After a nearly 20-year career and millions of books in print, best-selling romance author Brenda Jackson has reached an impressive milestone with the publication of her latest novel, A Madaris Bride for Christmas—her 100th book!
Back in 1994, Jackson's first novel, Tonight and Forever, introduced the Madaris family. Matchmaking matriarch Mama Laverne has helped the Madaris men and women find everlasting love over the years, delighting and entertaining countless readers along the way. In A Madaris Bride for Christmas, Lee Madaris, one of Mama's grandsons and owner of one of the hottest hotels in Vegas, is determined to find a woman on his own, and has his sights set on pastry chef Carly Briggs.
With memorable characters, lots of sizzle and a few twists and turns, A Madaris Bride for Christmas is sure to satisfy fans of the series, hook some news ones and leave all readers looking forward to Jackson's 101st novel.
You are likely already aware that it's First Fiction Month here at BookPage—a month-long celebration of debut novels . . . and their authors, of course! One such author is Jennifer McQuiston, whose debut—What Happens in Scotland, a historical romance—was published earlier this year.
In this fabulous guest post, Jennifer discusses her fascinating path to becoming a romance writer and her experience of being a first-time author—although, with her second book (Summer Is for Lovers) coming out next month and her third (Moonlight on My Mind) in April, she's actually well on her way to becoming a veteran!
I didn’t always want to be an author.
There. I said it. And the lights just flickered above my head, suggesting I have upset some delicate balance of literary fate. After all, don’t authors emerge from the womb knowing not only who they are, but also what they want to write?
Nope. Not me. A veterinarian and a scientist by training, I work for the federal government tracking infectious disease outbreaks around the globe. Reading has always been a way for me to escape the pressures of work, or a treat to savor on those rare vacations. I have always enjoyed reading historical romance, but about five years ago I realized I was beginning to search for stories that were a bit different. Grittier. Less dukes and dancing, more cholera and syphilis. At some point, I began to realize those stories were in my head, and began toying with the idea to write a novel.
My earliest attempts to craft said “gritty romance novel” failed on several levels. My scientific training ensured I understood everything there was to know about cholera, but I knew nothing about craft. I tried again, feeling my way blindly to a voice that was uniquely mine but did not require translation for a lay audience. Writing became less of a pastime and more of an obsession. I set my clock for 4 a.m. every morning for a slog in front of the laptop before the real day job started. Each time I woke up to that insistent alarm, I learned a little better how to tune out my internal scientist, and how to become . . . gasp . . . an author.
What Happens in Scotland is my first published novel, but it was my fifth completed manuscript, a testament to just how long I slogged. Be forewarned: there is no cholera in this story. It isn’t even that gritty, although it features a chamber pot and a few raw edges to the plot. But it is still, irrevocably, me. My voice, my vision, my eccentricity. I knew it was special from the moment I started writing it, but I don’t think I realized how truly different it was until the reviews started rolling in. It is a book that has engendered some strong opinions among readers and reviewers, namely because it breaks a few of what are considered “standard rules of romance.” Not everyone loves the fact that I keep the hero and heroine apart for half the book searching for each other, but others have praised that difference. Some dislike the fact it takes place over a 24-hour period, while others welcome the change in pace. It contains a little too much physical humor for readers looking for lilting prose, but others claim the humor is their favorite part of the writing.
The truth is, there is no one way to write—or read—a book. I feel remarkably privileged that my publisher, Avon/Harper Collins, believed in me enough to not only take a risk on a different sort of book, but to make me a multi-published author.
While Bella Andre's path to becoming one of the hottest romance writers around can be likened to a Cinderella-like tale, it doesn't feature a Prince Charming coming to her rescue. No, Andre's success has been the result of her own persistence and hard work.
After Andre's self-published series of e-book romances chronicling the Sullivan family sold more than a million copies and hit multiple best-seller lists, Harlequin snatched her up with a seven-figure deal to publish print editions of the wildly popular books, the first of which hit shelves last month.
In this guest blog post, Andre describes her unique and exhilarating journey.
I am both a romance writer and a voracious romance reader! In fact, I'll read a book a day when I can. I've always loved to read connected family series like Julia Quinn's Bridgertons and Stephanie Lauren's Cynsters, because it's so much fun to watch the family members each get their happily-ever-afters—especially when their siblings and parents are in the books, as well. That's why, two years ago, I decided to take the plunge and write my own connected series about the Sullivan family. Each of the eight Sullivan siblings has a unique career (photographer, winery owner, firefighter, librarian, auto shop mogul, pro baseball player and choreographer) and outlook on life, but one thing they all have in common is that they're always there for each other, no matter what.
