Hi Liz and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, Come Home to Me!
Thank you! And thanks for letting me come talk about my newest book…which releases TOMORROW!
Tell us about the book with this fun little challenge using the title of the book:
The title comes from a line in a song composed and sang by my heroine Summer Valentine. Summer fell in love with Rhett Bryan when she was seventeen and has never quite gotten over the crush on her “Carolina Boy” and when he hears her sing this song at a local Moonlight, Carolina honky tonk, he wonders if it’s about him. This book takes the reader into the past, a fateful prom night, and the struggles of dealing with a present that’s, well, complicated with a teenaged son, a former friend who wronged Summer and a man who is dealing with a recent tragedy.
What’s your favorite line(s) from the book?:
“Come sit by me. I’d like that.” His voice sounded somehow seductive.
“Rhett,” she said, caution in her tone.
“Just sit by me. You know how long it’s been since someone sat beside me and didn’t want something from me? You don’t want anything, do you, Summer?”
“I want a lot of things, Rhett, but none from you.” She meant the words when she said them. Or maybe she lied to herself, because who looked at a gorgeous man sprawled on a couch, a man she’d once loved to near distraction, and not want a damned thing from him? Summer had always been good at telling herself what she shouldn’t want. Actually doing that was quite another thing. Her judgment wasn’t always the best. She’d learned that the hard way.
Please tell us a little about the characters in your book. What first attracts your Hero to the Heroine and vice versa?
Summer is first attracted to Rhett because he’s all that and a bag of chips…and a chocolate chip cookie. He’s a senior in high school and the quintessential golden boy. I had Justin Timberlake meets Ryan Seacrest with a side of Jimmy Fallon in mind. He’s gorgeous, funny, talented and kind. His kindness is what draws the slightly plump, extremely intelligent, socially awkward Summer to him. When he returns to Moonlight almost fifteen years later, Rhett is drawn to Summer’s grace and calm. So though they are physically pretty people, the qualities they possess drive the attraction.
When you sat down to start this book, what was the biggest challenge you faced? What were you most excited about?
This book was a big challenge because it deals with the hot button topics of sexual consent and privilege. It’s also one that is told from three viewpoints with one being in the past, so I have dual timelines which I’ve not done before. The book is grittier, more women’s fiction and less romance than I normally do, so that, too, was different for me. Overall, though, I think I nailed it. Yay for confidence! LOL. In truth, I’m very proud of this book, but I also know that I wrote from a specific place with a specific story in mind. What happened to Summer in 2003 isn’t always what happens in every date rape situation, and the way she lives her life, the decisions she makes, etc, isn’t always what an other victim might choose to do. I respect that, but I’m true to my vision for this story.
What, in your mind, makes this book stand out?
Its emotional depth and dual timelines. I loved writing a YA within a contemporary romance. Going back in time and writing this funny, vulnerable girl was rewarding, even though once I got to the prom and date rape scene, it was very difficult to write. There’s so much of being human in this book. The story addresses accepting our roles, our mistakes, our insecurities as humans, and in the end, learning that sometimes we have to grapple around on the floor a bit before we’re ready to truly stand tall.
The First Kiss…
Well, their first kiss actually happens in the past. Poor Summer….
She could smell his warmth, feel him inhale then exhale. The squishy feelings she’d had in the limo when kissing Hunt came back, but this time with a vengeance. His too-sweet words paired with the booze coated her, made her want to . . . be daring. For once.
What would it hurt? To kiss him just once? She could go to her grave being happy she’d had one taste of Rhett Bryan.
So she turned into him. Reached up. Pulled his head down. And kissed him.
She partially missed his mouth but didn’t disengage to correct the aim. Because the emotions that swept her, that riveted her to him, couldn’t be put off even for a millisecond. She was committed to that kiss.
At first he did nothing, but then she felt it-the straightening of his body, the pulling away. He set his hands on her shoulders and pushed her back.
Summer felt dazed, but then she opened her eyes and saw what she least wanted to see in his eyes-pity.
“Sum, hey, I-” he started, shaking his head, those eyes full of alarm, pity, regret.
“No, don’t say anything,” Summer pleaded. “Just don’t. I get it. I get it.”
He looked crestfallen. Disappointed, even. “I’m with Graysen. I’m sorry if I said . . . God, I shouldn’t have said all that. I wanted you to know you’re such a special girl. I-”
“Shut up,” she said, scrabbling backward and nearly tripping over a random piece of driftwood. How could she have been so absolutely stupid? Of course, he was just being nice when he said she was beautiful. That’s what Rhett was. Gorgeous, talented, funny . . . and nice. Especially to fat, drunk, loser girls who had infantile crushes on him.
He stepped toward her, stretching out a hand. “Sum-”
“Shut up.” She turned and hiked up her dress, not even caring if he could see her plump white thighs, and she ran back toward the house. Her body burned with shame, with absolute despair. She’d made a fool of herself with Rhett. A stupid-ass fool.
She felt as if she’d been electrocuted. Her body thrummed with shame. “Oh God, oh God, oh God,” she chanted as she scooped up her sandals, leaving the drink, and hurried up the steps. She wanted to go home but didn’t know who could take her.
