The Romance Reader Interviews Samantha Grace

 
New Faces 219
Samantha Grace
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by Cathy Sova

Welcome to our New Faces column, where you can meet debut romance authors and discover their books. This time we are visiting with Samantha Grace,, whose first book is Miss Hillary Schools a Scoundrel from Sourcebooks. Letís meet her.

Samantha, welcome to TRR! Tell us about yourself.

I'm originally from a suburb outside of Little Rock, but I currently live in Wisconsin. My husband and I met on the job at a community mental health center. I've always thought it was fate that brought us together. A few weeks before graduating from my Masters program, I arrived early for class. I found the job posting handwritten on a small index card and stuck to the bulletin board underneath several more exciting jobs. I really had no desire to move to a small town in the Ozarks-even though the hiking was fantastic-but my inner voice kept nagging me to apply. Now I'm glad I buckled under the pressure.

After my husband finished his doctorate, we relocated to Wisconsin for his internship, and we loved our community so much, we decided to stay. We share our home with our two kids, a sassy calico cat, and a coon hound who thinks she's also cat, or possibly Fred Astaire. (She tap-dances for her supper.)

Are you coming to romance writing from another job? Do you still have a day job?

I've been a clinical social worker for quite a few years. The first part of my career was in outpatient behavioral health and later at a psychiatric unit. Currently I work in hospice helping families care for loved ones at home.

What led you to write romance?

I've been a romance reader on and off since I was a teenager, but I hadn't read a historical romance in a long time. Mostly I read chick lit when I picked up a romance, such as "Bridget Jones's Diary", "Confessions of a Shopaholic", "How to Eat Sushi". About four years ago, I began to feel really restless. I didn't know what was wrong. I just knew it was an uncomfortable position to be in when I had so many wonderful things going for me.

One day I was in the library, aimlessly wandering the aisles, and I stumbled across Johanna Lindsey. (Not literally, of course.) I remembered loving her Mallory novels from my college days, so I picked up one I hadn't read. It served as a catalyst to get me started writing romance. I had known I wanted to be a writer since I was in elementary school, but I had tucked away my dream. I guess it was tired of being ignored. As soon as it dawned on me I could write a romance, my restlessness disappeared.

Tell us about your road to publication.

I began writing my first book around April 2008 and had it finished by July, or so I thought. I was about 20,000 words short of what's needed for a historical romance, but I had no clue at the time. My next step was to figure out how to get a romance novel published, so I turned to Google and learned I really needed a critique group. I found one in my area, but it was a mix of genres and the thought of reading my writing in front of a group that would then tell me what I did wrong made me feel sick to my stomach.

Fortunately, I found a great online historical romance critique group, and it has been love ever since. The women in my group are kind, eager to help each other, and genuinely excited when something good happens for one of the members.

I was thrilled to meet most of my critique partners in Washington DC in 2009 at my first Romance Writers of America Convention. Before the convention, I had no concept of how huge this industry is. In a way, it was daunting but also exciting. The one thing I took away from the conference was if I didn't give up, I would be published.

Secretly I promised myself I would have an offer before the 2010 convention. Of course, there is only so much control we have over everything, but the key to success seemed to be making my writing as strong as possible. I took several online writing classes taught by Laurie Schnebly Campbell, one of my favorite people ever, and I studied tons of writing craft books. I entered a few contests, but I only made the finals twice. Some of the feedback was good, but I decided I wanted to put my money toward classes and books instead.

One of my classes was on "how to write a synopsis", which also meant learning to write a very brief summary that I later pitched to my editor, Deb Werksman, when she was taking online pitches. She was interested, requested a full manuscript, and a week later we were talking on the phone. Well, she was talking. I was babbling nonsense. This was in June 2010, weeks before the convention.

What kind of research was involved for your first book?

I had to research everything. I had absolutely no knowledge about 19th century England when I started writing. Don't ask me why I chose to write about something so foreign to me. I think it's in my nature to do the most challenging things I can imagine, but I rarely feel bored. For Miss Hillary Schools a Scoundrel, I had to research all the basics of etiquette and titles, but also dowries, the marriage mart, travel by carriage, and how quickly mail was delivered. Thank goodness for my critique partners and the RWA specialty chapter, The Beau Monde.

Tell us about your debut book.

HE'LL NEVER SETTLE FOR ONE WOMAN…
Debonair bachelor Lord Andrew Forest lives for pleasure and offers no apologies. But he receives a dose of his own medicine when his family's entrancing houseguest beds him, then disappears without so much as a by-your-leave. He'd like to teach the little vixen a thing or two about how to love a man…if he can find her…

AND SHE WON'T SETTLE FOR HEARTBREAK…
After the dashing man of her dreams is revealed as a lying scoundrel, heiress Lana Hillary is ready to seek a match with a respectable gentleman-if only they weren't so dreadfully boring. Unable to rein in her bold nature for long, Lana flirts with trouble and finds herself entangled with exactly the type of man she's vowed to avoid.

Who are some of your influences as a writer?

Jodie Picoult isn't a romance author, but I've always admired her skill and bravery in tackling difficult topics. In the romance arena, I'm fond of Sherry Thomas's emotional depth, Amanda Quick's phrasing and world-building, and Teresa Medeiros's touching humor. But if I'm honest, the authors who've had the most influence on me have been my very first critique partners (Ava Stone, Heather Boyd, Julie Johnstone, Jane Charles, Catherine Gayle, and Jerrica Knight-Catania.)

What does your family think of having a published romance author in their midst?

They are excited and very proud. Early on, my husband was telling all of his friends and co-workers. He reads my blogs. He has attended the RWA National Conventions with me. And he's reading my book even though he's not a romance reader normally. My daughter announces it to every stranger we meet. I think my son is gearing up to be my manager, because he keeps asking me if I've gotten numbers yet on how my book is selling. My father-in-law preordered five copies and now he gets a big kick out of the Amazon recommendations he receives. My mom has read it, loved it, and shared it with her co-workers. I could go on about the great people routing for me, but there are many. I'm one of the lucky ones who have supportive people in just about every area of my life.

Tell us about plans for future books.

I'm contracted for four books at this time. Lady Amelia's Mess and a Half will be released June 5, 2012, and it is the second book in the series. The third book, Miss Lavigne's Little White Lie, will hit stores October of this year. I'm diligently working toward meeting my June 1st deadline for the last book, and I should hear any day about a target release month. There are possibilities for more stories in the series if readers enjoy these, but nothing definite in the works yet.

How can readers get in touch with you?

I love to hear from readers. It's one of the best parts of the job. I can be found at www.samanthagraceauthor.com, Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/samanthagraceromanceauthor), Twitter (http://twitter.com/#!/SamGraceAuthor), and I blog regularly at Lady Scribes (www.ladyscribes.blogspot.com).

I'll also be signing at the RT Booklovers Convention in Chicago this year, North Chicago RWA Spring Fling, and the Romance Writers of America National Convention in Anaheim.

Samantha, thanks for joining us, and best of luck with your future books!

March 23, 2012

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