author, Bikers and Pearls
Give us a bit of your background (where are you from, your family, traveling adventures)
I was born in a small Southern town, just outside Charleston, South Carolina. My family was (and is) the epitome of what Southern is all about. We are extremely close to one another and to the land and traditions that identify the South. I learned about Southern cooking from my grandmother and mother, who were awesome in the kitchen. My memories are filled with lots of cousins, old-fashioned barbecues, and oyster roasts on cool fall evenings. Family is everything in the South. My family travelled quite a bit, and what that served to do for me was to bring the Charleston Lowcountry (coastal lands and swamps) into focus more clearly. I saw the beauty and uniqueness of the people and settings around me and was inspired to write about them to inform the rest of the world about this exceptional place.
Most writers are readers. What are some of the books you have on your nightstand and/or on your "must read" list?
I have four “hang-onto/must-buy” authors—Dorothea Benton Frank, Charles Frazier, Anne Rivers Siddons, and Pat Conroy. I write sweet, contemporary Southern romances, and I am inspired by these authors who see this region as I do.
What is one silly fact about you?
I have an alter ego, known simply as…The Decorator. My family also has a few other names for me when I get into one of my feng shui moods. Okay. I admit it. I get a little…scary when it comes to decorating. Things go together…or they don’t. Room arrangements flow…or not. I can live with a color…or shoot me now. It’s a quirk, and I apologize profusely for it (and, BTW, I don’t do it to other people’s homes, so yes, you can invite me over for dinner).
What got you started on your writing journey?
My grandfather (who passed away when I was only 17) spent tons of time telling me stories on his porch. I loved the push and pull of storytelling and the power of the storyteller (or writer) to take the listener (or reader) on a journey and, hopefully, to teach something of value in the process.
Why do you choose to write clean/sweet romance? Do you write steamy romance as well?
Writing is not an escape for me; it is me, and my writing clean/sweet romance reflects that fact. I have always shared what I do with all the people around me, so when I was an English teacher, or a bible study leader, or a journalist with local newspapers, I would have felt a bit…split if I were writing something that was so different from my lifestyle. Though I don’t write steamy romance, I do write Southern Gothic women’s fiction, kind of a contemporary (and Southern) version of Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights or Frankenstein. My Gothic fiction bent comes from all the years of study and teaching those sorts of British classics. And if you think about it, they are actually pretty clean.
What other things do you have planned with your writing for the next year or so?
Bikers and Pearls (an August 2013 release from Bliss at Entangled Publishing) is the first installment in the Summerbrook Series. There are two additional books written for that series, as well as a shorter novella of another couple in Bikers and Pearls. From the outset, readers wanted to know about Jenna and Hogan’s story, so it’s in the works, too! I hope my readers will follow all the funny antics of the interrelated stories in the Summerbrook Series.
What is the most rewarding thing about being a writer?
I have actually cried when I’ve read reviews from readers and critics when they have been moved by something I’ve written. It is such an intrinsic reward for an author to affect others. I fill my stories with positive messages, and I love that I am able to get people to think about life in different, more meaningful ways.
How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing?
My writing is generously salted with my personality and life experiences. It is also peppered with my silly sense of humor. I have always wanted to help others, so readers will also get their stories seasoned with a little charity, as well. I want to share what I’ve learned about human nature with readers. Why should I be the only one who benefits from the wisdom I’ve garnered along the bumpy road I’ve travelled?
Where do your ideas come from?
Many of my ideas for stories begin with a theme—a lesson or message I want to offer readers for contemplation. For example, my theme in Bikers and Pearls was about the perils and pitfalls of judging others before you’ve had a chance to get to know them. April’s journey to that truth in the book was a realistic one, one that I’ve seen others make. So, I draw the messages from people and from situations I see around me—especially the ones that have positive life lessons to be learned.
If you could sum your main character into five words, what would they be?
April is cautious, charitable, wounded, determined, and family-oriented.
What are your hero and heroine of the story like?
April and Bullworth (Bull) are apparently complete opposites—especially on the outside. April is pulled into all the safe, social constraints of a polite, Southern society. Bull just doesn’t care what things look like on the surface when we first meet him, but he’s done his own share of judging in the past. They work hard to get beyond all those superficial things because each sees something much deeper in the other—something that is worth the effort of difficult change.
Use no more than two sentences. Why should we read your book?
Readers will taste a little slice of the real South with Bikers and Pearls. In the process, they will give up a few laughs and lots of giggles as they read about how April keeps getting herself into trouble with her pseudo-protective ideas for her life.
Do you have a favorite character you have written so far?
Jenna Bellingham, a character from Bikers and Pearls, will be the heroine in an upcoming spin-off from the Summerbrook Series. If you thought April had problems…