Today I am pleased to welcome Elf Ahearn to Susana’s Parlour. She writes “Regency romance with a Gothic twist” and her book, A Rogue in Sheep’s Clothing is currently available (see below).
She’s giving away a free copy to the commenter who gives her the best response to her question about their favorite and/or most-hated food. (Just for the record, I detest lima beans too, Elf!)
My friend, a beautiful fellow-journalist named Susan Baker, and I decided to form a literary society. At our first meeting only three of us met, me, Susan and this guy named Dave. We read scraggly little fragments of our fiction to one another and offered lame criticism mostly based on good reporting skills. Susan’s piece was incredible, though. It was a story about a crabby old woman befriended by a guy who takes the time to talk to her—to find out what made her so upset.
After that first meeting Susan left the paper for a job at the front desk of a factory. The pressure to make deadlines, she said, was killing her. In fact, I’d noticed that for hours sometimes, she’d just sit and stare at an empty screen on her monitor.
Despite her move, we decided to hold another literary society meeting. When that day dawned, however, Susan couldn’t make it, and Dave had to write an article about a planning and zoning meeting. “It’s just you, Elf,” Susan said, “You have to carry the torch.”
A few weeks passed and Susan and I decided that the ideal excuse for a get-together was to celebrate our birthdays. She just couldn’t muster the energy to write for a literary society anymore, she told me. The weekend before the scheduled date, I was staying with my boyfriend, (now my wonderful husband) when my sister called. Susan had telephoned with the message that she wouldn’t be able to meet for our birthdays after all. I didn’t call her back. I figured I’d phone her Monday.
So, Monday came and I dialed Susan’s number. Her roommate picked up. Over the weekend, the roommate told me, Susan drove to the far end of a parking lot in Poughkeepsie. She aimed her car at the brick wall of a church and hit the gas. The impact killed her.
Susan’s father approached me at her memorial service. He had a package for me—a birthday present from her. When I unwrapped it I found a red journal with lined pages. At the center of its cover, delicately surrounded by a picture of a smiling sun, curling flowers and puffy clouds, were the words, “Seize the Moment.” I’m not going to say that I write for Susan or even that I write for her memory, I write because I have to and I write because, as she so permanently proved, the moment is now.
How long have you been writing?
I wanted to be a writer when I was a kid, but my spelling was atrocious. Teachers left snarky notes all over my short stories—always about the spelling. My father had an expression, “xysizzle.” That’s what most three-syllable words looked like after I got through with them. So, I was afraid to write. Then a man named Steve Jobs teamed up with another guy named Bill Gates. They invented this magical machine that made it possible for me to write without anyone knowing what a terrible speller I am. Steve, Bill—you’ve made a lot of money—but still, I owe ya.
What advice would you give to writers just starting out?
Take classes! It’s amazing how much teachers know. But, if they’re not supportive, ditch ‘em. Nobody, but nobody, needs to hear how much they stink.
What comes first: the plot or the characters?
I ascribe to the “big bang” theory of plotting. At the climax of my novels, I want gnashing of teeth and rending of clothes, fire, thunder and a whole lot of other dramatic stuff. Ergo, I usually have the end in mind before I start, but the characters push me around before I get there.
What is your work schedule like when writing?
I’m most creative at night, in bed. I don’t want to count the number of times my husband has gently pried the computer from my sleeping fingers.
What is your favorite food? Least favorite? Why?
Lima beans and creatures of the sea are the bane of my existence. Otherwise, I’m not picky.
What is something you’d like to accomplish in your writing career next year?
Naturally, I’d like to be on the New York Times Bestseller List with movie executives licking my toes for a chance to make a film of A Rogue in Sheep’s Clothing. On the off chance that that doesn’t work out, I’d like to see the last two books in the Albright Sisters series published. Crimson Romance, the publishers of Rogue, already purchased Lord Monroe’s Dark Tower. That’s the second book in the series. Hopefully, they’ll be interested in taking them all on.
Every writer dreams of getting “the call.” What were you doing when yours came? Who got to hear the good news first?
