Madeline Ash is an Australian contemporary romance author and two-time RITA Award finalist. She has also won Australia’s Romantic Book of the Year award (RUBY). She writes sexy-sweet novels with sensitivity and humor.
I’m so excited to have Australian Author, Madeline Ash, with us today. Let’s see what’s been going on in her life lately.
Jann: What inspired you to write the Cowboy Princes series?
Madeline: I fell in love with the idea of men of the land having to unexpectedly ascend into a position of extreme power. I came up with the series concept back in 2017 when I was disenchanted and despondent with the values of so many world leaders. One of the many delights of being a fiction writer is the freedom to write a better world, so I decided to pair cowboy values (hard work, respect, integrity, fairness, generosity, and truth) with leadership to see what kind of society they would create. It was very much a case of “write what you’d love to read” because the kingdom of Kiraly is pretty darn close to utopia!
Jann: When starting this new series, did you think of character, plot or theme first?
Madeline: Characters tend to come to me first during planning. For this series, I knew I wanted triplet cowboy brothers as the main characters who were also secret princes of a kingdom across the world from small-town Montana. I developed the brothers first, both how they were similar to each other and how they were different, including their personalities, strengths and weaknesses. Then I mapped out a vague series arc so that I knew I’d be plotting the individual books in the right direction! After that, my focus drilled down to plotlines, themes, and which romance tropes would be the juiciest for each brother.
Jann: Your main characters in Book One Her Cowboy King, Mark Jaroka and Princes Ava Versi, debuted on July 9, 2019. Which character did you develop first?
Madeline: Mark came first, along with his two brothers, Kris and Tommy. Once I had developed Mark’s personality—the grounded, kind-hearted, dependable brother—I then considered what type of heroine would add the most conflict to his already tumultuous journey of inheriting a throne he never believed he’d be required to possess. What kind of woman would make his arrival in Kiraly even more challenging? I know! A princess who’s under pressure from her parents to enter a strategic marriage with this new cowboy king—but secretly has plans to escape royal life, and so acts appallingly superior toward Mark in order to make him refuse the union. She was vulnerable and scared on the inside, but supercilious and sarcastic on the outside. Mark had no idea how to approach such a heroine and it made for unpredictable, tension-rich interactions.
Jann: Kris Jaroka and Frankie Cowan are the main characters in Book Two Her Cowboy Prince. Tell us about their story and how they get their HEA.
Madeline: I love this couple! They have always had intense chemistry, but haven’t wanted to risk their friendship to pursue it. Kris is the confident, cocky, roguish brother—who only discovers once he arrives in Kiraly that his kickass best friend actually works for palace security. Frankie moved to his small town of four years ago to monitor the safety of his family, and befriended him in order to get close enough to do so successfully. This betrayal fuels the opening chapters of the book, and once Kris’s reckless behavior forces her to become his personal bodyguard, their forced proximity blows their attraction sky high while their fiery attitudes add extra heat. This book is full of quick banter and serious sexual chemistry, all within the increasing tension of the overall series plot.
Jann: Congratulations on this book being a finalist in the RUBY Award (The Romantic Book of the Year) presented by Romance Writers of Australia. What was it like to receive the news?
Madeline: Thank you! It’s a huge thrill to final in these awards. This is my fifth book to place as a finalist in the Ruby Award, but the excitement doesn’t get any less over time! These awards are exclusively judged by readers (rather than entrant authors also participating in judging), so it’s extra special to be deemed worthy of this award by judges who read a lot of the genre!
Jann: Book Three, The King’s Cowboy, is a M/M romance. What motivated you to write a M/M romance?
Madeline: I read quite a lot of LGBTQIA+ romance as well as straight romance, and have noticed that series are often exclusively one or the other, rather than including main characters from a range of sexualities across the series. To me, this doesn’t seem fully reflective of the world we live in, so I wanted to write a series that reflects the diversity of identities often found within a single family (since I’m writing three brothers).
Tommy is our final hero in this core series—reserved, intelligent, and suffering from severe social anxiety. He’s also the brother with the greatest sense of inherent power and authority. This internal struggle—to be the royal he is drawn to be, while battling the anxiety of filling one of the most public positions—is compelling and (in my wildly biased opinion) a very strong finish to the series. His love interest is Jonah, his best friend from Montana and the biggest sweetheart of a cowboy you’ll ever meet. I strove to make their romance is intense, gripping, and utterly unputdownable!
Jann: What do you hope readers will take away from this series?
