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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tantalizing Tuesday

That Holiday Feeling
That Holiday Feeling

Today I am bringing to you some authors that many will say need no introduction because their talent speaks for them: Robyn Carr and Sherryl Woods!  While Debbie Macomber's work appears in this anthology, she was unable to participate in the interviews because she is still catching up after taking time off for her surgery.  While Debbie is still healing and getting caught up with her edits, she does have a special greeting that she wanted me to pass along to all of you:

Debbie Macomber"I would like to extend special holiday greetings along with my special friends, Robyn Carr and Sheryl Woods.  It’s been a pleasure to have my story published along with such fine writers.  As I prepare for the holidays with family and friends I am especially grateful for the few moments I can sneak away and delve into a good story.  May your Christmas be filled with love, joy and laughter and a few precious moments to spoil yourself with a good book!"

I was so excited when Robyn Carr, popular author of the well-loved Virgin River series and creator of Jack's Bar (a yahoo chat group I belong to), agreed to step into the moonlight to promote the Christmas anthology, That Holiday Feeling. I was further elated when Sherryl Woods, author of Inn at Eagle Point, Flowers on Main and Harbor Lights decided to join us! It makes for a very joyful beginning to December to bring these two great ladies together!

In case you haven't seen it, or bothered to pick it up, That Holiday Feeling contains the following stories: Silver Bells by Debbie Macomber, The Perfect Holiday by Sherryl Woods and Under the Christmas Tree by Robyn Carr.

Silver Bells is part of her The Manning Sisters/Those Manning Men series. In this story, a strong-willed teen decides to find her father, Phillip Lark, a wife. The woman she chooses for her father is Carrie Weston. Will there be a connection forged of mistletoe? Read and find out!

The Perfect Holiday is story of Mae and her attempt to make a match between bachelor Trace Franklin and her niece Savannah Holiday. Will she succeed? You must read to find out!

Under the Christmas Tree is the eighth edition in the Virgin River series. In this "tail," a box of puppies turns up under the town Christmas tree. Local vet Nathaniel Jensen is asked to step in, but what causes the town to drool is not his care of the puppies, but his relationship with Annie McCarthy! What happens next? Pick up the book, return to Virgin River and find out!

Now for the treat!

Why the surprise, you didn't honestly think I was going to end it here did you?

What we have next is an interview with both Robyn and Sherryl:

ME: Do you have a movie that you must watch every Christmas? What's your favorite Christmas movie? Do you have a favorite Christmas character or character type?

ROBYN: Lots of Christmas favorites – It’s a wonderful life is a must and my daughter and I have to watch some of the old Bing Crosby favorites -- Holiday Inn, White Christmas. More recently my husband and I have to watch Love Actually several times before Christmas – it’s fabulous!

SHERRYL: I have several movies that I enjoy this time of the year -- Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Carol and White Christmas. A couple of years ago I discovered a production of White Christmas at a local theater and loved it. This year I'm going to see it on Broadway as part of my pre-holiday Christmas "fix."

ME: Do you have any Christmas traditions like decorating your house, having house parties, making cookies etc.?

Robyn CarrROBYN: I decorate and shop, but now that the kids are grown and married, they’re starting traditions of their own and we do as we’re told. One thing that we’ve always done that makes the holidays better – we give and give and give. We used to give turkeys when there were great turkey deals, but now we give everything from canned goods to money. I make sure I have plenty of ones and fives in my purse and I never pass a ringing bell or outstretched hand without contributing. Perhaps more important, we all give good cheer – a smile, a hand shake, a wish for a happy holiday. Smiling, taking a moment to chat, passing on good will is infectious. It spreads.

Sherryl WoodsSHERRYL: My holiday traditions vary depending on where I am. In Virginia, when I had my bookstore, we -- or I should say my talented staff -- decorated every room with trees, garlands and lights. It was spectacular. Because I always left for Florida immediately after the holiday, I did very little decorating at home. Now that I'm back in Florida most of the time for Christmas, I drag out a tree and try to do half as good a job of decorating it as the gals did at my store. When I was still working at a "real" job, I baked a ton of holiday cookies and packaged them up for other people, anything to get them out of the house before I ate them all.

ME: If you do make Christmas Cookies, what kinds will you be making this year? What was your all-time most favorite Christmas Cookie that you ever made? Why? Care to share the recipe?

ROBYN: I’m lousy in the kitchen!! I’m busy typing!!

SHERRYL: I'm going to turn the tables on this one. Though I made many different types of cookies and bars when I was baking, one of my favorites was a cream cheese-brownie bar. I've hunted high and low, but can't find the recipe. If anyone out there has one for these scrumptious, marbled bars, I would love to have it.

