The Irish Devil

Let’s make this perfectly clear: I was a happy, calm (more or less) person until I went to Tombstone, Arizona. I worked full-time as a computer consultant. I was a full-time Ph.D. student. (Yeah, so maybe I should have had my head examined.) I wrote lots and lots and lots of geeky jargon and I read tons – tons, I tell you! – of romance novels in my spare time. I was content.

Then came the family reunion and the trip to Tombstone. For some odd reason, it seemed every second or third tour guide had to tell the story of a specific miner’s widow who’d performed hair-raising deeds sufficiently well enough to escape the town alive. Everybody expressed the strongest admiration for her – but nobody ever said she was happy. In fact, it was pretty clear she’d been pretty miserable. Her big victory had been departure, not joy.

Now, I love visiting historical sites and I’ve heard a lot of true stories. But this one hit me harder than any other one. I didn’t want her to have simply survived – I wanted her to be happy. Unfortunately, the only way to give her a happily ever after was to retell her story myself, as fiction – and I so wasn’t a romance author. Writing prose featuring phrases like “the widget must” and “the widget shall” doesn’t prepare you for plot arcs and love scenes!

That’s when I told her to go away and be happy, having survived in real life.

She didn’t let me forget about her. She nagged me during my homework. She got in between me and my term projects. For two years, I fought her off, desperately reminding her exactly what I wrote during the day job and my total lack of fiction writing skills.

I think it was while I was sitting in traffic waiting to go home from class, that she knocked me over the head again: she announced she needed a man, the worst of bad boys, somebody who no one in polite society would ever accept as an eligible partí. But somebody who could keep the most brutal killer, the most cunning kidnapper away from her no matter how vicious the fight.

I nodded agreement, being much more interested in getting home at something approaching a reasonable hour. (Does anybody else have conversations with their characters in their cars late at night? I seem to do a lot of it.)

She announced, quite triumphantly, that he had to be Irish.

Irish??? Oooh. My brain came alive. Sexy men, smart and tough, accustomed to making a living in a strange country after seeing their own families and homes decimated by a great famine. Music. Horses. Somebody you could call “the devil” with affection.

I wanted to write their love story – because I needed to give him a happily ever after, too.

I started learning how to write fiction. I wound up dropping out of graduate school. (Yup, I left that Ph.D. program behind to write romance.) When the chance came, I pitched this story to the only editor in New York who might publish it – and, yes, I was quaking in my boots! But, lucky for me, Kate Duffy of Brava bought it.

It became The Irish Devil, the first of the four Devil books – The River Devil, The Southern Devil, and The Northern Devil. To my vast delight, I’ve even signed a contract for three more. All because a persistent voice took up residence in my head, back in Tombstone.

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Awaiting the Fire – Donna Lea Simpson

The first two books of my ‘Awaiting’ series – Awaiting the Moon & Awaiting the Night – are set in Germany in 1795, at the gothic castle of the von Wolfram family, the core characters of my paranormal historical romance series. It was great fun writing all the twists and turns of a spooky, ancient castle, but I always knew at a certain point I’d leave the castle, and that time came with Book 3, Awaiting the Fire. And so to England, Cornwall, a lovely, spooky county: pirates and witches and lonely moors… sweet treats for the paranormal writer!

Awaiting the Fire is Charlotte von Wolfram’s story. but it didn’t start out that way. My first proposal for ATF – a couple of years ago now – had Charlotte as a secondary character, while her brother, Christoph, was the hero. But she’s a complex young woman, and put down her foot, pouting and refusing to go on with the show unless she was the star. Some characters are more difficult than others, and Charlotte knew what she wanted. She wanted love, but no ordinary love. She needed a man who would accept her for who she was, Charlotte, headstrong, impulsive, kindhearted, loving but stubborn, not what she was, Countess Charlotte von Wolfram, heiress and descendent of a very old and very wealthy German barony.

