Interview with Anne McAllister

One-Night Love Child (Harlequin Presents)Jen: This week we are pleased to have Anne McAllister joining us. Anne has written over 50 books for Harlequin and she is here to tell us about her latest release. Welcome Anne! Please share a short bio with us.
Anne: I was born in California and grew up on SoCal beaches for the most part, but spent summers often in Montana where my mother’s family’s from and in Colorado where my grandparents had a small ranch. Both the beaches and the ranches form a background for a lot of my books, though big cities, especially New York City, have played a part in quite a few of them. I didn’t start writing romance until my youngest was 2, but before that I taught Spanish, ghost-wrote sermons, capped deodorant bottles and did all manner of things that have made my heroines well-rounded people!

Jen: Tell us about One-Night Love Child and where it’s available.
Anne: One-Night Love Child is a Harlequin Presents that came out last April. It’s still available online and probably in your favorite used bookstore! It is a book I’ve wanted to write for several years as it’s a spin-off of a single title I did for Silhouette Books called The Great Montana Cowboy Auction in 2002. In TGMCA there were two supporting characters who had a relationship that resulted in a pregnancy. I so much wanted to write their story and tell people what happened to them and find their happy ending. Finally I got to do it – and I’m delighted. I hope those who have followed my Code of the West series in Silhouette will find it and enjoy learning about what happened to Sara and Flynn. My next book in Presents (a Mills and Boon Modern in UK) is Antonides’ Forbidden Wife and will be out in November in UK and January in the US. The hero is my surfer/inventor, PJ Antonides, (perhaps not your average Presents hero) and the heroine, Ally, is his wife who turns up to get a divorce about the time PJ discovers that divorce is the last thing he wants.

Jen: At what age did you discover writing and when were you first published? Please tell us your call story.
Anne: I discovered writing when I was in grade school, but I didn’t seriously write until I was a stay-at-home mom. I hadn’t read romance fiction until on vacation one year a friend who read Harlequins handed me a box of them and said, “These books are saving my life.” She had a terrible high-pressure job working in very difficult circumstances – and romance novels kept her sane and able to believe there was actually goodness in the world. Then she said, “I think you could write one.” And since I’d never read one — and since she offered to watch the kids at the beach while I did — I took her up on it.

I read more than 100 of them and I liked that they were about relationships, which interest me, and that despite the required hero and heroine and happy ending, there was plenty of room for each author to be herself and take the story her own way, so I thought I’d give it a try. It took me a year to write the first book (during the son’s very short nap times). I sent it off and started a new book. Good thing, too, as I’d written two more and sent them off before Mills and Boon bought the first one! The second had been bought by Harlequin American three months earlier. M&B bought numbers one and three the same day. The moral of the story, as far as I can see is: don’t stop writing and don’t think about the books that are out of the house, just keep working. It taught me patience, too. There aren’t any short cuts. It’s all, like Anne LaMott says, taking things “bird by bird.”

Jen: Have you noticed your writer’s voice has changed over the years due to your experience? If so, how?

Anne: No. Not really. My voice is my voice. My world view is my world view. My quirky way of seeing things is not like anyone else’s. I see things differently depending on who my characters are and what their experiences are, and my diction may change as theirs would not necessarily be the same as mine. But the voice – and the concerns and the emotional landscape that goes a long way toward informing who I am as a writer – remain.

Jen: Do you have any “must haves” with you while you’re writing?

Anne: No. But it does help to have a sense of where I’m going with the book!

Jen: What is it about the romance genre that appeals to you?
Anne: That it’s about relationships, and I love exploring the ways people relate to each other. Also, even in the short romances I tend to include family or friends or a ‘larger world’ so it’s rare that my books are simply two people working out things only focused on each other.

Jen: Is there a genre that you’d like to write?
Anne: I like some chick lit, some mysteries, some historicals. I think I’m more inclined, though, to aim for a sort of longer single title relationship story if I write something besides category romance. I enjoyed The Great Montana Cowboy Auction and wouldn’t mind doing more of that.

