From Daring Damsels to Hockey Hotties– Joanne Rock
Posted by Cassondra Murray Sep 9 2013, 1:38 am
The force of the arrow roared through him as it struck the shield still clutched in his hand. Bemused, he stared as the flaming arrowhead ignited the shield with lightning speed. The heat of the burning wood finally penetrated his dulled wits, and Malcolm withdrew his grip from the rapidly disintegrating armor. Although not an heirloom, the shield had been crafted by Laird McNair for his son. Malcolm was disappointed to see it ruined, but it had served its purpose today, protecting him from what would no doubt have been a mortal blow.
From the stout defense of the walnut tree, he peered up to the northern watchtower, from whence the missile had come. He blinked to clear his vision, knowing his eyes must deceive him.
Yet there she was.
Standing defiantly on the crenellated parapet, she did not even bother to duck behind the safety of the wall now that she had discharged her deadly shot. She lowered her crossbow, her gaze never leaving her intended victim…
The fey creature was no kitchen maid. She reeked of nobility. Her green-yellow gown shimmered with the precise hue of newly unfurled spring leaves, and even from Malcolm’s considerable distance, he could see the voluminous folds and rich color conveyed wealth. A golden girdle sparkled around her hips in the sinking sunlight.
And her hair…
The woman’s hair outshone her adornments. It floated in a halo about her head and shoulders, rippling clear down to her waist. Loose flaxen strands caught by the breeze gave the impression of gentle disarray. She looked like a pagan sacrifice to the ancient gods of spring.
Have you ever finished a book and then flipped right back to the front to start reading it again?
That’s what happened to me way back in 2005 when I read The Laird’s Lady.
Rosalind and Malcolm’s story hooked me hard. Every now and then, after all these years, I still drift off, thinking about it. That story had just the right amount of history, plus wounded, driven main characters, and in particular it had something I hadn’t seen in a lot of historical romance–a strong, kick-butt heroine. Now it’s available only in eBook and in paperback at used bookstores, but I’ll tell you that this book won me to medieval historicals, and the author became my go-to girl for medieval romance.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting that author several times at conferences and events around the country, and I can tell you she’s as sweet and generous as she is lovely and talented. She now has more than 60 books under her belt, and I’m so pleased to introduce you to her today.
Sven is pouring drinks, so y’all give your orders to one of the guys–they’re all here–the whole crew has gathered ’round to meet today’s guest, and you’ll soon figure out why.
Everyone please give a famous lair welcome to one of my long-time favorite authors, Joanne Rock.
*loud applause and whistles*
Cassondra: Joanne, thank you so much for joining us in the lair today! First things first though…what would you like from the bar?
Joanne: Thank you so much for having me here! I’m feeling right at home and it’s always nice to visit with you. Since you were kind enough to ask, I’d love a margarita.
Cassondra: *speaks up over sounds of ice being scooped and drinks being shaken behind the bar* I read your bio when I was getting ready for the interview, and saw that you went to the University of Louisville. That was new to me since I thought of you as being from Florida, then the Northeast. I tend to think our childhoods are a big part of what makes us the writers we are. Will you tell us a little about where you grew up and your moves about the world?
Joanne: Surely! *smiles and nods at Sven as he sets her margarita and my glass of Cabernet on the small, rustic table between us* I grew up south of Albany, New York, on a farm along the Hudson River. I used to like to sit by the river and watch the trains go by on their way to New York City.
Eventually, I would be on the train every summer while I worked in Manhattan as a teenager. It was fun and exciting, but it taught me that I was as much a farm girl as a city girl. Like Goldilocks, I’ve always been in search of the perfect place for myself and neither of those places were quite right. Louisville, Kentucky, on the other hand, was a great fit!
Cassondra: I love Louisville. It’s my favorite Kentucky city.
Joanne: The city is charming with lots of arts and culture. Outside the city, it’s wonderfully rural and you feel right at home hanging out with the neighbors in the backyard for weekend picnics.
