For our fifth day of the 12th Days of Christmas, author Carol DeVaney stops by the blog today to answer some questions, talk books and share an excerpt of A SMOKY MOUNTAIN CHRISTMAS.
What inspired this story?
For fun, a friend and myself chose the same writing prompt to write a short paragraph. Before I knew it, I had about a half page, and Tina, my main character, was born. To be honest, after the first couple of sentences, some of the characters Sandra Bullock played became Tina. The scene developed like a movie playing inside my head.
Do you have a favorite scene or character from the book?
Yes. Tina is a city girl out of her element in the mountains. Hank leaves her to prepare a simple dinner and light the wood stove That’s when havoc begins.
Was there anything particularly challenging about writing this?
Writing humor was something I’d never done, nor ever thought of doing. So the book was a challenge only that humor was new to me. But, while I kept Sandra bullock in my head, the scenes played out, and I had a fun time writing Tina and Hank’s journey.
If your heroine had a theme song what would it be?
Georgia on My Mind. Lol. Tina wanted to get home.
What character gave you the toughest time to write in the book?
I really didn’t have a hard time with any of the characters, as with each scene they all presented themselves just in time!
Which character is most like you or unlike you?
Tina would be more like me in that, I like a challenge and Tina certainly had her share during the few days she spent in Hand’s cabin.
Any chance of a sequel or a spin-off with one of the other characters?
Yes. I’m already working on book two, ‘A Smoky Mountain Christmas Wedding.’ A Smoky Mountain Baby will be book three in the series. I’m looking forward to writing both books.
Who would your ideal cast be if a movie was made?
Most definitely Sandra Bullock and Tom Hanks. I’d love to see them playing Tina and Hank. I’m not sure of the other characters.
If your book had a soundtrack, what kind of songs would be on it?
Do you have any writing rituals?
Since my 91 year-old mom lives with me, now I write in fifteen or twenty minute intervals or whatever time I can steal.
What do you like best about being a writer?
Making up characters and their stories with problems to solve and a happy ending. There isn’t anything better than to get an email from a reader who truly loved the characters and book. Better yet, when the reader wants to know the rest of the story or they’d like to know what happened to a particular character and if he/she would be in a future sequel.
What is your writing process like?
Usually a character presents himself or herself and I contemplate their appeal for a while. Sometimes the plot works its way inside my head immediately, sometimes not. If not, then I’ll interview the characters. Afterward I know them well enough to begin an outline. From there, I plot out chapters and see what works and what doesn’t. I used to write in sprints with friends, but found it was distracting to me. Writing for me, I’ve found, has to be a solitary and necessary way to complete a book.
If you get writer’s block, what do you do to snap yourself out of it?
I’m not sure I actually have writer’s block, but at times I do have too much on my mind and it takes a stretch to shatter the influence of not writing for a while. I’ll pull up a manuscript, read over what I’ve written and just begin to type. Much of what’s written may be discarded, still there are good lines to graft into the next chapter.
What would your dream writing space look like?
A second floor huge room with windows filling one entire side overlooking a mountain and lake. Floor to ceiling bookcases around two other walls would be a must. A nice big cherry desk, filing cabinets, a coffee pot, an easy chair with a lamp, and soft music playing in the background. Oh, sound proof and a lock on the door. I don’t ask for much do I? Ha!
What’s one thing that’s always on your desk?
Photographs of my family.
What would readers be surprised to know about you?
That I’m basically shy and quiet! My other personality shows through my writings.
What was the last book to be added to your keeper shelf?
CHRISTMAS ON MAIN STREET, a box set of 11 Christmas stories, of which my A Smoky Mountain Christmas is included, now a bestseller at Amazon. I love reading the stories by all the exciting authors.
Do you organize your TBR pile?
By genre, otherwise I pick one up and begin reading.
What’s next for you?
I’m working to complete book two and three of A Smoky Mountain Christmas series. My next book after those two are finished is ‘Not My Own.’ The book is close to my heart, in that there is a young boy, involved in the plot. I’m partial to children who captivate myself and readers in stories.
Here’s a short blurb for Not My Own:
After nine years of being estranged from her father, Megan Phillips now faces the second most difficult time in her life. The man who hurt her the most, has summoned her back to Vail, Colorado, her childhood home. Even in death, her father dishes out the last word. One thing she knows for sure is, she won’t allow her father to dictate her future from the grave.
