Saturday, August 22, 2015

Sit Down Saturday by Melinda Curtis

Today is my day to celebrate my August release with a little behind the scenes look into Time for Love.

The platform: This is book 5 in my Harmony Valley series, which is set in a small town in the northeastern corner of Sonoma County. Harmony Valley is in trouble, because a decade ago the mill exploded and jobs burnt up with it. Everyone who wasn't retired, moved to where the jobs were. Schools? Closed. Stores? Mostly closed. Houses? Mostly abandoned. You've driven by towns like
that, right?

So what does that leave a writer to work with? Set in their ways old people. As a writer of lighthearted romance and romantic comedy...Well, let's just say it's heaven for me as I bring a younger generation back to town.

The characters: Because I'm writing a series, I try to connect characters and storylines to previous books. Kathy first made an appearance in Summer Kisses (book 2), by dropping her son off with her brother, but without any explanation (at least in the first draft). In my mind, Kathy was a young, single mother (got pregnant in college) and was just tired. Any writer for the Heartwarming line knows that isn't going to cut it for a sub-character. I needed Kathy to disappear, but I didn't want her to die. So the poor girl went to rehab. At the time, I thought it was a perfect solution.

In the previous book, my hero Gage was a veterinarian who was really good at settling down mares about to foal. The idea of horse whisperers had begun to intrigue me and since Gage was now a permanent resident in Harmony Valley, I thought - hey, why not bring in a horse whisperer to help Gage. I know someone who I think has horse whispering skills. Easy peasy, right? Um, wrong. My hero, Dylan had no real backstory. So I watched a heartwarming documentary on one of the most famous horsewhisperers, Buck Brannaman. This guy had come from a dark place and has become a true hero of a man. I fell in love!

The Premise: But then it came down to creating conflict and opportunities for character growth.
Now, if you were paying attention, you might have read that I write on the lighter spectrum - certainly not dark and angsty women's fiction. A hero who'd been abused? A heroine who's just out of rehab? That's pretty serious stuff. But by now, I'd fallen in love with the young, made mistakes single mom trying to rebuild her life in her mid-20s and the 30ish horse whisperer who hadn't had a fairy tale childhood and used horses to help build the confidence of recovering alcoholics. Heartwarming's brilliant senior editor, Victoria Curran, once told me that I have the ability to take a deep, dark wound and tell it with a lighthearted touch. I hugged that thought and dove in. These people may have believed it wasn't their time for love, but they had to get back on that horse!

The Humor: Yes, don't despair! There's humor here. There's a lot of fun to be had making the hero and heroine "straight men" for larger than life supporting cast members. In a Harmony Valley story, that means my set-in-their-ways retired folk. For this story, I also threw in some horses with personality and the young boys of the hero and heroine. And lucky for me, from page one Kathy had a sense of humor about herself and life. Here's the book's opening:

  When Kathy Harris was a teenager, she’d dreamed of being a fashion designer, a professional basketball player and an airline pilot—anything to get out of her small hometown.
  So much for dreams.
  She shoveled another pile of manure into the wheelbarrow.

But I don't use humor like a stand-up comedienne. I use it as I do in life. To deal with uncomfortable situations. To help myself get over past hurts and mistakes. To be able to laugh at myself and grow as a person. We all come from a place with dark corners. That doesn't mean our life is dark and gloomy. And neither is the journey Kathy and Dylan take in Time for Love.

Melinda Curtis is an award-winning, USA Today bestseller. Her latest Heartwarming release is Time For Love. She dares you to read it and call it an "issue book", even though the back cover begins with the line "As a kid from a shattered family".

24 comments:

  1. Melinda,
    I've just started to read your August book, and I've loved your town and all of the people in Harmony Valley up to this point and after reading your post I'm more than prepared to love Kathy and Dylan's sometimes rocky road to love.

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  2. Melinda, I love Harmony Valley. I'm already intrgued by the horse whispering hero. And feeling bad for Kathy. Can't wait to find out how these two finally find their happily ever after.

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  3. This is a terrific introduction for TIME FOR LOVE, Melinda.

    I love what Victoria said about your writing, that you have "the ability to take a deep, dark wound and tell it with a lighthearted touch." I haven't known her to be wrong yet, and she certainly isn't with that statement!

    Best wishes with your new release.

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  4. Congrats on your newest release! I love that you can find that perfect balance between deeply emotional and lightheartedness. It's not easy, but you do it so well. Can't wait to see what you do next :)

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  5. Your opening is brilliant, Mel. Interesting to see how you construct the story and find that emotional but funny road through it. What a lovely comment from Victoria. That's the kind of critique that can fuel a writer through any difficulty. Congratulations!

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    1. Muriel, sometimes I feel the same as poor Kathy. Once I jetted about on private planes with my boss. Now I pick up dog poo in the back yard. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. LOL!

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  6. I love the opening. Looking forward to reading the book.

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  7. I love Harmony Valley. I'm sure this next installment will be wonderful!

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  8. Look forward to reading this story. I love horses and have worked with women in rehab.

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    1. Those who come out of rehab successfully are really amazing, aren't they, Pat?

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  9. I love this post, Melinda. What a brilliant idea to bring in the younger generation. What better way to keep the series going.

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  10. Mel, I love your Harmony Valley and can't wait to read this one! Your books are so encouraging when they need to be. Maybe they aren't "issues" but they sure are real life. I wish you great success. And keep them coming!!!!!

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    1. I agree about them being real life, Catherine!

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  11. I've never written a series before and I learned so much in reading this post (in addition to wanting to read your series!) I do tend to write darker adult stories and funny YA - go figure ;) I like the idea of using a light touch with deep issues. I'm writing a Heartwarming story with teens in it and there's lots of laughs so maybe I'll finally get that balance :) Congratulations and good luck with your new release!

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    1. Good luck to you, Karen! You're so brave to branch out like that!

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  12. I just finished this book and I loved it. I also loved that Kathy didn't make excuses. My own mother was an alcoholic. So much so that she died at the young age of 49. Growing up (my grandmother raised me most of the time) my mom always had an excuse for why she didn't show up for something, or why she didn't do something she promised she'd do. Your book was beautifully written and I loved that Kathy was willing to take responsibility for her drinking.

    This is actually the first Harmony Valley book that I've read, so I just grabbed the rest and can't wait to get started on them!

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