Jen: Please help me welcome Allison Merritt to Romancing the Book. Allison, will you share a short bio with us?
Allison: A love of reading turned Allison Merritt into an author who writes historical, paranormal and fantasy romances, often combining the sub-genres. She graduated college with a B.A. in mass communications that’s gathering dust since it was determined that she’s better at writing fluff than hard news.
She lives in a small town in the Ozark Mountains with her husband and dogs. When she’s not writing or reading, she hikes in national parks and conservation areas.
Jen: Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
Allison: Wildwood Spring is the story of Celia Landry, a woman seeking healing waters from a spring in the backyard of a reclusive man’s property. Turner Wildwood has grown up in solitude because his father distrusted everyone after he fought in the Civil War. When Celia appeals to him for water, he agrees to help, although he warns it’s not special. He keeps his real identity hidden from her. Celia returns to thank him and ends up staying at Wildwood Manor. As she discovers the secrets of the house and its occupants, she begins to fall in love with Turner. Unfortunately she unwittingly brings danger neither of them imagined.
“Would you like to dance?” Mischief sparkled in his blue eyes. “This is one of my favorite songs. Despite my almost solitary upbringing, dance was part of my education.”
She felt heat scorch her cheeks. “Not part of mine, I’m afraid.”
“I’ll teach you.” He faced her, putting one hand on her waist and taking her hand in his. “Do the opposite of what I do. I’ll count.”
He counted in fours, moving in time with the music. Celia stumbled, but after a few moments, she caught on. Turner led her around the room as they spun in circles. She laughed, forgetting her worries. It wasn’t a ball and they were both in their nightclothes, but it was as elegant a dance as she could hope for.
Turner grinned as he pulled her a little closer. Their bodies came together, fitting perfectly. He dropped her hand, wrapping both arms around her waist. They stopped moving, standing in the shadow of the mastodon. Dark blond hair fell over his forehead, but it didn’t hide the desire on his face.
Her name was a delicate breath of air, and he clung to her as though afraid she was a dream. She was too wide awake to believe that. Her senses seemed sharper than ever. He smelled of the lemony soap Mrs. Southard used for washing the sheets and the coffee he’d had at supper. Even in the muted firelight, she saw him clearly, his golden hair bright as sunbeams, his blue eyes the color of the sky after a storm.
She’d never been a romantic, knowing all too well she’d either be a spinster or a housewife too busy with chores and children to consider stolen kisses. She’d never imagined a man would want to show her stars, or dance with her around the skeleton of an ancient beast. These were moments she could cherish forever, think of when her world came back into focus.
It all had to end.
He lifted his hand to her face, pushing a strand of hair over her ear. “You look upset.”
“I’m grateful.” She forced the words out. “It’s not every day I get escorted around a ballroom.”
“You mean it might never happen again.” He looked somber. “You’ll return to the kind of life you led before we met. One where you’re often hungry, alone, and overworked.”
She glanced away, hating the truth of his words. “It isn’t that bad.”
“Somehow I don’t believe you.”
He wouldn’t, not after the way she’d reacted to everything he’d shown her in his life. They were from different places and he could never understand how she’d lived before. She couldn’t explain it without risking his pity.
“You could always stay. I’ll find something for you to do in the manor. Official book reader. In the evenings you could recount all my favorites and the new ones I don’t have time for.”
His breath stirred the hair near her ear, tickling her skin.
“I think I prefer the title of cookie sampler. Who wouldn’t want to sit in Finny’s kitchen all day tasting the items he draws out of the oven.” She pressed her cheek against his velvet lapel and closed her eyes. “You should have taken me back to town when you found me at the spring.”
“I couldn’t do that.” There was the slightest hitch in his voice, as though the idea caused him pain.
“I’ll be ruined for life outside of Wildwood.”
“Good. Then you’ll have to come back.”
Jen: Are you a plotter or pantser?
Allison: I wish I was a plotter, but I’m very much a panster. Although usually when I finish the first draft of a novel, I look back on it, finding ways to improve it, rearrange it, add to it, or even cut scenes. Maybe I’m just a really in-depth plotter? I’m going to keep telling myself that.
Jen: Is there a genre you’d like to write? Is there one you’ll probably stay away from? Why?
Allison: I read a lot of young adult books and I’ve tried writing it a little. Maybe someday I’ll really get into it, but right now I’m pretty content with adult romance. I don’t like to say I’ll never write a certain genre, because I really never thought I’d write paranormals, but then an idea got stuck in my brain and I have to admit, I like a certain amount of weird in my stories. If there’s one genre I probably won’t tackle, it’ll be mysteries. I applaud mystery writers because it takes a lot of thinking and plotting to write one of those. As a pantser, I’m not sure I’ve got that in me.
Jen: What kind of research did you do for this book?
Allison: I’ve always been a little bit obsessed with Ozark Mountain history, so there wasn’t too much research I had to do. When I asked my husband if we could drive down to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, where Wildwood Spring is set, he was all for it. We did a lot of driving around, looking a different buildings in the area—the city is home to the largest collection of Victorian buildings in America—visiting the different springs, which the city is famous for, and taking in the atmosphere. There are some strange things inside Wildwood Manor, where the largest part of the book is set, like taxidermied animals that are put together from different pieces of animals. My inspiration for those is Etsy and Pinterest. You can find some weird stuff on the internet. I also learned more about music boxes than I ever wanted to know for a single scene, and the difference between mammoths and mastodons. I had to do a little Civil War research as well to set up the hero and heroine’s backgrounds because they were both affected as children by battles in Arkansas.
Jen: If this book was made into a movie, who do you see playing the main characters?
Allison: Jack O’Connell looks pretty hot in the upcoming 300: Rise of an Empire. He could play Turner Wildwood all day long. Yummy. I think Shailene Woodley would make a good Celia Turner. I’m kind of excited about her performance in Divergent.
Jen: What’s next for you?
Allison: I’m currently working on a contemporary western romance. I’m not very far into it, but I’ve got most of the major plot points figured out and I’m having fun with it so far. I’ve also got a couple more releases coming out this year, another historical and a paranormal/historical romance, so I’m looking forward to releasing those as well.