Someone had to because she had to get out of there.
If your book was optioned for a movie, what scene would you use for the audition of the main characters and why?
Probably the scene where Rhett goes to visit the family of the girl he’s killed. Oh, I should mention that the death was accidental, but Rhett can’t get past the horror of striking and killing a child with his car (I mean, can anyone?)
“You sic your lawyers on us. Make us look like we wanted nothing but money. We don’t care about the goddamned money. We just wanted you to hurt.” Reis’s jaw tightened, his fists clenched. “But you’re not sorry. You’re white. You’re rich. You’re famous. You don’t have to be sorry.”
Rhett pushed a hand through his hair. “I am those things. That’s true, but your daughter was someone. What happened took her away from you. I need to tell you how sorry I am for what happened.”
“You didn’t try to help her,” Ana said, her voice low. She wrapped her arms around herself in a hug. “You climbed out of your fancy car and stood there. And she died.”
“I should have done something-”
“You should have fucking swerved out of the way. You ran right over her.” Reis’s words rained on him like bullets.
“I didn’t see her. She came from the side, Mr. Tavares. I didn’t see her.” Rhett couldn’t stop pushing his hand through his hair. He’d come this far, intent on owning his role, but he couldn’t find a way to ease the grief these two people felt. He was making everything worse. This wasn’t working. “I wish I had been able to stop, that I could have done something to save her.”
Reis looked like an injured bear, his hulking shoulders tense, his expression anguished. “But you didn’t. After you ran her over, you didn’t even try to help her. Like she was trash.”
“No,” Rhett said, holding up a hand. “No. Never that. I don’t know why I couldn’t move. My body shut down and I couldn’t make myself do anything. It wasn’t because I didn’t care or want to help. I . . . just couldn’t.”
The words were hollow to even his own ears. He should have tried something that day. Drag the car off her, CPR, something.
“Josefina ran out in front of him, meu filho,” the old woman said from the rocker.
“Shut up, old woman,” Reis snapped.
“Do not disrespect me,” the old woman said, setting aside her knitting. “I was there.”
“You were where, Avo?” Ana asked, turning to the old woman.
“I was there. Sitting in the chair Yogi leaves outside when he smokes. I had my eye on the young ones. Josefina ran after the ball, but she didn’t look. She forgot where she was. He could not have avoided her. She was very fast.”
If your hero had a sexy-times play list, what song(s) would have to be on it?
Probably Sinatra. Rhett lives in the Hollywood Hills in a mid-century modern house that has an awesome back patio overlooking the city. He pulls out the bar cart and listens to the Rat Pack sometimes, but his secret passion is retro country music. So let’s go with some Charley Pride (“Someone Loves you”) George Jones (“He Stopped Loving Her Today” of course!) and Sinatra (“My Funny Valentine”). Maybe even a little Chris Stapleton (“Tennessee Whiskey”).
What do you want people to take away from reading this book?
That owning up to one’s mistakes (even unintentional) is part of healing and growing. Also, that not everyone reacts the same way to emotional struggles or tragic situations. This book is about making mistakes but finding one’s way out of what drags them down. There are also funny, heartwarming characters, a lovely South Carolina town and two people meant to fall in love.
What are you currently working on? What are your up-coming releases?
I’m currently working on the last book in the Morning Glory series – Third Time’s the Charm. It’s taken me longer than I wanted to get the story written, and I hope to release that book this summer. After that release, I’ll be working on one of two projects depending on what happens with my publisher. That seems to often be the way of it.
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: I’m giving away a $15.00 Amazon gift card and a digital copy of Charmingly Yours, the first in my Morning Glory series.
To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: Well, I’ve given you a glimpse into a LOT of heavy stuff in the book. It’s not all emotion and angst so no worries on that. I really love Summer’s sister Maisie. She owns a floral shop and Summer often helps her when she gets overwhelmed. So I’d love to know your favorite kind of flower. I personally have too many to name, but I’m particularly partial to peonies.
Excerpt from Come Home to Me:
She knew what it was-date rape. They’d talked about “acquaintance” rape in her sociology class, or was it health class? She couldn’t remember. All she recalled was a video they’d watched where a woman suggested a victim make herself vomit to render the sex-starved perpetrator grossed out enough to abandon the rape. Maybe Summer should have gagged herself until she vomited. Maybe Hunt would have stopped saying “just relax” and instead screamed at her for ruining the expensive carpet.
Nessa and Tyler had driven her home. They’d just arrived when Summer had tottered down the stairs and begged them to take her home. Her best friend had been perturbed to miss out on the party of the year. Supposedly Ben Vermillion and Jack Hamm got into a fight and broke a window. Oh, and Brittany Smith took off her dress and jumped into the hot tub in her bra and thong. So many idiots to watch. So little time. Summer didn’t bother to tell her friend that Hunt had raped her upstairs. She didn’t want anyone to know she’d even gone upstairs with Hunt. She didn’t want anyone to know she’d gotten drunk. And kissed Rhett. And let Hunt touch her boobs. But of course, everyone would know.
