Friday Feature: Interview with Jackie Ashenden (& Giveaway)!

Erica here! I’m so honored to bring you a new author each week through the Friday Feature! I’ve reached out to some of my favorite authors and asked them to do an interview, provide an excerpt, or guest post here to introduce you to their work or to speak on some aspect of writing. This week, I interviewed Jackie Ashenden. Jackie writes dark, emotional romances with alpha heroes and kick butt heroines who aren’t afraid to stand up to them. I hope you enjoy this interview, and pick up a copy of Jackie’s newest release, Never Refuse A Sheikh, out today. You could win a copy and a $10 Amazon gift card by leaving a comment. 

 When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

I think probably when I was twelve, when I decided to write my own story – it was a fantasy heavily based on the Lord of the Rings and it was awful.  But I loved writing it. Admittedly I stopped after the first five pages, but it was great when I started! 🙂

What is your tagline for your brand of stories?

Ah taglines… On my website it says sexy, dirty love. So I guess that’s what I write. Sexy, dirty and dark love stories.

What sort of reader would enjoy your books?

A reader who likes hot sexytimes and heavy doses of angst. Who isn’t afraid of strong emotion.  Who also like alphas heroes and strong heroines. 🙂

What publishers are you currently writing for?

St Martin’s Press, Tule Publishing, Kensington and Random House. Quite a list!

 What writers have influenced your writing the most to this point?

Well, definitely my critique partner and friend Maisey Yates. I also find Megan Crane/Caitlin Crews’ writing wonderfully inspiring.

 Thank a teacher/mentor (because I heart teachers and think they need more thanks)

I would like to thank my 4th form English teacher (I was 14) for loving my creative writing and encouraging me. Because basically she was the first teacher I ever had who told me I was good at something.

What advice do you have for writers just starting their journey to publication?

Write. Keep writing. Then write some more. Don’t stop. Oh and if you’re after a publication contract, never, ever give up.

Do you write full-time or do you also have a “day job”?

I’m lucky enough to be able to write full time.  I used to be a librarian though!

How do you balance your writing/release schedule? 

It’s a tough one, especially when you have a lot of releases scheduled. To keep myself from freaking out, I work out my deadlines and how many words I need to do each day to meet them. Everything else to do with writing (marketing, social media etc,) comes second to making my word count.

What led you to write such “dark, emotional stories featuring alpha heroes?

Good question! I guess it’s because I really enjoy the psychology of it, plus I think everyone deserves a happy ending no matter how broken they think they are.

You write mostly series books, whether your own or as part of a continuity. What draws you to writing linked stories?

I think most writers are doing this these days and that’s because series sell better than stand alone stories. Publishers tend to want linked books for that reason. I like it because it gives you a wider range of stories and characters to explore.

How did you get involved with the International Bad Boys Series from Tule Publishing?

Oh that’s an interesting story. I wrote a sheikh book that I wanted to send to Harlequin Presents, but it didn’t end up being right for them so I shelved it. And then when I was at RWA in San Antonio last year I met the lovely Jane Porter.  We were talking about sheikhs and I said I’d written one that wasn’t right for Harlequin and she said she’d love to see it. So I sent it to her and she ended up putting it on the Tule schedule! I was thrilled!

Which type of hero do you prefer writing the most–sheikhs, tycoons, bikers, or others?

Wow, hard question. I don’t have a favorite type when it comes down to it, I love them all. They all have their different strengths and weaknesses. I just like writing guys, period.

How do you make your heroines so kick butt and so vulnerable at the same time?

Well, the trick is to giving the heroine layers. For example, on the outside she’s a kick butt chick who stands up to the hero and doesn’t take any crap. But on the inside, she’s vulnerable and the vulnerable side comes out gradually the more she begins to fall for the hero. She’s like all of us really. We’re never strong all the time, just like we’re not vulnerable all the time.

We don’t want our vulnerabilities on the outside so we keep them hidden, only showing them to our loved ones. That’s my typical heroine basically.

