Although Susan majored in Accounting, she never worked as an accountant because she was published straight out of college with two books the same month. Sixteen prolific years and seventy-four books later, she hit the New York Times bestsellers list for the first time with Accidentally Yours in 2008. She made many appearances in the top 10 before hitting #1 in 2015 with Thrill Me, the twentieth book in her most popular series, the Fool’s Gold romances, and the fourth of five books released that year.
Let’s get to know Susan more! Thank you to Harlequin for organizing this Q&A as part of the blog tour.
What was your favorite part about writing Meant to be Yours?
Ohhh, that’s a hard question! I love everything about writing romance. The first kiss is still magical to me. The passion, the emotional intensity. It’s a moment that changes the course of a person’s life. When you fall in love, your life is bisected into before and after. Love is transformative, and the greatest pleasure of my life is to write about it.
Jasper and Renee in particular were a lot of fun to write because Renee is just such a mama bear when it comes to protecting her brides. She’s a wedding planner at Weddings Out of the Box, a theme wedding venue in the town of Happily Inc. Jasper is a bestselling thriller writer who wants to set his next book at a wedding. Renee’s response made me laugh so loud that I’m pretty sure I scared my pets.
Jasper continued. “I thought I could follow you around for a few weeks, learn about the business and—”
“No,” she said firmly, as all thoughts of them having another close encounter faded from her mind. “You’re not getting your serial killer cooties on my weddings. I’m a big believer in keeping the energy positive and flowing forward. Do you know what a serial killer would do at a wedding?”
He stared at her, his gaze intense. “That’s what I was thinking. I want the serial killer to be a wedding crasher.”
“No,” she said firmly. “Just no.”
When Jasper goes behind her back to get intimately involved with one of her weddings, Renee vows to keep him from bringing darkness to her bride’s special day.
I also adored the animals in this book. In the beginning, Jasper doesn’t trust himself to let a woman into his heart. His simple but profound act of kindness to a dog who needs a home leads to him finally being ready to fall in love. The dog, Koda, is based on a reader’s real-life dog. I gave Koda the same adorable quirks and characteristics that make him special—and I gave Renee the reader’s last name in her honor.
Did you find out any funny or interesting facts about wedding planning when writing this book?
I have learned that brides and wedding planners are some of the most creative people in the universe. I can’t tell you how much time I spent on Pinterest, looking at pictures from theme weddings. There are some really beautiful themes, and some that are charming and humorous. Every theme uniquely reflects the bride and the groom in the most beautiful way. In Meant to Be Yours, Renee designs several lovely theme weddings with beautiful touches I think readers will enjoy. Here’s a snippet from one:
Jim and Monica Martinez were a sweet couple with a fun firefighter theme for their big day. There was a long tradition of firefighters on both sides of the family and plenty of cute touches in the wedding and reception.
Monica’s dress laced up the back and instead of white ribbon to cinch her gown, she’d used bright red. The centerpieces were ceramic boot vases painted to look like firefighter boots, filled with red, orange and yellow flowers. There was even a walk-through fountain at one end of the reception area, created with fire hoses, a pump and a lot of engineering.
Pay attention to that last sentence because I also discovered that a lot can go wrong when you invite a few hundred people to a party. Imagine a room filled with people who aren’t used to dressing up, plus a fountain made with fire hoses, and a wedding planner who will do anything to protect her bride.
Did Renee or Jasper surprise you while you drafted this novel?
They did! When I started this book, I thought Jasper was the more wounded of the two. But as I wrote, I discovered that Renee’s scars went deeper than I thought. She’s been keeping a secret from her friends in Happily Inc, a secret about her mother that has cost her jobs, friendships and romantic relationships. Just when she starts to feel safe and accepted in her new home, her mother comes for a visit. . .
Can you share about what you’re working on right now?
I’m working on revisions on the next Happily Inc book, a Christmas book that will be out next year. No title yet. It has all of the humor and heartfelt emotion readers love in my books—plus Christmas! I invited members of the Susan Mallery All Access group on Facebook (www.facebook.com/groups/susanmalleryallaccess) to suggest random items for me to incorporate into the story. When the book comes out next year, I’ll share a scavenger hunt list with my readers so they can find the objects as they read. It’s just a fun way for me to stay connected to my readers as I write.
Who is an author you draw inspiration from?
Years ago, the fabulous Debbie Macomber suggested to me that I stop writing series about families, and start writing series about people who live in the same town. That advice was the inspiration for my Fool’s Gold series, which led to my Happily Inc series, as well. I’ll always be grateful to Debbie for that.
What is your favorite place to read a book?
At home with my feet up on the sofa and a cat curled in my lap.
Who is a book character you’d be best friends with?
