Hi Donna and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, Blue Hollow Falls!
Hello everyone! Thanks, HJ for having me as a guest today.
Please summarize the book for the readers here:
This book launches a brand new series that is near and dear to my heart. It’s set in my home area of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the fictional town of Blue Hollow Springs. While the town itself is a product of my imagination, it is based on an amalgamation of all of the things I love most about living “out here” as locals term it. My hero, Sawyer Hartwell, has come home from serving time in our armed forces to help renovate the historic silk mill and turn it into a creative arts center where local artisans can produce, sell, and teach others how to create. He wasn’t counting on his adoptive, absentee father passing away and leaving a third of the mill to step-siblings he never knew existed. Our heroine, Sunny Goodwin, is one of those siblings. A horticulturist with the DC Botanic Garden, she’d never met her father, much less any siblings, step or otherwise. Having just lost her beloved mother, who she had devoted her life to caring for, Sunny was looking forward to a life that she could finally call her own. So finding out she had an ten-year-old half-sister and a ridiculously sexy step-brother, not to mention part-ownership of a two-hundred -year-old mill, was not part of her finally-free plans. But her intentions to sell out her share take a decided turn in a new direction when she comes to Blue Hollow Falls and finds herself reluctant to leave the land, the people, and quite possibly the man she was meant to spend her life with.
Please share the opening lines of this book:
In the span of one hour, twenty-nine-year-old Sunny Goodwin had gained an eighty-five-year-old father (recently deceased), a ten-year-old half sister (very much alive), and a seventy-two-year-old stepmother (possibly immortal.) She’d never heard of any of them, much less laid eyes on them. In fact, she would have sworn, with utmost confidence—on a stack of bibles even—that since the death of her mother eight months ago, she had no living family. Or she could have, if you’d asked her anytime up until about, oh, an hour ago.
Please share a few Fun facts about this book…
Silk mills, like the one Sunny inherits, are actually a very real part of Virginia’s history. The water wheel on the mill in the book is based on the watermill built on an actual silk mill, marking the first time watermills were used in America. Sunny studies rare orchids as part of her work at the Botanic Garden. I try to grow orchids–key word there being try–and always thought them to be an exotic flower originating in another country, but in researching Sunny’s occupation, I learned there are over 250 species native to North America. Who knew?
Please tell us a little about the characters in your book. As you wrote your protagonist was there anything about them that surprised you?
I knew I wanted Sawyer to be a veteran. There are a lot of Navy SEALS in fiction, but I have always been intrigued by the Army’s special forces division, known colloquially as the Green Berets, so that is who Sawyer became. I also knew I wanted to address the challenges vets face upon returning home. In Sawyer’s case, however, it turned out he had found a way through those challenges, and was dedicating himself to doing the same for other vets. The two other men you’ll meet in this book, Seth Brogan and Wilson McCall, also served, and through Sawyer’s determination to bring new life to his home town and gaining their assistance in realizing that dream, they are finding their way as well.
If your book was optioned for a movie, what scene would you use for the audition of the main characters and why?
It would be the scene where Sawyer visits Sunny at her place of work, happening to interrupt a silly songfest between Sunny and her co-worker, Stevie. Sunny and Sawyer go on to have a little alone time, and things progress from embarrassment through a very wide range of emotions when Sunny learns that Sawyer isn’t related to her by blood after all. He’s adopted…and maybe he’s been noticing her the same way she’s been noticing him. The scene moves from hilarity, to empathy, to understanding, back to hilarity when Sawyer has his own “open mic” moment…and not a little sexual tension awakening. It would show the gamut of the chemistry between the two that would have to exist for the actors portraying them to carry off. Here’s a little snippet from the beginning of that scene…
“Don’t do anything rash. This all just happened. Sit back awhile and take it as it comes,” Stevie advised. “You have your share. They’re not coming after you to invest in the renovation, or anything. So, let them have at it, and go about your business. If things change, then you have the right to change your course of action.”
“That’s what I’ve been doing these past few weeks,” Sunny said. She looked at her best friend, smiled. “But hearing you say it out loud makes me feel a lot more confident in that choice. I think you’re exactly right. Thank you.” She let out a slow breath, and a good deal more stress than even she realized she’d been carrying felt like it was being released from her along with it. No immediate action was due on her part. She could just go on living her life. Her free-to-be-me life.
She laughed, feeling almost a little light-headed as the revelation sank in and took hold. “Nothing has changed, really. Unless I want it to.”
