Posts tagged with: Debut romance authors

A Bandit Holiday Gift: Debut Author Louisa Cornell

For the Love of Christmas Pudding, please let the carriage be standing outside that polished oak door. All Elizabeth Sterling needed to secure a Perfectly Ordinary Christmas was their carriage at the ready and no witnesses. And the continued silence of her mother. Preferably until the end of time, but long enough to make a clean escape would do. Was it bad form to shove one’s mother into the family traveling coach and shout to the driver, “Spring ‘em!”?

 CassondraLouisa author photo: That piece above is the opening of A PERFECTLY DREADFUL CHRISTMAS, a novella in the brand new Christmas Revels anthology, and today I feel like Cinderella must have felt when the handsome prince held the glass slipper and her foot slid right in.

You see…I asked Louisa, the author of that novella, if she’d be my guest, and she said yes. So today I get a special privilege. I’m hosting one of the most brilliant writers I’ve ever known for her debut release.

Please give a huge Bandit Lair welcome to Louisa Cornell.

Three minutes of applause later..

Cassondra: *waving hands at standing ovation so Lair guests will finally take their seats and let Louisa sit down* Settle down, everyone. I know you all have been waiting for this. But first things first. This is the lair after all. *turns to guest* Louisa, you’ve been with us since the beginning, so you know we have everything in our bar, and between Sven and me, we can make anything. What would you like to drink?

Louisa champagne 2Louisa: Champagne !! I don’t know if you know it, but I am a lifelong tee totaller!

Cassondra: Oh my gosh! I had no idea! *signals Sven to open the best of the Bandita stash*

Louisa: Never had a sip of alcohol in my life. I do, however, make the meanest Tequila Sunrise ever! I swore I would never break my (mumble, mumble) year record UNTIL I published my first book! So bring on the champagne, Sven, baby! And keep it coming til I’m dancing on the tables!

*more cheers*

Cassondra: Champagne on the way, for everyone! This is an occasion to celebrate. If any of you wonder why I’m making such a fuss, it’s because Louisa was one of the first people to ever comment on the Romance Bandit blog years ago when we were brand new, and she’s also the one who brought us the Golden Rooster.

*gasps LOuisa featherfrom the audience*

Louisa: *glances over her shoulder* Sorry about that part.

Cassondra: *waves down murmurs* Yes, that’s right. Without Louisa, the GR would never have been a part of the Bandit Lair, and we would not be who we are today. *turns to Lousia* Don’t apologize. He’s a lot of trouble, but he’s a part of us.

*Sven, Hockey Hunks and Gladiators arrive with trays of Champagne flutes for all*

 Cassondra: *takes a glass and turns back to her guest* I want to know what made Louisa who she is. You were a professional opera singer and played big stages. When did you first get an inkling that you wanted to write fiction? And what made you sit down and start typing for the first time?

 Louisa: *sips Champagne* My writing career is actually a career interrupted, sort of. I’ve wanted to be a romance writer since I was nine years old and first read Pride and Prejudice. That was the first year we were stationed in England and I sat up in my little room under the eaves in the little village of Kelsale and wrote perhaps the worst historical romance ever written. My Mom has the only copy locked away and refuses to burn it. My musical talent was discovered in that same year and once I started pursuing it, the writing fell by the wayside. It wasn’t until about seven years ago, when the local bookstore owner told me about Avon’s FanLit Event online, that I decided to give writing another try. My first manuscript, Lost in Love, was a Golden Heart Finalist that year. (My critique partners at the time tricked me into entering saying it was no big deal. Louisa pride and prejudiceThanks, ladies!) Thus a contest courtesan was born. And I’ve been writing and entering contests ever since.

 Cassondra: *turns to audience* For you who are new to the Lair, I should explain that several years ago, the Banditas were challenged to write one-paragraph story vignettes. That’s when I saw Louisa’s writing for the first time. She wrote a vignette and posted it in the comments on that blog. I knew then that I was a witness to genius, and now I have the proof, because I’ve read her debut story.

*Turns back to Louisa* It’s obvious that your talent was bleeding out all over, and LOTS of people saw it. But why romance?

