Congratulations to the winners of the most prestigious awards in the romance writing community: the RITA awards! The winners were selected from a great line-up of finalists, and the winning authors were announced on Saturday night at a party during the 2015 Romance Writers of America conference in New York. Below are a few of the big winners, and you can see the full list here.
Long Contemporary Romance
Baby, It's You by Jane Graves
Mid-length Contemporary Romance
One in a Million by Jill Shalvis
Long Historical Romance
Fool Me Twice by Meredith Duran
Short Historical Romance
Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare
Deceived by Irene Hannon
Evernight by Kristen Callihan
Concealed in Death by J.D. Robb (pen name of Nora Roberts)
You may know J.T. Geissinger from her award-winning paranormal romances, but with her latest novel, Sweet as Sin, she's entering new territory and grounding her story in the reality of rock stars, make-up artists and Hollywood.
We were curious about the impetus behind the genre switch, and in this guest post, Geissinger opens up about her decision to start a contemporary series and her Van Halen daydreams.
I never set out to write paranormal romance. Until I was 40, I never planned to write a novel in the first place. How I came to write in the paranormal romance genre is another story altogether, but the first book I published, Shadow’s Edge, wasn’t written as a series starter; it was simply written to amuse myself. I had no idea when I was writing it that there would be more than one. But it was published, and the book sold well and won an award, and then my publisher came to me and asked me to write another book with the same characters and four more after that.
Commence jubilant revelry, followed quickly thereafter by massive panic attack.
I had no idea how to write a series. What I did know was that I loved to write. And I decided I’d just trust myself to figure things out as I went along. (I’m the ultimate procrastinator. Goals give me the hives. Paradoxically, I work best under tight deadlines. Go figure.) So one novel became two, which then became six, and two years after first being published, I’ve got half a dozen books and a novella under my belt. Now what?
Because I’m so routine averse, the answer was: Time to switch it up!
After serious consideration and a lot of market research, I decided to go the contemporary route. Then I looked at what kinds of stories were hot, what was peaking and what seemed to be on the way out. Then I thought, what about rock stars? And everything fell into place. As a teenager, I was a huge rock music fan. We’re talking almost-failed-algebra-daydreaming-about-Van-Halen huge. I was also a club rat. The Rainbow, The Troubadour, The Roxy, Gazzarri’s—my friends and I hit all the most famous rock clubs in Hollywood more times than I can count. So I knew I’d be writing about something I knew and loved—the L.A. music scene—and I figured it might be a quicker turnaround on the manuscript than the heavy world-building the paranormal genre required. I was right. My first novel took six months to write; Sweet As Sin, the first book in my new contemporary series, took two.
Now if I could just figure out how to get my cat to type, I’ll be golden.
Looking for more romance? Sign up for our monthly romance newsletter, Smitten!
Ann H. Gabhart is known for her uplifting inspirational romances, and her latest novel, The Innocent, travels back to post-Civil War America and the fascinating world of the Shakers.
In this guest post, Gabhart tells us what drew her to inspirational romance and the strange customs of the Shakers.
“Hands to work, hearts to God.” That familiar Shaker saying appears in all of my Shaker novels. Other Shaker sayings have made their way into my stories, too: “Do your work as if you had a thousand years to live, and as if you were to die tomorrow.” “Engaged in thy duty, fear no danger.” “None preaches better than the ant, and it says nothing.” And one of my favorites, “Shaker your plate,” which meant eat everything on your plate.
I’ve enjoyed stepping back in time to dwell with the Shakers awhile to discover their odd ways of life, such as condemning marriage and embracing celibacy. They also believed in confession of sins and community property. They worked to shut out worldly influences, and yet they traded with the world continually. They were solemn, hard workers, but in their worship services they danced and whirled and stomped. Those contrasts made for great story possibilities.
When I first began writing historical fiction, I looked to my home state for inspiration. After writing about Kentucky pioneer days and the Civil War, I focused on the Kentucky Shakers. I visited the Pleasant Hill Shaker Village that has been restored as a living history museum and began reading Shaker history. That research led to my first Shaker book.
