Wednesday, 16 April 2014

An Interview with Amy Andrews

Amy Andrews is a pretty familiar name, for those who follow my Modern Tempted reviews (including Girl Least Likely to Marry and The Most Expensive Night of Her Life)and she's had a very busy month...  What with winning an ARRA and three novels from her back catalogue being rereleased in ebook format, I decided now would be a good time to have a catch-up...

1:  Congratulations on your ARRA (Australian Romance Readers Award) win for Holding Out for a Hero!  Were you expecting your win? 

Thanks so much Ali. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting it. I’ve been nominated every year now in different categories and this year I got 5 nominations! The contemporary rom category was the one I really *did* want to win but the field for it was amazing and I felt for sure The Rosie Project would win. I was soooo freaking excited when they read out my name. J

2:  HOFAH was more edgy and much longer than your category romances - what made you decide to write something a bit different? 

I actually wrote HOFAH quite a few years ago now and it was one of those books that had really bad timing – the industry for romcom/chick lit had died, the GFC had hit. It was universally loved but the climate made it a really hard sell. So I put it away. But the characters kept calling to me and a lot had changed in the industry in the last couple of years so I thought I’d give it another go round. I didn’t really decide to write something different. It was just the story in my head and I went with it. 

To be honest, I hadn’t really planned on it being longer or edgier. Initially it was just a story about Jake helping Ella to save her school through the one thing she despised more than anything - football. And then all these other characters butted in and demanded their time on the page and suddenly I had this book with all these threads! A house to save, a brother to rescue, crazy circus aunts and a dominatrix best friend, a cocky young bartender, ghosts from Jake’s past, buried treasure, a blue ribbon political hopeful, a journo on the trail of a story….I honestly didn’t know what had hit me! But any writer will tell you that you ignore that kind of stuff at your own peril. So I went with it. And I’m so pleased I did.  

3:  As a Mills & Boon writer, you oscillate between Modern Tempted and Medical romance...  What's the best thing about each imprint

I love the sass and the sexiness of the KISS (MT) line, I love its metropolitan feel and its flirty banter. The Medical line can and does have all that too but I think it’s the emotion that underscores it the most. I also really love how it supports a variety of sensuality levels – from closing the door, to ripping it right off its hinges, there’s something for everyone!  

4:  Some of your older medical romances have just been rereleased (The Surgeon's Meant-To-Be Bride; The Outback Doctor's Surprise Bride; and An Unexpected Proposal) - how do you think your writing style has changed, and what should we expect from a vintage Amy Andrews novel? 

Vintage makes me sound like I’ve been doing this for 50 years! J I honestly don’t think you’ll find much of a change. I think the more category books you write, the more comfortable and intuitive you get about the line you’re writing for and how and when to push the envelope. And hopefully I’m still not using the same phrases over and over. J I think people will find my earlier stuff lacks a bit of the humour I’ve put in my later medicals. I was often asked to tone it down early in my career which I did, but I think it gets back to that whole being comfortable thing again – I know my groove now, I know how I like to write and my editors have been supportive of that.

5:  A couple of years ago you co-authored Sister Pact with your real sister - how difficult is it to write with a sibling? 

I had, hands down, *the* best time writing with my sister. We’re very close and very alike in many ways (although we look very different) so it was no hardship to write with her. Our mother thought it was bound to end in disaster but if anything, its strengthened our relationship. The best part was when a new chapter would ping into my inbox and I’d sit chortling away at what Ros had written and be so incredibly excited to sit down and write my chapter. There were no arguments. There might have been the odd recalcitrance over keeping the odd word or two (usually me) but Ros was an absolute pro. If something wasn’t working for me or if I had an issue with something, she just fixed it. And oh my, we laughed. so. hard. It was an absolute blast. J

6:  And finally, what delights are you currently working on? 

It seems that I’m always drowning in projects…. I’m currently working on my second Bold and Beautiful book for Momentum, after that its another medical (I’m doing a nurse as the hero and the heroine as a doctor, never done that before!!) and then after that I’m writing a slightly paranormal romcom involving a cadaver makeup artist and a PI who have to work together to solve the disappearance of a baby (have NO idea where that one came from!) Later in the year I’m working on another KISS continuity with Heidi Rice, Kelly Hunter and Lucy King. It’s tentatively titled Fairytales of New York and we’re all very excited about it! J Oh, I’m doing some finishing revs on the second Sister Pact book, my first Brazen (No More Mr Nice Guy) and a romcom called Risky Business that’s out with Escape in July.
So, as you can see….never a dull moment!

