Thursday, June 9, 2011

Ellen Hartman

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 fiancĂ©…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?


  1. Hi Ellen, welcome to GLIAS. Your book sounds wonderful. I totally agree with your critique partner about being able to fix anything in revisions. I think that comes from reinventing several books before I sold.

    Thanks for joining us today!

  2. Hi Cat,

    I'm delighted to be here. When Simone invited me, I stopped by and then promptly spent (procrastination??) an hour or so getting lost in your blog. You guys have great interviews.

    Reinventing books--I love that phrase. Sounds less intimidating than revision. Maybe because if I'm "inventing" it means I'm in control?

  3. Welcome Ellen! I'll answer my own question. Lately I am hooked on Nora Roberts' Bride Quartet. I'm on the second book, Bed of Roses, and it's just so good. I love summer reading :)

  4. Hi Ellen,

    I can only post as Anonymous at work. I love your books and I have them all except Married By June. Fingers crossed I win it this time or I will buy it this month. You are one of my favorite authors and I am looking forward to all your new books.

    Tammy Yenalavitch

  5. Hi Simone!

    Thanks again for inviting me to the blog. I read the first three Bride books. My mom lent them to me and then...she got a Kindle. My source for romance borrowing has totally dried up. I want to read the last one! The first one was my favorite of the three I read, but I liked the guy who was going to be the hero in the last one.

  6. Hi Tammy! Thanks so much. I appreciate your kind words and our online friendship. That's one of the cool things about writing romance--I've met a lot of wonderful folks.

    Good luck with the prizes! ;-)

  7. And I forgot to answer the question - Best book I have recently read is The Concubine by Jade Lee. It was a Blaze set in China in the 1850's

    I also appreciate our on line friendship, Ellen

    Tammy Y

  8. This sounds like a great book!
    Recently read Burning Up by Susan Anderson and loved it. It is great Summer read about a Fireman finding love with the Town's Wild Child.

  9. Hi Sherie--I love the cover of that Susan Anderson book. I remember it because I have a soft spot for firefighter books.

    "Backdraft" with Billy Baldwin is one of my guilty pleasure movies. (Which probably fits in the "weird things" question from above.)

  10. Hi, Ellen, welcome to Get Lost in a Story. I love, love, love Superromances, and can't wait to read yours. I've read so many stellar books of late, and I read all over the board, so bear with me. One superromance that I loved was Angel Smits, *A Message for Julia,* Ken Casper's, mystery, As the Crow Dies, Kaylea Cross, Cover of Darkness as part of the Published Daphne competition--and I'm pleased finaled--an Indy/Berkley author, The Only Witness, by Pamela Beason, and finally, I'm reading a great, great, book called MEDDLING WITH A MILLIONAIRE, by Cat Shields. So many books, definitely not enough time. Thanks for joining us here today.

  11. Hi Donnell!

    Oooh. I just bookmarked the Cat Schields free novella last night. I clicked to it from the blog and started reading, but I had to run out to a baseball game.

    The one you're reading has a hero named Nathan and that's my all-time favorite hero name. I'm dying to get it!

  12. Hi Ellen! Welcome to GLIAS.

    I LOVE Sarah MacLean's stories, as well. 9 Rakes was an absolute fave.

    I had to laugh at your interview...I am a complete opposite. The only thing I use procrastination more to AVOID doing than writing is cleaning...I hate it!

    I love the name Deacon for a dh and I were going to name our son that, but we figured Deacon Snow sounded too much like a white-haired old man at church ;)

    Thanks for stopping by.

  13. Hi Ellen,

    MARRIED BY JUNE sounds delightful. Marriage of convenience stories are romance perennials! And it's all about what the author does with the premise anyway.

    I'm reading THE HUNGAR GAMES right now. Wonderful. I especially love it when a book lives up to it's hype! LOL!

