Sunday, February 20, 2011

Love, Family, and God Always Ring True

One of the sweetest authors I know is Lissa Manley.  She wrote for Harlequin Romance for a number of years and then stepped away from writing to concentrate on spending quality time with her children.  Now, she is back and better than ever.  She is now writing Inspirational romances for Harlequin.  Her books have the same sweet stories with the added punch of a life enhanced by a spiritual relationship with God as well as the romantic relationship.  Even better, we will see many new books from Lissa in the very near future.  Please welcome Lissa back to writing, and especially to sharing her insights with us at Behind the Book.

What was the initial spark that put this story in your head?  Please describe the event or series of events.

Well, that's a long and complicated story.  This book wasn't actually intended to be the first book in the Moonlight Cove series.  The second book, Mistletoe Matchmaker, coming out in December of 2011, was intended to be the first.  But...when I submitted MISTLETOE in an earlier iteration, I sent my editor a blurb about what I envisioned as the second book in the series to be.  She ultimately rejected MISTLETOE for a number of reasons, but she liked the sound of the blurb I'd sent for the second book and asked me to send a proposal for that book.  So I wrote THAT proposal, sent it in, and she bought it and it became Family to the Rescue.  After that book sold, I went back to MISTLETOE and rewrote it to be the second book in the series, along with a blurb for the book I envisioned as the third book.  They bought MISTLETOE, and the third book in the series, which will be out in mid-2012.

Whew.  That's a lot to take in.  Anyway, I had always wanted to write a book set on the coast in a town like Cannon Beach (see below).  I also really wanted to write a book about a single mom starting over (who became Kim in the book), and I really wanted to include an older relative who would be the heroine's mentor (who is Aunt Rose).  I liked the idea of putting a closed-off hero (Seth) into a situation with a child (Dylan) because there's nothing more romantic than a big, athletic guy being nice to a kid. 

I also wanted to show right off what kind of guy Seth was, and really wanted him to literally rescue Kim from a dangerous situation in the opening scene.  I have a cousin who almost drowned on the Oregon Coast because of an undertow, so I thought what better way to open the book than with Seth rescuing Kim from drowning.  I also really like stories that come full circle, and I like the "rescue" theme because Kim and Dylan end up rescuing Seth emotionally in the end, mirroring how Seth rescued Kim physically at the beginning of the story.         

It seems that most authors use something from their own lives, or the lives of people they know as an integral part of the story.  Is there anything in this story like that? What?

Yes, the setting.  I wanted a small town on the Pacific Northwest coast because I like to write what I know (not really a big research gal), and kind of wanted to set the book somewhere other than Oregon for variety.  I chose Washington State. I wanted a quaint tourist town that was little enough to have that small-town feel, but would have enough businesses on Main Street to provide plenty of heroes and heroines.  I immediately thought of Cannon Beach, where I spent a lot of time as a child, and it fit the bill perfectly.  So I made up a town (so I don't need to be accurate!) called Moonlight Cove and based it on Cannon Beach, but set on the Washington coast.  I included the wooden boardwalk, and based many of the businesses and stores that I've been to many times while visiting Cannon Beach.

I noticed this book is part of a series. Can you describe how this story's characters and background relate to the rest of the series.

Of course.  The series is set in Moonlight Cove, Washington, and the heroes and heroine's are owners of businesses along Main Street.  Family to the Rescue  features Seth, who owns the sporting goods store, and Kim, whom he saves from drowning and who also ends up working for him at the store.  She has moved to town after her husband walked out on her and their seven-year-old son to live with her aunt, Rose Latham. 

In the next book, Mistletoe Matchmaker, the hero is Kim's cousin, and the heroine owns the designer pet store on Main street. The third book features the owner of the ice cream parlor as the heroine, and the new sheriff in town as the hero.  Common characters will tie the series together (most significantly Aunt Rose), as does the town itself; a lot of the action takes place in and around the businesses on Main Street.  I was aiming to create a quaint small town where everyone knows everybody else and which, of course, boasts a  stunning and romantic coastal backdrop.  The tag line for the series is: Moonlight Cove.  A beachside town where love and faith blossom.  And that's exactly what I was going for.   

Is there a particular scene in this book that you really loved when you finished it?

I have two.  The first is the scene where the heroine, Kim, has coaxed the hero, Seth, out of his back office at the store where he's sequestered himself to avoid interacting with Kim (he just can't deal with being so drawn to her).  She has just settled in behind some shelving to watch him in action with a customer who's asked for him, and he sneaks up behind her and nearly scares her to death.  Kim pretends she's looking at the sock display, but Seth knows better.  She's very flustered and babbles on and on about picking out a pair of socks for her cousin.  I love the scene because it's cute and funny, and really highlights the attraction growing between the hero and heroine.  Plus it shows the heroine that maybe she'd be better off if she left him in his cave.  Yep.  Conflict is good.

The second scene is towards the end of the book.  In it, Seth, who has a rocky relationship with God because of unanswered prayers in his youth, is struggling with his attraction to Kim, and his growing attachment to her son, Dylan.  Because of a conversation he and Kim had earlier in the book about how to find faith in God, he finds himself at the local church, and ends up going inside and praying to God for guidance.  It's a touching scene, especially when he knows Kim's advice was good because, with God's help, Seth realizes he loves her.