My friend, Liz Shore, got the call first and I was super excited for her because she’d been through heck in a hand basket, and she earned that contract. Then two days later, Jennifer Lawlor, my editor at Crimson Romance, sent me an email accepting Lord Monroe’s Dark Tower. I asked about A Rogue in Sheep’s Clothing and a few hours later she wrote back saying they wanted that book as well!
Strangely, the news depressed me. Weird, right? I wandered around the house for a few hours totally unnerved. At last, I called my husband. He was so thrilled that I finally allowed myself to be happy. After that, I called Liz and we screamed for like fifteen minutes.
I’d love to hear from Susana’s Parlour readers. How about telling me what your favorite/most hated foods are? The best answer gets a free digital copy of A Rogue in Sheep’s Clothing.
About A Rogue in Sheep’s Clothing
In Lord Hugh Davenport’s opinion, women of the ton perpetually hide behind a mask of deception. That’s hard for Ellie Albright, the daughter of an earl, to swallow—especially since she’s disguised herself as a stable hand to get back the prized stallion her father sold to Hugh to pay a debt. If Hugh learns her true identity she’ll lose the horse and her family will go bankrupt. Somehow, though, losing Hugh’s affection is beginning to seem even worse.
Already only a step away from being snagged in her own web of lies, Ellie’s deceit threatens to spin out of control when Hugh’s mother invites Ellie and her sisters to a house party. Now Ellie has to scramble to keep Hugh from knowing she’s the stable girl he wants to marry, while simultaneously trying to win his trust as herself. Can she keep her costumes straight long enough to save her family? And even if she does, will it be worth losing his love?
A stiff breeze swept up the massive stone edifice bringing the scent of heather, gorse, and a tinge of the dank salt sea. The beauty of it sobered her. “My God, it’s magnificent,” she said, feeling the sun’s warmth and the chill of the breeze on her cheeks. For miles around she saw only the dip and rise of the yellowed moors disappearing into soft, distant gray.
Hugh joined her cliff-side. He settled on a patch of thin, wind-whipped grass. Ellie plopped down beside him and took a deep whiff of the heather he’d picked for her on the trail. “Ah,” she said. “It smells like England.”
Hugh broke off a branch of the plant and put it between his teeth. “Tastes like her, too,” he said. Ellie laughed.
Then they grew silent, listening to the rustle of grass, feeling the hot sun, and breathing the rich smell of sweet flowers and fecund herbs.
“This is my day,” said Hugh, lying back in the grass. “You may have a piece of it.”
Ellie swatted him with the stalk of heather. “I shall take your captain’s salute on horseback.”
“And I shall take this moment, right now,” he said, closing his eyes.
They were silent again. Ellie lay back and snuggled into the grass. The cool wind couldn’t reach her here – just the thick heat of the sun. She closed her eyes, too.
A fly tickled her forehead. She brushed it away. It came back and tickled her again. She opened her eyes in time to see Hugh leaning over her, the branch of heather in his teeth. He flicked it away from her face.
“You’re the annoying fly,” she said, lunging to pull the heather from his mouth. He caught her wrists and rolled onto his back. She struggled, enjoying the feel of his large, callused hands. “I suppose if I were really clever,” she said, giving up and leaning on his chest, “I could get that branch without using my hands.”
“Oh yes, and how would you do that?” replied Hugh, a glint in his eye.
Ellie leaned over and, bringing her face close to his mouth, pulled the heather from his teeth.
A bolt of electricity raced through her. She hadn’t meant to be so intimate—hadn’t anticipated the heat of his flesh against hers, or the soft velvet of a corner of his lips. Her heart beat fast and her face grew hot. She looked away, dropping the heather from her mouth. “I’m never getting married,” she blurted.
Hugh studied her. “Then I’m not either.”
Gently, he brushed a bit of heather from her lips.
The caress stirred a small fire. She closed her eyes and lay back down on the grass. Joy washed over her. “That’s wonderful,” she sighed. Hugh’s hand closed on hers.
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