Name Anna J Stewart
Where are you from California
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
A born and bred California girl, I attended 12 years of Catholic school in San Francisco (St. Anne’s and Presentation High School) followed by a long meandering through college where I graduated with 3 AA degrees (English, Business, and Anthropology) and a BA in English from CSU Sacramento.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
Probably the most exciting news I have is that I’ll start writing my first romantic suspense trilogy (for Harlequin Romantic Suspense) in the coming weeks. Branching out to all genres in romance has always been my goal, so I’m getting there. Oh, and starting in January, Harlequin Heartwarming romances will be available in select Walmarts!
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve always been a story teller, but early in high school some friends and I started writing mini-fan fiction style stories featuring our favorite rock stars. Around the same time I picked up my first romance novel and…the rest is history.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
As a freshman in high school. All I wanted to do was write my stories (or read romances). My grades definitely showed that. 🙂
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I wanted to be published. I wanted to write for Harlequin and the only way to do that was to write a full book. Ironically that’s the book I ended up selling to Berkley when my paranormal and urban fantasy stories didn’t sell. I went back to contemporary romance and pulled out that first book, rewrote it and it sold! It became ASKING FOR TROUBLE.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Not sure what you mean by style. I tend to write large community stories with lots of characters, so small town romance I suppose? Except my small towns can get pretty big. Well, some of them at least. I always incorporate a lot of humor and sarcasm, probably because that’s my natural language.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
For this book the title was just there from the start. It said everything about the story I needed it to: THE BAD BOY OF BUTTERFLY HARBOR. I’m SO relieved my publisher kept it. If I’d had to come up with a different one I’m not sure I could have. My “TROUBLE” books I have to credit my agent, Margaret Bail. At least with the second and third. ASKING FOR TROUBLE spoke to the situation both the hero and heroine found themselves in by getting involved with one another.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I don’t write with a specific message in mind, but I think for this story, THE BAD BOY OF BUTTERFLY HARBOR, it’s the power of forgiveness. That goes for both the heroine and hero. Holly has a lot to forgive because of Luke’s reckless actions years ago, but he’s not that person anymore. Coming to terms with not being angry any more takes some effort on her part. And Luke needs to forgive himself for those mistakes. Earning that forgiveness helps him finally move on…with Holly.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic ?
I think it’s pretty realistic. These characters have real problems. Holly is struggling to keep a hold of her business in unstable economic times, she has an aging parent and a trouble-making son who’s too smart for his own good. There are no easy solutions to anything. Luke comes from a troubled past, so overcoming the demons he grew up with isn’t an easy road to take. I don’t sugar coat anything but I don’t make things hopeless, either. Hope is an important part of living. We need it. Especially when times get tough. But that’s where humor comes in. I always work in some comic relief, some lighthearted moments or characters to ease things up a bit.
I think that’s why I love the Heartwarming line so much. They’re realistic without being overwhelming or depressing. There’s always that promise of a happily ever after.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I’ve led a pretty boring life, actually, and fortunately, I’ve not had to deal with the issues a lot of my characters have. I do watch a lot of TV and movies (it’s my weakness), and I read a lot, so I get inspiration from all those avenues. Every time I’ve thought about using a real person as inspiration, I’m convinced they’ll know who they are, so I veer away.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
I read Stephen King’s CARRIE when I was 8 and loved it. I couldn’t read his stuff fast enough (there wasn’t the YA selection in the 70’s there is now). THE STAND is still one of my faves. From there I discovered Dean Koontz (THE WATCHERS is one of my favorite books ever) and then when I discovered Nora Roberts (PARTNERS, a Silhouette Intimate Moments), I knew I was meant to write romance. That was it.