Jen: What has been your highlight of your career to this point?

Anne: There have been a lot of highlights – mostly times spent with friends I have made because of being a writer whom I would likely never have met otherwise. I also enjoyed going to bull riding school once for research (that was definitely fun) and going to a New York photo shoot. The night I won a RITA and my first granddaughter was born an hour later is probably the most memorable night, though. That was amazing. It’s hard to imagine a RITA coming in second to something else on the same evening – but it did. Still, I’ll always cherish the memory.

Jen: Who are some of your favorite authors and books? What are you reading now?

Anne: It’s hard to limit my choices, really. I have shelves and shelves of books that are ‘keepers’ in my opinion. My tastes vary widely. In romance, I love Anne Gracie for her sense of humor and her characters, Sophie Weston for her wit and her voice, Kate Walker for her passion and intensity, Lisa Gregory for her strong sense of character and place, Mary Balogh for her regency world and willingness to tackle topics beyond the normal scope of the period. There are many many others in the field, too. I just read Joanna Bourne’s My Lord and Spymaster and thought it was wonderful. I’ve also been enjoying Gabriella Herkert’s Animal Instinct mystery books and Maddy Hunter’s delightful mysteries – and, of course, Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books. I could go on, but I’m sure you have other things to do today!

Jen: What do you do in your free time?

Anne: Besides read, you mean??? I walk my dogs (we have three who take me for walks daily). I travel (we just came home from California and Washington). I do family history research and write articles for genealogical and local history publications. I watch baseball, soccer and football games. Every now and then I mow the lawn, but since we have a new mower, I have to wrestle it away from my husband who likes the mower as much as I do.

Jen: What’s next for you?
Anne: I’m working on a Harlequin Presents right now and have two more in the pipeline after it that I’ll be doing for sure. One takes place in France, so I’m off to France next month. I have a couple of other projects that are halfway between the back burner and the front burner. It remains to be seen which of them I tackle along with the Presents books. I just went over the copyedits for a book coming out late next spring or early next summer called Savas’ Defiant Mistress. It takes place in Seattle – on a houseboat. I expect it to turn up again in a month for proofreading, so I guess that’s what is actually next, besides the one I’m actually in the process of writing.

Jen: Where can you be found on the web?
Anne: My website is at http://www.annemcallister.com/ where you can find info on my books in general. It is, I hope, finally getting fleshed out since we changed the design last year and a lot of the back list content is still waiting for my webmistress to have time to update and post it. My blog, where I usually write several times a week, is available there or directly from http://www.annemcallister.com/blog.

I am also a regular monthly columnist at The Pink Heart Society and on Tote Bags ‘n’ Blogs.

Jen: Do you have any questions for our readers?
Anne: Since one of the things I tend to do is write books that are linked, I would love to know how your readers feel about them. Personally I love peopling a whole world with characters whose lives intrigue me and whose stories I want to tell. But I also work to make sure that each story stands on its own.

I worry when some readers tell me they won’t read the Code of the West books or my Savas and Antonides books because they want to be sure they have all of them first, and then they’ll read them! Believe me, they weren’t conceived as a single entity, and they certainly don’t have to be read that way. In fact, it would likely be better if they weren’t because time passes often between each book.

So what do you readers think? Do you wait and read series of books all at once? Do you absolutely need to read them in order? Do you care? Will you skip a book if you know it’s in a series and you haven’t read the others? If it’s one of mine, please don’t wait or skip! They really do stand on their own. I don’t have a brain big enough to carry one plot around in it, let alone 16 or 17 or them!

Thank you, Jen, for inviting me to visit with you and your readers. It’s been fun. And if any of you have more questions, please ask or visit me on my blog or website to comment there or send me your questions. I’m happy to answer them!

Jen: Anne will be giving away a copy of One-Night Love Child to a commenter this week. So, answer one of Anne’s questions or ask Anne a question of your own and be entered to win. A winner will be picked on Friday, August 22 at 5:00 pm PDT.