Today it is my pleasure to Welcome Emmie Dark to HarlequinJunkie! Emmie Thanks for hanging out with us 🙂 !
Hi there! Well, I’m from Melbourne, Australia, and I write for Harlequin SuperRomance. I’m still a pretty new author—my latest book, “In His Eyes”, is my second release. I worked in corporate communications for many years, so I have been writing “professionally” for a long time, but it’s only in the past few years or so that I’ve turned my attentions to writing fiction. I didn’t necessarily intentionally set out to become a romance author, but when I sat down to write, that’s what came out. I’ve always been a sucker for a happy ending, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised.
What inspired you to be an author? Is it something you always aspired to be?
I’m not sure that I consciously wanted to be an author until the last few years, but I’ve always been a voracious reader. Even as a child I would read anything and everything—the backs of cereal boxes if nothing else was available! So I think the seed of writing was inside me for a long time—it just took a while to emerge.
Do you have a “Call” story to share?
The most amusing thing about my call story is how close I came to missing it! I have a personal work policy that I don’t answer my mobile phone before 8am, otherwise my working day has no boundaries. So when my phone rang at about 7.45am (I was awake, but still in bed with my laptop and a cup of tea—writing!) I considered whether or not I’d answer it. The number was blocked, so I figured I should probably take it. Then I heard my lovely editor Megan’s voice as she introduced herself and where she was from—and then said why she was calling! I jumped out of bed and raced to find a pen and paper to write down what she was saying because I knew I wouldn’t remember any of it. Mostly what I recall is being shocked to the point of speechlessness. Megan asked a few times if I had any questions, but I just couldn’t gather my thoughts enough to be coherent and ask any!
What are your hopes and dreams for the future with respect to your writing?
One of the most wonderful aspects of becoming a published writer is that you get to hear from readers and hear their opinions and interpretations of what you’ve written. I’m just hoping that I get to continue to publish the books that I love writing, that people will enjoy reading them, and that they occasionally tell me that they do! That will keep be going forever.
It actually took me a while to find my “home”, but now that I’m with SuperRomance it seems obvious that this was absolutely where I was meant to be! I love stories with true-to-life situations and relatable heroes and heroines—real contemporary romance. I really enjoy reading other SuperRomance authors and I think the line is filled with amazing books. I’m honoured to be a part of this incredibly talented group of authors.
If Hollywood made a movie about your life, who would you like to see play the lead role and why?
I think it would have to be Tina Fey. Or maybe Jennifer Anniston. Not that I have anything really in common with either of those ladies looks-wise, but I think they could provide the quirky comedy/pratfall aspect that I feel my life is full of!
If you had to sum up “In His Eyes” what would you say?
It’s best read with a glass of wine in one hand and a box of tissues in the other.
What sparked the idea for your novel “In His Eyes”
My friends Kim and John started up their own vineyard, Lillicur Estate, in country Victoria. I have visited often – even helping with some of the initial planting of grapes a long while ago, which to be honest were really just twiggy little sticks! The experience of watching Kim and John’s hobby grow to the point that they had wine in bottles (as well as having been a long-time fan of drinking wine, personally!) led me to start thinking about writing a story set on a vineyard.
How did you come up with the characters for this book?
I grew up in a country town, although it wasn’t as small as Tangawarra from the book. My family has moved away from there now, so I don’t go back very often. However around the time I was getting ideas for this book, I went back to visit for a high school reunion. There weren’t any secrets in my closet anywhere near like Zoe’s (thankfully!) but the experience got me thinking about what it’s like to “go back”, and how people tend to have fixed ideas about who you are—even if you’ve been away a long time and your life has changed dramatically.
What were the challenges you faced in bringing this book to life?
I think my biggest challenge was to find a way to make Zoe the tough cookie I wanted her to be without making her unlikable. Although she’s made her way in life and become a success, when she returns to Tangawarra, she regresses a little, back to the troubled teen who left place in disgrace a decade before. I hope I managed to make it clear that her anger is a reason to pity her, not to dislike her.