You also contributed a book to The Deacons of Bourbon Street Series with writer friends/critique buddies Maisey Yates and Megan Crane. How did the idea for that come about, and how did you sell the series?

And not forgetting Rachael Johns too!  (Erica: Sorry Rachael!) Yeah, they were all at RT in NOLA last year and I didn’t go because I’m in NZ and it was too far. But they got on really well and wanted to write this biker series. Maisey asked me if I wanted to join in because I write those kind of heroes anyway and I said of course! So we all wrote a pitch and a first chapter and our agents shopped it around. Yay Random House and Loveswept for buying it!

Who’s your favorite couple that you’ve written thus far?

Oh, that’s tough!!!  I loved writing Vin and Kara from Having Her. I could have written them forever. (Erica prefers Hunter and Ellie from linked book Taking Him) I really liked Zac and Eva, my 3rd Nine Circles book, and writing a biker dude and a biker chick for the Deacons series was pretty great too.

 Who’s your favorite fictional couple of all time?

Another hard question! I don’t really have one favorite. I do like Lizzie and Darcy. And Jane and Rochester. Phillippa and Francis Crawford from Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond series.

Any upcoming projects readers should be on the lookout for?

I have Never Refuse A Sheikh, which comes out on the 5th – today! So if you like a sheikh fantasy, you may like that one. If sheikhs aren’t your bag then I have the 3rd Nine Circles book, You Are Mine, which comes out October 6th.

What’s next to cross of your writing bucket list?

Ooooh….I thought I might try writing something in first person. I’m not a huge fan of it as a reader but it’s good to try new things as a writer. Whenever I get time…

Every writer needs a good…

Cup of coffee, chocolate, massage and finally, a large glass of wine. 😉

 

JackieAshenden-SMALL When the sheikh claims a wife, she cannot refuse …

Altair is a man perfectly in control both of himself and the power he wields as regent of  Al Harah. Yet in order to retain his stronghold on the country he loves, he must wed a  princess wilder than the Bedouin tribe she was raised in. A princess who only has one  word for him: no.

Princess Safira knows what freedom means and it isn’t a palace or a crown. Neither  does it mean being told what to do by a man with more ice in his veins than blood.  Safira is innocent in the ways of men, but the heat in Altair’s gaze calls to a deep,  unclaimed part of her soul she cannot deny. Altair seems hellbent on civilizing her, but  she’s not so easily tamed. Especially not when she can sense the wildness that lives in  him….

Available for Kindle on Amazon here.

 

Jackie A Jackie has been writing fiction since she was eleven years old. Mild  mannered fantasy/SF/pseudo-literary writer by day, obsessive romance  writer by night, she used to balance her writing with the more serious job of  librarianship until a chance meeting with another romance writer prompted  her to throw off the shackles of her day job and devote herself to the true  love of her heart – writing romance. She particularly likes to write dark,  emotional stories with alpha heroes who’ve just got the world to their liking  only to have it blown wide apart by their kick-ass heroines.

She lives in Auckland, New Zealand with her husband, the inimitable Dr Jax,  two kids, two cats and a couple of curious rats. When she’s not torturing  alpha males and their stroppy heroines, she can be found drinking chocolate  martinis, reading anything she can lay her hands on, posting random crap on Twitter, or being forced to go mountain biking with her husband.

www.jackieashenden.com

@JackieAshenden

https://www.facebook.com/jackie.ashenden

Advertisement

Friday Feature: Autumn MacArthur & Splash! Novella Collection (with Giveaway!!)

When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
Like so many writers, I started writing stories as soon as I could write. I submitted poetry and short stories to magazines in my teens. All rejections, apart from one article in a Christian magazine. My first ever earnings from writing – $5! I was so excited! I always wrote and journalled, but didn’t start writing for publication again until 2010, when I entered a Harlequin online contest.

What is your tagline for your brand of stories?
“Sweet inspirational romance to make you smile.” My aim is to write stories that don’t just show the love of the hero and heroine, but God’s love for us all too.

