Interview & Contest: Alicia Hunter Pace

AliciaHunterPaceJen: Please share a short bio and links to where you can be found online.
Alicia: USA Today best-selling authors Stephanie Jones and Jean Hovey write together as Alicia Hunter Pace. Redeeming Rafe is their ninth contemporary romantic comedy set in the South. They are both native Alabamians and share a love of football, hockey, and old houses. Stephanie teaches elementary school and Jean, a former librarian, is a billet mom during the junior hockey season. Stephanie and Jean are both active members of the Heart of Dixie Chapter of Romance Writers of America. Visit them on their website, on Facebook and  on Twitter.  Subscribe to their newsletter


Jen: Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
Alicia: Redeeming Rafe is the third full-length novel in the Beauford Bend series. After finishing the Gone South series set in Alabama, we wanted to get out of Alabama but stay in the South. Moving slightly north to a small boutique artisan town near Nashville seemed perfect. We also wanted a hero-centric series with an arc. So the Beauford brothers were born. After witnessing the fire that killed their parents and baby sister, each of the brothers blames himself and has something to prove.

In Redeeming Rafe, Rafe needs to prove he isn’t a coward, and how better to do that than spending eight seconds on the backs of the meanest bulls on the rodeo circuit? Though the shyest and least wild of all the Beaufords, Rafe finds himself with two-year-old twins he didn’t know existed until their mother died. Through two series, most of our heroines have been Southerners, and we wanted to see what would happen when we threw Abby, a Boston blue blood, into cowboy Rafe’s path.

Here’s a short excerpt:

Abby would have passed the Beauford Bend platation house and turned down the road to the renovated gristmill where Gwen and Dirk lived, but a bit of bright blue near the rear family wing entrance caught her eye. It looked like Rafe Beauford’s truck, but he shouldn’t be here. He was off riding bulls.

Gabe had left yesterday for Dallas where the Titans were playing the Cowboys on Sunday, but if something had happened to him, Neyland would have called. Jackson and Emory were fine. That left Beau—the special ops soldier and the baby of the family.

Abby backed up and turned toward the house. If something had happened to Beau, everyone would be up and Gwen and Dirk would likely be with them. If this were Boston, Abby would have turned around and left, not wanting to intrude—but this was Beauford, Tennessee where it was expected for everyone to do all they could in times of trouble.

She parked beside Rafe’s truck and said to Phillip, “Just sit still for a minute, baby. Mama needs to check on something.” She’d stick her head in the kitchen. If there was no activity, she’d proceed on to Gwen’s. If there was trouble, she’d come back and get Phillip.

But when she stepped out of her car, something in Rafe’s truck caught her eye—and it appeared to be Rafe Beauford, himself, slumped over the steering wheel. At first she thought he was sick or—even worse—dead, but he shifted and pushed his hair away from his eyes before settling back into what had to be the most uncomfortable sleeping position ever thought up by man, woman, or acrobat. He was asleep, or maybe drunk—though she’d spent a little time with him at Jackson and Emory’s wedding last spring and he didn’t seem to be the kind to drink and drive.

When Abby looked around the truck cab for signs of drunken debauchery, what met her eyes instead was evidence of gluttony gone bad. There were open packages of Oreos, Chips Ahoy, Nutter Butters, Fritos, and chili cheese fry flavored potato chips. And it was all tossed around willy-nilly with half eaten Happy Meals and open bottles of chocolate milk.

She didn’t know what was going on here, but it was nothing good and time Rafe Beauford woke up.

It was when Abby opened the passenger door and put her head in with the intention of rousing Rafe that she saw what was in the backseat—a set sleeping twin girls about the same age as Phillip. They were strapped in their car seats, leaning toward each other so that their bright blond heads almost touched. Their faces were covered in what looked like mustard, ketchup, and chocolate milk. From the smell of things they both badly needed diaper changes.

And—even if their dresses hadn’t been filthy—clothing changes. There was plenty astounding about this situation, but what those babies were wearing might take the cake and the crystal stand it sat on.

Their matching bright turquoise satin dresses were covered with enough spangles and glitter to light up a New York sky and there couldn’t be a ribbon, flounce, or rosette in the particular shade left in the universe because it was all here filling the back seat of Rafe’s truck. One of the girls still wore a headband with a huge turquoise organza flower accented with feathers and crystal beads, but the other girl had apparently liberated hers and thrown it onto the seat among the broken cookies, cheese puffs, and melted ice cream cones. The baby seated directly behind Rafe idly kicked the back of his seat in her sleep. Who knew they made crystal-encrusted shoes in that size?

