Monday, March 30, 2009

Stand-In Groom by Kaye Dacus

Three years ago, Kaye and I sat at the same table during the American Christian Fiction Writer’s awards banquet, waiting and worrying. I don’t know about her, but it was hard to eat the delicious meal the staff at our hotel served us. We had both finalled in the Genesis contest and that night they’d announce the winners. The third place place winner walked forward first. Neither of our names were called. Then, the second place winner was announced. Kaye!!! This year, that same book released on January 1st through Barbour Publishing with the new title of Stand-In Groom. Congratulations, Kaye!!

This is book one of the Brides of Benneterre series.

Here’s Kaye’s bio:

Kaye Dacus is an author and editor who has been writing fiction for more than twenty years. A former Vice President of American Christian Fiction Writers, Kaye enjoys being an active ACFW member and the fellowship and community of hundreds of other writers from across the country and around the world that she finds there. She currently serves as President of Middle Tennessee Christian Writers, which she co-founded in 2003 with three other writers. Each month, she teaches a two-hour workshop on an aspect of the craft of writing at the MTCW monthly meeting. But her greatest joy comes from mentoring new writers through this very blog and seeing them experience those “aha” moments when a tricky concept becomes clear.

What's not to love about the cover for Stand-In Groom? Here’s a blurb:

Get ready to attend the quirkiest wedding ever in this delightful romance by Kaye Dacus, a new voice in women's contemporary fiction. When wedding planner Anne Hawthorne first meets George Laurence, she thinks she's found the man of her dreams. But when she discovers he's a client, she knows planning his wedding will be no honeymoon. Can Anne remain professional while falling for the groom? Or will she risk her heart, her values, and her career in the midst of planning the wedding of the century?

I enjoyed this book a lot. Before I get to my review, here is an interview with Kaye:

Tell us a little about yourself and when you start writing.

I’ve heard a lot of people who say they started writing stories when they were in elementary school. When I was that young, I wasn’t a writer—I hated writing, as a matter of fact. I made up plenty of stories, but they were acted out with my Barbie dolls or in my imagination as I played outside—other people, other places, other times all came alive in my mind’s-eye and I didn’t mind playing by myself. In fact, I rather preferred it, because then I didn’t have to explain to anyone else what I was envisioning and try to get them to play along the way the story went in my head.

As an adolescent, I started to read voraciously. My fancy turned to romance novels and by the age of twelve, I was reading one or two historical romance novels a week—mostly YA, but some adult fiction in there, too. These books grew in me not only a love for history, but a love for story telling because they inspired me to write. I wasn’t content with a kiss and a happily-ever-after ending. I wanted to know what happened the next day, the next year, the next decade. So the first writing I ever did was around fourteen years old when I started writing “sequels” to my favorite books. This, then, inspired me to start putting some of those stories that were always running through my head down on paper.

That experience—realizing I could put words down on paper and express the stories that I’d always had within me—opened a flood-gate; and for the last two decades, I’ve never stopped writing.

I did not seriously begin to pursue writing for publication, however, until 2001, when I attended my first writers’ conference and joined ACFW. But I’ve always known that writing stories was my future, especially after taking my first Creative Writing class as a senior in high school.

I saw in your bio that you earned a Master of Arts in Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University. I didn’t know such a program existed. Sounds specialized and helpful. Tell us about that.

Stand-In Groom was, in fact, my master's thesis novel. The Writing Popular Fiction graduate program at Seton Hill is unique--it is the only graduate-level creative writing program in the country that focuses on teaching the craft of writing genre fiction rather than literary fiction--Romance, SciFi/Fantasy, Horror, Mystery, Children's/YA, etc. It's an intensive program that takes a lot of time and commitment, but well worth it. The goal of the program is for the student to write, as their thesis, a full-length, "publish-ready" manuscript. While not every graduate of the program goes on to be published, a large percentage does; and amongst those are winners of major writing awards including the RITA, the Christy, the Daphne, the Bram Stoker Award for Fiction, and many more.

What inspired Stand-In Groom and Menu for Romance?

Characters are usually where a story begins for me; and Anne, the main character in Stand-In Groom, came to me after watching the movie The Wedding Planner many, many years ago. I didn’t like the fact that for the movie to have a happy ending, it meant the breakup of an engaged couple. I wanted to write a character who had higher ethics than that—both in the heroine and in the hero. But I didn’t want my hero to actually be engaged to someone else.

