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Barbara Edwards is the author of ANCIENT AWAKENING, ANNIE’S HEART, and RACHEL’S RESCUE. She will join the science fiction and fantasy panel. She was interviewed by Cheryl Malandrinos.

Please tell our readers a little bit about yourself.
I’m a native New Englander with a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Hartford. I am a past president of the Central Florida Romance Writers and a member of Romance Writers of America, I founded the Charter Oak Romance Writers in Hartford, Connecticut, a chapter of Romance Writers of America, along with several close friends.

I’m married to a retired police sergeant. I love Civil War re-enacting, and visiting museums, art galleries, and battle sites. I taught romance writing at Manchester Community College for three years. I write historical romance, romantic suspense, and paranormal romance.

When did you decide to embark upon a career in writing? Did someone or some event influence your choice in any way?
My earliest memories are of my father reading the classics to my sister and me at bedtime. I learned to love words and wanted to be a writer, but played with poetry for many years. When I finally decided I needed to tell a story, I found my calling. I don’t think she knows but Zita Christian was a big influence. I remember her saying romance writers are professionals and to be proud of what we do.

What genres to you write in? What do you enjoy most about them?
I write historical romance because I love history. A little known nugget of information will give birth to a story and there I go. I tried romantic suspense, but found it much harder to research. Things are changing so fast it’s difficult to keep it updated, but I love modern men. I found a home with paranormal. All those dark little corners of my soul come creeping out and invade my stories.

Can you tell us about your latest release?
Here is the blurb for ANCIENT BLOOD: Lily Alban escapes a murderous stalker, but his vicious attack leaves her with the ability to see auras. She finds safety in the tiny hamlet of Rhodes End where a stranger stands out like a red light. Try as she might to deny her growing desire for Cole, she seeks his help but soon discovers the man she loves is not a man at all. Werewolf Cole Benedict resists his attraction to Lily. A botanist researching the healing herbs to find a cure for Lycanthropy, he’s determined to protect Lily from her stalker as well as himself even in human form, but instinct takes over when he changes to his inner beast. Together they must use their extraordinary gifts to catch Lily’s stalker before he attacks again, but revealing their secrets to one another could destroy their growing love or save them both.

What inspired it?
You might laugh, but all my stories come from my dreams. This one happened to be a terrifying Technicolor nightmare. I woke and immediately started writing Lily’s story. Both Lily and Cole live with me, along with Mel and Steve from ANCIENT AWAKENING.

You’re also a Civil War re-enactor. Has this aspect of your life made its way into your writing? If not, will it?
It has. I’m writing a love story set at a Civil War re-enactment. I’m having fun with the heroine who is a city girl camping for the first time. Ah, to be rescued from all that wild life by a man in uniform.

You’re on the Exploring the Avenues and Lanes of Sci-Fi/Fantasy panel at this year’s WriteAngles conference. Can you tell us a little bit about what you’re planning?
We’ve discussed several options, but I’m concentrating on writing a series and keeping a book bible.

What are you working on now?
ANCIENT CURSE, book three in the Finding Rhodes End series. Rainie, my heroine, has the skill to read the history of any object she holds. My hero Ted is an ongoing character who earned his own story. They’re living in a mansion haunted by the former owner who is determined to regain life.

Can you tell our readers where they can find you online?
Blog: http://barbaraedwardscomments.wordpress.com
ANCIENT BLOOD http://on.fb.me/naHRY5

Is there anything you would like to add?
I’m looking forward to the panel and meeting everyone and answering questions. I’ll also be happy to autograph my books.

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Linda Cardillo is the author of the critically acclaimed novel DANCING ON SUNDAY AFTERNOONS, winner of the 2008 Maggie Award for Long Contemporary Fiction, and ACROSS THE TABLE, which was released by Harlequin in June of this year. She has also contributed novellas to various anthologies.

Let’s get started by having you tell our readers a little bit about yourself.
I’m a native New Yorker who grew up in a large extended family. Our family reunions span five generations and include fourth cousins who played together as kids. As you may imagine, these gatherings and our collective memories provide a rich source of stories. I came to Massachusetts as a college student and then left, first for Manhattan and then Germany. But nearly fifteen years ago, my husband and I made our way back and have firmly planted ourselves and our family in the town where he grew up.

When did you decide to embark upon a career in writing? Did someone or some event influence your choice in any way?
I’ve been writing ever since I was old enough to hold a pencil, although my early stories tended to be heavily illustrated – set in frames like a comic book. Many people played a role in shaping me as a writer. When I was six, my family moved from an apartment over my father’s office in the Bronx to a neighborhood in Westchester with backyards and lots of kids. I tagged along after two older girls, both named Margie, who spent their summers writing plays and graciously initiated me into the secrets of creating entertaining dialogue between puppets made from Spaulding balls and scraps of fabric. When I got to college, I was fortunate enough to land as a freshman in an upper-level American Lit course with a professor who became my mentor. He awakened me to the power and beauty in language and continually challenged me to go deeper with my writing. But the most profound influence came much later in my life, when my aunt gave me the love letters of my grandparents and I discovered my grandfather’s passionate love of words – I truly felt then that writing was in my blood (which is such an Italian perspective!).

