to be announced! Again, thanks so much to Hank Phillippi Ryan for visiting last week and for being so generous with her books. There were supposed to be two winners for Hank's novels, but Hank writes: "In honor of AIR TIME just being nominated for the AGATHA AWARD for Best Mystery of 2009, three winners! Pamala, L.A. Mitchell and Tonya can get the TIME book of their choice! Just have them email me at hryan at whdh dot com and tell me their choice of book and their address -- or they can go to my website and click on contact." (WHOO-HOO, HANK!!!!!! CONGRATS!!!)

And congrats to Pamala, L.A. and Tonya, too! The books in Hank's TIME series include: Prime Time, Face Time, Air Time or Drive Time. And when you email her with your choice, you can add a second congrats because not only did AIR TIME receive an AGATHA nomination, but her short story "On the House" was also nominated for the AGATHA for Best Short Story of 2009! So, two HUGE nominations... Fabulous news, Hank! (You can sample the short story on her website, btw.)

Also, here's a fun new Jane Austen Challenge for the year. Thanks to Haley from The Life (and Lies) of an Inanimate Flying Object, you can take part in this 2010 Austen reading challenge at one of these levels:

**Newbie 2 books by J. Austen, 2 re-writes, prequels, sequels, or spoofs (by other authors)

**Lover 4 books by J. Austen, 4 re-writes, prequels, sequels, or spoofs (by other authors)

**Fanatic 6+ books by J. Austen, 5+ re-writes, prequels, sequels, or spoofs (by other authors)

Since I am pretty clearly in the "Fanatic" category, I'll be trying for that one...

My 6+ books by Jane herself are the regulars: Emma, Northanger Abbey, Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility, Mansfield Park and Persuasion. I'm tempted to add Sanditon (her unfinished manuscript) to this list as well. It's been years since I read it closely, and I think I'd find her partial draft even more interesting now.

As for my 5+ others, this is likely to be expanded just because there are so many Austenesque books out there that I'd love to read, but for now: Jane Bites Back (Michael Thomas Ford), The Other Mr. Darcy (Monica Fairview), Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart (Beth Pattillo), Longbourn's Unexpected Matchmaker (Emma Hox) and Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World (Abigail Reynolds). I still have to catch up with some of the more recent delightful mysteries by Carrie Bebris and Stephanie Barron, too...sigh. My TBR pile is enormous.

What are you all doing/watching/reading this week? Any raves??

Thursday, February 18, 2010

It's 'Drive Time' with Hank Phillippi Ryan

It’s a great pleasure to have talented mystery writer and award-winning investigative reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan with us again today as she takes off on her GCC tour for her latest Charlotte “Charlie” McNally novel, Drive Time (MIRA, Feb. 2010)! About the book, Robert B. Parker wrote: “Hank Phillippi Ryan knows the television business entirely, she understands plotting and she writes beautifully. No wonder I loved Drive Time. Anyone would.” Plus, it got a coveted starred review in Library Journal along with this rave: “Placing Ryan in the same league as Lisa Scottoline…her latest book catapults the reader into the fast lane and doesn't relent until the story careens to a stop. New readers will speed to get her earlier books, and diehard fans will hope for another installment.”

Welcome back, Hank, and congrats on this new novel! I'm thrilled to get to read another one of Charlie's stories ;).

Can you give us the scoop on Drive Time?

DRIVE TIME is about secrets. TV reporter Charlie McNally’s working on a story about a dangerous scheme that could absolutely happen...and let me just say, if you own a car, or rent a car, you’ll never look at your vehicle the same way after reading DRIVE TIME. In fact, after writing the book, I now get a bit creeped out when I go into a parking garage. That’s all I‘ll say.

Charlie’s also drawn into another frightening situation—this one at the prep school where her fiancรฉ is an English professor. When Charlie learns a secret that might put her step-daughter-to-be in danger, and might also be an blockbuster investigative story—how does she balance her loyalty to her husband-to-be—with her need to protect the public?