Either Megan procure responsibility for Adam, a seven-year-old brother she hadn’t known existed, or she loses a vast inheritance. Megan wants nothing from her father, and refuses the inheritance. But, her father’s love child has nothing to do with the rift between her and her father. She won’t abandon Adam without placing him with family or in a good home. Unable to locate the mother and after finding out the boy’s grandparents are only after Adam’s inheritance, her search ends. Megan’s life is altered in ways she never dreamed.
Then, there’s her father’s lawyer, the hunky Bret Evans. A bachelor, all business, Bret is married to his law practice. Love and a family of his own is far down the ladder of achievements. Megan, the woman who catches his eye from the start, could be the one who removes a few rungs in his ladder.
Whatever will Megan do with a man who makes her forget she never wanted children, a family? The man who takes her breath away.
Hidden in the shadows and bent on revenge, is the man Megan helped put away for abusing his children. Now it’s payback time.
A Smoky Mountain Christmas
Hank’s, brow rose and deepened the wrinkle across his forehead. “Is your sister anything like you?”
“No.” Tina glared at him. “We don’t always agree, but she’s much nicer. Well…most of the time.”
“I’m sure she is.” He ran a hand down his face and sighed. “Look. There’s no reason for you to become upset. And don’t worry. You’re safe here. Safe with me.”
“I’m sure all murderers tell their victims the same thing. Trust me. Right?”
Hank let the comment go, slid the deer back inside the freezer and continued to dig around in the freezer. “Okay, since deer is out,” he held up a small tan package, “this is beef. Won’t take long to defrost in the microwave. Do you know how to make a meatloaf?”
“Never made one. You tell me how and I’ll give it a shot.”
Hank came to an abrupt halt and hung his arm over the open refrigerator door. “How old are you, Tina?”
“You look old enough to have learned a little something about cooking. Anything?”
“Not that it’s any of your business, but I’ve never had the desire to learn. I get by. Take Out or drive-through are fabulous and easy.”
“I should have known.” Hank threw up his hands and let out a growl. “And you expect to live that way forever?”
“There again, the question hasn’t come up that I’d be doing any of those things myself.” The man was entirely too nosey.
Hank ignored her. “Tell me you can at least dice an onion? Crack and separate an egg?”
Tina rolled her eyes and reminded herself, she was at the man’s mercy. “Can’t be that hard.” But, she was also his guest. “You’re sure you don’t want to cook dinner yourself?”
“See what you can do.” Hank explained in detail how to defrost meat in the microwave and mix a meatloaf. “I’m going out to chop more wood and check on Hatchet. Storm’s picked up and you may be here longer than I first thought.” He drug on his coat and hat and started out the door. “Give me your car keys. I’ll bring in your bag. Going to need it.”
Tina dug around in her pocket but came up empty. She had no keys. “The keys must be in the car. I don’t remember if I locked the door or not.” How careless could she be? To lock herself out of the car in this weather was more than careless. Could have been the fiasco with Sam, the dog, too.
“Never mind. If the lock isn’t frozen, I’ll get it open.”
“Don’t scratch my car.”
“Lady. You worry too much about that car.” Hank shook his head. “You should be concerned with not having any clothes. What will you wear?”
Since chopping wood had become the task at hand earlier, and with all else going on, what to wear wasn’t an issue. “I’ll manage,” she said. “Maybe raid your closet?”
“Whatever works,” he said. “I’ll be back as soon as I take care of Hatchet.”
Thirty minutes later Hank barged through the door, arms loaded high again with wood. He shoved the door closed with a foot, glanced into the kitchen and headed to the fireplace.
His eyes narrowed. He took his time laying out the wood and coming to grips with a female in the kitchen. Strange to see another female in the kitchen, especially one who looked uncomfortable and out of place. At least she had the common sense to clean up after putting the meatloaf together, which was more than his wife had done. Tina was a pretty woman. No, she was lovely.
He drove away the thought; he did not want to be attracted to Tina.
“How do you turn this thing on?”
Hank dropped the remainder of the wood, and bent to snag a log that rolled up against the rocker.
“Turn it on?” Hank doubled over in laughter. “You could struggle until doomsday and never find a switch. Lord, woman. You give a kitchen a new name. You don’t strike me as a helpless woman, but frankly, I’m beginning to wonder.”
