Hi Melinda and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, Christmas, Actually!
Happy Holidays to HJ and readers!
Please summarize the book a la Twitter style for the readers here:
I’ve been part of Christmas anthologies before. These stories are more tightly connected (which meant my job as writer of the last story was just a bit more difficult). We created a town together, along with its local traditions and certain stores/businesses. Then we decided to have our h/h be siblings. So we’ve got three siblings falling in love as the town prepares for the annual Christmas pageant – where local legend has it that a kiss in the town square’s gazebo on Christmas Eve will lead to wedding bells in the new year.
And as with all Harlequin Heartwarming stories, all stories have that flutter of falling in love, but no explicit sex (I call them “sweet”, but Harlequin calls them “clean”, others call them “wholesome”).
Please share the opening line of this book:
In the wee hours of Christmas Eve morning, Gina Vernay stood at the edge of the town square and traced the deep, jagged scar that ran from her left temple to her jawline with the tip of a gloved finger, as if her touch could erase the past. The small ball of worry, the one that hadn’t let her sleep last night, expanded like bread dough in her chest, pressing against her lungs. I should have told him.
Please share a few Random facts about this book…
Anna Adams, Anna J. Stewart, and I are 3 of 4 critique partners. The three of us came up with this idea.
I claim the couple on the cover as being from my story. (Hey, it’s only fair! My story comes last.)
My character runs local bakery/tea/coffee shop and loves to bake. She bakes all the time. Since my kids have been in school, I’m more the pre-measured, frozen cookie maker. Are you familiar with this? Schools sell them for fundraisers. You take them out of the freezer, put them on a cookie sheet and bake them (frozen). Every kid in the neighborhood knows to come sell to me! I probably wouldn’t do well as a baker.
Please tell us a little about the characters in your book. As you wrote your protagonist was there anything about them that surprised you?
Gina Vernay was in an accident as a child – at the town’s annual Christmas pageant, no less – and has a scar down her right cheek. Since then, Gina has always sat on the sidelines, lacking the self-confidence to shine. She’s been hiding behind her long hair/bangs, stocking caps, and anything else that takes attention away from that scar. I didn’t realize when I began writing her how much of a physical change she’d go through or what it would take to get her there.
What kind of research did you do for this book?
I looked up cookie and sweet treat recipes. I know that sounds weak, but I did. I even asked Anna and Anna for their suggestions.
The First kiss…
“Do you trust this guy?”
“Of course. I wouldn’t have accepted his invitation if I didn’t.” In the dining room, the sounds of conversation were increasing. She needed to check on Aunt Martha. Gina needed to walk out there as if she owned the place, with a smile on her face, so she didn’t negate his faith in her. Her feet wouldn’t budge. At this moment, she didn’t have the courage to face them as if she wasn’t flawed…and she didn’t want to step away from Nick.
“What does this guy think about your scar?” His voice. So close to her ear. Intimate.
Her cheeks were on fire now. She was surprised Nick didn’t back away from the heat. “He doesn’t know. I—I didn’t tell him. Do you think he’ll run away when he sees me?”
“Are you kidding? You’re beautiful. Why would he do that?”
“You have to say that. You’re standing in my kitchen.” With me practically in your arms. Nevertheless, she hugged his words to her heart. No one had ever called her beautiful before.
“He won’t run.”
She bit her lip.
“You think he’ll look in the front window and bolt.” It wasn’t a question. Nick was incredulous.
“That’s why I replied that coming early was fine. It’s best to get it over with.” He made an unintelligible noise, turned her to face him and kissed her.
Did any scene have you crying or laughing while writing it?
Jumping to the next scene in Nick’s POV (I always read that and go “aw, I love it when I guy gives in to what he’s been wanting to do for a long time):
He’d imagined Gina’s lips on his. He’d pictured her smiling as she gazed into his eyes and welcomed his kiss. He hadn’t dreamed he’d drop a kiss on her mouth to stop her from speaking nonsense.
She didn’t know. She couldn’t see. She thought she was worthless.
Nick wasn’t always good with words, so he put how he felt into his kiss, being careful not to wrap his arms around her and hang on tight, because he never wanted to let her go. But he needed to. He also needed to pull back, regain his composure, apologize.
He did none of those things.
If your book was optioned for a movie, what scene would be absolutely crucial to include and why?
I really like the interplay between Nick and Gina early in the morning as she’s baking. It’s so homey and he’s so sweet!
“Does it bother you?” Nick was examining her, not the refrigerator. “Your scar? You touch it sometimes.”
Something about the way he looked at her made Gina blush. “It doesn’t hurt.” She finger combed her long bangs across her forehead to her left ear, hiding most of the scar. The rest of her hair was in a neat French braid hanging between her shoulder blades.
“I don’t notice it,” Nick said gruffly. “Haven’t since the first day you came back to town.”
Come on, what woman doesn’t want a guy to love her for her personality over her looks? I bet he tells her her butt doesn’t look big in those pants!