For years, that story—rejected by publishers as too religious—languished on my desk until I published an inspirational novel, Scent of Lilacs. When my editor expressed an interest in the Shakers, I showed her my book, and Revell decided to publish The Outsider. After the story found some eager readers, my editor asked me to write more Shaker books. Not something I had planned to do, but I began researching the Shakers again. New story ideas surfaced that led to The Believer and The Seeker. Then once again, I thought I’d finished writing Shaker stories until another character wormed her way into my imagination. Lacey insisted I tell her story in The Blessed. That was followed by The Gifted and my Shaker Christmas novella, Christmas at Harmony Hill. Now I was surely through with the Shakers. I was writing other books about families where romance and marriage were definitely not against the rules the way they were with the Shakers.
Then a Shaker Sister and a sheriff tickled my imagination, and a new Shaker story, The Innocent came into being.
Looking for more romance? Sign up for our monthly romance newsletter, Smitten!
Donna Grant's Dark Kings series features a race of dragon shifters who have remained hidden in plain sight for centuries. In this guest post, Grant explains what drew her to the alluring mythology of dragons and talks about her next book in the series, Soul Scorched, out June 30.
Why dragons? I get that question a lot when I tell people my series, Dark Kings, is about dragons who have been around since the beginning of time.
I write about dragons because out of all the mythological creatures—and there are thousands—dragons are the only ones that show up in every culture around the world. From Asian and European countries to Native American folklore—everyone has a dragon myth. Some cultures revered the dragons and almost worshiped them. Other societies feared them and thought of them as bad omens.
I’ve always found that things like that don’t occur by coincidence. It got me asking, Why does every culture have a dragon myth? Why not another mythological creature, like fairies or goblins? Why only dragons?
Was it because there were dragons at one time? How else would societies across the globe have the same legends of huge beings, some with wings and some without, some that could breath fire and some that couldn’t? But if there were dragons, where did they go, and who was to blame for their disappearance? The only logical answer? Humans.
We are responsible for the dragons disappearing. It’s how each civilization knew about them, it’s how they passed down stories of the magnificent, huge beasts—or scary man-eaters—who came down from the sky breathing fire.
Was there a war? Did all the dragons leave? Or did some remain behind, sleeping deep underground, waiting for a time when they could rise once more and take to the skies. Could some be able to shift from dragon to human? Perhaps the man passing you on the street is a dragon in human form.
So I started thinking about how I could turn all those questions into a world of my own. I wanted my dragons to be leaders of their people. So I made them kings—Dragon Kings. I wanted them to be the only creatures on this planet for millions of years. Ever since time began, they ruled the skies, the earth and the seas.
Because of all of the different legends surrounding dragons, I knew the dragons’ downfall had to come at the hands of humans. A war perhaps, but how would the humans win over such creatures as dragons? I decided it was because the dragons vowed to protect humans, and dragons don’t break vows.
So the world of dragons faded to myth. Yet they hid in plain sight, living on their land in Scotland where they can take to the skies at night. Their lavish lifestyle is supported by their distilling and selling of whisky. Beings this powerful, however, have enemies—the Fae, as well as one of their own: a banished Dragon King who is looking for revenge.
Soul Scorched, book six in my Dark Kings series, features Warrick, a Dragon King who finds humans extremely interesting, although he detests being with a crowd. He does better on his own—until he’s sent to the dangerous city of Edinburgh to watch over the unusual Druid Darcy as the Fae and other enemies stalk the streets.
Looking for more romance? Sign up for our monthly romance newsletter, Smitten!
Nashville, Tennessee, is the home of country stars, line dances, cowboy boots—and BookPage! So we were particularly excited to see that Loving Dallas, the latest in Caisey Quinn's New Adult romance series Neon Dreams, is set in Nashville. In Loving Dallas, a country musician is on the brink of stardom, but the love he left behind to pursue fame refuses to fade. We asked Quinn to tell us more about what she finds so special about Nashville—and got some bar suggestions, to boot!
