Feb 17, 2013

Meet Sandra Antonelli!

Sandra Antonelli's first book, A Basic Renovation, has just come out with Escape Publishing, so I asked her if she'd drop by and say hello.

Welcome, Sandra! So glad you could visit us here at the LoveCats.

Thank you for having me! I’m absolutely tickled to be here!

Tell us a bit about New Mexico, where A Basic Renovation is set.

Bear with me on this. New Mexico is in the Southwestern part of the USA. One might think that means desert, but the Rocky Mountains move through the centre of the state, and while there are portions that are desert, the mountains are lush and green—and surrounded by mesas vistas that make you think of cowboy movies—in fact lots of cowboy movies are filmed in New Mexico. 

The town Los Alamos has a secret past. It was once the site of a ranch school for boys (the author Gore Vidal went there) before the location was taken over by the US government during WWII. The town then became the site of the Manhattan Project, the secret mission to build the world’s first nuclear bombs, Fat Man and Little Boy. If you lived or worked in the town, or were married to someone who worked in the town, you needed ID to get in. There was a guard tower and military police. All the mail went down to one location in Santa Fe. 

After the war, the town was ‘declassified’ and became the site of the government run Los Alamos National Laboratory, a nuclear research facility that still operates. Oddly enough, Los Alamos has the highest concentration of people holding PhDs per capita (this actually relates to your next question). It is a lovely town in the ‘middle of nowhere’ as it is 45 minutes to the closest city, Santa Fe. I had family living in Los Alamos. The town is peaceful, breath-takingly beautiful, and one would never know that classified nuclear research goes on behind all nature’s splendor.

A Basic Renovation is a contemporary rom-com and it’s about… Hang on, I’ll post the blurb:


When it comes down to it, rats in the oven trumps Lesley’s desire to never set eyes on another Brennan family member. So Lesley, a pro at property redevelopment, scrambles to Dominic Brennan’s hardware store for supplies. 

Dominic knows poison — rat and otherwise — and he sees it in Lesley. The woman ruined his brother’s life. Now that she’s back in town, Dominic’s afraid she’ll drag up the past, the secrets, and the pain. They clash immediately, but mix in a teenage boy, a puppy, some white paint, and some loud music, and what starts as cold fury transforms into a nuclear attraction. 

This basic renovation becomes a major life refurbishment for them both.

Where did the idea for such a fun plot come from?

Again, I have to give more background about Los Alamos. A bush fire back in 2000 swept through the town. The little city of 18,000 was evacuated. Over 400 homes were destroyed. I visited shortly after that (with a video camera) and went through one neighbourhood where every house had burnt down—except for one. Someone—the owner I’m guessing—had put at sign out in front of that house. The sign said: Last One Standing. I saw that sign and knew I had the makings of a story. I knew I’d have to have that house, a character with a PhD, and something about fire, and Los Alamos’ nuclear history. Love can feel pretty fiery and atomic sometimes.

I love that your characters are a little older than the average romance hero and heroine. Dominic and Lesley are fully rounded and come with life experiences that make them interesting and relatable. Why did you choose to write about characters their age?

Somewhere around 30, I got tired of reading about characters in their 20s. To be honest, I couldn’t quite relate to twenty-somethings when I was in my 20s because they didn’t have enough life experience to be interesting to me—unless it was in historical romance where age was bound by the era when the novel took place. But I had a preference for reading contemporary romance, and as I got older I realised people in their 30s and 40s and 50s were still out there looking for love, still making mistakes, still trying to get life right. 

It also annoyed me that if I wanted to read about a female protagonist with more life experience and a little bit more age mileage while she was finding love, I was suddenly directed to Women’s Fiction, where romance was more of a subplot rather than THE plot. My choice was to keep on bitching about it, or to write the sort of story I wanted to read. That’s what I did with A Basic Renovation.

You say you write ‘Quirky Romance Novels for Grown Ups…and Smart Asses’. What’s that about?

The grown up part is easy. I write older characters finding love for the first, second or third time. The smart-ass part…I think that says more about me and my sense of humour. I’m part 13 year-old boy, part sarcastic woman. I like irreverent, out of place or black humour. People look at me and see a petite blonde with a high, thin voice, and little kid feet, all of which supposedly means I couldn’t possibly cuss or be sarcastic or smart-assy. Maybe smart-ass is the way I counteract the behaviour expected of me. Maybe I have a Napoleon complex.

We’re always looking for book recommendations here at the LoveCats – what’s the last romance you read that you loved?

It was an Historical—Jo Goodman’s The Last Renegade. By the way, Rachel, did you know Jo Goodman has a heroine named Rachel Bailey in Never Love A Lawman?

