Sunday, August 26, 2012

Meet romantic suspense author Molly Kate Gray!

Today, I’m pleased to have Molly Kate Gray visiting me. Her romantic suspense novel, Small Town Secrets, is a recent release by Crimson Romance, and is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and ITunes. Here’s a taste:

Miller’s Grove’s most eligible bachelor, Josh Owens, could have a different date every night of the week, so he doesn’t understand why he’s drawn to Tara since she’s obviously not interested in him. Tara Sullivan is angry that he’s stolen the coveted prime-time anchor position she’d been promised.

A stranger begins preying on the single young women in Miller’s Grove, and the story’s assigned to Tara. As the number of victims grows, Tara reluctantly accepts help from Josh. As he researches his top suspect in the assaults, he unearths events in the past that more than one resident of Miller’s Grove wants to keep hidden.

Together they discover a web of conspiracy and lies involving the most powerful family in town. Josh and Tara put their reputations at risk in the hope of exposing the truth and, perhaps, finally bringing Tara peace.

Now, let’s find out more about Molly Kate.

I love the name of your fictional town! Is the community you describe in your book anything like your own small town, or is it an amalgamation of several small towns? Or possibly the way you wish small towns were?

Miller’s Grove is fictional…kind of.  I’d say that about 75% of it is based on a small town in Georgia my family almost moved to two years ago.  My husband was being interviewed for a position in the town, and we flew out to take a look around.  I totally fell in love, and we were really saddened when the company ended up doing a hiring freeze and we didn’t move there.  When I started developing Tara and Josh’s story, I realized the town would be the perfect setting for their world.  So, I got to spend more time there, even if it was just in my imagination.  The park overlooking the Savannah River that’s mentioned in the book is a real park – located at the end of the street from the house we planned to buy.

The Miller’s Grove courthouse and town square also play significant roles in the story.  They are actually part of the town where I live. I love the way the square is decorated for Christmas.  The trees are always brimming with tiny white lights, so I added them to the décor for Miller’s Grove’s Heritage Days celebrations.  (The cover artist was spot-on with the lights in the trees on my cover.)

Is this book going to be part of a series? Will we get to go back to Miller’s Grove?

I’d really planned for Small Town Secrets to stand alone.  However, I’ve had a lot of people who’ve read the story ask if I’m going to revisit Miller’s Grove.  I can’t say that I’ll definitely write a follow-up story; but if the right idea strikes me, I’d be happy to go back to Miller’s Grove again.

This novel revolves around jobs at a television station. How did you do the research for it?

I watched a lot of Lois and Clark and Murphy Brown when they first aired.  I think they drew me into the dynamics of a newsroom – not just a television station.  I was also on my middle school and high school’s newspaper staff.  I basically just pulled the “news” experience I already had and combined it with what my daughter told me about being one of her school district’s reporters.  She’s the anchor for her school, but she also does some of the camera work, so she helped me out with the right terminology for when a camera operator is filming.

I noticed on your website that you have a series about a different town in the works. Tell us about those books.

I do have another series planned.  It’s a three book series – each set in a different Texas small town.  Their common element involves the main character returning home to a hometown…and a past she’d thought she left behind.

The first in the “Welcome Home” series is complete.  Playing with Fire should be coming from Crimson Romance in December. 

Della Chambers, an FBI field agent, left Pearson Crossing when she was 18 years old and never looked back – at least not until now. When a string of suspicious fires draws her back to her hometown, she comes face to face with Camden Gibson.  He saved her life once – and she’s never forgiven him for it.
Now the pair is forced to work side by side, and they discover the heat between them has nothing to do with fire.

What do you have planned next?

I’m currently working on the second book in the “Welcome Home” series.  Fade to Black should be complete by mid-September.

Other than Agatha Christie, who has influenced your writing style?

Even though my books are romantic suspense, and that means I have to maintain a certain level of danger, death, and just all around scary stuff…I also like to make certain I sprinkle some lightness throughout the stories to give the reader a little chance to breathe and better-connect with the characters.

I think that my love for Diane Mott Davidson influenced that part of my writing style.

I’ve also always been drawn to “tracking the serial killer” type of stories.  I’ve read a lot of Dee Henderson and Kimberly Derting.

What’s your writing style? Pantser or plotter? How long does it take you from idea to a complete manuscript?

I’m kind of a mixture of the two styles.  I’m not one for planning every single scene before I get started – for me, that makes the story kind of “flat.”  But, I do know where I’m going with the story before I begin typing chapter one.

I actually write the story a bit in reverse.   The first scenes I work on are always my climax and final scenes.  I need to see who ends up in those scenes.  It also helps me to know exactly what elements and characters I have to ensure are mentioned in the story along the way.