Abby came from a world where little girls were dressed in pastel batiste dresses with smocking and shod in English sandals. Things were different in the South, but Abby couldn’t imagine Gwen dressing Julie in such a thing. Where had Gabe Beauford gotten these dresses?

She almost laughed at the absurdity of her pondering. So distracted she had been by all the trappings and food debris, she had not wondered at all where Rafe had gotten these children.

But she wondered now.

She retrieved her cell phone from her pocket.

“Emory? I’m sorry to wake you so early, but I’m parked outside the family wing entrance. I think you’d better come down here.”


Jen: Are you a plotter or pantser?
Alicia: Both! Since there are two of us, we have the best of both worlds in so many ways, but especially in this regard. Stephanie likes a plan, a chart, and to know exactly what is going to happen. Jean is free form and would prefer to just start writing and let the characters tell her what’s going to happen. We have found a compromise that works beautifully for us. We plot in points and think of it as a road map with alternate routes. For instance, A, B, and C have to happen in the first ten thousand words. Stephanie doesn’t care how Jean gets from A to B, so long as she doesn’t go into too many rabbit holes along the way or bypass B entirely to get to C.

Jen: Is there a genre you’d like to write?  Is there one you’ll probably stay away from?  Why?
Alicia: Several years ago, we wrote and self-published some light fantasy and that was fun. Stephanie sometimes thinks about a Civil War era historical; every once in a while, Jean thinks taking a stab at women’s fiction might be interesting. But we have learned that whatever we write is going to turn out funny, so—at least in the foreseeable future—we see no reason fix what “ain’t broke.” We are very, very sure we have no interest in writing anything that doesn’t have a HEA. Life is too short.

Jen: How do you come up with characters names?
Alicia: Some writers spend a lot of time trying to match the meanings of names to character personalities, but this has never made sense to us. When parents choose a child’s name, they have no idea what the temperament and personality of the child will be. Instead, we try to think about what a character’s parents would choose. A lot of things play into this—social status, family relationships, region of residence. Since our books are set in the South, you will see a lot of family names, surnames given as first names, and a few double names here and there. We have all the usual baby naming books, but we find that our go to sources are the Junior League directory, obituaries, and programs from local graduations, ballgames, and plays. Redeeming Rafe is a secret baby book—or babies, as it were since they are twins. When the story opens, the mother has been killed. She was a young, poor buckle bunny, out for a good time with a champion bull rider. But she was also a romantic and would have loved the Twilight series, so she named her girls Bella and Alice. This was lost on Rafe, who had not seen the movies, let alone read the books. Though it wasn’t planned, this led to a running joke with Rafe calling the girls “those little vampires.”

Jen: Do you have a favorite character or one you most identify with?
Alicia: We love all our characters, but Missy Jackson Bragg has a special place in our hearts—and we’re not alone. Even though she is a secondary character, we get more feedback from readers about Missy than any other character. Missy was there from the start, happily married and the lynchpin that held the Gone South book club girls together. She is no calm, predictable woman with a silver teapot, serving up sensible advice. No. She is more inclined to buzz up a blender full of margaritas and try to boss everyone into the absolute last place they should go. But she always shows up with her big heart and she will pick her friends up out of the dirt and wash them in her own tears. Readers cannot get enough of her. Someone even suggested that we kill off her husband and write her second love story. No. We are not killing off long-suffering Harris Bragg. After all, according Missy’s oldest friend, Brantley Kincaid, “Missy’s All-American quarterback-turned-lawyer husband is the only man I’ve ever known who comes anywhere close to being able to handle Missy. God love him.”  Missy will never get her own story, but she didn’t ride off into the sunset either. Her first cousins on her mama’s side are Jackson, Gabe, Rafe, and Beau Beauford, and she shows up at Beauford Bend now and then.

Jen: What’s next for you?
Alicia: Heath’s Hope, a novella set in the Beauford Bend world, will be released in September. Heath, with his artist’s soul, and Hope, with her plans and spreadsheets, go together about as well as potato salad and latte—but they can’t forget each other. Now investment banker Hope is back in town where Heath is a renowned glass artist. Can the pieces become something beautiful, or will they end up with bankrupt hearts again?

Then in December, you’ll meet the Beauford brother everyone has been waiting for. In Healing Beau, baby brother is coming home and he’s not happy about it, even if Christian Hambrick—and everyone else—is.

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18 thoughts on “Interview & Contest: Alicia Hunter Pace

  1. JoAnne_W says:

    This is a new to me author – interesting that there are two of them! This sounds like a book and series that I would enjoy reading.

    It would be hard to choose 1 boyfriend since I do like books that center around athletes, cowboys and the military. So I’d be happy with Gabe, Rafe or Beau. Not usually into books with musicians so Jackson would probably be the only one I stay away from. Of course, all could get hurt in their chosen career and my heart would be broken.