What writers have influenced your writing the most to this point?
I read a lot of Harlequin Love Inspired! All the authors for that line are wonderful. Marta Perry is one of my favourites. I also love Debbie Macomber’s books. For favourite comfort reads take me back to beloved authors from my teens. A Harlequin sweet romance author from New Zealand who wrote in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, Essie Summers; and Canadian author L.M. Montgomery, who wrote a lot more than the Anne of Green Gables books. I adore those older books, but oh my, they would never get them past an editor today, with all that head hopping!

I know you went through revisions with a publisher but ultimately decided not to continue pursuing that opportunity. How did you come to that decision?
I was blessed to receive revisions on my semi-finalling Harlequin SYTYCW 2013 entry, Believe in Me, from Heartsong. I did the revisions and was ready to hit send when I had one of those whispers of Spirit. I loved the books Heartsong released and was overjoyed to be published there, but I had problems buying copies, which raised concerns about the distribution. I prayed a lot and made the difficult decision to write a prequel novella and self-publish both books. As it happened, Heartsong may never have published the story as an October 2015 release was suggested, and sadly the line will be closing. Also, through several rounds of edits, the story grew to 68,000 words, far too long for Heartsong!

I have second revisions on a Love Inspired submission, too. Although I’m far from a prima donna and will gladly make huge changes to my stories if it will make them stronger, the editor has asked me to remove a prayer which feels key to my heroine’s spiritual development. I’m torn. Publication with Harlequin has been a dream since my teens, but I need to be true to the stories God asks me to write too!

Do you plan on pursuing traditional publishing again in the future?
I’m open to God’s lead. 🙂 For now, I have a long list of stories to write, and I’m feeling called to focus on self-publishing.

What has been the most rewarding part of your indie journey?
The direct contact with readers, having them tell me what they love about the stories. The reader community for Christian romance is so sweet and so supportive!

Being able to write the stories I feel called to write, rather than having to fit publisher requirements is a huge plus too. Now Heartsong is closing, there aren’t a lot of publishers taking on Christian contemporary romances set outside North America. I have some US set stories, but I also want to write UK and Australian set books.

And I do like having control of every aspect of book production. I work with a professional editor and a wonderful critique partner, but I had to teach myself cover design, formatting, and a whole lot of other stuff!

The most difficult?
LOL, having to be responsible for every aspect of book production! It’s a lot of work and I’m still learning. A bit like being a Mom. Once you think you have it all figured out, something changes!

What advice would you give to writers who have just started their journey toward publication?
To keep on writing and not expect too much from your first draft! I have five years worth of unfinished or unedited first drafts that may never be published, but I learned something from every one of them. Let yourself write learning manuscripts, and know that ANYTHING can be edited, no matter how bad it seems in first draft. I had a lot of failed starts and gave up writing again and again over the years because I couldn’t get the first chapter or two the way I wanted, and so I stopped. I know now that although I do plan a little before I start, I write best when I pants it. Often, the first two or three chapters may never appear in the final version at all because they’re the way I get to know the characters. I now take every story through at least three rounds of edits, and it only really comes together in the final draft. I know that makes planners scream, but the most important thing is to discover and trust your own writing process, whatever it is.

Where did you get the idea for the Love in Store series?
Um, the truth is, I can’t remember! I drafted Believe in Me, which is now book 2 in the series, as a sweet secular romance novella back in 2011, in response to a romance publisher’s Call for Submission asking for Christmas stories based on one of two Christmas songs. I’m not sure now what made me decide to set it in a London department store. Probably because I worked in central London at the time and walked along Oxford Street, London’s main shopping street, every day on my way to the office, just like Cara does at the start of the story.

Was it always intended to be a series?
Not at all! It was supposed to be a stand-alone novella! But Believe in Me grew in edits from a 20k novella, to a 48k submission to Heartsong, and then through two more rounds of edits to the final 68k story. When I decided to indie publish it, I wrote a prequel standalone novella set in the same department store, The Wedding List, which is now available free on Amazon, Nook  or Kobo. Then minor characters all started needing their own stories!

