Kendra welcome. Thanks for stopping by to talk about your newest release: For the Longest Time:
Opening line of the book:
Sam Henry slouched farther down in her seat and took another swig of coffee from the enormous travel mug perched precariously half in and half out of her cup holder.
Random facts about this book…
Yes, I sang a lot of Billy Joel while I was writing this one. I think my friends and family got an earworm every time I mentioned the title.
Small northern towns are my favorite setting, so creating Harvest Cove was a lot of fun…it’s not perfect (I grew up in a small town, and I didn’t want to ignore some of the particular challenges that come from living in one), but I think it’s lovable in its imperfection, and I hope the Cove is a place readers will want to visit many times!
The song I think of as one of the theme songs for the book is “Stay or Leave” by Dave Matthews.
If you had to summarize the book for the readers here…
Orphaned kitten forces sarcastic misfit artist and adorable veterinarian back together for a second chance at love.
Please tell us about the characters in your book?
Sam Henry is someone who just never fit in where she grew up. She was an artistic child from an old Harvest Cove family who’ve always been considered eccentric, and people just expected her to be weird. “Creative” turned out to be close enough to weird for the other kids to decide to bully her, and she was tormented mercilessly until she headed to college. She bloomed afterwards, but Sam is someone with a lot of emotional scars. She handles them really well most of the time, but they’ve kept her far away from home. When her life in New York falls apart, though, through no fault of her own, she finds herself heading back home. It’s the last place she wants to be, partly because she doesn’t want to run into the boy who broke her heart in high school. Jake Smith was a popular jock who took an interest, for a time, and the connection was strong enough that Sam started to trust him. High school cliques being what they are, though, when his friends found out…it wasn’t pretty. She’s never forgiven him. And Jake, who has grown up a lot in the ten years she’s been gone, knows it.
Jake, meanwhile, was one of the Cove’s golden boys. He had the right friends and was a lacrosse star, the gorgeous guy everyone wanted to be around. He looked like he had it all, and he’s made a good life right in the Cove as one of the town’s veterinarians. Jake is a genuinely nice guy who’s so used to seeing the world from his particular vantage point that he forgets that not everyone else is coming from the same place he is. What he’s never forgotten, though, is how he felt when he pushed Sam away and broke her trust. When she comes back, he’s determined to show her how much he’s changed so that she’ll give him another chance. The obstacles he discovers, however, surprise him.
What was it about a high school reinvention, so to speak, story line that you wanted to write? Have you had a personal experience with old high school stereotypes being debunked?
I love people-watching, and being from a small town, it’s fascinating to see what changes and what doesn’t, how some people grow and how some people are determined to stay eternally the same. For the Longest Time was a great opportunity for me to explore all of that in a way I never got to when I was writing paranormals, all the shifting dynamics you’re so aware of when you’ve been a part of a place for a long time. Also, as someone who was bullied herself during her high school years (it was different than what Sam experienced in the book, but no less traumatic), I felt like this was a positive way to use some of those memories and create a character I think a lot of people will identify with. We don’t all fit in when we’re younger, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for all of us. And as Sam figures out, sometimes we belong in the place we least expect!
What, in your mind, distinguishes this book from other books out there in the same genre?
I really do think that Harvest Cove is a warm and appealing place. But it isn’t perfect, and I don’t think it needs to be. That may make Harvest Cove a bit different from the norm, in that I did let some of the warts of small town life show! There are pros and cons to living in a small place where some of the families have been there forever and everyone knows everyone else’s business. It can be cozy, but it can be stifling at times too, and entrenched perceptions can present real problems for people trying to break out of the mold. I think I’ve managed to show all that in a fresh way…I hope I have, anyway! Harvest Cove feels like a living, breathing place to me, and I hope it does to readers, too.
The First kiss…
They stood there on his porch, under the single light above the door, and the tension that always thrummed between them quickly intensified. He could smell her perfume again…hell, he could almost taste her. He wanted to. The only thing holding him back was how still Sam had gone, like a deer scenting a predator. Her eyes never left his face, and she seemed to be waiting…though he wasn’t sure for what. He’d just have to make a guess. Or engage in some wishful thinking.
Or just go for it.
Jake stepped closer and was relieved to see he’d guessed correctly. She tipped her chin up to look at him, taking the final step to finish closing the space between them. He managed a smile as he lowered his head to hers. “Sam,” he murmured.