Everyone has as favorite vacation destination: The beach. The mountains. Ski resorts. Las Vegas. Disney World.
Mine is a little different than most.
Mine is full of neon lights and street musicians and smoky bars.
Doesn’t exactly sound like a dream resort, and that’s because it’s not. It is, however, one of the fastest growing cities in America and lately one of its most popular.
I loved it even before it was a television show. (And yes, I do also love the TV show!)
Nashville, Tennessee, encompasses all of the things I love. It’s in the South, it’s constantly filled with music, and you can’t walk five feet without running into a cowboy with a guitar strapped to his back. So it’s no surprise that several of my books are set in the world of country music and many either take place in Nashville or feature characters who spend a great deal of time there.
Traditional romance heroes generally fall into one of several established tropes: athlete, billionaire, CEO, cowboy, soldier, rancher, rock star. I wanted to read about guys more like Luke Bryan, Eric Church or Brantley Gilbert. Personally, I prefer my heroes country with an edge. Mostly I began writing books about country musicians because I wanted to know what in the world happened on that tour bus between Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert. I couldn’t find those books. So I decided to write them myself. Much more experienced writers than me will tell you to write what you want to read and write what you know. So that’s what I did.
Luckily, Birmingham, Alabama, (where I live) is close to Nashville, and my brother and several of my friends are musicians that were happy to answer any questions about the musician lifestyle I had along the way. And I had a lot. Each trip I take to Nashville, I find myself in a bar like The Stage or Crossroads, watching a band and wondering about their story. If I’m lucky, I get to chat with them after the show. If I’m not, I make it up. Either way, each trip provides more inspiration for future novels. So it may not be the bright lights of Vegas or the relaxing vibe of a five-star resort, but Nashville is my second home and there’s nowhere I’d rather be—or rather write about. ;)
Looking for more romance? Sign up for our monthly romance newsletter, Smitten!
New York Times best-selling author Kylie Scott has made a name for herself writing about the scintillating love lives of the (sadly fictional) rock band, Stage Dive. Deep, out now, is the final book in the series. In this guest post, Scott tells us about what drew her to rockers, her decision to feature a pregnant heroine and her thoughts on closing out the series.
Rock stars are funny things. Ever since prime-time TV deemed Elvis’ hip-shaking antics too raunchy to show on air, we’ve been fascinated with their lives, both on stage and off. Rock stars push boundaries and live life on the edge. They stand up beneath the spotlight in front of thousands and both enthrall and entertain. And right from the get go, more than any other topic, they were singing about sex, love and relationships. Take Chuck Berry’s “My Ding-a-Ling” or Little Richard’s “Good Golly, Miss Molly.” Sex, sex and more sex. How about Carole King’s “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” or The Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses”? All of the longing and heartbreak you could ask for and then some.
For me, writing the Stage Dive series meant finally putting all the hours I spent in my youth sitting in front of music video shows, or with my ear glued to the radio hoping to catch a certain song, to good use. In the first book, Lick, there was lead guitar/song writer David. He was the tortured artist, emo-type dude. Next came manic, life-of-the-party drummer Mal, because filters . . . why would you even? Then came lead singer Jimmy, the messed-up, moody-ass show pony with addiction issues (He’s my favorite. I can’t help it. I love an asshole.) And finally, bass player Ben: big, bearded and simple in his ways. The man just wants to make music. So of course I screwed with him big time and had him accidentally knock up his best friend’s kid-sister. Angsty complications—I love them.
But why a pregnant heroine? Good question. You see, as we all know, in real life, sex has consequences. Sometimes those consequences are as simple as losing a bra down the back of the headboard or doing the walk of shame. Other times, they’re unexpected pregnancies that throw your whole life for a loop.