Stevie started humming “Let It Go” from the Disney epic Frozen, making Sunny snicker. There was no one else in their sector, so Stevie picked up a trowel and used it as a mic, as she went full on Idina Menzel and began to sing the iconic song in earnest. She actually had a pretty good voice—great, even—though Sunny thought better of saying as much to Stevie Aretha, or she’d never hear the end of it. Literally.
Instead, the normally far less demonstrative Sunny, who was a horrible singer, for once in her life really did let it go and added a little performance art as backup. She picked up a spare apron and swirled it over her head as she spun around Stevie, using exaggerated arm movements to match the refrain.
She was just swooping in front of Stevie as she hit a piercing high note when someone cleared his throat behind them both.
Stevie broke off mid “go” and both she and Sunny swung around in surprise, then stood, well, frozen to the spot.
Sunny found her voice first. “Sawyer?”
“Do they teach you that in horticulture school?” he asked, an amused smile on his handsome face. He cast his gaze around the interior of the greenhouse. “I have to say, it appears to be working.”
“You should see how they respond to Motown Week,” Stevie quipped, then turned to Sunny so Sawyer couldn’t see her face. She let her mouth drop open and shook her hand in front of her as if to say, “Whew!” while mouthing Oh my god!
“What—what are you doing here?” Sunny asked him, not risking looking at Stevie a moment longer. She didn’t need to be told how drop-dead gorgeous Sawyer was. Apparently, two weeks of thinking about him as her brother hadn’t done one lick of good. Then the plastic panels that separated their part of the greenhouse from the rest parted and another head poked through. “Bailey?”
At Bailey’s glance upward, Sunny realized she was still holding the apron aloft. She pulled her hand down, and balled the apron up in front of her, pasting a big smile on her face as her brain scrambled to catch up with the rest of her. “Hey! What a surprise.” She started to fold her arms, forgot the bundled-up apron, then comically tried to figure out what to do with her hands, finally plopping the apron down on a worktable and propping one on her hip and using the other to smooth back the strands of hair that had escaped the single braid she wore when at work. “What are you guys doing here?”
“Nice Elsa,” Bailey said to Stevie as she stepped fully into the space.
“I’m here all week,” Stevie said, then did a deep curtsy, complete with theatrical head drop. “Matinee’s on Sunday.”
Bailey and Sawyer both grinned at that, but then were nudged out of the way when the plastic panels rustled again behind them.
“Looks like I missed the show,” Addie Pearl said as she fought her way through the moving panels with her cane. Sawyer held them aside so she could make her way into the hot and humid temperature controlled space. She took a sweeping look around and beamed. “Well, isn’t this something. Can’t wait to hear all about it.” She looked at a now madly grinning Stevie, who appeared downright tickled pink at this latest turn of events and gave her a big, welcoming smile. “I’m Addie Pearl Whitaker. This here is Bailey, and that’s Sawyer. We’re Sunny’s family. Pleased to meet you.”
What do you want people to take away from reading this book?
I hope they fall in love with the mountains and feel a bit transported. I hope they feel the pull of family, of home, of discovery, and both the trepidation and the thrill involved when making big choices, taking big risks.
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned for 2017?
I’m happy to say that the Blue Hollow Falls series continues with a holiday novella, The Inn at Blue Hollow Falls, coming out this fall, followed by the next full length novel, Bluestone & Vine, coming in 2018. I’m working on Bluestone & Vine now, which is Seth’s story. He’s a bit larger than life, so his story had to be as well. I think I’ve found him the perfect match.
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: Winner receives a signed copy of Blue Hollow Falls and a bookmark charm designed exclusively for the book by Joyce Taber of The Cotton Thistle. International entries are welcome! (And I also wanted to let you know that if you just can’t wait and you have to get your hands on a copy rightthisverysecond, if you buy Blue Hollow Falls on iTunes/iBooks, you get an extra mini-chapter at the end!)
To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: I hope you’ll take a little trip to Blue Hollow Falls, and stay awhile once you get there. For me the mountains are the perfect escape…and I actually get to live there. Where is your perfect escape? Mountains? Seashore? Lakeside? What makes it the perfect escape for you?
Excerpt from Blue Hollow Falls:
This excerpt leads into the Fall’s annual Halloween party. Sunny surprises her new-found family by attending, and bringing along a little gift for her new step-sister. You get to meet Seth, see a bit more of Bailey and Addie, but most importantly, this snippet is the beginning of the night where things change completely for Sawyer and Sunny…
“My, my, if it isn’t Little Miss Bo Peep,” came a deep male voice behind her. “How fetching.”