“Mmm?” she asked. But her eyes were already closing, her mouth lifting to his.
He savored the brief, final moment of anticipation, and then sank into the kiss he’d waited years for.
What scene was the hardest to write? Why?
Sam and Jake’s first date was actually really difficult to write. There’s a lot of tension, and plenty of it isn’t the good kids. Sam doesn’t know why he’s pursuing her, and Jake doesn’t really understand the extent of the damage he did all those years ago. Balancing the anger and attraction when it came to Sam was something that took me several rewrites of the scene. Here’s a snip:
They ordered the appetizer and their burgers, and then Jake surprised her by adding on both fried pickles and a basket of hush puppies to the order. She stared at him in fascinated horror as the server walked away.
“We’re never going to eat all that!”
He shrugged. “That’s what take-home boxes are for.”
“Well…” This was the part of Jake she’d forgotten about, mainly because she hadn’t dealt with it much of it personally. He was as stubborn as a mule. It was one of the things that had made him an excellent lacrosse player. It was also, she realized, what had gotten her here tonight. She exhaled loudly through her nose.
“I’m paying for half of this,” she said.
Just like that, her wishes were dismissed. Sam fought the urge to bare her teeth at him. “Don’t argue with me, Jake. I told you this wasn’t a date, and I’m not treating it like one.”
It wiped the smile off his face, but none of the stubbornness from his eyes. “I’m not arguing with you. I invited you, I’m paying. It’s not a big deal, Sam.”
She bristled, glaring at him helplessly. That was the root of the problem, she supposed, right there. To him, this was all no big deal. Everything was so easy for him. Getting her into his office, getting her here, buying dinner. Life. Some part of her knew the amount of anger she felt was outsized, but she didn’t feel like fighting it. It wasn’t just him. It was everything she didn’t seem to have any control over. Which was…well, everything.
If your book was optioned for a movie, what scene would you use for the audition of the main characters? (Please share a little snippet of the scene)
I think I’d use the opening scene between them, actually. Sam arrives home and immediately winds up with an ornery kitten stuck to her shirt, and the last person on earth she wants to see is right there to help. She doesn’t have time to get angry…mostly she just feels ridiculous, and Sam does find some humor in it. Here’s a snip:
She would have wondered why the gods would be so cruel as to shove him directly into her path on her first day back, but lately, the reasons for her lousy luck didn’t seem to have any explanation more complicated than “because today is a day of the week ending in –y.”
Suck it up, buttercup. Welcome to the rest of your life.
She didn’t bother to look at him when her mother said, “You remember Jake, Sammy. He’s a vet now, works with Dr. Perry. I called him to see if he could help me get a litter of kittens out from under the porch. I didn’t even know they were there until yesterday, and there’s no sign of the mother. He’s going to take them back to the office and see what he can do for them.”
Only then did Sam notice the pet carrier at Jake’s feet.
“There are five others,” he explained. “Not in great shape. I’m surprised the one you’ve got was strong enough to get out here. If they’d been much younger, they’d already be dead. I don’t think the mother’s coming back. Something must have gotten her.”
Sam stroked the back of the kitten’s neck as it settled more comfortably against her. Jake was still looking at her like he couldn’t quite believe what he was seeing, which wasn’t a big surprise. Between the scuffed old boots, black leggings, long, rumpled black T-shirt and whatever state her hair was in at this point, she probably looked like she’d just rolled out of the nearest dumpster.
Well, screw him. If he said anything snide she’d just act like dumpster chic was the newest thing in New York. What did he know? At least she hadn’t been rotting up here collecting flannel shirts.
But when he spoke again, he caught her off guard by being…nice. At least, she thought that was what he was trying to be. With him, she didn’t really have a good standard for comparison.
If you could have given your characters one piece of advice before the opening pages of the book, what would it be and why?
I think I’d tell them both to try and check their preconceived notions about each other at the door. They’ve both grown quite a bit, and ten years is a long time. Sam and Jake are human, and they both struggle with getting outside themselves for a little objectivity sometimes.
What are you currently working on? What other releases so you have planned for 2014?
I’m currently working on the third book in the Harvest Cove series, Zoe’s story. Emma’s book is up next, Every Little Kiss, and that’s due out in March 2015. The residents of Harvest Cove are keeping me busy!
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No matter how weird it was for her that Jake was now both an adult and a guy who merited his own office, Sam could at least be glad that his choice of décor indicated he didn’t take himself too seriously.
