Thursday, June 14, 2007

An Interview with...June Francis

Medieval Historical and acclaimed saga writer, June Franic is English, was a war baby, used to work as a cash clerk, has been married forty-three years this month, and has three grown-up sons. She started seriously writing for publication at the age of 40 and has had twenty-one novels published and her twenty-second and twenty-third will be out this year.

We are delighted that she has taken time out of her bvusy schedule to speak about her latest North American release --Rowan's Revenge. It is available as both as print and e-book versions from e-harlequin.

Although many writers know they want to be a writer from an early age, was there something in particular that made you decide to pursue your dream?

We got a new vicar at our church and his wife did some writing for a religious programme on local radio. I told her about my dream and she encouraged me by involving me in writing for and editing the church magazine. The next move was her encouraging me to join the local writers’ group. My husband was also willing to let me have a go

How long after you first started submitting did it take for you to have your first book accepted?

It took two years but I had two books accepted at the same time by M&B Masquerade imprint. I just kept rewriting them.

What attracts you to your time period?
I’d had a dream after watching a children’s programme set in a castle. So I decided to write an historical set during the Barons’ Wars in the time of Henry III. It was a period I didn’t know at all and I knew I’d enjoy doing the research. My next one was set a little later during the reign of Edward I and mostly set in North Wales and Cheshire. I’ve crept up over the years but can say I still enjoy writing books set in the Middle Ages. My latest books are set in the fifteenth century. I do like my heroes and heroines to have an adventure and I just enjoy the intrigue, the religious background and the wild places where there can be ancient stones - I also like the clothes.

Writers often use photos of movie or tv stars for inspiration, who has been the inspiration for some of your heroes?
I don’t use photos for inspiration but I do have a weakness for dark curly hair and blue eyes. When I was a teenager I had a pash on Tony Curtis in ‘The Thief of Baghdad”. I also liked Richard Todd in the Elizabethan movie “The Sword and the Rose”. He was also in “Rob Roy” but is probably most famous for playing the war hero, Guy Gibson in “The Dambusters” Don’t get me started on the voice of Richard Burton in “The Robe” or Robert Taylor’s sword play in “Quentin Durward” More recently, well about twenty years ago - there was Robert Powell playing Jesus. My husband believes he’s the real one who helps me with my love interest.

When you are not writing what do you do?
Very little housework. I cook, swim, walk, watch television with my sons or husband - depending what’s on. I listen to music and occasionally lunch with my sister or writing friends and go on holiday with my husband. But I spend more time writing than doing anything else, including sleeping.

Can you tell us about your future books?
I am not a planner. I think no further than the next one or two. My next book out is ‘Tamed by the Barbarian’ and after that ‘Enslaved by the Witch’s Daughter‘ which is set in 1475. My hero, Jack, is a merchant adventurer, who has spent six years as a slave in Arabia. He’s a scarred man, physically, emotionally. My heroine, Lady Anna is a widow and is accused of being a witch like her mother. I also write sagas for another publisher and these are much longer than my hmb. I have just finished one of them set towards the end of the Great War and its aftermath. My next saga I’ll be starting soon and it’ll be set in the early twenties and called Tilly’s Story. I haven’t thought up the plot for my next HMB, but it could be set just after the Battle of Bosworth, beginning of the Tudor period. I just might have a French heroine and English hero - or as I’m going to Perthshire in Scotland for a few days in July with my sister, I just might have a Norse-Scottish hero and English heroine and the period could be early than 15th century.

What does your writing cave look like? It an alcove in our bedroom and gets terrible untidy. I have a map of Chester on the wall behind my chair and a family tree of the houses of York and Nevill in front of my desk. I like to have pictures round me and a few ornaments and a stuffed cat, Bagpuss on my monitor.

What is the worst thing about being a writer?
Not being able to go out in the sunshine when one’s got a deadline. There’s also that the job is hard work for not really a lot of pay and people believing it’s either a doddle or you earn six figure sums. I wish.

What is the biggest challenge you face when you are writing a book? The beginning, middle or end?