“Why, hello, Mr. Bro—” Sunny broke off halfway through her hello to Seth when she turned and actually saw him. “Oh…my.”
He held out his arms and did a slow turn. He wore a metal panel skirt that came to midthigh, a breast plate, sturdy leather boots that came up past his calves. His hair was down, the first time she’d ever seen it that way. It was mostly a sun-bleached blond with a hint of auburn closer to the roots and far longer than she’d realized, hanging well past his shoulders. There were two thin, leather-thong tied braids hanging on either side of his temples. And his beard had also been woven into two pointed plaits. Added to all this was a Viking helmet, a shield strapped to a brawny forearm, and what looked like a giant hammer in his right hand. He grinned. “Too much?”
She realized her mouth was still hanging open and snapped it shut. It took her a moment longer to find words. She recalled thinking him some kind of Norse god when she’d first seen him. This was so…so much more than her paltry imagination could have ever conjured up. “Uh, Thor, I presume?”
“God of Thunder, at your service, Peep,” he said, then swept into a metal jangling bow that she was desperately afraid might bind something it shouldn’t, or worse, cut it off. She urged him to straighten with a quick wave of her hand.
“Impressive,” she told him, noticing the face paint for the first time.
“Well, this is a party for a group of artists and craftsmen. You can’t really half ass it, you know?” He motioned to her outfit. “Also impressive.” Then he noticed the leash…and followed it to what was at the other end and made another bowing motion. “Not worthy,” he said, chuckling, then crouched down to call the lamb over to him, causing Sunny to quickly avert her eyes before she found out what Thor wore under his metal skirt. Or what he didn’t.
“What’s your name, little fella?” Seth asked, giving the little lamb a scratch under the chin.
“No name,” Sunny managed, keeping her gaze averted until Seth was upright once again. “It’s—she’s—a surprise.”
Seth wiggled his eyebrows. “Kinky. I like it.”
She rolled her eyes. “Seriously? Actually, I wanted to talk to you about it.”
He kept the exaggerated leering grin. “I was so hoping you’d say that.”
“Careful,” she warned him. “I walk softly, but I carry a big hook.”
He chuckled at that, and brandished his war hammer. “Well, in case you were worried, I’m not compensating.”
She couldn’t help it, she laughed. “Men,” she said, shaking her head. “But I did want to talk to you about—”
She wasn’t given a chance to finish, as Addie Pearl and Bailey had crossed the little dirt and gravel lot. Their costumes had Sunny grinning ear to ear. Addie was in a floor-length, flannel nightgown, with a silly gray wig on her head and a floppy, old-fashioned nightcap tied on with a big bow under her chin. Bailey had on her standard jeans and flannel shirt, but she had knee-high black boots on over her jeans, and sported a red, hooded cape. She had a basket on one arm, filled with some unseen goodies, covered with red checkered linen.
“Hello, Little Red Riding Hood,” Sunny said, delighted. She looked at Addie, “And Granny, my, what a big nightcap you have on.”
Addie beamed. “Why, hello, Miss Bo Peep. It looks like all of Mother Goose’s children are here this evening.”
“Well, I hope you’ve been able to stay away from the big, bad—” Even as she said the words, they trailed off as she realized. “Oh…no.” Her face lit up all over again, this time in pure glee. “You did not get him to—did you?”
“Did you what?”
She spun around to see a very tall wolf striding toward her. Even as her face split in an even broader grin, her pulse started drumming, and various erogenous zones all over her body began to pick up the beat. She’d never imagined herself jumping on the cosplay bandwagon, but at that moment, she might have been persuaded to consider it. He was in a full body fur suit, with a wolf mask complete with gleaming, wicked-looking pearly whites and a lascivious tongue licking out one side. There were big clawed hands and even bigger clawed feet. “My my, what big teeth you have,” she quipped. The moment the words were out of her mouth, she realized that was the last opening she should have given him.
Fortunately, they had a small audience, though from the corner of her eye, she did catch Seth struggling mightily not to bust out laughing.
She immediately spun back to Addie. “I love it. What a great costume idea.”
Addie beamed. “Actually, Bailey was the one who came up with it.”
Sunny turned to Bailey and made a sweeping gesture at herself. “Proof, if we needed any more, that we share the same DNA.”
That got a smile from the young girl and even a brief curtsy. She pointed at Sunny’s leash. “What’s on the other end of that?”
