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Carla Capshaw

Dear Author Intro Interview & Giveaway: The RITA Best First Book Nominees, Part 2

Dear Author Intro Interview & Giveaway: The RITA Best First Book...

Yesterday the authors nominated in RWA's Best First Book category discussed their debut books; today the interviews conclude with a look into their lives as writers.   For example, a lot of "first" books – aren't, exactly. Read on, and leave a comment for a chance to win.

How you reacted to or celebrated your Rita nomination:

Viola Estrella (nominated for Angel Vindicated):   I'm still in shock. aeriously, it's such a huge honor.

Kelly Gay (The Better Part of Darkness):   The first call had me teary-eyed and laughing, but when the second call came in hours later, I sat there in shock. I thought there was some kind of a mistake, and ended up hitting redial to make sure. It was at this point I realized I needed a beer. And then I ordered a pizza. :)

Carla Capshaw (The Gladiator):   I went to dinner with my family.

Kate Brady (One Scream Away):   Dinner out.   (I'll take any opportunity I can find to do that!)

Elisabeth Naughton (Stolen Fury):   The day the RITA nominations were announced, my editor actually flew in to Portland for the Public Librarians Association Conference where I was speaking on a romance panel, so we got to celebrate the news together. That romance panel consisted of Christina Dodd, Nicole Burnham and Elizabeth Boyle – all NY Times Bestsellers and previous RITA winners/finalists. I felt like quite a nobody surrounded by such big name authors, so it was really cool to have John Charles-’from Booklist and the Chicago Tribune, who organized the panel-’introduce me to the room of 500 librarians and announce my double RITA nomination. It's a moment I'll never forget.

Lauren Strasnick (Nothing Like You):   Massive shock and delight!   Celebrated with good friend, Milly.   We made school-cafeteria-inspired hard shell tacos with ground turkey and shredded lettuce.

Therese Walsh (The Last Will of Moira Leahy):   My hands shook and I started to tear up; it had been such a long journey. A friend of mine-’Nat'l Pro Liaison, Cynthia D'Alba-’made the call too, which made it even more special.

Mary Brady (He Calls Her Doc):   I started by contacting everyone I knew, then I bought champagne and drank it with my husband. When I got it, I wore my RITA pin everywhere. Now I just smile a lot.

Your oddest or most reliable writing ritual/habit:

Kelly Gay: Coffee and recliner are my most reliable rituals.

Carla Capshaw :   I need lots of Coca-cola.   It never fails me.

Kate Brady :   I sit in a recliner with my laptop and furry friends, watching fictitious people run around in my mind and writing down whatever they say and do.   If they stop, I take a hot shower to get them moving again.   What's odd about that?

Elisabeth Naughton : Some days it's really not productive at all, but when I'm procrastinating, I have to win two games of spider solitaire in a row before I can start writing.

Therese Walsh : Lucky pencils.

Mary Brady : I use the stopwatch on my cell phone to keep me honest. The .01 sec moves so frantically it gives me the feeling of momentum.

Viola Estrella:   I keep a notebook by my bed in case a scene comes to me before I fall asleep. It's incredibly annoying when brilliance strikes me in the dark of night and I can't remember a single thing about it the next day. I wrote the bones of a few scenes from Angel Vindicated by the light of the moon.

Writing advice you're glad you followed or ignored:

Carla Capshaw : I'm glad I listened to advice and learned the rules of writing before trying to break them.   Of course, now I break them all the time. :)

Kate Brady :   "Send it in!"   I ignored that for a really long time before biting the bullet.

Elisabeth Naughton : The best piece of advice actually came from my husband, a non writer, and it wasn't really advice, more like an attitude adjustment. Every time I talked about writing and the long publishing process, he would always correct me. It was never "IF" I sold and was published, it was always "WHEN".

Lauren Strasnick :   Be fearless.

Therese Walsh :   I'm glad I ignored the advice about trends and didn't stress too much about where the novel would sit at the bookstore. I wrote the story I wanted to write, with parts family saga, romance, mystery, suspense and magical realism.

Mary Brady : First I followed it all and then I ignored it all and then when I mixed it up and added a little of my own, the combination clicked.

Viola Estrella:   Detach your ego. The story isn't about me; it's about my characters and their journey.

Kelly Gay: To paraphrase Nora Roberts: You can fix a bad page; you can't fix a blank one. Great advice! I've learned to write through tough spots, and not get distracted by research and revising. Once I have my rough draft, that's when I slow down and start crafting and shaping…

Number of books you wrote before selling:

Elisabeth Naughton : Four.

