Jen: Today our guest for the upcoming Historical Romance Retreat is contemporary and historical romance author Julia London. Julia, will you share a short bio with us?
Julia: Julia London is the New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of more than thirty romantic fiction novels. She is the author of the popular Cabot Sisters historical series, including The Trouble with Honor, The Devil Takes a Bride, and The Scoundrel and the Debutante. She is also the author of several contemporary romances, including Homecoming Ranch, Return to Homecoming Ranch and The Perfect Homecoming.
Julia is the recipient of the RT Bookclub Award for Best Historical Romance and a six-time finalist for the prestigious RITA award for excellence in romantic fiction.
She lives in Austin, Texas.
Jen: Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
Julia: My latest release is Suddenly In Love. It’s the first book in my newest contemporary Lake Haven series. The idea for this story came to me after a weekend of watching old romantic comedies although I don’t think there was one in particular responsible for the entire book.
It had all looked very hopeless until the day the cosmic powers of life had delivered this interview to her. What was that saying, that a person had to be completely torn down to be built up again? Mia liked the idea that her life had been deconstructed, and that after today, she would get the chance to construct it in a way she’d wanted for a very long time.
“Okay!” she said to herself. “Here goes nothing.” She clutched her hat and jogged confidently across the street.
She was directed to the tenth floor, Apartment B. The elevator opened up to a long hallway. Overhead, two small gold chandeliers illuminated the path to the door of the apartment. Mia’s boots were absolutely silent on the thick hallway carpet as she walked down to the end and knocked lightly with the little brass door knocker.
The door swung open and bright sunlight spilled out into the hall, blinding her for a moment. A young man with doe eyes and plump lips, tight pants, and a lock of gold hair over his brow stood before her. He smiled. “Mia Lassiter?”
“Yes.” She juggled her portfolio and clumsily extended her hand.
Lord she had to outweigh this Ken doll by thirty pounds.
“I’m Vincent,” he said, taking her hand in his. His grip was as limp as linguini, his skin as smooth as a baby seal. “Please come in.”
Mia stepped across the threshold and was instantly assailed by the smell of oil paints. Heaven. She followed him inside, taking notes.
The floors were hand-scraped wood, the walls painted a pristine white.
The crown molding was painted a slightly grayer shade of white, just enough to give it a slight contrast and draw the eye upward.
“Oh wow,” Mia murmured. The apartment looked like pictures she’d seen in the pages of glossy architectural magazines. “This is amazing.”
“Original floors and moldings,” Vincent said. “Reworked, of course.”
“Of course,” she echoed dreamily. There was a fireplace at one end, the mantle distressed raw wood. The windows facing the street were at least ten feet tall and marked with cornices carved to resemble leafy vines. But the most spectacular thing about that room was the paintings and drawings in various stages of completion. They were hanging on the walls, stacked on the floor, and graced two opposing easels. It was truly a treasure trove of August Brockway artwork, and her heart began to flutter with joy.
Between the two easels was a stool, and Mia pictured August sitting there and swiveling between his works in progress as his mood dictated. Drop cloths, spotted with paints, covered a big swath of floor. Next to the stool was a small table with bowls and pitchers crowded onto it. Near the windows, a bistro table, on top of which was a plate with a half-eaten sandwich and some chips.
Mia slowly turned around, taking it all in. She could picture herself in this studio, assisting a master. This was exactly what she wanted: a real art studio. A peaceful, beautiful place with nothing but a blank canvas and her creativity.
The click of heels against the wood drew her attention to an arched door that led into a kitchen. Mr. Brockway emerged, wiping his hands on a towel, which he handed to Vincent. He was a slight man, barely taller than Vincent, with neatly combed silver-gray hair. Mia, with her average height and curves, felt very roly-poly in comparison to the two of them.
Mr. Brockway was wearing jeans that had been splashed with drops of paint, loafers without socks, and a salmon collared shirt with cuffs rolled to the elbows.
“Mr. Brockway,” Mia said, trying to keep the nerves from her voice.
“It’s such a great honor to meet you.” She thrust her hand forward.
“Yes, I’m sure,” he said absently, and took her fingers and gave them a little shake before letting go. His gaze skipped over Mia’s body and settled on the portfolio she held. “Is that your work?”
“Yes.” She’d brought six of her best pieces, carefully selected with an eye toward color and spatial relevance, qualities she’d learned were important to Mr. Brockway.
Vincent took the portfolio from her and laid it on the floor. He unzipped it as Mr. Brockway knelt down on one knee to have a look.
Mia was uncertain what she was to do, but she felt awkward standing above him. She managed to negotiate her way down onto her knees in a manner that didn’t require props and rested her fists against her thighs as he examined her work.
Mr. Brockway held up the first painting, an abstract, and squinted at it.
“I call that Breathe,” Mia said nervously. “It’s supposed to symbol-ize the first breath. Like a new experience.”