Your latest release ACROSS THE TABLE returns readers to your exploration of growing up Italian in America. Some of your other characters have also been immigrants. What special qualities does this add to your stories?
So many of us in America today are the children and grandchildren of immigrants, and I think that our families have experienced similar journeys – from the “old country” of Nonna or Oma to the contemporary lives of the second and third generation who are trying to define themselves as Americans yet hold onto a unique, cherished and sometimes stifling culture. Although I write about my own experience as an Italian-American, I often hear from readers whose ancestors came from other parts of the world but who recognize their own families in the messy, raucous but loving characters who populate my books.

Your website contains a section titled “At the Writer’s Desk” which includes several articles of tips and advice on the craft of writing. Why did you include this section? What are some of the things writers will find there?
One of the things that I have discovered as a writer over the years is that we are a community. When I started writing my first novel I was living in Germany with very few native English-speaking friends with whom I could share my work. I was hungry for feedback and managed to get back to the States for a writing conference that absolutely lit a fire in me and propelled me to keep going. Since that first encounter with other writers and the focus on discipline and craft, I’ve been grateful for the lessons I’ve learned along the way – especially from colleagues like Barbara Keiler and Kristan Higgins, who will be presenting with me at the WriteAngles conference. “At the Writer’s Desk” is simply my way to reach out to other writers – especially those who may feel as isolated as I did when I was starting out. It’s a collection of some of the best exercises and prompts I’ve discovered for loosening up the brain and setting words free.

You’re on the Writing 21st Century Romance panel at this year’s WriteAngles. Can you tell us a little bit about what you’re planning?
Barbara, Kristan, and I are planning to talk about some of the essential elements of great storytelling in romance fiction – and dispel a few stereotypes about the genre along the way. My own presentation will focus on the role of “place” or setting in the story. The other night I was listening to “Fresh Air” and the writer being interviewed had worked with David Chase, the creator of “The Sopranos.” When asked what was the most important thing he had learned about writing from Chase, the writer answered “Be entertaining.” For me, those two words sum up what drives our work as writers.

What are you working on now?
At the moment, I’m balancing the two halves of the writing life – I’m out and about talking to women’s and cultural groups and book clubs about ACROSS THE TABLE, and I’m working on two new books. One is set in early 20th-century Vienna, the story of an avant-garde artist and his muse, a fiercely intelligent woman who evolves from model and inspiration to artist in her own right. The other is the story of two women who live in the same island cottage seventy years apart – one who has come there to hide and the other to heal. Their lives and histories intersect with one another and with the fragile, cherished land on which the cottage stands.

Can you tell our readers where they can find you online?
You can find me at my website and my blog.

Is there anything you would like to add?
I’m so excited to be speaking at WriteAngles! I attended several times before I published, so it’s especially meaningful for me to be there as a panelist.

[Thanks to Cheryl Malandrinos for conducting this interview.]

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Kristan Higgins is the author of several romance novels including, ALL I EVER WANTED, THE NEXT BEST THING, and the 2010 RITA Award-winning TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE.

Let’s get started by having you tell our readers a little bit about yourself.
The truth is, I’m about as normal a person as you can find. Mother of two, wife of one, live in my hometown, like to bake cookies and watch movies. I’ve never been in a coma, didn’t have a secret baby at age 16, am not aware of a half-brother about to get out of jail. And that’s too bad, because it would be great fodder … but unfortunately, no. I’m pretty normal.

When did you decide to embark upon a career in writing? Did someone or some event influence your choice in any way?
I would say Margaret Mitchell is to blame. I read Gone With the Wind at age 14 and fully expected Scarlett and Rhett to live happily ever after. I was crushed by that ending. Crushed, I tell you. Spent far too much of my adolescence imagining Scarlett and Rhett finding their way back to each other. It was probably then that I became a writer, though it would be another 20 years before I gave writing fiction a real try. I decided to try writing romance for a couple of reasons. I’d always been a professional writer, having worked in PR and advertising most of my career. But I became a stay-at-home mom when my daughter was born and really enjoyed it. When my son started nursery school, I figured I’d try to write a book so that I could do something while the kids were off at school and still be home when they got home. Worked out pretty well. I sold my first book the day before my son started kindergarten and have been writing full time ever since.

The tagline on your website says, “Real life, true love & lots of laughs…” How did you come up with that line?
Well, when I decided to write a book, I took a look around, discovered that most romances were not about normal people. Most seemed to involve extraordinary people – she was the most beautiful woman in all of England, and he was the knight sworn to protect her … or, she was the beautiful daughter of a billionaire, and he was the ex-Navy Seal Army Ranger sworn to protect her. Or, she was the beautiful vampire queen, and he was the Werewolf sworn to kill her. If the books weren’t about extraordinary people, they seemed to be about extraordinary circumstances – kidnapings, comas, secret agents, special forces, amnesia, zombies. For the record, I’ve never been kidnaped, haven’t been in a coma, am not a secret agent or a zombie, and the only time I had amnesia was when my husband asked how that dent got in my car bumper. I do love to read some of those “extraordinary” types of romance, but it seemed to me that there weren’t enough stories about us regular people. My goal was (and is) to write a big, memorable romance about regular people. Something that could actually happen.

