Coffee Time Romance welcomes Sara Reinke to the spotlight. Sara, why don't you start out by telling us something about yourself.
Hi, Lori. I live in Louisville, Kentucky -- home of the Kentucky Derby and the infamous Slugger baseball bat. I've been writing since I was a very little girl, and can't ever remember wanting to do anything else with my life. My first book, a fantasy called "Book of Days" was published in 2005 by Double Dragon Publishing and went on to be named a finalist in the 2005 Dream Realm Awards for excellence in electronically published speculative fiction and one of the top ten science-fiction/fantasy novels of the year in the annual Preditors & Editors Readers Poll. Since then, I've published six additional titles -- four sequels to "Book of Days," all through Double Dragon Publishing; a historical romance, "An Unexpected Engagement" by Medallion Press and a sci-fi thriller, "Tethers," from Samhain Publishing.
Your book, An Unexpected Engagement, is a fascinating tale of romance and suspense. I'd love to know where the idea for this story came from, and feel free to share an excerpt.
I fell in love with the legends of English highwaymen while researching one of the sequels in my fantasy series. I'd never explored writing romance fiction before, although all of my stories have always incorporated love stories into the main plots. The more I learned about the Georgian period in English history (the mid-1700s), the more I felt it would be a perfect setting for a romantic adventure -- one that involved highwaymen.
Thus began what turned out to be an afternoon spent in likely the most engaging conversation Charlotte had ever enjoyed with anyone, much less a man. She and Kenley walked for hours, marking a leisurely pace as they followed the winding footpaths of Chapford Manor’s garden and grounds. They walked abreast of one another, nearly shoulder to shoulder, and when Charlotte would speak, Kenley would lower his face, canting his head to listen. He did not simply let her words pass in one ear and out the other, as James and the other men would by nature. He listened to her, his brows lifted in interest, his gaze attentive as he granted her the same consideration he would have any of his fellows.
“When I was a little girl, my father used to let me sit in the gentlemen’s parlor while he and his friends would have brandies,” she said. “I loved to listen to them talking about politics, economics, agriculture. In the mornings, when he would take to his library to read his gazette, he would always hoist me up into his lap and let me read aloud with him, all of the news from Parliament.” She laughed. “I used to tell him I wanted to be a barrister someday, and he would say what a fine one I would make. Mother says it is his fault, the way I am.”
Kenley paused in his stride, looking at her with his brow raised. “What?” Charlotte asked, laughing slightly, momentarily flustered by this gentle but unwavering scrutiny.
“You really are remarkable,” he said, making her blush all the more.
“Do not flatter me,” she said, drawing her hand from her muff and slapping his arm. “I have nearly enjoyed your company today. Do not dare prove you are no less a cad than any other man with witless attempts at charm.”
He caught her hand before she could slip it back inside her muff. “Forgive me,” he said. “You are right. That was a shameless and horrid attempt to endear myself
in your regard.”
He smiled, and she laughed. When he stepped toward her, the margin of space between them closing beyond what was considered proper, she did not mind. When he continued to hold her hand, she offered no resistance. When he lifted his free hand and drew his fingers gently against her cheek, brushing aside a wayward strand of flaxen hair that had worked loose from her bundle, she felt her heart flutter, her breath tangle against the back of her throat.
“I should try again,” Kenley said quietly, his hand lingering against her face, the basin of his palm pressing against her cheek. “In earnest sincerity.”
He leaned toward her, and Charlotte could not breathe. Her heart hammered out a frantic rhythm, caught between alarm and eager anticipation. Her eyes closed as the tip of his nose brushed against hers, and she felt the soft, delicate intake of his breath against her lips.
“You are remarkable, Charlotte,” Kenley breathed, his mouth dancing against hers before settling softly. They stood alongside the house, on their way back toward the front entrance, but Charlotte forgot their proximity and the fact that they were well within plain view of the westward facing windows. She forgot about propriety--and the fact that this was anything but. The world around her faded completely, as if God Himself had drawn it all to an obliging standstill to mark the tender occasion of her first kiss, and her wits, breath, and voice abandoned her in a solitary, helpless whimper.