Madeline: Comfort. It’s a pure escapist read, following the unlikely lives of three fiercely-bonded brothers, who make decisions based on what’s right and just and decent, set in a vibrant, open-armed mountain kingdom that is like a character of its own. I hope that the series feels like a reassuring, warmhearted (and sexy) hug that readers want to come back to again and again.
Jann: What kind of writer are you? A page a day or a burst writer?
Madeline: I guess I could call myself a scheduled writer? When starting a new book, I work backward from my deadline. Since I’m only able to write on Thursdays and Fridays, I check how many writing days between now and the deadline. Then I decide on an intended word count for the book, divide that by the number of days in which I have to write it, and calculate how many words per day I have to write to meet the deadline. I use that daily word count to drive my writing and generally manage to stick to it! If I fall behind for whatever reason, I’ll generally write on the weekend to catch up before the following week.
Jann: Where can we get your books?
Madeline: My books are available digitally across most ebook platforms—Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble, and some are also on Google Play. Paperback copies are available via Amazon.
Jann: What is your favorite word?
Madeline: Seldom. I’m not sure what it is about it. Perhaps the fact that I read and hear it so seldom!
Jann: Madeline, this has been so much fun. Thank you for your time. It was great to have a peak into your writing world. Wishing you luck in the contest for the RUBY Award!!
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USA Today bestselling author Judy Duarte has written more than sixty books and novellas for Harlequin Special Edition and Kensington, earned two Rita® finals, won two Maggies and received a National Reader’s Choice Award. She lives in Southern California with her personal hero.
When she’s not cooped up in her writing cave, Judy enjoys traveling with her husband and spending quality time with her grandchildren who refer to her as Memaw because she reminds them of Young Sheldon Cooper’s spunky grandma.
I have the pleasure today to be speaking with multi-published author Judy Duarte. Her romance novels always leave the reader wanting more!
Judy: The industry has certainly changed, and so has technology, but romance is eternal. And so is a happy ever after. Life can be rough and painful, and I believe a lot of readers want to be reminded that there’s always hope, that the night is always darkest before the dawn.
Judy: Yes, it gets easier, especially when you have an acquiring editor working with you to make a book stronger and more marketable. But I’m always open to learn more about the craft and to apply what I’ve learned to my books.
Judy: They’re all important to me. I grew up in a small town, where yards were big enough to have horses and pets, and where people tend to know each other. So I tend to gravitate to those settings. And I like creating real-life characters who could be your best friend or your neighbor. Take, for instance, a single mom or a single dad. Raising a child on one’s own implies that there’s been some grief of stress in the past. And who else deserves to fall in love and be happy?
Judy: Two years ago, my husband and I vacationed in Big Fork, Montana. We’d barely gotten into a rental car in Kalispell, and I was already swept away by the beautiful, big sky country. And I knew the setting of my next books. So I created the town of Fairbrook, Montana.
Judy: I create a flawed character. Then I ask myself, given that character’s fears and flaws, who would be the worst possible person for them to fall in love with. The built-in conflict will help both characters learn and grow—and earn their happy-ever-after.
Judy: A woman running from her entangled past finds herself attracted to a single father of twins, but when the by-the-book-lawman learns the truth about her, she fears their romance will be doomed before it ever begins.
Judy: That everyone deserves a second chance and that love is worth fighting for.
Judy: Yes, I’m working on book 4 now, and book 5 is simmering in my mind.
Judy: As an author, I can’t imagine a greater thrill than to be matched with Marie Ferrarella, the queen of Harlequin romances, and my very own daughter, Christy Jeffries!
Judy: I write or edit every day, even if it’s just a few pages. At the end of a writing day, I print out the scene/s I wrote and set them in the kitchen, next to the coffee pot. The next morning, I make a cup of coffee then pick up a red pen and edit those pages. Next, I sit down at the computer and input my changes. That’s usually all it takes to jump back into the story and write the next scene. I’ve also learned not to end my writing day at the end of a scene. I always push on and write a couple of paragraphs of the next one. That usually gives my muse a jumpstart.
Judy: My daughter, Christy Jeffries, gave me a plaque that sits next to my computer. It says: Oh that my words were written! Oh that they were written in a book! – Job 19:23
Judy: I’m writing the third book in the 2022 Fortunes of Texas series. I love working on continuities, especially this one. It’s the third romance in the series and will be released in March of 2022.
Judy: My books are available at online in print or e-format. You can find them at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the Harlequin website.
Thank you for spending time with us her on A Slice of Orange. Your novels have inspired so many readers. Good luck with the debut of Starting Over with the Sheriff on the 25th of this month!!