Cassondra: But you’ve moved around a bunch since then, right?
Joanne: *nods and takes a sip of her drink* Since my Louisville days, I’ve relocated a fair amount for my husband’s then-job as a sports editor. We lived in Utah, Ohio, Louisiana and Florida before an extended stay in upstate New York again. These days, I’m trying to be a snowbird even though we have kids in school. I think the change of scenery inspires my work and keeps me energized.
Cassondra: As prolific as you are, I’m sure it’s extra- important to keep the well filled so the stories can flow. Do you remember what made you fall in love with books?
Joanne: I probably fell in love with books because my parents read to me a lot and they so obviously loved reading as well. I saw my parents read all the time. My dad used to read a Sesame Street story to me called “The Diamond D and the Dreadful Dragon” and we were so silly with it.
Cassondra: Hmmm…on a lark I went looking for that story, and I think I’m vindicated in believing the childhood of the writer influences what she writes. The first line reads
Dozens of years ago.
In a drafty castle.
Duke David of Dundeedle did dwell.**
And…..*dramatic pause*… you grew up to write romance set dozens of years ago in drafty castles.
Joanne: *lifts her margarita glass and grins* My dad also liked to arrange my wealth of stuffed animals into storybook vignettes as a surprise for me when I got home from school. One day, he’d made a newspaper hat for my stuffed dog so he looked like Robin Hood. Another day, one stuffed bear was trying to shoot an apple off another stuffed bear’s head. From my early childhood, stories came to life for me in a fun way.
Cassondra: What a gift that was!…Your parents gave you the gift of story, and you now give that gift to all of us who are readers. *cheers and more catcalls from the audience*
You went on to school for a higher degree in English. What were your plans for that, and how did you end up in romance?
Joanne: I got my Bachelor’s degree in Communication and then wondered why I hadn’t gone to school for what I loved most- English.
I had tried to be very practical about my education, but I ended up realizing there’s such a thing as being too practical and that you will be best served by following your passions.
So on the day that I started my Master’s coursework, I was simultaneously beginning my first romance novel. I literally wrote the opening on campus before my first class. The dream of writing a book and the dream of studying English literature went sort of hand-in-hand for me.
I ended up in romance because I love everything romantic- from the Romantic poets, to Arthurian romance, to chivalry and modern day genre fiction. Romance speaks to me because I adore the big, sweeping emotions associated with the tradition.
Cassondra: You’ve written more than 60 books, so your call story—and your first sale—were a lot of words ago, but not so long ago in terms of time. Do you mind telling the story?
Joanne: I don’t think a writer ever gets tired of reliving the happy memory of the first sale! I had written several full manuscripts before selling one. I wrote medieval historicals first but realized there simply weren’t as many outlets for historicals, whereas – at the time- 75% of the romance purchased by editors was contemporary. So I tried my hand at contemp in a line that I read anyway- Harlequin Temptation. I was scared to try it at first, but the story really flowed well! I knew I was on to something.
Cassondra: Ah, I miss the Temptation line.
Joanne: *nods* Another benefit to writing contemporary romance- and for Temptation in particular- was that editor Brenda Chin was so incredibly accessible to writers at conferences and regional workshops. She was an active contest judge too. So I got my stories in front of her and she gave me feedback and encouragement that were like pure gold to a new author. I sold to her within a year and settled into a very happy publishing schedule.
Cassondra: *glances around room as she swirls wine in her glass* All of Bandita Anna Sugden’s hockey hunks are standing around the edges of the room today.
Joanne: I’ve been fanning myself the whole time.
Cassondra: They wouldn’t miss your interview for anything, because one of your series is about a family of brothers, including two amazing hockey players, Kyle and Axel. Why hockey?
