Sit-Down Saturday with Melinda Curtis

Saturdays are book feature days here at the Harlequin Heartwarming Blog and today it's Melinda Curtis talking about her April release  in the Harmony Valley series, A Man of Influence.

Your last release was a contribution to the anthology Make Me a Match, featuring matchmaking bachelors in Alaska. How was the transition from that back to a Harmony Valley book?

Writing in a world you've already created is a bit easier. You don't have to create places in town where characters congregate, shop, and eat. You don't have to create community traditions or walk-on players. So in that respect, it's easier. Make no joke. Writing is never easy. I think I'm allowed to say that despite my 19 books & 3 anthologies for Harlequin, and the 3 books and 9 novellas I've indie pubbed.

Tell us a bit about A Man of Influence.
My hero, Chad, thinks he's a man of influence. The fact is, his father fired him from the grave and he's struggling to prove that was a mistake. He used to be the editor at an online magazine, contributing sarcastic travel pieces. He's about to launch his own travel blog and figures Harmony Valley - with its unusual traditions and unique elderly characters - will be the perfect foil for his debut. Of course, Chad hadn't counted on Tracy (first introduced in Dandelion Wishes). Despite the town embracing the exposure a travel writer will bring, Tracy is on to Chad right away and sets out to prove to him that Harmony Valley is charming, not cheesy.

Who was your inspiration for Chad & Tracy?
A little bit of Blake Lively and James Marsden. Tracy is still recovering from the car accident that nearly killed her (with speech that still stumbles a little from her aphasia) and Chad is a bit of a charmer. They're both trying to find their place in the world, but Chad is more likely to smile and try to take a short-cut.

What were some of the challenges you had in writing this book?
Ha! I made Chad have elderly parents who had him late in life. Since he was their primary caregiver, he looks around at the majority of Harmony Valley residents (most over the age of 60) and gets a little twitchy seeing puffy fingers, cancerous sun spots, pale complexions, etc. Here's a guy whose parents were always mistaken for his grandparents and is fighting the urge to nurture those around him. Why? Because he's still bitter over being fired. Writing the why behind that was tricky. A true hero would mention to someone that they might need to get that spot checked out...wouldn't he?

What's up next for you?
I'm waiting on edits for Book #8 in the Harmony Valley series - Marrying the Single Dad. And writing book #9, tentatively titled The Fire Chief. In the meantime, here's an excerpt from A Man of Influence, on sale now in etailers and in larger Walmarts May 1.

It was just another Friday morning in Harmony Valley. Tracy felt no stress at all.
And then he walked in.
Morning sunlight glinted off the blond highlights in his brown hair and outlined his broad shoulders. His eyes were the dark brown of coffee, no cream. Those eyes catalogued everything in the bakery, as if he thought there’d be a test later.
The conversation in the room dwindled and died. Chairs scraped. All eyes turned toward the newcomer, because Harmony Valley wasn’t a pass-through town. It was practically the end of the road.
“Don’t. Scare. Him.” Dang it. Stress jabbed repeatedly at her stilted speech button like a child playing ding-dong ditch. Tracy swallowed her sudden discomfort and waved the man to the counter.
“Who came in?” Mildred asked, voice on the max volume setting. Apparently, she hadn’t put in her hearing aids this morning, and couldn’t see through her ice cube lenses.
Mr. Golden Glow chuckled as he approached the counter. He moved out of the sunlight, and became…No more normal. Still gorgeous. He walked like he owned the room, exuding a vibe Tracy had always admired—power, prestige, a winner of corporate boardroom games. Didn’t matter that he wore jeans and a polo shirt. That walk said suit and tie. His confident air said I know people who can get you a job.
Tracy’s mouth went dry, because she needed a better job. Unfortunately, she could practically feel the full extent of her vocabulary knot at the back of her tongue, clogging her throat.
She tried to remember her latest speech therapist’s advice. Breathe. Relax. Turn your back on the person youre talking to.
Okay, that last one was Tracy’s antidote. But it worked. Not that there were many opportunities to turn her back mid-conversation or in an argument without looking like a total jerk.
And how could she forget the advice of her speech teacher in college? Breathe. Relax. Imagine your audience is naked.
“What’s good here?” Mr. Tall, Perfect, and Speech-Robbing stepped in front of her.
Tracy’s gaze dropped from his steel gray polo to the counter. Oh, for the days she dared imagine the opposite sex naked. “Coffee.” That was good. Normal sounding. If you didn’t count the frog-like timbre of her tone. She cleared her throat. “Scones.” She waved a hand over one of the pastry cases that her boss, Jessica, worked so hard to fill.
“Why do you suppose he’s here?” Rose, never shy, asked the room, shuffling her feet beneath the table. That woman never sat still.
Maybe he’s lost,” Eunice piped up from the window seat.
“Not lost,” the stranger said cheerfully, smiling at Tracy as if they shared a private joke.
The joke was on him. This was Harmony Valley, where people had no respect for personal boundaries and could have taught the FBI a thing or two about interrogation.
“Visiting relatives?” Mildred squinted his way.
“Strike two.”
Tracy had never been a believer in eyes twinkling. But there you go. His did. Despite that power-player vibe. Or maybe because of it. Her body felt a jolt of electricity, as if it ran on twinkles, not caffeine.
Old Man Takata held up a chunk of chocolate croissant. “Health inspector?”
“Thank you all for playing.” The newcomer grinned, scanning the menu board above Tracy’s head while the room erupted with speculative conversation.