Lauren Strasnick : Two (the 2nd sold).

Therese Walsh :   I wrote Last Will once before, in a completely different form-’as a romance. I also wrote several picture book manuscripts.

Mary Brady : Oh, why don't you just ask me how old I am??

Viola Estrella: Five.

Kelly Gay: Six.

Kate Brady :   Five.   But almost no one knew.   It was my secret hobby.

From your decision to write for publication to the sale call-’how long:

Therese Walsh :   I started Last Will in 2002. One year to write it, another for editing, another still for agent hunting. Then I decided to throw it all away and start over, after several months of pouting. Same story, different genre. Another year+ to write, another to edit. It sold in 2008.

Mary Brady :   See above.

Viola Estrella:   About five years, I think.

Kelly Gay: About fifteen years if you count the moment I started writing with career intentions (first with plays and then screenplays). Five years from the time I decided to switch gears and aim for publishing a novel.

Elisabeth Naughton : Four years. It was five years from the time I started that first manuscript, but I consider that first book practice. I never tried to sell that one.

The moment you felt like a "real author":

Mary Brady : When I got my first diary and started writing.

Viola Estrella:   From the first time I wrote "The End.

Kelly Gay:   It was after my release. I'd seen my book on the shelf, had my first book signing, but it wasn’t until the 4th or 5th trip into the bookstore, that it hit me in a very quiet, accepting, emotional sort of way.

Carla Capshaw : The first time I saw The Gladiator on the shelf at the bookstore.

Kate Brady :   When I got that first box of "real" books in the mail from my publisher.   Ahhh!

Elisabeth Naughton : When I saw my book on the shelf in an airport. My husband sent me a photo from the San Francisco airport when he was traveling. Above the shelf it said "Famous Authors" and my book, Stolen Fury, was right there with all the big names.

Lauren Strasnick :   Still waiting to feel fully legit. :)

Therese Walsh :   Gosh, sometimes I still don't feel like a real author! But I'd say one cementing moment for me was the first time I saw the PDF of the cover.

Your favorite book when you were 10 years old:

Lauren Strasnick : Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

Therese Walsh :   Pippi Longstocking.

Viola Estrella:   I was obsessed with the Little House on the Prairie books.

Kelly Gay: The Black Stallion.

Carla Capshaw :   Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein.

Elisabeth Naughton : Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. That girl got in so much trouble. I just loved her.

A book or author you recommend again and again:

Viola Estrella:   Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris. I also love reading contemporary romance from a wide variety of authors.

Kelly Gay: The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley or Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.

Carla Capshaw : The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.

Elisabeth Naughton : Perfect by Judith McNaught. My all-time favorite romance.

Lauren Strasnick :   The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Therese Walsh : The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon. In terms of romance, definitely Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale and Bliss by Judy Cuevas (Judith Ivory).

Mary Brady : Carrie Bebris, Pamela Ford Lori Handeland, Ann Voss Peterson, Laura Scott, Isabel Sharpe, to begin with. There are so many.

The RITAs will be awarded July 31st.   Many thanks to all the authors for their time, and if you'd like a chance to win a book, leave a comment and mention which one you'd like the most.   Not sure?   Excerpts or blurbs are linked below.

Angel Vindicated

The Better Part of Darkness

The Gladiator

He Calls Her Doc

The Last Will of Moira Leahy

Nothing Like You

One Scream Away

Stolen Fury

Dear Author Intro Interview:  The RITA Best First Book Nominees, Part 1

Dear Author Intro Interview: The RITA Best First Book Nominees,...

The DA Intro Interview is run by the Fabulous (with a capital F) Alyson H. Good interviewing is a real skill and one that Alyson H has and employs for the benefit of Dear Author.


This week, Romance Writers of America will hand out the RITA awards, recognizing excellence in romance fiction in a number of categories, including the work of eight authors who debuted in 2009. We've got them all right here in a special two-part series. Today they'll be talking about their nominated books, so if something intrigues you, leave a comment-’there are giveaways to be had!

First, a genre rundown, along with the opening line of each book-

Angel Vindicated, by Viola Estrella (urban fantasy): Some of my fellow Angels find it hilarious that my middle name is Virtue.

The Better Part of Darkness, by Kelly Gay (urban fantasy): “You told a two-thousand-year-old oracle to prove it.”

The Gladiator, by Carla Capshaw (historical/inspirational): “Look around you, Niece. The gods are punishing you.”

