Between Molly's computer virus and human virus and my crazy work schedule and leaky senior memory, neither of us said anything about possible giveaways when we were planning this interview. So.... Sorry this is late but Molly has very generously offered an ARC of her first single-title book, CAN'T BUY ME LOVE to one randomly selected person who leaves a comment on today's blog. The book is a July release so ARCs won't be available for a few months yet but, as soon as Molly receives them, a copy will be winging its way to today's winner! Thanks, Molly!
Janga and I met online several years ago and quickly discovered that we share a similar taste in the romances we enjoy reading. When I find a new author (or book) to love, she's one of the first people I share the news with and she's placed more than a few authors on my "must buy" list with her enthusiastic recommendations over the years. One of those authors is Molly O'Keefe. I had the pleasure of meeting Molly this past summer at the RWA National Conference in New York City. We struck up a conversation in the bar (you meet the most amazing people in the bars at RWA conferences!) and while we were chatting, I had one of those "lightbulb" moments. Wouldn't it be great, I thought, if Janga (a dedicated fan of Molly's writing) could interview her for The Romance Dish? I pitched the idea to Molly and she was on board immediately...but with a delicious twist. Turns out Molly is a fan of Janga's and, while she was enthusiastic about the idea of being interviewed, she also wanted the opportunity to pose some questions of her own. What a great idea! I loved it! Now, I just had to sell the idea of being interviewed to Janga. Happily, she agreed - with only minimal begging on my part - and what follows is the wonderful end result of one reader interviewing -and being interview by - one of her favorite authors. Enjoy!
MOLLY: I cut my romance reading teeth on Elizabeth Lowell and Judith McNaught historicals and I LOVED the family connections. As a reader that family relationship was a very close second to the romance. So, when I started writing I didn't even think about it - the family dynamic was just there. The more books I write the more conscious I am of it because I don't want to over do it, or repeat myself. My mother - who is lovely - gets a little frustrated with all the bad moms in my books, but bad moms are fun reading, aren't they? They certainly are fun writing.
JANGA: Writing bad moms must be fun. They seem to be popular with romance writers. For me, reading is foremost about the characters, and I fell in love with yours. Who is your favorite of your characters? Who was the hardest to write? The most fun?
MOLLY: I was just having this conversation with another writer. Sometimes I can just slip into a character's skin and it's effortless and joyful. Some characters resist and fight and are a mystery all the way through. The good characters have been: Sam and JD from The Son Between Them Savannah from The Temptation of Savannah O'Neill Mia from His Wife For One Night Tara Jean from Can't Buy Me Love Eli from Can't Hurry Love and in the Superromance I'm writing right now, Jeremiah Stone, the hero of Unexpected Family The worst have been Ian and Jennifer from The Story Between Them - they did not get a long - AT ALL. Carter from The Scandal and Carter O'Neill Lucy from Unexpected Family.
MOLLY: I think I like writing series because I love to read them. Getting that overarching plot that ties the three books together is such a fun puzzle that when it works out - it's exhilarating. When it doesn't...uh oh. But I also like seeing little glimpses of couples after their HEA. It creates a real sense of the author's world - I always dreamed I could step into those Judith McNaught historicals and meet all of those characters. I think readers like that. I know I do.
JANGA: So do I. There was a lively discussion about this at Heroes and Heartbreakers last week. To quote Shakespeare out of context, “what’s past is prologue,” and the Dishes and dishettes are always interested in the prologues of our favorite authors. When did you start writing? What is your “call story”?
MOLLY: I've always wanted to write Romance novels. And I started right out of college - not that I ever finished any of those books. But once I did start finishing and submitting I actually sold my second book. I was living in California and working as a substitute teacher. When the editor called she wasn't aware of the time change and it was six am. I thought she was a principal asking me to come sub at her school and I kept saying "I have a job today, sorry." Finally, after about the third time the penny dropped and freaking out ensued.
JANGA: LOL I can sympathize with that 6:00 a. m. response. What’s your favorite part of the writing process?
MOLLY: Those little moments I never see coming. Writing the Mitchells Of Riverview Inn series, it was only supposed to be two books. But then I had this lightning bolt about a secret third brother. One of the best moment of my writing life.
JANGA: I love those moments too—“the given lines,” as a French Symboliste poet called them. What authors have influenced your writing? What authors do you like to read?
