Last year (seems strange to be saying that!), I did my first literacy signing at RWA Nationals in Dallas. I was nervous and excited, as you can imagine, but I ended up having a whale of a time. Part of that whale of a time was because I sat next to another debut author, Linda Cardillo, whose photo is at the head of this blog. Linda's first book, Dancing on Sunday Afternoons, had just come out from Harlequin Everlasting Love. I've since read her book and she's an amazing writer, emotive, sincere, passionate. During our long evening together, I talked about inviting Linda to blog on the Banditas. I'm now delighted to introduce her to Banditas and friends. And as an extra bonus, she's brought along her friend Jean Brashear. Linda and Jean are contributors to a new Harlequin SuperRomance anthology The Valentine Gift which is out now.
LINDA: Several years ago, my fingers wrinkled and numb from several hours of harvesting grapes on a rain-soaked hillside overlooking the Rhine river, I said to myself, “Someday I’ll write about this and it will all seem worth my aching, cold bones.” I had readily agreed to help a friend bring in her harvest my first autumn living in Germany, grateful for the assistance she’d offered me as a new arrival. It turned out to be much more than I had anticipated—physically exhausting but a challenging and exhilarating adventure. The Berlin Wall fell the following year, and I got caught up in what it meant for the people of both Eastern and Western Europe. When my editor at Harlequin called to invite me to participate in The Valentine Gift anthology, it seemed the perfect experience from which to craft “The Hand That Gives the Rose,” a love story set in a vineyard and challenged by duty, geography and political upheaval.
The stories in the anthology are linked simply by the element of Valentine’s Day. We didn’t collaborate, and I found it fascinating how each of us wove the meaning of a Valentine’s gift into our stories in such diverse ways.
LINDA: I have been making up stories since I could speak, it seems. I was one of those firstborn children who had an imaginary friend to entertain me when all around me were only boring adults. I began to write seriously in high school and was inspired and nurtured in college by one of my English professors. In my adult life, I filled notebooks with ideas as I made a living, first as an editor of college textbooks (psychology, engineering!! and history), then as an author of business texts in marketing and corporate policy. I took workshops and courses in creative writing, and after a few years, began teaching those workshops. Throughout this “apprenticeship” I continued to write and hold onto the goal of one day publishing fiction. I finished my first novel, Dancing on Sunday Afternoons, in the spring of 2000. I developed a very thick skin and an unwillingness to be defeated by “No” over the four years and twenty-five rejections it took me to find an agent who believed in me and loved my work. It took her another year and twenty-two rejections to find an editor who wanted to publish my book. I had once read that the difference between published and unpublished writers is persistence, and I stubbornly refused to give up.
JEAN: I was never one of those writers who knew from childhood that she wanted to be one. I was sorta in the slow class when it came to figuring out what I wanted to be when I grew up. ;-) I've always been an avid reader--okay, book junkie. It wasn't until my youngest was about to graduate from high school and my beloved and I were having one of those "so what do we do with the rest of our lives?" conversations that I made a casual remark about how amazing it would be to see my name on the spine of a book...and, bless him, he challenged me to go for it. Went way beyond that, really, to be my staunchest advocate to this day.
Why do you write romance?
LINDA: I think I fell in love with romance as a teenager buried under the covers with a flashlight reading Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. I’m a sucker for darkly troubled heroes who are healed by the steadfast love of strong, spirited women—like Tomas and Marielle in “The Hand That Gives the Rose.”
JEAN: With the above statement about the man I've been married to since I was twenty-one, need I say more?
What's coming up next for each of you?
LINDA: I am about to complete another Everlasting Love novel, set in Boston’s Little Italy, the North End, and narrated by three women for whom food is love, change, defiance and salvation. After that, I’ll be working on another novella for a Mother’s Day anthology.
JEAN: An Everlasting Love full-length novel, The Way Home, in July, then two NASCAR projects in November, a novella in the Harlequin NASCAR Christmas '08 anthology (A Family for Christmas) and a book in the 2008 NASCAR continuity, Secrets and Legends. My book is called Go With the Flow. (And how I got involved with NASCAR is a whole other story!)
What would be your ideal Valentine gift and why?
LINDA: The gifts I cherish the most from my husband are the words written in his own hand expressing his feelings for me and his appreciation for our life together. These gifts fill my soul.
Lovely answers, Jean and Linda. And Happy New Year to you both. Linda and Jean have generously donated TWO signed copies of The Valentine Gift to lucky commenters. So tell us, the Banditas want to know, what would be your ideal Valentine Gift?