by Caren Crane
Trees dressed in red and gold climbed the foothills of the Appalachian mountains and descended in glorious splendor to the terminus of the Appalachian Trail: Amicalola Falls, Georgia. From the Piedmont of North Carolina and the foothills of the Rockies in Idaho, two starry-eyed Maggie finalists descended upon the Moonlight and Magnolias retreat center, with hopeful hearts and steely ambition. The two met, bonded and became fast friends when one whispered to the other at the awards ceremony, "We don't have to win. All we have to do is make third place and we'll have our names in the RWR!" (Okay, that was Jennie *g*)
Jennie Lucas and I have been friends since that magical retreat at Amicalola Falls. Though most of a continent separates us, we are there to celebrate our successes and commiserate our misses. I had the great pleasure of celebrating Jennie's Golden Heart win in Reno, 2005, and her first sale to Mills & Boon/Harlequin Presents in 2006. Jennie sent me a copy of her first US release, The Greek Billionaire's Baby Revenge, and I squealed when I held it in my hands! We are thrilled to have Jennie with us today to talk about her alpha heroes, lavish settings and the dark edge of romance. Welcome to Romance Bandits, Jennie!
Thanks so much for inviting me, Caren! I was so happy when you became a Golden Heart finalist in 2006. The Banditas rock! (I'm a member of your sister tribe, the Wet Noodle Posse.) I'm thrilled to be in the Lair. I know some of you already, and I'm particularly in awe of my current idol, Anna Campbell.
Jennie, I'm not sure when you have time to read, since you are without a doubt one of the hardest-working authors I know! Your debut release was Dec. 2007 and I see you have two books out on top of each other. The Spaniard's Defiant Virgin is out next week in the U.S., while Caretti's Forced Bride comes out in Australia and the UK. Have you cloned yourself, stopped bathing, boycotted laundry or what?
How have I written so quickly? The simple fact is that for the last year or two, I haven't done anything but either write or take care of my family. I got The Call in October 2006, when I was seven months pregnant with my second child. Since then, parts of my house seem to have become a permanent mess--and often so am I. There are days I don't even comb my hair, I just yank it back in a speedy ponytail. I don't wear nail polish because I don't know when I'll have time to take it off. I haven't scrapbooked any baby pictures, cleaned out my closet, or gone to the dentist in ages. I don't have time to shop for fun or just hang out and read a magazine. I'm often stressed and feel the need to be productive every single minute of my time. (Many moms of young children can probably identify with this feeling!)
I'm not sure if I could have handled having babies and writing to deadlines. I am in awe of you! Do you ever feel like you're in danger of burning out?
I'm happy to say, things are starting to change. A few weeks ago, a wonderful babysitter starting coming over on weekday mornings to play with the kids while I write. That has helped a lot. I love hearing the kids play downstairs, doing crafts and playing in the front yard, while I'm working in the bedroom. I'm still able to put the baby down for his nap and hang out with them during my morning "coffee breaks". It's kind of like having a part-time job--but with all the happy perks of being at home!
I handed in my fifth book last week, and starting with my next MS, I'll be writing books a month faster--going from a five-month cycle to four. I'm thrilled and so excited. I love writing for Presents! Being a mom and having my dream career at the same time--I wake up every morning feeling so lucky and grateful.
Four months between books? [fans self] Just the thought makes me feel faint. I'm not surprised Presents is so taken with your stories, though. Your books are lush and your heroes are dead sexy! Here in the Lair, we have shared our love of Presents and their alpha heroes. Are you giving us another dark and dangerous hero in The Spaniard's Defiant Virgin? The excerpt left me clamoring for more!
Alpha? Definitely. Marcos Ramirez is a dark, powerful, sexy Spaniard who has planned his revenge against Tamsin's family for years. He kidnaps Tamsin in Morocco on her way to her wedding, and drags her to his Moorish castle in Andalusia, where he keeps her captive and seduces her. Then he finds out she was a virgin. It makes him feel guilty about the way he treated her, until he wakes up the next morning to find that she's betrayed him and escaped.
Oh, my! Jennie, your books take place in magnificent, exotic locales. Have you turned into a globe trotter since you began writing for Presents?
It's funny. It seems sometimes I like dreaming of travel more than actually doing it. I spend a ton of time pouring over guide books and watching travel shows, but haven't traveled all that much - I've gone to Europe three or four times, and that's about it. But in the last six months, we definitely have started to do more.
We went to Hawaii with the kids in November. (See The Top Ten Reasons Harlequin Presents is Better than a Hawaiian Cruise.) In February, my husband and I went on a luxury romantic getaway to Cancun. (See My Romance of the Year.) And next week, I'll be traveling to Italy on my own to attend bestselling Presents author Sharon Kendrick's weeklong workshop on how to write for Harlequin Mills & Boon. I signed up on a lark because I wanted to meet Sharon and be able to hang out in Tuscany with other romance writers. (You can learn about the Watermill at Posara and their Creative Writing workshops at www.watermill.net.)
I can hardly believe I'm going! I have the best, most understanding husband in the world to let me do this while he holds down the fort at home!
I just found out that the BBC will be at the Watermill with a film crew, filming the class as British actress/presenter Stella Duffy tries to learn how to write a romance for their documentary about Mills & Boon's Centenary. The thought that I might possibly appear on television makes me think I should try and lose a couple pounds. But as I tend to ponder the idea while making double-chocolate brownies with my toddler, it doesn't seem likely. Oh well. Want some brownies before they're gone? They're really, really chocolatey.
Ack! Careful, Jennie, you'll get a reputation as a temptress around here! Ha, ha...ha. Hmm...double chocolate you say? Any chance there are chocolate chips in there? Pecans, maybe? *ahem* I mean, WOW, what a wonderful trip you have coming up. Tuscany is a dream destination for many of us here in the Lair (okay, for me too, and YES I'm insanely jealous!). I'm sure that will be inspiration a-plenty for your upcoming Presents novels. So besides the jet-setting abroad and domestic bliss at home, what else is in store for you and for us, your lucky readers?
Let's see...what's ahead. As you mentioned, my second book is coming out in the U.S. next week, The Spaniard's Defiant Virgin. That will be followed by RWA Literacy Autographing , and I'm a little nervous. I hope some of you will stop by and say hi!
I'm just getting started on writing my sixth book for Presents, and I'm trying to think of a truly exotic setting. I will probably include Tuscany, of course, as I'm sure to be inspired by being there. But what else? I'm wracking my brain around the four corners of the world. Can any of you think of a really gorgeous, unusual, evocative place that you'd love to read about? An exciting location for an arrogant billionaire to ruthlessly seduce a tender-hearted heroine?
I'll pick the answer that most captures my imagination, and send you a prize - my first book, The Greek Billionaire's Baby Revenge and a little treat from me!
There you have it, folks. Be sure to suggest your favorite exotic locale in your comments and ask Jennie anything at all about her glamorous, fabulous life! (Please don't let the following picture of Jennie's glamorous, fabulous life intimidate you...)