Monday, March 5, 2012

Interview with Regan Black, author of The Matchmaker's Mark

Joining us today is Regan Black, author of The Matchmaker's Mark. If you'd like to win a free copy of this paranormal romance novel, please leave a comment below. Don't forget to include your email address. 

On Wednesday, we'll be chatting with Regan, live, on our Blog Talk Radio channel at 3:30 pm Pacific Time. We hope you'll listen into the show. Now, for our interview...

Hey, Regan! It’s so good to meet you. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
There isn't much to me... it's a life of servitude to three retired greyhounds, two manipulative cats, and three quirky finches. Oh, and there are bon bons. And a personal masseuse and chef. Oh, wait. That's my fantasy life! In reality there are all those pets, and a fabulous family who support me through the process of every novel. I'm a voracious reader (we all are), proven by our extensive collection of both hard copy and ebooks. I'm also a reformed runner (meaning I do mostly yoga these days), a coffee addict (because mornings seem to keep happening), and an uber-fan of Walt Disney World (it's the happiest place on earth!)

How do you carve out time to write? 
Very carefully - or rather deliberately. It's so easy to get lost in promotion tasks or the wonderful world of social media, so I try to get in one hour on the novel before I even look at a computer with an Internet connection. That seems to keep me on task for the rest of the day, because I'm enthused about what's happening with the story, despite necessary breaks to deal with either the business side of writing or the needs of the pets.

What started you down the path of being a novelist?
Now, that's a funny story. As a stay at home mom and a published poet, I was working on a new poetry collection when my husband came home to work for the second time in two years. My poetry was sunshine and light one day, and angst and despair the next. It was maddening, to put it mildly. So out of desperation I began to write a story, fictionalizing the way we met and trying to recall what the hell I found so attractive about him. The book is THE worst romance novel ever, but I realized I could write a complete, novel length story and I've been addicted to the process ever since. (Oh yeah, we're still happily married).

Which book are we talking about today and what is it about? 
The Matchmaker's Mark is the book for today and it addresses the concern: When you're more than human, there's more to finding your soul mate than answering a survey online. The Matchmaker's Mark introduces Amy (and her greyhound Guinness) as she unexpectedly comes into her power as the Matchmaker - a direct female descendent of a Scottish witch who can persuade and empower love and attraction in creatures that most people don't believe exist anymore. 

What inspired this book?
This book was inspired by my need to tell a more lighthearted story. I'd been working on my 2096 novels and short stories and I love that crew of characters, but the storylines are much darker. It was springtime, I only had a bit of time because of end of school events and I just needed something fun to focus on for a while. The idea of a magical 'witch' who could affect love matches or smooth the path for arranged marriages was full of delightful potential for both tender and comedic moments. Setting the book in Charleston, SC gave me a chance to share one of my favorite places (full of legends and intrigues) with readers.

Tell us something about your characters that we wouldn’t be able to figure out by reading the book.
While some mythical people/creatures seek the Matchmaker for love or soul mate advice, there are plenty of others who want her contained or even dead, to prevent what they consider meddling in matters of the heart or matters of politics. This is particularly critical to the storyline at the moment because Amy Campbell is the last of the hereditary line. If enemies succeed in capturing her, it might be the absolute end of generations of matchmaking.

Is there a book 2 in the works? Can you tell us a bit about it?
Yes, there is a second book on the way! Titled The Matchmaker's Curse, it features the werewolf who was searching for the Matchmaker in book one and who was 'marked' by her accidentally. He did not come to Charleston to find his soul mate, but she just might find him. I'm really excited about this novel, the starring couple, and their overall adventure. It's been a great deal of fun to brainstorm, research, and write.