I’ve actually been very fortunate with the writers who have guided me. Melinda Curtis was probably my first mentor (and remains one as well as my critique partner). She’s always the voice of reason and sanity in my head. We call her our personal Yoda. I was also very lucky to work for Brenda Novak for a number of years as her assistant. She never once forgot that writing was my dream and the ultimate goal and she made sure I didn’t forget it, either. You don’t get much better than these two women.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
My To Be Read pile is HUGE at the moment. I just printed out a Thanksgiving novella by Cari Lynn Webb (WEDDING OF HER DREAMS) from the Heartwarming Thanksgiving novella series). It’s her first release, so I’m super excited to read that. Next on the actual “book” pile is AN EMBER IN THE ASHES by Sabaa Tahir, STARS OF FORTUNE by Nora Roberts, and I just started THE SECRET LIFE OF WONDER WOMAN by Jill Lepore.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Alyssa Alexander’s THE SPY WORE SILK got me back into reading historical romances. I’d forgotten how much I love them and this book was phenomenal.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I just finished the second book in my Butterfly Harbor series for Heartwarming. RECIPE FOR REDEMPTION will be out in June. I also turned in the final book in my Tremayne Family romances. THE TROUBLE WITH NATHAN comes out in April and features a hero who’s a thief and a heroine who’s a con artist. Oh, and I have a fun anthology in February with Melinda Curtis and Cari Lynn Webb: MAKE ME A MATCH about 3 hockey playing matchmaking bachelors. So much fun to write. Then I’ll be moving on to romantic suspense with my BONDED trilogy featuring 3 life-long friends coping with the unsolved murder of their childhood friend 20 years before.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My best friend for over 20 years, Mary Helfrick. Total cheerleader from head to toe. Could not have gotten this far without her.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Absolutely. It’s my passion and the bane of my existence at times, but it’s what I was meant to do. Now I’m making it work for me. It’s also my job.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
If I’d had more word count available, I would have liked to include a sub-plot and maybe a storyline for Holly’s father. That could still happen in another book, but yeah. I would like to see Jake get his own story (or at least a mini–story).
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
When I started writing those mini-romances in high school. Something just clicked and I couldn’t stop. I haven’t stopped. I still can’t stop. Even if I never published another book, I’d still write my stories because they’re part of me.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
I’m actually finishing up a string of proposals for new stories for Heartwarming, but now I’ve started work (finally!) on ICED, my first romantic suspense. Eden St. Claire, my heroine, is a go-get-’em crime blogger and reporter who focuses on cases she thinks the cops have forgotten about. Except this time she’s gotten a little too close to a serial killer and she’s forced to work with the police (and her long-time friend Cole Delaney) to track him down before he gets to her first. She wakes up hanging in a meat locker. I LOVE this story so much, LOL.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I think the hardest part, honestly, is getting my butt in the chair and writing. Seems so odd to say that, but once I’m there, the magic kicks in but there are days it’s tough to do. That and tying up all the plot threads together. Making sure I haven’t dropped anything. Also, remembering that just because I know something about the story doesn’t mean I’ve put it on the page. I can’t assume the reader will figure it out. I have to at least leave the breadcrumbs to follow, especially in those stories where I have a suspense or mystery thread.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Nora Roberts. It’s her characters, her story craft. It’s…everything. I wish I knew exactly what it was, but from the second I start reading one of her books, I’m just in. The same with her JD Robb books. Give me an Eve Dallas book and I am a very happy girl.
Second would be Sherrilyn Kenyon. That woman nails motivation with her Dark Hunter heroes and her world building is stunning. There’s so much darkness in her books, it’s hard to believe they’ll end with and HEA, but she always pulls it off. She’s genius.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Nope. That’s probably why all my books are set in California (so far). But I hope to change that! I did go to Monterey and Pacific Grove (the inspiration for the Butterfly Harbor books) when I first got the idea to set these stories there so that was fun. My dream is to write a series set in Hawaii. I’ve been there 3 or 4 times and it always feels like I’m coming home. Some day…
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
My publishers, Harlequin and Berkley. I feel like I hit the cover jackpot with THE BAD BOY OF BUTTERFLY HARBOR. Seriously, I’ll never be able to complain about a cover given how gorgeous this one is. With my Tremayne Family Romances, they asked for my ideas and all I said was I wasn’t a fan of people on covers. I want readers to create their own images of my characters. So they went with houses on the covers for those. I’ve dipped my toe in cover creation with my indie sweet romance novellas (The Lantano Valley Novella series) and Annissa Turpin of Annissa Turpin Graphic Design did those for me. I’m going to be self-publishing my Urban Fantasy romance series starting later in 2016 and have lined up Theresa Spreck for those.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Figuring out the conflict and motivation, both essential ingredients for any story, romance or not. Finding that clash of belief system that will keep my hero and heroine at odds even as they fall in love is crucial. And painful. But once I lock that down, the story falls into place.
