Hi Char! Welcome to The Bodice. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Sure! I’m a native New Yorker raised in Upstate. Many NYC dwellers will sniff in disdain when Upstaters mention where they’re from. To them, the only place to live in NY is The City. J I married Don in 1975, at the time an Air Force man who kept our little family on the move. And yet many of our moves occurred after Don retired from the AF. The hunt for decent jobs sent us all over the US, other times family obligations got us packing up and heading out. We’ve lived in six different states, and I’ve been in all fifty states at one time or another in my life. Plus Canada and Mexico!
I’m a book and copper collector, a classic car fiend, a pizza gourmand, adore dogs of all shapes and breeds, love to cook, actually enjoy ironing clothes, and my family comes first in my life. Though the writing does come a close and tight second! I don’t spend nearly enough time pond-ing in the summer and I read myself into a coma during long winter days when it’s frigid outside and the pellet stove keeps our home cozy.
Respect, sister. I love copper, but don’t collect (I would, though). I have too little space for copper, as I have too many books! Also, can you come to my house and iron? I hate that stuff. How do you balance writing with all of your other obligations? (I ask, because I have yet to find it!)
That’s a tough one. Right now writing is a daily delight that often gets scooted to the back of the bus. J I’m also an Acquisitions Editor for Soul Mate Publishing and my current manuscript responsibilities are heavy. I’ve got some serious deadlines coming up, plus a book tour I’m trying to stay ahead of. So writing has been set aside. ::cries:: But I’ll get back to it soon, and if I ever find a solution to that pesky writing-versus-obligation problem, I’ll be sure to let you know!
Fantastic. Because I really need to know! What’s your favorite book of all time, and why? (Because I’m a lit geek, I’ll let you get away with listing more than one)
Oh, I have many, none of which are all that literary. I read the obligatory classics in school, then promptly forgot them. Mostly because at eight I discovered horror and science fiction. I started reading Ray Bradbury, then ate my way through Edgar Rice Burroughs, Alfred Hitchcock’s amazing short story collections, found Stephen King and Dean Koontz, and never looked back. I read all Ian Fleming had published (so far!) before my twelfth birthday. When I was a teenager I found romance, and started reading large chunks of them scattered throughout the horror.
When paranormals hit I was a happy girl, especially since I happen to adore vamps and weres. Nowadays I often inhale entire series instead of focusing on a single book. But in single titles, for King, I’d choose Salem’s Lot, for Koontz it has to be Watchers and Dark Rivers of the Heart. For romance my all-time fave is Nora Roberts/JD Robb. I have all of her books, and her Quinn Brothers and In Death books are my absolute fave Nora. I love Lara Adrian’s Midnight Breed series, Lora Leigh’s Breeds, and Jacquelyn Frank’s Nightwalkers. And I never miss an installment of Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse!
I love Ray Bradbury and Edgar Rice Burroughs! What are some of your interests outside of writing?
You mean there’s something else besides writing? J I have a few of them. Not many! Other than reading, reading and more reading, I spend my summers working a large veggie garden and the afore-mentioned “pond-ing,” which is spending my free time swimming in our spring-fed pond. Or lounging on a float atop the pond; I’m not fussy. As long as there’s water and sun involved. I crochet, love to cook. Love to go car cruising; Don and I are both car fiends and own classic cars. He has a red ’66 Shelby Cobra, and I have a blue ’64 ½ Mustang convertible.
So jealous of the Shelby Cobra. My dad once had a ’67 Mustang, and I loved that car, probably more than he did. So, let’s get on to talk about your writing. Is there a particular author who may have influenced you?
Probably Nora Roberts influenced me the most. She writes wonderful male characters and has such an understanding of the male psyche and how they think, feel, act. Her eye for detail and her settings are unrivaled.
Tell us a little bit about what inspired this book.
Years of living in Alaska was the start! I always wanted to set a story there. Once I decided on location, I began to think up (and discard) scenarios, until I came up with Kendall’s story: an abused woman seeking to escape from the ex-fiancé who’d stop at nothing to get her back. Kendall needed a place to hide, but even in Alaska there’s remote, and then there’s remote. Southwest Alaska seemed the perfect place to place my heroine. She also needed a protector, a lover, a true soul mate. (Don’t we all??!) Creating her handsome, endearing, strong hero, Denn, was just a matter of knowing what I love most in a man, then building my Native Alaskan cop from the inside, out, until I could see him, almost reach out and touch him.
I also wanted family in my book. Because I myself have such a wonderful family, I can’t imagine not having brothers or sisters, parents, in my stories. For me, Denn had to have a little sister: a teenager, borderline sullen, headstrong and rebellious as so many teens can be, but vulnerable and needing female guidance in her young life. In Luna, I actually saw a lot of myself. Then, because nothing ever comes easily, I created Kendall’s sociopath ex, Conroy. Recalling some of Dean Koontz’s ugliest and most memorable villains, I crafted mine with a particularly soulless personality.
When I threw them all into remote Southwest Alaska, with no easy way to just pick up and run . . . I had the backbone of Unsafe Haven.