She opened her eyes and blinked dazedly as he drew away from her. Breathing seemed unnecessary and momentarily forgotten, and the cold, damp air had yielded to some incredible, comfortable warmth from deep within her.
“You . . . you kissed me,” she whispered.
He smiled. “I did, yes.”
She blinked again. “Why?”
He laughed. “Because I wanted to,” he said. “I would be daft not to. Did you mind?”
Charlotte shook her head. “No,” she said. “I mean . . . yes. I . . . I do not . . . I am not sure.”
He chuckled, and she met his gaze. “I should slap you,” she said.
“I would prefer if you did not,” Kenley said.
This story is different from those of your previous works. Did you find it easy or difficult to delve into a different genre? What was it that made it easy/difficult? Is this a genre you will continue to write in?
I found it very easy to write historical romance, because in previous projects, all sword-and-sorcery type fantasies, I'd always tried to incorporate historical research in my world-building. Along the way, I embraced my inner "history nerd," I guess you could say, because I discovered a fascination and appreciation for history that I had never known before. Writing a historical novel seemed a natural next step in this process of developing as a writer, of stretching my wings, so to speak.
I would certainly enjoy writing another historical romance in the future. I liked it well enough that after "An Unexpected Engagement," I wrote another set in the same time period -- although this one is out at sea, not the English countryside. It's called "Heart's Ransom," and it's a full-length historical romance novel that I've made available for FREE through my website. In it, the daughter of one of the most celebrated captains in the English Royal Navy finds herself an unwilling pawn in a seafaring game of cat-and-mouse when she's abducted by pirates. I'm offering it for free as a way to introduce myself and my writing to readers. You'll find "Heart's Ransom" available as a PDF download on the "Free Stories" page at www.sarareinke.com.
How well do you relate to your characters? Is there a piece of you in any (or perhaps all) of them?
I like to say that my characters write themselves. They may start off inspired by bits and pieces of my personality, my opinions or ways of thinking, but they very much evolve on their own as the story progresses. They surprise me a lot, which sounds funny to say, but is completely true. Throughout the process of writing, they become their own individuals with thoughts and feelings that are very much their own, unique to them, and nothing like me. A lot of times, my heroes and heroines become the sort of people I wish I could be; maybe I'm subconsciously interjecting them with qualities I wish I demonstrated more aptly. But for the most part, I don't think of any of my characters as extensions of me. I try to make them all different.
You've received great reviews for your books. How important are these to you? Do you bite your fingernails when you go to read it, or do you take the praise/criticism in stride? Feel free to share a review for An Unexpected Engagement with us.
I'd be lying if I said bad reviews didn't hurt. I know New York Times best-selling authors who have told me that negative feedback on Amazon, for example, still stings the pride, so I guess it's not something you ever get past as a writer, no matter your level of success. I try to take away the positives I can from negative comments. I try to look at them objectively and see if they have any merit; if there's anything to be learned and applied to future writing, maybe points I hadn't considered before, but are worth taking into account. But if there's not, I do my best not to let them get me down. Easier said than done, but I figure, the old addage remains true -- "You can't please all of the people all of the time."
Now positive comments and reviews -- those I never get tired of! Even more satisfying to me than just receiving a good review from a professional reviewer is receiving an email or feedback from a reader who has enjoyed my work. Those absolutely make my day. Can't get enough of them. It still amazes me every day that there are people all around the world who have read and liked what I write. I used to think the biggest gratifications an author could know would be publication, holding their book in their hands, but now I know it's not true. It's knowing someone ELSE held your book in their hands, and enjoyed the story.
I have been very blessed to have received great responses from reviewers to "An Unexpected Engagement." Karen Robards, best-selling author, said it was "historical romance the way it should be written." And Romance Reviews Today called it, "an excellent, well written story filled with surprising
revelations and a bit of adventure . AN UNEXPECTED ENGAGEMENT is a terrific way to warm your February nights!"
You're married to your own leading man. How do you keep the romance alive, and what type of support does he provide for you?
