Author Interviews

Interviewing Anna Humphrey

Today, I’m interviewing the lovely, Anna Humphrey, author of RHYMES WITH CUPID and the upcoming MISSION (UN)POPULAR.

Anna Humphrey is the author of RHYMES WITH CUPID (currently available) and MISSION (UN)POPULAR (due out June 2011)—both books for teens. She lives in Toronto with her husband and kids. 

I’ve been lucky enough to meet Anna in person through the fabulous @torkidlit tweet group. Follow our hashtag. :)

RHYMES WITH CUPID from HarperTeen is the story of a girl who finds romance despite her best efforts not to.

After a terrible heartbreak last Valentine’s day, Elyse Ulrich has sworn off dating as well as celebrating the February 14th holiday. Both things are a problem, though, since:
a) she works at a gift & stationery store, surrounded by annoying singing Cupid dolls, tacky heart-shaped balloons, and sappy cards with poems that don’t even really rhyme.
b) she ends up meeting Patrick, who works in the same mall and is her new neighbor and her driving instructor and is really cute and incredibly charming… which might be okay except for the whole ‘sworn off dating’ thing…

Elyse isn’t interested in putting her heart on the line. But with Valentine’s Day approaching, she finds out that avoiding Cupid’s arrow is a lot harder than she expected.

To read the full interview, click here: Get Lost in a Story.

Book Giveaway from Claudia Osmond!

Today, I interviewed the fabulous, Claudia Osmond over at Get Lost in a Story.

Drop by to read her great answers to my silly questions. If you comment on that post you’ll get a chance to win her book, SMUDGE’S MARK!

Claudia Osmond is an only child, wife, and mother who loves caramel apples, hates snakes, stands for social justice, sits at the feet of her Muse, accepts the fact that she’s getting older, denies the idea that her best years are behind her, reads voraciously, writes passionately, sings only when no one’s listening, and admits that she wrote her very first novel in a closet ~ both literally and figuratively speaking.
“With a shaky hand, I laid the brass key on the paper flat side down, and slid it over top of the sketch. It fit the shape exactly. Then the line circling the key uncurled and reformed itself into two words: FIND IT.”
Simon is a fourteen-year-old Orphan with No Options: an O.W.N.O. And “Oh no” pretty much sums up his life. He’s stuck in Grimstown with his prank-pulling grampa and a housekeeper-slash-nanny from you-know-where. Worse, Simon can’t remember a thing about his childhood. Then one night a bizarre dream unlocks some of those forgotten memories, leaving Simon with half of a key in his pajama pocket and a growing awareness that he’s in the middle of a dangerous plot that threatens to destroy Emogen, a hidden realm connected to Earth. In order to save Emogen – and his best friend – from a deadly curse, Simon needs to find out who he really is. But can he discover his true identity before it’s too late?
Again, for a chance to win the book, leave a comment on the post at Get Lost in a Story! A blog for readers of all ages. 

Interview with Eileen Cook!

I interviewed Eileen Cook at Get Lost in a Story, and we talked about her new YA book THE EDUCATION OF HAILEY KENDRICK (and about Johnny Depp). Check it out. :)

Eileen Cook is a multi-published author with her novels appearing in six different languages. She spent most of her teen years wishing she were someone else or somewhere else, which is great training for a writer.

You can read more about Eileen, her books, and the things that strike her as funny at Eileen lives in Vancouver with her husband and two dogs and no longer wishes to be anyone or anywhere else.

About the Book

Hailey Kendrick always does exactly what’s expected of her. She has the right friends, dates the perfect boy, gets good grades, and follows all the rules. But one night, Hailey risks everything by breaking a very big rule in a very public way…and with a very unexpected partner in crime. Hailey gets caught, but her accomplice does not, and Hailey takes the fall for both of them.
Suddenly, Hailey’s perfect life–and her reputation–are blowing up in her face. Her friends are all avoiding her. Her teachers don’t trust her. Her boyfriend won’t even speak to her for long enough to tell her that she’s been dumped.
They say honesty is the best policy–but some secrets are worth keeping, no matter the cost. Or are they?