So this is a tough one for Charlie. And she must make many life-changing decisions. Just when she begins to think she might be able to have it all—a terrific career and a new husband and a new life--revenge, extortion and murder may bring it all to a crashing halt.

Hey, you're originally a Chicago girl! Can you tell us a little about your background?

I was born in Chicago, where my dad was the music critic for the old Chicago Daily News. We moved to Indianapolis (where some of my family still lives) when I was about 6. I went to public schools, where I was a geeky Beatle-loving misfit voted “most original” in high school...much to my chagrin at the time. Majored in English at Western College for Women in Oxford Ohio, when in to work in politics and then...radio.

I got my first job in broadcasting because—as I told the news director at the radio station—“Your license is up for renewal at the FCC, and you don’t have any women working here.” Well, it was 1970! I’m proud to be part of the group of women who began to break down the gender barriers back then.

I worked for almost 2 years in the U.S. Senate, and then a couple of years at Rolling Stone Magazine in Washington, DC. And then, TV.

Now you're an Emmy-award-winning investigative reporter for an NBC affiliate in Boston. Growing up, did you know that's what you wanted to do?

Definitely not. You know, I have a funny juxtaposition of desire to be in the spotlight—and sheer terror of being in the spotlight. I love my job in TV—and have to go live and unrehearsed al the time. Confession: I’m still terrified every time. I want to be perfect, and when you’re on live, you can’t possibly be. That’s one reason why I love investigative reporting—there’s more time to work, and dig, and polish, and produce, It’s like making a little movie, and I can make it as perfect as possible.

Anyway, my sisters and I used to create musical shows when we were all young, and perform for our parents in our back yard. I did acting in high school and college. I wanted to be a DJ on the radio for a long time! But I thought I would be an English teacher, or a lawyer for the Mine Workers union, or for awhile, a political activist.

(My mother, though, says she always knew I would be a television reporter—but I think that was just her way of rationalizing that all I did as a pre-teen and teenager was read books and watch TV.)

I knew from my first Nancy Drew that I loved mysteries. Nancy was my first best friend—I was a geeky unpopular kid, and it was such a relief to go home and hang out with Nancy. She was smart, and made it be okay to be smart. She was confident and inquisitive and resourceful. I loved that. But being a TV reporter was not in my sights. Little did I know!

You’ve got four books under your belt, you’ve won an Agatha, and been compared to Lisa Scottoline. Will there come a time when you say goodbye to journalism to focus full time on your fiction?

Ain't that the question! I still smile in delight every time I see my Agatha teapot. And when the starred review in Library Journal for DRIVE TIME compared me to Lisa Scottoline, well, I burst into tears. But I still love my job in TV. So--you could ask me that question every day, and every day I'd have a different answer. And I guess the bottom line is: who knows?

Any plans to write a non Charlotte McNally novel?

Yup. Absolutely. It's in the works. You heard it here first.

Any other genre you want to tackle?

Yup. :-) It’s in the works. You heard it here first.

Your husband’s a criminal defense attorney. Does he read your work or give you any tips or even ideas for plots?

He’s the most patient man on the planet. Yes, he's really the only person who reads my pages while they’re in process. When I first started writing PRIME TIME, I'd give him five pages or so a day, and I'd hear him laughing and I was so delighted! And he would tell me every day how terrific it was. Then, about fifty pages in, I went in for my daily pat on the back. And he had a funny look on his face. "Honey?" he asked. "Is something going to happen soon?" So I knew I had some work to do.

Ideas for plots? Ah, no, not really. I'm always running ideas by him, to see if he thinks they’re plausible and believable. And sometimes he'll come up with just the perfect little thing I need to pull something together. But we think very differently. He’s much more--wedded to reality.

Do you have any advice to share with fledgling writers and journalists?