Having just finished a book - I’d say the end. I kept rewriting that last chapter but my agent had read it and says that she loves a happy ending. It went off to my editor, Suzy, yesterday, so fingers crossed I’ve got the ending right.

Many thanks June. And remember Rowan's Revenge is currently avaialble in the US. Tamed by the Barbarian will be a September 07 release for Mills and Boon Historical.

Monday, June 04, 2007

An interview with...Cheryl St John

Cheryl St.John is the author of thirty Harlequin and Silhouette books. Her first book, RAIN SHADOW was nominated for RWA’s RITA for Best First Book, by Romantic Times for Best Western Historical, and by Affaire de Coeur readers as Best American Historical Romance. Her 2005 HH, HIS SECONDHAND WIFE, earned another RITA nod. HH LAND OF DREAMS, SSE THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, and HH PRAIRIE WIFE each won RT’s Reviewers Choice Awards. Many of her Special Editions made Waldenbooks Top Ten and HH BIG SKY BRIDES anthology climbed to #35 on the NYT list. In describing her stories of second chances and redemption, readers and reviewers use words like, “emotional punch, hometown feel, core values, believable characters and real life situations.”

Cheryl's latest The Preacher's Daughter is currently available at all good local bookshops, on e-harlequin and as an e-book.

Although many writers know they want to be a writer from an early age, was there something in particular that made you decide to pursue your dream?

The defining year for me was the year my youngest daughter went to first grade. I had been at home raising four children spread out over several years and felt the void of sending the youngest to school all day. Until then I’d been playing at writing, keeping handwritten notebooks and dallying with the stories like a hobby. Then and there I decided that I was going to actually do what I’d always dreamed of doing and write an entire book. I started it in October and finished it during that school year. I had the time of my life. I had no idea what I was doing, so it had no plot or conflict and the villain was wishy washy, but the characters were fun and I enjoyed creating a romance. I even submitted the manuscript to every publisher and agent I could find. Only years later did I understand how embarrassing that was. I did everything you’re not supposed to do. Who knew the time period was unmarketable? Who knew you weren’t supposed to bind your submission in a pretty folder? The story is as yet unpublished, though some day I’d like to rework it.

How long after you first started submitting did it take for you to have your first book accepted?

A lo-o-o-ong time. As I said, I started submitting before I was ready, before I’d discovered a writing group or Dwight Swain. I was writing for about four years before I found a local writers group. I was fortunate. I generous lady and talented Avon author named Diane Wicker Davis started my local chapter. She read my stuff and showed me how to make the stories better and the writing stronger. I lucked into a critique group with another published author, Barbara Andrews (who now writes with her daughter as Pam Rock) and she and the group encouraged me. Once I learned the techniques to write to sell, it took about another three years.

What attracts you to your time period?

For me the appeal of Americana and westerns is the simplicity of the time and the durability of the men and women. Life was difficult. People were determined and resilient. I watched westerns from the time I was a kid and learned to appreciate the charm and strength of a cowboy. The ever-present themes of good verses evil are the foundations of those universally appealing types of stories. Who doesn’t love to root for an underdog? Who doesn’t want to see the bad guy get his comeuppance?

The rancher/farmer’s sweat and blood are imbedded in his land--as deeply as the riverbeds and the roots of the ancient trees. It may have been his father’s before him, or he could have broken his back to earn it. In any case he will die to keep it. Solidarity. And any man who would pour this much passion into his land, will love his woman even more ardently.

To nearly all women I’ve spoken to on the subject of cowboys, physical appearance plays a major part in the attraction. The reality was that dungarees or Levis were not exactly ‘slim cut’ or sexy; they were stiff and probably dirty, and few real cowboys fit the image of the Marlboro man, but our fantasy cowboy has a lean backside in a pair of tight-fitting jeans, long legs, and that ever-present Stetson pulled low over his eyes. Ever notice how a pair of chaps invariably draws the eyes to the uncovered sections of denim?
Our man wears his Colt strapped to his thigh, the holster rides his lean hips, his spurs jangle--this dangerous guy exudes sex appeal. The western hero is a hard body due to demanding work on the range, riding and roping, chasing outlaws, stopping the runaway stage, and sleeping on the ground. He’s untamed, a little wild, and a lot sexy. He doesn’t need a gym membership or a treadmill.

