I got to sit down with my darling friend Elizabeth to chat Nicole Kidman, the Underground Railroad and her new release, Bootleg Love Affair!
When did you realize or decide you wanted to be a writer?
For as long as I’ve been reading, I’ve been writing. My first poem was published in my grade school literary magazine, and I’ve been writing poems and stories ever since. I made a few detours between that first publication and now, but the journey has made me a better writer.
What has been your best experience as an author so far?
Finding the writing community that is Romancelandia. I always used to think that writing had to be a solitary experience. To a certain extent it is, but beyond the act of putting words on the page, I’ve found this vibrant community of writers who have helped me grow as a writer and as a person in countless ways.
What sort of challenges have you faced as a writer? How did you overcome them?
As every other writer does, I’ve faced rejection. Despite positive feedback from a number of editors and agents I kept getting the same type of rejection. They all like my story or my characters, but couldn’t figure out how they would sell my work. It was disheartening to hear professionals tell me that I was talented, but not marketable.
That’s when I decided to self-publish. It’s an amazing time to be a writer and there’s so much information out there to help writers find the road that works best for them. Self-publishing has helped me learn a lot about the craft and business of writing. Every day brings a new challenge, but that’s one of the things I love about being an author.
How do you research and plan your books? Do you find outlining helps or hinders your process?
Outlines give me hives. Every time I’ve tried to outline a story, the partial outline has ended up in a drawer somewhere. I start the story with whatever triggered the idea, sometimes it’s a question about a character, sometimes it’s a plot point. Whatever it is usually leads me to my hero and heroine and then I go from there.
In terms of research, it depends on the series. Gridiron Knights involves college football, so I relied a lot on my brother, who played college football, to help me with the details. I also watched the Netflix series, Last Chance U, which involves junior college football. Since I don’t outline, I will find points that need research along the way. Some ideas require more research ahead of the first draft than others.
Have you learned anything really cool or interesting while researching your books? What’s been the weirdest research you’ve ever had to do?
I’ve learned a lot of cool things. I don’t know if I can pick just one. I had a lot of fun researching talking parrots for this book. The weirdest research I’ve done so far is about the different causes of food poisoning and how long it takes to develop symptoms.
What advice would you give to new writers in the field?
Read your genre. I think every writer needs to know what’s happening currently in their genre and I’m a firm believer that the best writers are also readers.
Tell us a little about your writing nook! Favorite tea/coffee/writing snack?
My nook is in flux at the moment. My official office is in the design phase. Right now, I have a writing table that I pull out to use on the couch. I usually write first thing in the morning, so I have a cup of vanilla flavored coffee while I get going.
Of all of your own characters, who would you most want to date?
That’s a tough one. I love all my characters for so many reasons. If I had to pick, I’d have to say Boomer, the hero from my latest release. He’s all about building safe spaces for the people he loves.
What project are you currently working on?
I’m working on two books at the moment. I’m in revisions on Book 6 in the Gridiron Knights series, Loving the Lineman and I’m drafting Book 1 in the King’s Folly series, which is turning out to be a prequel for the Gridiron Knights series.
What’s next for you?
I’d originally planned the Gridiron Knights series to be about 12 books long, then I was going to move on to another world. Little did I know my characters had other ideas. The world has grown and so, I’m going to hunker down here for a while. There are so many characters popping up all over the place demanding I tell their stories. There are the coaches at the center of Gridiron Knights, and the folks that live in the college town where Gridiron Knights takes place, King’s Folly. I’ve characters showing up at rival universities, and I’ve even got an all-girl Nu Metal rock band about to go on their first major tour.
When her physics teacher gave her detention for reading a romance novel during class, Elizabeth Spaur knew she was destined to be a romance writer. Her journey from physics class to published author has gone from coast to coast and led her through multiple industries, including film and television, banking and the law.
Every step along the way has enriched her life and helped her tell stories that always come with a happily ever after and, usually, a side of snark. Elizabeth writes contemporary, historical and paranormal romance. She lives with the love of her life and two pairs of cats and dogs, all of whom are named after television crime fighters. She enjoys hearing from her readers at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Book
Tell us a little about your new release, Bootleg Love Affair!
