Each time you make a comment on my blog (or any blog during her VBT) your name will be put into a hat for a $20.00 Amazon gift certificate. Here’s the link to her other blogs on her tour.
Now here’s Melissa —
1. What first got you interested in writing? What has kept you doing it?
Reading romance novels first got me interested in writing. I remember after a summer of reading Harlequin Romances and Presents, I wanted to write one. I wanted to make others feel the way I felt when I was reading one. But I was about to head to college so the timing wasn’t right. Though my freshman year, I remember buying a “how to write a romance” book. It wasn’t until after I graduated college that I finally decided to try writing one.
Needless to say I’ve been at it a long time. A passion for writing as well as the romance genre has kept me writing all these years. It took me 9 years to sell my first manuscript. Seventeen months of that was spent waiting to hear back after I’d submitted. I remember more than once thinking I was wasting my time and would stop writing only to start back up again. I found it impossible not to write! I still feel that way.
2. Do you have the support of your family and friends? Has that support always been there, or has it changed since being published?
I am so fortunate to have the full support of my family. A few months after I got married, my husband told me to quit my engineering job and try writing fulltime even though the only thing I’d received were rejections. To this day, he does all he can to help me succeed with my writing, including doing most of the cooking and laundry, even though he is working and traveling with his job constantly.
I was five months pregnant with my oldest child when I sold my first manuscript so my three kids have only known me as a writer. They are my biggest fans and always refill my ice tea and bring me chocolate when I’m on deadline!
My friends always encouraged me to keep trying, even when it seemed the odds of selling a manuscript were against me. I only had one friend tell me I shouldn’t quit my job to chase my dream of being a published writer. The rest thought I’d be stupid not to do it then before I had a mortgage and kids. That support has only increased since I became published.
3. The strangest habit? Is there anything you have to do before you start writing?
Writing is what I do so if there’s a strange habit it wouldn’t appear that way to me. It would just be my routine. I need to get a glass of tea, either hot tea or iced tea before I start writing and a bowl of some kind of munchie. Chocolate is my preferred snack. I also listen to a song on my book soundtrack to put me in the writing mood.
3. What advice would you give to a new writer?
Write every day. You’ll not only get in the habit of writing and become more productive, but you’ll begin to hear your voice develop.
4. What has been the biggest challenge of your career so far?
Trying to combine writing with my family. Many writers who sold after me have had many more books published and more successful careers. I try hard not to compare myself to them. I love writing, but my family is my priority. I’ve had three children since I sold that first book. At one point, my youngest had health issues and I had to take time off from writing to focus on her. I tell myself I have my entire life to write, but I won’t always have the kids around.
5. Has a reader ever complimented you on your writing? What was the best thing you ever heard, and who told it to you?
I have had many readers compliment my writing. It’s such a wonderful feeling when someone takes time out of their day to write or email you about a book you wrote. My favorite email was from a reader named Kathy. She was a surgeon at a teaching hospital. She wrote how she’d had a very difficult day and lost a patient. When she got home, she picked up one of my books, If the Ring Fits…, and escaped into the pages and felt so much better when she reached “The End”. By the time I finished reading the letter I was crying.
6. What are you working on now? Could you give us a little taste?
I’m currently writing another Harlequin Romance. The working title is Goal…Wedding! It features a professional soccer player as the hero and a graphic designer who is taking care of her nine year old nephew. I’m just getting started on it, but here’s a snippet when my heroine first sees the hero:
The door opened. A man in navy shorts with an air cast on his right leg and a white towel in his left hand stood there. Sweat dampened his hair and made his bare muscular chest glisten.
But this wasn’t any man. It was Ryland James. Soccer superstar. In the flesh.
Her lips parted. “You’re here.”
His charming grin sent her already racing pulse into a mad sprint. “So are you.”
7. Tell us about your latest book.
Not-So-Perfect Princess is part of Harlequin Romance’s Once Upon a Kiss miniseries. Each story is loosely based on a fairytale. My book is based on Sleeping Beauty.
It’s the story of a princess who has striven her entire life to be obedient and dutiful. She agrees to an arranged marriage in order to get out of her archaic, patriarchal country and help her countrywomen improve their situation. But her fiancé isn’t all she hoped he’d be and his younger brother is oh-so-wrong, but very tempting. She must choose whether to continue being the perfect princess or follow her heart.
8. Just for Melissa, I read on your blog that you went to the RWA Convention. (I so envy you.) How did you like it? What one thing will you remember the most about the weekend?