Second hardest? Both HERE COMES TROUBLE and THE TROUBLE WITH NATHAN included heists/thefts of some kind, meaning I had to plan/plot those out. Talk about brain teasers! Good thing I love heist movies.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
BAD BOY wasn’t too hard to put together. The story was just kind of there. The second book, RECIPE FOR REDEMPTION, I had to fight with a lot. I think I’ve learned every book I write is totally different. In some, the plot will give me fits, in others, the characters are confusing. The motivation’s missing or the goals aren’t clearly defined. It’s literally taking it a page at a time and sometimes even a sentence at a time.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Write. Write, write, write. Read. Read some more. Then write. The more you write, the better you’ll get. And always take constructive criticism to heart. Whether it’s right or wrong for you, think about what’s been said and take what works FOR YOU. What works for one author doesn’t work for everyone, so remember that.
Get yourself a strong support system: other writers who want you to succeed as much as you do. I’ve got 2 writer friends who keep me standing at times. I can call them for help any time and they’re there. You can’t beat that.
Oh, and don’t read reviews. Just…don’t.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you for reading my stories! Trust me, authors appreciate each and every person who picks up their book to escape for a while. That’s why we do it. So yes, thank you!
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I always had books…it was the one thing my mother never said no to and I can’t thank her enough for that. I think FERDINAND was one of my earliest memories, and a book called THY FRIEND OBEDIAH and the FRANCIS books. And LYLE THE CROCODILE. I still have all of them in my hope chest. But then I moved to Stephen King <G>
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
There’s so much that makes me laugh, thank goodness since there’s a lot that makes me cry these days. I have a couple of movies that I pop in the DVD player when I need a lift. Thankfully there are good reasons to cry, too, like witnessing family connections. Or acceptance and kindness. There never seems to be enough of that.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
From an early age I felt a connection to Marilyn Monroe. We even share the same birthday. I read tons of biographies about her growing up and I think it’s sad she was never acknowledged for being the intelligent, ahead of her time woman that she was. Dealing with mental illness the way she did, all that she had to deal with in her life, I would really like to talk to her one on one and get to know Norma Jeanne (her real name). My second choice would be George Clooney…not only because he’s well, George Clooney *swoon*, but because I think he strives to do a lot of good in the world. I like that in people.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
Here lies Anna J. Stewart. She was a great storyteller. In a way, authors are immortal. Their work lives on centuries after we’re gone. That’s a nice legacy to have.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I’m a life-long doll collector and I also do dollhouse miniatures, although not so much lately because I don’t have a lot of time.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Oh, boy. The answer to this could be 10 pages long. I watch a lot of TV. I don’t get to the movies that often anymore, but I’m a total action girl. I’ll be one of those geeks in line at 7 a.m. on the morning of December 18th to see the new Star Wars movie. Anything action oriented, I’m there. Ironic, since I write romance, that I’m not a big fan of romantic comedies or love stories. Meh. As for TV?
I’m a huge SUPERNATURAL fan. I go to the conventions and schedule my life around the airing of the show. I love the NICS shows and some procedurals. My new obsession is BLINDSPOT and I like THE BLACKLIST and SLEEPY HOLLOW. The only comedy I watch is THE BIG BANG THEORY. There’s a lot more I watch, but those are my must sees. I’m also a big fan of British TV. NEW TRICKS is one of my all time favorite shows. I highly recommend.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
There’s little in the way of food I don’t like, LOL, but I’m partial to Indian and Thai cuisine, Greek, too. I’m a peacock color girl (turquoise and purples) and for music…I’m a long time Bon Jovi fan, but I don’t listen to a lot of music. I did just buy the new Adele album because, well, it’s Adele and she’s brilliant. I also like Broadway soundtracks. I’m dying to listen to HAMILTON and I wore out my Les Mis CD.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I would have gone to cooking school and become a chef.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
I blog regularly on other sites like the Harlequin Heartwarming site (http://heartwarmingauthors.blogspot.com ) and I recently started a recurring blog at the USA Today HEA blog. It’s called THE WRITER’S BOX and it’s where I talk about how I incorporate movie and TV viewing into my writing (as well as how TV and movies influence my writing). My website is www.authorannastewart.com
THE BAD BOY OF BUTTERFLY HARBOR
Google Play: http://ow.ly/OoDZ6
eHarlequin (print available here only): http://ow.ly/UD4pr
ASKING FOR TROUBLE
HERE COMES TROUBLE
THE TROUBLE WITH NATHAN
Thanks so much for hosting me!