ME: Do you celebrate St. Nick’s Day? Why or why not? On what day do you celebrate it, on December 6 or some other date? Are the stockings a big deal? What is the biggest present you’ve received/given for St. Nick’s Day?

ROBYN: I’ve never celebrated St. Nick’s Day – it’s all I can do to keep up with Thanksgiving and Christmas!

SHERRYL: I've never celebrated St. Nick's Day, but last year a friend started a 12 Days of Christmas tradition. She sent a box of 12 small presents to be opened starting Dec. 13, one per day through Christmas eve. It was such fun to have something to open each day. This year I'm doing the same thing for a couple of people. Shopping for these little treats has been as much fun as receiving them.

ME: Even if you don’t put one up, do prefer real or artificial trees? Why?

ROBYN: I used to love getting the real tree, just for the smell in the house. But time is getting shorter and I’m getting busier so I have a new method, and while it makes my husband crazy, it makes my women friends envious! I have a very talented friend who is a professional decorator and with her help we decorated an artificial tree SO beautifully it could stand in a department store or hotel lobby. It matches my living room colors and looks like it was professionally done because it was! At the end of the season it’s covered in a tree bag and easily moved to the garage where it happily sits in an out of the way corner for 12 months. Then when the holidays come around again, we easily move it back into the living room. It’s fantastic! The staircase garland is the same deal – all done, ready to put up quickly, taken down quickly and stored easily! Every several years, we update!

SHERRYL: In a perfect world I would always have a real tree. I love the feel and scent of them. I love going to the lot to pick out the perfect one. However, I live in an area where the fire code precludes having live trees in condos and apartments. Some people violate it. I don't. And the artificial tree definitely is less of a mess.

ME: Have you ever made your own Christmas presents or decorations? If so, what were they? Were they successes or failures? Did you have fun while making them?

ROBYN: no comment

SHERRYL: Until I faced carpal tunnel syndrome, I used to knit and occasionally made presents for people. Some actually fit.

ME: What foods will be at your Christmas celebration this year? What is the most unusual food that you saw at a Christmas feast? Would you eat the fruitcake or use it as a doorstop?

ROBYN: no comment

SHERRYL: I'm a traditionalist. I still want the same food on Christmas day that our family always had on Thanksgiving -- turkey, sweet potato casserole, green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy and pumpkin pie. When some in my family opted for cold cuts one year, I threw in the towel and headed for Florida where my friends are more traditional. Of course, Christmas day dinner is usually prepared by my friends from London and parsnips are a must. I'm still working on accepting that idea.

ME: Do you celebrate Christmas on the Eve or Day? Why?

ROBYN: Christmas Eve is dinner with whatever family is around; we used to open presents on Christmas Eve, once the kids were older. Then Christmas Day was all about feasting and relaxing. But it has shifted back == there are little ones in the family again and Christmas morning is Santa!

SHERRYL: Are you kidding? I try to celebrate for as long as possible. In terms of presents, my family always allowed us to open one gift on Christmas eve, the rest on Christmas day. Now my friends host a big Christmas eve dinner with presents, while another hosts the Christmas day celebration. Disaster that I am in the kitchen, I take people out for a celebratory dinner during the season.

ME: Who, if anyone, in your family plays Santa Claus to hand out the presents? Or do they just “magically” appear under the tree? How do you handle presents that just don’t fit under the tree?

ROBYN: not giving away that secret!

SHERRYL: I'm older and female. I like tiny, elegant boxes! As for playing Santa, no one ever dressed up in our family. Presents magically appeared.

ME: Tell us 3 funny or strange things that happened to you, or someone you know, on past Christmases.

ROBYN: These are secrets best kept.

SHERRYL: Well, there was of course that infamous year of the cold cuts. When the idea was first presented, I protested vehemently. My cousin laughingly suggested that I bring steaks if I didn't like the idea. On the afternoon of Christmas eve as I sat in the cemetery after dropping off wreaths for various family members, I called my aunt to see if she needed anything. She informed me that my cousin was, indeed, expecting steaks. If you've ever been presented with the unexpected "opportunity" of grocery shopping late in the day on Christmas eve, you can just imagine my joy.

ME: Do you send out greeting cards to your friends and family? Why or why not? What greeting do you like to see on the greeting cards you send? On the ones you receive?