Who are some of your favourite romance authors?

Dangerous question for any booklover, isn’t it? This list could be huge. I was a Stephen King fan and read horror, true crime (Anne Rule) and westerns, the latter primarily written by Louis L’Amour. I read Dean Koontz back when he wrote under a woman’s name. Through a bookclub I discovered Catherine Cookson and Nora Lofts and had a peep into the possibilities of great storytelling plus a romance. The first romances I deliberately bought because they were romance were by LaVyrle Spencer and Lisa Gregory/Candace Camp/Kristin James, Jude Devereaux and Erin St.Claire (Sandra Brown). I was hooked. I found Maggie Osborne and Pamela Morsi. I loved everything Jill Marie Landis put her hand to. Laura Kinsale came of the scene and I found her stories irresistible. Ad to those greats writer Theresa Weir/Anne Frasier, Janet Evanovich, Kristin Hannah, Megan Chance,Catherine Anderson, Linda Howard, Alexis Harrington, Sharon Sala, Laura Lee Ghurke, Eloisa James, Penelope Williamson, Emile Richards, Robyn Carr, Jane Goodger, Rachel Nelson and more.

What are some of your favourite movies?

* Hope Floats
* Sommersby
* Pay It Forward
* Return To Me
* The Con
* Bounce
* Quigley Down Under
* The Love Letter
* Winter People
* Lonesome Dove
* Far & Away
* Phenomenon
* Mrs. Winterbourne
* Paradise
* High Road To China
* At First Sight
* Notting Hill
* The Fulfillment of Mary Gray
* A Star is Born
* While You Were Sleeping
* The Substitute Wife
* Face Off
* The Bone Collector
* The Wedding Date
* Music & Lyrics

What does your writing cave look like?

Messy. Papers everywhere. Books all over. I’m known far and wide as a collector and my office reflects that particular gene as much as any room in my house. In my office have a curio full of old and new dolls: Barbies, My Scene, Ginnys, Disneys, Madame Alexanders, and any others I can’t resist.

There are framed writing awards on the few visible walls—most of the wall space is taken up by bookcases. The color of the walls is called Strawberry Pot, it’s a soothing and inspiring teal, my favorite color. I have a comfy rocking chair piled with pillows, a TV on an upper shelf, a counter full of office machines like copiers and printers and two computers. My book covers are thumb tacked to the bulletin boards that back my desk area on three walls, along with pics that readers have sent. I have half a dozen oil lamps, a row of Angel Cheeks, framed photographs of the cutest kids ever, a jeweled tiara and paperweights. A vintage globe that belonged to my grandmothers sits atop one of my cabinets. There are many things I love about my space, and one of them is that it’s sound proof. You can actually hear the difference when you come into the room—the effect created by four walls of books.

When you are not writing what do you do?

Probably not sleeping, LOL My husband and I like to garden together, so many of our weekends are spent creating arbors and gardens and soon ponds. We love to shop flea markets and browse antique malls. More often than not you could find me selecting paint, then watching him roll it on or arranging a spot in the house just so. I like to make interesting displays of vintage collections and have so many I have to change them out to enjoy them. I’m a movie junkie, so late night I watch movies (and take plotting notes—it makes me feel like I’m working).

Can you share a special recipe? Either one that your characters make in your latest book, or one you often make?

I love to bake and also collect cookbooks and recipes. This is my summer specialty. We have oodles of family on hand all the time so I make this about once a week, believe it or not.

Cheryl's Easy Strawberry Shortcake

For years I made angel food cake from scratch and only recently did I discover the mixes are awesome! I buy the angel food cake mix that only takes water. Other mixes require egg whites, but that one is so simple, that's why I like it. Some of the store brands are really good. Bake the cake according to the directions, but bake it in a 9 x 13 pan that you've lightly sprayed with cooking spray.

While it's baking clean and slice 1 - 2 pints of strawberries. (I've also used frozen with excellent results.) While the cake is cooling, prepare a large package of sugar-free strawberry jell-o. I use crushed ice (cause it's on the door of my fridge and easy) added to the cold water to speed setting up. It will still be liquid. Add the strawberries to it.