If you don’t believe me, (and why wouldn’t you?), here’s what major reviewers have had to say about her latest release, THE EDUCATION OF HAILEY KENDRICK:

“Cook effectively builds both Hailey’s (justified) feelings of rebellion and the social dynamics of her ostracism, especially in her growing friendship with a challenging townie, Drew, who supervises her punishment working with the janitorial staff….Cook coaxes considerable empathy for the otherwise privileged Hailey as she abandons the achievement treadmill to explore her independence.”

–Publishers Weekly

* “Hailey may be an A student headed to the Ivy League, but when it comes to taking a chance on life, she’s clueless. She’s also enormously appealing and great company throughout this breezy read. Yes, it’s chick lit, but of the highest quality—like a gourmet truffle. Cook has whipped up a real treat.”

–Kirkus starred review

You can keep in touch with Eileen online here:
Twitter: @Eileenwriter

Welcome Margaret Moore

I’ve been remiss in posting interviews and am very happy today to post an interview with Margaret Moore. This interview was first published in the Toronto Romance Writers Newsletter Romantics in March, 2006.

Margaret has forty (forty!) published books and novellas under her belt, over six million copies in print and is a USA Today Bestseller. She has written for multiple houses, most recently HQN where she was one of the imprint’s launch authors.

Maureen McGowan: Thanks so much for taking the time to do this. When did you first know you wanted to write novels?
Margaret Moore: Not until I was home with my second baby, and even then, it was sort of, “Hey, this might be fun.” I didn’t want to go back to a “regular” job, my degree is in English literature, I have a vivid imagination, and my friend had recently given me THE WOLF AND THE DOVE, which I really enjoyed. I wasn’t somebody with a burning desire to write and be published. I had a burning desire to be an actress, actually, but—and this is hilarious in retrospect—the possibility of rejection made me decide I wouldn’t be happy in theater.

MMcG: Going into publishing to avoid rejection. That is funny! Tell us about your first sale. How many manuscripts had you written? Did you have an agent?
MM: I started writing an historical, then thought short contemporaries would be an “easier” sell. The gods laughed and laughed. I got a couple of rejections on partials, and then took a course at George Brown College on romance taught by Valerie Susan Hayward, who was a Harlequin Temptation editor at the time. She left Harlequin here to go to Silhouette in NY shortly after they started Harlequin Historicals. She phoned me from NY to say, “Are you still working on that historical? ‘Cause they’re desperate here.” (Or words to that effect.) I took a week, worked like a maniac finishing and polishing my historical, then sent it off. Four months later, Tracy Farrell phoned to say they wanted to buy it. A WARRIOR’S HEART, the first book I sold, was the first manuscript I ever finished. I didn’t get an agent until many years later when I decided to try the single title waters. I have to say, I’m still fuzzy on when to call in the agent rather than just picking up the phone and asking questions myself. Poor agent.

MMcG: You’re well known for your medievals. Have you written in other time periods?

MM: Although I most often write medievals, I’ve written books set in the Dark Ages, Restoration England, Victorian England and the Regency.

MMcG: Do you think the market for historical romance is changing? Is so, how?

MM: I live in hope that the days of Regency domination are coming to an end. But I’ve been hearing medievals are a hard sell since 1988. And the midlist has been dying since then, too. Apparently rumors of the demise of both have been somewhat exaggerated. Still, I hope there’s going to be a return to more variety. That was one thing I always appreciated about Harlequin Historicals—they were very open to different time periods.

MMcG: Tell us a little about HERS TO COMMAND.

