NOTE FROM BARBARA: Hi, I'm Barbara White Daille, and I'm happy to welcome you to the Book Release Party for my October Harlequin American Romance, FAMILY MATTERS! I'll be celebrating all day today both here at Five Scribes and at my own blog www.barbarawhitedaille.com/blog
Since I'll be off working a day job, Donnell will pop in from time to time to keep the conversation going. I hope you'll stay and party, read Donnell's interview below, and leave comments and questions for me. I'll be back later today to join in the fun and respond to everyone! And now, I'll let Donnell take it away....
D.B.: Oh, good! I was wondering when I'd get a word in edgewise ;) Welcome, Barbara. Ever since I saw that you won The Gayle Wilson Award for Excellence for your previous book, COURT ME, COWBOY, I've been curious about your writing. I knew you were obviously talented, but I had no idea how much. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to read FAMILY MATTERS.
BWD: Thank you, Donnell. I'm honored--and blushing!
D.B.: I loved FAMILY MATTERS. Your heroine Kerry MacBride is a family-first kind of woman, and I'm BIG on families :). You open this story with Kerry witnessing a brouhaha between her entrepreneur uncle, her fearless environmentally-conscious grandmother and the hero, the overprotective attorney Matt Lawrence. The story starts out, in all places, in a retirement community. Kerry's Uncle Bren has gotten the residents excited enough to invest money in the restoration of an amusement park. When Matt Lawrence learns his mother, a resident of the community, has invested in the hair-brained scheme, let's just say Matt sees Kerry's Uncle Bren as a swindler of the worst order.
I absolutely fell in love with this ingenious set up. You establish conflict from page one, and immediately draw the reader in. Tell us how FAMILY MATTERS started to bloom and what inspired you to take it to completion.
BWD: I'm glad you liked the idea! It initially started with the hero and heroine, then the secondary characters, and suddenly I knew I had to have a conflict that would involve them all. The idea came to me of a "land development" story--which many people say has been overdone, especially in romance. Because of this, I felt the book's setting needed to be out of the ordinary. And, with luck (because I love using humor in my books), I hoped it would provide opportunities for lots of fun.
In FAMILY MATTERS, as you mentioned, the development debate is over an amusement park. For me, that's the fun part! ;) To up the ante, instead of the hero and heroine being at odds, they're actually both against the situation--for very different reasons. But, of course, they're also in conflict with each other over everything else! Once I realized all that, I couldn't let the idea go.
D.B.: I must confess I haven't read many Harlequin Americans (which I plan to remedy, thanks to you). I am, however, thrilled that I started with yours. It is unlike any category romance I've read. No offense to any category writers out there (I adore a great category romance), but this story felt like the editors gave you more leeway in which to tell it. Is it because you aren't a first-time author with them, and they trust you to tell a story more, or is this typical with Harlequin American?
BWD: What a wonderful compliment. Thank you!
I've been fortunate to find a line that fits my voice and style and to be working with an editor who helps me hone them. Also, I've been lucky in that Harlequin American Romance allows for a broad range of story elements, from the main characters to the zany secondary characters and humor I love to write, all the way to the variety in the level of sensuality.
D.B.: FAMILY MATTERS had more characters, it had a subplot and the romance was there, but the story included a growth element. By the time the story ends, Kerry, an art teacher, realizes something about herself, and Matt has changed dramatically, too. Did you see this evolution in your proposal, or is it something that occurred as the story unfolded? I'm very interested in your process.
BWD: As I said recently in a blog post, I'm all about characters. They drive the plot. (With help from me, of course.)
By the time I'm ready to submit an idea to my editor, I have a complete synopsis of the story. That's not to say that things don't change during the writing of the manuscript. Most of my characters don't let me know all there is to know until I've worked my way through to The End. (Kerry's realization was one of those surprises.) And then I have to go back and change the manuscript to match what I've learned!
Kerry and Matt went through the same process that happens with all my heroes and heroines. While I don't always see their evolution down to the last detail, I know each of them will face some type of change. At the beginning of the book, the hero and heroine are in conflict. By the end, they've reached their happy ending. Somewhere along the line, the characters have to come to an agreement or compromise. And that requires change--at least from one of them.
I have to say, though, I don't usually like change to be one-sided. ;)
D.B.: Yes, I can see that. So, let's talk about characterization. Kerry's family is Irish and there is, of course, references to getting one's IRISH up, but the characters are so well defined. You know them so well, and each is so different. Do you do character worksheets, or do you get to know them on the page?
BWD: I try to do character sheets. I really try! But I often forget to go back and update them. Once my people get moving on the page, all the elements of the story are so intertwined that I know the characters without having to refer back to the sheets.
What I will do from time to time is let one of the characters journal about the story. Usually, this happens because he or she has gotten into a corner it's impossible to get out of. And that happens most often because one of them has refused to do what I wanted them to do. LOL.