What was it like to learn that Too Good To Be True earned the RITA award this year? Did you do anything special to celebrate?
It was such a happy shock! It was my second RITA, and I was sure that one of the other extremely worthy authors was going to take home the statue this year. I was thrilled to be wrong, of course! To celebrate, my agent took my writer friends and me out for late-night dinner and drinks, at the end of which I made good on a bet and went in the fountain with my statue.

Can you tell us a little bit about what you’re planning for Write Angles?
The three of us are so excited to speak at the conference this year (and to meet some of the other fabulous authors who’ll be there. Elinor Lipman, I’m talking to you!). We’ll be talking about the building blocks of a great story, and my focus will be on character development. So many people have a preconceived notion about romance – we hope to show the diversity, excitement and fun the genre holds. Knowing the other two authors pretty well, I can promise it will be a lot of fun.

What are you working on now?
I just finished a manuscript about a divorced couple forced into a road trip together after 12 years of separation (MY ONE & ONLY, April 2011). That was a lot of fun to write. And I’m working on another manuscript now, currently called UNTITLED, as so many of my books are when they start out. It’s set in a small town in New Hampshire and focuses a lot on family roles and how they define us.

Can you tell our readers where they can find you online?
I have a website; I also blog with a bunch of fabulous authors; and of course, I’m on Facebook.

[Thanks to Cheryl Malandrinos for conducting this interview.]

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Barbara Keiler, who writes as Judith Arnold, will appear on the panel Not Your Grandmother’s Harlequin: Writing the 21st-Century Romance. She is the author of over eighty-five novels, including LOOKING FOR LAURA, THE FIXER UPPER, and HOPE STREET. MEET ME IN MANHATTAN was released in September 2010.

Tell our readers a little bit about yourself. When did you decide to embark upon a career in writing? Did someone or some event influence your choice in any way?
I’ve been writing all my life. As a toddler, I loved bedtime stories, and my grandparents were both excellent storytellers. But sometimes they weren’t available to regale me with a bedside tale, and I had trouble falling asleep without a story. My older sister suggested I make up my own stories. By the time I was four, my sister had taught me how to read and write. I’m not sure exactly when I started putting my stories down on paper, but I still have a copy of a short story I wrote when I was six. Although I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing stories, pursuing a career as a writer didn’t occur to me until I won a playwriting contest my sophomore year of college. The award included a generous cash prize, and I thought, wow, I can make money with my writing! That was when I decided to turn my passion for writing into a profession.

You’ve been a romance writer since the beginning. What is it you enjoy most about this genre?
Actually, I came late to romance writing. Because of that contest I won in college, I wound up working as a playwright for about ten years. Several of my plays were produced at regional theaters as well as off-off Broadway. Fiction writing was my first love, however, and I eventually left the theater and returned to writing novels. My first few completed novels were “literary” fiction, but in 1982, eager for a way to earn some money with my writing, I began researching commercial genres of fiction. I read a few romance novels, loved them, and taught myself how to write them. I sold my first romance novel less than a year after I’d started reading them. What I love about the genre: 1) Romance novels are stories of female empowerment. The heroine is truly a heroine, not just an appendage or “love interest” for the hero. The story is her story. She drives the narrative. She is active instead of passive. 2) Romance novels are optimistic. They offer hope. They allow the reader the belief that, no matter how bleak a situation may seem, things can work out. The hero and heroine can wind up with a happy ending. 3) Romance novels are fun to read!

You’re sitting on the Writing 21st-Century Romance panel at this year’s Write Angles Conference. Can you tell us a little bit about what you’re planning?
I’m sharing the panel with two brilliantly talented writers, Linda Cardillo and Kristan Higgins. The three of us have decided to address three different skills necessary for writing commercial fiction. My talk will concern conflict — specifically, why conflict is necessary in a novel and how to use conflict to power the story and engage the reader. Kristan will be talking about character and Linda about scenes and settings.

What are you working on now?
My new novel MEET ME IN MANHATTAN has just been released, I’ve been spending a great deal of my time promoting that book. I’ve also begun work on a new women’s-fiction comedy. I’ve always got a manuscript in progress.

Can you tell our readers where they can find you online?
They can find me on my website. The publisher of MEET ME IN MANHATTAN also has information about me and my book.

Is there anything you would like to add?
I’m a graduate of Smith College, and I’m really looking forward to returning to Pioneer Valley and spending a day on the Mt. Holyoke campus. I have wonderful memories of the years I spent in the Five College area. As for our panel discussion, Kristan, Linda, and I are going to rock! Come prepared to take notes and ask questions. I guarantee you’ll learn a lot.

[Thanks to Cheryl Malandrinos for conducting this interview. Judith Arnold’s photo by Susan Wilson.]

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