For journalists: Don’t be afraid. Be very afraid. Be scrupulously careful. Think. And think again. Never give up.

For writers: On my bulletin board there are two quotes. One is a Zen saying: “Leap and the net will appear.” To me, that means: Just do it. The other says “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” And I think that’s so wonderful—just have the confidence to carry on. Writing is tough, arduous, not always rewarding in the moment—but no successful author has ever had an easy path. When you hit an obstacle, pat yourself on the back. You’re a writer!

Thanks so much for answering all of these questions, Hank! And thanks also for your great book giveaway!! Hank is generously giving away 2 books to commenters on this post (names to be drawn on Monday, Feb. 22nd). Each winner will have a choice of one book from Hank's TIME series (Prime Time, Face Time, Air Time or Drive Time). Good luck, everyone!

Also, a very enthusiastic shout out to Carleen Brice, a fellow GCC pal of both Hank's and mine, who's debut novel Orange Mint and Honey is now a Lifetime movie (!!!) called "Sins of the Mother." It's airing THIS Sunday night, Feb. 21st at 8 pm EST, so check it out on LMN!! For more info, here's the movie trailer on YouTube, and Carleen wrote about the adaptation process here. For some extra fun, take a peek at her movie-watching party contest--you might win free books and goodies ;).

Monday, February 15, 2010

Reviewers' Choice Winner!

I found out on Friday that According to Jane was selected as one of CataNetwork's winners for the 2009 Single Titles Reviewers' Choice Award! Very exciting and a huge honor!! The complete list of Single Title winners is here. There were also awards given for Sensual and Category Romance books. Whoo-hoo!

As if that wasn't nice enough, the simply wonderful Laurel Ann from Austenprose emailed me with the happy news that her review of my debut novel was now up on the Jane Austen Centre Magazine's website, thus making my weekend incredibly sweet (even without all the chocolate candies I devoured ;).

But this new year has ushered in with it so many blessings for me and for people I know--writing-related and otherwise--that I can't help but feel I should have celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday instead of Valentine's... It's a thought that's been running through my head with increasing frequency, particularly in light of a few random happenings in the first half of February. Sometimes something as seemingly simple as a caring email from a friend or a surprise greeting card in the mail or a kindness for no reason whatsoever have been reminders of the tremendous good out there.

I know saying stuff like this leads some to think I'm Pollyanna-ish. But I don't feel optimistic all the time and certainly not "for no reason." In fact, there was an incident last week that really ticked me off. It involved a woman I'd never met--nor do I ever intend to meet her now--with a lack of common sense SO profound that...YIKES. (Consider this word a placeholder for the stream of obscenities I'm thinking.) I almost wouldn't know where to begin to explain the situation, if I were to waste my time trying. Not worth it. But there was a positive side effect: The next morning I got together with three good friends and managed to impart to them some of the ridiculousness of that woman's behavior. Their immediate understanding, intelligent humor and consequent eye-rolling had me laughing and succeeded in dispelling the negative experience in ten minutes. It prompted me to remember anew this truth: Genuine friendship carries with it restorative powers...a kind of magic.

And over the past month I've been reminded repeatedly of the generosity and thoughtfulness of my fellow authors. Lauren Willig and Cara Elliott surprised and delighted me by including According to Jane on their "supplemental reading list" for the romance class they're teaching this semester at Yale. (It's SUCH a cool course, too! Makes me wish I could be a student again.) And fabulous authors Cathy Lamb, JoAnn Ross and Susan McBride have taken precious time away from their writing to share with me their humor and words of wisdom this past week--a truly priceless gift, especially on a couple of days when I felt I was swimming circles in a very murky moat.

And then there are the friends I've made through this blog, who have shown their supportiveness in countless and touching ways over these almost three years... You know how much I appreciate you, right?! Well, it's worth saying it again: You're AMAZING, and I thank you.

