Today is a special day for the LoveCats DownUnder. First we need to bid a very fond adieu to dear Melanie Milburne, who has been such an active LoveCat. Melanie, thank you for being such a big part of the group. We'll miss you, but we're so glad you'll be popping back from time to time even though now you're technically 'In the Wild'! We wish you everything good.
Today also marks the arrival of our newest LoveCat, Clare Connelly. Welcome Clare! That means it's party time, so relax, pour yourself a glass of bubbly or a cup of tea or whatever takes your fancy and help us celebrate.
Clare grew up in an Australian country town where she says stories and story telling were a huge part of her childhood. She styles herself a romance devotee, reading everything from Jane Austen to Georgette Heyer, and from Mills and Boon to the Fifty Shades trilogy. She wrote her first romance at the age of fifteen! More recently she's become a highly successful category romance author with 43 self published titles and seven anthologies published since 2014. Clare has recently signed a contract with Harlequin Mills and Boon (you can buy her first book now!) and will be busy writing for Harlequin while continuing her indie career. And we're all exhausted just thinking of so many books published in such a short space of time!
Clare kindly participated in an interview so you can get to know her better:
I read Harlequin Series voraciously growing up, and a lot of them were older ones. My mum is an antique dealer and, as children, my sisters and I were trotted around to all the antique markets and garage sales and charity shops, and we would spend the time it took her to browse out treasures selecting books. I was always drawn to Mills & Boons, and particularly loved the powerful stories of the eighties and nineties. I was, and remain, a devoted reader of Emma Darcy, Penny Jordan, Sarah Morgan, Valerie Parv, amongst about a billion others! In terms of wanting to write, it wasn't a conscious decision, so much as an ever-present desire to meddle in the worlds of the characters' that I was reading about. I suppose I have that control-freak gene that likes to take hold of the narrative and move it in the direction I want! I began writing romance novels at thirteen, and finished my first full manuscript at fifteen. I found then, and still find now, that I am never happier than when diving into the world of my people, layering a story onto their lives, and steering them towards their happily ever after.
Do you have a favourite romance trope?
I love sexy contemporary romance novels, and read almost all tropes. I need well-drawn characters and convincing motivation, and am a sucker for a really, really 'how the hell are they going to work this out?' angsty conflict. I think second-chance-at-love books are very compelling because there can be such a strong history of hurt and pain which brings the tension into it right from the first page. I love marriage of convenience books too, and who doesn't love a secret baby!?
What do you most enjoy about writing category books? What’s the hardest part?
Writing category is an art form. There's a huge emotional journey to pack into a relatively modest word count, and romance readers are discerning! They want to know their characters, to get their motivations, to be moved by their story. I love the pace of a category – there's no room for fluff. You need to tell a great story without getting bogged down in unnecessary detail. I also love the guaranteed happily ever after. Life, real life, can be such a dark and gloomy place at times. There is always happiness to be found in the pages of a category romance – it's my favourite part about writing these stories.
What category romance are you hoping to read next?
I buy most of the Mills & Boon Sexy titles each month and am really looking forward to the current selection, in particularly Michelle Conder's THE ITALIAN'S VIRGIN ACQUISITION. The cover is so pretty!
Do you share your life with anyone furred, feathered or scaled? If so we’d love to hear about them.
My husband wouldn't really appreciate the description but, speaking of furry, he is sporting a phenomenal beard at the moment! He's growing it to raise funds for SHAVE-FREE FOR CALVING, a charitable initiative started by our Kiwi farming family, who raise funds each year for the NZ Rural Farming Trust – which helps farmers dealing with the hardships of life on the land during the really tough times (including with much-needed psychological support). I know that's not what you meant but I'm so proud of the good work my Kiwi family is doing... and they have about two hundred cows. I'd love to get a Labrador one day, but my little human puppies take up most of my spare time at present. Full-time school for both next year and then we'll see!
Finally, can you share one fact about yourself we might not already know?
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was twenty six years old. My husband and I had been travelling through Europe and both picked up a really nasty virus. The theory is that my immune system fought the virus off and then attacked the beta cells in my pancreas, meaning I don’t make insulin of my own. I now wear an insulin pump 24/7 which does a fairly decent job of simulating the real deal. It’s far more common to develop the disease when you’re under ten years old, so I think I was pretty lucky to make it so far into my twenties ‘unscathed’. Although I’m on insulin, I still try to make the disease easier to manage by sticking to a relatively healthy diet – though wine and chocolate are two of my vices I always have to guard against!
Also, I’m completely Christmas mad. I love it. I start listening to carols around September, and we put our tree up on the 1st of November each year, so that we get about six weeks of it in the lounge. BUT I have to pull it straight down on Boxing day or it depresses me too much. The kids and I make gingerbread houses together each year – as they’ve got older they’ve had more interest in the creative process which has resulted in some, interesting, constructions, but it’s always good fun!
Thanks so much, Clare! How terrific to end with a photo of Santa's helpers with the gingerbread!
Now for our traditional mega-giveaway to celebrate the arrival of a new LoveCat.
Just leave a comment on this post and you will be entered in the prize draws. Winners will be announced in our Sunday Smooch post on Sunday 1 October.
ONE WINNER will receive a fabulous bundle of Mills and Boon paperbacks direct from Mills and Boon Australia! Note, this prize is for delivery in Australia. Please mention in your comment if you're in Australia so you can go in this draw.
TWO WINNERS (from anywhere in the world!) will EACH receive from:
- Michelle Douglas, a signed copy of ‘Sarah and the Secret Sheikh’
- Shannon Curtis, a signed copy of ‘Warrior Untamed’
- Bronwyn Jameson, a London Love Cats Treat
- Stefanie London, a signed copiy of ‘Mr Dangerously Sexy’
- Rachel Bailey. an ecopy of ‘The Finn Factor’
- Amy Andrews, a signed copy of ‘A Christmas Miracle’
|Clare's newest title!|
- Annie West, a signed copy of ‘His Majesty’s Temporary Bride’
- Kandy Shepherd, a signed copy of ‘Conveniently Wed to the Greek’
- Helen Lacey, a signed copy of ‘The Rancher’s Unexpected Family’
- Ally Blake, an ecopy of ‘Kiss Me Quick’
- Sue Mackay, a signed copy of ‘Falling For Her Fake Fiancee’
- Jennifer St George, an ecopy of 'Wild for You'.