Where can readers purchase your book?
The Matchmaker's Mark is currently available at Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, and wherever ebooks are sold.
May we read an excerpt from the book?
Of course! Here’s Chapter One:
My dearest Amy,
How are you and Guinness doing? I can't imagine how a skinny little greyhound might feel in that wicked Nebraska winter. Should I send him some snow boots? Surely you are settled in and pampering each other after six months together.
I'm so sorry I missed you and the family at the holidays, business was unusually crazy this year.
Be on the lookout for a package from me, darling, you will absolutely treasure it! Above all take good care of yourself (and Guinness, of course).
All my love,
Auntie Camille
Lily Parker was in her element. Almost completely. Surrounded by flowers and serenaded by the bell above her door as customers walked in and out of her florist shop, she felt as radiant as her own beam of sunshine. She wrapped up the sale and murmured a blessing over the blooms as another happy customer left.
January wasn't typically her best sales month, but her regulars kept her company and she always enjoyed the respite after the rush of the holidays. She'd tweaked the display window yesterday and patted herself on the back, since her register had been ringing steadily since.
Through that window she smiled at the woman on the street. The potential customer was currently admiring the sweet baskets of daisies flanking a stunning array of white tulips Lily's wholesaler had brought in just for her. Then Lily spotted the dog.
She pushed open the shop door. "What a beautiful greyhound."
"Thanks. This is Guinness." The woman at the other end of the leash was pretty in an understated way, but her proud smile lit up her face as her dog leaned forward, eager to bask in any and all attention.
Lily chuckled. "Isn't he a character?" She let him sniff her knuckles and considered herself approved when he ducked his head under her palm so she could scratch his ears. "Is he a rescue?"
"Yes. From an Iowa track. We've been together about six months."
"That's wonderful. I'm Lily, by the way."
Lily took in the open coat and glove-free hands and pegged Amy for a snowbird, or possibly the cruise lines were doing a new promotion. "I didn't know they allowed dogs on the cruises." The other woman blinked, her smile giving way to confusion. "Forgive me. You're not a tourist?" Having lived here so long, she knew the faces of most of the locals.
"Yes. Well no. Not officially."
"That's what I get for assuming," Lily said, cooing over Guinness until the woman relaxed again. She usually read people with uncanny precision, but lately, it was as if she was a half step out of sync. "Would Guinness like a drink of water?"
Amy snorted. "He'd like anything that involves more attention."
"Well come on in."
"Your shop is lovely." Amy held Guinness at the door, her gaze scanning the displays with sincere appreciation.
Lily sensed a kindred spirit, or at least some common interests. "There's not a thing in here he can hurt," she insisted. "I'll just go get a water bowl."
Connecting with new people was the best part of her job. She thought of it as her calling. It gave her such a rush to find out what they needed, how her flowers might brighten a day or mark a memorable, romantic moment. Feeling connected professionally kept her mind off her bleak personal prospects of romance.
She returned to the showroom, bowl and water bottle in hand, pleased to see Amy admiring her cooler while Guinness seemed curious about a stuffed teddy bear tucked next to a planter.
Lily thought of her cooler as an evolving painting, as well as a testing ground for how long she could keep a flower fresh in various stages of design. She'd once kept a carnation going for three weeks, but so far she couldn't keep an orchid fresh beyond its normal life expectancy of a few days.
"Here's some refreshment for Guinness," she said, willing her mind away from her flaws.
The dog sniffed at the water, then lapped it up with the enthusiasm of a broken lawn sprinkler.
Amy started to apologize for his sloppy manners, but Lily cut her off. "Don't worry about it. This place can take it. Water's just one of many job hazards."
"You're the owner?"
Lily beamed. "Primary designer and head janitor, too. It keeps me humble."
"Well you've got a brilliant gift." She waved back at the front window, then the cooler.
"Thank you." Lily smiled. "Spring's my favorite season. Typical for a flower child like me." She laughed at herself. "And just around the corner."
"Around the corner?"
"Oh, February will be brown and bland, but come March things will start budding and popping with color and it won't stop until –" She stopped short. She was as exuberant with the seasons as Guinness had been with the water. "Well not until next February, really."
"Sounds heavenly."
"The excessive humidity and nine months of hawk-sized mosquitoes are the tradeoff," Lily confessed in a stage whisper.
The bells on the door danced and Lily turned her welcome smile toward Jim, the cop who walked the King Street beat. "I've got your order ready." She moved around Guinness to pull a box of roses out of the cooler. "I'll be right back," she said to Amy.
"Good looking dog," Jim said, letting Guinness get his scent and head butt his hand. "Busy day?" he called back to Lily. He moved closer to the register and whistled when he got a look at the roses. "Oh, my wife will love these."
Lily felt a little sting on the inside of her wrist and rubbed it, annoyed that she'd managed to catch a thorn even through her long sleeved shirt.
The bells jingled again, announcing the arrival of the owner of the cupcake bakery two doors down. "Morning, Lily."
"Hey, Belinda. Your order's all set on the back counter."
"Thanks, so much. I'll just put these red velvets in your fridge."
