Talk about a summer treat! Strawberries, a fab new writer-friend, and new release all rolled into one! Today I’ve got one of my Wild Rose Press sistahs, Margaret Ann Spence, visiting with me and she has a brand new book that released TODAY, titled LIPSTICK ON THE STRAWBERRY. What a fabulous, fun title!! Read on and find out about this lovely writer, then stick around for a little sweet, strawberry goodness as she gives you an excerpt from the book.
Margaret, The Writer
- What drives you to write? Can’t help myself, I’m afraid. If I don’t put words on paper every day I feel weird.
- What genre(s) of Romance do your write, and why? Everyone wants to love and be loved. I like my romance a little more textured, so I write stories about women with “romantic elements.” That’s what RWA calls women’s fiction.
- What genre(s) of Romance do you read, and why? I love contemporary and historical. The characters have to develop and change in relation to what’s happening to them and to the world around them.
- What’s your writing schedule? Do you write every day? I’m a morning person. Caffeine is needed to jump-start the brain cells. After I read Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way, I realized “morning pages” do really work. That is, grab a cuppa and write longhand in an exercise book for half an hour. Seems to free up something.
- Give us a glimpse of the surroundings where you write. Separate room? In the kitchen? At the dining room table? Well, given my response above, you may not be surprised to learn I am writing this on my laptop propped up on pillows in bed. You will not ever receive a photograph of this. However, later in the day I will sit on the couch or a comfy armchair. With a laptop you can write anywhere. I do make an exception of airplanes. Travel is so uncomfortable today I can’t write on a plane. But the most productive authors do take advantage of that otherwise wasted time.
- Are you the kind of writer who needs total quiet to compose, or are you able to filter out the typical sounds of the day and use your tunnel vision? I get fairly focused but don’t like distractions. Then again, my kids are grown and it is blessedly quiet around here most of the time.
- Do you listen to music while you write, and if so, what kind? If not, why not? No. I don’t listen to music because I do find it distracting. What calms me is a peaceful view out the window of my garden.
- How did you come up with the plotline/idea for your current WIP? My WIP – at an early stage- involves a botanist, an animal rights activist, and a medical researcher. It’s amazing what scientists are learning about genes – that plants and animals share so many and yet there’s so much diversity. As a gardener, I’m fascinated by new research that seems to indicate that plants communicate with one another. So I started to think, if animal rights activists believe eating meat is wrong, why is eating plants better? Of course everything eats everything else. The questions started to spin around in my head, and I thought of a conflict between the characters and started to plot it out.
- Which comes first for you – character or plot? And why? In the case of the WIP, I had the core of the plot based on an idea. But in my debut novel, Lipstick on the Strawberry, published by The Wild Rose Press July 5th, the character came first. This character was in conflict with her family, particularly her father. Family life is full of conflict. I think in order to achieve independence a young person must strike out positions that are different from her parents’. But in a strict, respectable, and religious family, how can a daughter break convention without causing a rift? Shaming shadows a person, thwarting relationships until it is really confronted. That’s partly what I wanted to explore. Then I added food, for fun. My heroine is a caterer. Food is sensuous and messy and delicious, and a contrast to the cerebral. Plus, I made my heroine English because I wanted to play with the perception that British food is terrible and to show it can be good. So, to the title: Photographers do weird things to make food more visually appetizing. They spritz a cake with hairspray, decorate a pie with shaving cream, and swipe a pale strawberry with lipstick to make it glisten. When I learned that, I knew I had my book title. My caterer, Camilla, always felt unable to live up to her family’s expectations. She finds that beneath the veneer of respectability lie imperfection and secrets.
- What 3 words describe you, the writer? Writing: Helps me think. In more than three words, this means, I often don’t know what I think till I write it down.
Margaret, The Person
- Tell us one unusual thing about yourself – not related to writing. I love to travel, and when I was young did a lot of crazy things that were more foolish than brave. One time, in a youth hostel, a girl asked for volunteers to help smuggle her cousin out of East Germany. I put my hand up, only to have it smartly smacked down by my friend Gail who had more sense than I did.
- Who was your first love and what age were you? I was eighteen and rebellious. My boyfriend and I would not have worked long term.
- If you could relive one day, which one would it be? Think GROUNDHOG DAY, the movie for this one – you’ll have to live it over and over and…. That’s a really great question. When I was in my twenties and living in London I signed up for a Peace Corps type of organization, thinking I must improve on my partying lifestyle. I didn’t hear for months and then got a notice informing me to bring lots of mosquito repellant because I’d be sent to help build a road for the people of Lapland. To be honest, I had to look up where Lapland was. It is in the Arctic Circle. I imagined myself up there, battling mosquitos while doing hard labor for a pittance and unable to return. I turned down this “job” offer. I sometimes think, what if I had gone up there? Could I have done some good? Or would I have been a victim of my own naivite?
- Do you like a guy in boxers, briefs, or commando? For what? Why do they have them on at all? On the other hand, I love little guys in diapers, too.
