Whispers Under a Southern Sky
Her past…or her future?
It’s taken Amy Finley ten years, but she’s finally ready to return to her hometown of Heartache, Tennessee, and face the past. She just never expected that would include reuniting with her high school sweetheart and now town sheriff, Sam Reyes. Or that Sam’s latest case would lead right back to the darkest chapter in her life.
The attraction between Amy and Sam is definitely still there, not to mention that she’s sure she could quickly grow to love his cute baby son. But can he forgive her for keeping her secrets? Can she forgive herself?
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Guys, this is Joanne Rock’s first time on the blog. Please help me in welcoming her today.
- Tell readers a little about yourself.
Hello! I’m a long-time romance author and I’ve written over seventy books for Harlequin because I truly adore what I do. I am a lifelong reader and it took me a while to realize that I could turn my passion for reading into a writing career. I was over the moon when I figured that out and couldn’t wait to try my hand at writing a romance novel. It’s harder than it looks!! It took me many tries to write a manuscript that Harlequin wanted to buy, but I was determined and kept firing stories at them until I got it right. Now, I’ve settled into a happy career writing for a variety of lines over the years including Historicals, Superromance, and Desire. When I’m not writing—or talking about writing and books!—I’m spending time with my three sons and husband. They are an entertaining bunch and make sure I don’t get lost in my fictional worlds.
- Plotter or panster?
I have always wanted to be a plotter. And I plot a little. But when push comes to shove, my books come together more organically—changing shape to suit the characters. As much as I wish I were a plotter, I’m a pantser at heart.
- Authors have been asked this question countless times. I’d love to hear what you have to say. Where do you get your ideas from?
Virtually everywhere. All of my life experiences end up in the pages of my books in one form or another. I am inspired for characters by friends and family, as well as by people I meet at random or see as characters on television shows. I find bits of plots from overheard conversations in the coffee shop, interactions I witness in the airport or on the street, and sometimes I get ideas in dreams. Sometimes an exotic accent gives me an idea for a character, or an internet meme makes me say, “what if?” That’s really all it takes to head off into a story… something triggers the “what if?” factor that gets an author’s imagination firing.
- Your current release is titled Whispers Under a Southern Sky. Tell us a little about this story and what readers can expect.
This month’s release, Whispers Under a Southern Sky, is followed by Wishes at First Light. Those two stories are books #4 and #5 in my “Heartache, TN” series for Harlequin Superromance. It’s a family saga set in a small town and I’ve had so much fun revisiting the people and places. The storyline in “Whispers” is darker, however, as the heroine has experienced a trauma as a teen and she’s spent a lot of time trying to put it behind her.
- What inspired you to write this story and what experience did you gain during its research stages?
I’ve known since I started the “Heartache, TN” stories that I would be writing Amy and Sam’s story eventually. The sheriff hero called to me as soon as I met him and I knew his story needed to be told. It wasn’t until book #3, Dances Under the Harvest Moon, that I knew for sure who his heroine had to be. As far as the research went, I probably had to do the most research for the teen subplot. I’ve got a teenager point-of-view character in each of these novels, and this time around I needed to learn more about the effects of cyberbullying and partner violence in teen relationships. I think those are important stories to tell.
- Tell us a little about your hero and heroine in this story.
Amy Finley is the youngest of the Finley family—the family that has been central to the Heartache, TN stories. We don’t meet her until book #4 because she left home as a teen and hasn’t looked back. Her absence has been noted at important family events and the characters all understand they can’t heal the family until she comes home. Now, she’s back, but she’s not even sure she’s ready to see all of her family again. It’s a process for her.
Sam Reyes, the hero, is the sheriff, a job he took to solve an old crime that involved a friend ten years ago. He’d left town at the time to protect his friend, but he came back to Heartache to help put that past to rest and see a criminal behind bars. His journey and Amy’s end up connecting and rekindling an old romance for them.
- Do you have any favorite line/s in this book?
I enjoyed this exchange between the hero and his friend when the friend rings the doorbell…
“What the hell are you wearing?” Zach’s eyes narrowed as he took in the baby carrier.
“I believe it’s called a pouch sling.” He glanced down at the carrier, where Aiden was starting to stir, his face scrunching up in that pre-cry, wrinkle-puss expression that meant food would be required soon. Sam rocked from foot to foot, trying to soothe his son while lowering his voice to a low hiss. “And it works like nobody’s business to keep the baby asleep unless you have clueless friends who ring the doorbell.”
“It’s purple, dude.” Zach squinted at the strap over one of Sam’s shoulders. “And plaid.”
“Right. And when you have kids you’ll be begging me to let you borrow it.” He stalked toward the kitchen to get a bottle started. “But I’ll just come over and ring your doorbell while your firstborn is sleeping instead.” – from Whispers Under a Southern Sky by Joanne Rock, 2016
- What are you currently working on and what other projects can readers expect from you in the near future?