The RWA conference was amazing. It’s so wonderful to be surrounded by 2000 people who do the same thing I do. I’m edited out of the London office of Harlequin Mills & Boon so this was my chance to meet more of the editorial staff as well as others who work and the authors who write for Harlequin. I was also a RITA® Finalist for the first time. That’s akin to being treated like a princess for the week! So much fun! The one thing I’ll remember the most is the Harlequin Author Party at the Waldorf Astoria. It was the definition of elegance.
9. And not to forget, how can people find out more about you?
I have a website at http://www.melissamcclone.com. I’m on Twitter and have a FB page where you can find out more about my books and writing life.
First a blurb of Not-So-Perfect Princess —
While the Princess was sleeping…
Dutiful Princess Julianna has a secret—she’s actually happiest makeup free, sailing with the sea breeze in her hair. Her attraction to rebel prince Alejandro is instant—but her intended is his brother, the proper but dull Enrique!
For the first time, Julianna’s irresistibly tempted. Before long, she’s spending her nights sailing with gorgeous Alejandro while the rest of the palace believes she’s sleeping. Soon she’ll have to choose—remain the perfect princess, or follow her heart and stop sleepwalking her way through life.…
And here’s a little taste —
Lying in bed, Alejandro Cierzo de Amanecer heard a noise outside his room at the beachfront villa. The stray kitten he’d found at the boatyard must want something. He opened his eyes to see sunlight streaming in through the brand-new floor-to-ceiling windows. Most likely breakfast.
The bedroom door burst wide-open. Heavy boots sounded against the recently replaced terra-cotta tile floor.
Alejandro grimaced, but didn’t move. He knew the routine.
A squad of royal guards dressed in blue and gold uniforms surrounded his bed. At least they hadn’t drawn their weapons this time.
Not that he would call another intrusion progress.
“What does he want now?” Alejandro asked.
The captain of the guard, Sergio Mendoza, looked as stoic as ever, but older with gray hair at his temples. “King Dario requests your presence at the palace, Your Highness.”
Alejandro raked his hand through his hair in frustration. “My father never requests anything.”
Sergio’s facial expression didn’t change. He’d only shown emotion once, when Alejandro had been late bringing Sergio’s youngest daughter home from a date when they were teenagers. In spite of the security detail accompanying them, Alejandro had feared for his life due to the anger in the captain’s eyes.
“The king orders you to come with us now, sir,” Sergio said.
Alejandro didn’t understand why his father wanted to see him. No one at the palace listened to what Alejandro said. He might not want to be part of the monarchy, but he wasn’t about to abandon his country.
He’d founded his business here and suggested economic innovations, including developing their tourist trade. But his ideas clashed with those of his father and brother who were more old-fashioned and traditional in their thinking.
A high-pitched squeak sounded. The scraggly black kitten with four white paws clawed his way up the sheet onto the bed. The thing had been a nuisance these past two weeks with the work at the boatyard and renovations here at the villa.
“I need to get dressed before I go anywhere,” Alejandro said.
“We’ll wait while you dress, sir.” Sergio’s words did nothing to loosen Alejandro’s tense shoulder muscles. “The king wants no delay in your arrival.”
Alejandro clenched his teeth. He wanted to tell the loyal captain to leave, but the guards would use force to get him to do what they wanted. He was tired of fighting that battle. “I need privacy.”
Sergio ordered the soldiers out of the room, but he remained standing by the bed. “I’ll wait on the other side of the door, sir. Guards are stationed beneath each window.”
Alejandro rolled his eyes. His father still saw him as a rebellious teenager. “I’m thirty years old, not seventeen.”
Sergio didn’t say anything. No doubt the captain remembered some of Alejandro’s earlier…escapades.
“Tell me where you think I would run to, Captain?” Alejandro lay in bed covered with a sheet. “My business is here. I own properties. My father’s lackeys follow me wherever I go.”
“They are your security detail, sir,” Sergio said. “You must be protected. You’re the second in line for the throne.”
“Don’t remind me,” Alejandro muttered.
“Many would give everything to be in your position.”
Not if they knew what went with being the “spare” entailed. No one cared what he thought. Even when he tried to help the island, no one supported him. He’d had to do everything on his own. Alejandro hated being a prince. He’d been educated in the United States. He didn’t want to participate in an outdated form of government where too much power rested with one individual. But he wanted to see his country prosper.
“Guard the door if you must.” Alejandro gave the kitten a pat. “I won’t make your job any more difficult for you than it is.”
As soon as Sergio left, Alejandro slid out of bed and showered. His father hadn’t requested formal dress so khaki shorts, a navy T-shirt and a pair of boat shoes would do.
Twenty minutes later, Alejandro entered the palace’s reception room. His older brother rose from the damask-covered settee.
Enrique looked like a younger version of their father with his short hairstyle, tailored designer suit, starched dress shirt, silk tie and polished leather shoes. It was too bad his brother acted like their father, also.
