Today I’m participating in a book tour for His Hometown Girl by Karen Rock.
The Summary: Jodi Lynn Chapman will do anything to get the best care possible for her autistic son. After her husband abandoned them, her son Tyler has become mute. She’s relieved when a spot opens at a prestigious school that can help Tyler, but is staggered by the astronomical fees. On her current salary, she can’t afford the tuition. Worse, her ex-husband is seeking to reduce his child support payments. When her boss offers her an opportunity for a large raise and bonus that will pay for her son’s schooling, she takes it–even though it means returning to her hometown, and the man she left behind, Daniel Gleason.
Daniel is the main opposition against Jodi’s company’s attempts to buy up the dairy farms in his hometown. He is convinced that the local farms can and together in a co-op and keep their farms in their families, not run by a big corporation. Neither Jodi nor Daniel is willing to back down, yet neither can deny there’s still an attraction between them. The longer Jodi stays in Cedar Bay, the less she wants to leave behind the people she grew up with and the man who is worming his way into her heart again. Will Jodi get the business she came for, or the love she and her son truly need?
The Review: I loved His Hometown Girl! Jodi and Daniel are both compelling characters with complex motivations. I understood both of their positions and reasons, which made it all the more difficult as a reader to choose a side. While I knew that Jodi needed to make sales to provide the best care for her son, I understood Daniel was fighting for the only way of life he’d known and for the community he loved. I kept thinking that their had to be a solution where they both could get what they wanted without thoroughly crushing the other, but Ms. Rock did a wonderful job of tossing me to and fro emotionally before getting me to the happily ever after.
The sense of community was also a big factor in my love for this book. The secondary characters that added complications and the ones that supported either Jodi or Daniel (and sometimes both) made this a great read as well. Karen Rock has a talent for wringing every drop of every emotion out of the reader by the time you close the book. You can’t help but fall in love with her characters and feel their plights as if they are your own. This was my first Karen Rock and my first Harlequin Heartwarming, but it won’t be my last for either.
The Interview: I had the pleasure of interviewing Karen Rock about her new release, His Hometown Girl. Ms. Rock shares details about her publication journey, writing process, and future projects as well as details about where she got the idea for the book and details about Harlequin’s Heartwarming line.
Tell us about your publication journey.
Hi, Erica! Thank you so much for hosting me on Copywrite 1985 🙂 My publication journey began four years ago when my sister-in-law, Joanne Rock, began encouraging me to write. As she’s a Harlequin writer, I loved bouncing ideas around with her and talking about her career, though I never dared to imagine it was something I could do. Yet, with her encouragement, I wrote most of what I think was a first novel… it was tough to tell since it was such a hot mess! Joanne, however, was kind enough to read the parts that I sent her and encouraged me to keep going. I decided to start another book and finished it! What a thrill. It was an accomplishment that gave me so much confidence until the rejection letters started coming in *sigh*. Still, Joanne believed in me and suggested we write a Young Adult romance series together. Incredibly, we sold it that year, and I had to pinch myself to believe it was true.
Then, I received a mass email from Joanne’s agent, Barbara Rosenberg, about a new line for Harlequin called Heartwarming. These were to be contemporary love stories that were deeply romantic and tender. My imagination went haywire. I love the raw emotion of YA literature and here, at last, was a line from Harlequin that would allow me to go to the emotional places I love to write in. I wrote Barbara (now my agent as well) and asked her if an idea I’d had might work. She sent it to Senior Editor, Victoria Curran, who asked to see three chapters and, after submitting them, later contacted my agent with a contract offer for my first Harlequin, WISH ME TOMORROW. I now have another contract for four more Heartwarming romances and each story is so special. I can’t wait for them to be available to the public!
What is your writing process, and how is it different when you write adult contemporary versus YA?
I write a detailed synopsis that establishes the internal and external conflicts, the characters, scenes/events where the conflicts escalate, character turning points, the black moment and how it will resolve. That is my blueprint for both YA and adult contemporary romances. The only difference would be that with YA, narrative point of view is usually in the first person and I need to make sure that the character’s voice sounds young, is very engaging, distinct and filters the story completely through her lens rather than the broader view of third person. Adult romance is still usually told through third person narrative. Still, even in third person, I need to make sure the character’s personality and voice shines through J
For those who aren’t familiar with Heartwarming, how would you characterize the line?
Heartwarming novels are deeply romantic, tender love stories that are considered ‘clean’ or ‘wholesome’ without a faith-based element. They are the kinds of romances you’d be excited to share with your daughter as they’re great examples of what real-life relationships should be. No one is kidnapped on a pirate ship or flown across the world on a millionaire’s jet. These are true-to-life journeys that include secondary conflicts that come from families. I love that Heartwarming novels are longer at 70 to 75,000 words so that we have room to create interesting and nuanced characters whose path to love is high-stakes with a wonderful happily-ever-after.
Where did the idea for His Hometown Girl come from?
I spend a lot of time with my amazing, autistic niece, Abbie. She is such a joy to me and I wanted to tell a love story about a single parent raising an autistic child. Sometimes, in certain situations, it’s hard to feel accepted by others when Abbie has trouble controlling herself in public. There is a pressure to make children with special needs fit in and be “normal”. However, I’ve learned that there really is no “normal” and the only people who need to accept Abbie are those that love her. That’s the message behind this love story. Jodi left her hometown, and teenage sweetheart, because she didn’t feel accepted after blaming herself for causing a serious farm accident. Later, when her job requires her to go back home, she must bring her autistic son, Tyler, as well. The more time she spends in Cedar Bay, the more she learns to accept her past, herself as a parent, and to understand that Tyler, who’s been rejected by her ex-husband, only needs her acceptance and the love her former community shows him. I think learning to love and accept yourself is an important step towards finding true love. Jodi thinks she’s going backwards by going home, but she’s actually moving forward, towards the love of her life and a better future for her and Tyler.
Why did you choose to give the heroine’s son autism?
As the aunt of an autistic child, Abbie, I have a special place in my heart for kids with special needs. They might look or act differently than other children, but inside, they are the same. They want to be loved and accepted, yet so much stands in the way of that. It was important to me to have my heroine, Jodi, be the single parent of an autistic son. She loves her son, but she needs to learn to accept his imperfections instead of feeling like she’s failed him when he can’t do what other kids are able to achieve. Likewise, she needs to accept the mistakes she’s made in her past, rather than run from them as she did when she left her hometown years ago. Tyler teaches her that love is unconditional; it’s given freely without judgment and there is no better person to help her realize this than her autistic son.
What other projects do you have forthcoming?
I have three more books contracted with Harlequin Heartwarming and each is very unique. I can’t wait to share them! I just finished one about two very different people- one’s a dreamer, the other a pragmatist- who team up to create a start-up company designing a dating compatibility app. It’s been a lot of fun trying to answer the question: Can love come with a guarantee?
What would readers be surprised to learn about you?
They might be surprised that I write Young Adult fiction as well. However, it’s really not such a stretch because, like Heartwarming, YA contemporary tackles some hard issues without sugar-coating anything. I love honesty in writing and YA and Heartwarming allow me to do that.
Pepsi or Coke?
If it’s diet and cold- it’s all good 🙂
I would like to thank Ms. Rock for the wonderful interview, and Prism Tours for making Copywrite1985 one of their stops. If you enjoyed this feature and/or plan to read His Hometown Girl, feel free to leave a comment!