I’m working on a series for Harlequin Desire called The McNeill Magnates, it’s another family saga, but this time the heroes are the sons of a global resort developer and their adventures in dating begins when their grandfather decides no one inherits the family legacy until they are married. It causes havoc for all of my guys and I’m having fun pairing them up with women who challenge them. The first book, The Magnate’s Mail-Order Bride, releases in April 2017 with two books following in May and June.
- Any advice for aspiring writers?
Be persistent. I wrote numerous books before I sold one, but that experience really pays off once that first sale comes. Writing is hard work, and good storytelling is even harder, but it’s fascinating to study and rewarding to learn. I have enjoyed watching my skills grow over the years and I enjoy helping new writers the way established authors helped me to find my writing voice. The romance writing community is very generous in that way.
Thank you so much for having me, Amanda! I’m so grateful to connect with your readers and spend time visiting!
Excerpt of Whispers Under a Southern Sky:
Returning from the grocery store to purchase supplies, Amy took the Partridge Hill Road slowly, climbing the sharp incline with a respectful speed. She was wary of the potholes and cavernous cracks in tarmac that looked like the town had been ignoring it for decades.
Her car was on its last leg, an eBay deal she’d snagged for next to nothing after her previous vehicle had died. A gray sedan built for efficiency and not comfort, the car was held together with duct tape, furnace cement, a few well-placed zip ties and a whole lot of You Tube video knowledge on DIY mechanics. She was proud she’d kept the thing running this long, but she wasn’t about to risk her luck on one of those black holes.
Even if that meant she couldn’t zip past the house where Sam Reyes was rumored to live.
She kept her eyes on the road so as not to risk any accidental sightings. Not that she wasn’t curious, of course. Her long-ago boyfriend had been hot as a teenager when other boys were still gangly and awkward. Her imagination could fill in the blanks quite nicely to envision him as a man full grown. She didn’t need that visual confirmed. Especially not after they’d had the world’s most awkward non-breakup.
He had just up and disappeared. Vanished into thin air with Gabriella Chase, a particularly adorable majorette who probably would have been homecoming queen. If she hadn’t left school to run away with Sam. His mysterious email—weeks later–claiming that he’d left to “help a friend” hadn’t exactly eased her anger.
The car dipped down into a rut she hadn’t seen. The passenger side tire scraped something sharp, a grating noise against the wheel. She hit the gas on instinct since her vehicle was prone to stalling.
And yet, of course, her sedan died right there.
“Unacceptable.” She closed her eyes. Willed the vehicle to life. “If not for me, you would be in a scrap heap.”
Sadly, it wasn’t her first dialogue with the vehicle. But for the first time, the cursed thing seemed to listen because it fired up again with a cough and a splutter.
“Yes!” She hit the gas hard, desperate to get out of sight from the last house on Partridge Hill Road.
She wasn’t a woman who enjoyed being rescued and, thankfully, her closest neighbor would be saved from that role today. Racing up the rest of the hill, she dodged the remaining pits and crevices, flush with victory and the knowledge she had enough supplies to last her for the next two weeks. She wouldn’t need to worry about seeing anyone until she felt well settled in and—
A large man stood on the porch of the hunting cabin.
Dressed in black and wearing dark sunglasses, the figure stood with his back to her, his large shoulders bent over something he seemed to be examining on the front porch swing. A hit man deciding which weapon to use? Her brain churned out a whole series of crazy possibilities when he did not turn toward her as she slowed the car.
Fear crawled up her throat since no one should be here. Her sisters had promised her—promised—that they would let her decide when she wanted to see the family. No one else knew she was here. And the guy on the porch sure didn’t look like he was selling something. Or trying to convert her.
Why hadn’t the man noticed her yet? She debated backing down the road again. She could just slide it into neutral and she’d be at the bottom of Partridge Hill in moments. Then suddenly, even with her heart beating hard and the car’s heater blowing on high, she realized she could hear the wail of an infant.
Even as she told herself that made no sense, the man on the porch straightened from whatever he’d been studying on the wooden swing. He held a baby in his arms.
But that wasn’t nearly the most shocking thing about her uninvited guest.
Because the man in front of her was Samuel Reyes….
Four-time RITA nominee Joanne Rock has never met a romance sub-genre she didn’t like. The author of over seventy books enjoys writing a wide range of stories, most recently focusing on sexy contemporaries and small town family sagas. An optimist by nature and perpetual seeker of silver linings, Joanne finds romance fits her life outlook perfectly–love is worth fighting for. A frequent speaker at regional and national writing conferences she enjoys giving back to the writing community that nurtured and inspired her early career. She has a Masters degree in Literature from the University of Louisville but credits her fiction writing skills to intensive study with fellow author and friend Catherine Mann. When she’s not writing, Joanne enjoys travel, especially to see her favorite sports teams play with her former sports editor husband and three athletic-minded sons.