“This had better be important, Enrique,” Alejandro said.
“It is.” His brother’s lips curved into a smug smile. “I’m getting married.”
About time. Enrique’s wedding would be the first step toward Alejandro’s freedom from the monarchy. The birth of a nephew or niece to take his place as second in line for the throne would be the next big step. “Congratulations, bro. I hope it’s a short engagement. Don’t waste any time getting your bride pregnant.”
Enrique smirked. “That’s the plan.”
“Why wait until the wedding? Start now.”
He laughed. “King Alaric would demand my head if I did that. He’s old-fashioned about certain things. Especially his daughter’s virginity.”
“Alaric.” Alejandro had heard the name. It took a second to realize where. “You’re marrying a princess from Aliestle?”
“Not a princess. The princess.” Enrique sounded excited. No wonder. Aliestle was a small kingdom in the Alps. With an abundance of natural resources, the country’s treasury was vast, a hundred times that of La Isla de la Aurora. “King Alaric has four sons and one daughter.”
“Father must be pleased.”
“He’s giddy over the amount of Julianna’s dowry and the economic advantages aligning with Aliestle will bring us. Fortunately for me, the princess is as beautiful as she is rich. A bit of an ice princess from what I hear, but I’ll warm her up.”
“If you need lessons—”
“I may not have your reputation with the ladies, but I shall manage fine on my own.”
“I hope the two of you are happy together.” Alejandro meant the words. A happy union would mean more heirs. The further Alejandro dropped in the line of succession, the better. He couldn’t wait to be able to focus his attention on building his business and attracting more investors to turn the island’s sluggish economy around.
“You are to be the best man.”
A statement of fact or a request? “Mingling with aristocracy is hazardous to my health.”
“You will move home until the wedding.”
A demand. Anger flared. “Enrique—”
“The royal family will show a united front during the engagement period. Your days will be free unless official events are scheduled. You’ll be expected to attend all dinners and evening functions. You must also be present when the princess and her party arrive today.”
Alejandro cursed. “You sound exactly like him.”
“They are father’s words, not mine.” Rare compassion filled Enrique’s eyes. “But I would like you to be my best man. You’re my favorite brother.”
“I’m your only brother.”
Enrique laughed. “All the more reason for you to stand at my side. Father will compensate you for any inconvenience.”
Alejandro’s entire life was a damn inconvenience. Besides, he would never be able to get the one thing he wanted from his father. “I don’t want his money.”
“You never have, but when Father offers you payment, take it. You can put the money into your boats, buy another villa, donate it to charity or give it away on the streets,” Enrique advised. “You’ve earned this, Alejandro. Don’t let pride get in the way again.”
He wasn’t about to go there. “All I want is to be left alone.”
“As soon as Julianna and I have children, you will no longer be needed around here. If you do your part to ensure the wedding occurs, Father has promised to let you live your own life.”
Finally. “Did you ask for this or did father offer?”
“It was a combination, but be assured of father keeping his word.”
“When am I to move back?”
Alejandro cursed again. He had a boatyard to run, investment properties to oversee and the Med Cup to prepare for. Not to mention the kitten who expected to be fed. “I have a life. Responsibilities.”
“You have responsibilities here. Ones you ignore while you play with your boats,” Enrique chided.
Seething, Alejandro tried to keep his tone even. “I’m not playing. I’m working. If you’d see the upcoming Med Cup race as an opportunity to promote—”
“If you want to build the island’s reputation, then support this royal wedding. It’ll do much more for the economy than your expensive ideas to improve the island’s nightlife, build flashy resorts and attract the sailing crowd with a little regatta.”
“The Med Cup is a big deal. It’ll—”
“Whatever.” Enrique brushed Alejandro aside as if he were a bothersome gnat. Like father, like son. “Do what you must to be here after lunch or father will send you away on a diplomatic mission.”
The words were like a punch to Alejandro’s solar plexus. Not unexpected given the way his father and brother operated sometimes. The threat would be carried out, too. That meant Alejandro had to do as told to secure his future. His freedom. “I’ll be back before your princess arrives.”
But he would be doing a few things his way.
Once the black sheep, always the black sheep.
And let’s face it, Alejandro didn’t mind the title at all.
Find out more about Melissa —
Melissa McClone writes for Harlequin Romance. Her November ’10 release Christmas Magic on the Mountain is a RITA® Finalist in the Contemporary Series Category. She graduated from Stanford University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, but quit her job to write romance novels. Writing happily ever afters is a lot more fun than analyzing jet engine performance. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three children, four cats and a dog named Chaos.
You can find out more about Melissa by visiting her website