Sunny glanced at Addie, who gave her an almost imperceptible nod. Sunny took a short, calming breath, and sent up a prayer that she’d done the right thing. Addie seemed to think it was perfect, but Addie wasn’t Bailey. And Bailey was still mostly an enigma to her.
Sunny turned around, but didn’t see the—“Oh!” she said, as she felt something nibble at her pantaloons. “I—just a minute.” She swished the layers of crinoline under her skirt aside, and out hustled the little black lamb, giving an annoyed bleat at having her snack interrupted.
Sunny heard a soft “Oh” and turned to see Bailey already sinking to her knees. She set her basket on the ground and flipped her hood back, then beckoned the lamb over. The lamb trotted right up and Bailey gave it a good head scratch, then rubbed its back. She kept her hand on the lamb’s back as she looked up at Sunny, giggling when the baby tried to nibble on the ties to her cape. “What’s her name?” she said, nudging the lamb away from the ties and scratching her under her chin.
“I don’t know,” Sunny told her. “I was thinking maybe you could help me with that.”
Bailey’s eyebrows shot straight up. “She’s yours?”
Sunny shook her head and held out the handle to the leash. “I knew you missed your little goat. And, I’m sorry, I tried to find another pygmy goat, but D.C. isn’t exactly teaming with livestock. A friend I work with, his family raises sheep on a farm in Maryland. She’s a Herdwick. They’re from the UK, they stay pretty small, and they do really well in rocky mountain terrain. So—what do you think?” She lifted a shoulder, looked at Addie, then back to Bailey. “I cleared it with Addie. She said that since her summer garden has been plowed under, the the deer fence around it should hold this little one pretty easily, and you can use the shed for a make-do shelter. There should be plenty of time to get it all straight before the weather turns ugly.”
Bailey just stared at her, saying nothing, her expression going carefully blank. But there was hope shining from those eyes like big, blue beacons.
Still, Sunny thought maybe she’d made a misstep. Maybe Bailey wasn’t ready to let herself care for something, or get attached. “I—if you don’t want her, that’s okay. They will take her back, no worries at all. I just thought—”
Bailey launched herself from her crouched position and cleared the space between her and Sunny in a single bound. She wrapped her skinny arms around Bailey’s waist, burying her face in Sunny’s fleece jacket, hugging her as tightly as Sunny thought she’d ever been hugged.
Tears sprang instantly to Sunny’s eyes and she instinctively clasped one hand to Bailey’s head, and the other to her back and just held on. She caught Addie’s gaze and the older woman merely nodded, a look of absolute contentment on her smiling face.
Bailey finally let go and looked up at Sunny. Her eyes weren’t wet. In fact, they were as serious as Sunny had ever seen them. Fervently so. “I swear I will take the best care of her,” she said, almost fiercely. “I promise.”
“I know you will,” Sunny said. She caught Thor turning sideways and possibly wiping a bit of dampness from his eyes. That made her smile; then a laugh bubbled up and she was dashing the tears from her own cheeks. “I had just been about to ask Seth if he’d be willing to help you with the animal enclosure when you all walked up. Since I don’t know the first thing about it and he’s got a llama and all. I should have called him up front, but somebody forced me to go hunting up a costume, and then there was the livestock wrangling, and…”
Seth turned back around, his eyes still overly bright. He had to clear his throat, but finally said, “Yes, sure.” He looked at Bailey, and his grin was back. “We’ll get it done up right.” He made a fist and turned it toward Bailey.
She bumped him back, and they finished with the whole explosion-rain gesture. “Thank you, thank you,” Bailey told Seth. “I’ve built pens before, so I can help.”
“Indeed you will,” Seth told her, and the two bent their heads together already in serious pen-planning mode. But not before Bailey knelt down and scooped up the lamb, who bleated, then tried to eat her hood. Bailey giggled again, gently scolded the lamb as she extricated the hood, then took the handle to the leash, and she, the lamb, and Seth all walked over to the grass together.
“A girl and her lamb,” Sunny said, sighing a little. “And her Thor,” she added with a laugh.
Addie smiled at that, and followed the trio, leaving Sunny alone with Sawyer.
Sunny felt a hand at the small of her back—a large wolf paw, to be more specific—as Sawyer stepped in behind her and bent down so the gleaming set of fake wolf teeth in the giant head of his costume was beside her ear. “I think someone just earned a pair of angel wings.”
She dipped her chin at that, smiling, and felt a bit of warmth fill her cheeks. “Is this where I say it takes one to know one?” She slid a sideways look at him as he straightened and stepped up beside her, having to tip her head up to meet his eyes. “Is it hot in that thing?”
