Good Morning Everyone,
Today I am chatting with romance author Meggan Connors.
Hi Meggan please, tell us about your latest release.
The Marker is a historical romance set in Sacramento in the years after California’s gold rush. Here is the back cover of the book, and I think it covers it rather well:
When her father loses her in a poker game, Lexie Markland is sent to work in the household of Nicholas Wetherby for one year to pay off the debt. Innocent, but not naïve, she is savvy enough to know she must maintain her distance from this man, who frustrates her with his relentless teasing but whose kisses bring her to her knees. Because although she may be just another conquest to him, it’s not just her heart in jeopardy should she succumb to Nicholas’ considerable charms.
Since his brother’s death almost a year before, nothing has held Nicholas’ attention for long—not women, not booze, not even an excellent hand at cards. Nothing, that is, until he meets the woman he won in a drunken night of poker. Intrigued by his prize and her chilly reserve, he makes it his mission to crack Lexie’s cool demeanor. But even as passion explodes between them, the question remains: will Nicholas be able to take the ultimate risk…and gamble on love?
What inspired you to write this book?
I could say something along the lines of, I have a passion for both the west and for historicals, and that I’d grown tired of men in kilts (I’ve since fallen back in love with them), so I thought I’d write something a little different. And that would be true. What’s also true is that the story was actually inspired by a trip to the Sacramento train museum and The World Series of Poker.
How did you choose the title for this book?
The marker is a reference to my heroine. Read the excerpt below, and you’ll find out why!
Can you share an excerpt from the book with us?
Absolutely! Here you go!
Lexie Markland dusted off her skirt as she answered the insistent pounding at the door. Expecting the usual ruffians who came to collect payment for some creditor of her father’s, Lexie was surprised to find the most attractive gentleman she had ever encountered standing on her sagging front stoop. Tall and broad, dressed in fawn colored pants and a dark, finely tailored day coat, he had tawny blond hair swept back from his forehead and bright, blue-green eyes the color of a turquoise stone her mother had once owned. Her breath hitched as she stared at him, for he was handsome in a way she couldn’t define, as if he glittered when he walked. What business could such a man possibly have here? People like him didn’t do their own dirty work. They had others do it for them.
He studied her, his bright eyes interested as they searched her face. After a few moments, she noticed the papers he tapped in his hand. Dismayed, she said, “If you’ve come to collect a debt of my father’s, we haven’t much left to sell.”
He made a noncommittal movement of his shoulders, as if to concede he understood their financial situation. “May I come in?”
Lexie shivered at the sound of his voice, deep and seductive, but stepped aside to allow him entrance. A man like him wouldn’t come by her house except to collect a debt owed by her father—over the years, she had become accustomed to it. But this man was no debt collector, and obviously didn’t need the money. What had her father had promised that had driven a man of his status to her section of town? Their little house, with one foot in the slums, was a long way from his neighborhood. Given her father’s latest foray into gambling, some nights they barely had enough to eat. Lexie hadn’t eaten anything since yesterday, and she harbored little hope of getting anything before supper.
“Of course,” she answered evenly, struggling to keep her expression neutral. “I’ll go get my father. I’d offer you tea, but I’m afraid we just ran out.” She paused for a moment and then made the only allowance she would to her circumstances, the only acknowledgement they were flat broke. “You must understand, my father can sometimes be…unreliable.”
“Oh, your father’s proven reliable enough with the one thing that interests me,” he said in a voice dark with promise, and her eyes shot to his face in surprise. Even she didn’t believe her father’s word anymore. Extending his hand, he said, “I’m Nicholas Wetherby.”
“Alexandra,” he said, giving her the impression he tasted her name as it rolled off his tongue, and she tried to suppress the rush of excitement coursing through her at the sound of it on his lips. Taking his hand, she was startled when he laid a solicitous kiss upon the top. Her skin burned where his mouth moved against it, a touch so primal and searing she wondered if he had left a mark. Warmth spread across her belly, like she’d had too much to drink. Her head began to spin and she felt faint.
When she tripped over her own feet, he was instantly by her side, holding her elbow to keep her steady. Embarrassed, as she regained her equilibrium and her composure, she said, hoping he believed her, “My apologies. I’m afraid I haven’t had anything to eat yet, and I’m a little light-headed.” She had never had such a reaction to anyone in her entire life, and she thought about his hand on her arm, the warmth of his skin where he touched her, and the smell of him, masculine and clean. Her corset suddenly too tight, she struggled to catch her breath.
His gaze burned when he asked, “May I assist you to the sitting room?”
