Please welcome Meg Benjamin to the blog. I’m kicking things off with a few interview questions which she’s answered…but please step up and ask your own questions and comment on the responses. We like discussion here on the blog. It keeps things fun and interesting for our guests and for us.
Meg will be awarding a $10.00 Gift Card of winner’s choice – Amazon, Sur la Table, iTunes, or Lush – to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour. Be sure to leave a comment to enter here, then go here for a list of other sites where Meg will be visiting so that you can enter there.
Q: Please tell us a bit about yourself – when did you first know you wanted to write – what was your journey to publication like – do you have a spouse or significant other – kids? Pets? Where in the world do you live? Where did you grow up? What real life events and experiences fuel your writing?
I grew up in Wichita, Kansas, but I’ve lived all around the country—went to school in Iowa and Washington state, lived in the South (Alabama) and the East (Massachusetts and Pennsylvania) before heading to San Antonio, Texas, for twenty plus years. I taught college English for a lot of those years and my writing was mainly the kind you do to get tenure—textbooks and journal articles. But at a certain point I realized I really wanted to write fiction. It took me a while to learn how and I really owe a huge debt to the members of my local RWA chapter who helped me with the basics. Now I live outside Denver, Colorado, where we moved when my hubs switched jobs, but I still visit Texas regularly since both my sons live there. I write about the Hill Country, which I love. It’s a beautiful part of the state with a flourishing wine industry, some great restaurants and a terrific music scene. We always manage to stop by Fredericksburg and the surrounding towns whenever we make it back to Texas.
Q: Please tell us a bit about Fearless Love
Fearless Love is my seventh book set in Konigsburg, Texas. It’s a typical Hill Country town in that it has a big tourist industry, a couple of wineries, and some great restaurants. All my Konigsburg books have the same setting, but they can all be read individually, so you can come to Fearless Love without having visited town before. This time my hero, Joe LeBlanc, is a chef at a very fancy restaurant, the Rose. My heroine is MG Carmody, a former singer who lost a lot of her confidence when she failed to conquer Nashville. MG needs money so she can hang onto the farm she inherited from her grandfather, but all she has to sell are the eggs from her chickens. Joe hires her as a kitchen helper. There’s a nasty great aunt, a hostile rooster, a culinary contest, and lots of singing. And, of course, one hot love affair.
Q: Most authors include some aspects of themselves in their characters. What parts of yourself are included in your characters from Fearless Love?
Fearless Love gave me a chance to play around with two of my favorite things: cooking and Americana music. I’m sort of a low-grade foodie. I love reading recipes and hearing about restaurant chefs. Telling Joe’s story gave me a chance to read lots of great kitchen memoirs, from Jacques Pepin to Jason Sheehan. Along with being a foodie, I learned to love Americana music when we lived in Texas. It’s a very eclectic mix: alt country, roots rock, zydeco, Tejano, blues, and people like Joe Ely who really can’t be characterized. My heroine, MG, sings in some typical Texas roadhouses and, purely by coincidence mind you, the songs she sings are ones I’d love to sing myself if I were up there on stage (and if I had any voice left)!
Q: Fearless Love sounds like a bit of a fun romp… I like that the heroine has inherited a chicken farm with chickens that won’t lay eggs. I wonder if you could reduce the idea to the kernel that first came into your mind and show us how you built on that to arrive at the book. It sounds like there were probably some twists in turns and it’s always fun to hear about those.
The idea for Fearless Love popped into my mind as we were driving down a back road near Fredericksburg. We’d just left a really posh bed and breakfast and were headed back to town when I saw this small wood-frame house with a flock of chickens pecking in the yard. It seemed like such an interesting contrast. Just down the road from the elegant bed and breakfast, you’ve got pure country. Then, of course, I had to figure out who lived in those houses and how chicken farming worked. Fortunately, Denver passed an urban homesteading law while I was working on the book that allows people to own one or two chickens in the city limits—I got a lot of information about chickens all of a sudden. I already knew I wanted Joe LeBlanc to be my hero since he was a secondary character in Don’t Forget Me (and some readers thought he should have gotten the girl in that one). And once I figured out that MG Carmody lived in that house, and that she was a singer, well, that got things rolling along!
Q: Was there one particular scene that haunted you and compelled you to write Fearless Love? If so please tell us about that scene. What happens in the scene? Why is it an important scene in the book?
