Hi, readers! I am beyond pleased to announce a very special post today on ILRB. We’re doing something a little different. This is our twenty-seventh official author interview on this romance blog! I know in the past, we did character interviews then switched over to the author’s take on it, but this approach is a bit unusual.
We have a real treat for you, readers. Today we get to speak one-on-one with a talented author. Please join me in welcoming Hallie Alexander to ILRB! 😀 Nice to chat with you…
Marie Lavender: Hello, Hallie.
Author Hallie Alexander: Hi, Marie!
Marie: Hey, such a pleasure to have you on the blog!
I’m going to throw in some standard questions first.
Obviously, we know your occupation as an author, but some writers have other jobs as well. Do you have another occupation? Do you believe you’re any good at it? Do you like what you do?
I know I’m overloading you with questions, but we’re really interested in finding out more about you…
Hallie: I write historical romance, but I haven’t quit my day (and sometimes night) job yet. I’m a librarian at the local public library, which is part of a very large system. I miss helping patrons and chatting with my regulars. We’ll get back to ‘normal’ eventually. Meanwhile, we’re doing curbside pickup. It’s gratifying to know our community is grateful for what we can safely do, and that books are as important as ever.
Marie: Nice! 😉
So, tell us…what is your family like?
Hallie: I’ve been married for almost twenty years. We have three amazing kids and two dogs living the good life. We’re a tight-knit family. With my oldest going to college next year, and as much as I’m looking forward to her soaring from the nest, I can’t believe where the time has gone!
Let’s try something else, okay?
If it doesn’t bother you at all, can you let us know what your childhood home looked like?
Hallie: I recently went on Google Maps to check out the first house we lived in because I hadn’t been back in over thirty years. It had been a new suburban neighborhood in the middle of nowhere, outside of Baltimore. There were cornfields and horse farms in those parts. Now, the whole area has been developed.
Marie: Yes, it’s often strange to see how time changes things…
Do you have any hobbies, Hallie? What do you enjoy doing?
Hallie: I jump around from creative outlet to creative outlet. If it’s a craft, I’ve probably tried it at least once!
So, what is your greatest dream?
Hallie: Right now, it’s to find balance in all areas of my life. I’m trying to cram too much into 24 hours.
Marie: Oh, I do the same! I wish I had better organizational skills.
Let’s try another question.
What kind of person do you wish you could be? What is stopping you?
Hallie: I wish I could whistle with my fingers in my mouth like an old school New Yorker. I’ve tried every WikiHow and YouTube video, and I’ve gotten no closer than nearly passing out. Swooning won’t hail you a cab these days.
Marie: (Laughs.) That would be quite a talent to have. My uncle can whistle like that, and I’ve always wondered how he does it.
So…we’re curious, since you write romance. Who was your first love?
Hallie: Michael M. in the 4th grade. He sat opposite me at our desk clusters. He wore black and white checkered Vans, which I coveted, and we both listened to Van Halen cassettes. He asked me out to go roller-skating. I thought we really had something going there until he broke up with me a month later because I never kissed him.
That’s fine. Who cares about a first kiss with a boy named Michael when you can claim your first kiss (a few years later) was with a boy nicknamed ‘Loogie’? Yep, that’s me. I won truth or dare at summer camp.
With the next question, I hope I’m not prying too much.
What’s the most terrible thing that ever happened to you?
Hallie: Jumping waves in Ocean City, Maryland when I was maybe eight years old. My father let go of my hand because a wave took his hat. The undertow almost took me.
Marie: Yikes! 😮 I almost drowned once too, when I fell off a pier…
Let’s move on to another topic, shall we?
What was your dream growing up? Did you achieve that dream? If so, in what ways was it not what you expected? If you never achieved the dream, why not?
Hallie: I wanted to be a meteorologist on TV. It seemed like the perfect intersection of science and acting, or the ability to forecast the future. Meteorologists are pretty magical when you think about it.
