1. Can you tell us a little bit about your new release, Falling for Max?
Falling for Max is the ninth book in my Kowalski family series, and it’s about Max Crawford and Tori Burns. Max is single, has great couches, a big TV, and loves to have people over to watch sports, which is how he’s eased into friendships in Whitford. He’s also the resident man of mystery, since nobody knows what he does for a living down in his basement. Tori moved to Whitford to escape her parents’ acrimonious divorce and works part time at the diner to offset the lack of a social life working from home can cause. When she finds out awkward, shy Max is trying to find himself a wife, Tori decides to help him because she genuinely likes him. But she might found out too late that she likes him more than she thought.
2. What is it about the Kowalski family that people love?
I think they feel really authentic, as if you could run into them at the local diner or at a gas station. They’re blue-collar folks who work hard and play hard. They love their children, respect their parents or parent-figures, and love to laugh. I think they’re people we’d want to hang out with in real life.
3. Why did you decide to bring together your two recurring characters, Tori and Max?
I knew I’d end up writing Max’s story as soon as he was introduced in All He Ever Dreamed, the sixth book in the series. It was something of a surprise when I realized Tori, who was meant to have a walk-on role, was the woman for him. She’s very curious and frank, and isn’t made uncomfortable by Max’s awkward attempts at conversation. She likes him and decides to help him find a date which, of course, goes sideways on her.
4. Is the town of Whitford modeled after the New England town you live in?
Whitford is quite a bit smaller than the town I live in, and my town only has about 3,500 residents. It’s actually very, very loosely modeled after a town in central Maine I’ve visited, but I’m reluctant to say which because people familiar with it would shake their heads. It’s more about the feel of the place and having a point on the map to use when determining how long it takes to drive to the hospital or airport than modeled after the location.
5. Why do you think people love small town romance novels so much?
One of the things I personally love about small town romance novels is the cast of characters. As a reader, I get to know everybody in the community and become invested in, not only the hero and heroine, but the people around them. Returning to a small town series is like returning to a town I’ve enjoyed visiting or reconnecting with friends.
5. When did you realize that you wanted to be a writer?
I barely remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer. I think it was a Little House on the Prairie book that caused me to make a connection with an author’s name when I was maybe six or seven and I was told that, yes; people get paid to write books. From that moment on, an author was all I ever wanted to be. It wasn’t until I discovered romance novels as a young teen that I knew what I wanted to write. (I write horrible poetry and horror. Trust me.)
6. What else do you like to do when you are not writing?
I love being at campground with my family. Besides hitting the ATV trails, there’s something refreshing about sitting around a campfire with friends, or playing cards in the gazebo. We generally make the drive up to the northern part of New Hampshire every other weekend from May to October, but this summer we spent ten days there and it was wonderful. Other than that, I watch too much television, with a special weakness for reality shows.
7. How would you describe your voice and writing style?
I really wish I could remember who said it, but I’ve heard that authorial voices are like accents—other people can hear them, but you can’t. I think my voice and writing style probably reflect my general view of life, which I share with my family: humor, love for family, respect. I’ve had readers tell me I do a good job of balancing lightheartedness and emotion for a fun, romantic read.
8. What’s the best part of Max’s quirky personality?
The heroes of the Kowalski series have all been fairly confident, sure-of-themselves men who could bring the charm when it suited them. They “walked tall” in their worlds, so to speak. Max has never found it easy to interact socially, which leads to awkwardness and has made forming relationships in the small town of Whitford somewhat difficult. Showing what a great guy he is through Tori’s eyes was fun to explore.
9. Tell us a little about your social media presence. How is it different now connecting with readers as opposed to before social media?
When I contracted my first book in 2005, blogging was the “it” social media platform. Writers were networked by, and readers could find us by, blog rolls and group blogs. Now conversations are much more immediate and casual. Blog posts tend to limit the conversation to that post’s topic, while Facebook and especially Twitter lead to more organic conversations that don’t smack of promotion. Writing’s a solitary endeavor and having “water cooler” discussions is a sanity-saver!
10. What’s your main source of inspiration for developing the Kowalski series?
The Kowalski series began when I started writing a romance just for my own pleasure, filled with things I loved, like camping and four-wheeling and s’mores and bug spray jokes. Eventually I realized that if I enjoyed it, so might others, and it became Exclusively Yours, the first book in the series.
11. Which of the characters in this novel do you feel the most drawn to?
While I enjoyed writing Tori, I’d have to say I’m most drawn to Max. He’s somewhat inspired by several people who are very important to me and his desire to find a woman who’d love him just the way he was really struck a chord. I love all of my book couples, but writing his happily ever after was particularly sweet for me.