Now, despite the rather loud voices in my head, I know Deep is just a book. As much as I’d love to have a beer with Lena, it ain’t gonna happen. But romance novels are an opportunity for us to explore all those nitty-gritty relationship and female-orientated issues. Hold your horses! I’m not saying men can’t or don’t write romance, or that pregnancy doesn’t affect the other partner. What I am saying is, that in this book, written from the heroine’s perspective, we have a chance to dig deep into the mind of a young woman in this situation. It means we can bring unrequited love (*swoon*) out to play whilst also taking a peek at the biological, emotional and mental changes a woman undergoes when she’s knocked-up—both the funny and the frightening. Another reason I gave Liz a bun in the oven? I hadn’t written about a pregnant heroine before, and I like to mix things up, set myself a challenge. Also, pregnant women can, and do, have sex. We don’t suddenly lose all personality and become solely a breeding machine when sperm meets egg.
I’m going to miss the Stage Dive crew. They taught me a lot over the course of four books and I’m grateful for the experience. Will I ever write another story about them? Honestly, I don’t know. Right now, it’s time for something new. In the future though? There is that god-awful Martha woman still hanging around making side-eyes at Sam . . .
We're excited to announce that BookPage will be launching Smitten, a monthly romance newsletter, next week. Smitten will feature exclusive guest author blog posts and Q&As with some of your favorite authors along with our monthly Romance Top Pick, a digital-first feature and reviews of some of the month’s biggest romance novels. Sign up for Smitten here.
Andrea Laurence's latest series, Brides and Belles, focuses on the women behind the romance: wedding planners. And we'll admit that we're doubly intrigued by this series because it takes place in Nashville, home of BookPage! In this guest blog post, Laurence writes about her inspiration behind the series and the favorite wedding details.
This January, I was very excited to kick off my new Brides and Belles miniseries with Harlequin Desire. It’s the first of four books that follow the love lives of a group of Nashville wedding specialists. I came up with the idea several years ago when I was going through a period when all my friends were getting married. Every wedding was different; every one was special in its own way. It’s also very stressful. While I love the concept of weddings—picking out cake flavors and dresses—the reality is hard work.
It made me wonder about the people who manage weddings for a living. I couldn’t imagine the stress of creating someone’s perfect day each and every week. There’s always drama: The bride can be a handful, and so many little pieces have to fall in place perfectly to pull it off. Hats off to the folks who make these days happen! It got me thinking that it probably takes a toll on their personal lives.
Oh, the irony of being in the wedding industry and incapable of finding someone to marry! That’s where the story began for me. I picked four different women who join together as friends to become business partners. They each have their own specialty—planning, catering, photography and decor. They also each have their own relationship drama.
I started with Bree, the photographer, and asked myself what the single most uncomfortable thing would be for her to do. The answer was to take engagement photos of her ex and his new fiancée. Ouch, right? And so Snowed In with Her Ex was born. In the second book, Amelia, the caterer, is the one who has always wanted the big, fancy wedding. What was the worst thing she could do? Elope in Vegas with her best friend! That’s where my February release, Thirty Days to Win His Wife, starts.
I’m currently finishing up the last two books in the series, and I have to say that writing about weddings and the people who plan them is so much fun. I really do enjoy all the wedding details. It’s hard for me to narrow down my favorite part, but I would have to say it’s seeing which dress each bride chose and what her wedding cake looked like. I think those details tell a lot about the bride and the couple as a whole.
What’s your favorite part of a wedding?
Thanks Andrea! You can visit Andrea's website and find more titles by Andrea Laurence here: BAM | B&N | Indiebound | Amazon
Do you love romance? Be sure to sign up for our monthly romance newsletter, Smitten. You can also enter to win tons of romance goodies, including signed copies of Andrea Laurence's new books!
Best-selling author Jayne Ann Krentz's latest romantic-suspense novel is Trust No One. But you may know the author by one of the two other names she writes under, Jayne Castle or Amanda Quick. So why did she decide to write under three different names? Allow her to explain the allure of the pen name.