You can find Amy's books online and in store now!

Friday, 28 March 2014

Nina Harrington: Kick-Ass Girls for Kick-Arse Readers

Today I'm joined by the delightful Nina Harrington, whose most recent novel demonstrates a foray into the world of Romance Suspense by the award-winning author.  In Deadly Secrets Anna Pefanis rushes to Kefalonia after her godmother is violently attacked, unafraid to share a hovercraft with heavily armed Special Forces headed in the same direction.  Utterly engaging, Anna is indicative of a growing love for strong, 'kick-ass' heroines.  Nina talks about the female sleuth in contemporary crime fiction:

I am looking at my keeper bookshelf right now and my eyes instantly hone in on some of my favourites:

*Janet Evanovich’s One for the Money

*Gemma Halliday’s Spying in High Heels

*Lisa Lutz’s Curse of the Spellmans

*Kyra Davis’s Sex, Murder and a Double Latte

*Angie Fox’s The Accidental Demon Slayer

*Jennifer Crusie’s Faking It

*Darynda Jones’s First Grave on the Right

*Charley Davidson’s PI and Grim Reaper Extraordinaire

*Toni McGee Causey’s Charmed and Dangerous

And lots more contemporary crime fiction featuring a female main character who drives the action. She might not always get her man. But she owns that story.

And that does not include my eBook collection and the books on other shelves from authors such as Tess Gerritsen and Tami Hoag. Two gals who know how to blend hard crime, police procedurals and kick-ass heroines such as female cops and surgeons. 

And then there is my science fiction or DVD collection which includes:

*Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games; *Max from Dark Angel; *Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the eponymous heroine of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and of course Lara Croft from Tomb Raider.  Science Fiction is full of them – which is one of the reasons why I think that this genre attracts a powerful female readership.

This is a fairly eclectic mix for a contemporary romance author.

But what makes these female characters so very special? So entertaining and appealing?

There is one thing running through all of my favourite crime and romantic crime reading. Humour and wit.

I feel that you need that element of light relief to balance out the weight of the crime or mystery, especially when there is violence and abuse involved. The pages of any novel should take us to a new world where we go on a journey with our heroine and our hero, as a reader I expect to be entertained.

When we pick up a crime book, we know that the main plot will be driven by the investigation of the crime, whether it is by police officers or private investigators or amateur sleuths, and the search for justice and the truth.

For me those strands of humour and witty banter between the interesting characters are the extra layers that make that investigation come to life and sparkle and keep us engrossed. How are these characters we care about going to cope with all of the challenges and twists and turns the story will throw at them? That is what keeps us up at night, turning the pages to find out what happens next.
  • For me some of the key aspect of these characters are:
  • They keep their eyes on the prize and won’t be distracted.
  • They take charge.
  • They are not afraid to do the exact opposite of what people expect them to do - in fact they welcome the opportunity.
  • They are always intelligent and street smart – nothing gets past them.
  • They dress the way they want and act the way they want – sometimes outrageously, and seriously don’t care about other people’s opinions.
  • They like the boys just fine – but those boys had better be as good as they are when it comes to the task in hand or they are out the door. 
  • Most of the girls are carrying a lot of baggage from their past which can weight them down life. But they find a way to have fun and they always achieve what they set out to do. Save the cake shop, save the planet. Give the girl the job – they’ll see it through.

That self-assurance comes from a deep core of self-confidence and self-belief in themselves and what they can achieve.

They don’t need anyone’s permission to be who they are. They know who they are, faults and all. And that’s okay.

Now that. Is empowering.

Happy reading.

Nina Harrington

Deadly Secrets is now available from both and
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Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Modern Tempted Day: #TemptedToWrite

Last month was a veritable treasure trove of Modern Tempted goodness.

With the announcement of the #TemptedToWrite competition came excitement and much discussion of my favourite Mills & Boon imprint.  The new M&B website - which has been marvellously revamped - lends itself perfectly to blogs, and so this month's #ModernTemptedDay feature, is all about the #TemptedToWrite advice, blogs and winner!