MOLLY: My three favorite romances are Dream a Little Dream by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, The Shadow and The Star by Laura Kinsale and Lover Awakened by J.R. Ward. I have those books in my head every time I sit down to write - it's maddening.
MOLLY: Can't Buy Me Love and its sequel Can't Hurry Love were total dreams to write. They're longer and a bit more complicated - way way way hotter, which is a total surprise. It was fun figuring out which envelopes I could push and which needed to stay the same. Sometimes it felt like I was learning a whole new skill set and other times it felt like I'd been writing single title all along. I loved it.
JANGA: Is there anything you can share with us about Can’t Buy Me Love? What's sure to make us fall in love with the newest Molly O'Keefe book?
MOLLY: Did I mention it's hot? Because it is. It's also very emotional. Lots of secrets and drama. Family angst and it's hot. Oh, and the hero plays hockey.
JANGA: Secrets, family angst, hotness—I love it already. Can you tell us what comes next after Can’t Buy Me Love?
MOLLY: Can't Hurry Love comes out in July and the third book in the Crooked Creek Series comes out in November - This Can't Be Love.
JANGA: Is there a genre other than romance or a subgenre within romance that you still dream of writing in?
MOLLY: Actually, no. I love to read historical romance, and paranormal romance and YA is very exciting right now. But my heart belongs to Contemporary.
JANGA: Good to know! I’m in favour of more contemporary romance. Did your recent trip to New Zealand give you ideas for new books?
MOLLY: What a trip! We were there in part for the World Cup of Rugby - and those guys are total hero material... I fell in love many many times. I think I'll be doing more sports heros.
JANGA: A quick five is always a fun way to end.
Are you a lark or an owl?
I used to be an owl but children put an end to that!!
Coffee or tea?
Coffee and far too much of it.
Mountains or beach?
Mountains - I really love to hike. Though we had some amazing moments on beaches in New Zealand...ah...too hard...can't choose.
City slicker or country mouse?
I grew up in the country and moved to the city - so a little bit of both. But it would be very hard to give up the excitement and convenience of my city. I can get Sushi delivered! How do you give that up?
Last minute holiday shopper or finished by September?
Last minute - my dad and I used to do all our shopping on Christmas Eve. We gave a lot of very bad gifts!
Now it's Molly's turn to ask the questions!
MOLLY: When did you start reading romance? Do you remember the ones that first got you hooked? Do you still read any of the authors you started with?
MOLLY: Have you always been a romance advocate?
JANGA: I’ve always read romance, but my advocacy is fairly recent. From college on, I was a closet reader. Romance fiction was mocked by my English professors and most of my English major friends. One friend in grad school, upon finding out I read romance novels, declared “They’ll rot your brain.” Reading romance was also viewed as a betrayal of feminism. The wider acceptance of romance fiction within academia has developed since Pam Regis’s A Natural History of Romance.
MOLLY: The snobbery is wide-spread, particularly among people who have never even read a romance novel. And on the feminism note: one thing I love about your reviews is how thoughtful they are - how they seem to tie into a part of womanhood, or community or family that is larger than the book - is that why you read romance? To feel in touch with those things - or to think about those things?
JANGA: I don’t think I read consciously for those things, at least not on a first reading when it’s the characters who make or break the book for me. But I do like making connections—part of my INFP (Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Perceiving) personality—and my training encourages me to be analytical when I write about books. At the analytical stage, considering contexts is one of the delights of reading.
MOLLY: It is a delight! I love trying to pull apart the books that really work for me and figuring out the magic. Usually I just end up sucked into the story again. How has the explosion of the romance reading on line community impacted the way you read?
MOLLY: Has it changed the way you review or present yourself on social networking sites (good reads, facebook etc…) or how you view other authors, reviewers etc???
JANGA: Hmm. I’m not sure. It was the intelligence and camaraderie of the online romance community that gave me the courage to identify myself openly as a romance reader. Without that honesty, I’d never have become a reviewer, a blogger, a tweeter; I’d never have seen myself as a reader with things to say about romance fiction that were worthy of an audience. Squawk Radio and the Eloisa James/Julia Quinn bulletin board (both now defunct) are where I developed an online identity.
MOLLY: How has your career as a teacher impacted the way you look at books and review them?