Joanne: *smiles at good-natured catcalls from hockey hunks* What’s not to love about a hockey player? *more catcalls* They are incredibly hard-working athletes in a sport as tough as any out there. I follow a lot of sports, including the NHL, and hockey players also strike me as super down-to-earth for professional athletes. So it was a pleasure to write about a couple of hockey guys in my recent Murphy Brothers series.
Cassondra: Tell us about that series?
Joanne: There are five brothers (four plus a sort-of foster brother they took in- a Finn who started living with the family when he played on a junior team with one of the brothers) and their family dynamic really spoke to me. My husband has six brothers, so I get to see those relationships in action all the time!
The prequel to Murphy Men is actually a free online read. You can get it here Living the Fantasy.
Cassondra: *waves wine glass at Buddies* Y’all definitely need to read that. You’ll love it, I promise. And you can read the blurbs for the different books, plus some excerpts by clicking on the links below. Joanne, tell us the reading order?
Joanne: After Living the Fantasy, the books are in this order..
Book 1 -Jack and Alicia’s story, Making a Splash
Book 2- Keith and Josie’s story, is Riding the Storm
Book 3 – One Man Rush is the first of the hockey books, about Kyle and Marissa.
Book 4–Her Man Advantage, is Axel and Jennifer’s story. Hockey defenseman Axel is the foster brother from Finland.
Book 5-Full Surrender, wraps up the Murphy brothers’ stories with Stephanie and Uniformly Hot! Lieutenant Daniel Murphy.
Cassondra: I love all these guys, and of course I have a thing for guys in military uniform, but I gotta tell ya, I totally fell for Axel. *fans self and takes a long sip of wine*
Ahem….Now let’s time travel a bit, from the very modern, very steamy world of Harlequin Blaze.
As I said earlier, I first discovered Joanne Rock books because of historicals. I’m always interested in why writers choose a certain period of history. In particular the earlier periods when there were fewer creature comforts. Why medieval for you?
Joanne: I like the independence of the feudal estate. It gave rise to a way of life that was unique to each household since the lord of the land functioned like a king in his realm.
Medieval nobles had to be Alphas, and it’s a setting where I can accept an Alpha guy for being that way because people would die if he wasn’t strong enough to hold his lands. There’s something very primal about this responsibility, and the medieval hero is unique because of it.
I also like the epic scale of a historical since the stakes were so high. A wrong choice could mean death. For a woman, an indiscretion could mean losing her position and her way of life forever.
Cassondra: You’ve been doing a lot of the shorter Undone stories for Harlequin. Will you tell us about those?
Joanne: I’m writing a lot of shorter historicals right now because there is a demand for them. Readers appreciate short content to read stories on their lunch hour or after work and feel like they’re getting a complete, satisfying read. Harlequin puts the “Undone” stories out in anthologies overseas and I hope they’ll find more interesting ways to package them here too. I have a Viking story up next for Undone- VANQUISHED BY THE VIKING– and then I’ve got some Victorian set stories planned with a ghost who’s a Highlander. So it’s set in the Victorian era but the hero is still a laird from a time period I love!
Cassondra: Do you have plans for more full-length medievals?
Joanne: I’m not sure when I’ll write a new full length historical, but one of these days! Adding the Young Adult books to my schedule really shifted things around for me, but I will always return to some kind of medieval stories. They are a core part of what I love to write.
Cassondra: Speaking of the Young Adult, let’s talk about the latest writer hat you’ve donned. You’re presently writing the Camp Boyfriend YA series as JK Rock with your sister-in-law, Karen. Can you talk a little about that series ?
Joanne: Camp Boyfriend is the first of a three-book series with Camp Payback out in April 2014 and Camp Forget Me Not in August 2014. Readers can learn more about the series- and the FREE novella downloads between books- at http://campboyfriend.net
Cassondra: You hooked me instantly with these stories. I never went to camp when I was a kid, but I could SO relate to the heroine, Lauren.
Camp Juniper Point
“Truth or dare, Piper?”
