Today’s guest is Donna MacMeans. She is a Prism award finalist in the Steampunk/ Time Travel category for her Time Travel book Charming the Professor.
Donna, thanks for being here today! Being a reader of historical romance, I’ve read quite a few that were about a modern character that ends up in the past. Having a character from the 19th century end up in the 21st century is an interesting twist.
Will you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a licensed CPA and if that’s not scary enough, I’m also the current Treasurer of Romance Writers of America.(RWA). :-).I’ve written six seductively witty historical romances for Berkley Sensation, one historical paranormal romance about an invisible heroine that I’ve re-released as an indie book, one contemporary romantic suspense that was published by Samhain but being re-released as an indie book this summer, and my most recent release, a fun time-travel titled “Charming the Professor.” An intelligent person would have stuck with one genre, but life is just too short. I write what I love and hope others love it too.
Tell us about the Prism Awards.
The Prism awards are sponsored by the Futuristic, Fantasy and Paranormal online chapter of RWA. My book is a finalist in the Time Travel/Steampunk division. The reason why I love this contest is that it breaks down the categories into light and dark divisions within the Paranormal umbrella. My fun and sexy time-travel wouldn’t stand a chance against a dark and angsty shape-shifter book. But it can shine in the time-travel division. Winners will be announced at the RWA convention this July in San Diego.
This same book is also a finalist in the National Reader’s Choice Awards, Paranormal. Seriously, it’s a good book :-).
What inspired you to start writing?
Outlander. You know, Diana Gabaldon’s book which was turned into a TV series? I loved it- the book which is much better than the TV show. At the time, I didn’t think I was a Romance reader, but I loved that book so much that I became a devotee! When I looked for my next read in the romance section of the bookstore, I found something similar – Scottish Laird, English heroine – but it wasn’t a time-travel. I read the first chapter and immediately knew the answer to the story question. I figured it couldn’t possibly take a full novel to come to that conclusion – but apparently I was wrong. When the story ended with the same conclusion I had envisioned in the very beginning – I figured I could do better. So I tried. My first manuscript was a contemporary suspense based on Outlander and is still under the bed collecting dust bunnies. I learned so much about the craft of writing while writing that book that I was hooked. That book was a finalist for the Golden Heart award back in 1998. I thought that was a sign that I had potential as a writer. I’ve never looked back.
What are some of your favorite books?
I’ve already mentioned Outlander which would be my #1 pick due to the influence it had on my writing. Most of my favorite books have a humorous component – just saying.
I love Kristan Higgin’s Too Good To Be True. Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s book Nobody’s Baby but Mine. Teresa Medeiros ‘s witch books. Christina Dodd’s Candle in the Window. All of Johanna Lindsey’s books. All of Jayne Ann Krentz’s and Jayne Castle’s books. George R.R. Martin’s Fire and Ice series. And, of course, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
Seriously, it’s got to have humor for me to keep turning the pages.
Where did you get your inspiration(s) for Charming the Professor?
Many, many years ago I went to an RWA conference in New Orleans. One of my roommates and I decided to play hooky on the many workshops and opted instead to go to the French Quarter and look around. After having our fortunes told (another story), we exited onto Royale and saw the shingle for the Court of Two Sisters, which I recognized as one of the popular restaurants in the Quarter. We decided to give it a try, but when we opened the door, we saw a long corridor with walls of plaster and brick with graffiti – sort of like a place a tourist should not be. The maitre d’ at the end of the corrider waved us forward. But right as we were about to exit the corridor to go into the restaurant, we saw these fancy iron gates against the wall with a wooden plaque that said :
These Charm Gates were wrought in Spain especially for the Court of Two Sisters. According to legend, Queen Isabella had them blessed so that their charm would pass onto anyone who touched them.
I have pictures of me holding onto the gates to prove that I have charm! 🙂 After I got home, I listened to a tape of a workshop that said that there was something in New Orleans that we, as authors, were meant to see and use in our stories. I figured for me that must have been the Charm Gates.