Today in the States it's Presidents' Day. Tomorrow is Mardi Gras around the world. I expect to hear about some celebrations... Or, if those holidays aren't your thing, then at least do something fun to welcome the Year of the Tiger. I'm trying to convince my husband that some good Chinese carryout is just what we need. Moo shu chicken. Sweet-n-sour pork. Ohhhh, lettuce wraps! I may have no good excuse personally, from a cultural-heritage standpoint, to celebrate the Chinese New Year, but I'm not Irish either and that never stopped me from eating those green-sprinkled shamrock cookies on St. Patrick's Day.

Coming up later this week: a Q&A with talented mystery writer Hank Phillippi Ryan + a book giveaway for Drive Time!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Happy Valentine's Weekend!!

๐Ÿ’“๐Ÿ’•๐Ÿ’—๐Ÿ’˜๐Ÿ’Ÿ As we kick off the romantic weekend, here's a brief but heartfelt toast from me to you: May your Valentine's Day be wonderful and may you feel the love of good friends and family all year long. :) 

For anyone who knows me or has visited my blog at all in the past year, you know I'm a big coffee fan. Well, I got ahold of a great new Starbucks VIA™ Ready Brew recipe and it's on my list of fun things to try out this weekend (along with NovelWhore's Hot Toddy). It's called "The VIAtini" (!!!) and I can't wait to taste it! 

Being that my characters in Friday Mornings at Nine are not only avid coffee drinkers but also go to a party where appletinis are all the rage...well, I know they'd love this recipe. I just wish I would've known about this drink combination sooner or I would've written it into the story!! So, to share the Starbucks love, here's the delicious concoction below, along with a link for more VIA™ cocktails, should you wish to experiment, too! 

 1 1/2 ounces vodka 
1 1/2 ounces Starbucks VIA™ (prepared, cold) 
3/4 ounce Amaretto 
1/2 ounce Irish cream 
 Combine all ingredients in a shaker, shake well and strain into martini glass. Garnish with a cherry. Enjoy, my friends, and Happy Hearts Day!! p.s. Anyone else watching the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics tonight?? Can't wait for the figure skating to start this week...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Visiting The Stiletto Gang (+ a Giveaway)!

Good morning, everyone!

Thanks to the lovely Susan McBride (who visited here recently and with whom I delightedly celebrated the release of The Cougar Club--whoo-hoo!!!), I've been invited to visit her at The Stiletto Gang today to talk about According to Jane. I'm giving away a signed copy of the book, too. So, if you'd like one for yourself OR if you already have a copy and would like one for someone else OR if you just want to say hi...please stop by!!

p.s. In the battle between what has more power over us--the positive or the negative, the good news or the bad news, the highs or the lows--I will say that THIS week, at least, I give the victory to the former. No, I have no special news to report for myself, but sometimes hearing about something wonderful that happened for someone else is JUST as awesome! More on this later ;).

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Control Freaks in a Blizzard

This past week, a wonderful NYT-bestselling author, who's been in the business for decades, commented on the inherent irony that publishing is an industry in which nobody really has any control, but just about everyone involved (from editors to writers, etc.) are "overachieving control freaks." I couldn't help but find that painfully funny...and unbelievably accurate.

And then, this morning, a writer on one of my loops pointed us toward this essay by Dani Shapiro. In it, Shapiro quotes a number of thought-provoking phrases from the founder of the New American Review, editor Ted Solotaroff, mostly about the struggle writers have to gain experience in this industry while dealing with the "miserable trifecta: uncertainty, rejection, disappointment."

This was my favorite passage, Solotaroff writes (as quoted by Shapiro), "Writing itself, if not misunderstood and abused, becomes a way of empowering the writing self. It converts anger and disappointment into deliberate and durable aggression, the writer's main source of energy. It converts sorrow and self-pity into empathy, the writer's main means of relating to otherness. Similarly, his wounded innocence turns into irony, his silliness into wit, his guilt into judgment, his oddness into originality, his perverseness into his stinger."

