An interview with Melinda Curtis

AMemoryAwayWhat genre do you write in and why?

I write both sweet and sexier romances, but always with a lighthearted voice, sometimes more toward romantic comedy.

Tell us about your current series.

One of the series I write is Harmony Valley for Harlequin Heartwarming (sweet romance). Harmony Valley is a small town in remote Sonoma County. For decades, it was supported by a grain mill. About fifteen years ago, the grain mill exploded. Jobs dried up. Shops closed. Those who remained were retired (over age 65). Now three young men have started a winery and are rejuvenating the town. People under the age of 35 are coming back and finding the older generation to be set in their ways. Imagine being invited to dinner and being served Spam and bananas cooked in hollandaise sauce. Or seeing your neighbor dancing in the moonlight in her long johns, a tutu, and rain boots. That’s Harmony Valley.

What inspired your latest book?

I was trying to come up with an original idea for Harmony Valley. On my list of story ideas was amnesia. My editor did not like the idea, but I pitched it to her in a bar with another editor nearby (one who liked amnesia stories). It became a gauntlet thrown down at my feet. I had to write it. The result is A Memory Away.

What is your typical day like?

I get up at 4:30 a.m. every day (big cup of coffee). There are animals to be fed, and then it’s off to the gym for an hour. I walk the dogs at 6:30 and am at work by 8 a.m. I allow myself an hour for social media rounds (blogs, Harlequin community, Facebook, Twitter, email). And then it’s two hours of hard writing before my assistant comes in at 11 a.m. She stays until around 3 p.m. and then it’s two more hours of hard writing before I have to think about making dinner. I often do pre-writing or social media after dinner. I’m generally passed out by 9 p.m.

Where do you get ideas for your stories?

For my series books, I like to start with a hook (secret babies, twins, 9 months later, etc.) and see how I can work it into my story line. I don’t always use hooks, but it’s definitely easier to start from. For example, with my current release, I combined two hooks – amnesia and 9 months later. I always try to think: who would be the worst person for the h/h to fall in love with. And then I consider why they are the worst – what backstory might support the beliefs or choices of that character.

How likely are people you meet to be in your books?

Not likely at all. But if you’re my friend or family and you do quirky things – those actions are fair game. For example, my mom has macular degeneration and watches her big screen television with binoculars. How can you not plant that scene with a character? My dad has been known to make taco runs in the middle of the night wearing his pajamas (his long johns). One of my relatives dated a drug dealer without knowing he was a drug dealer. So no. I don’t base characters on people I know, but I do use their behavior and experiences as fodder for my stories. Wouldn’t you?

Was your road to publication fraught with peril or a walk in the park?

My publication road was fraught with peril. I stalked my first editor at conferences for two years before she bought a book. I was challenged with creating strong conflict in my stories, so I struggled to sell more than 1-2 books at a time. I’ve had 8 different editors at Harlequin (learned something from every one), been orphaned and dropped from a line. But I took that time to hone my writing skills. I tried my hand at self-publishing and was asked to come back to Harlequin and write for Heartwarming. Nine books in three years later and I’ve been asked to write for another line there. I think I’m good at turning diversity into opportunity.

Has your muse always known what genre you would write and be published in?

I’ve always tried to slip humor into my books. I think it took me ten books to figure out how to do it in a way that works for me, editorial, and the readers.

How far ahead do you plan?

I make tentative plans eighteen months out based on Harlequin contracts. I insert indie projects into that calendar. I leave room for life to happen and opportunities to show up. My goals for September 2014-December 2015 were to have a release every month. I only missed one month (but hey, some months I had two titles out). I alternated between Harlequin, indie, and box sets. Mr. Curtis is ready for me to take a vacation and I agree wholeheartedly!

Do you have any words of inspiration for aspiring authors?

Study the craft. Identify your weaknesses and be honest with yourself. I see a lot of indie published work that lacks strong internal conflict. There are great writing coaches out there now and strong, affordable editorial to help make your work shine. Try not to enter the race until you’re ready to run.

AMemoryAwayTour copyBlurb for A Memory Away:

Duffy Dufraine just found out he’s going to be an uncle. Jessica Aguirre came to Harmony Valley in search of the father of her unborn child, which is by no means him. An accident may have damaged the expectant mom’s memory, but he knows his twin is the man she’s looking for. But Greg’s gone, which leaves Duffy the only family Jess has. And he has to make things right. Offering her a temporary place to stay seems an ideal short-term solution. Until she stirs desires that make the embattled vineyard manager rethink his own long-term game plan. Is he ready to offer Jess and her baby a home to call their own—with him?

Excerpt from A Memory Away:

Did he love me?

A man got out of the truck. Dark hair. Straight nose. Familiar eyes.

It’s him.

She leaned forward, peering through the paned glass, her heart sailing toward him, over ever-hopeful waves of roses and rainbows.

Jess didn’t usually let herself dream. But now…today…him…

And yet…

He wore a burgundy vest jacket that clashed with a red long-sleeve T-shirt. Worn blue jeans. A black baseball cap.

Instead, she saw him in a fine wool suit. Black, always black. A navy shirt of the softest cotton. A silk tie in a geometric pattern. Shiny Italian loafers…

He took the stairs two at a time, work boots ringing on wood.

Jessica’s heart sank as certainly as if someone had drilled holes in the boat carrying her hopeful emotions. Clouds blocked the sun. The rainbow disappeared. Unwilling to sink, Jess clung to joy. To the idea of him.

He entered without a flourish or an energetic greeting. He entered without the smile that teased the corners of her memory. He entered and took stock of the room, the situation, her.

Their eyes met. His were the same color, same shape, so heart-achingly familiar.

It was the cool assessment in them that threw her off. Not a smile, not a brow quirk, not an eye crinkle.

He came forward. “I’m Michael Dufraine, but everyone calls me Duffy.”

His name didn’t ring true.

Had he lied to her?

She couldn’t speak, could barely remember her name.

The wind shook the panes. The house creaked and groaned.

He smiled. A polite smile, a distant smile, an I-don’t-know-you smile.

Disappointment overwhelmed her. Jess resisted the urge to dissolve into a pity puddle on the floor.

“And you are…?” He extended his hand.

On autopilot, she reached for him. Their palms touched.

Jessica’s vision blurred and she gripped his hand tighter as clips of memory assailed her—his deep laughter, him offering her a bite of chocolate cheesecake, his citrusy cologne as he leaned in to kiss her.

It is him.

Relieved. She was so relieved. Jessica blinked at the man—Duffy—who she vaguely recalled and, at the same time, did not.

She’d practiced what to say on the hour-long drive up here from Santa Rosa. Ran through several scenarios. None of them had included him not recognizing her.

She should start at the beginning. Best not to scare him with hysterics and panicked accusations, of which she’d had five months to form.

Don’t raise your voice. Don’t cry. Don’t ask why.

And don’t lead the conversation with the elephant in the room.

Despite all the cautions and practicing and caveats, she drew a breath, and flung her hopes toward him as if he was her life preserver. “I think I’m your wife.”

MelindaCurtis (574x640) (1)Bio/Release Info:

Award winning, USA Today bestseller Melinda Curtis writes the Harmony Valley series of sweet and emotional romances for Harlequin Heartwarming, and the sweet romantic comedy Bridesmaid series. A Memory Away is Book 6 in the Harmony Valley series. Brenda Novak says: “Season of Change has found a place on my keeper shelf”.  Melinda also writes hotter romances as Mel Curtis. Jayne Ann Krentz says of Blue Rules: “Sharp, sassy, modern version of a screwball comedy from Hollywood’s Golden Age except a lot hotter.”

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