Tell the readers about the concept behind your Love in Store series.
Imagine a slightly run-down central London department store, a cross between Selfridges (a real London store) and Grace Brothers (a store in the slightly risque UK 70’s comedy series Are You Being Served), and all the people connected to the store. Books 1 and 2 focus closely on the store and the attempts to keep it open, while books 3 & 4 have links to the store but also to Paris and Edinburgh, as the heroines are the American twin sisters who have some travel planned while they are in Europe! Supporting homeless people also developed into a theme running through the series, and the local homeless shelter plays an important role.

Who’s your favorite couple from the Love in Store series thus far?
Oh my, that’s like asking a mother who her favourite child is! I love all of them for different reasons.

Who’s your favorite fictional couple of all time?
My favourite movie ever is probably The Princess Bride, so I’ll go for Westley and Buttercup, and their True Love.

What’s next for Love in Store?
My new release More than Friends is a linked story, not actually part of the series, but the hero and heroine appeared as minor characters in Book 3, A Model Bride. Part of that story is set in Edinburgh on New Year’s Eve, as the hero Mac takes Tiffany home to stay with his parents so she can experience a real Scottish Hogmanay. More than Friends features Mac’s younger sister Catriona, and Alistair, the man she’s been in love with since her teens. Plus a dog and a busload of disabled kids on a Vacation Bible School trip to the beach!

Are there more books coming in this series?
Absolutely! I love wedding stories, so stories #5 & #6 will be romances growing from the weddings of Cara and Nick from book 2, and James and Beth from Book 1. Plus I have a Thanksgiving story planned which is also loosely connected, as Brad, a minor character from book 4 tries to reunite with his divorced wife. I need to write faster!

Any upcoming projects readers should be on the lookout for?
My summer novella More than Friends is part of the “Splash! 9 refreshing summer romances filled with faith” boxed set. This wonderful collection includes 9 complete Christian romance stories by 9 different authors, over 800 pages total reading. The ebook of the entire set is only 99c! It releases on June 23 but can be preordered now. http://amzn.to/1EOsp0a

Every writer needs a good…
LOL, can’t decide if that should be laptop or critique partner! On the basis I can always get a new laptop but my CP is irreplaceable, I’ll go for critique partner.

Autumn is giving away a mobi for Kindle copy of A Model Bride, from her Love in Store Series. A model Bride is on sale at a special reduced price of 99c until June 2. It can be purchased here

Splash, 9 inspirational summer romances for just 99c teal

Splash, 9 inspirational summer romances for just 99c

Splash! NINE RefreshingRomances Filled with Faith!

Nine beloved authors of contemporary Christian romance have banded together to offer this limited-time collection of all-new romance novellas perfect for your summer vacation reading pleasure. Come visit Scotland, Zambia, Australia, Canada, and several American states, including Alaska, in these inspirational romance novellas. You’ll love each refreshing contemporary romance as the characters enjoy the water on hot summer days, whether it be in a river, lake, ocean… or a swimming pool!

His Perfect Catch by Narelle Atkins, author of the Snowgum Creek series
A holiday romance isn’t part of the plan when Mia Radcliffe temporarily moves to Sapphire Bay and lives next door to Pete McCall, her secret crush from years ago. Pete prefers the simple life. Can Mia leave behind her big-city dreams and settle with Pete in the seaside town?

Sweet Serenade by Valerie Comer, author of the Farm Fresh Romance series
Carly and Reed thrive on the rush of running rapids in a canoe until they capsize in both river and romance. Will secrets from the past drown their future, or can this idyllic summer romance lead to a lifetime of sweet serenades?

More than Friends by Autumn Macarthur, author of the Love in Store series
When nurse Catriona asks for help with her Vacation Bible School for disabled children, she never imagines how much could go wrong on a simple seaside day out — or that the colleague she’s secretly loved for years might come to see her as more than his best friend’s little sister.

Love Flies In by Heidi McCahan, author of the Emerald Cove series
He’s a seaplane pilot determined to honor his convictions. She’s a kayak guide who mocked his faith for sport. One small lakeside cabin in Alaska can’t house them both.