He Calls Her Doc, by Mary Brady(contemporary/category): Maude DeVane, M.D., bypassed her crisp white lab coat and slipped on the one with a couple of badges of courage stained faintly into the fabric.

The Last Will of Moira Leahy, by Therese Walsh (something of a genre-blender-’paranormal mystery romance covers some of it): I lost my twin to a harsh November nine years ago.

Nothing Like You, by Lauren Strasnick (young adult): We were parked at Point Dume, Paul and I, the two of us tangled together, half dressed, half not.

One Scream Away, by Kate Brady ( romantic suspense): A chilly night with just a wedge of moon, mist brewing on the water and congealing in gullies.

Stolen Fury, by Elisabeth Naughton (romantic suspense): The floor was still at least twenty feet below her.

A six-word memoir for your protagonist:

Mary Brady A doctor in need of healing.

Therese Walsh : Maeve Leahy: twinless former child prodigy.

Lauren Strasnick : Mom dies. Lots of sad sex.

Elisabeth Naughton: Feisty, snarky, driven-one unforgettable woman.

Kelly Gay: Charlie Madigan. Single mom. Armed & dangerous.

Kate Brady: Tragically-scarred, emotionally-vacant, sexually-corrupt, drop-dead gorgeous ex-agent. (Do hyphens count?)

Viola Estrella: Flawed outcast-but trying her best.

The original triggers or inspiration points for the story:

Therese Walsh : I'd already completed one version of the story, attempting a pure romance. But it wasn't pure: There was this twin sister and Javanese keris and- One agent, Deidre Knight, suggested I should be writing women's fiction; the relationship between Maeve and Moira Leahy was the true heart of the book. I knew she was right, so I tossed all but two scenes and started over. (Part of Deidre's letter here: )

Lauren Strasnick : Topanga Canyon, taco trucks, wild fires, Billy Joel, dead moms, bad boyfriends, happy dogs.

Elisabeth Naughton: I love stories about ancient treasures and constantly read updates on what's being unearthed online. I remember reading something about a Mayan tablet of an ancient goddess being found and thought, bingo. Because I've always loved Greek mythology, I knew I wanted to write a book about something Greek myth related, but the Mayan tablet gave me the spark I needed to put Stolen Fury in motion.

Kelly Gay: I wanted to explore the idea of a very capable police officer living in an urban fantasy world who has a complex personal life, dealing with an ex-husband and being a single mom to a pre-teen daughter.

Kate Brady: The idea that a woman must overcome the worst life can offer and then singlehandedly face down a killer in order to protect her child, and that the antique dolls in her hands each represent a dead body-’including hers.

Carla Capshaw : I wanted a hero with a pet tiger.

Mary Brady: The Big Sky country of Montana makes my jaw drop and I always want more, so I put my version in my books.

Your favorite line or moment in the book:

Lauren Strasnick : Narrator, Holly, sits in the school library book stacks reading from Mexican Cooking Made Easy. Friend Nils approaches, says, “Have you gotten to the part about the measuring cup?”

Elisabeth Naughton: My favorite moment in the book comes about halfway through when Rafe realizes Lisa's safety means more to him than his own. Considering he lied to her, seduced her, drugged her and stole from her, that's a heady moment for my thief hero.

Kelly Gay: The introduction of Rex has to be my favorite moment in the book. He wasn’t planned at all; just appeared out of nowhere, surprising even me.

Kate Brady: When Neil, the hero, comes face to face with the villain for the first time.

Viola Estrella: My favorite line: Damn. I really needed to add more cheesecake to my diet.

Carla Capshaw : When Caros has to admit that he went way overboard in his attempts to make Pelonia jealous.

Mary Brady: When Guy realizes Maude is not his enemy, he says, “I wanted to think you were the bad person in all this. It seemed like such an easy solution. Cut you out of the equation and everything would be okay.”

Therese Walsh : One image: the twins, dancing together, in the water. Saying more would give away one of the story secrets, but it was my guiding-light scene as I rewrote the book and fully explored Moira's story, and is my absolute favorite.

What your heroine does for a living:

Elisabeth Naughton: Archaeologist.

Kelly Gay: She's an officer with the ITF, Integration Task Force, a law enforcement branch that polices the off-world population in Atlanta.

Kate Brady: She's a researcher for an antiques firm, appraising a set of dolls.

Viola Estrella: Demon Control Angel.

Carla Capshaw : She's a slave.

Mary Brady: She's an M.D. trying to live up to the respect the townsfolk gave to the “Doc” she is replacing.

Therese Walsh : She teaches foreign languages at a university in upstate New York.

Lauren Strasnick : Student.