Lexie laughed, feeling a little giddy. She turned in the direction of the sitting room, but thought better of it. She didn’t want him to see what they had left. They had nothing in the sitting room but a threadbare rug the debt collectors hadn’t seen fit to take.
“Why not come with me to the kitchen?” she offered.
He nodded, and as they walked in that direction, Lexie became aware of his hand on the small of her back as he guided her. Surely such a simple touch shouldn’t have her heart racing, but it did. Pulling away from him as they approached her father, Lexie said softly, “Father. We have a guest,” and laid a gentle hand on his back.
Her father had been having a rough morning, and more than once Lexie had caught him regarding her with sad, glassy eyes. She had assumed he was sick with drink—he was sick more mornings than not these days—but something in his demeanor told her it was more than that. Long ago, she’d learned never to trust surprises.
Even ones as pleasant as finding a man like Nicholas Wetherby at her door.
Her father had done something and it was becoming clear she wasn’t going to like it.
Markland raised his head and regarded Nicholas with blood-shot eyes. “I have come to collect,” Nicholas said by way of greeting.
“You can’t mean that!” Markland exclaimed. With a groan, he buried his face in his hands and closed his eyes. She wordlessly placed a glass of water in front of him, which, other than a bottle of cheap bourbon, was the only thing she had to offer him. The water sloshed from the glass, and Markland’s eyes shifted from the small pools of water in front of him back to Lexie. She folded her arms against her chest and scowled at him—she was done cleaning up his messes. It was all she ever did anymore. Shrinking under her withering glare, he turned his eyes back to Nicholas.
“It’s completely unfair. Everyone knows you can’t collect on such a wager,” her father protested dully, and Lexie was possessed by the sudden urge to give Nicholas Wetherby anything he wanted, just so long as she didn’t have to listen to her father’s wheedling anymore. Saturday mornings, like clockwork, her father would whine about the latest “unfairness,” as if his actions hadn’t been the cause of all their problems.
“As you would not have collected had I lost?” Nicholas countered, turning those glittering turquoise eyes over to Lexie. His gaze was so intense she had to look away, and she studied the tabletop as if it were the most interesting thing she’d ever seen. “You were salivating over my money last night, and yet, once you’ve lost, you refuse to honor your debt to me?”
Dismayed, she watched the drama play out between the two men. She had heard her father’s protests far too often. She had begged him to stop, but nothing was more important to him—there were always fortunes to be won. For the last five years, her job had been to pick up the pieces. She had taken on some work as a seamstress, but her father, worried about his image among the elite of the city, refused to let her take on too much. She had offered to search for a position as a governess or a schoolteacher, but her father opposed that option too: how would it look if his daughter had to work? Keeping up the appearance of having money seemed to be the only thing concerning John Markland.
If only they could eat appearances.
Lexie put a hand to her forehead, trying to rub away the ache beginning to form just behind her brows. Wearily, she asked, “What did you promise him, Father?”
“Nothing! It was a jest!”
“I have a contract, signed by you. That’s not a jest.”
Lexie found herself intrigued by the masculine timber of his voice. He had the voice of a preacher, deep and melodic, and she turned her gaze to him. He caught her eye and a smile lit his features, and she fought the urge to faint again as her heart danced wildly in her chest. When he smiled, it was as if it were meant just for her, so dazzling she felt temporarily blinded to everything else but the desire to have his lips on her skin again.
Lexie placed a hand on the back of a chair to steady herself as she pushed away the idea. She was no fool. One look at Nicholas Wetherby told her he wasn’t the man for her. A man like him wouldn’t be caught dead courting the destitute daughter of a drunk, even if she were available. Too rich, too good-looking, too self-assured, he could have any woman he wanted. He’d probably marry some pale, blond goddess who would bear him a whole passel of pale, blond children.
Strange, how that thought made her sad. Steeling herself, she said, “I assure you, Mr. Wetherby, whatever my father owes you, I will make every effort to repay you.”
Nicholas nodded. “Your father has already generously provided me with his preferred method of payment.”
Startled, her eyes flew to his face. Trying to cover her surprise, she said, “What did he promise?”
Nicholas glanced over at Markland. “Did you not tell her?”
Markland put his head down on the table. “You can’t do this, Wetherby,” he said miserably.
“Oh, but I can,” he said, his lips curving into a wolfish smile, and her heart lurched painfully in her chest. “Having come here, I intend to collect my marker.”
Markland moaned into the table, refused to look up. Temper flaring, Lexie demanded, “Oh, for God’s sake, Father, what did you lose this time? What is this marker?”
