Well, you already know I love fairy tales. But you might be surprised to learn that my first stories were fairy tales I made up to bribe my younger cousins to go to bed.
I wrote my honors thesis on the role of passion after the fall in William Blake’s mythology.
I got my first job after college by getting the dean of students drunk at a Greek restaurant and dancing with her on the table.
At one of Suz Brockmann’s reader events, I was given the part of voluptuous Jane (from Suz’s Hot Target) in a skit. This was a surprise to me, since the other writer/actresses (Suz, Alyssa Day, and Cathy Mann) are all gorgeous and actually have chests. So during the sketch, I stuffed my bra with gym socks. This was a surprise to them, particularly the first time I turned around on stage and almost put someone’s eye out.
There, that’s two surprises in one.
Your series Children of the Sea is an adult take on mermen. What can you tell us about it for readers who haven't read it yet?
The Children of the Sea are based on Orkney folk tales about the selkie, shape-shifters who take the form of seals in the ocean and cast off their pelts—get naked—to come ashore as beautiful men and women who have sex with humans. The stories were created out of very human needs: the lonely sailor, the woman who loses her love to the sea, the farmer searching for a wife beyond the local girls he knows, the unmarried village girl who can’t or won’t name her baby’s father. Even in the original ballads, you can feel the poignant conflict between the characters’ longings and their day-to-day experience. I think that’s what grabbed me.
Well, that and the “beautiful naked men in the surf” bit.
In my series, the “elementals”—children of earth, air, sea, and fire—co-exist in uneasy peace with each other and humankind. That balance is shifting, so in addition to the romance, the stories involve the elementals’ struggle for power and even survival.
Congrats on the release of CAROLINA HOME (a little early)! This is a bit different from what you've been writing lately. Where did you get the idea for this series?
When I pitched my new Dare Island series to my editor, I told her I just wanted to write a book without a demon in it. Of course, there was more to it than that. But these are tough times for people all over. These are stories about the ways we help each other through, neighbor to neighbor, families pulling together.
I’ve been in love with the North Carolina coast since my husband took me there on vacation years and years ago. His dad was stationed at Camp Lejeune, like Matt’s dad in Carolina Home.
Part of the appeal of the small-town island setting, I think, is our longing for a place to belong. For roots. For family. Dare Island is home to three generations of the Fletcher family. So I not only get to focus on the romances of Matt, Meg, and Luke (the three Fletcher siblings), I get to include the rest of the family, too, parents, kids, pets, the whole warm, messy crew.
Carolina Home is the story of Matt, the son who stayed, the sexy single dad, the man who’s put his own dreams on hold in support of his parents and his son. He’s no saint, but he’s done a good job so far of compartmentalizing his love life and his home life. Of course, all that changes when pretty young schoolteacher Allison Carter comes to the island and challenges his notions of what his life can be.
I've asked you this before but, I really enjoyed your short story in the Tied with a Bow anthology. Do you have plans to continue writing the Children of the Air series anytime soon?
Oh, thank you! I loved writing that story. I’ve always been a sucker for The Scarlet Pimpernel, for Regency Christmas stories...and for angels. I wish I was fast enough to work on two series at once, because I would love to write more Amherst’s Angels. Right now, though, I’m happily focused on Dare Island.
You have beautiful covers! Do you have any input on what goes on your cover? Can you tell us who the artist is?
My editor and I always talk over ideas before she goes into cover conference. For Carolina Home, I also sent along photos my husband had taken of the Outer Banks. But I really rely on the team at Berkley to get it right: on my editor, on Rita Frangie, the cover designer, and on Tony Mauro, the artist (he did the stunning landscape for Carolina Home as well as the lovely fantasy art on the Children of the Sea books). They do an amazing job!
What's the best part of the research you have to do for your books?
Going to the beach! And I love talking to people, strangers, about their lives: the girl behind the counter in the gift shop, the couple running their own bed and breakfast, the teacher in the parking lot, the fisherman coming in with his catch at the end of the day.
Can you give us a peek into the day of a writer? Do you write every day? If so, for how long?
I’m very lucky because writing is my day job. Of course, that officially makes it “work,” which is something I’m good at avoiding. At the beginning of a book, I walk around the house a lot, talking to myself and jotting things down. Once I know the characters and have a general direction for the story, I try to write at least a couple of pages a day. At the end, when I’m fueled by caffeine and panic, it’s much more than that. And I don’t go to bed until I meet that day’s page goal.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I love to read. I like to walk. I really love to read and walk on the beach!
What is the last book you read?
The Good Father by Diane Chamberlain, set in Raleigh and Beaufort, NC. She does such wonderful, rich characters. Next up is Julia Quinn’s A Night Like This.
What's next for Virginia Kantra?
Right now, I’m working on Carolina Girl, scheduled for June 2013, about ambitious New York insurance executive Meg and sexy hometown builder Sam Grady. There’s a teaser (which I’ve since rewritten) in the back of Carolina Home, but the first line is the same: “At thirty-four, Megan Fletcher was determined not to turn into her mother.”
Which I think is a sentiment every woman can relate to!
I’m also in the process of updating and self-publishing some of my early Silhouette Intimate Moments titles: The Reforming of Matthew Dunn, The Passion of Patrick MacNeill, and The Comeback of Conn MacNeill, which just came out. I’m really proud of these early books. Three of the five were my Golden Heart finalists; three finaled in Romance Writers of America’s RITA Awards. They are similar in tone to my new Dare Island series, with deeply emotional storylines and a strong family at the center, so it seemed like a good time to make them available again.
Home to the Fletcher family for generations, Dare Island is a fishing village rocked by changing times—its traditions slipping away like the sands of the North Carolina coast. Single dad and fishing boat captain Matt Fletcher deferred his own dreams to support his innkeeper parents and build a future for his sixteen-year-old son. Matt has learned to weather life's storms by steering a steady emotional course...and keeping a commitment-free approach to love.
Newcomer Allison Carter came to Dare Island to escape the emotional demands of her wealthy family. The young teacher aims to build a life here, to make a lasting place for herself. She doesn't want to be another in the long line of Women Who Once Dated Matt Fletcher. It's both tempting and dangerous to believe she can be something more.
Then Matt's brother Luke makes a sudden return home, with a child of his own—and a request that will change all their lives. With a child's welfare at stake, Matt must turn to Allison to teach him to let go of the past, open his eyes...and follow his heart.
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