No, I never achieved that dream. Earth sciences bored me to tears, I’m sorry to say. But I’ve been to my local science museum, and stood in front of a green screen and pretended.
Marie: (Chuckles.) Why not?
Now, who is your role model, Hallie?
Hallie: I’ve thought about this a lot over the years. I could rattle off a list of authors who I view as role models, but that list won’t take into account any of their negative traits. We all have them.
I think when it comes to role models, it’s best to choose attributes from many people you respect while realizing the impossibility of being all of those attributes at once.
Marie: Valid point there! 😉
Let’s try another tactic.
Is there someone you pretend to like but really dislike?
Hallie: I’m not very good at pretending to like someone. It’s what makes me stick out as a Northerner living in the South. So if there is someone I dislike, there’s a good chance they already know how I feel.
Marie: All right.
So…what is your deepest desire?
Hallie: These days? Restful sleep.
Marie: Yes, please! Me too!
Let’s go for a different approach now.
Just curious here, but what is your greatest fear?
Hallie: I’m not a fan of heights or roller-coasters.
Marie: I guess I can’t blame you there! Believe me, you’re not alone.
We’ll switch gears for a second.
If you were trapped on a deserted island, what five essentials would you need with you? They don’t have to be practical.
Hallie: I’ll admit I Googled how other people have answered this over the years and I think I found the perfect answer: Michael Phelps, a saddle, and a gold medal on a stick. That comes from someone named Teagan in 2014. Teagan, well done, you!
Marie: Okay, readers, let’s get the author’s perspective on one of her characters.
We’ve heard rumors about the hero of your story – Marcus Hardwicke. Quite an interesting character. Can you tell us a little about him?
Hallie: Marcus Hardwicke is 29 years old and has no intentions of ever marrying. Why should he with his charm and chiseled jaw? He’s a carpenter, smuggler, a member of the Sons of Liberty, and occasional privateer. Oh, and although he grew up in an educated and well-off household, he’s functionally illiterate due to the combined effects of ADHD and dyslexia, and zero interventions. Because those diagnoses are only recently understood, Marcus carries a fair amount of shame for his inability to do what most (privileged) children could easily do.
Marie: Intriguing historical spin on a current issue...
And what are Marcus’s greatest strengths?
Hallie: He has social skills, a sense of humor, and empathy. That’s how he navigates most challenges in life. (He’s the ultimate cinnamon roll hero.)
Marie: Nice! 😀
Any weaknesses of which we should be aware?
Hallie: I wouldn’t call it self-pity, but Marcus definitely doesn’t have high expectations for most things because he knows his limits. For example, why would a woman like Henrietta fall in love with him when she can write books and he can barely read? As one of his friends reminds him, Marcus usually goes for “pretty girls without history, and more importantly, without a future.”
Marie: (Nods.) It is hard to let yourself be vulnerable enough to fall for someone…
Let’s try something fun, shall we?
What are your character’s favorite foods?
Hallie: Chicken cooked in ‘the French way’… provided someone else does the slaughtering, de-feathering, and cooking.
Marie: How about another question?
What’s a positive quality that Marcus is unaware that he has?
Hallie: Marcus is fairly resourceful, but doesn’t always realize how prepared he actually is for a situation. It surprises him every time. I suppose that falls under confidence, but he is very confident in day-to-day endeavors, except for cooking.
Marie: All right.
So, will readers like or dislike this character, and why?
Hallie: Most love Marcus for his charm and willingness to help Henrietta, just because he is a good guy at heart and has the skills to do so. But a few see him as “failing up” because they haven’t taken into account how being illiterate in the 18th century could be a major barrier to success. He found success on his own terms, not by failing up, and not by following his family’s expectations.
Marie: I see.
Now that we have a real taste of Marcus, we have a few questions for you as well as the author, about the writing process of your book.
What first gave you the idea for A Widow’s Guide to Scandal?