“You have no idea.”
She thought she heard him chuckle, and she might have snickered herself. “Seth told me you weren’t a costume guy. So I guess Bailey is a lot stealthier about getting her way than we gave her credit for.”
“If so, she’s being taught by the master.” He nodded toward Seth, then shook his big wolf head.
“What?” she asked, when she heard him laugh and sigh at the same time.
“It’s all falling into place now.”
“The Master Plan. I knew Addie was up to something, and I was pretty sure Seth was, too. He and Bailey have been spending time together working on some project up at his farm. Addie has been talking to you, and I guess Seth has been talking to you.”
Now it was her turn to shake her head. “You lost me.”
“Can you help me with these?” He turned his hands palms up and she saw that there were elastic straps holding the clawed paws to the back of his own. She supposed so he could still use his hand to hold a drink or eat at the party. “Slide one off?”
She did. He used his free hand to slide the other paw off, leaving them both to dangle at his wrists, then reached around the back of his costume, fumbled for a moment. She heard what sounded like a zipper and a few snaps giving way. He lifted the head off the wolf suit. His hair was damp and clung to his scalp and his face was a bit flushed.
“You weren’t kidding,” she said. “Sauna in a suit.”
“Pretty much.” He glanced over to the mill. Addie, Bailey, the lamb, and Seth had made their way to where a group of other folks were gathering by the big sliding door. “Seth and Addie can probably handle things for a bit.” He looked down at her. “Can we take a walk?”
She supposed she shouldn’t have been surprised by the request. They hadn’t talked since he’d signed the trust papers. Which, in essence, meant they really hadn’t talked since they’d kissed each other senseless under a starlit sky in one of the most beautiful settings she’d ever seen. “Yes,” she said when she realized she hadn’t answered him. She thought about her footwear. “Nothing too rugged, I’m afraid.” She lifted her skirts to show him the black ballet flats she had on. “Bo Peep isn’t exactly an all-terrain costume.”
He chuckled. “Not to worry.” He lifted one of his own costumed feet. “I’m not exactly equipped for a trail hike, either.”
She laughed, then fished her key fob out of the little pocket that had been surreptitiously constructed in the side seam of her skirt and clicked the hatch button. “Why don’t you stow that wolf head in here, so you don’t have to carry it.” She opened the door to the lamb’s crate. “Perfect fit.”
He managed to get it inside, with the muzzle facing out through the metal door when she closed it. “There is a horror movie script in this somewhere,” she said, giving a little shudder as she closed the hatch.
“Well, I don’t think you have to worry about anyone stealing your car, so there’s that.”
“True.” She pocketed the fob again, then suddenly at a loss, she straightened her little jacket and wrapped her arms around her waist. It was quite chilly now that the sun was setting.
“I’d offer to trade costumes so you’d be warmer,” he said. “But crinoline skirts are so last year.”
She let out a bark of laughter at that. “I’m amazed you even know what crinolines are.”
“Me, too,” he said, “come to think of it.” He started walking down the narrow road that led in to the mill so they could stay on a paved surface. “I think I can blame Addie for making me watch Gone with the Wind with her when I was Bailey’s age.”
“Still scarred, are you?” she said dryly.
He slid her a smile. “She watched all of the Planet of the Apes movies with me, so I think we’re square.”
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
From her free-spirited mother, Sunny Goodwin learned the value of peace, love, and Jerry Garcia. The inheritance from the father she never knew? That’s a little more complicated . . .
Sunny never expected to find herself owning a centuries old silk mill in the shadow of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains . . . or becoming a half-sister to a ten-year-old named Bailey. Once the shock subsides, she plans to cash in and head back home. But the overgrown greenhouse she finds on the property calls out to the gardener in her, and she senses Bailey’s need for nurturing too . . .
And someone else is making it hard for Sunny to leave: Sawyer Hartwell, an Iraq War hero who wants to make the old mill a creative hub for the artisans of Blue Hollow Falls . . . and wants Sunny to share his vision, and his life. But sexy as this ex-soldier may be, she’s not sure she’s ready to give love a chance . . .
Meet the Author:
Donna Kauffman is the USA TODAY bestselling author of 70-plus titles, translated and sold in more than 26 countries around the world. Born in Washington, D.C., she now lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, thankfully surrounded by a completely different kind of wildlife. You can check that out for yourself and more at www.donnakauffman.com. She loves to hear from her readers. You can write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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