First up was 10 things you didn't know about...Modern Tempted.  The first piece of advice given to any writer, when they say that they want to write for Mills & Boon, is to do your research.  It's absolutely vital that you read up and know the imprint you want to write for.

For example, did you know that 30% of authors signed to Modern Tempted were discovered through competitions?!

And then there are the experts...

Flo Nicoll's an editor for Modern Tempted, so listening to what she has has to say about characterisation, plot twists and the authorial voice is probably a good idea.

Plus, she highlights the need for strong, sassy heroines.

Then there was the winning entry...  Kara Marshall's fantastic Law and Disorder tells the story of a police sergeant, and the man she bumps into.

I love the fact that it's the woman who's the law enforcer, as opposed to the man, who's a seriously hunky doctor.  It's funny and sweet and just the right amount of sexy.

Check out my interview with Kara...

And the judges:  Charlotte Phillips talks about what it was that she, Joss Wood and Heidi Rice - all published Modern Tempted authors - were looking for.  And of course, what it was that made Kara's submission stand out!

If you're looking for Modern Tempted books to get stuck into, this months offerings are pretty marvellous:

The Plus-One Agreement, or What Happens When You Begin with a Break-Up

Successful job? Check. Swish wardrobe? Check. 
Mr. Right? Not so much… 
Emma Burney might not have a man, but she has a very practical solution for that: the plus-one agreement. A guaranteed date for any occasion. The problem? Her date is the gorgeous Dan Morgan, the man she lusted after for years. 
Dan is all about keeping it casual, so when Emma decides to call it quits on their arrangement, he isn't bothered. Well, maybe there's just a little bit of dented ego. After all, he's always prided himself on his plus-one prowess. So when Emma begs just one last date…suddenly he's got something to prove!
This delivered a twist that I've actually never seen in a romance novel before, and this delighted me!  It's so rare that I come across a trope or theme that I haven't seen done in some way before, that it's a brilliant hook.

They break up.

Right at the beginning.  We're introduced to the two main characters,it's clear that they're made for each other, and in the very first chapter they break up.


Phillips takes the plus-one trope (aka the stand-in/fake boyfriend/girlfriend) and turns it on its head.  It's happened, they've done it and they haven't declared their love for one another.  But it's when Emma realises that she actually needs Dan to step in and help her out one last time (even after calling a halt to their arrangement), that the fun begins.

It turns out that he's now determined to get revenge.  Or laid.  Either way, he's certain that actually, this arrangement is the best thing that's ever happened to the two of them,and he'll do anything to keep it going.

So when they realise that actually, they've had feelings for each other all along, we just melt a little more.

There's also a depth to the characterisation that is really impressive; we, like Emma, underestimate Dan until his past is revealed and it certainly makes us rethink the assumptions we make about characters.

Phillips has outdone herself in a novel which twists the twist.  Love it!!

Mills & Boon boy Kevin loved the twist so much, that he couldn't stop working on it even whilst working on the armoured car...

Holiday with a Stranger, or Challenging the Bitchy Boss Stereotype

"Who are you?" 
After three months of traveling, all Connor Preston wants to do is sink into his own bed. The last thing he expects is to find a stark-naked woman already there... 
Josie Marchpane wasn't anticipating company either. Connor may be six feet four inches of pure muscle and boast a disturbingly sexy smile, but a fortnight in the South of France is the one thing standing between Josie and her sanity - and she's not about to give it up without a fight! 
Josie plays to win. The problem? Connor does, too. And with only one bed between them, things are about to get interesting...
Christy McKellan's debut for Modern Tempted is saucy, sassy and so much fun.  And more than that, it does the thing I claim that all good Mills & Boon books do - it's a mythbuster!

Women in business are routinely portrayed as bitches.  Hard, unwavering and without sympathy for anyone they work with.  This is something that McKellan undercuts brilliantly.

This Pantene advert highlights the way that women and men's attitudes in the workplace are viewed differently.

Josie is well-known in her company for being harsh, but she gets results and she also is under an immense amount of pressure.  As the narrative unfolds, we come to understand her and why she acts the way she does in the workplace.