Each of my heroines is someone I’d be friends with—after all, I spend months with them, so I want them to be people I enjoy hanging out with. As for best friends, I’ll go with Ellen Fox, heroine of The Friendship List, which will come out next year. Ellen had me laughing all the way through the book. She’s blunt and smart and would drop everything to help someone she loves.
She’s a single mom who got pregnant in high school. She had sex one time, got pregnant, and then… nothing. She’s basically a virgin with a kid. But when she discovers what she’s been missing, she has no inhibitions. Her lack of filter was a source of constant amusement for me. Every day, I was excited to get back to work so I could spend time with her again. Such a fun book to write!
Pen & Paper or Computer?
Computer. I couldn’t keep up with my thoughts with paper and pen. I type about 120 words per minute, so that’s easier for me. Hard on my wrists and hands, but easier on my brain.
Favorite decade in fashion history?
I am enjoying the fashion of today. I like that there really aren’t any rules anymore, it’s all about self-expression.
What is your signature drink?
A Starbucks latte. This time of year, pumpkin spice. Even though the baristas cannot, for the life of them, spell Susan.
What do you hope readers will experience or gain when reading Meant to Be Yours?
I hope Meant to Be Yours will be a happy escape for them, an entertaining break from the stresses of their daily lives. This is a book for readers who like to feel the sharp pings of emotion—and the release of laughter with a guaranteed happy ending.
How did you get into writing?
I was in college studying to be an accountant. It wasn’t exciting, but it was practical. I honestly didn’t know that regular people could be professional writers. It seemed so exotic, somehow. I thought writers had to live in France and wear turtlenecks. I think I must have choked to death in a previous life because I can’t stand wearing turtlenecks.
One day, I got a flyer in the mail from an adult education center called The Learning Tree, with evening classes people could take. These classes were not for credit and therefore were very impractical for a young woman carrying a full course load of university classes, and a newlywed trying to learn how to cook. But one of the classes caught my eye: How to Write a Romance Novel. Still, I thought, no time. I threw away the flyer. Eight weeks later, it came again. I threw it away again. Eight weeks later, there it was again, and I realized the woman wasn’t going to teach the class forever.
So I signed up for the class, and I immediately fell in love. By week six, I knew this was what I was meant to do with my life. I made a deal with my then-husband. I gave myself two years to sell a book. If I didn’t, then I would have to get a job. That was in May, and I sold my first book in August of that year. Best decision ever.
What inspired you to write Meant to Be Yours?
I loved the humor inherent in the idea of a thriller writer wanting to research weddings, and a wedding planner who wants to keep his darkness away from her bride’s special day. Jasper is the kind of writer who does his research in tangible ways. Before he writes a fight scene, he blocks it out with his buddies—weapons and all. He wants to get the details right.
So when he decides to set his next book against the backdrop of a wedding, he’s determined to get those details right, too. And the only way to do that is to be involved with a wedding from start to finish. But Renee is determined to keep any hint of darkness away from her bride’s special day. It’s not an intellectual exercise to her—it’s someone’s wedding day, and that means something.
It’s just a humorous conflict that I thought would be a ton of fun to write. And it was!
Oh, and by the way, Jasper also decides that his detective character needs a love interest…so he needs someone to block out the kissing scenes with him, too. (Full confession: I do occasionally ask my husband for help with my research. 😉 )
What drew you into writing romance?
I’ve been a romance reader since I was in middle school, and they’re still the books I enjoy the most. I love everything about them. I still get that intake-of-breath feeling when the characters first kiss. And when they finally overcome their obstacles and admit that they’re meant to be together—there’s just nothing happier or more life-affirming.
If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?
I would love to sit down with Verity, Renee’s mother. But I can’t tell you what I would ask her or why without spoilers, so I’ll just leave you with this: Verity has a very special talent that gives her an insight few people can claim. I would love to have this talent. Since I don’t, I’d love to ask Verity to tell me what she knows.
What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?
I’m active on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter—but mostly on Facebook. I share book news on my main page, www.facebook.com/susanmallery. In the Susan Mallery All Access group, www.facebook.com/groups/susanmalleryallaccess, I share personal anecdotes and pictures, hold contests and play games. It’s a lot of fun, and everyone is welcome to join! (Unless you’re some weird spammer guy who wants me to marry you. Ew.)
What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?
Stick with it. The writers who succeed are the ones who don’t give up. Write every day. Experiment with different methods and techniques to find what works for you. Analyze successful books and try to figure out why they work, and then incorporate those lessons into your own writing. I found that screenwriting classes helped a lot with developing story structure.
What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?
Always something new on the horizon! In 2020, I’ll release four brand new books: Sisters by Choice (a Blackberry Island novel), The Friendship List (a standalone), A Fool’s Gold Wedding (a Fool’s Gold romance), and the yet-to-be-titled Happily Inc Christmas romance.
Click here to buy Meant to be Yours on Amazon.