ROBYN: A few years ago I took a hard look at the Christmas Card list; the cost of cards had gone up, postage was higher, the list was loooonnnngggg, and I realized I could easily spend far too much money when, the rest of the year, I never lick a stamp! So now, like everything else I do, it’s done on the Internet! It’s so easy for me to keep in touch by email! I have very few friends or family who aren’t computer savvy – for some of my close, older relatives who don’t want to use email, I give them a call.

SHERRYL: I love both sending and receiving cards. Because I have both Christian and Jewish friends, I like cards that wish people the joy of the season, because no matter one's faith, we can all celebrate that spirit of kindness and sharing. I try to write personal notes to everyone, though they may be short.

ME: Other than money (because who doesn’t want more of that), what would your ultimate gift be?


SHERRYL: I could sound like a Miss American contestant and say world peace, because that truly does matter to me. However, that's not likely to be tucked under my tree. For me the ultimate gift is one that shows me that the giver thought about it and knows me. Those are the kind I try my best to give, as well. To my astonishment, a friend's favorite gift ever from me was a book of egg recipes and an egg slicer. I'd meant it as a joke, because he's impossible to buy for, but does love his egg salad.

Now, let’s get to your writing:

ME: Why the genre you write in? What was the draw for you?

ROBYN: I guess I write a novel that is a tender balance between women’s fiction and romance. The women’s fiction part deals with women’s issues – and there are many. MANY! I’ll never cover them all! And there is always a passionate romance in each book. My books, especially the Virgin River series, have also been called Small Town Dramas. And why? I wrote a short small town series – the Grace Valley series – and readers kept writing and asking for more, so I created a new small town series with Virgin River. I love working with an ensemble cast, with one central story but many supporting stories as well, and it’s easy to do with a small town drama.

SHERRYL: I love stories with emotional depth and happy endings. Those are the kind of books I've always read. I want to be uplifted. And I especially like to write about women who have loving relationships, strong friendships, interesting families and who can triumph over adversity. At the core of all our lives, those I believe are the things that matter.

ME: If you could describe your writing with a word or phrase, what would it be? Please delve into the core of your writing to tell us what word or phrase you want readers to take with them when they've finished reading your story.

ROBYN: Satisfaction! I’d like readers to find many things, of course – fun, humor, encouragement, positive solutions to difficult situations, comfort, inspiration – and it all adds up to closing the cover on that last page and giving a deep sigh of satisfaction. Ahhh, that was great! That’s what I’m ultimately shooting for.

SHERRYL: When readers finish one of my books, I hope they'll say, "I know those people" or "I'd like to know those people." I want my characters and plots to resonate with women. I know I've succeeded when I get passionate letters chastizing me for not giving some of them exactly what they wanted or letters pleading for more about the people I've created. What could be more rewarding than that?

ME: With the current movement to encourage people to give books as gifts, what, in your opinion, makes your story unique? What makes it stand out among all the others?

ROBYN: I hope it’s the integrity of the characters – that they are the kind of people a reader would wish to have as a good friend. When I’m working on a character, I’m NOT looking for the most clever twist on a dysfunctional person, but rather a character who, if he or she has problems or baggage, there is a solution that can be reached, a resolution by the end of the story that can restore that character to the positive, healthy person they wish to be. Of course there are villains in every story and I’m not trying to redeem them all, but I wish the main characters to be admirable.

SHERRYL: Since we're talking here about an anthology, That Holiday Feeling, with wonderful stories by Debbie Macomber and Robyn Carr, as well as my own, I think the recommendation is that all of us do our very best to capture the spirit of Christmas. It's the best thing about all of the special collections or gift books that come out this time of the year. For those of us immersed in the frantic hustle and bustle of the season, these stories will give readers a few moments to pause with a cup of cocoa and relax.

ME: Do you prefer throwing snowballs or serving hot cocoa? Does that show through in your writing? If so, how?

ROBYN: Oh – the hot cocoa, absolutely. And I hope that shows through. I’d like the reader to feel the embrace and support of a friend, a feeling that no matter how tough life can get, things can work out. Everything will be all right; everything will be as it should be.

SHERRYL: After growing up in Virginia and attending Ohio State, I discovered it was possible to be warm in February and immediately headed to Florida. Does that tell you how I feel about snow and cold? That said, I do absolutely love to sit inside on a snowy day with a cup of hot chocolate and a good book. I'm just relieved I don't have to do it very often and I absolutely never have to think about shoveling snow. Still, when it comes to Christmas, I think there should be snow, so "A Perfect Holiday" is set in Vermont.

ME: Who decides what your characters do, you or your muse? What kind of influence do you have over your story, or is the muse always the one stuffing the stocking?