I think what is most affirming for me, is that she realises that in order to get results, she can be whoever she wants to be.  Isn't that what all women want?

Plus, she has Connor who is a complete dreamboat.  Stubborn as hell, but sweet underneath it, these two firebrands are headed on a collision course that will leave every reader with the perfect HEA.

A fantastic debut, and I can't wait to see what else Christy McKellan has up her sleeve!

Mills & Boon boy Kevin - complete with naval uniform - definitely approved!

Waking Up Pregnant, or How Books Can Make You Broody

The night that changed everything! 
Waitress Darcy Penn is the smart, sensible type—flirting with the extremely cute guy in the bar just isn't her usual style. As for ending up in his hotel room? Definitely not! Sneaking out while he's in the bathroom to avoid the post-sex awkwardness? Much more like it…. 
If Darcy had stuck around, Jeff Norton could have told her about their "epic latex fail." So he shouldn't be quite so shocked when months later, Darcy turns up at his classy L.A. office and throws up in his wastepaper basket. She's got a bad case of morning sickness, and she's here to find out what he's going to do about it!
There's something about unexpected pregnancies in romance novels that usually turns me off the book; not always, but usually.  However - and it's a massive however - Waking Up Pregnant was completely different.

From the start, she doesn't get pregnant because they were irresponsible.  The condom split, as can actually happen, and though she doesn't realise this because she freaks out and leaves before he can tell her, there's a certain amount of sympathy that we have for her plight.

And also, the moment she gets pregnant, there's no falling into his arms straight away and letting him do everything for her.  She's ill, so he insists on helping her, but she's fully committed to work - even starting a new job during her pregnancy.

This is a woman who is feisty, who is determined, and who is everything a woman can be.

In today's media, there are so many representations of women who work whilst having children as either hard or unfeeling, and it's wonderful to see this combated so very well in Kelly's depiction of Darcy.

And then there's Jeff.  He's not entirely comfortable with the idea of Darcy working, and he's incredibly over-protective, but he comes to realise that "he wanted Darcy confident in the choices she made".  He backs off so that she can make her own decisions, and when he does tell her that he loves her, he embraces all of her- the sexy side and the workaholic side.

Mills & Boon boy Kevin decided to kick back and relax whilst reading this one...

Interviewing Kara Marshall

Kara Marshall won Mills & Boon's #TemptedToWrite competition with her story Law and Disorder.  I caught up with her to find out the story behind the story...

What made you submit your story for #TemptedToWrite?  Are you a die-hard Modern Tempted/Harlequin KISS fan already, or did you hear about it online?

I do love Tempted/ Kiss books and I started to read them when they were the RIVA line. However I did come across the competition online and because I needed a good kick up the backside to focus on my writing I decided to enter! I'd already started the story so I polished it off and sent it in on a whim hoping for some feedback at the most . The rest as they say is history.

What was the inspiration for your story?

The inspiration for the story came when I was out walking my lovely dog Jessie in the rain. I was listening to Carrie Underwoods song 'Before he cheats ' and Carly just popped into my head! 

All the best heroines, especially those in Modern Tempted narratives, are strong and sassy.  Yours is a police sergeant.  Why do you think it's important to write women who have careers and drive?

I think it's really important for women to have careers and drive and to do stuff for themselves. Having your own independence is important especially when life throws you a curveball. And also just because a woman is a police officer, a doctor or a lawyer doesn't mean she doesn't experience the same heartbreak and emotions as everyone else. 

Ben Hastings is scorchingly fiction founded in fact?

Yes, unfortunately Ben Hastings is merely a figment of my clearly over-active imagination. I work in a big, busy health centre and there are NO male staff who evenly remotely resemble him. And believe me I've looked (Sorry boys!)

How did you feel when you realised that you'd won?

When I found out I'd won I was speechless (very unusual for me), thrilled, shell-shocked and excited and humbled to be given such a great opportunity. Everyone has been so supportive and friendly, I'm really lucky!

Have you any other novels that you're currently working on at the moment?

Yes I'm working on two other stories at the moment but it's early days yet and I seriously need to start increasing my word count. I think it might be time to stop celebrating and start writing pronto!

Congratulations to Kara for her fantastic story!  You can find Law and Disorder on the Mills & Boon website.

photo credit: Slaff via photopin cc