Saturday, January 8, 2011

❤author: Elaine Cantrell Interview and Giveaway!

It's my pleasure to welcome author, Elaine Cantrell to the blog today. Elaine, will you please share a short bio with us? 

I’d be delighted to! I’m a Southern girl, born and raised in upstate South Carolina. I say "ya’ll", which is always plural, and I like grits. I graduated from Clemson University with a BA in secondary education and went back for a Master’s degree in personnel services. I’m a member of Alpha Delta, Kappa, an international honorary sorority for women educators, Romance Writer’s of America, and EPIC Authors. My second novel A New Leaf was the winner of the 2003 Timeless Love Contest and was published by Oak Tree Books in 2004. I’m still teaching social studies at our local high school, and in my spare time, if there is any, I like to read, play with my grandchildren, and collect vintage Christmas ornaments. You can see my vintage collection in my Facebook photos at http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=10000015304148.

As a girl with Southern roots, I can completely relate to your "ya'll" thing! :) Tell us some more about your books.

My books are all traditional romances. By that, I mean there’s no explicit sex in them. People do go to bed together, it’s just I don’t give a blow by blow account of it. I prefer the plot to drive the story, not the sex. When people read my work I want them to come away feeling good about the story and also feeling as if something wonderful could happen to them as well as it did to the characters. I just love that breathless, heart-pounding anticipation of a new relationship!
Here’s a blurb for Purple Heart, the book Stephanie reviewed for me:
Jenna West has no idea what she might have done to her new tenant Mike Hightower. He's surly and hateful every single time they meet, and he looks at her as though he despises her.
He does despise her. She's from the Middle East, and people like her killed his friend Ramirez when the army sent them to Iraq.
Will the power of love work its magic to soften Mike's bitter hatred, or will he ignore his growing attraction for his pretty landlady?

So many people would say traditional romances are boring, but Elaine's stories are anything but that! I got the opportunity to read Purple Heart, and let me tell you: it was AMAZING! Read the full review here! When and why did you begin writing, Elaine?

LOL. That’s an interesting question. I started writing because of my son. He came home one day and told me he had written a book. Who can describe the pleasure and pride in a mother’s heart at that moment? He told me he had always made up stories in his head to amuse himself, so he thought he might as well write them down. After I picked myself up off the floor, I told him that I had always done the same thing, so I sat myself down at my computer to see if I could write. I bet I stared at that blank screen for ten minutes before I remembered that I had a delete key, and if I didn’t like what I wrote I could start over. Since that time I’ve never looked back. I write now because it’s a compulsion. I’ve even been known to take my computer with me on vacation.

That is so precious! How did you first get published, then? Tell us your call story.

I finished my first book in record time, and I just loved it! The poor hero went through so many awful things before he found happiness, but to my surprise nobody liked my work. My husband didn’t want the hero to lose his leg in an accident, and my friends said my heroine wasn’t any fun because she was a good girl. Well! I didn’t care if they liked it or not. I just wrote another book, and as luck would have it, they liked this one better.
About the time I finished it, a small publisher was sponsoring a writing contest. The first prize in the contest was publication of your book. At the last minute I sent my manuscript off. Then, I forgot about it. Imagine my surprise when the phone rang about four months later, and the publisher informed me I had won the contest. I had just taken a carton of ice cream out of the freezer, but I was so thrilled I left it on the counter where it melted and made a tremendous mess. I had to clean it up, but I was too thrilled to care. That book was A New Leaf, and it’s published by Oak Tree Press.

A dream come true! How much of your actual life gets written into your fictional stories?

Probably even more than I realize. Some of the things that happen to my characters actually happened to me, and sometimes I recognize one of my own qualities in a character, but I’m
sure my personality bleeds through into everything I write. In A New Leaf, for example, the
house that my hero and heroine bought is really my son’s house.

What are your biggest motivations for writing?

I can’t paint or sculpt, and I’m not musical, but I can tell a story that people enjoy reading, and that gives me serious pleasure. I’ve loved books from the time I was just a little girl, and to actually see my own name on a cover still stuns me.

Which books, do you think, have most influenced your life and your writing the most?

As a child I read anything I could get my hands on. Louisa May Alcott was one of my favorites, and I think I picked up some wisdom about life there. I was crazy about horses so I read Walter Farley’s Black Stallion books. From them I picked up some ideas for action and adventure plots. I also loved the Anne of Green Gables books. They’re just so well done! As an adult, Danielle Steele and Elizabeth Peters are at the top of my list. I learned both life lessons and writing lessons from all of the the above authors and many more besides.

What books are on your nightstand right now?

LOL. I’m reading Elizabeth Peters's new one -- A River in the Sky. I also just finished Juliet by Anne Fortier which was a fabulous book. I liked it so much I reviewed it on my blog.

Haven't read either yet, but have got to check em out! What’s the most challenging aspect of writing?

For me, it’s gotta be the promotion. I can write the story, but I’m such an introvert it scares me to put myself out there in front of God and everybody.

Easiest?

Getting started. When I start a new book, I can’t type fast enough to get the words on paper.
LOL. I have to revise later, but it’s totally thrilling to begin a new book.

And the most rewarding?

Oh, this one’s easy. The most rewarding part is having a reader tell you that they liked your book. Seriously folks, if you enjoyed an author’s work, let them know it. It makes our day.

Describe your books in three words.

Fast-paced. Exciting. Believable.

What’s the most interesting comment you have ever received about your books?

I guess the most recent thing is a review for my latest book Return Engagement. The reviewer called it a page turner that was filled with conflict and intrigue, but she only gave me a 3 ½ out of 5 because she didn’t like my characters. I’ve thought about why she didn’t like them, and I’ve decided it’s because they are anything but stereotypical. They’re real people who make mistakes, and I showed all of their little warts and quirks. Sometimes romance readers don’t want to see the warts and flaws.

I personally loved that aspect of your writing. Perfection is overrated, and flaws are what makes characters real. To make a reader enjoy the book even with imperfect characters, is a huge achievement. What's next for you?

In June I have a new release coming out. It’s tentatively titled Jilted! That wasn’t the first title, but the title I wanted sounded very similar to a book that recently came out, and the publisher didn’t want anyone to confuse the two. After that, I guess I’ll get to work on a new book. It’s sequel to Return Engagement, and it’s practically written already, but I have some revisions to do before I submit it.

I'll be waiting on its release! Where can you be found on the web?


Before we conclude this interview, is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?

I’d like to invite them to check out my website where they can read some excerpts of my work. I also have a couple of short stories posted for my readers. Then, I’d love to know which one they liked best and why.

Thank you for being here today! Readers, Elaine is kind enough to give away a nice set of beautiful metal bookmarks to one lucky commenter. One is in the shape of a purple heart; so very fitting!
All you have to do is:
  1. Follow this blog via Google Friend Connect.
  2. Answer Elaine's question in a comment on THIS post. Remember to leave your email address so you can be contacted when you win!
For another special treat, everyone who leaves comment on my review of Purple Heart will be entered to win a copy of their book of choice from my booklist. Commenters must be following this blog and should include their email address as well. All comments must be meaningful. Comments containing only "Hi, great interview" or "Please enter me in this contest" will not be eligible in the giveaway!

Winners will be chosen at random on Sunday, January 16th, 2011 at 11.59 pm EST. Winners have three days to claim their prize. After three days, a new winner will be drawn. Good luck!