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As a young girl, Linda was often found lying on her bed reading about fascinating characters having exciting adventures in places far away and in other time periods. In later years, she read and then started writing romances and achieved her first publication–a confession story. Married with 4 adult children and 2 granddaughters, award-winning author Linda writes heartwarming contemporary and historical stories with a touch of humor and a bit of sass from her home in the southern California mountains.
To start the new year, we’re spending time with author Linda Carroll-Bradd, who will talk with us about her latest story and more.
Linda: I absolutely love doing the research for a historical story because I always include ethnic elements for at least one of the protagonists. The time period in which I write is the second half of the 19th century, which was such a melting pot time in America. I also rely heavily on my own ethnic makeup of Scandinavian/Irish as a way of exploring my ancestry and those customs.
Linda: Before I became an author, I always spent the month of December reading only Harlequin Christmas stories. When I had less time for reading, I watched Hallmark holiday movies. An opportunity arose to write a contemporary in a multi-author series. Almost from the moment I agreed to write the novella, an idea started building, and it came together so fast because I had a smaller amount of research to accumulate.
Linda: Jada received an infertility diagnosis and just wanted to get through the holidays avoiding children. She rents a cottage in a Colorado resort town and believes she’ll find joy again by working through assignments from a self-help book. Fulfilling her first exercise, she encounters the hero who turns out to be a single parent. Graham has already had one bad experience by getting involved with a tourist in his hometown and doesn’t want to repeat that mistake. But being in a small town meant they kept running into one another. In a way, both characters had to work past their prejudices to give the other one a chance. As I wrote, I kept in mind all those Hallmark movies, as well as my favorite book Pride and Prejudice, and I balanced high moments with low ones. I actually teared up a couple times as I created scenes, which hasn’t happened often as an author.
Linda: I felt honored to be invited to contribute a story to Debra Holland’s Sweetwater Springs Christmas anthology in 2013. I’d been editing Debra’s stories for a couple years before being invited to participate in the Montana Sky Kindle World. Writing in a story world that I was familiar with encouraged me to create my eight-book series, “Entertainers of the West.” That first invitation is what sent me on the path of writing thirty-three historical novellas (plus five contemporary ones) since 2015.
Linda: Each is special in its own way, but the first one, Laced by Love, set up the backgrounds for three vaudeville troupe members who ended up being the heroines of the first three titles. The Laced by Love heroine, Cinnia, makes a decision that ends up affecting the lives of her sister, Nola, and friend, Dorrie. Also, that first book establishes the hero, his two brothers, and introduces the hero of the second story. I hoped the initial story would spark others but never thought the total would be eight with another story plotted.
Linda: My next novella to be released in February 2021 is a historical and part of the “Cupids and Cowboys” series. Amata, who was an infant in Grayson, from the “Bachelors and Babies” series, is all grown up, and her romance is initiated by a child who brings together the hero and heroine. The setting is Cheyenne, WY, and Amata helped run her lawyer father, Grayson’s, campaign for state senator then went to teacher’s college to learn how to help her brother who suffers from a learning disability. The rancher hero’s son has a similar problem and the boy’s the one who contrives to get the two adults together.
Linda: Throughout my writing years, I’ve kept on track by the need to submit to a critique group. For several years, my daughter, Shenoa, my husband, and Sheila Hansberger met two Tuesdays a month at a Panera Bread restaurant. With COVID, we switched to Zoom, went to weekly sessions, and usually averaged three per month. I might have only created five pages but the group created a deadline. I also participate in an online group where I submit new pages on Friday night or revised and enlarged versions of the Tuesday critique pages. But when I’m in crunch writing time, the groups might see only the first two chapters of a story before I finish and release it.
Linda: During the first five months of this year, I wrote 4 novellas and then just stopped. The COVID restrictions kept me from being with family and prevented any vacation to look forward to–both just blocked my creative energy. I did a whole lot of crocheting as an outlet. I usually start plotting the next project when I’m halfway done writing the current story, but I just couldn’t. So over the summer, I read–mysteries, romances, thrillers, non-fiction writing craft books. The next story on my schedule was to be a love triangle plot, and I’d never written one, which I think was part of the block. Then practicality set in. I checked my preorder deadline, divided the word count by the remaining days, and sat at the computer to start with those daily word requirements in mind. Sheer determination pounded out that first chapter, and the block broke.
Linda: I took a career evaluation test in the eighth grade that scored Librarian as the job most suited to my abilities. At the time, I didn’t connect with that profession and focused on business classes in high school then earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. I went on to work in administrative support positions for many years in the educational field and then in a land survey business. When we moved back to California after a dozen years in Texas, I organized the books on our shelves by the Dewey Decimal system…just because I could. I’m happy with being a freelance editor and not looking for a new profession, but the shelves in my office burst with non-fiction books I’ve read as background for stories I’ve written.
