**Congratulations to Tina Rucci–you are the winner of Joan’s giveaway. Joan will be in touch with you!**
What a fun time I had getting to know fellow Tule author, Joan Kilby! Joan is an ex-pat Canadian who lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her retired husband and a bonkers Jack Russell terrier named Sparky. Her three adult children have all flown the nest but the family gets together regularly for family lunches. When she’s not writing, Joan loves to practice yoga, walk Sparky, bake bread, grow herbs and vegetables, swim in the ocean, drink wine, eat chocolate, and read. Not necessarily in that order.
GIVEAWAY! Joan is doing a giveaway: Say I Do is set in Spring, a glorious time of year in Sweetheart, Montana, when all the cherry orchards come out in blossom. Comment with which season is your favorite, and why, to be in the drawing for a chance to win a print copy of the book. (For non-US residents, the prize is an e-copy.)
N: Welcome to the blog, Joan. I’m so delighted to have you with us today. When did you start writing?
A: Thanks for having me, Nan, it’s a pleasure to be here! I started writing nearly thirty-five years ago, while on maternity leave from my work as a marine biologist. I told myself that if I didn’t sell a book to a publisher by the time my youngest child started school I would go back to my “real” job. Seven years and seven complete manuscripts later, and with only a few months left before my third and last child started school I sold my first book to Harlequin Superromance. Whew, that was close! I’ve been writing full time ever since and loving it.
N: What comes first—the plot or the characters?
A: The characters. But I don’t really get to know them until I start creating the framework of a story for them to interact in, and to explore who they are, what they want, and what the obstacles are to them being together. It’s a back and forth process, messy and inexact, kind of like life! With enough digging and probing and peeling back layers, they and their story eventually emerge as a whole.
N: Your new novel with Tule Publishing released June 29—that’s so exciting! What is the most surprising thing you discovered about yourself while writing Say I Do?
A: After writing thirty-odd books, this shouldn’t surprise me but Every. Single. Time. I come to a point in the book when the story just isn’t working. There’s no conflict. The hero and heroine have no chemistry and I don’t know who they are. I hate everything about them and their story, and I wonder why I ever thought I could do this. Then somehow I muddle through, figure it out, and to my huge relief, everything becomes clear. Birthing a book is hard work and it hurts! Luckily, miraculously, I always end up with a story and characters that I absolutely love.
N: Say I Do is book 2 in The Sweetheart Montana series. Are you having fun building the town of Sweetheart, Montana?
A: Sweetheart is a small fictional town on the south-east shore of Flathead Lake. The town actually started out with the name Cherry Lake about ten years ago, and was set a little farther north. I was one of four Tule authors who wrote the original four book series, Secrets of Cherry Lake. When we started doing individual spin-off series, we renamed the town, Sweetheart, and moved it farther south. Say I Do is my sixth book set in Sweetheart.
N: I love the reunited trope in Say I Do—what was the hardest part about writing lovers reunited?
A: Lovers reunited is one of my favorite tropes because there’s ready-made conflict in their past breakup. But that’s also what makes it a challenge to write. It’s not enough to just rehash their past, you also need to create conflict in the present. The hero and heroine are now older, more experienced and are at a different stage of life with new goals, but still informed by their shared past. In the case of Say I Do, the hero and heroine were boyfriend and girlfriend in Book 1 of this series, Long Lost Christmas. When we meet them again in Say I Do they’ve been broken up and apart for five years until Angus returns to Sweetheart for a visit.
N: Give us three words to describe your character Brianna. Three words to describe your hero Angus?
Brianna: smart, loyal, family-oriented; Angus: career-oriented, creative, kind
N: When you’re writing a particularly emotional scene, how do you get in the mood?
A: I like to have a long block of time where I won’t be interrupted so I can write myself into the mood, whether it’s sensual or angsty or tender. It takes time to dig deep and explore what the characters are feeling, how they’re interacting, and to try to get beyond the more obvious emotions to ones that might seem contradictory or surprising but are nevertheless genuine and revealing of character. I usually have to rewrite these scenes a number of times to make the stages of the emotional plot progress seamlessly.
N: Are you working on anything at the present you would like to tell your readers about?
A: I’m working on Book 3 in the Sweetheart, Montana series. It features single mom, Sarah Mills, who was Brianna’s assistant at the tourism office in Say I Do, and Daniel Hunter, who has recently retired from professional football and returned to Sweetheart to buy a boutique eco-resort on Flathead Lake. Daniel and Sarah were high school sweethearts but broke up when he left to play football. Now that he’s back, he hires Sarah to manage his eco-resort.
This is another reunited lovers story (the overarching theme of the series is reconciliation) but Sarah and Daniel have more obstacles than just the fact that they broke up when he left Sweetheart to play football. She married his brother! Plus they share a huge secret from the past that Sarah doesn’t want anyone to know about whereas Daniel wants to tell the world.
N: What did you want to be when you grew up?
A: A writer! From a very early age I was writing stories and dreamed of writing books. Then in high school I became interested in the environmental movement and studied marine biology at university. I got my masters of science degree and worked for about twelve years in environmental biology before taking some time off to have kids. I started writing while home on maternity leave and I was hooked.
N: Favorite book when you were a kid?
A: I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith. It’s a coming-of-age story about a seventeen-year-old girl who lives with her eccentric family in a crumbling castle in the English countryside, post World War II. I still love it and reread it every few years. In fact, this is the book that made me want to become a writer.
N: And here is my signature question that everyone loves: If you could choose three people, living or dead, to invite to a dinner party, who would they be and why?
A: I would love to sit down to a meal with Betty, Ruby and Mary—my maternal grandmother, my mother, and my mom’s sister, respectively. They’ve all passed away now but they were really lovely women. I have wonderful memories of the three of them smiling, laughing and talking, having a good time together. At my fantasy dinner, all four of us would be about thirty years old, the average age of my heroines. It would be so much fun to hang out with my grandma, mom, and aunt and chat with them as if they were my contemporaries.
Say I Do
She’s been over him for years, until he returns home…
In her new role as tourism director, Brianna Renton intends to put Sweetheart, Montana, on the map with the first annual Cherry Blossom festival. She’s also supervising the build of a new community hall by her father’s log cabin construction company. But the project is stalled and an unexpected visit from a former employee could be the answer to Brianna’s prayers. Except he’s her ex.
Angus Adams never forgot Brianna. When they were together, he put her on a pedestal and was determined to win her hand by proving himself and working hard to eventually buy into a partnership with her father’s company. He accepted a scholarship at a prestigious university to get his architecture degree, planning to return for Brianna, but she broke up with him the week before he left with no explanation.
Saying yes to helping her during his vacation is easy. Trying to win her heart while protecting his own is much harder.