I twisted my friendship bracelet and eyed my fidgeting bunkmate, relieved it wasn’t my turn in the hot seat. Yet. Would Piper shake up our seven-year first-day-of-camp tradition and surprise the cabin by taking the dare? Either way, I wanted this mega-humiliating game over before it began. I edged closer to our window fan, my mind whirling as fast as its blades, knees jittering.
“It’s hot. Let’s swim.” I twirled prescription goggles in the expectant silence. Anything to avoid a turn that could lead to me revealing my secret camp crush. I loved my Munchies’ Manor cabin mates, but they were bloodhounds in sniffing out drama. And liking a guy we’d been friends with forever, one who treated me like a little sister, was a camp soap opera I did not want to star in. What if I crashed and burned? I’d never liked a guy before. At least, not one I knew in real life.
Not when it mattered.
Cassondra: Camp or no camp, I’ve felt that. What inspired you to write Young Adult novels?
Joanne: I love Young Adult books. I’m thrilled that there are so many offerings for teen readers and I think it’s a great sign for publishing in general that YA is thriving. Part of the reason I wanted to try my hand at a YA was because writing a wide variety of material helps to keep my storytelling fresh. Tackling new challenges makes all my work stronger. But the other reason I wanted to work in YA was for the chance to work with my sister-in-law, who was interested in writing. She’s very talented, and as an eighth grade teacher, had a special affinity for YA books. When we brainstormed a potential project to develop together, Camp Boyfriend emerged in full-fledged Technicolor.
Cassondra: You’ve moved to warmer climes for the winter season, just in time for your own kids to start school. As you dig your toes in the sand, what’s up next for Joanne?
Joanne: I’ve got two Blazes coming out this fall/winter and I look forward to sharing them with readers. One is a Uniformly Hot! Christmas novella in A SOLDIER’S CHRISTMAS with fellow authors Leslie Kelly and Karen Foley. If you want a hot man in uniform for the holidays, please check this one out!!
Then, in January, the follow up to MY DOUBLE LIFE goes on sale. MY SECRET FANTASIES is another first-person Blaze, an idea that readers really responded to in MY DOUBLE LIFE. And the down-on-her-luck heroine of MY SECRET FANTASIES is so fun that it’s a blast to be directly in point-of-view as she meets sizzling hot Damien Fraser. Here’s the blurb:
All I wanted was to escape the media frenzy I left behind in L.A. and open a cute little shop on the Sonoma Coast. Simple, right? But Damien Fraser—the hunky property owner—isn’t exactly thrilled about my reality-TV-star status. Still, I’m pretty sure that all he needs is a little creative convincing…and I’ve learned I can be very creative.
I started writing a naughty novel, and with every sexy scene I write, things between me and Damien get really hot. Now the hero in my book is starting to look more and more like Damien, and I’m well on my way to becoming my brazen sexpot heroine. But when my real life and my fictional life collide, my fantasies just might cost me all of my dreams….
Okay Bandits and Buddies, have any of you ever done what I did with The Laird’s Lady–finished a book and just flipped right back to the beginning to read it again?
Did you fall in love with books by having other people around you read? Or read to you?
Have you ever read a medieval romance? Are there any medievals on your keeper shelf?
Have you ever read a Joanne Rock book?
Do you ever read Young Adult books just for the great stories? If so, what’s your favorite Young Adult series?
Joanne has brought some great giveaways. Two random commenters will win a copy of MY DOUBLE LIFE or CAMP BOYFRIEND (your choice)!
Y’all can find Joanne all over the place: Website /Goodreads /Twitter /Facebook /Amazon/ J.K. Rock
**(Snippet of "The Diamond D and the Dreadful Dragon" taken from The Sesame Street Story Book,
Random House, 1971.)
Posted in Author interviews, Cassondra Murray, Cassondra's Blog, contemporary romance, Harlequin Blaze, historical romance, historicals, Hockey Heroes, Joanne Rock, medieval romance, strong women