What is your favorite sentence or quote in your new release?
My absolute favorite is from Denn: “Mmm. You taste like sleep and yum.” If you want to know what, who, how, and why, I guess you’ll have to read the book! J
I think I will! In their hearts of hearts, what would your characters say about themselves?
I think they’d both say it’s a long, long road to get where you’re going when the path is filled with obstacles and the heart is afraid to try living again. Both my hero and heroine had obstacles to jump over, especially Kendall. But Denn knows, almost immediately, that Kendall’s the one for him. She’s wary, hesitant, but he can sense her heart is just waiting for someone who can fill it to the brim with happiness. And Kendall finds herself drawn to Denn even as she fears what he represents to her: another man, big and strong, as intimidating as he is handsome. It’s hard for her to trust again.
Do you have any advice for an aspiring writer?
First and foremost: YOU’RE A WRITER. Start thinking of yourself as one, now, today, this very second. Never stop writing! Never stop reading, either, and I don’t just mean the comics. J Read outside your comfort zone; write outside it, too. If you only write historicals, then try to write a paranormal. If you write humor, try writing tragedy. Stretch yourself both as a writer and a reader.
Join writing groups, attend organizational meetings if you belong to RWA or something similar. Get involved with your chapter whether in person or online.
ASK FOR HELP. Every writer needs a support chain of help. Join a critique group, let them read your work, and listen to them when they offer critique and suggestions. I don’t care how good a writer you think you are, YOU NEED A CRITIQUE PARTNER. I can’t emphasize this enough. Too many writers think they can go it alone. They can’t. You need supporters, cheerleaders, critiquers, editors. You need to hear the bad as well as the good concerning your writing, otherwise you’ll never grow. And if you can’t grow, then you can’t be a writer.
This is a tough business, so develop a thick skin. You’ll be rejected more than you’ll be accepted, this I promise you, so learn to live with the rejections and celebrate every victory. In the writing biz, if you go around thinking, “I’m all that,” chances are you’re not, and with that attitude you never will be. Learn humility. It’s good for you.
When you do celebrate a writing victory, remember who put you there: your readers, your critique partners, your agent, your editor, your publisher. The family members and friends who cheered you on and supported you in so many ways. Remember to thank them all.
That’s such great advice! I especially agree with th need to develop a thick skin. So, tell me Char, where can your readers stalk you?
My website: http://char.chaffin.com
Come find me on Facebook and Twitter:
SMP Authors’ Blog: http://smpauthors.wordpress.com
Tell us about your new release, Unsafe Haven:
For Kendall Martin, a small, remote village in Southwest Alaska seems like a good place to start over. On the run from an abusive relationship, she leaves everything familiar behind and begins a new life as owner of a small souvenir and sportsman trading post in picturesque Staamat.
Denn Nulo knows everyone in town: he’s the Chief of Police in Staamat. He’s lived there all his life, except for his college years, spent in Anchorage. Originally planning on practicing criminal law and living in Anchorage permanently, Denn is forced to change his plans when he receives word that his widowed mother has passed away, leaving his young sister, Luna, alone. Denn comes back to Staamat to care for Luna.
When Kendall meets Denn, she begins to believe there are truly good men in the world. Denn is everything she wants: strong, loving, dedicated to family, protective. . .and patient. There is instant attraction between them, but Kendall is leery of men, and Denn craves a serious relationship that includes marriage and children. Their courtship is a conflicting mix of hesitancy and passion, with Luna, desperately needing a mother figure in her life, cheering them on.
As Kendall learns how to trust again and her romance with Denn grows more intense, a local woman who’s had her eye on Denn for years releases a torrent of damaging jealousy. . .and the nightmare from Kendall’s past discovers where she’s hidden herself.
Do you have an excerpt?
But of course!
A hand gently shook Kendall’s shoulder. “Sweetheart, I have to go.”
She came awake with a start and peered up at Denn through the tangled curls that hung in her face. He regarded her somberly, but his eyes gleamed in the shadowy room.
Kendall cleared her throat. “What time is it?”
“After ten. We both fell asleep.” He sat beside her, threaded his fingers through her hair and brushed it back, skimming a knuckle over her cheek. “You’ve got wrinkles.”
“What?” Still groggy from sleep, she struggled to sit upright and pressed her hand to her face. “What wrinkles? I’m only twenty-three, I shouldn’t have wrinkles.” She pushed against him. “Let me up, I need a mirror, I need to see–”
“From the cushion, Kendall.” He pointed to the pleated pillow she’d had her face buried in. He chuckled softly when she frowned at him. “You always this gullible when you wake up?”
“You’re just mean.” She punched his shoulder weakly and he caught her hand and pulled her close. With a sigh, she settled into the curve of his body. “I’m sorry I fell asleep on you.”
“No biggie. Besides, I conked out on you, too.” He nuzzled her ear, warm breath tinged with a trace of the coffee they’d shared after dinner. “I liked sleeping with you.”
Her face flamed and she hid it against him. “I’ve never slept with anyone before.”