MM: This is the story of a very handsome man who’s basically been drifting through life on his looks and charm. He does, of course, have Very Serious Issues beneath that pleasant surface. He meets a woman who, essentially, hires him to command her soldiers. That woman and those circumstances lead to love, and his desire to prove that he’s more than a pretty face. The woman who arouses those feelings has, naturally, some Very Serious Issues of her own, and tries very hard not to fall in love with handsome Henry.
This is the fourth book in my Brothers-in-Arms series; Henry is the brother of the heroine in the first book (BRIDE OF LOCHBARR), and their brother was the hero of the second book, LORD OF DUNKEATHE. Henry’s was supposed to be the third story, but we hit a bit of a snag, and instead I wound up writing about his friend, Merrick, in THE UNWILLING BRIDE. However, I was able to include Henry in that book, and use an incident from that book to good effect when it came to telling Henry’s story, so it all worked out.
MMcG: HERS TO DESIRE is out in August, 2006. What’s it about?
MM: It’s about Henry and Merrick’s friend, Ranulf, and a character affectionately known as “little Lady Bea.” She’s in THE UNWILLING BRIDE, and it’s fairly obvious Ranulf likes her. He’s in HERS TO COMMAND, too, but it isn’t until HERS TO DESIRE that I get them together. I just love Bea —she’s a chatty young woman who was a lot of fun to write. And Ranulf…the poor guy. He’s so in love with her and trying so hard not to be! I had a blast getting them together—although they are in serious jeopardy in the story, too.

MMcG: Cake or pie?
MM: Oooooh, noooo! Can’t I have both? Chocolate cake and cherry pie are my favorites.

MMcG: Okay, you don’t have to choose. What’s your favourite thing about being an author?
MM: I get paid to make things up. I enjoy being self-employed. I never liked group work in school.

MMcG: Your least favourite?
MM: It’s very isolated. I literally don’t get out much.

MMcG: How much research do you do for your novels? Any tips for aspiring historical authors regarding research?
MM: It varies, depending if I’m using a time period I’ve already researched, or using a new one. I think the amount of historical detail a writer uses is part of their voice and style, so there’s no definitive answer to how much research a writer “should” do. I want things to sound realistic, and I always keep an eye out for the “telling detail,” some interesting and unique tidbit that’s indicative of the time and/or place.

MMcG: Where do you get your inspiration? Characters first? Plot? Dreams? Divine intervention?
MM: I start with a character (most often the hero) and a time/place, and build from there. If I start with the hero, I try to imagine the sort of woman that’s going to make him furrow his brow a lot. Sometimes I’ll get a seed of an idea from my research, sometimes from TV. For instance, my next series is about four half brothers because of Bonanza. I always thought it was neat that Hoss, Joe and Adam (have I got the name of the oldest one right?) had the same father but different mothers.

MMcG: Are you a plotter or a seat-of-your-pantser?
MM: I know the beginning, I know the end, but the middle is a free-for-all.

MMcG: Do you write full time?
MM: Writing is my job, but do I spend eight hours a day at it, five days a week? No. How much time I spend working on a book depends on where I am in the process. If it’s the first draft, I take a lot of breaks, because it seems like every sentence is a decision—if I do this, then that can happen. If I do that, then this can happen…and on and on. That gets fatiguing. Once the first draft is done, I work for longer stretches. At the end, I’m literally working morning, noon and night.
I think the hardest thing to get across to somebody who isn’t self-employed is that you’re never really “away” from your work. It’s always there, lurking.

MMcG: That is so true! What are you reading right now?
MM: I just finished DEVIL’S BROOD by Alfred Duggan. It’s about the Plantagenets—what a family! It was research and a little dated, but I enjoyed it. There were some great anecdotes about William Marshall I’d never heard before.

MMcG: What are your favourite books, movies, TV shows?
MM: Books —Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, anything by Lucy Maud Montgomery, and several more. I was a bookworm growing up, as my Grade Two teacher noted on my report card.
Movies: Too many to really name, but off the top of my head: Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood, Galaxy Quest, The Count of Monte Cristo (latest version), Gladiator
TV —The Amazing Race (my daughter and I have twice gone to NY to watch the season finale at Madison Square Garden, which is how we came to be personally “philiminated” by the Amazing Host, Phil Koegan), Survivor, Lost, The Apprentice, Prison Break, 24 (I could listen to Kiefer Sutherland all day!), Corner Gas. One thing I can’t watch is medical shows.