“I believe I mentioned cooking wasn’t something I focused on.”
“Don’t need to focus, simply put forth an effort ”
Hank watched her face and could tell, something inside her snapped.
“Helpless? Helpless? Not on your life, buster. Tell me how to get this thing started and move out of my way. I’m going to finish this dinner and you’re going to eat it.”
A head taller than Tina, Hank glanced down at her soft hair, and wondered what it smelled of. Probably a hundred bucks worth. Not going further inside that thought, he dropped his hands on her shoulders, then turned her to face the stove. “Watch.”
Hank lifted the stove’s grate and set it aside. He dug around the wood box on the floor, laid crumpled paper in the stove, kindling on top, then lit the paper. When the kindling caught, he laid small crisscross strips of wood a few pieces at a time on top, then stacked the others to the side.
“Let that catch, then add five or six more of the larger pieces. You’ll have enough heat to bake and cook whatever you want in no time.”
Tina leaned over, stared down inside the stove while her eyebrows climbed up her forehead. “Isn’t that something? Amazing.”
Hank bent to move the wood-box. “Nothing to it.” When he looked up, he found a puzzled look on her face as she studied him.
“Yeah. So you say. What do you know? A man who’s as much at ease in the kitchen as outdoors. You’ve never been married have you?”
“Off limits.” Hank’s icy glare gave her more than little cause to reconsider prying into his personal life.
“Fine, I get it. No meddling allowed.”
The twitch at the corner of his mouth slowed. “Exactly.”
“And I’ve got the stove’s workings covered. I think.”
“Maybe. If the fire begins to burn down quickly, add more wood.” He stopped. “A little at a time. You don’t want to snuff it out.”
“Snuff it out?”
“Put it out.” He turned on a heel, left her with a blank stare in the middle of the kitchen, and stormed outside into the cold.
Okay, so he hadn’t actually said she was helpless, but he may as well have. She was determined more than ever to get food on the table. Good food.
Now, she had something to prove not only to herself, but to him, a stranger who’d given her cause to think about her upbringing. Now, why was that?
Though she had zero reason to prove herself in the kitchen, or otherwise, she would. Along comes this mountain man, and all of a sudden, what he thought mattered more than she expected. It mattered that he not regard her as fragile, and unable to pull her own weight. She was capable of doing anything she set her mind to, had never relied on others for self-worth or to believe in herself.
While drawers squeaked opened, Tina wondered what Hank was doing in the bedroom, which was none of her business. The sound of drawers sliding back in place stopped, then he stood in the doorway, dragged a hand down his face, and nodded toward the bedroom.
“I’ve laid some clothes on the bed…such as they are. Definitely too big, but it’s the best I can do.”
Tina looked around for her suitcase. “I’d much rather have my own. Didn’t you get my trunk unlocked? I thought you had something to trigger the door lock.”
“Frozen solid. I checked while I was out. Couldn’t get anything between the window and door. We’ll wait until the sun comes up and warms the lock tomorrow afternoon. Maybe. Maybe not.”
“This should prove interesting.” With a shrug, Tina walked into the bedroom, and held the huge orange football shirt against her chest. Orange did nothing for her complexion.
A belt, that would go around her twice, slid to the floor when she picked up a pair of faded jeans from the bed. When she knelt to pick it up, she bumped heads with Hank as he reached to grab the belt.
“Oops. I had no idea you were behind me. Thanks for the clothes.”
“They don’t say fashion, but they’ll work.” Hank cleared his throat and pointed at her head. “You okay?”
“I’m tough.” Tina was uncomfortable being with him in his bedroom, but she’d be darned if she’d show it. “Not only am I stuck here, but have no clothes or cosmetics. I don’t suppose you have any mild face soap?”
I’m darned sure not asking for face cream.
Hank shrugged and turned toward the bathroom. “I’ll see what I can come up with. When you’re ready for bed, say the word.”
Deduction. One bedroom—one bed. ‘Course there was always the sofa. Not sure of the answer, but had to ask, she stuck her head around the bathroom door.
“Uh…where do you suggest I sleep?”
With Tina on his heels, Hank sauntered through the bedroom and into the living room. He plunked down another log on the fire, faced its warmth, his hands clasped behind his back.
“In my bed, of course.”
Carol’s website: http://www.caroldevaney.weebly.com/