Louisa: I fell in love with romance after reading the works of Jane Austen, the Bronte Sisters and Georgette Heyer. Then there is my Dad.

Cassondra: *Leans forward* Your dad is the reason you write romance?

Louisa: My Dad was stationed in Germany with two Alabama boys, my Mom’s brothers. He saw a picture of her on Uncle Bobby’s desk and asked “Who is that pretty girl?” The brothers answered in typical brother fashion. “That’s no girl. That’s our sister.” Dad asked if he could write to her. They said “Sure. But she won’t write back.” He did. And she did. For an entire year they wrote to each other. Dad was shipped back to the States. He bought an engagement ring and wedding band in Germany. He bought a set of silverware in England and had it engraved with Mom’s initials and his last initial. Yes, he was pretty damned sure of himself. He met her on May 4th. They had one date. He married her on May 11th. One week. They were married for forty years when we lost him and they adored each other. I believe in the romance of the written word because it is the whole reason I am here.

Cassondra: *takes a moment to collect herself* Okay, so why historical? Why Regency?

Louisa pride and prejudice 2Louisa: Mr. Darcy. Mr. Darcy. Mr. Darcy. SIGH !! He’s been my love ideal since I was nine. And I added Mr. Rochester when I was ten. I love the elegance of the period. The gentile manners. The stately homes. The balls. It was a period between the rowdy party animal years of the Georgian era and the “Let’s put sexuality in a strait jacket and wonder why people went nuts.” of the Victorian era. No cars. No heavy industry. War was awful, but there were still rules for civilized engagement with the enemy. I work all day at the scene of the crimes you see on People at Walmart. Shudder. Escaping to the Regency is the only reason I’m not on the six o’ clock news!

Cassondra: I heard you say that your friends roped you into this project. Will you tell us how that came about?

Louisa: Kate Parker and I are Pixie Sisters and Ruby Sisters–

Cassondra: *interrupts* Y’all need some background. The Golden Heart is a writing contest for unpublished romance writers. If you final in this contest, it’s a Really Big Deal-with capital letters-for writers like us.  Each class of finalists picks a name for themselves. The Romance Bandits are all 2006 Golden Heart finalists. That’s how we all met and became the Banditas. Back then, we called ourselves the Packers—as in the 6-Packers. The Pixie Sisters and Ruby Sisters were the 2008 and 2009 Golden Heart Finalists.  Okay back to Louisa’s story…

Louisa: Right.  One day Kate Parker e-mails me out of the blue and says “I’m doing a Christmas anthology with a couple of friends. How’d you like to join us?” I was floored! Kate writes an amazing Victorian bookshop mystery series for Berkley. I decided I’d be an idiot not to accept her offer. I’d been on the fence about going indie with some of my work. Kate’s offer shoved me off the fence and changed my life. I offered all three ladies my firstborn for that favor, but as he is a chihuahua who has been banned from six vet clinics, they passed on the offer. They really walked me (and sometimes kicked me in the butt) through this process. I’ll never, ever be able to repay them for their perseverance, encouragement and generosity.Cornell--Christmas Revels anthology

Cassondra: *raises glass* I lift a toast to them for pushing you.

“Good Lord, Mama, Lizzie is only sixteen years old,” Michael groused. “None of my friends will have her. She still plays with dolls for pity’s sake.”

Silence boomed from the sparkling polish of the marble floor to the exquisitely fanciful mural overhead. Elizabeth spied Georgiana’s golden hair peeking out of her portmanteau only a second before Mama did. The elegant doll was the last gift her father had given her three Christmases ago, the Christmas before he died. Mama grabbed the doll by the hair and yanked her out of the bag before Elizabeth could protest. No one moved. Hortense Sterling was nothing if not determined to see her daughter wed. She marched to the table of charity boxes set to go to Leistonbury’s tenants and dropped poor Georgiana into the largest one. Elizabeth forced herself to turn away, back toward a foyer now crowded with people.

She gripped the handles of her portmanteau. Every stitch of the leather burned into her palm. Her brother opened his mouth to speak. Elizabeth raised her chin and shook her head. Then she saw him. Major Nicholas St. Gabriel, Lord and Lady Leistonbury’s second son and her brother’s closest friend, stood at the top of the stairs. She blinked and swallowed against the burning sensation in her throat. His smile was the sort to make a girl go weak at the knees. He wasn’t smiling now.