Nicholas turned his bright, glittering eyes to her, his lips curling in the ghost of a smile. “He didn’t tell you?”
“Would I be asking you if he had?” she retorted.
He visibly suppressed a smile, as if he found her amusing. “No, I suppose not.”
“So what’s he lost? What did he bet this time?”
Nicholas ran his eyes over her in a way that sent shivers up her spine, and she felt naked under his gaze, as if he saw through her and into her soul. Silent for what seemed like a long time, he handed her the contract and in a low voice said,
Now can you please tell us a little about yourself?
Sure! I’m the wife to an awesome husband who is so supportive it’s almost gross. He loves the writing gig, and doesn’t complain about the weird hours or the housework going by the wayside when I’m under a deadline or the influence of my rather quirky muse.
I have two little kids who are the light of my days (when they’re not being the death of me), and a full time job. So, when trying to write, I often struggle to find time to fit everything in between piano, soccer, swimming lessons, and work. But I wouldn’t trade any of it! I’ve learned I can survive on very little sleep.
What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
I don’t think it’s unique to me, but, in order to get into the writing groove, I listen to a lot of music. However, when I find a particular song that makes me think of a certain scene or section of a book, I will listen to that song over and over. Everywhere. In the car, in the house while I’m cooking, and certainly while I’m writing. Absolutely everywhere. Which might explain why I caught my four-year-old singing “This is Why We Fight” by The Decemberists about a week and a half after I bought the CD.
That’s when I started to realize that maybe I listened to it a little too much.
What do you think is the most important to remember when writing romance?
I don’t think there are any hard and fast rules for writing, because I think the process, like the product, is different for everyone. I think the most important thing is that you have fun doing it, and that, in your efforts to make a manuscript “fit” and be what you think an editor wants, you don’t lose sight of your vision and your voice. Your voice is what will make your book different from what’s already out there.
I think it’s also a good thing if you fall in love with your hero—because if you do, so will your readers!
What genres and authors would we find you reading when taking a break from your own writing?
Shoot, I read everything. I’ve really enjoyed Karen Moning—both the Fever series and the Highlander series. I recently starting reading Brenda Novak’s Inside, and I love it. Over the last two months, I’ve read several contemporaries (which is not a genre I normally read), and it turns out I really like them! The kids and I have been reading The Time Travelers, a really fun middle grade.
So, yeah, I’m all over the place in what I like to read!
How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing?
I can’t say much. I highly doubt I’d find myself in a situation like Lexie’s, and lord knows, I’ve never met anyone quite like Nicholas. Actually, Nicholas is probably the opposite of me: he’s quite reckless where I tend to be overly cautious. So maybe Nicholas is my id?
Tell us your story of “getting published”:
It’s all very surreal to me, even now. I’ve been writing on and off since I was in fifth grade (needless to say, it’s been awhile). For a time, I gave up writing fiction in favor of academic papers and graduate school. One day, I woke up and decided I would write a romance novel. I told my husband about it, thinking it was just a passing fancy. But then, four months later, I had a 100,000 word novel written. Like most first novels, that first draft was awful. So I joined RWA, found a chapter not too far from my house (though it’s still about 3 hours away, so it’s a long drive), and the rest is history.
What were you doing when you received your first contract?
I was walking into work. I opened my email in the parking lot on my smart phone. And then I danced into my office. I’m sure my coworkers thought I’d finally lost my mind.
What are you working on now?
I just finished a western steam punk. I love the era, and I’ve had a fun time with an alternate history! Right now, I’m working on the follow up to The Marker, which is tentatively titled Shanghaied.
Do you have any events coming up?
None are scheduled so far, but I hope to have some soon.
Where can readers learn more about your books?
They can find me on Facebook or on my website, at http://www.megganconnors.com.
Do you have any words of encouragement for unpublished writers?
Just keep writing. And while it might sound contradictory, jump into it with both feet, and then be prepared to wait while you hone your craft and make contacts with other authors. And for the love of all you consider holy, get a critique partner. I was late to the party on this one (I’d finished three books, including The Marker, by the time I finally found my CP), but it was the best thing I ever did. It was wonderful for both my self esteem and my writing.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?
I would love for readers to come visit me. They can visit my website, hang out on my blog, or friend me on Facebook. Facebook is where readers can find out about any contests or giveaway I may be having!
Facebook link: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Meggan-Connors/120715354695518
Soul Mate Publishing link: www.soulmatepublishing.com/the-marker
Thanks so much for having me here today!