Are there any other books to be released in 2012? Can you share a little of your current work with us?
My next SuperRomance will be out mid-next year and I’m working on it right now! It doesn’t have a title as yet, but I can share that it involves weddings, dogs, vampires, Twitter, muscle cars and comic books. Have I got you intrigued? I hope so!
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Would you please share an excerpt from “In His Eyes”
Zoe Waters drove up the long, rutted drive and noted that the pale green farmhouse ahead of her desperately needed a new paint job. But then, it had needed one for as long as she could remember. Only these days—more than ten years since she’d last been here—it was beginning to seem as if the flakes of paint were what was holding the crumbling weatherboards together.
Zoe wasn’t sure whether she should feel comforted that so little had changed or disgusted by the neglect.
She pulled into the yard behind the house and climbed out of the rental car, stepping carefully to avoid the soft, squelching mud threatening her inappropriately delicate shoes.
The signs of dereliction were even more obvious here.
A strange, melancholy sense of deja vu settled over her as she looked around. Now that she surveyed things closer up, it was clear that not only did little appear to have changed—pretty muchnothing had. Everything had just decayed a touch more. The scattered car bodies near the back fence had rusted a little redder and sunk a little deeper into the overgrown grass. The door to the shed that held the tractor and her grandfather’s other old-fashioned and outdated farm equipment was crooked, the top hinge clearly broken.
Zoe sighed heavily and leaned against the car, warm from the two-hour drive from Melbourne.
The task ahead of her seemed to grow exponentially as she surveyed the ruins of Waterford Estate.
The only building that still looked in reasonable condition was the tin shed and converted refrigerated shipping container that housed the winery. Well, what passed for a winery on the Waterford estate. She wondered if all those rich people in Sydney, California and France on the Waterford mailing list who so eagerly awaited her grandfather’s vintage Shiraz each year would feel quite the same way if they could see where it came from.
She sighed again and ran a hand through her hair as the wind whipped the long strands into her eyes. Wrapping her light jacket more tightly around herself, Zoe shuddered—she’d forgotten the icy chill of the wind out here and how it could leach into your bones. Too much time in California. Too used to the endless sunshine and warm breezes, unlike the capricious weather of this part of the valley—stinking hot in summer, subject to grapeendangering frosts seemingly out of nowhere in spring. Right now—winter—the weather was at least somewhat predictable. Cold. With a side of rain and wind.
She mentally surveyed the contents of the suitcase still sitting in the boot of the car. She was going to have to buy some new clothes.
A trip into town. Yippee.
The thought sent a different kind of shiver through her.
Turning away from her survey of the ruined outbuildings, Zoe shielded her eyes from the weak sun. The Waterford vines stretched out in long, bare lines to the north and east of the house, dormant for the winter yet still visibly neglected. It was a tragic state for any viticulturist to see—some of the oldest vines in the valley, planted by Zoe’s great-great-grandfather and tended by a member of the Waters family for more than a hundred years. Until now.
To her left, the well-tended vines of the neighboring Lawson Estate—her family’s rivals for her whole life—grew just a few feet from the property line. Zoe made an effort not to look, to pretend that across the post-and-wire fence there was just a big, empty nothing. Just as she’d always done—at least when her grandfather was watching.
The only way she could get through these next few days was to pretend Lawson Estate didn’t exist, the township of Tangawarra wasn’t there and Waterford had a protective force field around it. She snorted at the fanciful idea at the same time she wished it could be true.
Zoe pushed her sunglasses to the top of her head as the sky clouded over. Heavy, slate-gray clouds waited on the horizon. Rain was definitely on the way. More rain from the looks of the sodden ground. She shivered again. Maybe even a storm.
At least that would give her a break. A few hours to sit and catch up with everything that had happened in the past few days. Perhaps even the chance to turn her brain to the task of working out what to do next.
The very thought started a headache throbbing at the back of her neck.