When I decided to self-publish my stories about the Sullivans as e-books, self-publishing was fairly new at that point, and it was very exciting to watch as more than 1.5 million readers discovered my digital books! In the past two years, nearly all of my Sullivan e-books have hit the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists—and now, after signing a groundbreaking print-only deal with Harlequin MIRA—the Sullivan series is being released in paperback in extended English language editions all over the world!
I'm beyond thrilled that From This Moment On is now out in paperback. Though I could never pick a favorite Sullivan, I have to admit that Marcus definitely vies for one of the top spots in my heart.
Marcus is the oldest Sullivan sibling, and after his father died when he was 14, he helped his mother raise his seven brothers and sisters. The owner of Sullivan Winery in Napa Valley, Marcus has always put his family first—but now it's finally time for him to find his own happiness. Only, he never thought a pop star would be the one to make his heart race from the moment he set eyes on her. . . .
The first book in the Sullivan series, The Look of Love, is already on bookshelves everywhere, and the third book in the series, Can't Help Falling in Love, will be released in paperback on July 31. I hope you enjoy getting to know my Sullivans and that you fall for Marcus Sullivan as hard as I did!
Thanks so much, Bella!
So, who's intrigued about this Marcus guy? Do you plan on getting to know him and the rest of the Sullivans? To learn more, visit Andre's website.
In her new Thunder Point series, Robyn Carr—the best-selling author of more than 40 novels—whisks readers away to a picturesque small town on the gorgeously rugged Oregon coast.
The Wanderer (MIRA, April 2013) introduces Hank Cooper, who finds himself in Thunder Point after the death of an old army buddy. Will the allure of the town's stunning natural beauty and the charm of its inhabitants—particularly those of Sarah Dupre—calm Hank's restless spirit enough for him to settle down there?
There are additional townsfolk to meet in the next two books in the series, like deputy sheriff Mac McCain in The Newcomer (coming in July) and single mother Devon McAllister in The Hero (September).
In this guest blog post, Carr shares a little about her creative process, leaving us thinking that she just might have one of the coolest jobs around.
I’m a happily married woman. For more years than you’d believe. But that hasn’t kept me from meeting, getting to know and falling in love with fascinating, good hearted, strong and handsome men. In my head, of course. But hey, the inside of my head is a fun place for me to hang out. And I get to know these men better than anyone else ever will.
A couple of years ago I stumbled onto Hank Cooper, known just as Cooper. He was a pretty ordinary guy. He served in the military, then worked as a civilian helicopter pilot. He moved around a lot, thanks to his job. His needs were pretty simple; no one depended on him. He’d had some girlfriends, but since things never got quite serious enough for the long term, he assumed he was meant to live a fairly solitary life. He wasn’t looking for anything in particular, and he’d always been able to enjoy life.
Then an odd twist of fate sent him to Thunder Point, where he made a good friend in the first hour he was there. I stood witness as he learned a few things about the town—that these ordinary people worked hard and lived honest, earnest lives, that one good turn deserved another, that they liked to laugh, they took friendship seriously and no one really had to make it alone, not if they made Thunder Point their home and did all they could to be a good neighbor.
Then I watched him fall in love. Oh yes. And even though he’s mine, I’m a givin’ woman and want only the best for him. And Sarah is indeed the best—his match in every way. And while Cooper would never have admitted to being lonely, once he got to know her, he realized there had been something crucial missing from his life. Sarah made him forget that. And since Sarah was lonely, too, it was not only a good match, but also one filled with laughter, passion, honesty and, despite their fears, a longing for commitment. While I typed, my wandering Cooper transitioned into the newest resident of Thunder Point and found a home he never knew he craved.
But Cooper’s journey was just beginning in The Newcomer. His relationship with Sarah was evolving. His friendships with Mac, the town deputy sheriff, and Gina, Mac’s long-time love, were growing complicated. Mac’s ex-wife turned up, looking for a reconciliation, and Gina’s teenage daughter struggled with a bittersweet romance. Cooper is surprised to learn he has much to offer by way of support. Cooper’s new town is stretched thin by challenges to his favorite people.
But Cooper surprises himself—he is completely unafraid of this deep involvement, though he’s never experienced it before. And his world is expanding, including even more commitments. He has everything he wants in life, even a life that suddenly produces more people counting on him than ever before. But he turned out to be a man improved rather than burdened by the needs of his friends.
I think you’re going to like this new town, this Thunder Point. It’s never dull, it’s never easy, it’s never predictable. But don’t worry, the people there are up to the job.
Welcome to Thunder Point. I hope you packed your dreams.
When it comes to writing love scenes in fiction, all authors are not created equal. Clichés and sappiness abound, but when it's done right, it's done right . . . what can I say: I'm not above dog-earing pages. (I'm looking at you, Summer Sisters. Oh yes, we did pass that around at my all-girls summer camp.)