I really loved writing Fearless Love because I really loved Joe and MG. Sometimes when I’m working on something, snatches of dialogue will occur to me. That’s what happened when I worked on Fearless Love. In one scene in particular, MG complains about her name, Mary Grace. She says she’s not a graceful woman and that the name always seemed ironic. Joe tells her she’s wrong and talks about the nature of grace. I think it’s one of the nicest speeches I’ve ever written, and it’s important because if you didn’t realize it by then, after that speech you know he’s nuts about her.
Q: Most writers know a lot of things about their characters that never make it into the book. What can you tell us about your characters that didn’t make it into the book?
I think most of what I know about my characters is right there on the page. They talk about themselves a lot.
Q: What can you tell us about your book that isn’t in the blurb?
I love to write villains, but my villain this time, Great Aunt Nedda, is less evil than just bitter. She undergoes a change through the course of the book. Not that she becomes sweet, but she remembers more and forgives more. You still may not like her at the end of the book, but I hope you’ll understand her better.
Q: What has been the hardest scene you’ve ever written and why?
Sex scenes are always tough for me. I want them to be hot and I want them to grow out of the characters’ attraction to each other, but I’m not an erotic romance writer and I can’t go too far with the descriptions. It usually takes me a couple of days to do a sex scene, with a lot of pacing around the house to try to figure out how to handle them.
Q: What aspect of writing do you find the most difficult?
Dialogue is easy. Sex is hard!
Q: Where on the spectrum from sweet to erotic does your book fit? What do you see as the dividing lines between sweet, sensual and erotic?
Mine would be sensual rather than erotic. To me it’s largely a matter of terminology and the level of detail used in describing sex. My sex scenes are more generalized, but I do have them, which means my books don’t fall into the sweet category.
Now for some just for fun:
Q: On Pinterest are you a A.) Hoarder in disguise (you collect images of everything you like) B.) Minimalist (you only collect images that fit in with some project – my next book – a home remodeling project – etc) C.) you’re not on Pinterest.
I love Pinterest, but I’m more in category B. I just don’t have the time to create lots of boards.
Q: On Twitter are you A.) The life of the party engaging with my friends and followers B.) Mostly a promoter – I use Twitter primarily to promote my books C.) Mostly a lurker. I follow a lot of people looking for useful information – some of which finds its way into my books.
Here I don’t really fall into any of the categories. I try to Tweet about things that are happening in my life rather than all promo all the time, but like Pinterest, I just can’t spend as much time on Twitter as I might like, so I’m not really the life of the party there.
Q: Did you read 50 Shades of Grey? Love it? Hate it? Somewhere in between?
Haven’t read it. The articles written about it, which seemed to imply it was the first book ever written about a BDSM relationship, annoyed me too much. Hey, I’ve got friends who’ve been writing BDSM for years—get a clue!
Q: What was the last book you read that you really loved – enough that you’d recommend it to someone else?
I’m a huge Loretta Chase fan and her Scandal Wears Satin is just a delight.
Q: If you could go backwards or forwards in time and have dinner with anyone in history who would it be and why?
I’d love to have dinner with Nora Ephron, a real icon for women writers and directors. I’ve read everything she wrote, and loved it all. And I’m so sad that doing this now would require going back in time.
Q: Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
In person I’m an introvert, like a lot of writers. On line, I’m an extrovert, like a lot of writers.
Q: Describe your ideal romantic getaway?
I love to travel with my hubs—just about anywhere. But I really love doing old-fashioned road trips. Santa Fe is a great place to hang out and it’s a few hours drive from where we live. I’d love to go there and spend a weekend buying jewelry, drinking margaritas, and generally kicking back.
Q: If you were to be stranded on a desert island with one of your characters which character and why?
Maybe the hero of Fearless Love, Joe LeBlanc (although I love all my heroes equally—honest). I think he’d be able to turn just about anything into a feast, plus being funny, sweet, and generally…helpful.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers about yourself, your books, your characters?
My books are all contemporary romance, but they all have a touch of humor. They’re not exactly screwball comedy, but they’re not deadly serious wither. Come visit me in Konigsburg sometime. I hope you’ll like it there!
Fearless Love (Konigsberg, Texas, Book 7)
by Meg Benjamin
MG Carmody never figured her musical dreams would crash against the reality of Nashville. Now the only thing she has going for her is her late grandfather’s chicken farm, which comes with molting hens that won’t lay, one irascible rooster, and a huge mortgage held by a ruthless opponent—her Great Aunt Nedda.