He said nothing, but shifted the painting to catch more of the natural light coming in from the windows, and then the other way, where the painting was in the shadows. He wordlessly put it aside and picked up the next.
“That one is—”
“It shouldn’t be necessary to explain your work,” he said without looking at her. “The art should speak for itself.”
Yes, yes, art should speak for itself!
Even so, Mia was desperate to tell him what had inspired her, and she had to bite her lip to keep from blurting out what she was thinking.
Her knees ached as he studied the paintings and her nerves were a jangly mess. She wanted his approval so badly she felt slightly nauseated by it.
When Mr. Brockway had finished reviewing her work, he put the paintings back in the portfolio and gestured at Vincent to zip it back up. He stood up. So did Mia, coming to her feet about as gracefully as a toddler. “No, thank you,” he said. “Vincent, you can show Miss Lassiter out.”
Stunned, Mia looked at Vincent, then at Mr. Brockway. That was it? No questions about her goals or experience? No critique, no comment whatsoever? As Vincent tried to usher Mia out, she ducked around him. “Mr. Brockway!” she called, before the artist could disappear through the arch and into the kitchen.
He paused and looked back at her with one brow lifted imperiously above the other. “Yes?”
“Why not me?” She hadn’t meant to ask it precisely that way, but yes—why not her?
He shrugged. “You don’t have the talent.”
She gasped softly. An old wound, deep but tender, began to open. It wasn’t the first time she’d heard it. More than one instructor had advised her to consider a career in something other than canvas work because she didn’t have the talent necessary to make it. But Mia had worked so damn hard for it, and she knew she’d improved.
“You should come with me,” Vincent said, his fingers lightly on her arm.
“What do you mean?” Mia asked August Brockway as she brushed Vincent off.
Mr. Brockway turned full around and planted his hands on his waist, considering her. “Would you really like to know what I think of your portfolio, Miss Lassiter?”
No! No, no don’t ask! “Of course I would,” Mia said. Oh God, this was going to hurt. “You’re a renowned artist,” she continued with far more confidence than she was suddenly feeling. “I’m just starting out. I would work really hard for you, Mr. Brockway, and I know I would learn so much. So yes, I would like to know what you think.”
“I’ve no doubt that you would work hard, Miss Lassiter. You seem very . . . earnest,” he said, his gaze flicking dismissively over her dress.
“But I disagree that you would learn much. Your work lacks vision and depth. Breath? ” he said, gesturing to her portfolio. “That’s the name of your piece? It’s such a fundamentally bad concept that I can’t even begin to critique it.”
“But I can learn. I—”
“Your work looks as if you took all your instruction to heart. But you don’t have raw talent or a unique vision that I can see in your work, and I can’t teach that. Either you have it, or you don’t. If you don’t know what your vision is, Miss Lassiter, your work will always appear to the world as it did to me—sophomoric.”
Well there was a dagger right through the center of her heart, plunged so deeply that it was a miracle Mia didn’t sprawl right there onto his drop cloths in a pool of tears and snot and blood.
“But I will say this—your use of color is very good,” he said. And with that, he turned and walked out of the room.
Jen: What first attracts you to the opposite sex?
Julia: A great laugh and an accompanying sense of humor.
Jen: Favorite picnic food?
Jen: Favorite place to vacation.
Julia: The Mountains. Specifically Taos and the surrounding area.
Jen: Favorite designer?
Julia: Wow, so many to choose from. Don’t really know if I have a favorite, but on a recent trip to Paris I did splurge on a fabulous Louis Vuitton bag.
Jen: Favorite childhood story?
Julia: Little House on the Prairie.
Jen: Song that you put on replay?
Julia: Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of Sia’s songs.
Jen: How far from where you grew up do you live?
Julia: Same state – about 8 hours from here.
Jen: Are you technologically savvy?
Julia: If we’re talking WordPress or my iPhone, yes. If we’re talking HTML or algorithms, not so much.
Jen: What do you collect?
Julia: I could tell you but I’m much too pretty to go to jail. ☺ Seriously though, I really don’t have any collections.
Jen: Which reality show would you want to be on?
Julia: The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Although I’d just want to be on it to travel and wear all those wonderful clothes. I really couldn’t handle all the drama.
Jen: If you could have dinner with any author living or dead, who would it be?
Julia: Mark Twain.
Jen: Fries or onion rings?
Jen: What’s next for you?
Julia: I am finishing up my new eighteenth century century Scottish set historical series. I’m very excited about this group of books – it’s about English women married to Scottish highlanders and the trouble that causes in a time where Scotland and England were getting used to the idea of being united—and not always very successfully. Wild Wicked Scot, Sinful Scottish Laird, and Hard-hearted Highlander will all be out early next year.
I am also finishing the Lake Haven series. Suddenly Dating will be available in November of this year, and Suddenly Engaged will be out next summer.