My original plan was to have Queen Isabella II channel through the Charm Gates and into an unsuspecting victim who would have to be charming. However, in my research, I discovered Queen Isabella II was far from charming. The woman was a real bi@ch! I couldn’t have her channeling into anyone. But what if she had a protocol adviser in her court that was charming. In fact, what if people called the attractive, young advisor “the charm teacher”? And what if the queen hated her because everyone loved the charmed teacher? Then the queen might conspire to get rid of the charm teacher by having her cast in those iron gates for all eternity. The so-called blessing would really be tongue-in-cheek because she knew about “the charm” captured inside. And it would have been, if not for the touch of a Tulane physics professor that released the charm teacher into modern day. 🙂 🙂 🙂 *
However, I had to put the story on the back burner as I received an offer for my Victorian Striptease (The Education of Mrs. Brimley) which led to an historical series deal. It wasn’t until recently that I shook the dust off of my original idea and self-published my time-travel.
I’ve been back about three or four times since that initial visit. Funny thing, I’d told my husband about this corridor off Royale that leads into the Court of Two Sisters and about how barren and threatening it appeared. We opened the door to go in – and it looks nothing at all like it did when I was there before. The darn thing is furnished with flags on the wall and a striped cloth on the ceiling. I must have been there before when they were renovating. The Charm Gates, however, are still there decorated with some tacky lights.
What writing projects are you working on now?
Right now I’m writing a paranormal novella for an anthology to come out later this year. Years ago, I created a race of people called the Nevidimi that turn invisible in Moonlight. I used that for my Historical Paranormal titled “Bound by Moonlight.” I’m using it again in this contemporary paranormal.
I’m also writing the sequel to Charming the Professor. The sequel is titled, Charming the Thief and continues the story after the epilogue.
I’m also writing the third book in the Rake Patrol series called “To Bait A Rake.” So I’m busy, busy, busy.
Forgot to mention that I’m re-releasing my one single Romance Suspense this summer. That one is ready to go. The title is “In a Heartbeat” and tells the story of a woman CPA in Westerville, Ohio who has received a new heart in a heart transplant. A serial killer, however, has learned that sometimes the recipient of a heart transplant has the memories of the donor. He’s afraid that this woman CPA will remember him as the murderer of the donor so he’s out to do her in. My CPA has other problems to deal with as well including fraud and a demanding and sexy CEO who distracts her more than she cares to admit. I updated the book and added more emotion. I hope to release it in July.
What are you reading now?
I just finished “Silver Linings” by Maggie Osborne. It’s an older historical set during the gold rush (published in 2000) and I loved it! I think it should have won the RITA that year, it was that good. Not sure what to read next but I’m open to suggestions.
Donna, thanks so much for stopping by. Congratulations on being a Prism award finalist and good luck in the final determination!
Now that Donna has piqued my interest for Charming the Professor, I’d like to read an excerpt. How about you? Here it is:
Pain racked his body as if minute shards of glass had been driven into every inch of his skin. His eyes squeezed shut. “What the devil?” He arched against the wall to push back the sensation. “What just happened?”
“Il faut que je retourne à la Reine…”
“In English, dammit!” The flash of light, the searing pain…had he been struck by lightning? He’d been touching metal.
The angel reared back with an audible strange swish. Her expression shifted from shock to indignation, although it could be his vision was shifting as well. The worst of the sizzling burn passed, allowing his chest to relax with a fading tingle. The angel wasn’t Carolyn. That disappointment hurt more than the residual throbbing in his head. He took a deep breath then glanced at the woman.
Shoot! He hadn’t meant to scare her. She hovered about a foot away, posing in some frilly, tiered period costume straight off the set of Gone With The Wind. Some sort of black lace veil framed her face then rose high on her head before falling to the back, almost as if she were a medieval princess. She brandished some fancy do-da umbrella like a sword, twirling the pointed end in tiny threatening circles. Definitely not Carolyn.
“You some kind of tour guide?” He asked, rubbing the tender spot where his head had met brick. A wet viscous substance coated his fingertips.
The sky rumbled softly with retreating thunder. Rain continued to fall beneath the swinging door, but without the earlier intensity. The storm was passing.
