Jen: 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 www.aliciahunterpace.com, on Facebook and on Twitter. Subscribe to their newsletter http://aliciahunterpace.us3.listmanage.com/subscribe?u=8dee88167294a57b8b340f8e7&id=2054b7cbe8
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.
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.