- If you had to give up one necessary-can’t-live-without-it beauty item, what would it be? My lipstick! I have dark hair and pale lips make me look ghostly.
- What three words describes you, the person? Love babies, books and bright colors. (not exactly three words, I know.)
- If you could sing a song with Jimmy Fallon, what would it be? I’ll have to stay up late enough to watch Jimmy Fallon. But I understand he talks about his kids a lot so we should sing Father and Daughter by Paul Simon.
- If you could hang out with any literary character from any book penned at any time line, who would it by, why, and what would you do together?As a kid I loved Little Women. Because she had the same name and was also the oldest of four siblings, I totally identified with Meg. Of course the conventional thing was to love Jo because she was the brave one who dared to be different. But there it is, I was Meg. As it happens, one of my own children lives in Concord, Massachusetts, and I’ve visited the Orchard House, the home of Louisa May Alcott. So I’ve often imagined living there, picking apples, playing the spinet, even sitting up there in that tiny upstairs space where Louisa did her writing. We’d sit up there and chat about writing. Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy all represent bits of Louisa May Alcott. Her characters are really alive to me.
I love the Actor’s Studio show on Bravo, so this is my version of it:
- Favorite sound Children’s laughter.
- Least favorite sound Ring tone on a cell phone in a theater.
- Best song every written Lady in Red by Eric Clapton. Sexiest song ever!
- Worst song ever written By December 23, Jingle Bells is the last song I want to hear.
- Favorite actor and actress Actor: Ethan Hawke. Actress: Meryl Streep without question, followed by Cate Blanchette. Ever notice how male actors often just play themselves, over and over, while these two actresses blend themselves into the characters they’re playing, like chameleons. Maybe because women are trained to hide their true feelings?
- Who would you want to be for 1 day and why? (It can be anyone living or dead) At the moment I am enthralled with Emma Stone’s performance in La La Land. So I guess I’d like to be her the day she realized she’d nailed the tap dancing.
- What turns you on? Someone with a sense of humor.
- What turns you off? Someone who takes him or herself too seriously.
- Give me the worst 5 words ever heard on a first date ( here’s mine: “Is that your real hair?”) “I hate when people are late.” Not only does it put the recipient of those words on the defensive – did I keep you waiting? – but it indicates a mean and judgmental person. Should have feigned a headache immediately.
- What’s your version of a perfect day? Planning, cooking and eating a wonderful dinner with friends, preferably on a patio with a water view. With or without the view however, there’s sheer sensual pleasure in setting a beautiful table, gathering and arranging colorful flowers from the garden, the sound of music selected by the music maestro of the house, my husband, the delicious waft of dinner from the kitchen, the hugs when the friends are greeted, the evening getting off to a great start.
Estranged from her English family, Camilla Fetherwell now lives in the United States and owns a successful catering business. Returning home for her father’s funeral, she reunites with her first love, Billy, whom she hasn’t seen since her father broke up their teenage romance.
Billy seems eager to resume their love affair. But after one blissful night together, things take a turn. Camilla suspects her father may have led a secret life, and when Billy reveals something he, too, has discovered, her apprehension grows. Billy holds her heart, but their relationship might be tainted by what her father hid. A reunion seems impossible.
Her life feels as splattered as her catering apron. As she watches her food stylist make a strawberry look luscious with a swipe of lipstick, Camilla wonders if a gloss has been put over a family secret? Can she and Billy survive what’s underneath?
My fingers searched the back of the drawer and felt something glossy. I pulled, and saw in my hand a colored photograph of a woman who looked to be about the age I was now. She had hair the color of fallen leaves. Only the woman’s shoulders were visible below the head. Her blue and green scarf reflected the color of her laughing eyes. In the background was the blurred green of a field. I flicked the photo over. The penciled initials N.B. were the only notation.
A cold prickle ran down my back as I stared at it.
I tucked the photo into my pocket. How peculiar was it to find this woman’s image stuffed in the back of a drawer? Daddy had gone to pains to hide the picture.
In one hand, I lifted the plastic bags of trash, picked up the passport in the other, and went to find Tilda.
“Would you mind if I went home and rested?” I asked. “I feel a headache coming on.”
“Yes, of course. What did you find in there? Oh, good, Daddy’s passport. I’d like to keep that. How thoughtful of you. Anything else of interest?”
I turned so Tilda couldn’t see and fingered the pocketed photo. The letters N.B. intrigued me. Was this just the acronym to remind our father of something important? Or did it mean something else?
“No,” I said and hurried toward the door.
Margaret Ann Spence was born in Australia and has made the United States home for many years. In Lipstick on the Strawberry, she takes as backdrops Boston, Massachusetts and Cambridge, England, cities she’s lived in and loved. Lipstick won First Place, Romantic Elements Category, in the 2015 Beacon Contest, sponsored by the First Coast Romance Writers.
You can find Margaret here:
Peggy here: Margaret, thanks so much for joining me today. Your book – and you! – sound fabulous! Much luck and keep writing.