Hallie: About ten years ago, I took an American Revolution walking tour of the Connecticut town I used to live in. This was one of the Patriot towns Royal Governor Tryon burned to the ground — okay, the British left like four structures standing because the officers needed a place to sleep after all that destruction. I played around with “what if” and came up with ‘What if it were personal?’ Then I played fast and loose with the facts because most of the time, the truth is harder to believe if told as fiction.
Of course, someone has to fall in love to make it all worth fighting for! Nothing says grand gesture like, “I’m going to save not only you, but your entire town while risking my life to prove I’m worthy of your love.”
Marie: Wow! It’s fascinating how the muse works, hmm?
So, let’s try something else.
What is your writing style like, Hallie? Are you a pantster or a plotter?
Hallie: I plot and plot and plot, and then when I sit down to write, I am magically surprised by where the story leads. So, both?
Marie: Great! 😉
I’m throwing this one in for our aspiring writers. Did you come across any specific challenges in writing A Widow’s Guide to Scandal or publishing it? What would you do differently the next time?
Hallie: I learned a big lesson along the way. Era and setting are everything in historical romance. Unfortunately for me, having read across sub-genres of both historical romance and fiction, I didn’t realize at the onset that there are specific sub-genres of historical romance that sell. My book is one of a handful of American Revolution romances. A few big names have sold books or novellas set during the American Revolution, such as Beverly Jenkins, Alyssa Cole, Laura Lee Guhrke, Julia Quinn, and believe it or not, Kerrelyn Sparks. None, obviously, made a career out of it.
Prior to accepting my contract with Soul Mate Publishing, I’d met with agents and editors at a conference who were enthusiastic about the plot of Scandal, but none had any interest in 1776 America. Ironically, all of their wish lists included new time periods and settings. I guess they wanted new, but not too new?
The one thing I did right on my path to publication was entering my manuscript into writing contests. It’s the best way to get industry feedback and get your manuscript into the hands of a decision-maker. One judge from the (NEORWA) Cleveland Rocks Romance Contest was the acquiring editor for Soul Mate Publishing.
Next time? I’m still figuring that one out!
Marie: Oh, I hear ya…I had my fair share of rejections in the beginning. I’m so glad that like me, a publisher was willing to take a chance on you and your work.
Hallie: Thank you for this opportunity of letting me visit you today.
Marie: Of course! Well, it was a total pleasure having you on the I Love Romance Blog!
And how apropos is that, considering what a great story A Widow’s Guide to Scandal appears to be… ♥
Readers, let’s learn more about this book.
Title: A Widow’s Guide to Scandal (The Sons of Neptune, Book 1)
Genre: Historical Romance, Colonial Era Romance, The Age of Enlightenment (American Revolution)
Publication date: July 22, 2020
We wish you so much success with your book! 😀
Here is the blurb:
The first installment in debut author Hallie Alexander’s steamy Sons of Neptune series introduces readers to a band of heroic rebels at the brink of the American Revolution.
Henrietta Smith was fifteen when she stole a kiss from Marcus Hardwicke. Over a decade later, she’s still waiting to be kissed back …
Henrietta learned the hard way that when you get what you pay for you might end up with a British soldier quartering in your home threatening your friends, an enormous dog tracking mud through your house and stealing the chickens, and Marcus Hardwicke disrupting your uncomplicated life by trying to improve it. And to think she just wanted her roof fixed.
Marcus, wickedly handsome carpenter and rebel rogue, fell off Henrietta’s leaking roof. He can’t leave until his broken ankle heals, giving him plenty of time to consider his past mistakes, including Henrietta’s indelible kiss from a lifetime ago. But Henrietta could lose more than her home if she doesn’t encrypt British secrets, and the latest puts Marcus in the crosshairs.