I also have to add, I also especially like all of the scenes with Seth and Dylan.  Again, there's just something so appealing about a man's man who's kind to kids.  Seth, a former professional baseball player, ends up coaching Dylan's little league team The Sharks (with Kim as the assistant coach, of course), and the scenes with him and the boys on the team are really touching (or at least, that's the way I hope I wrote them).  In fact, his gentle way with The Sharks is one of the reasons Kim finally falls in love with him.  Who can resist a guy who can get a bunch of rowdy seven-year-olds to play baseball and looks darn good doing it?        

You were previously a Silhouette Romance (now Harlequin Romance) writer. Can you tell our readers what's different between your Romance books and your Inspirational books?

Well, in some ways they're very similar.  Both lines are sweet lines, without any graphic sensuality.  Although, I should note that I always try to have a strong, unmistakable sense of attraction between the hero and heroine from the start; I just don't think any romance is believable if the hero and heroine aren't very aware of each other in a physical way.

Both lines are 'Home and Hearth' kinds of lines, and feature plots that focus pretty much exclusively on the romance, which I like because I find writing the romance part the easiest part of the whole writing process.  The hero and heroine are together for almost every scene, and every scene is directly related to building the romance while the conflict simmers in the background.  No suspense, no secondary character POV, etc.  Again, a good thing for me because I like to be able to focus on the romance rather than a very intricate, drawn out plot.  Not to say there's no plot.  Just that the romance is the prime focus within the framework of the plot.   

As for differences, the main one is the Love Inspired books feature a faith thread and Silhouette Romances don't.  This was actually hard for me because I'd written six Silhouette Romances without a faith thread, and I wasn't used to having to come up with or think about the faith element.  I actually wrote most of Family to the Rescue without much of a faith element because that's how I was used to working, and then during second draft edits added about 65% of the faith element.  Interestingly, I was asked by my editor to add even more faith element during final revisions and copy-edits, so even my second draft wasn't strong enough in that regard.  Overall, I'm pleased with how that thread turned out in the book considering I was clueless when I started.  Kudos to my critique partner Terri Reed, who's written over 20 books for Steeple Hill in the last five years.  She helped me a lot with the execution of the faith element.  Thanks, Terri!    
The length is slightly different between the two lines, with the Love Inspired line being 55,000 to 60,000 words and the Silhouette Romances being 50,000 to 55,000. I only mention this because both lines are a bit shorter than some of the other Harlequin lines, and because I think this makes them excellent reads for the busy reader (and who isn't busy these days?)  This longer length was actually somewhat of a challenge for me because I was used to writing shorter, and found myself wanting to wind my story up at 50,000 words but, of course, I had to keep writing. Still adjusting to that one.         

If someone wants to check out your backlist based on loving this story, where would you suggest they start? Or which books would be in a similar vein?

This book is the first one I've written for Harlequin Love Inspired, so it is my first inspirational title, and my first book which features a faith thread.  But, again, all of my Silhouette Romances are like the Love Inspired books in many ways, and feature similar plots and sweeter, more traditional stories focusing almost exclusively on the romance and conflict between the hero and heroine.   So reading those books would be similar, if not exactly the same.  No matter what line I'm writing for, I always strive to write books that make the reader laugh and cry and sigh.  

For reference, my previous titles (all Silhouette Romances) are:
  • The Bachelor Chronicles
  • The Bridal Chronicles
  • The Baby Chronicles
  • In A Cowboy's Arms
  • Love Chronicles
  • The Parent Trap

Can you give us a preview of the other books in this series and their release dates?

Glad to.  The MOONLIGHT COVE series will, hopefully, feature many, many books.  I may have to add businesses or extend Main Street to come up with enough heroes and heroines! 

The kickoff title, Family to the Rescue comes out in March 2011, and will be available starting the last week in February.   

The second book, Mistletoe Matchmaker, which has a Christmas setting, will be out in December 2011.  This book is especially dear to me because the dog who brings the hero and heroine together in the book is based on my own standard poodle, Jade.  As I write the answers to these questions in February 2011, I have just finished writing the first draft of that book. 

And the third in the series, tentatively titled Her Second Chance Sheriff (this will undoubtedly change, but odds are sheriff will be in the title!), should be out sometime in mid-2012.

I already have the characters in mind for the fourth book, but have not sold that one, or any others.  Yet.  Hopefully, if everything goes to my plan to have a book out every six months, #4 should be out sometime in early 2013.

Thank you, Lissa, for joining us on Behind the Book. I'm really glad to see you writing and selling again and I'm sure your readers will gladly follow you to the Love Inspired line.  If you are interested in Lissa's books you can purchase them directly from Harlequin and at these fine retailers.  Also keep an eye out at your local bookstore.


terripatrick said...

I'm looking forward to more of Lissa's books! I'm sure this series will be another of my favorites and every time I want to go to the coast, but don't have the time, I'll be able to curl up with one of the Moonlight Cove books. :D

Terri Reed said...

This book recieved a 4 1/2 star from Romantic Times Magazine. Its a very romantic and heartwarming read.

Paty Jager said...

Nice interview Lissa and Maggie. My daughter would love this book. I'm thinking this book will be tucked into the Easter goodies I send her girls for Easter.