We are in the midst of yet another blizzard here. It's making me angry, and that emotion has yet to be conterted to any useful writerly quality. Furthermore, I feel I control the publishing industry about as well as I control this snowstorm... But, I'm going to bury myself in my little imaginary world today and work on the tiny screen of life--however fictional--over which I do have some small measure of influence. I hope this will relieve, convert or otherwise dispel the building frustration in some productive way.

And if all else fails, I also see hot chocolate in my future.

What are you all doing today??

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Judi Fennell's Great Catch

The Girlfriends Cyber Circuit is back in action! This month is exciting because there are a bunch of great releases, the first being Judi Fennell's final book in her Mer trilogy, Catch of a Lifetime (Sourcebooks, Feb. 2010).

Judi has had her nose in a book and her head in some celestial realm all her life, including those early years when her mom would exhort her to “get outside!” instead of watching "Bewitched" or "I Dream of Jeannie" on television. So she did--right into Dad’s hammock with her Nancy Drew books. These days she’s more likely to have her nose in her laptop and her head (and the rest of her body) at her favorite bookstore, but she’s still reading, whether it be her latest manuscript or friends’ books.

To celebrate the release of each of her books, Judi, the Atlantis Inn and the Hibiscus House bed and breakfasts are raffling off three romantic beach getaway weekends. All information is on Judi's website. Sounds to me like a fabulous contest--wow! Welcome back, Judi!!

Can you tell us the premise of your new book?

Mermaid Angel Tritone has been researching humans from afar, hoping to find a way to convince them to stop polluting. When she jumps into a boat to escape a shark attack, it’s her chance to pursue her mission, but she has to keep her identity a total secret...

For Logan Hardington, finding a beautiful woman on his boat is surely not a problem—until he discovers she’s a mermaid, and suddenly his life is on the line...

What's one scene from this story you loved writing and why?

I loved writing the scene in the villain's castle. First, it's underwater, so I'm not confined by what really exists. I get to create a whole new place and that's just fun. My imagination goes wild. In this case, I based it on an old theater. Then I get to be in the villain's head which is always fun, and then toss all the "good" characters into a dangerous, deadly situation and have them figure out a way to get out. And then, I add some more trouble just for the fun of it. I guess it's not very nice of me to torture my characters, but it makes their survival so much more emotional. Especially if you think not all of them make it out alive.

I've never been able to choose just one favorite food, but do you have a clear preference?

Nope, can't do it. I'm Italian and grew up with homemade sauce (or gravy as some call it), the BEST homemade Sicilian pizza that, no matter how many times I watched my great aunts make, I could never duplicate. And, sadly, they're all gone now and no one in the family can make it like them. Plus, I'm from Philly. Home of the cheesesteak. And hoagie. And soft pretzels. (which is a misnomer. If you've ever gone to a sporting event and gotten a pretzel from a street vendor, they're anything but soft. Cold, hard, wet, and smelling of exhaust - ahhhhh, nothing like them!) Plus, I just love to eat. I was a corporate meeting and convention planner in the days before children and we were forever having cocktail parties with finger food - my downfall. I love cheese trays. And scallops wrapped in bacon. And pigs in a blanket. And...the list goes on. (Oh, I'm SO with you on that, Judi. Scallops with bacon and Italian-anything...YUM!!)

What's one piece of writing advice you've found valuable on your journey to publication?

That it's your story. Listen to all the feedback and see if any of it resonates with you, but, ultimately, it's your story. Your name is on it. You have to make sure it's what you want/can live with. (Excellent advice. ;)

What's a personality trait you love about one of the characters in your novel and why?

Angel's persistence. It ties in to why she's doing what she's doing, which I hadn't realized when I first started writing her story. I love finding out something so deep about my characters, and am always amazed when the whole story works out after I discover it. By that, I mean that there are elements that I'd put in earlier that, now that I know, show why she is the way she is, but which I hadn't intentionally put there for that reason. Sometimes I question myself when I start writing something that has no bearing on anything, but end up leaving it in because experience has shown me that I'll need it at some point.