So I began with Charlotte, added England, and a husband chosen for her by her uncle (though she didn’t intend to go through with the marriage) and sat back thinking about it. What would this fellow – a man willing to accept a betrothal by mail - be like? And would he be ‘the one’, or would she meet someone else she liked better? It all started to come together as I answered the questions I had.

A free spirit like Charlotte, a little wild and impetuous, needs someone to ground her, and Simeon St. Ange, Earl of Wesmorlyn, was just the man for that. Earnest, moral, anxious to do the right thing, Wes was her opposite, and at first glance, maybe too opposite. She hated him immediately, because with those attributes and the added complication of meeting in a public place for the very first time, he couldn’t help coming off a little stuffy (vast understatement… he really does come off like a humorless prig at first). And Charlotte at the same time meets a man who contrasts so much with her fiancé, a man with mesmerizing green eyes and a hint of lupine charm; Lyulph Randell, a family friend of the earl’s. Charlotte, put off by her fiancé’s behavior, finds Randell desperately attractive.

The rest of the story evolved naturally from that first tumultuous meeting in a crowded, stuffy London ballroom. An illicit kiss shared with another man, a challenge to a duel issued, too many alpha werewolves in one place, a homesick young woman determined to help her younger half-sister find her English mother: it all roiled together to become an intricate and yet compelling plot, taking Charlotte and the others gallivanting across the country from London to Cornwall.

At times I tore my hair out. It was tricky to make sure Charlotte’s actions – I thought them completely natural for a girl of spirit, but feared others might not agree – would not come off to readers as stupid or reckless. Though I saw her as hasty and impetuous, I didn’t want her to become that most dreaded of romance novel stereotypes, the ‘feisty’ or ‘spunky’ heroine. I rewrote vast sections. I agonized over details.

But in the end the magic happened – in more ways than one – and the hero came through in true heroic fashion, and yes, fire is involved. Charlotte found out something surprising about herself, something I didn’t even foresee myself when I first started out to write Awaiting the Fire. That’s the joy of writing sometimes, the surprises along the way. Charlotte is special; I’ll leave readers to find out how. She also discovered the healing power of true love. It was a voyage of discovery for us both, and I hope readers enjoy it.

You can read the first chapter of Awaiting the Fire on my website:

Also check out my blog for news about a contest coming!!

Thanks so much, Heather, for letting me share the creation of Awaiting the Fire!


No Shrinking Violet

The summer before I started high school, I spent a week in a cabin in Vermont with my family. The rain kept my cousin and me from entertaining ourselves at the lake or down on the tennis courts. "Let's write books," I suggested. We bought notebooks, ballpoint pens and snacks.

My first book, all handwritten on loose-leaf, was about an overweight 16-year-old who desperately wanted her popular crush to ask her to the prom. It was an unrequited love story.

In college writing classes, I found that I was still focusing on high school love, the most intense emotion I'd ever felt. 22-year-old crushes seemed more practical, more attainable --and somehow not as searing or sweet.

As I began a career writing and editing for magazines, I was again drawn to the teen genre, and I landed at ELLEgirl. I interviewed teenage actors, musicians and real girls who were doing amazing things.

But one group struck me: The models.

What must it be like to walk your first runway show, live in a small apartment with other pin thin girls and compete for jobs, recognition, acclaim and love? There was a rehearsed bunch of answers from models --"I love the travel," "I'm naturally thin," "Clothes are my life" --that didn't quite answer my questions. I wondered about the real girls behind the often-hollow eyes.

That was the seed that started my idea for VIOLET ONTHE RUNWAY. I wanted to put a real girl from a small town, one who had real insecurities and flaws, one who would go into this crazy, dark, beautiful world of fashion unsure of herself and come out having realized her own inner strength.

VIOLET ON THE RUNWAY will be released September 4, 2007, by Berkley JAM.

Visit Melissa at melissacwalker.com