MMcG: Johnny or Brad?
MM: I assume you refer to Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt?
MMcG: Tee hee… You got it!
MM: Johnny. I love Don Juan de Marco (should have that in the list above). Brad’s too pretty for me. And I prefer dark hair to blond. Currently at the top of my hierarchy of hotties is Gerard Butler, followed by Richard Armitage, and Jamie Bamber.

MMcG: Good list! What’s the most annoying question you get asked at cocktail parties or book signings? Have I asked it? :-)
MM: It’s “Are you still writing?” And it’s not annoying so much as rather baffling, as if, once I found out I could actually get paid to write, I’d quit. I appreciate that people really don’t know what to ask a writer, though.

MMcG: Are you still writing? Just kidding. What are you working on now?
MM: The first book of a new four book series for HQN (the one about the half brothers). It’s called MY LORD’S DESIRE and it’s set during the reign of King John. (MY LORD’S DESIRE will be released in February, 2007)

MMcG: What’s your #1 piece of advice for aspiring pre-pub’s?
MM: Write what you want the way you want. Publishers don’t want “same old, slightly different characters.” They want new.

MMcG: And my final burning question: Flowers or chocolate?
MM: Chocolate all the way, baby!

MMcG: Great! Now I know how to bribe you if ever I need to! Thanks so much for chatting with me.

Check out Margaret’s website at

Chatting with … Kelley Armstrong

This chat was originally published in Romantics, the newsletter of Toronto Romance Writers, in February, 2006.

This month, I’m chatting with “Otherworld” author Kelley Armstrong who we’re thrilled to have as a member of Toronto Romance Writers.
Hmm … Given the last two months of this column, anyone new to our group might think our members only write paranormals … but next month we’ll be going all medieval on you with HQN author Margaret Moore.

Maureen McGowan: Kelley, thanks for joining us and taking the time to answer a few questions. When did you first know you wanted to write novels?
Kelley Armstrong: I’ve been writing stories since I was holding crayons, but I never expected to make a career of it. In my family, writing was a hobby. Had I said “I want to grow up to be a novelist” my parents would have said “That’s nice dear…and what do you want to do for a living?”

MM: Sounds familiar … Tell us about your first sale. How many manuscripts had you written? Did you have an agent?
KA: I’d written a couple of complete novels before BITTEN, and countless partials. After years of “messing” with the novel that became BITTEN, I sent the manuscript to an instructor for his opinion, he recommended me to an agent and things happened very fast after that. So, yes, I did have an agent, who was a godsend. I have zero salesmanship ability and I’m willfully clueless about the business side.

MM: What did you do to celebrate?
KA: It was weird. I’d always thought I’d have some big celebration, but I was so worried it would fall through that I kept saying “I’ll celebrate after the next step”–after it sells, after the edits are accepted, after it’s published. When it came out, I took my family out for dinner. Oh, and with my first advance cheque I did what I’d always said I’d do with the first writing money I made: bought a laser printer. Yeah, I’m a writing geek.

MM: What do you think was special about BITTEN that clinched your sale?
KA: Never quite figured that out. Why this one rather than the others? Everyone told me BITTEN was unmarketable, that if I had to write “horror” at least I should write about vampires–there was a market for that. Of all the books I’d messed with, though, this was the one I loved, the one that I continued even when people said it wouldn’t sell. So if anything set it apart, maybe that was it–my passion was with this one.

MM: Did you think your books were going to be as big as they’ve become? Did your publisher?
KA: When BITTEN sold (1999), there wasn’t really a market for paranormals. They didn’t know how to market me–ended up trying to sell Bitten as mainstream fiction with a nice artsy cover. Impressive…but as soon as someone realizes it’s about werewolves, that whole “mainstream fiction” thing goes down the drain. So I’m as shocked as anyone at the way paranormals have taken off. Grateful, though. Very grateful!

MM: Chocolate or vanilla?
KA: Chocolate. Very dark chocolate. My kids won’t touch it–they say it tastes like unsweetened chocolate–so I can leave it lying around and no one even nibbles.