Thanks so much for visiting, Judi, and congrats again on Catch of a Lifetime!!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Giveaway Winners and a B&N Visit!

First and foremost, names for Laura Moore's book giveaway have been drawn! Two lucky commenters just won an autographed copy of her latest release, Remember Me. And those two people are...Edie Ramer and Heather Marshall!!

Congrats, Ladies!

Please email me (MarilynBrant AT Gmail DOT Com) with your street address so I can pass it along to Laura and she can get the books out to you :-).

Also, in a bit of fun news, I'm a guest of Jill Dearman's on B&N.com's "Unabashedly Bookish" blog today! PLEASE visit me here, if you have a moment, just to *wave* or say a quick "hi"--I'd love to see you!!!

I'm still a little ticked at that skittish groundhog yesterday. (Although, I could watch the Bill Murray movie over and over again--and, in fact, I have. Any other fans??) Off to have some hot tea on this cold day...

Monday, February 1, 2010

Laura Moore's Q&A and Double Book Giveaway!

Happy February!!

I have long awaited the day I could celebrate the release of the first book in The Rosewood Trilogy with my dear friend and fabulous critique partner, Laura Moore. She's crafted a beautifully written romance in Remember Me (Ballantine, January 26, 2010)--a novel with characters who linger with the reader long after the book is closed. And I know this for a fact since I had the privilege of reading this story a couple of years ago, while in draft form, and I still find myself smiling at certain scenes that featured Margot and Travis. Sigh. But I'm not the only one who thinks so... While I'm not allowed to give away any plot secrets, I can share this snippet from the 4 1/2 star review RT gave this book:

"Brava! What a delicious read. Moore's heartfelt tale will resound with fans of Diana Palmer and Judith McNaught. The characters are vivid, the settings stunning and the emotional conflict between Margot and Travis will stay with the reader long after the last page. This reviewer cannot wait for the next installation in the Rosewood Trilogy."

Brava, indeed!! Laura, it's SUCH a treat to have you here today. Welcome :).

Q: Can you tell us the basic premise of this story?

A: Remember Me is the first book in a trilogy--The Rosewood Trilogy—that I’m writing. The trilogy is about three sisters who come together after a tragedy to save Rosewood, the grand old home and horse farm that have belonged to their family for generations.

Remember Me is Margot Radcliffe’s story. She’s the middle sister, and when we meet her she’s an unhappy and impetuous teen, flooded with hormones and the craziness of her first serious crush. Unfortunately, the person she’s fallen for isn’t just some callow youth but her father’s horse trainer: Travis Maher.

At a family party, Margot suffers in short order devastating rejections from the two most important men in her life: Travis and her father. Hurt and convinced there’s no place for her at Rosewood, she runs away.

Eight years later Margot has forged a successful career as a fashion model. But when she receives a call from her older sister Jordan with the news that her father and stepmother have been critically injured in a plane crash, she returns to Rosewood, a place she never expected to see again. Once there, Margot discovers that in order to save her family’s horse breeding farm she’ll need the help of Travis Maher, the one man she’s never been able to forget.

Q: What’s one scene from this book that you loved writing and why?

A: I really loved writing a scene that comes early on in Remember Me. It’s when Margot attempts to seduce Travis in a tack room. She’s been dreaming of him for months, and on the night she attempts to dazzle Travis and make him see her as a woman, she’s made herself as sexy and alluring as she can. She’s even gone so far as to memorize a come-on line from Cosmo.

The scene is one of those cringe-worthy moments that happen in adolescence and I think it captures what Margot was like then: lovely but spoiled and self-centered--basically a confused mess of a girl. Whatever polish and poise she has is about an eighth of an inch thick. Underneath, she’s just a lonely, motherless kid, desperate for affection. Unfortunately, when it comes to Travis, her teenage desire blinds her to the reality of the situation.