  2. Alicia/Jean says:

    JoAnne, Thank you for stopping in. It is hard to pick one kind of book boyfriend, isn’t it? You might also enjoy Scrimmage Gone South from our Gone South series. Nathan Scott is a high school football coach who had been on his way to the the NFL when he got hurt in the last game of his college career after catching the love of his life in a lie. He has issues, but don’t they all?

    • JoAnne says:

      I will look into your books and add them to my always growing TBR pile. Thanks for the information on your other series.

  3. Alicia/Jean says:


    So glad to meet you. Thank you for stopping by. It is hard to pick one book boyfriend, isn’t it? I am particularly partial to athletes. I guess that comes from living in the South were college football is practically a religion. Our first hero/athlete was Nathan Scott in Scrimmage Gone South from the Gone South series. We also wrote a hockey player in a Beauford Bend Christmas novella, Nickolai’s Noel, between Forgiving Jackson and Redeeming Rafe.

    • JoAnne says:

      It’s funny. I like books about hockey but very rarely watch hockey games. Thanks for the heads up!

      • Alicia/Jean says:

        I am the same way about baseball. I love books and movies about it, but do not enjoy watching the games. As for hockey–I really went to a few to get a taste for it so I could write a hockey story. I live in Alabama where girls learn the football at their mothers’ knees. But when doing the research for Nickolai’s Noel, I learned about billeting, which is where a family takes a junior hockey player (ages 16-21) away from his home, into their home. I thought it sounded like a neat thing to do but never expected to have the opportunity. Then my little town formed a junior hockey team and my husband and I became billet parent to an eighteen year old from Massachusetts. He taught me about hockey and I taught him about grits. I thought it was going to kill me when the season was over and he left, but we remain in close contact. I even got to see him last week. So hockey has been very, very good to me!

  4. Alicia Hunter Pace-Stephanie says:

    I am glad that our series sounds like something you would enjoy reading. Please, do let us know how you like them after you have read them. 🙂

    I agree that having just one book boyfriend would be crazy hard!


    • JoAnne says:

      I will. I always post my reviews on at least Goodreads. Helps me keep track of what I’ve read/reviewed as well.

      • Alicia/Jean says:

        JoAnne, We appreciate that more than you know. Even a negative review is appreciated, because we like the input. These days reviews are so important. It’s hard for an writer to survive without them.

    • Alicia Hunter Pace-Stephanie says:

      Ahhh, Tewanda…that is a great choice. Jean loves him too. If I could I would have given him to you for your birthday!

      • Alicia/Jean says:

        Of course I love him. He was so broken and so determined to take care of everyone. The best/worst part of writing Jackson was writing song lyrics. I am not really so much cut out of that. When it was over I found bits of lyrics written in the oddest places–calendar, check book, margins of the church bulletin. But in the end, I was pretty proud of them. Good thing I didn’t have to write the music. That couldn’t have happened.

        Nashville has nothing to worry about, but this is the song that got her back.

        A Promise Kind of Smile

        I can write a love song
        That will make the angels cry.
        I can sing about joy gone wrong
        Till I make a hard heart sigh.
        I can spin a melody
        Like it came with magic from above.
        My words rang with sincerity
        But I’d never been in love.

        But then she smiled at me
        And she didn’t speak a word.
        When she offered love with a guarantee
        Her smile was all I heard.
        When she swore she’d always be mine
        It was with silence in perfect rhyme.
        Because she’s got a promise kind of smile.
        My Emory’s got a promise kind of smile.

        Trust didn’t come easy
        And I hurt her with my doubt.
        But she took her promise kind of smile
        And turned me inside out.
        I handed her this beat up heart
        And I’d crawl a country mile
        For the pleasure of her kiss
        And her promise kind of smile.

        She smiled at me, yes, she smiled at me
        And she didn’t speak a word.
        When she offered love with a guarantee
        Her smile was all I heard.
        When she swore she’d always be mine
        It was with silence in perfect rhyme.
        Because she’s got a promise kind of smile.
        My Emory’s got a promise kind of smile.

  5. Marcy Shuler says:

    After reading the excerpt I have to pick Rafe. LOL I love it when a clueless guy is put in charge of little kids in books…and it sounds like he did everything he could to keep those girls happy. 😀

    • Alicia/Jean says:

      Marcy, Thanks for stopping in! Rafe’s a good guy and he tried so hard. He just needed a little help …

  6. Alicia Hunter Pace-Stephanie says:

    I am glad you enjoyed the except. I often say that my favorite hero is the one I am reading about right then, but Rafe is certainly worthy of being a favorite!

    Thanks for spending some time with us and Rafe!

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