Jen: Today we welcome Anna DeStefano to Romancing the Book. Anna, will you share a short bio with us?
Anna: Anna DeStefano is the award-winning, nationally bestselling author of more than twenty-five books, including the Mimosa Lane novels and the Atlanta Heroes series. Born in Charleston, South Carolina, she’s lived in the South her entire life. Her background as a care provider and adult educator in the world of crisis and grief recovery lends itself to the deeper psychological themes of every story she writes. A wife and mother, she currently writes in a charming northeast suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, not all that different from her characters’ beloved Chandlerville. She is also a workshop and keynote speaker, a writing coach, and a freelance editor.
Jen: The book’s title LET ME LOVE YOU AGAIN reveals that this is a second chance romance. How did you decide on this name?
Anna: Ooooooo… What’s in a name, right? To be perfectly honest, I grow very attached the working titles of my novels as I write them, because the title helps keep me on track as I work on the themes and stories within a book. And then…I tend to lose every single title I come up with on my own.
In fact Let Me Love You Again actually started with a different working title, and I was asked to dream up with a new one once the book was in production. And I’m so very glad I did. The new title was meant to be—even if it couldn’t “become” until I’d completely finished my edits.
This is an amazing, epic romance about second-chances, but there are other love stories being told, too. Selena and Oliver fall in love with their families again, their small home town, and with the idea of belonging itself. What an inspiration, to know you can always go home again, and you can always choose to love, no matter the history between you and someone else or a place you might have thought would never welcome you back!
Never, ever, give up on love—that’s what this title says to me. It makes me smile every time I look at it.
Jen: This is the second story in your Echoes of the Heart series, yet you have used this setting before. What brings you back to Chandlerville?
Anna: Chandlerville is remarkably beautiful and such a charming place to live. Reader responses keep pouring in, saying how much they want to move next door to these fun characters and live in Chandlerville themselves.
It’s also a real place filled with heartwarming, flawed people who love and support each other exactly the way they are. It’s a healing place where people are sometimes painfully honest—and when our hero and heroine are brave enough to venture back home, magical things begin to happen. BECAUSE of the honest welcome their friends and family shower on them. Because of the unconditional acceptance of the place. Because people in Chandlerville fight for their own and refuse to give up until everyone is taken care of.
Can you think of a more amazing place to set a love story, and then sit back and watch the magic happen?
Jen: When he was younger, your hero Oliver Bowman was close to his friends, foster family, and most of all his high school sweetheart Selena. However, as an adult he has cut himself off from everyone. What changed for him?
Anna: Oliver is such a complex hero. He actually wasn’t all that close to anyone as a teenager. He was accepted and loved and wanted, but a lot of foster kids struggle to feel those kinds of relationships in “real” ways. Attaching to life and people who say they love you can be so challenging, when you’ve grown up without stability or have been ripped from the only life you’ve known and transplanted into another one you can’t be sure will last either.
Oliver loves his foster parents and siblings, but that’s a very different thing than him being able to accept his place amongst them. So Oliver went off to make his success and has stayed in touch with the Dixons only through sending money home to help financially support his parents raising a new generation of lost boys and girls. When his father falls ill and Oliver is called home, he’s finally in the right place (and meets Selena again and through her begins to understand what real love is). He’s ready to learn to belong to the forever family that’s always accepted him—once and for all.
Over the course of the book, he learns to let others love him, and finally learns to really trust loving them in return, for the very first time…
Jen: Undeniably the most important thing in Selena’s life is her young daughter. Do you consider her nurturing nature Selena’s best quality?
Anna: Selena is such a wonderful mother. And even though her relationship with her own mother is in a precarious place at the start of the novel, she learns just how much the very best of what she gives to her own daughter actual comes from how genuinely loved she was growing up. Selena’s a fighter, just like her mother was. She’d do anything for her daughter, too. And she’s grown to understand what’s most important about life, because of the honesty and caring and patience showered on her as a little girl. Now she can pass that along to her daughter.
There are three remarkable mothers in Let Me Love You Again, and their relationships with their children, young and grown, steals the show in each and every scene. Go moms!
Jen: Oliver and Selena have suitcases full of baggage – from dependency problems, to an infidelity in their past… What made you decide to put so many obstacles in the way of this couple’s happy ever after?
Anna: I think at their core Oliver and Selena are both dealing with one central obstacle—belonging. You can have everything in the world you might think you could want, but if you don’t feel you belong, and you don’t think you deserve or can keep what you have, then you’re not likely to be happy.
I wanted to show in Selena and Oliver two amazing people with bottomless capacities to love and be loved, yet show them fighting (in their youth) all the good things they can’t seem to hold onto. And then as adults, I wanted to show these same two individuals coming together as a couple while love and family and community surround them and refuse to let go until Selena and Oliver learn the most important lesson of all—that love fights for love, and it never goes away. Love is waiting for all of us to accept it, believe in it, belong to it, so our lives can become all we were meant to be.
Jen: Together when they are teens and now finding each other again in a whirlwind romance, Oliver and Selena have never had what you might consider a traditional courtship with the usual getting-to-know-you dating rituals. So let’s do a round of ‘speed dating’ with your characters. How would they answer the following questions?:
What is your idea of the perfect date?
Oliver: Taking Selena and her daughter to pick out the puppy Camille’s always wanted—only she’s never had the kind of home where pets will thrive. Until now.
Selena: Going back to the field where he and Oliver used to escape, just outside of Chandlerville, and dream of their future together. Only this time, they’ll take their daughter with them and watch Camille play and fall in love with their favorite place, too.
What is the number one quality you are looking for in a partner?
What is a ‘deal breaker’ for you?
Selena: Empty Promises