Testing the Waters by Lesley Ann McDaniel, author of the Madison Falls series
After breaking up with her ultra-critical boyfriend, Teresa decides to reinvent herself. She meets a nice guy named Curt on the beach in Crescent Cove, Oregon, and tells him she’s Terése from Paris. Pretending to be someone else is fun until the unthinkable happens — she starts to fall for him.

The Lifeguards, the Swim Team, and Frozen Custard by Carol Moncado, author of the CANDID Romance series
Lifeguard Alivia Collins looks forward to another summer on the guard stand at the Serenity Landing Aquatic Center. This year, she’s going to have to keep herself from falling for the cute, new guard – or realize it’s time to give love another chance.

Time and Tide by Lynette Sowell, author of the Lone Star Hearts series
When out-of-work fashion journalist Karyn Lewis uses the summer to regroup on the coast of Virginia, she plans to lie low at Pine Breezes campground. She doesn’t plan for her heart to be on a collision course with old friend Brodie Reed. They must decide if the past that looms between them will be too much for them to have a future together.

Draw You Near by Jan Thompson, author of the Savannah Sweethearts series
Savannah artist Abilene Dupree keeps her personal life out of her commercial paintings except one. That one painting has now brought Londoner Lars Cargill back to the coastal town and into her art world. Can she hold him at bay before he invades her personal space and her heart?

Orphaned Hearts by Marion Ueckermann, author of the Heart of Africa series
His faith buried with his wife, Simon devotes himself to raising his daughter and orphan elephants. Lady Abigail postpones an arranged marriage, leaving England to teach the children of Africa. Will his past—or her future—keep their hearts orphaned?

Grab a tall glass of lemonade or iced tea and dip your toes into a cool pool of water on a hot summer’s day while you enjoy the never-before-released Christian romance novellas in SPLASH! Scroll up and snag your copy today.

Amazon
KOBO
NOOK

autumn macarthurAutumn Macarthur is an Australian writer of inspirational romance living near London with her very English husband, three spoiled cats, and a guinea pig with a dandelion addiction. She loves reading, cooking, gardening, and writing deeply emotional stories to make you smile and remind you how big and wide and deep God’s love and forgiveness can be.

She tends to talk a little too much and laugh a little too loud, her sleep schedule is all over the place so you’ll often find her on the internet at 5am, and she’s grateful to be blessed with some good friends and a very patient husband. She’s also eternally thankful for God’s great love and mercy.

When she’s not talking to her strawberry plants or cherry blossoms, she can be found blogging at http://www.faithhopeandheartwarming.com, on Facebook as Autumn Macarthur, and on Twitter as @autumnmacarthur. She loves hearing from readers so do get in touch!

You can subscribe to her mailing list here.

Thanks for inviting me to visit your blog!

Interview: Historical Inspirational Romance Author Christina Yother

Good morning, readers! In honor of the release of her third book, Reconcile (releasing tomorrow, 3/31), I interviewed inspirational historical romance author Christina Yother about writing the Hollow Hearts series, self-publishing, and what she’s working on now. If you read Reverie or Reliance, you are familiar with the character of Joshua Miller. If you’re like me, you’ve been clamoring for his story since book one. Once I get my hot little hands on a copy, I plan to review Reconcile here. Until then, let’s welcome Ms. Yother!

christina

What drew you to Inspirational Historical Romance?
I’ve always enjoyed reading Inspirational fiction, both historical and contemporary. I like the depth of the stories as well as how faith becomes central to the story.
Why did you choose the time period and setting you chose for the Hollow Hearts Series?
The late 1800’s is my favorite time period to read! The country was expanding at an astounding rate and that sense of adventure and unknown has always appealed to me as a reader. What better period to write about!?
Give the readers a brief description of the previous books in the series. 
Reverie – Orphaned at a young age Hetty is convinced that her circumstances make her unworthy of having a family of her own. When a job opportunity as a housekeeper presents itself Hetty accepts believing that working for Isaac Wheeler and his family is a welcome, if not temporary, surrogate for her own family dreams. As she’s faced with learning to trust she discovers that wanting a family and building a family are two very different things. Will she learn to see herself as worthy of God’s gifts? Or will she return to the solitary existence that defined so much of her life?