Best thing about your hero:

Kelly Gay: Charlie's dedication to her family. She always tries to do what's best for them. She also has a lighter side; I like that she and her partner aren't always "doom and gloom'.

Kate Brady: He's flawed. He's too rough, too hard, too intense, and too scarred, in more ways than one.

Viola Estrella: I have two heroes actually. (Hey, it's Urban Fantasy. Why not?) Simeon is hot, mysterious, and persistent. Judd is funny, loyal, and protective.

Carla Capshaw : His ability to be kind even after the horrific life he's lived.

Mary Brady: He's a man, but he can learn. Sorry, did I say that out loud? I mean, he can realize he's wrong, even if grudgingly at first, and then laugh at himself and use his new knowledge to evolve. Oh, sorry again.

Therese Walsh : His accent. His ultimate patience. And he looks like Jamie Durie. [Link: ]

Elisabeth Naughton: He may be a thief, but he's got a heart of gold. And it doesn't hurt that he's sexy as hell.

An unexpected research detour you made while writing the book:

Kate Brady: The research on the dolls was started years ago, but I didn't realize it: I used to work for an antiques firm and spent weeks one summer helping catalog a set of nineteenth-century dolls.

Carla Capshaw : I got to go to Italy for three weeks.

Mary Brady: I needed to “torture” a middle-aged, unmotivated CEO, so I learned about zip wires and put her on one until she screamed.

Therese Walsh : Haha. The entire book was a research detour. I had no intention of including a Javanese keris (a wavy bladed dagger) in this story, but it found its way into the first scene and took over from there.

Elisabeth Naughton: Every bit of Greek mythology research I did for Stolen Fury was a major detour. I'd planned to simply research the Three Furies for the book, but got caught up in the stories of Ancient Greece. All wasn't lost, though. I've been able to use a lot of that research (and plenty more) for my new Eternal Guardians Series.

Kelly Gay: Does making nachos count? There is nacho-making in the book, so I think that counts. Definitely.

Favorite fan mail or reader reaction:

Viola Estrella: Any and all fan mail is greatly appreciated and cherished.

Mary Brady: It's all “favorite” fan mail. Every reaction says something I can either preen to or learn from.

Therese Walsh : Someone told me that this book literally saved her life when she was depressed. Another reader told me about a terminally ill woman who read the book shortly before she died who “loved it.” That's what it's all about.

Elisabeth Naughton: The first time a reader told me they stayed up until four A.M. reading my book was an exciting moment, but the best was when a reader emailed to tell me my book helped her recover from surgery. Having been through my own hospital recovery, I know how hard that is, and it was great to hear that I was able to help someone through such a tough time.

What's coming up next from you?

Carla Capshaw : The Gladiator's sequel, The Protector.

Mary Brady: A Promise to a Boy, another Harlequin SuperRomance, comes out in February 2011, followed by another in August. Both of these books take place in the same small fictional town of St. Adelbert, Montana.

Therese Walsh : I'm working on my second novel in a two-book contract-’another book about sisters and journeys and love, with a hint of magical realism.

Lauren Strasnick : Another book with Simon Pulse, Her and Me and You, out October 5th. First love! Broken friendship! Twins!

Elisabeth Naughton: My new paranormal series, the Eternal Guardians, started in May with the release of Marked. The series is centered around the heroes from Greek mythology and what the world would be like if their descendents walked among us. On July 27, 2010, the second book, Entwined, hits store shelves.

Kelly Gay: The second Charlie Madigan novel, The Darkest Edge of Dawn, releases Aug. 31, 2010. And I have a new YA novel, set in a post-apocalyptic New Orleans, out from Simon Pulse in Feb. 2011 under the name Kelly Keaton.

Kate Brady: The hero's brother, in Last to Die (September 1, 2010).

Viola Estrella: I'm writing a paranormal romance which has elements of my first two published books (Bewitching You and Angel Vindicated). Angel themed but more of romance-centric and written in third person. I'm really excited about this project.

A few links..

Janine's review of Walsh's The Last Will of Moira Leahy

Jayne's review of Mary Brady's He Calls Her Doc

Jane's review of Kate Brady's One Scream Away

Jane's review of Estrella's Angel Vindicated

Elisabeth Naughton's First Sale story on Dear Author.

Jayne's review of Capshaw's The Gladiator

Lauren Strasnick's Nothing Like You on GoodReads

Kelly Gay's The Better Part of Darkness on GoodReads

Got a favorite? Found something new to add to your buy list? Let us know-’you might win a book!