Hi Lauren, welcome to The Bodice! Why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself?
I was the kid who always liked school. I loved reading and writing, and I couldn’t get enough of history. When we were studying short stories and their elements in 7th grade English, my teacher gave us a project – to write our own short story. I fired off a 25-page western! I later met that same teacher at an RWA chapter meeting in Dallas. She wrote sweet romances for Harlequin. I thought how much she championed my writing when I was young. Seeing her success motivated me to push myself harder.
Hey, I was that kid, too! There must be something about 7th grade English (though I was the kid who lost her homework pretty consistently, and turned in the massive story project to save my grade. I was–and am–a little on the disorganized side).
So, tell me, do you have a day job?
I retired from teaching after 30 years. I taught English the first 10 years, and then I moved over to history, my great love, for the remaining time. So my day job now, besides writing, is pursuing all of the things that interest me that I never had time for until now.
A fellow teacher! Awesome! I was going to be an English teacher, but then I discovered Speech Pathology, and the rest, as they say is history.
How do you balance writing with all of your other obligations? (I ask, because I have yet to find it!)
When I was teaching and had mounds of papers and projects to grade, it was much harder. I’d grade a set of 30 essays and celebrate by stealing some writing time as my reward. Nowadays it’s all about budgeting time between writing and my other activities.
The paperwork involved with teaching can be a bit on the overwhelming side–that I know from experience.
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)
To Kill a Mockingbird is my favorite book, and I re-read it every year. Harper Lee’s descriptions really capture the flavor of that era. She created believable characters of all ages, with the setting itself becoming a strong character. Atticus Finch is an ideal hero. He’s intelligent, moral, quick-thinking, has a sense of humor, and like the book itself, he has a warmth and charm about him. Despite the serious issues covered in the novel, Miss Lee leaves the reader with hope.
I loved To Kill a Mockingbird. Scout had such fire, and the imagery was just beautiful. So, since we’re on the topic of entertainment, who is your favorite movie/TV character and why?
I’m a huge Jack Bauer fan. The man saved the world over and over again – in a single 24 hours each time! No matter how beaten down he became, he’d grit his teeth and his determination would help him face challenge after challenge.
What are your interests outside of writing?
I’m an avid moviegoer and a voracious reader. Many romance writers only read romance, but I read everything – thrillers, mysteries, horror, literary fiction, biographies. I’m a sports fan and follow my college team (Baylor) and all of the professional teams where I live (Dallas).
I’m one who reads everything, too! Maybe that’s why I can’t decide what to read next, what to write next, and what I want to be when I grow up!
Let’s talk a little about your writing. Answer as many or as few as you want…
Is there a particular author who may have influenced you?
Karen Robards definitely comes to mind. She does what Stephen King does – takes believable, everyday characters and forces them into impossible situations. She’s smart enough to give the reader a break every now and then with a little humor thrown in. I like the pacing in her novels, as well.
Tell us a little bit about what inspired this book.
I enjoy the history of medieval times, especially English history. I wasn’t finding many medievals to read, and so I decided to write one myself. I wanted a heroine who could travel and experience different parts of England and meet a variety of characters, so I stranded Madeleine without a way to return to her home in France and had her join a group of traveling mummers that played different faires across southern England. Madeline becomes the only woman troubadour in all of England, both singing and telling audiences stories that draw them into new worlds.
What is your favorite sentence or quote in your new release?
In the last lines of the novel Lord Garrett Montayne tells his new wife Madeleine, “Before you, sweetheart, I was empty. But you and your music filled me with love. You are the music for my soul.”
That’s a great line! So, in their hearts of hearts, what would your characters say about themselves?
Madeleine would tell you that Garrett rescued her – not just physically, but also emotionally. She was a wounded bird, and he gave her a chance to soar. Garrett would say that Madeleine brought new life to him after he died inside. She restored his soul and his belief in himself and in love.
Who do you envision as your lead characters?