MOLLY: "This is why it has to be exactly this" - I love that! I prefer telling the world about books I love, too. Spreading the joy is so much more fun than spreading the pain. What is your favorite thing about romance novels?
JANGA: The happy endings. Life is messy and often filled with pain and disillusionment. I love spending time in a world where love always redeems the rogues, heals the broken, and finds “the we of me” for the lonely—and one where women deserve and attain happiness and self-fulfillment.
MOLLY: What is your least favorite thing?
JANGA: The covers. I am not a fan of clinch covers. I dislike having to hide them from the younger grands. I’m also not crazy about buzzword titles.
MOLLY: The covers are a double-edged sword that's for sure. Are you also writing romance? If so what genre?
JANGA: I am. I’ve written one book and have partial mss. of two others in a contemporary trilogy with a Southern setting. And I’m excited about a new idea that surfaced just this week inspired by a picture on a web site.
MOLLY: Oh! New inspiration - one of the best parts of writing. Enjoy it! If you could step inside one romance novel, or one world created by an author - whose would it be???
MOLLY: It would be hard to forgo showering to see Rothgar! You say one of your favorite books is Anne of Green Gables (I'm an Emily of New Moon girl myself) - what do you love about that book? As a book for girls and about girls what do you think its lasting influence is on girls?
JANGA: This question is a timely one since I’m working on a blog post on Anne. She is such a flawed endearing mix of insecurity, intelligence, imagination, honesty, and a huge, loving heart. Mark Twain called her “the dearest and most lovable child in fiction since the immortal Alice.” I’d cut the comparison from Twain’s comment. I find her far dearer and more lovable than Alice. Without getting bogged down in the terminology of literary criticism, I think Anne’s continued appeal can be attributed to her combination of femininity and feminism. She’s a girly girl who has a BFF, longs for puffed sleeves, wishes her hair were a different color, and imagines herself “an enchanted princess shut up in a lonely tower with a handsome knight riding to [her] rescue on a coal-black steed." She’s also independent, assertive, and a usurper of the power of naming, a power usually reserved for males. She signals girls that it’s good, even empowering, to be all those things.
MOLLY: I can't wait to read that post! I worry sometimes that the books I loved as a girl will disappear under the new wave of modern YA fiction - which is amazing stuff. But still I hope there is room for Laura Ingalls and Anne and Emily. Describe your perfect reader day…
JANGA: The sound of rain against the window, my favorite chair and a cozy throw, hot chocolate with marshmallows, a stack of historical and contemporary romances (a mix of new books and comfort rereads), no phones or doorbells ringing, and a long stretch of hours to do nothing but read. Or substitute lazy day on a bench by the river with wild azaleas blooming, a spring breeze stirring the pine trees, a thermos of sweet iced tea, and a bag of the same books.
MOLLY: I like your lightening round - so I'm going to copy yours.
Lark or night owl?
Night owl. I wake up as late as possible, an eyelash at a time.
Coffee or tea?
Tea. I’m Southern. We’re given sweet tea in our baby bottles.
Mountains or beach?
Mountains, every time. With a big lake to add the water element.
City slicker or country mouse?
Country mouse who likes visiting the city—but briefly.
Last minute holiday shopper or finished by September?
I finish my shopping on Christmas Eve.
Molly and Janga, thank you both for giving us this fascinating "behind the scenes" glimpse into your lives. We truly appreciate all the time and effort that went into these interviews!
Readers, if you could interview, and be interviewed by, the person of your choice, who would you choose and why? Do you have any questions for Molly or Janga? Post them in the comments. They'll be dropping by throughout the day!
Molly O'Keefe is the RITA© Award Winning author of more than fifteen category romances. Her first single-title romance, CAN'T BUY ME LOVE will be released June 2012 and will be followed by CAN'T HURRY LOVE in July 2012. For more information about Molly, visit her website like her Facebook page, visit the Harlequin Superromance blog and like the Harlequin Superromance Facebook page.
Many of you know Janga as a guest reviewer here at The Romance Dish and proprietor of her blog, Just Janga. She's a retired literature (emphasis on Southern Literature) teacher who, in addition to being a freelance writer, is also an occasional guest blogger at Heroes and Heartbreakers and hard at work on a contemporary romance manuscript of her own. Follow her on Twitter @janga724.