Actually, I have seen that! I must get a copy. Thanks for dropping by to chat about your book, Sandra - it's been fun. :)

If you'd like to check A Basic Renovation out, you can get it at Amazon (for the ridiculously low price of $0.99), Amazon UK, iTunes, Google Play, Kobo, or from the Escape site. Or check out her website for more interesting snippets.

So, now I'm wondering - what do you all think about women in their 40's being the star of romance novels. Would you read one? Or do you prefer your heroines in their 20's and 30's?


  1. Welcome to the Lovecats, Sandra! Firstly I'll have to download A Basic Renovation as soon as I've finished here. I want to know more about that town, and that couple. I'm looking forward to reading a sassy take-no-prisoners heroine!
    I must confess, I like romances with any aged heroine. When they are younger, it's nice to remember that innocence and how we can become susceptible to it again later in life. I love to read about heroine's around my age who know who they are, or know who they want to be, at least! I even love love stories that have a focus on older couples. Makes me all misty. Makes me think: that's what I still want to have when I'm eighty.
    Thanks for the great post!

  2. Lovely to have you visit the LoveCats, Sandra! Like Robbie, I'm going to have to dash out and download a copy of A Basic Renovation asap.

    I love older heroines in romances. I find women who have life experience so much more interesting than their younger counterparts (probably because that's where I am in my life too lol). Innocence is lovely, but with experience comes power. And I like power. :-)

    Hmm, am wondering now if I need to put Los Alamos on my bucket list.

  3. Hi Sandra! Lovely to meet you! Thanks for giving us the low-down on your book, it sounds like a fabulous read. I'm happy to read heroines of any age, but reading about someone 'like me', as in your story, sounds fresh and fun. I'm heading over to download it now!

  4. Hi Sandra, this book sounds intriguing and so does the setting - wow! How fascinating. I love the fact that a place inspired the story in that way. Isn't it interesting what varied things will spark story ideas?

    I like a bit of variety in my romances so definitely an older hero and heroine appeal. There's so much more to grapple with in a character who's experienced a lot, don't you find?

    Welcome to the LoveCats. I hope you enjoy visiting enough to drop by again.

  5. Sandra is having some problems commenting - blogger won't let her in. :( But she wants to say:

    Thank you Rachel, Robyn, Michelle, Louisa and Annie! You're keeping me inspired to keep on writing my women!

  6. Thank you Rachel, Robyn, Michelle, Louisa and Annie! You're keeping me inspired to keep on writing my women!

  7. Sandra, you made it! And then we posted at the same time. :)

    You know, there was a Desire a few years ago with an older couple - it was part of a continuity and they were the divorced parents of some of the other characters who had already had their own books. It was *fabulous*. Must hunt up the title and author...

  8. Oh, please do, Rachel. I'd love to read it!

  9. So, I found the book after a little searching on the intewebs: Marriage Terms by Barbara Dunlop, part of The Elliots mini-series.

    Their two adult sons have already had their own books in the mini-series, and Amanda and Daniel haven't seen each other in 15 years, so this couple has to be in their 40s.

    It was a really cool book, but then I always love Barbara Dunlop's books.

  10. I quite like older couples finding love but my first love is always first love. Not too many 40 year old virgins ;). I don't think I was ever that young and innocent so I enjoy the fantasy element. More mature couples tend to be more real life and that's what I try to avoid when reading for leisure. That said I have Basic Renovations downloaded on my TBR.

  11. I owe you my extra copy of Never Love A Lawman (The Rachel Bailey heroine) for the info on Dunlop's Marriage Terms!

  12. Fiona, first love is so special - I can see why it's your favourite!

  13. It must be the name but one of BARBARA Hannay's romances featured an 40ish couple--brought together as grandparents. It's called Adopted: Outback Baby. I had it (my mother stole it from me...must get it back).

  14. P.S. Sandra, I meant to add that I wasn't inferring that you should change your name to Barbara, at all. ;-)

  15. Michelle, that sounds like a fabulous read. Must track it down!

  16. So lovely to have you here, Sandra! I love the sound of A Basic Renovation and I especially love the red boots on your front cover {:o) The history of Los Alamos is fascinating. Coincidentally my brand new neighbours are from New Mexico so it's been a topic of conversation in our get-togethers.

  17. Thank you, Ms DeLeo! Please ask your new neighbours if they miss green chile as much as I do.

  18. LOL, Sandra! Green chile came up in the very first conversation and Nicole came running over the other day saying she's found a place that sells it online here! Must try it.

  19. OMG, Ms DeLeo! Will you please ask them for the web address for me? My chile supply is dwindling!