Jann: Thank you Linda for being with us today on A Slice of Orange. Snowflake Cottage is a wonderful holiday story. You also had two historical releases in 2020–Between Two Beaus and A Promise for Christmas, which are also great. We’ll be looking forward to your historical release in February. Have a wonderful 2021!!
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Melissa Chambers writes contemporary novels for young, new, and actual adults. A Nashville native, she spends her days working in the music industry and her nights tapping away at her keyboard. While she’s slightly obsessed with alt rock, she leaves the guitar playing to her husband and kid. She never misses a chance to play a tennis match, listen to an audiobook, or eat a bowl of ice cream. (Rocky road, please!) She’s a member of RWA and has served as president for the Music City Romance Writers. In addition to the Love Along Hwy 30A series, she is the author of The Summer Before Forever, Falling for Forever, and Courting Carlyn (Entangled Teen).
Jann: Great name for a romance series—Love Along Hwy 30A. Why did you select beach town settings for the series?
Melissa: These books are set in the real communities along Hwy 30A in the panhandle of Florida between Destin and Panama City. For those who have never been, this area is absolutely magical. Each community is uniquely picturesque from Seaside with its pastel houses (The Truman Show was filmed there) to Alys Beach and its Mediterranean feel, to Rosemary with its London Tudor look. I have vacationed there many times, and the area was begging for a series to be written about it, each book focusing on a different community. The setting in these books is as much of a character as any of the people in the books!
Jann: Did you start with characters first or the story plot first for Seaside Sweets, book one in the series?
Melissa: I always start with characters first. Actually, I typically start with a setting I like, then add the characters and let them tell me their story as I go. I’m a pantser, so I type away until I see a story forming, then once I have the shape of it, I go back to the beginning and start over. Lots and lots of rewrites with the way I do it, but I’m really bad at plotting blindly, so it works for me. But warning, if you do it this way, you have to be willing to delete tens of thousands of words if necessary!
Jann: Whose story is it—Seanna’s or Blake’s? Why?
Melissa: Ooh, good question! Writing in dual POV, each protagonist gets their fair share of page time, but really, Blake is the one who makes the toughest journey. Not to take anything away from Seanna, because she comes a long way, too, but he’s the one who’s got the biggest roadblocks ahead of him.
Jann: You have book two, Seacrest Sunsets and book three, Seagrove Secrets, in the series available that our readers can check out. Is there a book four on its way?
Melissa: Why, yes, there is! I’m really mean and tease the story for the next book in the series at the end of each book. So readers who have made it to the end of book three already know the hero and heroine for book four. I’m working on it now, and it’s a blast! It will release in March, just in time for Spring Break! I’ve also got stories in mind for books five and six. Readers keep telling me they want Cassidy’s story, and I hear you loud and clear! It’s on its way!
Jann: Do you have any writing rituals? Schedule?
Melissa: I have a full-time day job and a family, so I have to have a writing schedule. I wake up anywhere between 4:00 and 5:00 in the morning and work till 6:30 when it’s time to get moving for the day. I hate it, because when I’m on a roll, it’s pretty much torture to shut the laptop. But we do what we have to in the time constraints we’re given.
Jann: What’s the best thing a fan ever said to you?
Melissa: I recently had a friend who has read all six of my books tell me that reading romance novels makes her a better person. She said it helps fuel the relationship with her husband and makes her a nicer and generally happier person. Just knowing one of my books could make even one person feel that way about herself, I could quit now and be content. (But I won’t!)
Jann: Melissa, I want to thank you for taking time today to chat with us here on A Slice of Orange. Love Along Hwy 30A is a great series jam packed with wonderful characters looking for their HEA. Wishing you a fantastic 2019!!
Jina Bacarr discovered early on that she inherited the gift of the gab from her large Irish family when she penned a story about a princess who ran away to Paris with her pet turtle Lulu. She was twelve. She grew up listening to their wild, outlandish tales, and it was those early years of storytelling that led to her love of history and traveling.
She enjoys writing to classical music with a hot cup of java by her side. She adores dark chocolate truffles, vintage anything, the smell of bread baking and rainy days in museums. She has always loved walking through history—from Pompeii to Verdun to Old Paris.
The voices of the past speak to her through carriages with cracked leather seats, stiff ivory-colored crinolines, and worn satin slippers. She has always wondered what it was like to walk in those slippers when they were new.
When disaster strikes
A Colton comes to the rescue