D.B.: You give them the lead. That's the sign of a great story IMO. Then there's Barbara White Daille's writing, of course, which I have to say is flawless. Since this was an ARC, I looked for typos. (Readers, I have to tell you, I couldn't find any.) Barbara White Daille put her years of English grammar classes to good use.) Your tags and beats tell us exactly what the characters are doing/thinking in such a non-cliched way. Is this something you struggle with? I picture you at your keyboard seamlessly telling this story.
BWD: Donnell, I can't tell you how happy your vision makes me feel! Many thanks to you for the vote of confidence and to my eighth-grade English teacher for the grammar drills.
The truth is, everything is a struggle for me. I'm a perfectionist who is learning to get over it...I think.
I want to tell a story that readers will enjoy, which means I have to be happy with it, too. And I'm sometimes...oh, all right! I'm always my own worst critic.
D.B.: LOL. I'm not sure that's a bad thing in writing. Okay. Okay. Let's move on to romance. The attraction is obvious from chapter one between Kerry and Matt. It is, after all, a category romance. But it's not so in your face in interviewer's opinion. Matt is obviously frustrated that Kerry's uncle is taking advantage of Matt's mom. But at one point, when Matt lets his guard down, he smiles. Kerry, ever the artist, visualizes capturing that fleeting expression with her paintbrush. That was a stunning scene, loaded with sexual tension, but so subtle. I formed the opinion you liked writing Kerry and Matt's story. Was it difficult?
BWD: Again, thank you so much. Yes, I liked writing Kerry and Matt's story. And, yes, it was difficult. That's part of the challenge, I guess. Or the struggles you mentioned earlier.
Without giving away the entire story, let me just say this. What intrigued me most about Kerry and Matt is that they're so alike in one very important way. Yet they're too stubborn to acknowledge the truth. Too driven to admit it. And...maybe...too close to their history to overcome it.
D.B. Ah, well said. I talked about a subplot earlier. I saw the introduction of J.J. as one. He really upped the stakes between Kerry and Matt, forced them to take stock of their situations and who they were. For the reader's benefit, J.J. is one of Kerry's students. He has enormous talent, but he comes from a broken home. In my opinion, his presence was the catalyst that made Kerry and Matt appraise their goals.
BWD: I feel that way, too, Donnell. J.J. became very special to Kerry and Matt and, I hope to the story.
Again, going into detail would probably give away too much, but I will share another aspect of J.J. Not only is he a catalyst, but, in my humble opinion, when it comes to Kerry and Matt, this troubled teen embodies the best of one of them and the worst of the other.
That's my intention, anyhow!
D.B.: Ah, one for the book club to study.;) Thanks for pointing that out. I promised not to spoil the plot, and I hope I kept my promise. Let's talk about Harlequin American Romance. It's my understanding that some books have love scenes and some don't.
BWD: Yes, it's true. There is no love scene in FAMILY MATTERS, and I did reveal that fact myself on a blog just last week. In fact, I talked about the need for--or the lack of--the love scenes in my books and the reasons for each. Just as I feel the characters drive the story, I also feel they control some of the romantic relationship. (After all, there has to be something left for me to do!)
To clarify, some of my books do have love scenes, though, Donnell would probably put them in the tame category ;). I'm all about the characters, and for me that makes an intimate setting all about the emotion.
D.B.: Well, a book with no sex scene that earned Barbara White Daille a 4-1/2 star Top Pick review from Romantic Times? I'm more than okay with letting an author do what's right for her story. The story's focus is foremost on Kerry and Matt's growth, which brings them together as a family unit in their own right. Readers, I hope I've whet your appetite enough to pick up this book. And, Barbara, thank you for giving me the opportunity to read it. Further, to learn so much about Harlequin American.
BWD: My pleasure, Donnell. Thank you again for interviewing me and for hosting this fabulous release party.
Which reminds me, I hope everyone is having a great time. I'd like to offer some fun prizes both at Five Scribes and at my own blog. At each location, I'll be holding drawings for one $10 gift card from Barnes & Noble and one copy of each of my backlist books, THE SHERIFF'S SON and COURT ME, COWBOY.
To enter both drawings, please leave a comment here at Five Scribes and send an e-mail through the Contact Barbara form at my website www.barbarawhitedaille.com before the end of the day (October 6th).
Meanwhile, party on, and I'll be back after work to catch up with the latest.
See you soon,
All my best,
The winners of prizes from both Fives Scribes and my web site are:
THE SHERIFF'S SON - Annabelle and B.A.
THE SHERIFF'S SON - Annabelle and B.A.
COURT ME, COWBOY - Gillian and Anna
Barnes & Noble gift cards - Robin and Carol
Please send me an e-mail via my web site with your mailing address.
Congrats to all of you!
And a very, very big thanks to Donnell!