Guest Post & Contest: Anna James

Who and What Influence our Characters

Hi Everyone,

I’m Anna James. I write contemporary romance novels with strong, confident heroes and heroines who conquer life’s trials and find their happy ever afters. I want to thank Romancing The Book Blog for having me here today.

I did an interview recently and one of the questions asked was, “How likely are people you meet to end up in your next book?”

My answer? I’d say, for the most part, my characters aren’t like any one person I know. They are a conglomerate of a lot of people, things that have influenced me over the years, and yes, a little bit of fantasy thrown in for good measure.

This is definitely the case with Nicole Bradford, the heroine from KEEPING HER GUILTY SECRET – Book 1 Forever Yours Trilogy.

Nicole is a lot like my paternal grandmother, Grace, mixed with a few of my hopes and dreams, minus the guilty secret (the fantasy part!).

Her love of cooking and making gourmet desserts comes from me, but my interest came from my grandmother. Grace didn’t make gourmet desserts, but she had a three tier carrot cake with homemade cream cheese frosting recipe that was to die for. I’ve posted the recipe below so you can try it out and see for yourself.

Nicole’s (and Grandma Grace) Carrot Cake Recipe

Cake Ingredients

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 TBSP baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 TBSB cinnamon
  • ¾ cup oil
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups grated carrots
  • 1 cup crushed pineapple (drained)
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
  • 1 ½ cups golden raisins (optional)

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 package (8 oz) cream cheese softened (note: I use 1 ½ packages or 12 oz because I like a lot of frosting!)
  • 4 cups confectioner sugar (note: 6 cups if you use 12 oz cream cheese)
  • 1 TBSP Vanilla (optional)

Directions (Cake)

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  • Grease and flour three (3) 9” cake pans
  • Line the bottom of each pan with wax paper and set aside (cut three (3) 9” diameter pieces.)
  • In a medium-sized mixing bowl combine flour, salt, cinnamon and baking soda, then set aside
  • In a separate bowl, beat eggs and sugar together until smooth
  • Add oil, and continue mixing
  • Fold dry ingredients into wet mixture and blend well
  • Fold in pineapple, carrots, nuts and raisins. Stir until well blended
  • Pour batter into each pan taking care to distribute the mixture equally
  • Bake for 50 – 60 minutes
  • Cool layers in pans for a least 1 hour
  • Store layers in pans, inverted, in closed cupboard to prevent drying. Layers must be a minimum of 1 day old. (NOTE: I store the cakes in the freezer. They are easier to frost this way)
  • To remove layers from baking pan, turn upside down, tap edge of pan on a hard surface.
  • Remove wax paper from each layer
  • Center the bottom layer on a cake dish
  • With a spatula, evenly spread approximately 3 1/2 ounces of frosting on the layer. Center second layer on top of first layer with topside down. Again with a spatula, evenly spread approximately 3 1/2 ounces of frosting on the layer. Center third layer on top of second layer with topside down. Using both hands, press firmly but gently, all layers together to get one firm cake. With spatula, spread remainder of frosting to cover top and sides of cake.
  • Refrigerated until needed.

Directions (Frosting)

Combine confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and cream cheese together in a bowl and beat on low until thoroughly blended. Hold refrigerated and use as needed.


Nicole’s dream of becoming a wedding gown designer came from me (a career I considered as a young adult, before I went on to earn my degree in mechanical engineering), but my interest in sewing, in creating clothing from scratch, came from, you guessed it, grandma, who was a seamstress. And while I don’t make a living in the fashion design business (I’m in technical marketing,) creating unique pieces of clothing has always been a hobby for me. I’ll take the dream one step further in the next few months as I create a wedding gown for my daughter. Something I never imagined when I wrote KEEPING HER GUILTY SECRET. She’s getting married early next year and I’ll be sure to post pictures on Facebook.

If you had to create a heroine for a romance novel who and what would influence you? I’d love to know. Leave a comment below (along with your email address) and I’ll choose one lucky winner on Sunday, October 19 who’ll get a ecopy of KEEPING HER GUILTY SECRET – Book 1 Forever Yours Trilogy.


A secret she must keep… A man she can’t resist,

Passion ignites between Nicole Bradford and Max Paradis the moment they lay eyes on each other, but despite the sizzling attraction and Max’s to-die-for-kisses, Nicole is reluctant to get involved. She’s been burned by love before.

Carlo had been her ideal mate but the dream became a nightmare when his drug smuggling past was revealed.

Now all Nicole wants is to get on with her life and keep the secret she’s been hiding for the last six years.

Still, how can she resist the handsome and sexy Max when he’s everything she’s ever wanted in a man? And what will she do when Carlo returns and threatens to expose her ugly past?

Nicole will have to trust Max with the truth if she wants to win his love and get Carlo out of her life for good. If she doesn’t Carlo could destroy everything that matters most to her.


twitterprofilepic1Anna James writes heartwarming contemporary stories with strong, confident heroes and heroines who conquer life’s trials and live happily ever after.  She has been writing professionally since 2010, is a member of RWA, CTRWA (Connecticut Romance Writers of America), CORW (Charter Oak Romance Writers) and RWA Contemporary Romance Writers. Publishing credits include two category length novels, five novellas and one short story.

Anna is married to a wonderful husband who spends countless hours picking up the slack around the house so she can pursue her dream of writing, and is the proud mother of five fabulous children.

Although she’s lived in several locations throughout her life she now calls Connecticut home. When not writing, she can be found spending time with family and friends.

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15 thoughts on “Guest Post & Contest: Anna James

  1. erinf1 says:

    probably all of the books and movies I watch. I’d be worried that my heroine wouldn’t be original. Guess that’s why, I read and leave the writing to the experts 🙂 thanks for sharing!

  2. lori h says:

    I don’t know. Maybe a woman who is living a life of ease and is suddenly thrust into the working world.
    Thanks 🙂
    lorih824 at yahoo dot com

  3. Linda Avellar says:

    Carrot cake is one of my great weaknesses! Can’t wait to try this recipe! And interesting post on who influences our characters. Mine are always a mixture too 🙂

  4. Stacy Hoff says:

    Hi Anna, I loved the book, and I’m sure I’ll love the recipe,too! Carrot cake is my favorite. The enjoyable time you give me just keeps going!

  5. Mary Preston says:


    I think I would be influenced by all of the strong minded & intelligent women in my family. A heroine who is true to herself.


  6. Kathye Thornton says:

    {{Waving} to Anna from CA.

    A lot of times when I’m reading (or watching a movie) and a situation happens I sometimes think “Oh that was cute but if I’d written it I would do this or that”. Sometimes my version of the situation actually gets into my WIP. Same with characters. If I like a character I might “fix” whatever doesn’t work for me and use a similar character in my story. Oh, and that carrot cake recipe sounds fabulous. I just might give it a try.

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