Melinda, for those who don't know, what's the Harmony Valley series all about?
Just a few short years ago, Harmony Valley was on the brink of extinction with only those over the age of 60 in residence. Now, the influx of a younger generation is making life in Harmony Valley more fun for its gray-haired residents than afternoon television.
Tell us about this release. Where did you get the idea for the story?Love, Special Delivery is about the re-opening of the post office and fire department. There's an old saying among writers that if you're writing about a fireman, he better suspect the heroine of arson. LOL. Fire seems to follow Postmaster Mandy around town, and she's not pleased that Fire Captain Ben has suspicions about her. Ultimately, this isn't a suspense story, but a tale of what we give up for family. Mandy has sacrificed her dreams of working for NASA to take care of her younger sister and Ben has sacrificed a chance to be a fire investigator to watch over his father, a career firefighter whose lungs and heart aren't what they should be.
What were some of your favorite scenes to write?
I love delving into the emotion of falling in love, but...Fans of the series know I love quirky old people (mostly because I'm related to quirky old people). But the two supporting girls in this story - Olivia (Mandy's 17 year old sister) and Hannah (the daughter of Ben's best friend) - bring the quirk of girl dreams, the kind you used to have before bills and mortgages came along. Olivia is boy-crazy and Hannah is obsessed with animals and reptiles, often bringing home little beasties she's convinced need saving.
Can you share an excerpt?
Here's one where Ben discovers Mandy lives next door to him. The first time they met, he couldn't understand how her smile could be so carefree (he also threatened to shut down the post office for fire code violations). Little does he know, the bigger Mandy's smile, the more stress she's under.
“For the love of gardenias!” A figure moved beneath the shadows created by a large tree.
Ben hopped off the picnic table. “Need any help?”
The woman and the bushes stilled. “Um. No. I’m looking for…I’m trying to…” The woman huffed as if the weight of the world was too much for her patience. “I like to look at the moon, and this humongous tree is in my way.”
Her hesitation and intensity gave her away. “Mandy?”
The very air seemed to go still. No crickets chirped. No owl hooted. Even the offending tree had gone still.
He peered into the shadows, trying to discern if she was still there, imagining her holding on to that calm smile of hers. “Mandy from the post office?”
“It’s Ben, isn’t it?” She spoke as if this was the worst news of the evening. “How did I not know the fire marshal was my neighbor?”
He chalked up the defeat in her voice to the stress of his fire inspection. His opinion of the post office didn’t reflect on her. She…He had to admit, she and her unflappable smile were more interesting than most things in Harmony Valley. “We’ve both been busy working.” And he went down Harrison to the firehouse, while she probably drove in the opposite direction to the post office.
“If our house looks vacant, it’s because I park in the garage and walk to work.” Gone was the postmaster with her defensive stubbornness. In her place was a neighbor shooting the breeze, one who fed displaced raccoons.
“Speaking of looking…” His lips turned upward for the first time that night. “I can see the moon clearly over here.”
“Rub it in,” she said, less pained than when she’d discovered he was on the other side of the hedge.
He was near enough now to see the outline of her face, although not a clear expression. Not her smile.
He wanted to see her smile.
Which was beyond ridiculous. A stranger’s smile shouldn’t matter.
Any behind-the-scenes details you can share?
The raccoon in the book is based on one we discovered in our son's backyard when we were trying to prep his house for sale. We couldn't go out at night in the yard because she growled louder than a Rottweiler. Do you ever play "what-if"/worst case scenarios in your mind? I do. Might as well put it in a book.
Faulty wiring in the old post office causes several fires. Faulty wiring is my biggest fear whenever we do a home remodel. I was not happy to do research on how electrical fires occur. This is a fear I share with Mr. Curtis, who has told me on numerous occasions - even when I want to replace a simple plug - "I don't do electricity."
When things get rough for Mandy, she smiles and likes to spend time alone talking to the moon. I have an odd sanity-saving ritual of my own, but when I came up with the idea of the moon, I thought that was more romantic. Really, who wouldn't want to gaze at the moon with a handsome guy? (note: see the question about this below for your chance to win an autographed book)
What's next for you?
The next installment of Harmony Valley comes out in October. It's Nate's story and called Support Your Local Sheriff. Yes, the pink wedding dress Mae left him in One Perfect Year will be featured!
Next week, I'm launching a new version of my bridesmaid series. Each sweet romantic comedy novella in The Summer Bridesmaid Series begins with an unexpected kiss. In A Kiss is Just a Kiss, minutes before the wedding, Kitty Summer is convinced her sister's fiance doesn't love Maggie. But the only way for this bridesmaid to stop the wedding is by kissing the groom on the altar. This book is part of the RT Conference promo in May.
Just a few weeks ago, I released my first writing craft book. I'm a writing craft geek and 1 class shy of a psychology minor. Frankly, my dear...Creating Unforgettable Characters is an easy to use inspirational guide to creating characters with over 100 examples from movies and TV.
Thanks for stopping by on a Saturday!
Thanks to all the readers and Heartwarming authors who stop by. Here's a question for you: Do you have any rituals that help keep you in balance? One lucky commenter will win an autographed copy from my Harmony Valley backlist, excluding Love, Special Delivery. Winner chosen Tuesday, April 25.
Melinda Curtis is an award-winning USA Today Bestseller. She writes sweet romance for Harlequin Heartwarming, sweet romantic comedy novellas, and traditional sexy contemporary romances. If you sign up for her mailing list here you'll receive a free sweet romantic comedy novella and/or the workbook that goes with Melinda's writing craft book.