A young Gabriel Byrne would make an ideal Garrett because he has the brooding and angst down cold. Emma Stone (when she’s a blonde) would nail Madeleine because she’s feisty, quick-thinking, and has a sense of humor.
Do you have any advice for an aspiring writer?
Read. Constantly. I’ve met writers who say they don’t have time to read. Well…MAKE that time! Read in your genre; read outside of it. You can learn a lot about pacing and characterization and conflict from all kinds of stories. And write, write, write. Half of what you get down will be awful, but you need to keep flexing that muscle. Don’t wait for the spirit to move you; you move the muse!
I’d also add to study your craft as much as possible. Join RWA. Attend workshops (online, locally, regionally, or nationally). Find a critique group. All of these have helped me grow as a writer.
Where can your readers stalk you?
Here’s Lauren’s cover. Isn’t is gorgeous? And who does love themselves a little Jimmy Thomas?
Tell us about your new release.
As the third wife of an abusive French vineyard owner, Madeleine Bouchard hasn’t produced the expected heir after three years of marriage. Fearing he plans to kill her, she flees during a trip to England. Unable to make her way home, she joins a troupe of traveling mummers and reinvents herself as the only woman troubadour in the land, captivating audiences with both song and story.
Nobleman Garrett Montayne’s fascination with Madeleine causes him to pay the troupe to bypass their next stop in order to journey to his estate. Though he suspects Madeleine of being a thief with dark secrets, love blossoms between them under the magical moon of summer solstice.
But Madeleine’s past is about to catch up with her, as her husband is set to arrive to conduct business with Garrett. Madeleine determines to free herself from her loveless marriage and make a new life with Garrett, no matter what the cost.
Do you have an excerpt?
Garrett peered into the angry face of the woman who haunted his dreams by night and left him absent-minded by day. Their encounter had been brief, but he doubted he had ever met a more remarkable woman. Not even his petite Lynnette had brought such a sweet longing to his loins as did the bewitching creature before him.
Her honeyed hair, loosened from its intricate braid, curled around her shoulders. Tiny beads of sweat had formed just above her upper lip. Without thinking, Garrett reached his thumb towards her and wiped it away. She flinched slightly, her dark, amethyst eyes glowering up at him.
Garrett smiled in spite of himself, offering her a hand to pull her to her feet. He had forgotten how very tall she was as she stared at him, her cheeks flushed with anger.
“Perhaps we could arrange a trade?” he suggested.
She eyed him suspiciously. “I’m not sure if I could trust you, my lord,” she countered.
“Trust me?” he sputtered. “This, from the woman who traipsed about the countryside claiming to be my wife?”
She shrugged nonchalantly, an almost Gallic air about her. She didn’t sound French, but there was an unmistakable manner to her movement. Garrett spent enough time in France to recognize the behavior. However, when she spoke, he quickly put it from his mind.
“I chose a bloody awful name to scare away anyone who accosted me on the road! How was I to know I’d run into you?” She snorted in an unladylike fashion. “I had heard tales of the wicked Lord Montayne, how he frightened old and young alike and gobbled up babes for his dinner. Why, the very mention of his name would cause grown men to plead for their lives and their loved ones. Oh, no, my lord, I was an honest liar. You were the one who resorted to trickery and hid your true identity from me.”
Her accusation so startled Garrett his jaw flew open. No sound came out for a moment. The woman lifted her chin high and turned on her heel. That brought Garrett into motion.
He grabbed her elbow and pulled her around to face him. “Not so fast, my lady.” He studied her a second. Her eyes narrowed at him, but she remained silent. Finally faced with her visage square in front of him, Garrett was at a loss of what to do. His emotions swirled out of control as he spoke.
“’Tis curiosity,” he sputtered.
She looked puzzled. “Curiosity?” she echoed.
He nodded, his words spilling forth rapidly. “I know not who you are, nor where you come from. I’ve dreamed of you since that night only to awaken to an emptiness.” His voice became low and tinged with sadness. “I don’t even know your name.”