This is Melinda again. Have you ever been in a situation where you wanted to say something, but didn't? One lucky commenter who isn't a Heartwarming author will receive a free ebook of their choice from Melinda's backlist.


  1. I'm more likely to be in the situation where I have no idea what to say to someone. As in, what do you say to someone who comes into the post office and proceeds to tell you that she's dying of Crohn's disease, because her doctors didn't catch it early enough?

    I just finished reading "A Man of Influence" and thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm really getting hooked on Harmony Valley! I know I missed some, so now I need to go back and find the ones I've missed.

    1. Heidi, I'm so glad you enjoyed AMOI. Life is full of awkward situations. I'm sure you share your positive energy with others.

  2. Congratulations for the release of A Man of Influence, Melinda! Please keep writing those wonderful Harmony Valley books!

  3. I love these Sit-Down Saturdays and the insight into the writer's mind of their most recent story.

    As much as you enjoy you writing about Harmony Valley, as a reader I enjoy going back to see what's going on.

    My copy should arrive in the mail today! Let's hope I didn't jinx myself.

    1. Writing a Sit-Down Saturday blog stretches the writer mind a bit, Marcie. I don't often think about my books that way.

  4. I love the Harmony Valley books, and so admire you and others who can write connected books in a single setting. I have such trouble with that. I feel I've written the story before, maybe. I'm not sure, or if I like exploring new places and get bored sticking in the same town. You know, maybe it's because I grew up in a town of 1000, and was really ready to leave when the time came. Ha! Have a good weekend.

    1. But, Roz, we each have our own strengths and your books are special without the crutch of a series.

  5. Hi, Mel! I'm half way through your book and adore Tracy and Chad. I love James Marsden so that was fun to see that he inspired you. Bottom line!!! Is fantastic. I'd be reading but I have to write. I'll finish it tonight. Love, love it!!

  6. Great Sit-Down, Melanie! I always enjoy these. Congratulations on your release!

  7. Wonderful teaser, Melinda! Love James Marsden - 27 Dresses is one of my favorite movies. Continuities are fun in that you know everybody and their surroundings. What I dislike about them as a writer, is that you have to describe them still every book and I have difficulty making that sound fresh. But, you certainly don't! Congratulations!

  8. Love the excerpt, Melinda, and can't wait to read the rest of the story! Hope your weekend was wonderful!

    1. Hey, Loree! It was so wonderful, I forgot I was blogging today...eep

  9. Love Harmony Valley and can't wait to read this one. I love James Marsden - great choice!! Congratulations on the new release.

  10. I love Harmony Valley, too! And the excerpt.

  11. Thanks for all the kind words. Contest closed. The winner is...Heidi Nielsen! Winner chosen by Random .org. Please contact me for your prize via Facebook or Twitter

  12. Cognate on your new release, Melinda! I love that the Harmony Valley books will keep coming. I just finished reading it!! Great fun and when I was reading I thought I'd Blake Lively. Then I watched The Age of Adeline ---again. Boy! Your Tracy was terrific. 5 stars!


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