12. Do you have any say in what goes on your book covers?
I’ve been incredibly lucky with the Carina Press art department’s ability to take a form on which I’ve noted pertinent, but random, details about the books and return with such wonderful covers. If there’s something I feel strongly about, they do their best to make it happen but, overall, I think Carina Press and Harlequin are brilliant at marketing—including book covers—so I trust in their vision for the series.
13. Where is your favorite place to brainstorm and write?
I have an office in my home, complete with normal office things like a desk, filing cabinets and comfortable chair for writing. I even go in there once in a while—usually if I need to print something—but I do almost all of my writing on the couch in the living room with my dogs snuggled up next to me. A lot of my brainstorming is done while driving, either my vehicle or while out on the ATV trails. And in the shower, of course. Writers trying to work out plot issues tend to be very, very clean.
14. What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
“Quit worrying/whining/obsessing and get back to work.” — Jaci Burton, whenever I’m worrying/whining/obsessing over things I can’t control.
15. What are you working on next?
I have a holiday novella, “Her Holiday Man”, releasing in November, and my editor and I are tossing around some ideas for a new series. I hope to have good news to announce very soon!
Visit the author's website for more information: http://shannonstacey.com/
She pinned the order slip in the carousel and yelled for Carl, who was probably sitting at the break table doing word searches, then went back to her customer. “So what brings you in today?”
“I was hungry.”
If there was any hint of sarcasm or hostility in his tone, she would have taken the hint and walked away. But he had simply answered the question asked of him, and she was nosy. “You came to the right place.”
“Made more sense than going to the post office.” She laughed and his expression relaxed a little. “It’s early yet, but the Patriots are looking pretty good this year.”
“I’ve heard that rumor, but I don’t really follow sports at all.”
“Oh.” He actually looked disappointed.
“No, I’m sorry. I’m not very good at small talk.”
Despite her curiosity, she decided to let him off the hook. “Somebody left this week’s paper by the register if you’d rather read.”
“No.” He smiled, and she was struck by how it transformed his face. He had a great smile. “I’d rather talk to you.”
She leaned back against the island where the coffeemaker sat. “What do you like to talk about, Max Crawford?”
Max wasn’t surprised the waitress—Tori, according to her name tag—knew his name. Of course she did. That was the way of a small town like Whitford. It also meant she was half-convinced he did mysterious things in his basement. The most popular theory, of course, being that he was a serial killer. The few people he’d talked to about it had yet to explain how they thought he made money from such an endeavor.
“With sports off the table,” he said, “I don’t suppose you’re into trains?”
“Trains?” He wasn’t surprised when she gave him an odd look. He got those a lot. “I don’t really know a lot about trains.”
Of course she didn’t. Not many people did. “It’s a nice day today.”
“Wow, we regressed to the weather pretty quickly.”
He liked the way her eyes crinkled up when she smiled at him. They were a warm brown color, like hot cocoa, and a little lighter than her hair. She wasn’t very tall, but she was nicely curvy and he might have considered asking her if she was in a relationship, but she was also younger than him. He couldn’t guess by how much, exactly, but the difference was noticeable to the eye, so therefore probably significant.
“How about the basics?” she asked, and he braced himself for the probing personal questions. First up would be his job, as always. “So, what do you do for a living?”
“I don’t kill people in my basement.”
She laughed, the sound loud and happy in the empty diner. “I hope you don’t take that personally. It’s just people being silly and bored and, to be honest, it drives everybody crazy not knowing what you do. I think they spread that story hoping you’ll be horrified and feel a need to spill the truth.”
“The story amuses me. Especially the holes in it, such as how I’d pay my mortgage with body parts from my basement freezer.” He lifted an eyebrow. “So why would I tell people what I do and ruin all the fun?”
“You’re my kind of guy, Max.”
Even though he knew it was just an expression and meant she appreciated his sense of humor about the issue, satisfaction that this woman liked him flooded through him and made him sit up a little straighter.
The cook called her name and she went to get his salad. Sucking chocolate frappe through his straw, he watched her walk away. Rather than a seductive sway of the hips, there was a happy, positive bounce to her step that he liked.
Maybe Tori the waitress would be a new friend, even if she didn’t like sports.
A few people came in while he was eating his salad, which made it hard to have further conversation with Tori. There was a married couple in one booth and two guys having lunch at another table, so it didn’t look as if he was going to meet a dateable woman this time.
He left a tip on the counter before going to the cash register to pay his bill. She gave him another smile as she made change. “I hope we’ll see you in here again soon.”
“I’m sure you will. I’ve decided I’d like to get out of the house more often.” He didn’t think it would be a good idea to go around advertising he was looking to meet women with the long-term goal of marriage. The gossip mill would have a field day with that.
Visit the author's website for more information: http://shannonstacey.com/