ROBYN: It’s me. I get ideas that sometimes seem to come out of nowhere, but I call that a well-oiled imagination. At the end of the day if I’ve written a character who is difficult to understand, to empathize with, it’s on me.

SHERRYL: I once told a friend who'd called to see what I was doing that I was waiting for my characters to start talking to me. To which, he replied, "Please don't tell that to a mental health professional." At some point in every book, hopefully sooner rather than later, the characters take over and I just go along for the ride. Meantime, though, I get to be in charge. I don't have time to wait if the muse is having an off day.

ME: What character did you have the most fun creating and why?

ROBYN: Jack Sheridan, without a doubt! He, along with the Mel, the town midwife, anchor the Virgin River series, which means they appear in every story in a fundamental way. Mel is pretty stable, but Jack continually evolves and has some very entertaining character shifts. And from the beginning, although he’s a big, strong brute of a man, he lives to please his woman. He’s as much fun when he falls short as he is when he succeeds!

SHERRYL: I suppose one of my all-time favorite characters was Grandpa Harlan in the "And Baby Makes Three" mini-series I wrote for Silhouette Special Edition. In all he appeared in over a dozen books and I never tired of writing about him, though I suspect his family tired of his meddling.

ME: If you had the opportunity to meet just one of your characters in real life, who would it be and why?

ROBYN: I’m working on my eleventh Virgin River story – by now the characters I’ve grown to love are too many to count! Every time I’m working on a new book, I’m in love with the men and stand in total admiration of the women, and those are just the main characters! There is such a fun supporting cast as well – I could never choose one! It’s kind of like picking a favorite child!

SHERRYL: I think it might be Kevin Patrick Daniels in Amazing Gracie, which is being reissued at the end of December. If I'd ever met anyone as sexy, thoughtful and exasperating as he is, I'd have snapped him up long before Gracie came to town.

ME: Which of your characters would you never want to meet under any circumstance and why?

ROBYN: Plenty of those to choose from too! I wouldn’t want to meet Wes Lassiter, a sociopathic abuser. To make myself feel a little better about creating him, I let Jack beat the stuffing out of him. Smile.

SHERRYL: Paul Hammond, the abusive ex-husband in the final book in the Sweet Magnolias series, Honeysuckle Summer, in stores next June. Though he drives the plot of the book, thank goodness he's not actually around for most of it. The hero, Carter Rollins, more than makes up for this arrogant, awful man who came close to ruining Raylene's life.

ME: If you could give any of your characters a Christmas gift, who would it be and what would you get them?

ROBYN: I would give Ellie Baldwin, the young mother who appears in Forbidden Falls, a love and security she could trust for a lifetime. And trust me, I am tying the bow on that gift!

SHERRYL: I'd set them all up with the perfect mate. Then again, that's what I try to do.

ME: If you could be any Christmas Character, who would it be and why?

ROBYN: I would be Annie MacKenzie from Under The Christmas Tree – a solid, feet on the ground farm girl who is quick to laugh; she’s a good sport, a fantastic friend, a supportive daughter and a great catch!

SHERRYL: Santa Claus. I absolutely love seeing the joy on the faces of kids when they see those lights sparkling and those presents under the tree on Christmas morning.

Thanks for great interview ladies!

I hope all of you enjoyed reading the answers as much as I did!

Don't forget to look for these books this holiday season:

Forbidden Falls   Amazing Gracie

For more information on these authors, please check out their websites:

3 Moonbeams (comments):

Kathleen O said...

Ladies, this was an a delightful interview... Robyn and Sherryl are two of my all time favourite authors..Your stories of Christmas have given me some Christmas spirit of which I am lacking this year.. because of family and health problems, but I think maybe I am going to put up a few decorations and just enjoy the season.. Keep those VR books coming Robyn and Sherryl I am looking forward to re-reading Amazing Grace..

Carrie thank you so much for asking these two wonderful wrtiers to share with us..

Carrie said...

Hi Kathleen! Thanks for stopping by today! I know it might be tough this year, but hang in there! We're all pulling for you here and at Jack's Bar!

Thanks for reminding me, I forgot to update the virtual prize! It's a stocking for this week!

Diana L Smith said...

Thanks Carrie for interviewing two of my favs as authors and booksI love go. It was interesting to read their answers to your questions and to wonder what we would answer ourselves.
I love the VR books and can't wait for the new ones. And also any new books that Sherryl releases. This season is a little difficult with all the things going on but the chatgroups and the wonderful people on them help to make the days go by better.
Thanks again for the great interviews and I missed DM as well. I have read her the longest of the three.