Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Interview with Brenda Harlen

Full disclosure - I've been friends with Brenda Harlen for a long time. Our friendship predates her writing success. She is one of my critique partners and a brilliant motivator.  The woman's production and ability to focus is incredible. Whenever I flounder I picture her hunched over her laptop and get back to the process. We may root for opposing hockey teams but our friendship is definitely a good thing.

Whether you've been a fan of hers for years, or are just new to the wit and romance that Brenda writes, I hope you enjoy the following interview to promote her latest offering in the Engaging Garretts series.

You've written thirty books for Harlequin.  There have been a lot of changes over the years.  What's had the most impact on your career?
I’m not even sure I can answer that question. The publishing industry has changed so much in the past ten years with more and bigger changes coming, including the recent acquisition of Harlequin by HarperCollins Publishers. However, I’ve been fortunate in that, despite all of the changes, I’ve been able to work with the same fabulous editor (Susan Litman) for each one of those thirty books, the first five under the “Silhouette Intimate Moments” imprint before I started writing for Special Edition.

How does writing continuity series like the Montana Mavericks affect writing your own series? 
Sometimes participating in a continuity can pull me out of the flow of another story, because the deadlines for writing a continuity are much more inflexible. Also, there is regular communication between the authors and editors, particularly in the beginning when we’re trying to polish our story ideas and development of characters. On the other hand, it’s sometimes a nice break to focus on something completely different and outside the parameters of my own fictional world. Either way, I absolutely love participating in continuity series and “meeting” and working with other authors. This year, Montana Mavericks is celebrating “20 Years in the Saddle” and I’m thrilled to be part of it. (My book—THE MAVERICK’S THANKSGIVING BABY—is 5th in the series, coming in November.)

There was a really good interview with you at The Reading Frenzy recently about the witty dialogue you write.  It's something you do well.  Does it come naturally to you or is dialogue something you struggle with?
 It’s always flattering to hear that something about my writing resonates with a reader/reviewer, and I guess I’m lucky that dialogue does come fairly naturally to me—the rest of the writing, not always so much J

What's your typical writing day like?  Do you have routines that need to be met in order to produce words?
I’m not sure any writing day is typical . . . however, my usual routine is morning coffee, checking email, Facebook, Twitter, more coffee, then settling down to write. Working from home can be distracting (and often non-writer friends and family don’t think of writing as work), but I’ve learned to treat it as a job and assign myself daily deadlines to ensure that I stay on track toward my real deadlines.

You've created these wonderful little towns like Pinehurt, NY and Charisma, NC where the characters have formed real communities that interact and overlap.  It's wonderful to see previous characters living out their happily ever afters.  What prompted the move to NC? 
The answer to this question is a little embarrassing, because the truth is that it was a lack of planning that prompted the move. When I wrote ONCE AND AGAIN, my very first Special Edition, I made up the fictional town of Pinehurst, New York. The next few books had some connected characters, so I stayed in Pinehurst. But by the time I wrote the first three “Those Engaging Garretts!” books, I found that I had to go back through all of the previous books set in Pinehurst to remember the location of the hardware store or the name of the street that a character lived on. For my own sanity, I needed to move on—and this time, I started with a town map.

In A WIFE FOR ONE YEAR, Daniel marries his best friend in order to access his trust fund to buy into a stock car racing team.  Your Facebook followers know you're a big hockey fan, is the same true for motorsports?  What kind of research did you do to prepare for Daniel's career as a car owner?
 When I was a kid, my family used to go to Merrittville Speedway every Saturday night to watch my cousin race his stock car, but I was never a fan of professional racing. However, when I decided to set the new Garrett stories in North Carolina, I knew that stock car racing could not be ignored, so I decided to do some research. I started with books and websites, but a friend of mine (thank you, Keziah!) suggested that I should do primary research and, when we were in North Carolina recently, we visited the front office and shop of an actual NASCAR team. It was an amazing and informative experience—and a ton of fun. (Thank you, Becky, for the tour and the answers to so many questions!)  

Is that a world we'll see again?
 For sure! Now that my editors have approve an extension of the series, I can assure you that Josh Slater (Daniel Garrett’s partner in Garrett/Slater Racing) will have his own story with the stock car racing world as an integral part of the background.

Wife for One Year is available now at the bookseller of your choice. Or you can post a comment to win your own autographed copy


  1. Anonymous5:32 PM

    I love Brenda's books. The end.

  2. Anonymous2:27 PM

    I like the title A Wife For One Year. I'll have to check that one out.


  3. Anonymous3:06 PM

    I would have thought that after 30 books (impressive!), people would start to treat your work as a "real" job. I'm always a fan of witty dialogue, so I'll have to check these out :)
    -- Merry

  4. Anonymous4:03 PM

    Very well done interview! Makes me* want to go check out the books!

  5. I think I might enjoy this book. I'm not big into racing, but it does bring back memories. My dad owned a gas station and sponsored two of my uncles' cars. Every week at the track. ;)

  6. Thirty books?! Holy guacamole, Brenda, that's a very impressive output.

    I actually bought A Wife for One Year the first time I read this interview (so don't include me in the giveaway!). I'm holding off on reading it until I finish the rough draft of my current project, but I'm curious to see how you portrayed the state in which I live. ;-)

    I, too, have trouble with people feeling free to interrupt my writing time. I've stopped saying "I'm writing" and instead say "I'm working." Not that it helps. Maybe eventually.