How long does it take me?  Hmm….it really depends.  Some stories have flowed really quickly while others really haven’t.  I’d say that my fastest story I’ve written from “little baby idea in my head” to polished manuscript is probably 6 months.  I’m working on a young adult novel right now, that’s been over 2 years in development.  Every project is different.  While I’ve had to take a break in the middle of writing it, Fade to Black has been my main project for about 6 months so far.

What’s your best advice to someone just getting started in the business?

Are you really sure about this?  I never want to dissuade anyone from pursuing their passion, but I think every new writer needs to have a firm grip on reality.

Writing is hard work.  Really, it is. 

Writing is isolating.  The majority of the time, writers work alone (unless you have an amazing writing group who’ll help you brainstorm through your trouble spots).  If you’re a really social person, just staring at your keyboard for hours can be…not fun.

You need a really thick skin and understand that critique/reviews of your work doesn’t mean people don’t like YOU.  Creating a novel takes hours upon hours pulling scenes out of the depths of your imagination – sometimes ending up in places in your memory you didn’t really want to go.  And just when you think your work is perfect, you take that nerve-wracking step of sending it to an editor or agent – generally only to be told they’re not interested.

Sometimes the story you want to tell isn’t the story everyone else wants to hear.  You may have gotten caught at the end of a trend or picked subject matter that doesn’t have a wide appeal.  If you believe in your story – keep going, keep pushing, keep trying to get it published.  However, it’s also okay to consider a novel good practice for your next story and just tuck it away in a drawer for later when you’ve distanced yourself from it and might be able to rework it for broader appeal.

Ack!  That was longer than I’d planned.  Sorry about that. 

How can someone get in touch with you?

I’d love to hear back from y’all.  My website, has information about my books and upcoming projects.  I have to admit that I adore Twitter - @MollyKGray – and I likely tweet more than I should.  If you’re more of an e-mail kind of person, you can reach me at  

Thanks so much for letting me pop in and visit!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Meet historical romance author Amanda L.V. Shalaby!

Today, I'm honored to have fellow historical romance author Amanda L.V. Shalaby as my guest. Her debut novel, Rhianna, was released on July 16, 2012 by Crimson Romance. Here's a taste:

Upon the unexpected death of her parents, the curate and his wife, the enigmatic Lord Guilford Kingsley arrives on her doorstep and offers to personally escort a mourning Rhianna Braden back to England from France, leaving behind her admirer Philippe who has just proposed. Shortly after Rhianna’s arrival at Kingsley Manor, family secrets and scandals begin to unfold that involve not only her deceased parents, but Rhianna herself.

Rhianna settles quickly into Kingsley Manor, finding pleasure in the company of Lord Kingsley and his twelve-year old daughter, Audra. Unable to decide if she is in love with Philippe, a count who offers wealth, position and a family who welcome her with open arms, she accepts a position as governess to precocious Audra, thus delaying her return to France and an answer to Philippe’s proposal.

As she continues to seek answers from both Kingsley Manor and her own heart, her uncommon beauty captures the attention of the dashing Lord Thayne Brighton of Ravensleigh, who Rhianna is certain, despite a mutual attraction, would never choose her over his wealthy intended. Meanwhile, Lady Lydia Kingsley suspects her husband’s attention to Rhianna has led to an affair between them, and things turn deadly when the truth of their relationship is discovered.

Eventually, Rhianna is forced to make a decision that will affect the rest of her life while discovering that some secrets are not meant to be kept.


You have such a lovely, lyrical quality to your writing. Do you have a music background? Or do you listen to music as you write?

Becky, thank you for such a beautiful compliment.  I do wish I could play the piano, but I didn’t appreciate the music lessons my mother thrust upon me as a young girl.  Her words, “You may wish to know how to play someday!” held no meaning for me early on, and I abandoned it as quickly as possible.  One day, I hope to take them up again.  In the meantime, I did enjoy listening to the classical masterpieces of Bach, Schubert, Vivaldi, and the like, during certain parts of Rhianna.

I know you are working on another novel at present. Tell us about it and when you project it will be ready to submit.

For those who have read Rhianna, they are familiar with a character by the name of Audra Kingsley.  She was only twelve years old in the pages of Rhianna, but she has since informed me that she is now sixteen and on her way to London to be presented at St. James.  Once a full-fledged member of Society, she intends to return to her hometown of Thornton, England and marry her childhood sweetheart.  But, as it turns out, there are some unscrupulous persons who have other plans for the heiress.

Audra’s story is about a third of the way completed, and I hope to have the first draft ready by fall.

What is your writing process? Do you outline your story first or do you just go with it?

The characters have almost always come first.  They have a tendency to whisper snippets of their stories to me at the most inconvenient times.  After that, I find myself writing down conversations between characters, often with no idea at what point in the story they take place.  After the first 20,000 words are written, the story in its entirety generally hits me in one fell swoop, and I will jot down a rough outline, just so I don’t forget anything. 

