Posted by Suzanne Ferrell Nov 28 2011, 12:44 am in cowboys, fashion models, Harlequin American, Julie Benson, Suzanne Ferrell
Ok, Banditas and Bandit buddies, I am thrilled today to introduce to a debut Harlequin American author, and my very good friend, Julie Benson! Julie is the person who gave me my first copy of Scene & Structure, a very good book on building a fictional story, and also to fear the word “Why” in a critique of my books. Julie’s very first book, BIG CITY COWBOY, debuts for Harlequin American on November 29th on Amazon (and as always you can click on the book cover to go to Amazon to order your copy!) Please help me welcome Julie to the Lair!
Suz: Julie, pull up a seat and we’ll have one of the cabana boys bring us some peach margaritas. So, one of the things we love the most here in the Lair is an author’s “call” story.
Julie: I’d love for you to share the story about your writing career and how you got “the call”.
As for my writing career, I’m definitely what you’d call a slow learner, who can eventually be taught. I started writing when my oldest two sons were toddlers. They’re now in college, and I have a third son who’s fourteen. I’m definitely a great example of how persistence is key in this business.
So, about my “call.” When I came home from writing at Starbucks (that’s a blog in itself) on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th, I found a message from Kathleen Scheibling saying she wanted to talk about my book. The book she hadn’t even had on her desk for two months. I screamed for who knows how long. I scared my sons to death, all of whom were home for spring break, two of whom were asleep on the other side of the house. That was the best thing about when I got the call, because I got to share the joy of my first sale with my sons. They’ve always been so supportive, proudly declaring their mom a writer over the years it took me to reach this goal. Having raised my kids right, they knew what it meant at this stage of the process to have an editor call to talk about the book. Call, very good. Possible sale. In fact, they even asked, “Did you sell your book?”
Once I calmed down, I returned the call, but had to leave a message. Then I spent the next couple of hours pacing. Later when Kathleen and I talked about the changes I needed to make, she floored me by saying she was willing do revisions under contract. Then she asked about the brother in BIG CITY COWBOY, and said she thought readers would be interested in him. I told her I was working on his story, and asked if she wanted to hear about his book. After my explanation and a few questions from Kathleen, she offered me a two book contract. Talk about stunned. It’s a good thing I was sitting down at the time because I’d have hit my head hard when I fell otherwise.
Suz: The hero in your story, BIG CITY COWBOY, is Rory McAlister. I love how you got the inspiration for this character. Please tell us about meeting your cowboy hero.
Julie: How I got the idea for BIG CITY COWBOY shows that a writer’s brain just works differently. My family attended a wedding in Estes Park, Colorado. (Thanks Angi and David for the invitation!) I’ve always loved horses, so we decided to go horseback riding. The cowboy helping my middle son with his horse was the epitome of why women swoon when they think of cowboys. Dark hair and eyes, and classic western good looks, the man could stop traffic, and yes, his name was Rory. While helping my son, an older gentleman approached, and started talking to Rory about modeling. Rory politely accepted the man’s business card, but told him he wasn’t interested. Once the man left, Rory told my son people asked him to model all the time, and didn’t understand why he didn’t jump at the chance.
Okay, here’s the part about how a writer’s brain is different. All I could think about, other this cowboy’s good looks was what a great story it would make if a cowboy had agree to model. My mind was off and running. There’s one more funny thing about how this story came to be that I have to share. After our ride, I’m not sure exactly when, I told my husband I wished I’d taken a picture of Rory. How I didn’t do that, still confounds me. My dear husband, Kevin smiled. When I told him what a great story a cowboy being forced to model would make, he’d taken a picture of the cowboy. Talk about a great husband who supports his wife’s writing career. He’s definitely a keeper.
Suz: This is a fish out of water story. How does a working cowboy end up modeling designer jeans in New York City?
Julie: For me, why camera shy Rory would leave his life on the ranch to model was the key to the story. Of course the first thing that jumped to mind was to save the ranch. I set that aside, but kept thinking along the financial line. What if he needed money for something else, and the ranch was struggling so the family had gone through their savings and couldn’t get a loan? That worked, but I still need something more important for him to model. I have a dear friend, Judy Hoffman, who beat brain cancer. She went through experimental treatment in Portland, Oregon and if I’m remembering right, was one of the few patients that beat the disease. Talk about a tough lady. A true cowboy would do literally anything to save his mom, so I gave Rory a mom who was fighting brain cancer like Judy. Her only hope was an experimental treatment. I upped the stakes by saying insurance refused to pay for the procedures. Rory needed a lot of money and he needed it now, or his mom would die. Talk about motivation, and what woman wouldn’t love a man who’d put aside his pride to save his mother?
Suz: So what kind of heroine is Elizabeth Harrington-Smythe?