  14. Jeeeeez! If I'm going to give Suzanne Collins a shameless plug I at least ought to spell the name of her book right, THE HUNGER GAMES. Sorry, no coffee this morning! LOL!

  15. ....aaaand, Heather just gave me a character name to swipe. Thanks Heather!

    Jillian, I thought maybe you were reading the version that takes place in Hungary. I hear it's excellent ;)

    Donnell - read Ellen's "The Boyfriend's Back". There's a scene between the hero and his father that I had to go back and forth to reread more than once, it was so good.

  16. Hi Heather,

    I'm dying for more Sarah MacLean books, but my mom was my source for the first one and now she has that darn Kindle. Hmph. I need my historical fix!

    I sold these book proposals several years ago. At the time, Deacon was named Shane. (I LOVE the name Shane.) In between the sale and the time I started writing, my hockey-obsessed son started playing on teams coached by a guy named Shane. I absolutely couldn't stand to write about a Coach Shane when I know a real-life one. My friend, Jeannie Watt, really pushed for me to switch to the name Shadrach (!) but I resisted. (It wasn't hard.)

    I think I like Deacon Snow, but I get what you're saying about the church guy. ;-)

  17. Hi Jillian,

    I read the Hunger Games, loved it, and lent it to my teen. He finished the last chapter in the car on his way to a week of overnight camp. Practically the last thing he said to me when I dropped him off was a demand to have the second book waiting for him when he got home. :-) I love sharing books with him.

    (I didn't like the 3rd book, but the 1st one is still great.)

    In the proposal for Married by June, I was going to write a marriage of convenience, but it got revised downward to an engagement of convenience. I still couldn't quite believe I was tackling the trope, but I couldn't resist the dynamic between these two characters.

    P.S. Blogger just ate this post. I hope it doesn't show up twice.

  18. Hi Simone,

    I was totally bummed that I didn't use "Snow" as Deacon's last name. Glad you're jumping on it. It's an outstanding hero name. :-)

    I'm so happy you liked The Boyfriend's Back. I had such fun writing the McNulty brothers and their kind-of-awful-but-I-loved-him-anyway dad.

    Did I ever mention that when I started writing that book, the dad was incapacitated by a stroke and couldn't speak? The day I experimented and let Jack have his say in a scene was the day the book started to flow. He was a great character to write.

  19. What a fun sounding story, Ellen!

    Right now I'm in the middle of Sleeping Beauty, Vampire Slayer by GLIAS's own Maureen McGowan and tempering that with Sharpe's Tiger (since we share a name) by Bernard Cromwell. It seems that whatever book I'm reading at the moment is always my favorite!

  20. Hi Abigail,

    The Sleeping Beauty title is so witty. I'll admit to a bit of envy when folks can have witty titles. Our Super titles are on the obvious side. ;-)

    I went to check out the Sharpe book because I hadn't heard of them and had to pause for a small swoon moment over Sean Bean. I love that guy. Have you read the series or can you just dip in?

  21. Simone, thanks for the scene reference. I'll check out the book as well ;) Cat's character, Nathan, is proving he's worth a million bucks!

  22. Hi Ellen, Angi (Great Expectations) here to welcome you to GLIAS. I just moved one of your books yesterday (from the keeper shelf to a temporary box while the shelves get rebuilt).

    Never miss one of your books...hoping to pick up this copy at NYC...will you be there?


  23. Angi!! Hi! How are you?

    (I'm always excited to talk to Angi because in addition to being super nice and talented, she was instrumental in helping me sell my first book.)

    I'm tickled to be on your keeper shelf. Yep, I'll be in NYC. I'll definitely look for you. There was a snafu and so I'm not signing at the literacy signing. I get to walk around. Will you be signing?

    Hope you're doing well. :-)

  24. YES... as far as I know my 2nd book will be there: .38 Caliber Cover-Up. (Hill Country Holdup seems to be SOLD OUT >>grin<<)

    And thanks for your kind words !