My husband is wonderful. We juggle a busy life as the parents of a toddler, but he is still very much my handsome prince, like something out of a fairy tale. We make time for romance when we can, and any more, at this point in our relationship, it's the little things he does that are the most romantic. Like when he plays with our son, gives him a bath after supper and tucks him into bed so I can have a little extra computer time. Or the way he doesn't mind if I don't feel like cooking supper and want to go out to eat Chinese for the fiftieth time in as many weeks. Of course, he also does more conventional romantic gestures, too -- like the dozen roses he surprised me with for Valentine's Day this year. I thank God every day for my husband, because without him -- without his support and encouragement while I've stayed home with our son these past two years, I know I wouldn't have seen my dreams of being published come to fruition.
Reading through your blog, I see that you've been associating with some pretty impressive company. Are you intimidated in their company, or do you feel a part of the crowd?
I feel intimidated at first upon my introduction to more established authors. I've been fortunate enough to either meet or at least correspond with some very talented, successful writers, including historical novelists Steven Pressfield and Patrick Larkin and romance authors Karen Robards and Deborah MacGillivray. But every one of them has been friendly and willing to offer me advice and guidance along my own journey to publication. Karen Robards invited me to her house, and didn't bat an eye when my car radiator leaked all over her driveway. It doesn't get much more friendly than that, ha ha.
I think it's wonderful that so many authors are willing to take the time to help those of us new to both the business and the fold. I've learned a great deal from them, and have also enjoyed the opportunity to build some nice friendships along the way in some cases.
Tell me about your first publishing experience. This can either be the first time someone came up and said they loved your work, or the first time you held your book in your hands. I want to know which meant more, and why.
As I mentioned earlier, although I love the sensation of holding my book in my hand for the first time, it doesn't mean as much to me -- much to my surprise! -- as receiving emails from readers. As a writer, I fall in love with the stories I create, the people and places within. (Always be afraid of a writer who doesn't love their own stuff!) It's my hope when I'm creating these things that other people will love them as much as I do -- and when somebody not only does, but takes the time to let you know it, it's incredibly satisfying. Whenever someone tells me they've just read a book they really liked, I encourage them to write the author and tell them.
I read on your site that you're having a baby girl... CONGRATULATIONS! How exciting for you. What does the future hold for this bundle of joy? How will you continue to juggle motherhood and career?
Thank you so much -- I'm excited and nervous and happy all at the same time. As far as my writing goes, we're going to play that one by ear. My writing career over the past two years has been an ongoing experiment in time management as a work-from-home mom, so I imagine I'll continue to adjust accordingly. My biggest motivation in seeking publication has always been to set a good example for my children. I want them to know that if they set goals for themselves, are willing to learn and work hard, success and fulfillment of dreams are possible.
What can readers expect next from you? Do you have any future works that you'd like us to know about?
This is going to be a fun-filled and busy year for me. In February, I made my bookstore debuts with two great romantic reads -- "An Unexpected Engagement," of course, and "Tethers," which is a sci-fi thriller available in trade paperback from Samhain Publishing. Both are available through your local bookstores, or through quick-and-handy online purchase links at my website (www.sarareinke.com)
On July 3, my biggest release to date hits bookstore shelves -- "Dark Thirst," a paranormal/vampire romance from Kensington Publishing's Zebra imprint. I am absolutely stoked for this -- it's a great book with some extraordinary characters, and is probably my personal favorite of anything I've ever written. I'm very excited to be able to share it with readers, and am looking forward to it!
Is there anything else you'd like us to know? This is your chance to shine! Tell us something we don't know.
I invite readers to check my website regularly, as I'm constantly adding and updating it with new and exciting stuff! Each month, I have a contest where visitors can enter for their chance to win great ebook prizes from me and some of my author friends. I also have promotional movies, reviews, excerpts, free stories and a calendar of upcoming promotional events available, plus links to my blog, My Space page, my newsletter and more.
Each month, I'm also planning on hosting a live chat at my suite at The Romance Galleria, the new interactive, virtual community for romance readers and writers. If you've never checked it out before, you're in for a treat. There's nothing else out there quite like it, and it's loads of fun. You can find out more information about these chats, and The Romance Galleria, at my calendar of events page.
Thank you Sara!