Tears formed in Summer’s eyes as Maisie yelled, “Help me, Ken. I’m drowning in the pool. Skipper’s at the store. I need helllllp. Ahhhh!”
“Hush, Maisie,” Summer heard her mother say. “Your sister’s still asleep.”
“How come she didn’t have to go to church? She always gets to miss Sunday school, and I never do.”
“Hush,” her mother said, closing the door to her sister’s room.
Summer heard her door open and she froze, pretending to sleep.
“Summer?” her mother whispered, the door opening wider so Summer could hear snippets of the fishing program on the TV in the living room. Her father was probably in his recliner in his gym shorts with his black-socked feet propped up. It was his Sunday afternoon ritual-church, KFC, and a week’s worth of fishing programs recorded on the VCR.
“You finally awake?” Her mother’s voice held anticipation. She knew what her mom wanted-juicy details of her prom night.
“Mmm?” Summer asked, totally faking her disorientation. “Mom?”
“You probably need to get up. If you sleep the whole day away, you’ll have trouble falling asleep tonight.” Moms always said that. Must have been in the hospital instructions sent home with the new bundle of joy. Feed them, burp them, change them, and make them feel guilty if they want to sleep in and not tell you every detail of every moment of their lives.
“Okay,” Summer said, struggling to rise, feeling as though a weight pressed her down.
“So . . . ?” her mother asked, easing onto the foot of Summer’s bed, trying not to look like a detective going at a suspect.
“You know what. How was prom?”
“Fine. It was good. The decorations were really pretty.”
“Yeah? Tell me about them. Did you dance? Who had the prettiest dress? Who got prom king and queen?” The questions were like boulders released from the top of a mountain, gaining speed, crashing against all obstacles.
Summer wanted to sink back down and flip the covers over her head and pretend prom had never existed, but her mother wasn’t going to let that happen. Answers must be given. It was payment for the shoes she’d thankfully found under the kitchen desk and the chandelier earrings that were still missing. No clue when she took them off. Maybe they’d be in the clutch purse with the empty vodka bottle. Nessa had found Summer’s purse in the living room on top of the shiny black upright piano.
“Let’s see, I liked Nessa’s look the best-pretty and edgy. You know Ness. She wore a bustier, a tutu, and combat boots. And Rhett Bryan and Graysen Hadley won prom king and queen. Of course.” Her stomach hurt at the thought. Then she remembered the beach and the way Rhett had looked at her. She closed her eyes against the telltale pain that had to be present in her eyes. “I danced once. The rest of the time, we hung out and watched everyone else.”
“Oh, you just watched?”
“Where’s your corsage? We can put it in the window to dry. I found some spray that might preserve the color.” Her mother looked around.
“Nah, I threw it away,” Summer said, trying to sound nonchalant. “It got messed up at the party. I forgot to put it in a safe place.”
Her mother’s expression fell. “Oh darn. That would have been a great way to preserve the memory. But oh well. Nothing you can do when the thing falls apart. How about some grilled cheese? I can make you one, and we can chat about everything that happened. I can’t wait to hear about Hunt and the party. He seemed like such a nice young man. And pretty cute, too.” Her mom delivered the last comment with an impish grin.
Ha. If she only knew how nice Hunt was.
“I’m not really hungry. My feet hurt from the heels, and I have a paper due for Mrs. Chatham’s class on Monday. The witch is obviously antiprom.” Summer rolled her eyes in overexaggerated exasperation. She was a normal teenager. Nothing to see here.
Her mother rose. “Okay, get some work done, and we’ll talk later. I know you’re tired, but you had fun?”
“Sure. It was great.” The words felt like dust caking her mouth.
Excerpts. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Healing the wounds of the past doesn’t come easy in this novel of friendship and forgiveness from award-winning author Liz Talley.
Summer Valentine has returned to Moonlight, South Carolina, a very different woman from the naive wallflower who left years before. These days she’s straightforward and savvy, determined to do right by her son, David—even if that means cashing in her struggling music career in Nashville and returning to the town that drove her away. Sure, she took a fall. But at least she now knows where she stands…
Despite her anger over the past, Summer believes David deserves a relationship with his father, Hunter “Hunt” McCroy. Though Hunt’s illustrious career has faded, privilege still protects him from his worst mistakes.
Someone else is back in Moonlight too: Rhett Bryan, the golden boy of Hollywood, who’s taking stock of his own life after a tragic accident. As his rekindled friendship with Summer quickly deepens, she must reconcile the painful history that ties her to both men—one she’s finally forgiven, one she’s afraid to love—to claim healing and happiness.
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Meet the Author:
A finalist in both RWA’s prestigious Golden Heart award and RITA award, Liz Talley has found a home writing emotional contemporary romance. Her stories are set in the South where the tea is sweet, the summers are hot and the men are hotter. Liz lives in North Louisiana with her childhood sweetheart, two handsome children, three dogs and a mean kitty. You can visit Liz at www.liztalleybooks.com to learn more about her upcoming books.
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