Saturday, December 12, 2015

Sit-Down Saturday with Melinda Curtis

Melinda, you have a new book out, your 6th in the Harmony Valley series: A Memory Away.
Congratulations!
Thank you! In my mind, the series can go on for a long time. But then I heard Robyn Carr speak at conference about how intimidating a series can be to a new reader ("Oh, this is the 15th book in the series? I can't read that!"). My mother always told me I was a "what if" scenario thinker and I suppose it doesn't serve me well. I still read Janet Evanovich and she's in the 20s!

Harlequin is really good about keeping series alive.
Yep, and making an author write the series so that each book stands alone.

So, tell us about A Memory Away.
It's a story about a pregnant woman who wakes up after a car crash and can't remember how she got pregnant. She can remember recipes from scratch and her childhood, just not the particulars about her pregnancy. And there doesn't appear to be a man in her life! But then she sees a picture in the local paper of a man who looks really familiar. She goes to Harmony Valley to find out who the man is and if he loved her. Imagine her surprise when the man she finds isn't the father of her baby!

What inspired you to write this story?
Oh, gosh. I think I've told this story a lot! In case you haven't heard...I was in a bar with senior editor Victoria Curran during a romance writer's conference and I was pitching basic ideas for the next books in the series, just 3-4 line blurbs. Victoria got to amnesia and said something like, "Amnesia? I can't remember the last time I read an amnesia story." (Which - ahem - was the point: I hadn't seen any around in quite some time and it turns out they trend on Amazon.) Later, we went to dinner with another Harlequin editor, Kathryn Lye, and a bunch of Heartwarming authors. We started a huge debate about good versus bad amnesia books. I took it as a challenge to make it work.

This may be the first Heartwarming book that is categorized on Amazon as "romantic comedy." 
Whoop-whoop! I hope it's not the last. Rom-com movies are really popular and I don't see why they can't work in the Heartwarming line. One trick I've found is the hero and heroine work well as the straight "men" to supporting comedic cast members. For example, my poor hero, Duffy, lives next door to a nosey neighbor who's very lonely and has no cooking skills whatsoever. But that doesn't stop her from bringing over casseroles, like Ham & Bananas with Hollandaise Sauce (this is a recipe I found online - once featured by a popular women's magazine in the 1950s). A Memory Away isn't Bridesmaids. Slapstick won't work in the line. Like all my books, it's an emotional read with lighthearted, fun moments. Now it just has another category for readers to use to find it.

Here's an excerpt from A Memory Away:
  Did he love me?
  A man got out of the truck. Dark hair. Straight nose. Familiar eyes.
  It’s him.
  She leaned forward, peering through the paned glass, her heart sailing toward him, over ever-hopeful waves of roses and rainbows.
  Jess didn’t usually let herself dream. But now…today…him…
  And yet…
  He wore a burgundy vest jacket that clashed with a red long-sleeve T-shirt. Worn blue jeans. A black baseball cap.
  Instead, she saw him in a fine wool suit. Black, always black. A navy shirt of the softest cotton. A silk tie in a geometric pattern. Shiny Italian loafers…
  He took the stairs two at a time, work boots ringing on wood.
  Jessica’s heart sank as certainly as if someone had drilled holes in the boat carrying her hopeful emotions. Clouds blocked the sun. The rainbow disappeared. Unwilling to sink, Jess clung to joy. To the idea of him.
  He entered without a flourish or an energetic greeting. He entered without the smile that teased the corners of her memory. He entered and took stock of the room, the situation, her.
  Their eyes met. His were the same color, same shape, so heart-achingly familiar.
  It was the cool assessment in them that threw her off. Not a smile, not a brow quirk, not an eye crinkle.
  He came forward. “I’m Michael Dufraine, but everyone calls me Duffy.”
  His name didn’t ring true.
  Had he lied to her?
  She couldn’t speak, could barely remember her name.
  The wind shook the panes. The house creaked and groaned.
  He smiled. A polite smile, a distant smile, an I-don’t-know-you smile.
  Disappointment overwhelmed her. Jess resisted the urge to dissolve into a pity puddle on the floor.
  “And you are…?” He extended his hand.
  On autopilot, she reached for him. Their palms touched.
  Jessica’s vision blurred and she gripped his hand tighter as clips of memory assailed her—his deep laughter, him offering her a bite of chocolate cheesecake, his citrusy cologne as he leaned in to kiss her.
  It is him.
  Relieved. She was so relieved. Jessica blinked at the man—Duffy—who she vaguely recalled and, at the same time, did not.
  She’d practiced what to say on the hour-long drive up here from Santa Rosa. Ran through several scenarios.   None of them had included him not recognizing her.
  She should start at the beginning. Best not to scare him with hysterics and panicked accusations, of which she’d had five months to form.
  Don’t raise your voice. Don’t cry. Don’t ask why.
  And don’t lead the conversation with the elephant in the room.

