I never miss an Ellen Hartman book. They're funny, touching, and well-written, and her characters are just so real. If you like contemporaries that will make you laugh and make you think at the same time, Ellen Hartman's books are for you.
I grabbed her for GLIAS today to talk about her new Harlequin Superromance release. And she's giving away two copies!
Simone: Tell us a bit about your June release, Married by June.
Ellen: I don't always like the back cover copies for books, but for this book, I think it really works. Here it is:
Wedding planner Jorie Burke, aka "the wedding whisperer," knows all about staging the perfect event. When it comes to her own wedding, she has every detail worked out: the perfect venue, the perfect flowers, a brilliant gift registry idea. Not to mention a perfect fiancé…the brilliant, gorgeous senator's son, Cooper Murphy. It's going to be the Washington wedding of the century.
All that's missing is the perfect love.
But halfway through their cake-tasting is a terrible time for Cooper to point that out to her! Can it get any more humiliating for a wedding planner than having her groom call it off? Well, yes, it can. Because it turns out her ex has yet another proposition….
I honestly never thought I'd write a marriage of convenience story (this one is really an engagement of convenience), but when I was submitting proposals, these characters (a born romantic and the wedding planner who refuses to fall in love) grabbed my interest.
Simone: What is your favorite way to procrastinate?
Ellen: I can procrastinate with the best of them and via all the usual suspects: Internet, movies, books, etc. But when the going gets tough and it's necessary to kick my procrastination into overdrive, I clean. I choose some big, fussy project like cleaning the garage or detailing the stove with a Q-tip. It makes me feel virtuous--how can I feel guilty over prioritizing cleaning? It makes me feel productive, and most of all, it keeps me far from the computer where my manuscripts lurk.
Just this month I had a deadline and was, coincidentally, seized with the urge to sort and organize my teenage son's extensive Playmobil collection. I'd been meaning to tackle this job for years, so when the momentum got rolling, I had to go for it, right? (If this blog includes a question about a personal habit I'd love to correct, procrastination would be my first choice.)
Simone: If, magically, you couldn't write contemporaries anymore, what would you write?
Ellen: Good question. Let's start with this. If the fairy godmother of romance offered me any gift in her magic bag, I'd ask for the ability to write Regencies. The witty repartee slays me and would be so entertaining to write. Unfortunately, I tried my hand at a Regency a very long time ago and it didn't work out. So let's see, if I couldn't write contemporaries and had to write something else...I'd write a young adult book. Both "His Secret Past" and "Calling the Shots" included teenage characters. Exploring the parent/teen dynamic is satisfying to me, and teenagers allow for such delicious drama and angst. I wrote a prequel to "The Boyfriend's Back" that was set when the hero and heroine were in high school. (It is available with the eBook version, and you can read an excerpt from it on my website.
The book I'm working on now is the first one I've done that includes a secondary character's point of view. Matt Fallon, the eighteen-year-old brother of the hero, is getting his own scenes and I'm enjoying being inside his thoughts. (Matt will be the hero of his own book the following month.)
Simone: List three weird things your readers don't know about you.
Ellen: Hmm. So...three weird things I'm willing to own up to on the Internet? I eat too many vegetables, I'm annoyingly prompt, and I've never been late filing my taxes. (Oh, also? I lie when I'm answering interview questions.)
All right, here are some actual oddities.
1.) I'm superstitious about wishes. When I first met my husband, I made a wish on a star about our relationship. For the past eighteen years, I've been making the exact same wish out of fear that changing the wish focus will somehow negate all of the good will built up over the years. Wishes really shouldn't be this complicated...
2.) I befriend criminals. I went to town court one time to protest a traffic ticket and met a very nice gentleman who helped me get registered, find a seat, and reassured me that I was going to be fine. We chatted about our fellow suspects and had a lovely time while we were waiting to be called. His case came up first and guess what he was in for? Stalking!
3.) I think like a man. In high school, I wrote a short story from a teenage boy's point of view. My creative writing teacher tried to convince me to change it to a girl's point of view because he felt I wasn't "qualified" to write a boy's story. I resisted. The story won an award, and I continue to find writing the male point of view easier than the female.
Simone: What's the best book you've read recently?
Ellen: The best romance was "Ten Ways to be Adored when Landing a Lord" by Sarah MacLean. The dialogue was great, the scenes were funny, and the whole book was just enjoyable.
The best non-romance was "Case Histories" by Kate Atkinson. I'm currently reading another of hers called "One Good Turn." Her characters are so well-drawn and her description is minimal, but perfect. These are good, meaty books with skillful writing and a satisfying story.
Simone: What's one of the most surprising things you learned while researching a book?
Ellen: Uh, oh. I don't do that much research. I'm a big fan of making stuff up. (Thus, the career in fiction, right?) However, I did more research for "Married by June" than my norm. I looked up the rules for special elections to the Senate and read up on Civil War battles, among other things. The best research was when my husband's cousin re-enacted her wedding cake tasting for us, complete with cake! I didn't have a cake tasting for my wedding so I didn't know how these things worked. Carla, who was a bridesmaid in my wedding when she was 12, let us share the leftovers from her tasting as she stepped us through the process. She chose a red velvet cake, just like Jorie.
Simone: (That is officially the Best Research EVER.) What's the best writing advice you were ever given?
Ellen: My critique partner, Diana Holquist (she also writes as Sophie Gunn), taught me that you can fix anything in revisions. ANYTHING. She's fearless. I've watched her work her revision magic on a heroine who was unlikeable, a sex scene that was kind of creepy (funny and unique, but creepy), cliched secondary characters, and a plot without conflict. She crosses out big sections of her books and doesn't bat an eye. (She also crosses out big sections of my books which terrifies me, but her instincts are perfect. If I entertain Diana, I know I'm set.)
If anyone wants to see this revision wizard in action, we're doing our workshop "The Virgin Widow's Heart Stopped when She Saw the Workshop that would Change her Life Forever: How to Recognize Cliches and Use Them to Make Your Writing Shine" at the RWA conference in NYC this year. I'd love to connect with folks in person.
Simone: What's next for you?
Ellen: I'll have two books out in late 2012. They're about the Fallon brothers, Deacon and Matt. Deacon raised Matt and takes his older brother responsibilities very seriously. Deacon is my favorite kind of hero, wounded, sincere, and doing his absolute best to take care of his family. Matt is more free-spirited, but he's carrying scars from their unsettled childhood just as much as Deacon. I love writing about brothers, especially the scenes when they bond with witty banter and barely stated emotional truths. Man pain is great fun for a writer.
Simone: That sounds awesome! I will be first in line. Thanks so much Ellen!
Ellen: Thank you so much for inviting me to the blog, Simone. Your questions were so much fun to answer. I'm giving away two copies of my June Superromance, Married by June, to people who comment on the blog today.
Okay... it's summer. Prime reading time. I asked Ellen, so I'm asking you guys: What's the best book you've read recently?