by Anna Campbell
It is my great pleasure to bring back to the lair one of our favorites, Aussie Harlequin Presents/Sexy/Modern author Annie West.
Annie's here to tell us what's been happening in her world (lots of good stuff) and give us some background info in her great new North American release FORGOTTEN MISTRESS, SECRET LOVE-CHILD. FORGOTTEN MISTRESS, SECRET LOVE-CHILD is a brilliant take on a couple of really popular romance themes, including amnesia and the secret baby! How can you resist?
You can find out more about Annie and her books (including great contests) on her website: www.annie-west.com
You can order Annie's books post free anywhere in the world from The Book Depository or even easier, if you click on the covers of any of her North American releases, it takes you right to that page on Amazon.
Annie, welcome back to the lair! Your latest North American release is the wonderful FORGOTTEN MISTRESS, SECRET LOVE-CHILD. Can you tell us about this story?
Hi Anna! Hi Banditas!. Thank you for inviting me back. It’s lovely to be a guest here again. I always feel so at home here. Speaking of which, I’ll take mine chilled and with bubbles if there’s anything liquid on offer, she says, looking around for a handsome young waiter...
What can I tell you about FORGOTTEN MISTRESS, SECRET LOVE-CHILD? Well, the back cover says: ‘He’s forgotten their past but not her body…’ I love that line! It sums up Alessandro’s predicament. Successful, gorgeous, hard-working Italian tycoon seeks information on his missing past. He finds it in the most unlikely place – a brochure for a Melbourne hotel. One of the staff pictured there evokes a series of almost-memories that Alessandro’s determined to follow up. Once he sees Carys he’s convinced she holds the key to his past. More, he knows with absolute certainty she was his. So he does what any red-blooded Italian male would do – gets her to himself.
Carys wants nothing to do with the man who gave her such happiness then destroyed it. But Alessandro isn’t the sort of man you can brush off and he’s not taking no for an answer. Both discover far more than they bargained for as they gradually get to uncover the truth. It was tremendously satisfying to write a story so packed with emotion, where the characters grow beyond their past hurts and learn to build on the positive.
What were the inspirations behind this book?
The book came about because I’d wanted for a while to write a secret baby book – one where the father discovers out of the blue that he has a child. But the sticking point was always why the heroine hadn’t told him, closely followed by why he hadn’t got involved in their lives earlier. I loved the emotional potential of such stories but had to find a plot, and characters who convinced me they were real. Once I sorted that, the story catapulted on at an amazing pace as Carys and Alessandro took over my life.
One of the joys of writing this story was researching the Lake Como district, where much of the story is set. I’d been there but needed to refresh my memory. Discussions with Italian friends, reading travel guides and indulging in Italian food helped me dive into that world. The location itself proved a great inspiration.
What’s coming up next?
Ah, Anna, I’m thrilled about the next book. Last year my editor asked if I’d write a story in a short continuity – the DARK-HEARTED MEN OF THE DESERT series. I jumped at the chance and I’m so glad I did. Writing Tahir’s story was such a treat. He fascinated me. He’s a loner, a man rejected in his youth who turned to rebellion before devoting himself to life in the fast lane. Hugely wealthy by his own efforts and good fortune, he’s busy sampling life’s pleasures. The trouble is they’ve started to bore him. Then he meets Annalisa: gentle, caring , capable and unlike anyone he’s met. When his chopper goes down in the desert she saves him and their lives are never the same again.
I particularly loved writing the scene where Annalisa, alone at an oasis, looks up to see a tall man in a tuxedo slipping down the sand dune towards her. His bow tie is undone, his face is covered in sand and a pair of piercing blue eyes fix on her. He’s unsteady on his feet, like an elegant party goer who’s had too much champagne. It’s only when he collapses in front of her she realizes he’s injured. And yes, I freely admit I was thinking of Daniel Craig as 007 as I wrote that.
Oops! I’ve rambled. Sorry! As you can see, I’m so excited about SCANDAL: HIS MAJESTY’S LOVE-CHILD coming out soon. There’s an excerpt on my website if you want to check it out. By the way, despite the similarity in titles, these two aren’t linked books. They were named after I started writing.