Isaac Wheeler, successful furniture maker and dishonorable bachelor, finds Hetty’s presence in his home to be disturbing and a haunting reminder of his past sins. As he struggles with his growing and unwanted feelings, he can’t help but torment himself with mistakes from his past. Can he navigate the family tensions, infidelity, and sudden choices destined to keep them apart? Or can Isaac endure each struggle and seek forgiveness before discovering what truly makes a family?

 
 
Reliance – Two strangers. One clandestine wedding. Many hidden stories.

Discouraged by his limited prospects and tired of trying to find a bride in a traditional manner, Elias Wheeler places an advertisement requesting a mail-order bride and mother for his young daughter. Rebecca Malone, eager to escape an abusive past, travels to Montana to become Elias’s wife despite only exchanging a few letters. Learning to care for one another proves easy; learning to trust proves much more difficult. Elias and Rebecca must navigate the waters of blending families while learning to depend on one another with confidence, loving support, and faith. Together they must learn to rely on each other and what they hope to build while accepting that perfection isn’t the goal; love is.

 
 
Give a brief summary of your newest book, Reconcile.
Facing the truth of the past.
Accepting the hope of the future.
Joshua Miller struggles to care for his ailing father, run the town livery, and meet the demands of a spoiled fiancé. When an unexpected woman enters his life and exemplifies true compassion, he begins to question the path his life is taking. When changing his plans means destroying all he has built, Joshua will have to decide what matters most.
Lilly Johnson arrives in her sister’s home in the frontier town of Hollow, Montana hoping she left the shame of divorce behind her. With her sister’s support, Lilly begins to build a new life and gain a sense of independence. After accepting a job as a caregiver for Joshua Miller’s father, she discovers it’s more difficult to keep her heart closed than she imagined. But when her past catches up with her, she must reconcile her beliefs in order to brave an uncertain future with an open heart.
Which came first with Reconcile, the idea or the characters?
Actually the characters came first.  So many people connected with Joshua from the first book, Reverie. I heard numerous times that readers wanted to know what happened to him (Erica’s note: including me!). Over time I knew I needed to give him his own story – he deserves it! And I think it was well worth the wait.
How long did it take you to write Reconcile?
I’d say it took about 8 months to write the story. The revisions and edits too nearly as long! I wish I could say I’m one of those authors that can write quickly, but my family comes first and sometimes that means the writing must be put on hold.
What was the easiest scene to write? The hardest?
The easiest scene to write was the ending.  I knew how the story would end when I started writing. I was so excited by the time I got to that scene that I felt such joy in creating it.  The hardest scene to write was when Lilly is counseling with the minister of the local church. She’s dealing with her own demons and struggling to justify her choices.  I waited quite a while to write that scene because I needed the right scripture to support it.  I prayed quite a bit before I knew how to accomplish it.
Are there any more books coming in the Hollow Hearts series?
I’ll be honest that I planned to end the series at three books.  However, several bouts of insomnia led to the planning of two more books in the series.  I guess we will have to see…
Where can readers find your books? What formats are they available in?
My books are available in paperback and ebook format at the following links:
What advice would you give a young writer trying to break into self-publish, specifically inspirational historical romance?
It is so important to have patience.  Yes, indie publishing runs on a much faster track than traditional publishing, but it shouldn’t be rushed.  Take the time to make the book and the writing the best it can be before putting it out in the world.  Also, find a support network that makes the process a bit easier. Writing can be lonely so having comrades to share ideas with or talk about the art of writing can make such a difference. I don’t know how I would do it without my best critique buddies!
Bonus: Are there any other genres you’re looking to break into?
I am exploring the Women’s Fiction genre right now. I have a great stand alone novel I’m working on that takes place in Georgia during the 1940’s and focuses on multiple generations of women in one very unusual family.
Thanks so much, Christina! Everyone be sure to pick up your copy of Reconcile on March 31st! 
reconcile