Do you have a good image of the physical characteristics of your hero/heroine when you are writing the story? Do you select the actors you’d like to have in the movie and build your story with them in mind?

Generally, I have a good idea what my characters look like, but I have never based them on real people or on the looks of actors/actresses.  I do have a contemporary romance that I’ve started working on, and after a few months, I did come across an actor that looked like my hero, but it was more coincidental, and I didn’t base my hero off the actor.

After Rhianna was completed, I set up a Pinterest board dedicated to the story, and I had some fun looking for actors who did have a resemblance to my characters.  The board mostly includes photos of the English landscape, drawing rooms, ball rooms, and a few other items that make an appearance in the novel.  It was fun to put together, and adds another element of bringing the story to life.

How do you take care of the research needed to write an historical?

Oh!  I have been researching 19th Century England for fourteen years, and I have my own library of factual books that I have pored over!  I also had an opportunity to visit England, which was a great thrill for me, and something I hope to do again soon.

What authors have influenced you?

My greatest inspiration for my English historical stories remains the classics, especially Jane Austen.  Charlotte Brontë is a close second.

What’s the first romance you remember reading?

The first romance I read was Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  A book I have read again and again over the years.

How can people get in touch with you? And buy your book?

You can find me in a variety of places,, and among them.  But the best place to find me is at my WordPress site,  From there, you can learn more about me, my books, upcoming events and news, and links to buy Rhianna at the major ebook retailers.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Orange Barrel Season

      If you live in any part of the country where the winters are long and harsh, you know what Orange Barrel Season is. It’s that short window of opportunity for road crews to take care of business. Every spring, as soon as the last threat of frost leaves, the orange barrels come out, cutting two lanes of traffic down to one, stretching on for miles in every direction. Crews rip up the old pavement which was full of potholes and not quite right, and smoothes it all out, ending with a fresh coat of asphalt or concrete, making every car glide smoothly along the road. By the time the first snowflakes fall, the orange barrels are picked up and put into storage until the following spring.
     I currently have a work in progress that has been hounding me for years. It’s a time travel, and I wrote it backwards to begin with, by sending my hero forward in time. Every contest I entered told me of my error, but yet I hesitated to rip it apart and redo it, since very little of what had been written would survive such a drastic rewrite.
     But this work wouldn’t leave me alone. It kept whispering to me, “Try it this way and see what happens.” I decided to follow the muse in my head and write just the first hundred pages, sending my heroine back in time, as everyone insisted was right and proper. I submitted it into a few contests and lo and behold, I placed third in one and first in another! When I returned from Nationals, having read “Save The Cat” while on the plane, this book whispered again. No, it didn’t whisper. It stomped its feet and demanded to be finished. I wrote a new beginning for it, which I unveiled yesterday at my Red Pen Fiction Writers Group, to decent reviews.
     Since this book is keeping me up at night, insisting to be written, I think I’m going to finally declare my study an Orange Barrel zone, and get to work on it, revising the first part and writing the second part. I’ll fill in the potholes, fix the not quite right sections and smooth it all out. I don’t think I’ll be able to take down the barrels by the time the leaves fall, but at least by then I’ll be well on my way to a finished product. I can’t wait.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Nationals Recap

I was at the RWA National Conference last week—the holy grail of our craft—breathing the same air as Nora Roberts, Stephanie Laurens, Julia Quinn, Jayne Anne Krentz, Susan Elizabeth Phillips and more. I met people I’d been emailing to for months, especially my fellow Crimson Romance authors, and pitched to an agent and an editor, attended one workshop after another, wished I could clone myself so I could do more. Oh, and as an additional perk, I got to play for a day and went to Hearst Castle, up the California coast a couple of hours.
The Conference was the big reason for trekking across the country, and the highlight of the conference, for me anyway, was being able to partake in Michael Hauge’s workshop. If you haven’t yet heard him speak, I encourage you to find his calendar of speaking engagements and get yourself to one. It was that good. He takes the six-stage concept of screenwriting, made famous by Blake Snyder and Alexandra Sokoloff, and expands upon it in a most profound way. The main characters must journey, in these six stages, from their outer identity, which is the false self we present to the world, to their essence—what lies underneath their outer armor. Once they find the courage to embrace their essence, the characters, and your story, win.
One of the best things Michael Hauge said was at the very end of his talk. He said to set a goal for yourself and your career. It can be something as simple as writing five pages today, or something as complex as finding an agent. Whatever it is, fix the goal firmly in your mind and then fill in the following sentence:
I’ll do whatever it takes to _______________, just don’t ask me to _______________.
Don’t think about your answer too long, just jot down the first thing that comes to mind. I can guarantee you Identity will answer first. Look at your answer. Just don’t ask me to what? Identity answered something safe. Now, push your boundaries. Get to your Essence—the really scary answer. Only when you get to your own Essence will you be able to complete your journey. Profound.