There’s always so much going on in the Annie West universe. I notice your wonderful THE SAVAKIS MISTRESS is a Colorado Romance Writers Award of Excellence finalist. And both THE SAVAKIS MISTRESS and BLACKMAILED BRIDE, INEXPERIENCED WIFE are finalists in the Australian Romance Readers Association Awards. Congratulations! You have a story out in a March anthology in the United Kingdom (remember, you can order all Annie’s books post-free from the Book Depository). THE SHEIKH’S RANSOMED BRIDE is one of my favorite books of yours and I’m delighted a whole new audience will discover this great story now it’s out in LORDS OF THE DESERT: THE SHEIKH’S CINDERELLA. Can you tell us about THE SHEIKH’S RANSOMED BRIDE?
Fantastic! A chance to talk about another of my fave books! Hey, I like visiting here, Anna lets me have such fun. Thanks for the congratulations on making the finals of the Australian Romance Reader Awards. That’s an enormous thrill!
Belle and Rafiq’s was my first sheikh story. It would never have got written except a certain crit partner (AC) kept saying ‘You should write a sheikh story.’ To which I’d reply ‘No, I couldn’t do the justice to the sheikh fantasy’. To which the response was, like clockwork ‘Yes you could. It’d be great!’. This went on for ages, as we giggled over potential titles (my favorite was ‘Pashing the Pasha’. If you ever see that title you’ll know Anna and I have finally collaborated on a story – what a hoot that would be). Finally she wore me down and I started plotting.
This book almost wrote itself. In fact (dare I say it? My editor didn’t even ask for revisions!). It’s a marriage of convenience story with an element of suspense as well as lots and lots of sensual tension. It’s full of exotic things that were enormous fun to include like pirates, priceless heirloom jewelry, an exotic oasis camp, marine archaeology (hey, they’re on an island!) and a kingdom that’s a fascinating mix of ancient and modern. The romance is between a handsome monarch who takes what he wants (he has the practiced skills of a seducer as well as a steely core of honor) and a woman who sees herself as ordinary yet is anything but. I’m so lucky I was allowed to let my imagination run riot with this book. How often do you get to start a story with a kidnapped heroine stuck on a desert island wearing only a swimsuit and manacles on her hands and feet!
I’m always interested in a writer’s core story. For example, mine is definitely Beauty and the Beast. Do you think you have a core story and why do you think this particular core story appeals to you?
Anna, I have to say the story that keeps appearing in my work is Cinderella. Lots of my stories have transformations and an apparent mismatch between a wealthy, powerful hero and a heroine who’s doing it tough. However my Cinderellas don’t sit around waiting for their princes to appear with glass slippers. They’re trying to improve their lives or help those they care for and they’re not always sure Prince Charming is who he says he is! It makes them intriguing to write. I also seem to throw in a few other story themes like Beauty and the Beast or Rapunzel or even The Frog Prince. Oh, I forgot – why does Cinderella appeal? Probably I’ve always loved the idea that the most ordinary person could be special. That princesses weren’t just the loveliest, smartest, most favored people, but sometimes the ones who did it tough, who blended into the ordinary world yet who had something – character or generosity or heart that was special.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers out there?
One thing that I discovered: it’s helpful to know what’s happening in the market, it’s fantastic to get useful feedback from contests, it’s fascinating playing ‘pick the trend’ and seeing what’s selling and what’s not, but none of it helps unless you write a book you’re committed to – not just because the goss is that this way is the next big trend but because you love the story, you believe in the characters AND it’s the sort of story that plays to your strengths. I don’t mean you should ignore the wider world, but at the same time you need to remember writing a book is intensely personal. You’ll never appeal to everyone and you have to love it yourself. Particularly for someone trying to get their first project published, it’s important to focus on the sort of story that lends itself to your voice, that sparks your imagination and that inspires you. And to anyone out there, aiming for publication – good luck!
Annie, is there anything you'd like to ask our Banditas and Buddies to get conversation started?
Talking about these stories made me remember visiting marvelous places. For me one of the treats of traveling is trying local specialties. When I wrote Carys and Alessandro’s story I remembered the fresh-made lemon gelato I had at Lake Como and crisp white wine (not at the same time). With Tahir and Annalisa’s story it was memories of waking to a breakfast that included home-made rose petal jam and evening meals with skewered meats and middle eastern treats
Do you have favorite food memories from your travels or your reading, or even your home town? Is there a special dish (or drink for that matter) that instantly transports you back to somewhere special?
Annie has very generously offered us TWO giveaways today in the lair to people who leave a comment. The first is a signed copy of FORGOTTEN MISTRESS, SECRET LOVE-CHILD, the second is your choice from her contest finaling books, THE SAVAKIS MISTRESS or BLACKMAILED BRIDE, INEXPERIENCED WIFE. All fantastic reads! Good luck and get commenting!