 Cassondra: As much as anything else, I think, A PERFECTLY DREADFUL CHRISTMAS is a friends-to-lovers story. That’s my favorite trope, and you’ve written a fantastic group of characters—all friends who grew up together.   What inspired this group of people?

 Louisa: At first the story of the doll came to me. From where I have no idea! Then these characters just showed up. But I realize now much of the friendship between these three gentlemen and Elizabeth I drew from a group of my former students. Several of the guys served in Bosnia together after high school and when they came home they were very different. Getting together at my house with their friends from high school helped them to get back into their lives. I didn’t realize until I read the finished novella on my Kindle that I drew bits and pieces of Elizabeth, Nicholas, Christian and Alexander from those kids.

Cassondra: As a reader, I certainly want more from you., so tell us what’s next for Louisa—aside from posing for photos with hunky cover models ala the picture down there on the left.

 Louisa:  WhLouisa and the Killion guysat’s next? Ah! That is the question I’m pondering. This has been an amazing experience thus far. Which makes me think I want to do the indie thing again!

At this point I am looking at the finished books I have and trying to decide which to take indie and which to submit to traditional publishing. I would truly like to be a hybrid author, (Makes me sound like a little car with three wheels and an electric motor.) but I am not going to wait for something to happen. With indie publishing I believe I can MAKE something happen, in spite of the fact I am a techno dinosaur!

Cassondra: I love it! If you flash forward a few years in the story, here’s a small bit from the group of friends, including Elizabeth (the heroine), Nicholas St. Gabriel, Alexander Chastleton (Marquess of Winterbourne and a notorious rake), and Delacroix (Elizabeth’s fiancée at the beginning of the book, but there are surprises in store).

Nicholas exchanged a look with Delacroix. Winterbourne had ever been the joker of their group. Not even the worst of war’s ugliness dampened his spirits. A façade to be sure. The three of them had survived. Sterling had not. And each of them had traded swords for facades. Soldiers armed themselves for all of life’s battles. The made-wise-by-life scrutiny of a slip of a woman of two-and-twenty who had known them all their lives was a definite call to arms.

Elizabeth gazed at the group’s scoundrel with obvious exasperation before she turned to Nicholas. In the grey mists of her eyes he saw her brother, and the pain of what Sterling’s death meant squeezed his chest without mercy.

“A Perfect Christmas? With you three in residence?” She stretched up to brush the snow from his shoulders. Her hair smelled of jasmine and roses. Nicholas drew it into his lungs and held it to keep himself from holding her.

Cassondra: So there will be more stories for this group of friends?

Louisa: Yes !! I want to write at least two more books with these characters – one for Christian and one for Alexander. In fact, I have them outlined already. Tentative titles – A Perfectly Scandalous Bride and A Perfectly Wicked Desire.

 Cassondra:  I haven’t read the other stories in this anthology yet but really looking forward to doing that.  Nevertheless, although  I’ve never done an official review,  I’m going to do my first one right here, right now for THIS story.

Bottom line? I laughed on the first page of this book. I darn near cried before page five. A book that can make me do both is a keeper. A book that does all of that and makes me let out an OMG satisfied sigh at the end is a rare thing indeed, and Louisa Cornell made me do all three. A Perfectly Dreadful Christmas is one of the best debut romances I’ve ever read.  Anything Louisa writes will be an auto-buy for me.

Cassondra:  Louisa, do you have a question for the Banditas and Buddies?

Louisa:  I do!

In A Perfectly Dreadful Christmas, Elizabeth Sterling is determined to be the perfect hostess of the perfect Christmas house party. She has planned everything and has lists upon lists to help her. And then all hell breaks loose!

What is your worst Christmas disaster? Burned food? Forgot a gift? Snowed in at the Podunk Airport? Tell us about your worst Christmas disaster. I’ll gift someone with a free e-book of Christmas Revels !


Cassondra: Y’all want to read this story, so get commenting!

You can find Louisa at her website,  or for news about her upcoming releases, be sure to like her page on facebook.   She’s also on twitter @LouisaCornell