Q: Name 3-4 of your favorite musical artists or groups. Did you use any musical references in your novel? If so, do they play a significant role?

A: I don’t know whether I can only name three or four! I’m a big rock and roll fan. I grew up listening to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, then the Grateful Dead, Hot Tuna, Allman Brothers, Janis Joplin, Bonnie Raitt, Springsteen, Elvis Costello, REM, U2, and the list goes on and on. Music often makes its way into my books (sometimes as titles, too, as in the case of Night Swimming and In Your Eyes). In Remember Me, I have Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born to Run’ playing on a boombox when we first meet Travis. It’s definitely a song that suits him, with his hard-scrabble background and bad boy attitude. (I *love* that song!!!)

A lot of my characters are in this small sense like me: they work to music. I don’t know whether a lot of other writers feel this way, but I actually believe my words flow better when I have my favorite radio station playing or streaming.

Q: What’s your writer fantasy--i.e. to see your book made into a feature film, to be on the New York Times’ bestseller list for forty consecutive weeks, etc?

A: I have a very, very active fantasy life, so I’d say all of those things, plus having Nora Roberts come up and tell me how much she loves my books and how pleased she’d be to write a book blurb for my next release, and having my publisher tell me that none of my titles will ever go out of print! And by the way, Olivier Martinez, who starred in The Horseman on the Roof , will of course be playing the role of Travis Maher (and because it’s a fantasy, Olivier Martinez will look just as he did in 1995). For those who haven’t seen The Horseman on the Roof, it’s a great romantic adventure and beautifully filmed.

Q: Writers are usually big readers, too. How do you make time for reading and what are you reading at the moment?

A: I love to read. Unfortunately, between writing and teaching, I now have far less time to curl up with a book and get lost for hours. I do most of my reading for pleasure at night for about an hour before I fall asleep. I just finished reading Alice Munroe’s Too Much Happiness and Anne Stuart’s The Devil’s Waltz. Now I’m on A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 33 Great Writers on Why We Read Jane Austen, edited by Susannah Carson. Next on my docket is Olive Kitteredge by Elizabeth Strout.

Q: Do you pay attention to book reviews? If so has there been any particular review that made your heart dance?

A: I do pay attention to reviews—and by the way, Marilyn, I thought your blog entitled On Criticism and Writing (Dec. 31) was spot on, so good and smart. (Thanks, Laura! :) Probably the review that gave me that incredible lift of joy was for my first novel, Ride A Dark Horse. It was a Romantic Times review, and it was wonderfully generous and positive in tone. It made me think I might actually have done something right. But to tell you the truth, these days what really sends me floating on a cloud of happiness is the mail I receive from readers. Nothing beats having readers write to say how much the story meant to them or ask whether the characters I’ve created in one novel will go on and star in their own book.

Q: What’s next for you? Is there a new book in the pipeline?

A: I’ve finished the second book in The Rosewood Trilogy, which is entitled, Believe in Me. It’s coming out in late 2010. Presently I’m writing the third installment, Trouble Me, which I believe will be out in 2011. After that, I think I’d like to write about a couple of the characters from my earlier novels that readers keep saying they want to hear more about!

Laura, I can't wait to get my hands on the full version of Believe in Me! The segment I got to read of Jordan's story was fabulous. And you know I've been looking forward to Jade's tale for a long time now... Thank you for being here...and for giving away 2 autographed copies of Remember Me to commenters! (Much as I love to give away prizes on Friday mornings (!!), this week the winning names will be drawn on Wednesday afternoon. ;)

So, I should tell those visiting today--one thing Laura does incredibly well is to explain how horses are cared for and the life on a horse farm. Aside from going horseback riding with a college friend (just once), I don't have much experience with horses. What about you? I'd love to hear some stories!