"Oh, today is a good day," Lily said with a grin, earning agreement from Jim. Bartering with other King Street businesses was just one of many perks of her location. Ringing up the order, allowing for the community discount, her shopkeeper's eye roamed over Amy and Guinness to another new arrival.
"Guess it's going to be a busy day after all. Have a great anniversary, Jim." The cop nodded and left, the box tucked under his arm. He looked casual, but Lily appreciated the vigilance he applied to her modest business as well as the rest of the neighborhood.
The newest customer stood tall and lean, and she felt an odd tremor of familiarity. She did a double take to verify she'd never seen him before. His jaw was shadowed by a day's growth of beard and his dark, windblown hair was a little too long, curling a bit around the sunglasses he'd pushed to the top of his head. He didn't have the typical, hang dog look of a guy searching for a way to mend a rift with a woman, which made a flower shop a strange place to stop in.
She smiled at him. "Shopping for anyone in particular?"
He shook his head and gave her a half smile that put her hormones on alert. "Just looking."
When Belinda came back through the shop, carting a box of bud vases and a big bag of rose petals, he moved to open the door for her and followed her out without a word.
Lily stared after him. Weird. She'd call down later and see if the baker was training someone new. Rubbing absently at her arm, she rejoined Amy and Guinness. "So what can I do for you?"
Amy grimaced. "Tell me the secret to keeping flowers fresh. I can hardly keep a silk plant looking healthy."
Flower secrets, well, all of nature's secrets, should've been as easy as breathing for Lily. Since it wasn't that simple, she basked in the praise and tried not to blush. "It comes down to trimming the stems and keeping the arrangement watered," she offered the easiest advice first. "There are certainly specific flower options that will last awhile." Wanting to honor the connection she felt with Amy, she looked around her shop. "Where are you staying?"
"With a friend. I'm mixing business and pleasure this winter." She stroked her greyhound's ears. "My friend has been absolutely amazing to welcome us both."
"Does your friend live here? Downtown," Lily clarified.
Amy nodded. "She's in a neighborhood near the college. Why?"
"Hmmm." Lily considered the options in her cooler. "You should have this." She pulled out a French blue basket filled with yellow button mums, white daisies and a splash of purple statice. Springtime in a basket, she thought. "It's a perfect breakfast table centerpiece."
"Wow! This would just light up Maeve's kitchen. How much?"
"Did you say Maeve?" Lily carried the arrangement toward the register counter. "Do you mean Maeve King?"
Amy nodded, a blend of surprise and 'stranger-danger' worry flitting over her face. "How did you know?"
"Oh, it's a pretty close town. This arrangement's definitely on the house if you're a friend of Maeve's. Consider it a thank you for introducing me to Guinness." She grinned. "He really brightened my day."
Amy turned Guinness's long nose away from the teddy bear. "I've heard of Charleston hospitality, but I'd feel better if I paid for it."
Lily shook her head. "Don't worry. Maeve, or rather her busy social life, keeps me in business. Besides, it's a day old already. Don't tell anyone," she said with a wink, "but I dawdled in the back with my wholesaler." She murmured a little charm over the blooms to keep them fresh and the women happy as she wrapped layers of protective paper over the arrangement.
"She'll love it, if can I get her to open it."
"Is she the sort who refuses to tear into a gift? I didn't know that."
Amy grinned, relaxed again. "It was a shock that first Christmas in college, but we've managed to stay best friends despite her irregularities."
Lily laughed, liking Amy more with every passing minute. "I met Maeve after a particularly busy weekend. It seemed my delivery driver had filled her office to bursting and she wanted to meet me." She glanced at the door when the bell jingled again. Jim's partner walked in, with a face only a florist could love. "Another tiff?" He stared at the floor. "Give me a minute to finish up here." She turned back to Amy. "So how long are you in town?"
"Through the spring semester. We're teaching an interim class on Romeo and Juliet, then I'll guest lecture between bouts of designing a new creative writing curriculum."
"That's fantastic. Will you be presenting the play to the public?"
"Not a chance." Amy's snort caused Guinness's ears to perk, making Lily chuckle at them both. "It's more about digging into the subtext of the story than the performance."
"Ah." Lily nudged the wrapped flowers across the counter. "Please tell Maeve I said hello."
"Will do." Amy sighed and shook her head. "I'm going to take a picture of these and send it to my assistant. It might give her hope to carry on through the remaining snowy months back home."
"Be sure to come by anytime you want to chat or anything." Lily murmured adoring nonsense to Guinness and waved goodbye as the pair left her shop. Empty water bowl in hand, she faced Jim's partner. "What happened now?"
He brought her up to speed while she reached for the first aid kit under the counter. Pulling back her sleeve, she stifled a gasp. The skin around the birthmark on her left wrist was irritated all right, but not by a simple thorn. Unwilling to consider the most likely possibilities and ramifications, she smeared anti-itch cream on it and pulled her sleeve back in place, grateful for the distraction of how to get her customer out of the doghouse this time.
Later, when the closed sign was posted, she'd take time to think about the magic she'd obviously missed in the process of doing business like a normal person.

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for hosting this interview today!