If looking at these hot book jackets didn't make you break into a sweat, thinking about these smooches will!
Readers: What do you think is the most romantic literary kiss? Let us know in the comments.
Guest post by Katie Lane
Being a hip ‘70s teen, I passed out my fair share of kisses—or would that be a slutty ‘70s teen? Anyway, it turned out that most of those kisses were just passing fancies. But there were a few I’ll never forget. Like the first time my husband kissed me. His aim was a little off, the bill of his baseball cap thumped me in the forehead and a tube of Chapstick would’ve come in handy. Still, there was something about it that had me coming back for more . . . and more . . . and more.
This is what we strive for as writers: a kiss that will leave our readers hungering for more. From the first hesitant brush, we want to convey a spark of awareness that this kiss is different from all others. If we do it correctly, the kiss becomes not just a passing fancy but the first note in a beautiful symphony.
Here are five literary kisses I feel hit the perfect note.
Yesterday we highlighted features from our February issue, including an interview with romance novelist Kristan Higgins, author of The Next Best Thing (February 1 from Harlequin). Today, we have a special treat: A guest post from interviewer (and BookPage Production Designer) Karen Elley, who brings us more behind-the-book quotes from her conversation with Higgins.
Ever wondered why your favorite romance heroine has a pet? Or how an author feels at the conclusion of writing a book? Read on to get the scoop. Then tell us in the comments: What's your favorite romance novel?
Recently I interviewed romance author Kristan Higgins for the February issue of BookPage. Due to space constraints, several paragraphs had to be cut from the article. So, just in case inquiring minds want to know what I left out, here are more insights into Higgins and her writing style.
For instance, Higgins writes from the first person narrative point of view, something that is unusual in contemporary romance. She said it provides a truer point of view for her because the heroine doesn’t know what the hero is thinking, and neither does the reader.
“In real life,” Higgins says, “you don’t get the other person’s point of view—you have to make assumptions by going on what’s showing in their actions and by what’s being said. It feels like a very natural and honest way to write.”
In Higgins' previous books, a dog is usually the heroine’s best friend, but in The Next Best Thing, Fat Mikey, a cranky, overweight cat takes on that role. “I’m definitely a dog person,” Higgins says, “but I also own a cat.” (Dear reader, cat people will understand that no matter what the author believes, no one owns a cat.) “I decided to pick a pet for each of my (five so far) heroines,” she explained, “because I think the pet the character chooses, and how they relate to it, is very revealing.”
Actually, in The Next Best Thing, the heroine doesn’t pick him; her friend with benefits, Ethan, gets Fat Mikey for Lucy—to be with her while he’s away.” Higgins felt a dog would be too much for Lucy to handle with her job at a bakery and the unusual hours that go with it. “A cat is company but more independent and less needy.” Darn straight.
When she moves on to write a new book, Higgins admits that it’s hard to get the current book’s characters out of her head. “You fall in love with these people. They are so real to you. In your heart you feel their pain, you laugh at what they say, you cry with their sorrows and then when the book is done, I don’t get to see them anymore. It’s almost like breaking up.”
Higgins gave BookPage a sneak preview of the book she’s currently writing, scheduled for publication in August of 2010. All I Ever Wanted is a tale of opposites who attract, starring a woman who has a toxic crush on her boss: “When the book opens it’s her 30th birthday, and she thinks he has given her some reason to hope that things are going to be different. But as it turns out what he really wants to tell her is that he is seeing someone else. The plot revolves around a quirky, funny family and a heroine who feels that if she does everything right, she can fix everything. She’s always trying to solve other people’s problems and make everybody happy.” The hero this time is a vet. “With all the pet references in my other books, sooner or later it had to happen,” Higgins said.
When asked what she likes to read, and what authors influenced her writing, Higgins replied, “I just finished a wonderful book, Thanksgiving Night by Richard Bausch, an absolutely lyrical book about a family.” Other authors she loves and appreciates are Eleanor Lipman, Elizabeth Strout, Monica Macanerny, Steven King, Sherry Thomas and Susan Mallory. “It depends on my mood of the moment. I read a lot of different genres. But I think because I hadn’t always planned to be a writer, I didn’t look at the books I was reading as influence, more as enjoyment.
Higgins admits she doesn’t have a clue as to what the next big thing in romance novels might be. “I don’t pay attention to market trends and predictions, but I think readers are always hungry for great stories. They love characters with conflicts and issues to overcome, and they love when it’s difficult. They love the struggle. A good book with great characters will always sell.”
If she had to do something other than writing, what would it be? “I think I’d like to be an editor, that way I could still read all these great stories.”