If you could have given your characters one piece of advice before the opening pages of the book, what would it be and why?
Don’t judge yourself by the scar on your face or the number of degrees on the wall (or lack thereof). It’s what’s inside that counts. I think too many people get hung up on outer impressions.
What are you currently working on? What other releases so you have planned for 2014?
I have another Christmas anthology out (also sweet) – Sweet Christmas Kisses. It spent 2 weeks on the USA Today bestseller list in October. My contribution was a non-traditional Christmas story: The Christmas Promise – a romantic comedy that’s a cross between The Runaway Bride and Romancing the Stone. I just released that as an individual title: The Wedding Promise.
I also write steamier books as Mel Curtis. Breaking the Rules (installment #7 in the Hollywood Rules series) was released 2 weeks ago. I love writing the gossipy, sexy world of Hollywood and the NBA. Jayne Ann Krentz says of Blue Rules: “Sharp, sassy, modern version of a screwball comedy from Hollywood’s Golden Age except a lot hotter.”
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: Digital copy of Amber Rules. Book1 in Hollywood Rules series
Readers who sign up for my email list will receive a FREE sweet romantic comedy novella from my Hollywood Rules series: Gemma Rules.
To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: Have you ever signed up for an online dating service? If so, was it back in the day when you created a “persona” or did you use your real name?
In the wee hours of Christmas Eve morning, Gina stood at the edge of the town square and traced the deep, jagged scar that ran from her left temple to her jawline with the tip of a gloved finger, as if her touch could erase the past. The small ball of worry, the one that hadn’t let her sleep last night, expanded like bread dough in her chest, pressing against her lungs.
I should have told him.
Snow fell silently, blanketing the square and the balsam firs lining it. The trees, mistletoe gazebo and surrounding quaint old buildings were draped in holiday lights. The town square looked like a snow globe, beautifully pristine and peaceful. The wind swirled around her, stealing her worried breath.
A whistled tune drifted through the darkness. “Jingle Bells.”
A block away, a figure appeared on Taylor Street. Nick Banning, the town handyman and whistler.
Gina sucked in cold, much-needed air. There was too much to do today for her to wallow in what-ifs. She hadn’t told him and this afternoon she’d face the consequences.
Carefully, Gina walked along the snowy sidewalk toward The Tea Pot. She’d bought the corner shop from her aunt last summer, trading in safe columns of numbers and isolated cubicles for early morning pastry making and running the place where everyone in town gathered.
Arriving at her doorstep just as she did, Nick finished a whistled chorus, his breath mingling with snowflakes. “Morning.” He had a boxy tool bag slung over his shoulder. Holiday lights softly illuminated his handsome, reassuring features. Nick was one of the few people in the world who made Gina feel at ease, despite her scar.
She hurried to unlock the door and get them out of the cold. Once inside, she scuffed her boot soles across the extra large doormat, ridding them of snow. “When I asked you to show up first thing, I didn’t really think you’d show up this early…whistling.”
“No reason not to whistle.” He stomped the snow from his feet, first on the outside grill, then on the inside mat. “Big day today.”
She had the distinct impression that he knew she had a date this afternoon, and was teasing her about it. Gina flipped on the lights and peered at Nick. He tugged off his knit cap and slid it into a coat pocket, revealing short dark hair, a gaze that didn’t mock and a familiar, lopsided grin.
Nick caught her staring. His grin widened. “What? You forgot today’s Christmas Eve? The annual Christmas pageant? The night Santa Claus comes to town?”
“No…I…no.” Of course he didn’t know about her blind date. Well, it wasn’t exactly a blind date. In her continued quest to de-comfort zone herself, she’d signed up for an online dating service and had been instant messaging a guy named Football20 for a week. He was going to introduce himself to her in person this afternoon. They planned to have coffee together. That was, if he didn’t take one look at her scar and bail.
Gina Vernay was in an accident as a child and has a scar down her right cheek. Since then, Gina has always sat on the sidelines, lacking the self-confidence to shine. Wanting what many of her friends have – love, a family – Gina signs up for an online dating account. But her picture doesn’t show her scar. And she’s always too busy running The Tea Pot in Christmas Town to meet anyone, much less a man to share a kiss under the mistletoe in the town’s gazebo. But when one persistent on-line suitor arranges to meet her on Christmas Eve, Gina’s life turns upside down.
The Christmas Date is the third novella in Christmas, Actually – three holiday stories about three siblings living in Christmas Town, where tradition has it that a kiss on Christmas Eve in the town square gazebo will lead to wedding bells in the new year!
Meet the Author:
Award winning, USA Today bestseller Melinda Curtis writes the Harmony Valley series of sweet and emotional romances for Harlequin Heartwarming, and the indie pubbed Bridesmaid series. Brenda Novak says: “Season of Change has found a place on my keeper shelf”. Melinda also writes fun, steamy romances as Mel Curtis. Jayne Ann Krentz says of Blue Rules: “Sharp, sassy, modern version of a screwball comedy from Hollywood’s Golden Age except a lot hotter.”
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