  Despite all the cautions and practicing and caveats, she drew a breath, and flung her hopes toward him as if he was her life preserver. “I think I’m your wife.”

Well, you can just imagine poor Duffy's surprise with that line coming at him from a pregnant woman! Writing this book made me think a lot about my own memory. Sometimes I'll walk into a room and forget completely why I needed to be in there. Or I'll show up at the grocery store and can't remember the third thing I came in for. Crikey, I'm my mother!!! Or maybe all it'll take is one good, accidental whack to the head and I'll forget Mr. Curtis!

Have you ever had a memory lapse? I hope not a serious one.

Melinda Curtis is an award winning, USA Today bestselling author. Her current release - A Memory Away - is available digitally everywhere, in print on Harlequin.com, and come January it'll be available in print at large Walmarts! 

20 comments:

  1. A Memory Away sounds intriguing, Melinda.

    I can attest to the fact that any of the books in your Harmony Valley series is a stand-alone story. I read Time for Love before One Perfect Year (which I'm reading now!).They both have a great sense of place, and each contains the appropriate amount of backstory.

    Any of the books in the series is a great introduction to Harmony Valley. I'm certain A Memory Away is a terrific addition.

    Best wishes with your new release!

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  2. I'm a hard sell on the amnesia story but can't wait to read this one. Love the Harmony Valley books. So glad they're going to continue! <3

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    1. Anna Stewart and Cari Lynn Webb can be filed in the corner with Victoria on not believing a good amnesia story can be done!

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  3. I'm with Anna, not usually an amnesia story fan. But if anyone can do it, Mel, it's you. And now that I think about it, it's been a LONG time since I read one. Fun choice! I'm looking forward to this one (as usual).

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    1. Hey, I'm telling you they trend on Amazon

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  4. I've always been intrigued by real-life amnesia stories. Your premise sounds great, Melinda. I look forward to reading A Memory Away.

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  5. Like Jill, I'm intrigued by amnesia, especially the stories where some part of the life memories is blocked, but often not things from childhood. Looking forward to reading this book.

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  6. Mel, your series is one of my favorite and I hope it never ends! I actually like amnesia stories and for many of us experiencing Alzheimer's or dementia in parents or older friends-- this alone brings the struggle of what everyone involved goes through. I just know it will fly off the shelves!! Thanks for the excerpt!

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  7. In addition your cover is a grabber!!!!

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    1. I think the cover is sexy, which is not usually the direction we see in Heartwarming covers!

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  8. Hi, Mel. I wrote an amnesia story a few years ago. It was fun and challenging. I'm looking forward to reading yours.

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  9. Now that's a conversation starter. I'm looking forward to finding out his response. Sounds like a great story.

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  10. Wrote a few amnesia stories for American ages ago. It's fun to see where the supposedly impossible can take us. I love your teaser and think the whole idea is genius. Go, Melinda!

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  11. Funniest line in this post - "Crikey, I'm my mother!!!" You crack me up, Mel! I think this books sounds amazing, but that shouldn't surprise anyone. We all know what we're going to get when we pick up something written by you :)

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  12. I can't wait to read this book! It sounds wonderful, and I always love humor in a romance.

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  13. I know this will be so good! And I'm not a hard sell on amnesia stories. :-) Amnesia has always fascinated me. Heard on the news one time about someone who'd had amnesia for 10 years and they were just reporting it to authorities. Which got me to thinking why.

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