Yes, it’s weird but true—I write under three names. Why? It’s complicated.
I swear I did not set out to create three writing careers. I do not recommend this publishing path to aspiring writers. I mean, what kind of strategy is that? The drawback to having three names is obvious at every signing event that I do—about half the people who come through the line will say: “I didn’t know you were Jayne Ann Krentz,” or “I didn’t know you wrote as Amanda Quick” or “I didn’t realize you were Jayne Castle.”
The fact that I write under three names is in every bio on every one of my books. Hey, it’s not like I’m trying to keep it a secret. But evidently very few people actually read those author bios!
So, for what it’s worth, my advice to budding authors is choose one name and stick with it, because if you don’t you will spend the rest of your career trying to explain yourself to readers.
That said, the reason my path took three different names is not because I write three very different kinds of stories. I have always written romantic-suspense under each name. It is my core story—the book of my heart, as writers say—and I expect to spend the rest of my career exploring that story. Romance and danger is a perfect combo for me. It’s what I love to read and it’s what I love to write.
But I do like to shift fictional landscapes, so I decided to use a different pen name for each world. Turns out readers have strong preferences when it comes to settings. A lot of people won’t read my paranormal landscapes, even if they love me in my other worlds. Others only want my historical or contemporary backdrops.
So, the only big advantage of my three-name career? When readers pick up one of my books, they know exactly which fictional landscape they will enter.
In Trust No One, you will enter my Jayne Ann Krentz contemporary world. The setting is Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. The heroine, Grace Elland, has a past that she had hoped would stay buried. Let’s just say that going home can be murder. . .
Thanks Jayne/Amanda/Jayne! You can find Trust No One online here: BAM | B & N | Indiebound | Amazon
(Author photo by Mark Von Borstel)
Do you love romance? Sign up for our new monthly romance newsletter, Smitten, here!
Romance author Terry Spear continues her Heart of the Wolf series with a holiday twist in A Highland Wolf Christmas. In this guest post, Terry Spear talks about holiday traditions—both for her family and for her wolfpack!
In my newest paranormal romance, A Highland Wolf Christmas, the wolves find their Christmas traditions changing with the changing dynamics of the pack, just as they are in my family. We always open one Christmas present on Christmas Eve and have a nice dinner of some sort—usually a roast. When the kids were little, we either spent Christmas at home or visited one set of grandparents. Now my kids live far away from me, and while they're both married, one of them still comes home to visit both her in-laws and me during the holidays. My son, however, is in the Air Force and has had to fly missions the last two Christmases, so we celebrated Christmas early at Thanksgiving last year. This year, my son and his wife are coming to visit, and we'll celebrate Christmas early again.
So you see, family is still very important, but because of jobs and where everyone lives, traditions are always changing. But the one thing I still am able to do with my daughter and son-in-law is have a turkey and all the fixings, open Christmas presents on Christmas Day, play games and watch Christmas movies. Then they’re off to visit the son-in-law’s family for even more Christmas presents and food.
We had a really small family growing up—no cousins, no family to speak of—just Mom, Dad, my sister and me. So we never went anywhere for Christmas; we just stayed home and celebrated with the family. One year, to change things up, we opened all of our Christmas presents Christmas Eve. The next day, getting up to stare at the bare floor around the tree, was a total anticlimax. From then on, we always opened one present on Christmas Eve and saved all the rest for Christmas Day.
Just like with the wolf pack in the Highlands, traditions have evolved as well. Americans have brought some new traditions to the Highland wolf pack, and the Highland wolves have shared some of their interesting customs. The one I loved most was the burning of the Christmas lists in the fire, the smoke going up the chimney and carrying the list to Lapland and Santa. Because of the botanist in the family, the wolves also started a new tradition of putting up a real Christmas tree. And they've started a Christmas bazaar, which has brought the pack together in a fun way. Learning new traditions and keeping the old can be enjoyable and add a spark to holiday celebrations. The key is to share the enjoyment with friends and family!