With fewer eggs to sell, MG needs extra money, fast. Even if it means carving out time for a job as a prep cook at The Rose—and resisting her attraction to its sexy head chef.
Joe LeBlanc has problems of his own. He’s got a kitchen full of temperamental cooks—one of whom is a sneak thief—a demanding cooking competition to prepare for, and an attraction to MG that could easily boil over into something tasty. If he could figure out the cause of the shy beauty’s lack of self-confidence.
In Joe’s arms, MG’s heart begins to find its voice. But between kitchen thieves, performance anxiety, saucy saboteurs, greedy relatives, and one very pissed-off rooster, the chances of them ever making sweet music are looking slimmer by the day.
An Excerpt From Fearless Love
“Only cars are named MG. What’s your real name.”
For a moment, she looked like a sulky seven-year-old, her face scrunched into a scowl. “You can’t laugh.”
“I’ll do my best. What are you—Mariah Grimsby or something?”
“Mary Grace,” she said flatly. “Mary Grace Carmody.”
He blinked. “And you’re upset about that?”
“Well, to begin with it sounds like the name of a sixty-year-old nun.” She sighed. “Probably from County Clare.”
“Trust me, honey, nobody’s going to mistake you for a sixty-year-old nun. Although the County Clare part could fit.” He ran his fingers along her cheek, tracing the high bone. “What else you got?”
She blew out a breath. “The problem is the Grace part. My mom’s the most practical person I know, and a harder worker you’ll never find. But why the hell she saw fit to stick me with Grace, I’ll never understand.”
He let his fingertips trail down the side of her throat. “What’s wrong with Grace? I like it.”
“It’s everything I’m not. Calm. Steadfast. Slow to anger. You name a virtue I lack and it’ll be one Grace should have. Including being able to move around without tripping over my own feet. It’s like naming your kid Chastity or Excellence or something.” She turned her head slightly, brushing her lips against his palm. “And no, I’m not fishing for compliments and I don’t need to be reassured about my general wonderfulness. It’s just that the good things about me aren’t things a Grace would have.”
“Don’t tell me I can’t reassure you about your wonderfulness if I want to,” he murmured, sliding his lips along the line his fingers had followed. “Besides there’s all kinds of grace in this world, darlin’.”
“Such as?” Her voice sounded a little breathless. A very good sign.
“Well, I figure you’re thinking about something like a ballet dancer—you know, professional grace. Or some model, assuming she doesn’t fall ass over teakettle with those skyscraper heels they wear.” He nuzzled the soft spot beneath her ear.
“Something like that.” Definitely breathless now.
“Well, that’s one kind of grace, but when I watch you dodge around the kitchen with a hotel pan full of chopped onions, making sure you don’t run into Leo’s ass, that’s grace too.”
She gave him a slightly sour look. “It’s more self-preservation. Running into Leo’s ass involves the possibility of hot grease.”
“Granted. But there’s nothing wrong with self-preservation, far as I can see. Hell, darlin’ there are times when just looking at you in that kitchen can make a difference in my day. Like sanity in the midst of kitchen chaos. That’s grace. Believe me, that’s real grace.”
She lay very still beneath his fingers. “Gosh,” she whispered.
He turned to look down at her, meeting that dark green gaze. “And what I saw on stage at Oltdorf tonight, that’s another kind of grace. Grace in abundance that was.”
For a moment, she stared up at him. And then she cupped his face in her hands, pulling his mouth down to hers almost urgently. Her tongue danced along his quickly, and he plunged deeper, grasping her shoulders to hold her still.
About Meg Benjamin:
Meg Benjamin is an award-winning author of contemporary romance. Her Konigsburg series for Samhain Publishing is set in the Texas Hill Country. Book #3, Be My Baby, won a 2011 EPIC Award for Contemporary Romance. Book #4, Long Time Gone, received the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award for Indie Press Romance. Book #5, Brand New Me, won the Holt Medallion from Virginia Romance Writers and was nominated for Book Of the Year at Long and Short Reviews. Meg lives in Colorado with her DH and two rather large Maine coon kitties (well, partly Maine Coon anyway). Her Web site is http://www.MegBenjamin.com and her blog is http://megbenj1.wordpress.com/. You can follow her on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/meg.benjamin1), Pinterest (http://pinterest.com/megbenjamin/), and Twitter (http://twitter.com/megbenj1). Meg loves to hear from readers—contact her at email@example.com.
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