The character of George Laurence was inspired by the actor Peter Wingfield, whom I loved in the Highlander TV series. I wanted a hero who, while romantic and strong, wasn’t necessarily a “ruler of the world” kind of man. I wanted him to be the kind of guy who has to take orders from someone else, sometimes whether he wants to or not. He’s a second banana pretending to be the top banana. Oh, and I have a thing for men with British accents, so of course, he had to be British.

Because Meredith and Major were both secondary characters in Stand-In Groom, it was natural to choose them for the follow-up, Menu for Romance. Major's character, being a chef, was inspired by my love of (addiction to?) the Food Network and the reality/competition show Top Chef.

Will these two be the only ones in the series?

I'm currently writing the third book in the series, A Case for Love, which features Forbes Guidry--Anne Hawthorne's "controlling" cousin. Forbes will meet his match in TV Society Reporter Alaine Delacroix when he has to decide if he'll risk losing his job and alienating himself from his family to work with Alaine to help bring a lawsuit against his parents' corporation to keep them from forcing Alaine's parents and dozens of other family-owned companies out of business so they can build a major retail shopping center.

Tell us about the other book pictured on your website.

The Ransome Trilogy is a romantic historical series set in 1814. The first book, Ransome's Honor, will be out in early July. Here's a first-look at the back cover copy:

When young Julia Witherington doesn’t receive the proposal for marriage she expects from William Ransome, she determines to never forgive him. They go their separate ways—she returns to her family’s Caribbean plantation, and he returns to the Royal Navy.

Now, twelve years later, Julia is about to receive a substantial inheritance, including her beloved plantation. When unscrupulous relatives try to gain the inheritance by forcing her into a marriage, she turns to the only eligible man to whom her father, Admiral Sir Edward Witherington, will not object—his most trusted captain and the man who broke Julia’s heart, William Ransome. Julia offers William her thirty-thousand-pound dowry to feign marriage for one year, but then something she never imagined happens: She starts to fall in love with him again.

Can two people overcome their hurt, reconcile their conflicting desires, and find a way to be happy together? Duty and honor, faith and love are intertwined in this intriguing tale from the Regency era.

What was the process like for you getting published with this novel and was it the first one you’ve ever written?

I started writing Stand-In Groom (originally entitled Happy Endings Inc.) in 2003. After several restarts (rewriting the first ten chapters three times!), I finally finished the manuscript in May 2005—it was officially my fourth complete manuscript. Because it was my master’s thesis for graduate school, over the next year, it went through four revisions before it was complete in June 2006. In September 2006, it placed 2nd in the contemporary romance category of the Genesis contest. I submitted it to a couple of agents, and signed with Chip MacGregor a few months later. Then, at the 2007 ACFW conference, my only appointment was with Rebecca Germany. Chip and I couldn’t remember if Barbour had gotten back to us on the proposal we’d submitted earlier in the year, so I talked to her about it in that appointment. A few weeks later, she asked for the full manuscript; so after one more revision, we submitted it in mid-October. After that, it wasn’t very long before we had the contract!

What are your dreams in publishing?

My biggest dream is to be able to continue writing, to continue doing what it is that I love doing above all else, to continue writing the stories God puts on my heart and in some small way be part of His plan for touching people's hearts.

Thank you, Kaye. I loved learning all that background info. You are one busy writer!! Two series at a time, both historical and contemporary. Fantastic.

And now, my review:

Kaye has a way with words. Her writing is fresh, and her idea was one I hadn’t seen lately. I’m glad it was a full-length read. And I loved the cover!! Her next cover is just as yummy. Speaking of yummy, Kaye included a lot of scenes regarding food. Gourmet meals, Louisiana fare, even a comment about sucking crawfish heads. (Whatever that means—I’m certain I don’t wanna know.) Her British hero came across as warm, likable and, well, British. And her heroine, Anne, was relatable, professional, successful, and classy, yet flawed. I’m excited to watch Kaye’s writing career launch, and I’m glad it’s with a series. When it becomes available, I’ll review “Menu for Romance” on this blog as well. That’s book two in the Brides of Bonneterre series. Can’t wait. Readers who enjoy romance, fresh prose and food (grin) will enjoy this read. Bravo, Kaye!

Thanks for dropping by, Kaye. We wish you all the best!

Readers, check out Kaye’s website for more information:

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