Exactly why should P.I. Vince Sutton take his ex-wife’s case? Because she, assistant district attorney Simone Armstrong, put his brother in jail? Because the ambitious spitfire still drives him crazy? No, he’ll take it because “The Avenging Angel” makes him a deal he can’t refuse. Sparks fly when Vince works all-too-closely with Simone to locate her missing key witness…but in the process, they are drawn into a cold case. As much as he tries, Vince can’t deny that he’s never gotten over beautiful Simone, but can he admit his feelings to her–and himself? And can he save her from the danger that’s heading their way?
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1. Hi Anna, welcome to Amanda Writes. Please tell readers a little about yourself.
It’s great to be with you, Amanda! Thanks for having me. I write romances across the heat spectrum (from sweet to spicy) and love featuring communities, groups of friends, and large families in my stories. I’m a geek at heart and probably go to far too many movies and watch too much TV. I live in Northern California where I went to college and have had a variety of day jobs including working at a bookstore (surprise!), as a cookie decorator, in a dollhouse shop and as an assistant to author Brenda Novak where I helped run her diabetes auction. I also love going to sci-fi fan conventions and events and hanging out on Facebook (again, probably way too much). And reading of course! Never seems to be enough time for reading these days.
2. When did you first realize you wanted to become a writer and what inspired your first book?
I think I was always a storyteller. I grew up an only child, so I had a very active imagination and remember acting out scenes featuring my favorite book or TV characters. I was also a voracious reader. There weren’t a lot of YA books when I was growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, so I was reading authors like Stephen King and Dean Koontz pretty early on. Then I read my first romance my freshman year in high school, a Silhouette (aka Harlequin) by Nora Roberts. From that moment on, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.
3. Plotter or panster?
I’m a combo and it depends on the story I’m writing. I write both sweet contemporary (for Harlequin Heartwarming) and also romantic suspense (for Harlequin). The suspense books need certain aspects plotted out ahead of time, but with my contemps, I pretty much wing it (which gets me into trouble). I do a lot of “pre” writing work with any book: choosing the names, figuring out archetypes and conflicts and character quirks and arcs. Then I dive in. I don’t tend to plot out a lot because that means I’ve written the story. I love discovering what happens along the way. That said, with my Tremayne romances (ASKING FOR TROUBLE, HERE COMES TROUBLE, and THE TROUBLE WITH NATHAN), I was dealing with a cat burglar, con artists, and art heists, so there was a lot of pre-planning that went into those. I always seem to create stories that need “mapping” out in some way, but never the entire story (which is why I hate writing synopses for proposals. They never match the end product).
4. Can you talk briefly about your upcoming releases?
In May my second romantic suspense comes out. REUNITED WITH THE P.I. is the second book in my Honor Bound series that focuses on a trio of best friends bonded by the unsolved murder of their childhood friend twenty years before. Each book stands on its own, but there’s also a common thread of mystery around that unsolved case that will be resolved in book 3 (GONE IN THE NIGHT) which comes out this October. REUNITED features Simone Armstrong, a prosecutor dealing with a missing witness. When she’s not sure who she can trust, she turns to her ex-husband, a former military man turned P.I. for help. I love reunion stories and figuring out how the characters have grown since they were last together, and these two have definitely changed.
In August, the third book in my Butterfly Harbor series from Harlequin Heartwarming is being released. A DAD FOR CHARLIE is one of those books I’ve been dying to write since the characters first appeared in THE BAD BOY OF BUTTERFLY HARBOR. Paige Cooper and her daughter Charlie literally walked in the door to the local diner and onto the page. I didn’t plan for them, they just appeared (and really tried to take over). The only thing I knew by the end of that book was that Paige was on the run from something…and in this book we find out what. Add in her daughter, who’s desperately in want (and need) of a father (think a bit of Parent Trap action) and a deputy named Fletcher Bradley who’s all too happy to fill that role and you’ve got what I hope will be a really special book. There’s something about writing about a father (wannabe or actual) that always gets me right in the heart.