MM: Tell us a little about BROKEN. When is it hitting the shelves?
KA: BROKEN returns to Elena Michaels, the werewolf protagonist of my first two novels. She’s now pregnant, and having some trouble with Jack the Ripper’s ‘From Hell’ letter. Stealing it was easy enough…until she accidentally triggered a dimensional portal into Victorian London, releasing zombies, disease, and maybe a notorious serial killer himself. It’s due out May 2006.

MM: It sounds exciting! I can’t wait. Do you write full time? What’s a normal writing day like?
KA: I call myself a full-time writer and parent, because with young kids, it’s hard to do anything else truly “full-time.” A writing day when my kids are gone is “send them off, then write/edit madly for 6 hours until they return.” A writing day when my two kindergartners are home is “answer e-mail & snail mail, do my accounting and other business stuff and maybe get a scene or two edited or blocked out”. Plenty of women can write with kids around, but I need chunks of uninterrupted time.

MM: I’ve heard BITTEN has been optioned for a film and that Angelina Jolie is attached to the project. What’s the status? Will you get to meet Brad?
KA: Warner Bros. was going gung-ho on it…then cooled right down after Catwoman tanked, and didn’t renew the option. So it’s back with the production company that originally bought it. I’m not sure whether Ms. Jolie is still attached, but I figure that between Brad and the babies, that woman is way too busy to be thinking about werewolves.

MM: At RWA Nationals in Dallas, every editor and agent seemed to be looking for a werewolf series. How does it feel to have started a new sub-genre?
KA: I think I lucked in on the ground floor more than starting something. I get a laugh when I see new werewolf paranormals, though. I remember the first editor who was interested in BITTEN and took it back to her company’s bean-counters, who looked up sales figures of the last werewolf novel and said “no way.” Times and tastes change, sometimes rapidly!

MM: Dogs or cats?
KA: I have both, but I’m more of a dog person. With our dogs, I can return from the grocery store and they greet me as if I’ve been away for years. With our cats, we feed them, pamper them, clean up their crap, and they still give the impression they’d be gone in a flash if they got a better offer.

MM: (Dogs rule!) What are you reading right now?
KA: In my reading basket right now? Stephen King’s THE CELL, Rick Mofina’s WHEN ANGELS FALL and “Magical Interpretation, Material Realities: Modernity, Witchcraft and the Occult in Postcolonial Africa” (research…obviously).

MM: What are you working on?
KA: I’ve had to pause writing book 7 of my Otherworld series to do edits on the first book (EXIT STRATEGY, available July 31, 2007) in a new crime series. The log-line my publishers use for it is: an ex-cop turned ethical hitwoman. I don’t know how the market is for hitwomen…but I guess I’ll find out!

MM: What’s your favourite thing about being an author? Your least favourite?
KA: Favourite? Easy. I still cannot believe people actually pay me to stay home and spin yarns about werewolves, witches and ghosts. It’s a dream job. Least favourite? The realization that my “dream job” isn’t like my corporate career, where unless I screwed up big-time, I could have my job until I keeled over in my cubicle (and maybe even after that.) It’s always sobering to consider how fast I could lose it if my muse or the market dries up.

MM: What do you know now that you wish you’d known before your first sale?
KA: Hmm. I wish I’d been better prepared for what it would feel like when that first book came out–the stress of giving interviews, worrying about sales, reviews, etc. In a way it was like being unprepared for giving birth–it was a milestone in my life that I expected to a time of unrelenting joy, and while there was plenty of joy, there were times when I was gritting my teeth waiting for that opening month to be over. But of course that didn’t keep me from enjoying the rewards…or doing it again.

MM: And the most important question: What’s your favourite drink?
KA: Cuba Libre. (sounds so much better than “rum and coke”)

MM: Thanks for chatting. I’ll buy you one after the next TRW meeting!

Check out Kelley’s website at

Interview with Michelle Rowen!