“I won’t hurt you.” He held up his hand like a policeman directing traffic to ward off the threatening umbrella. “I haven’t the strength to battle a fly at the moment. You needn’t be afraid.” Using the brick wall for support, he pulled himself slowly to his feet. “Was it lightning? I saw a flash right before I hit the wall.”
Her lips parted as if to reply, but then she hesitated. She frowned, then tried again as if her lips wouldn’t mold the word. Her umbrella pointed from the floor to his chest. “Who?”
“Who am I?” He tapped his shirt. The woman’s face eased in relief. You’d think a tour guide would be a bit more communicative.
“I was about to ask you the same question.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “I’m Grant Stewart.”
He extended his hand in greeting, but as she didn’t advance he used it to brush the dust off his pants. “Who?” He said gruffly, pointing toward her in a similar fashion.
She straightened, lowered her weapon to her side, then curtsied in a simple yet elegant bend.
“Je m’appelle Mamoiselle Madeline Rosette Allegra Charlebois. Je suis une demoiselle de la cour d’Isabella.” She hesitated, cocked her head then continued, as if testing the sound, “Queen of Spain.”
“Queen of Spain, huh?” Yeah, right. He glanced to the floor for his fallen cell phone. “Sounds like someone else took a blow to the head.”
Her face brightened, her smile adding kilowatts to the dingy hallway. The phone lay at the base of the iron gate, its digital display shattered. He reluctantly retrieved the useless device and crammed it in his pocket. “A lot of good this is in emergencies.”
“Monsieur. The queen? Nous avons visité…” She stumbled for the word, opting instead to puff out her cheeks and swirl her arms in wide arcs.
Just his luck, he meets an angel and she turns out to be on permanent Mardi Gras.
“We need to get you some help.” His head throbbing, Grant moved to the connecting door of the restaurant. He pulled on the handle. Locked. Why had they locked the door? He knocked on the glass and tried to peer through the lace curtains. “Can anyone hear me?”
Her fingertip, clad in a leather glove, tapped on his shoulder with a soft chiming such as that from a child’s charm bracelet. He turned, expecting to see the crazy woman’s admittedly attractive face, but she stared not at him, but at the Charm Gates. Her eyes wide, her lower lip quivering, she pointed toward the wooden sign.
“Yes, those are the Charm Gates.” He said, noting that her skin seemed more pale than it had just a moment before. He certainly didn’t need a fainting woman on his hands, especially one wearing twenty pounds of clothing. That concrete floor would be hard on her head should she fall. He gently pushed on her shoulders, backing her up till the brick wall offered support.
“Perhaps you should just sit down here till help arrives.” He returned to the connecting door, pummeled the wood with his fist, rattling the windows. “Hello? Is anyone inside? We need an ambulance here.”
“Where is Isabella?” The woman asked slowly, every word spoken with careful enunciation. Concern darkened her eyes. “She is injured?”
“If she’s injured, she’d be at a hospital…just where you should be,” he said.
Something moved behind the lace curtain covering the glass. With renewed urgency, he pounded until a waiter responded. Finally! As soon as he could turn the distressed damsel over to the waiter, he could return to Tulane with just a throbbing headache as a souvenir. The connecting door opened, sending a refreshing current of air-conditioning into the humid corridor.
“There’s been some sort of accident,” Grant said. “Could you call an ambulance? I think the lady has a head injury.”
The waiter looked past him into the hallway. “What lady?”
Grant turned. The swinging door at the far end of the hallway slowly closed.
Find Donna at:
Friend page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/donna.macmeans
Author page on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Donna-MacMeans-152106361521316/
Twitter (which I don’t check often): @dmacmeans
My website: http://www.donnamacmeans.com/
I blog on Romance Bandits on the 23rd of the month: http://romancebandits.com/
Today’s post is the last in a series featuring Prism award finalists. However, there are many more worthy Prism award finalists that deserve your attention. Consider visiting their websites and reading their books. For a complete list of the finalists, go here.
(After all these features, I’m thinking I should write a review or too for this blog. Working on it….)
Buy Links for Charming the Professor:
You might also be interested in these other books Donna mentioned. Well she did not specifically mention The Whisky Laird’s Bed by name, but she did mention The Rake Patrol and well, you know, whisk(e)y!