“Nice bobbleheads,” she said, then took a sip of her latte.
He didn’t look the least bit sheepish when she turned to watch him shut the door behind her. “Thanks.”
“And your Iron Man poster really sets off the diploma next to it.”
“Red metal badassery enhances any room, you know,” he replied. “Didn’t they teach you that at art school?”
“No. I guess I should have taken Decorating with Superheroes 101 for one of my electives.”
“I could give you some pointers,” he said. “I’ve been told I’m a natural with the medium.”
“Yeah. I’ll keep that in mind.” Sam smiled despite herself and shook her head, looking away before Jake decided her amusement meant more than it actually did. She had a feeling she was on shaky ground here. It was too easy to fall back into their old, easy banter, even after all this time. The natural advantage still seemed to be his. Jake was as comfortable in his own skin, and with his considerable appeal, as he’d ever been. And she…wasn’t. Flustered, and determined not to morph back into an awkward teenager, Sam let her eyes skim the room. The space didn’t contain much but a cluttered desk, a filing cabinet, a mini fridge, and a small end table with a coffee maker on it. Tucked into one corner was a large cage full of small, furry creatures making an awful lot of noise. Relief mingled with delight and made her smile.
“Kitties!” she said, feeling only a little ridiculous as she hurried to the cage and crouched down to look at the little faces smooshed against the door. Jake appeared at her side almost instantly, too quickly for her to move away. He plucked her latte from her hand.
“You won’t want them knocking this over. Caffeine is the last thing this crew needs. Go ahead, open it. You can entertain them while I inhale lunch.”
Without another thought, she sat on the floor, took off her heels, shoved them to one side, and unlatched the wire door. Six warm little bundles of fur in varying colors piled out, climbing over one another, big eyes taking in the wide world of Jake’s office as they set out to explore it. Loki emerged last, and Sam burst into surprised laughter as he climbed into her lap and right up the front of her. It was cute enough that she could disregard the tiny little claws poking through her dress and into her skin. Mostly.
“Your love is painful, little man. What is it with you?” she asked, looking down into his big green eyes. Since purring was the only response she got, Sam kept one hand on Loki to give his precarious position some support and used the other hand to play with his siblings. They might have been born outside, she thought, but they seemed to be warming up to humans just fine. Any trepidation she’d felt about being alone with Jake vanished in the face of her amusement at the kittens’ antics. In the space of a few minutes, she was too busy laughing, chasing after the unruly brood on her knees while Loki hung on for dear life, and letting her hands get covered in playful scratches to care what the other human in the room was doing. She only looked up when Loki decided that her shoulder might be a better vantage point for him.
“Ouch! Damn it, Loki, let me…um…”
She paused in the middle of trying to detach him from her dress and had just set him on her shoulder as her eyes locked with Jake’s. It suddenly occurred to her that she was crawling around his office on her knees, covered in cat hair, and that he’d been perched on the edge of his desk watching her do that for an extended period of time. Eating a chocolate pudding cup, no less. She blew a lock of hair out of her face. Naturally, she thought, even her hair was working against her.
For Samantha Henry, it took a ten-year absence to appreciate the close-knit New England town with an appeal all its own….
After a perfect storm of events leaves Sam high, dry, and jobless, she has to head home to Harvest Cove to regroup. Growing up, she was the town misfit, and a brief high school romance that resulted in heartbreak made her realize she was never going to fit in. But now with the support of her mother and an unexpected circle of allies, Sam starts to wonder if she’s misjudged the town all these years.
Life’s been good to Jake Smith. He transitioned from popular jock to town veterinarian without any trouble. But Sam’s homecoming makes him question his choices. The sharp-tongued beauty was never a good fit for the small community, but he’s never forgotten her—or how good they were together. While she makes it clear she’s not about to repeat the past, Jake’s determined to convince her to give him—and Harvest Cove—a second chance.
Kendra Leigh Castle is the author of numerous paranormal romances including the Hearts of the Fallen series, the Dark Dynasties series, the MacInnes Werewolves trilogy, and RITA award finalist Renegade Angel, along with a number of shorter published works. The Harvest Cove series marks her entrance into contemporary romance. She lives in Maryland with her husband, three kids, and menagerie of pets, and can usually be found curled up with her laptop and yet another cup of coffee. Find her online at www.kendraleighcastle.com.