5. What’s the most fascinating thing a reader has said to you regarding your books?
Soon after I announced who Simone’s hero is for REUNITED WITH THE P.I., I received a few emails from readers expecting it to be Jack, the partner of my hero in MORE THAN A LAWMAN. Admittedly, I kind of set it up that way, but I also knew they weren’t a good match. They make much better friends, much to Jack’s dismay. So I have a lot of people asking for Jack’s story. I think that’s my dream question from readers: when does so and so get their story? As a reader, that’s what I was always asking of my favorite authors. I’ve also had some ask me how I came up with the opening to MORE THAN A LAWMAN: the heroine wakes up hanging in a meat locker. The answer? It was inspired by a screenshot from an episode of Criminal Minds. 🙂
6. What kind of reader are you? Print or e-book?
I’m still a print first reader. I can’t help it. I LOVE the feel of a book. That said, I have three e-books published with Berkley (The Tremayne Family Romances), so I’ve had to force myself to gain more of an appreciation for them. I do love the fact I can buy instantly and have it pop onto my device (and I don’t have to find a place to store that book). That said, I stare at a screen all day while I’m writing. I’d rather look at a paper page.
7. What book is on top of your TBR pile?
Right now I’m 5 books behind on Nora Roberts/JD Robb, so those are top of my list. I’ve also got a number of Heartwarmings I need to catch up on but before all that I need to finish with Marina Adair’s St. Helena series. I’m releasing a novella in Kindle Worlds called STRAIGHT TO HIS HEART that takes place in her world, and I need to be up to speed on everything!
8. How long does it take you to write a book?
Again, it depends on the book, but usually around 2-3 months. I’ve got pretty tight deadlines with other projects in between. Seems with every book I write I hit a “I have no idea where I go from here” moment (just after the mid-point) that knocks me out of writing for about a week or so. Then it all works itself out in my brain and I plow through to the end. It can take me weeks to figure out the first 100 pages…I’ll struggle through the middle, but those last 100 tend to fly (thank goodness!).
9. For you, what is the hardest part of writing?
Honestly? Getting my butt in the chair. Sitting down and doing the work. I have to remind myself that this is my job, but there are days the muse just isn’t there or she’s gone silent. Not beating myself up about those days I don’t write comes in second. Sometimes you just have to step away and put it out of your mind for a while. Then there’s the self-doubt. I had a serious crisis of faith writing THE TROUBLE WITH NATHAN (I rewrote it 3 times); that there was no way this book was going to work out well at all. Happy to say I was wrong.
10. Have you ever been stuck with writer’s block? If yes, how do you deal with it?
For me, I’ve come to the conclusion that writer’s block is what happens when the story has gone off the rails. I’ve missed something somewhere, lost the plot or the conflict. One of the characters has done or said something completely out of, well, character. Again, I’ll let it sit for a while. Most of the time, it comes down to going back and focusing on the main conflict between the hero and heroine (that’s at the heart of every romance) and it’ll come back together. That might be an odd way of saying I don’t really believe in writer’s block: it’s just a stalling point that needs nurturing and special attention.
11. What are you currently working on?
I’m just finishing up the novella I was talking about earlier (STRAIGHT TO HIS HEART). Then I’ll get busy on Butterfly Harbor book #4, tentatively scheduled to be released next April. I’m also mulling an idea for a new series and chomping at the bit to get back to what I first started writing: paranormal romance. Could be some self-publishing is in my future. And I have at least one, maybe two more novellas to write this year, including heading back for a fourth story in Christmas Town, Maine.
12. Any advice for aspiring writers?
Write. Write, write, write. Read. Read some more. Then write. You can’t write without reading and you can’t write if you aren’t writing. I spent years (and I mean years) playing at the writing game. It wasn’t until I thought about the possibility of never getting published (in the way I wanted) that I focused on the work. Don’t apologize for what you write. I wear the badge of romance author with immense pride. I love it and it’s the type of story the world needs. I don’t write super sexy books and never will, but there are those who do it superbly. Fly that torch high. And lastly, don’t ever let someone tell you you’re not doing something right. Every single writer/author has their own way of doing something. What works for one won’t work for everyone or maybe anyone else. You have to find what works for you. Experimenting is great, testing out how to develop characters or plots, outlining or storyboarding or whatever holds some appeal, but don’t put yourself in a box. We’re all unique and we each have our own way of doing things. None of which require any apology or understanding.
Anna J Stewart is the USA Today and national bestselling author of the Butterfly Harbor series for Harlequin Heartwarming, the Honor Bound series for Harlequin Romantic Suspense, and the Tremayne Family Romances from Berkley. RT Book reviews says Anna’s romances are “refreshingly unique, quietly humorous, and profoundly moving” and NYTimes bestselling author Brenda Novak says “The talented Anna J Stewart delivers every time!” Anna lives in Northern California where she deals with a serious SUPERNATURAL, STAR TREK, and SHERLOCK addiction and tolerates an overly affectionate cat named Snickers (or perhaps it’s Snickers who tolerates her). When she’s not writing, you can find her at fan conventions, at her local movie theater, or building her client list for her new content editing business for writers.