Just as she made a move to dig out her belongings and find her house keys, the sound of a vehicle reached her. A white utility truck bumped along the corrugated dirt track that led from the unsurfaced road. It had prominent signage along the side—elegant black script, a flowing red ribbon—unmistakably the Law-son Estate logo.
She swore under her breath.
She couldn’t have had a day or so—a few hours maybe—to get her bearings before facing reality? It seemed the universe wasn’t going to extend even that small kindness to her.
Zoe stepped toward the ute as it pulled up beside her own bland white rental car. The driver’s face was hidden in the shadow of a straw, American-style cowboy hat. It struck her as odd—most men in the valley preferred the very Australian Akubra or a simple cap, most often embroidered with the logo of their winery.
The driver cut the engine and climbed out. Time slowed somehow, and Zoe was conscious of every moment. The scuffed R. M. Williams boots that hit the ground first. The tight-fitting jeans, worn almost white around the knees and crotch. The chambray shirt that had once been crisply ironed, but was now creased and loosened by a day’s work. The stubbled jaw—not quite bearded, but wearing more than a five-o’clock shadow—that gave his familiar face a hard, almost savage edge. And last—but never least—those blue eyes, shocking, tormenting blue. The blue eyes she’d dreamed of for ten years; the blue eyes that had been her ruin.
“Well, if it isn’t Zoe Waters,” he drawled.
Zoe’s knees turned to jelly, and as her vision began to blacken at the periphery she realized she’d stopped breathing. Through pure force of will she took in a deep lungful of air and strengthened her wobbly legs. Fainting now would be an unacceptable humiliation. From somewhere deep inside, from the core of steel that had been honed over a lifetime and never before failed her, she managed to paste a tight, unwelcoming smile on her face. She’d show him how little she cared, even if it killed her.
“Hugh Lawson, well, well,” she managed to say, pleased that her voice conveyed exactly the right tone of distaste.
“So the old man finally let you come back.” Hugh was smiling, but his eyes were cold. There was no hint of the warmth or humor she remembered from so long ago.
Was he angry with her? What on earth for? She was the one who had lost everything…her family, her reputation, the only real home she’d ever known.
She managed another grim smile. “The old man died yesterday.”
He hesitated and his cool look faded as concern creased his brow. She felt an odd satisfaction at the knowledge she’d unsettled him, but she clasped her hands tightly to hide their sudden tremor. It had been ten years, for heaven’s sake! She’d moved halfway around the world to escape from her past. She was over it. The mistakes she’d made as an infatuated sixteen-year-old little girl were not going to taint her whole life. She’d made sure of that.
“I’m…I’m sorry to hear that,” Hugh said. His eyes lost their hard edge for a moment and Zoe remembered how easy it had been to fall for him, how easy to think herself in love and to be fooled into thinking he might love her in return.
Hugh took a step forward and reached out a hand. For a moment, she thought he was going to hug her and a mess of emotion washed over her. Mostly, though, she was filled with horror at the idea that she looked as if she needed comforting. She stiffened and took a step back.
Hugh’s hand immediately dropped. Whatever he’d been thinking, whatever sympathetic gesture he’d been about to make was now hidden behind that impenetrable blue gaze.
“Yes, well…” Zoe flicked out her hands in a helpless gesture. Apart from anything else, she had no idea what to do with sympathy; it had been the same when the nurse at the hospital had expressed her condolences. Her grandfather’s death still wasn’t real. Even when it did eventually sink in—assuming that happened—she wasn’t sure how she should feel about it. Sad? Relieved? Indifferent?
She straightened her shoulders. “Why are you here?”
That laconic smile was back, warmer this time, more like the Hugh she remembered, erasing the years from his face and making him look just as he had when they’d snuck away to be together. “Neighbors look out for each other around here, Zoe, don’t you remember that?”
Irritation flared inside her at his veiled reminder. Just where had he been when she’d needed looking after?
And she was over this. Over him.