Hallie is giving us a peek at the story…
Henrietta needs a marriage of convenience because she’s about to find herself homeless, and Marcus, who is staying with her while he heals from a broken ankle, recently revealed he is functionally illiterate. Aghast, Henrietta decides to teach him to read, but he’ll only play the pupil if she allows him to teach her how to flirt. Sissy is Marcus’s very large dog.
* * *
She shook her head and propped the hornbook on her lap. “Do you know your letters?” She didn’t know where to look. His mouth was nearly as intimate as his robin’s egg eyes. She settled on his right cheek as a compromise. Though that proved just as dangerous. A shallow dimple appeared when he spoke.
“I can sing them, name them, and recall them. It’s when they are put together on the page, it all falls apart.”
“What happens?” Since she was five, Henrietta had been an avid reader, devouring every book to pass through her hands. She couldn’t imagine a childhood without stories.
“The letters move. Sometimes they appear upside down, other times backward. You can forget similar-looking letters, I can’t tell them apart.”
Henrietta never heard of such a thing, letters moving.
“Has a physician ever checked your vision? Maybe Dr. Nealy can help?”
The corners of his mouth hitched, but it was his dimple she watched. “Ah, but I can shoot a buck at two hundred yards.”
Marcus leaned forward and plucked a curl from under her cap. The lock of blonde hair twisted around his finger. He tugged, and it bounced free. “Let some down. It softens your face.”
She tried to push it behind her ear, but he stopped her, burning the flesh of her wrist with his light touch.
“H-how about on your lap?” She handed him the hornbook for a closer look. “Are the letters crisp or blurry?”
He pushed the hornbook back. Henrietta’s patience waned. Instead of answering her, to her dismay, he had her hold the hornbook up.
“Your options,” he said, running his tongue over the edge of his teeth, enjoying her discomfort. “Hold the book in your hand and lean forward a little. I’d like to look down your bodice, if I may.”
“Or, place it on my lap for me. I give you permission to trail your fingers over my thigh.”
Her eyes opened as wide as her gaping mouth. “You are a scoundrel, a bastard. That’s what you are!” She raised the hornbook at him.
Roaring with laughter, Marcus fell against Sissy, holding his ribs. “You know my parents were married. Christ, Hetty Betty, have you never flirted before?” Sissy nibbled at his ear. He batted her away. His lashes were wet, he was laughing so hard.
“I prefer a more direct approach. One which makes me feel less like a trollop and more like a lady.” She scooted her chair further from him. He wanted to look down her bodice. The nerve of the man! She covered her fichu-swathed bodice with a hand as a flush broke over her. The attic was far too hot for lessons.
“No one could ever mistake you for a trollop. Go ahead. I won’t bite. I promise.” He implored her to lean forward with the hornbook.
“I’m not so sure. You’re the very definition of a trickster.”
“Biting comes later. You’re not ready.”
Her eyes flared. “Take the hornbook, Marcus. Read me what you can of the Lord’s Prayer.” She was going to hell for this. And if she was, Marcus would be right beside her. For eternity. As if that weren’t punishment enough for trying to do some good in the world.
Love the tension! ♥♥♥ I can’t wait to find out what happens next. 😀
Universal Amazon link: https://books2read.com/u/mqrAZ8
Publisher link: http://soulmatepublishing.com/a-widows-guide-to-scandal/
Add it to Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/53913046-a-widow-s-guide-to-scandal
What are people saying about A Widow’s Guide to Scandal?