A soft groan rumbled in his throat. “Don’t tell me that. I’m already having a hard enough time leaving you.” He cupped the back of her head and brought her closer. “I’m your first?”
“Sort of.” She eased away, but met his eyes. “You’re the first man I’ve ever slept with, but you’re not the first I’ve ever . . .” She gestured, finding the words too embarrassing to say. “You know.”
“Made love with? But we haven’t. Not completely.” He kissed her, then murmured against her lips, “Not yet.” His kiss deepened passionately when she clung to him.
As their lips parted, she dropped her forehead to his chest and struggled to regain her breath. No one had ever affected her this way. He’d given her more pleasure than she’d ever had. And with the realization of what he’d come to mean to her, came the surety that if she’d known Denn Nulo would someday enter her life, she’d have waited for him. She whispered it aloud.
Her eyes closed over sudden tears as his arms tightened in response. “When the time’s right, you’ll give me innocence, Kendall. Never doubt it.”
“But it’s not—I don’t—” She gazed at him, her vision blurry. “I don’t have much innocence left. After I, um, ran from Portland, I spent a year in Pendleton. I was so determined to obliterate Roy from my life. I worked at a coffee shop, went out on dates. Gave myself to a nice guy who didn’t have a clue his new girlfriend was a screwed-up mess.” She rubbed away tears and released a troubled sigh. “His name was Greg, and he loved me. He wanted more than I could give. I tried, I really did.”
She moved away and stared at Denn, sympathy and understanding softening his features. She gestured helplessly. “I wouldn’t let him stay the night. We’d go out, come back to my apartment, have sex.” She blushed. “Afterward, he’d leave. I never offered it, and he pretty much had to beg for it. He started out patient with me, but I knew it was only a matter of time before things got too difficult. In the end I broke it off because sex with him made me uncomfortable and unhappy. I walked away before our relationship dragged him down and he ended up miserable.”
Denn was quiet a moment. He took her hand and held it, absently stroking her palm with his thumb. “Kendall, I’m not going to point fingers, here. I’m certainly no virgin. And I’ve got plenty of baggage.” He pulled her into his lap and cuddled her. “I had a girl at UAA. Sharon. It was getting serious. She was a Physics major and planned on doing graduate work in Fairbanks. We talked briefly of marriage but neither of us came close to being ready.”
He paused, and sighed. “Sharon broke it off three months before my mother died and I had to fly home for Luna. She’d met someone else. Another Physics major. A woman.” He quirked a half-grin when her mouth dropped open in shock.
“Oh, my. I’m not even sure what to say.”
“Yeah, kind of how it hit me, too. After she left, I went through the wringer, thinking my ‘technique,’ for want of a better word, sucked crude oil. Here I am, slapping myself on the back for being a stud-muffin, and my girl’s getting her satisfaction from a woman.”
He shrugged. “When our relationship ended, at first I thought I could get her back. But I was the wrong gender. This woman gave Sharon something I couldn’t.”
“So, you let her go.”
“I did. Three months later, I was back in Staamat, arranging a funeral and learning how to deal with my baby sister.”
She curled her arms around his neck and gave him a loving hug. “I’d never throw you over.” She held his gaze and hated to see the trace of sadness in the depths of his warm, amber eyes. “I’ll bet Sharon regrets the day she ever tossed you away.”
“Actually, I heard from her after I got back here. She’d married her girlfriend and they were searching for a sperm donor. She thought I might like to volunteer. I pictured a candlelit room, Barry White music, and a turkey baster. I laughed in her ear and hung up on her. Close your mouth, Kendall,” he admonished. He put a finger under her chin and pushed her jaw playfully.
She batted at his fingers, then held them in a loose grip. “Did she ever call you back and ask again?”
She couldn’t help but ask, “You didn’t change your mind, and decide—of course you didn’t.” She paused. “Did you?”
“What do you think?” He looked indignant.
“I think you told her where she could stick her turkey baster.”
With a shout of laughter, he caught her close and hugged her. She rubbed his back soothingly.
After a few minutes, Denn stirred. “I have to relieve Stevie. He likes to make sure he’s home to help his mother with her bedtime meds.” He gave Kendall a lingering kiss, which she returned with eagerness.
Three kisses later, he groaned. “This time I have got to go.”
“Okay.” She scooted off his lap and waited as he stuck his feet into his boots and laced them. A thick skein of hair slipped over one eye as he straightened, and he grinned at her through the silky curtain. The pure sex emanating from him almost buckled her knees. Those wide shoulders and long, long legs, encased in snug, worn jeans. All that blacker-than-night hair, falling around a face God had seen fit to enhance with twinkling eyes and an effortlessly charming smile. As if that weren’t enough, He’d balanced Denn’s considerable physical gifts with a big generous heart, and so much loyalty she couldn’t begin to measure it.
And he’s falling in love with me.
Meggan, thanks so much for having me as your guest today! I hope everyone enjoys reading Unsafe Haven. Look for it from Soul Mate Publishing http://www.soulmatepublishing.com/, very soon!