Julie: Heroines are tougher for me to create. I guess because I have three sons, I see things so much easier from the hero’s perspective, so it took me a while to get Elizabeth’s character right. Cowboys are notoriously independent, so I made Elizabeth a strong, I’m in charge kind of woman. She’s career driven. In fact, she comes to learn that’s really all she has in her life. She’s a big city girl, through and through, which makes it hard for her to see things from Rory’s point of view more often than not. She’s not used to having people question her decisions. She says what needs to be done, and people dash off to accomplish the task. That is until she starts working with Rory.
Suz: What is in store next for you and American Harlequin?
Julie: When I sold BIG CITY COWBOY, I sold Rory’s brother, Griffin’s story as well. I just finished that book, and it will be on the shelves June 1. Griffin’s very different from Rory. While Rory’s very responsible, driven and shies away from the spotlight, Griffin has more than a bit of the devil in him. He’s a charmer who hasn’t really discovered his place in life, but isn’t letting that stop him from having fun along the way. While Rory was somewhat unaware of his good looks, Griffin knows the effect he has on woman, and doesn’t hesitate to use it to his advantage. Of course I had to give him a heroine who didn’t fall for his schemes, and it was fun watching his reactions when Maggie didn’t fall under his spell. Griffin becomes the bachelor on a reality show designed to find him a wife, though he has no intention on getting married, and Maggie’s the show’s director. The story definitely took some turns I hadn’t expected, but it was a fun adventure for me as a writer.
Suz: Readers, have you ever had a dream you’ve wanted so much you were willing to work at it for years before you got it? Have you ever had to do something you despised to help someone else out? Julie will be giving away a signed copy of BIG CITY COWBOY to one commenter today.
Below are pictures from the trip Julie took that inspired BIG CITY COWBOY and y’all can read an excerpt from BIG CITY COWBOY at Julie’s website at juliebenson.net
Posted by Trish Milburn May 15 2009, 4:09 am in Harlequin American, Her Very Own Family, Trish Milburn
by Trish Milburn
It’s Friday. Time to party! Not only is it the beginning of the weekend, but it’s time to celebrate my newest release with an examination of the do-over. No, I’m not talking about the cry kids make when a game doesn’t go their way and they want to start it over again. I’m talking about starting over in a bigger way. Whether it’s a makeover of one’s self or home, or starting an entirely new life, I’m a fan of the clean slate.
My husband recently made the observation that lots of my stories are about people who have bad pasts. True, but I love to show that no matter what someone has gone through, there’s the possibility of starting over and creating a brighter future. In my Harlequin American that released this week, Her Very Own Family, Audrey York arrives in tiny Willow Glen, Tennessee, with the aim of starting her life over. She’s leaving behind a fast-paced part of her life that ended in a scandal not of her making but which scarred her nonetheless. The perfect balm for her battered soul presents itself when she buys an old gristmill and undertakes the renovation necessary to turn it into a restaurant. What she doesn’t expect is to befriend an older neighbor who insists on helping her and then fighting the temptation his son presents when he joins the renovation too. While she enjoys her time with Brady Witt and his father, Nelson, she fears that her old life will catch up with her and shatter this new life like it did the old.
I guess deep down this theme calls to me because I, like so many people, had a childhood that wasn’t all light and roses. The idea of reinventing myself held immense appeal, and that started the moment I left for college. I even changed the version of my name I used. Up until my high school graduation, everyone knew me as Patricia. But once I stepped onto my college campus, I adopted the name Trish. Now, it sounds weird to hear someone call me Patricia because I’ve been Trish longer. And if anyone ever calls me Pat, they are related to me. I hate that name, but what can you do? They’ve been calling me that for nearly 39 years.
I also like makeovers of other kinds. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been flipping channels and been sucked into the universe that is known as What Not to Wear. It’s amazing what the right clothes and a new hairdo can do for a person. And it’s not just looks; it’s self-confidence that improves.
It should come as no surprise, now, that I’m a big fan of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. I honestly think there hasn’t been an episode during which I didn’t cry. The families’ stories of loss and struggle are heartbreaking, and that makes their joy at receiving a new dream home all that more satisfying. I don’t know these people, but I’m so happy for them as the bus driver “moves that bus” and they see their new home for the first time. This season, the show has been honoring heroes of all kinds, and the season finale is this Sunday night. It’s a two-hour episode, which means I’ll just end up crying twice as much.
In amongst the emotions, however, I get to see some really cool interior design. I don’t want them to come tear my house down, but it sure would be cool to go on vacation for a week and come back to an entirely new interior.
It was Extreme Makeover: Home Edition that actually inspired the hero, Brady Witt, in Her Very Own Family — both his carpentry skills and his looks. Take a look at the cover of the book and see if you can see the resemblance to show designer Rib Hillis.
How about you? Do you like makeover shows? Which ones? Why? Ever had a makeover yourself? How did it make you feel? Anyone else an Extreme Makeover: Home Edition fan?
One commenter will win a copy of Her Very Own Family.