“Excellent! A very well written and enjoyable read. It is so real it grabs you and brings you right in. She has so many irons in the fire. A couple of them could get her in real trouble or killed. They knew each other when younger and she kissed him and was hoping it would be returned. He comes home and is a carpenter on her roof. Broke his ankle when he fell off. Guess where he is staying until he heals. What a comedy of things. There is intrigue, suspense, emotional situations and so much more. But they do have a connection. Her life has not been easy.” — Sherry Westendorf, Amazon
“I have not read a great many historicals set in America during the revolution era so this was a nice change for me. The story is excellent and I really was impressed by the characters and the author’s writing. The story is about a young widow and old friend who needed help along with a bit of spying, privateering with wonderful interaction and dialogue. I enjoyed all the time I spent reading this gem. I highly recommend it.” — Crystal Crossings, Amazon
“As a returning romance reader to the genre it’s fun to see a modern tweak on the American Revolution romance. A feisty widow meeting up with an old flame to kindle a spicy revolutionary romance. I enjoyed the plot twists and the cheeky situations. Will be looking for more from this debut author.” — Celtic, Amazon
“As a fan of pretty much all things American Revolution, I was very excited about reading this book. I can happily say it didn’t disappoint! For starters, I LOVED Henrietta. She’s sweet, feisty, and suffered a tragedy that made her very real and completely pitiable. I’ll admit I didn’t care much for Marcus at first, since I’ve never been a big fan of lusty rogue types, but he definitely grew on me during the second half of the book.
Lastly, I loved the imagery and symbolism of Henrietta’s mother’s clock coupled with the end of the novel. Since I’d grown so attached to Henrietta, I was moved on her behalf. Such a sweet ending! After I finished the book, I immediately went to read the alternate epilogue linked at the end of the ebook. I encourage everyone to read it as well, since it was a cute, somewhat steamy addition! Thank you to Voracious Readers for giving me this gem to read!” — LB, Amazon
“While I read a lot of historical romance as it is a favorite sub-genre for me, I haven’t actually come across many that are set during the American Revolution. War makes a great backdrop for romance because tension can be so easily heightened by the difficulties of the times. I’ve read many books that have the Napoleonic Wars, the Civil War, and WWII as the setting, but rarely the American Revolution. On that front alone, I found this book fascinating. It didn’t hurt that it was all so very well written, both with the inclusion of that history as well as the romance. This is a friends-to-lovers, second-chance-at-romance story. The poor heroine has been through so much with a terrible marriage and the death of her daughter. She didn’t mind the death of her husband so much, but it’s made her very wary of men, naturally. The hero had not returned her kiss back when she was just 15, but seeing her again some ten years later, the spark they had back then is rekindled for him. She will take a little convincing because of that history with her husband. But he gets an injury when he’s trying to fix her roof, and it throws them together for an extended period. This was a fun and enjoyable romance, and I certainly enjoyed the elements of the Revolutionary War that the author included. It certainly added some intrigue and tension, just as it should. My only complaint about this book, really, is I don’t think the title or the cover really works for it. To me, both look and sound like a Regency romance (even without the empire waist dress!). If someone uses the book’s cover to judge it, she might pass it up, not wanting another Regency romance! Of course, if she bothers to read the description, she will figure out it is not. Highly recommended, and I am looking forward to more in this series.” — Jamie Bee, Reading Fanatic Reviews
Looks fantastic! 😉
We’ll be sure to get a copy of this Colonial/Revolutionary romance! ♥♥♥
About Hallie Alexander
Hallie Alexander’s debut, A Widow’s Guide to Scandal, was published in 2020 by Soul Mate Publishing. It was a finalist in the 2019 Cleveland Rocks Romance Contest. Hallie writes steamy, American historical romances with noble heroes and strong heroines determined not to fall in love, until they do. Expect lush history and lots of smooching. And, if there is an element of humor and hijinks, or a fraying in the fabric of the patriarchy? Even better. Hallie is a Northerner living in the South with her husband, three children, and Doodles of Mayhem™, Bruno and Willow.
And, if you want to know how to connect with the fascinating Hallie Alexander, here are some author links…
Newsletter Sign-up: tiny.cc/hallie_sm
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Hallie-Alexander/e/B08CBJD5TY/
Once again, I want to thank Hallie Alexander, the brilliant author of this American Revolution romance novel, for stopping by! It was a pleasure to have you here! Readers, check out her work! ♥