Use a large meat fork or a knife and poke holes all over the cake. Use the utensil to pull the sides away from the pan. Stab it up really well. Then pour the strawberry and jell-o mixture around the sides first, then over the top. You may have to use a big spoon to distribute the liquid and fruit evenly.

Cover it and immediately refrigerate. It takes only a couple of hours to set up if you need it right away. I've made it at the last minute or the night before with perfect results.
Serve with whipped topping
Many thanks to Cheryl for taking the time and trouble to answer our questions.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Harlequin Historicals as e-books

Just a reminder that ALL the Harlequin Historicals for this month are avaialble as e-books. In the three most popular formats.
Be seduced by Harlequin Historicals e-books, especially as they have an additional 20% off this month.

Friday, June 01, 2007

HH June Release: The Peacher's Daughter by Cheryl St John

Lorabeth Holdridge longed for life and experience! Cloistered by her strict father, her world was confined to chores and prayer. Her chance of escape came when she took a job as housekeeper to a boisterous family. Lorabeth reveled in her newfound freedom. And when Benjamin Chaney visited, she felt the stirrings of her first crush.
Jaded and cynical, Ben found it hard to trust, though Lorabeth's sweetness soothed his battered soul and taught him joy. But he would have to face the demons of his past to find a glorious future in Lorabeth's arms.

Read excerpt

HH June Release: McCavett's Bride by Carol Finch

Unable to tolerate the controlling expectations of her upper-class family, Pru Perkins shipped herself to Paradise, Oklahoma, as a mail-order bride. She was destined to make Jack's dreams of a peaceful life a distant memory!
Ex-lawman Jack McCavett was done with excitement, glad to have his days of adventure behind him. Now he wanted to enjoy his quiet ranch with a restful, respectable woman at his side. But his special delivery was Pru, heiress, suffragette and all-round firebrand. Soon his desire for calm would be left far behind—and his need for Pru would be irresistible!

Read excerpt

HH June Release: Dear Deceiver by Mary Nichols

The only thing that Dominic could be certain he knew about Emma was that she had been lying to him. He wasn't even sure that Emma Woodhill was her real name. So why on earth was he falling in love with her? Especially when he was already engaged to someone else?
Despite all this, Dominic was determined to discover the truth and give Emma all the help she needed

Read the excerpt

HH June Release: Rowan's Revenge by June Francis

He could have been just another supplicant, making his pilgrimage to the shrine of St. James at Compostela, yet there was nothing humble about him. Pride was evident in his every step. This was the man Kate had feared would catch up with her ever since she'd fled England.
Owain ap Rowan had sworn to track Lady Catherine down. And in Spain he believed he had finally found her. Her guilt was obvious—no innocent lady would disguise herself as a boy! But could he be sure that the beautiful, resourceful, alluring Kate was, in truth, the lady he sought? With so many secrets between them, he must not yield to her seductive spell….

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HH June Release: Tempted by Innocence by Lyn Randal

Diego Castillo was a man born to power and wealth. But he had left the things of the world behind. Truly repentant of the sins of his past, he dedicated his life to God and prayed for forgiveness.
He had found a measure of peace in a tropical paradise, until Lady Celeste Rochester arrived! Her beauty ravaged his dreams and tormented his waking hours.
Diego would escort the lady back to Spain, and to all the grandeur of his former life. How hard would it be to resist her captivating charms?

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HH June Release: Rogue's Widow, Gentleman's Wife by Hele Dickson

Amanda O'Connell is in a scrape. If she doesn't find a husband while she's in America, her father will marry her off against her will.
Then Christopher Claybourne—a dark, mysterious rogue sentenced to death—inspires a plan. She'll marry him secretly, and then return to England a widow.
Everything works perfectly, until Amanda meets her father's new racehorse trainer. He's gorgeous, he's a gentleman and he's…her husband! Christopher has escaped, determined to clear his name. Then he'll claim what is rightfully his—his title and his bride!

Read Excerpt