From time to time, I plan to use this blog to post interviews with authors. This interview with Michelle Rowen was first printed in the Toronto Romance Writers newsletter ROMantics in January, 2006 soon after Michelle’s debut novel, BITTEN & SMITTEN hit the shelves. Her second novel, ANGEL WITH ATTITUDE, is in stores July, 2006.

So, Michelle …
When did you first know you wanted to write novels?

I can pinpoint the moment I “knew” I wanted to be a novelist. It when I saw the scene in Romancing the Stone when Joan Wilder finishes her manuscript and celebrates with mini airline bottles of booze in her New York apartment surrounded by framed posters of her covers. I could see myself doing exactly what she was doing: creating characters and stories that other people could read and enjoy.

Tell us about your first sale. How long did it take? Were you agented first? What did you do to celebrate?
I made my first sale in December 2004. My agent had nine copies of my manuscript going around New York for one week and we’d already received an offer. Warner Books counter-offered. That’s as far as it went. Alas, it didn’t turn into an exciting bidding war. The first offer was for three books, but Warner’s was for two. I spent a great deal of time considering the pros and cons of either before I made my final decision…even speaking with my prospective editor on the phone. I feel that I made the right decision.

What do you think was special about BITTEN AND SMITTEN that clinched your sale?

I think everybody knows that paranormal is majorly hot right now in the book world…especially the romance world. Most have been quite serious and melodramatic. Then MaryJanice Davidson came along with her comedic Undead series and it sold like hotcakes. This was exactly the time when I was querying, so I’m sure MJD’s success had a huge hand in my book’s sale. My book also flips the vampire legend by having the vampires be the good guys and the slayers as the villains. The editors at Warner also told me that they “loved my voice.” So I think it was a mix of several elements that helped to clinch my sale.

Where do you get your inspiration? Characters first? Plot? Dreams? Divine intervention?
Yup, all that, but definitely character. Developing the character helps put everything in its proper place. If the character is “alive” enough, then she will show me the way the book should be written by knowing her motivation, needs, wants, etc.

Are you a plotter or a seat-of-your-pantser?
I am a loose plotter. I know the rough framework for my novel, the beginning, the middle, the end. I know what twists I’ll be adding. But if I get to a point where something in my outline doesn’t make sense to my character I will change it as I go.

You’re a big blogger … (no, that’s not an insult), which came first, your book or your blog?
I am a big blogger! I’ve been blogging consistently for two years now. The book and the blog began at about the same time. At the time I had a mini-website to go along with my writing aspirations. A few pages with writing samples, photos, and my new blog that was meant to chronicle my path to publication.

Chocolate or vanilla?
Chocolate. Though, the older I get the more it gives me a headache if I eat too much.

Do you write full time? What’s a normal writing day like?
No. I’m a full time graphic designer. I always say that writing is my secret identity. I think even if I was a full time writer I couldn’t possibly manage more than four hours every day or I might fizzle out of existence.
Since a normal writing day for me would be on a Saturday, I would get up at around 11 a.m. I need to sleep in. I would eat breakfast, watch an hour of television. Then I’d go upstairs to my desk, pull out my laptop computer. I’d read through the writing journal I keep alongside each project, and add to it. Then I have my little ritual of lighting two candles. When the candles are lit I know I have to do some Serious Writing. I would write till about four, and then take a break. I get back to the writing at around six and write until eleven while trying very hard to avoid the internet. A good day would net about 20 pages.

What are you reading right now?
I’m always reading a few different books. Right now I have an ARC of Julie Anne Long’s latest book BEAUTY AND THE SPY on the go, WINDFALL by Rachel Caine, and EX AND THE SINGLE GIRL by Lani Diane Rich.

What’s your #1 piece of advice for aspiring pre-pub’s?
My writing advice changes from day to day. Today, I strongly suggest writing what you love to read or your interest and passion for the story will disappear during the long road to a finished book. Loving the subject matter is a great way to hold your interest.

And the burning question on everyone’s minds …What’s your favourite drink?
No contest: A raspberry Margarita.