Bootleg Love Affair is book 5 in the Gridiron Knights series, which takes place at Cormac University in South Carolina. The Cormac football program was sanctioned to the brink of extinction and an audacious plan was hatched to bring it back.
A group of retired coaches come out of retirement to train the next generation of coaches, all men, and women who served in the military, to take over and rebuild the program with honor. Boomer Hale is one of the new coaches and when he arrives in town for his new job he meets Delilah Derringer, who’s a local with an attitude for days.
Where did your inspiration for the book come from?
This one started when I watched the movie To Die For with Nicole Kidman and Matt Dillon. I was watching it and I asked myself, what would a man do if his wife hatched an elaborate scheme to have him killed and he survived the attack. That’s how I met Boomer. His wife tried to have him murdered and he survived a bullet to the head and the ultimate betrayal.
Did you outline the story, or dive right in?
I dove right in. I had the character of Boomer in my head for a long time. Delilah introduced herself when I wrote book 1 in the series and then I knew they were going to be my hero and heroine in book 5.
How did your characters come to life?
Boomer’s been in my head for years. Delilah started to evolve after book 1. These two sort of grew together in my head as I wrote books 1 through 4. When I finally got to the business of telling their story, they really took over and showed me who they were.
Did you do any cool or interesting research for this story? What did you learn?
A big part of the story involves Delilah getting her ancestral home back from the villain of King’s Folly. When they begin renovations, they find a hidden room, which was used as a depot for The Underground Railroad.
I did a lot of research on The Underground Railroad and read the biography of a woman named Laura Haviland. She was an abolitionist, suffragette and social reformer who established the first Underground Railroad station in Michigan. She traveled to the South to help people who were enslaved find freedom and risked being arrested and imprisoned under The Fugitive Slave laws. I was constantly amazed at how she kept moving forward and never backed down from doing the right thing.
What was your favorite part of working on this story? What was the most challenging?
Boomer gets adopted by a talking parrot, Monty, who has a movie or tv quote for just about every occasion. He was a lot of fun to write. The most challenging thing about this story was writing characters recovering from trauma. Boomer is recovering from a traumatic brain injury and he has a lot of coping mechanisms he uses to stay on top of things while he works to improve his cognitive and physical health. Delilah had a severe trauma, which she relives on the page. It was difficult to write because I needed to stay true to the story, but I didn’t want to be gratuitous with her pain.
What’s next for this story – is it part of a series? When does it come out?
Bootleg Love Affair is book 5 in the Gridiron Knights series. It’s a stand-alone HEA, but I admit there are some things going on in the background that would be clearer if the series was read from the beginning. It was released on June 25, so it’s available in e-book on most platforms. The print version will be coming out later this year.
“Book ‘em Dano.” Monty rubbed against Boomer, just above his ear.
Who knew birds could be cuddlers? “We’re not there yet, buddy.”
They were a long way from a lot things. Like solving the current mystery facing the football program and Boomer being able to live his life without cheat sheets and note boards.
But the days since his injury had been filled with more reasons to be grateful for survival than regretful of it.
When he’d woken up from his coma his memories were spotty at best. Gradually, the holes started to fill in and the problem became making new memories. For a long time, it seemed like every step forward had come with two steps backward.
The backwards motion hadn’t stopped all together, but these days it felt like the forward momentum had more force than the backward. He’d take that.
His doctors all told him he was nearing the end of the tunnel. Gratitude washed through him for where he was now. Light years away from the poor bastard that woke up in the hospital with a hole in his brain and a wife going to prison for helping to put it there.
His thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door.
“Danger, Will Robinson.” Monty leapt off Boomer’s shoulder then flew out of the room.
Boomer pulled his Smith & Wesson out of his holster and padded slowly to his bedroom. The cameras were up and running and captured the gorgeous Delilah Derringer standing on his front porch.
What the hell?
He holstered his sidearm. It was tempting to stay here and wait her out. Somehow, he knew that wasn’t an option. She struck him as the perseverant type.
Might as well get this over with.
Monty was nowhere in sight as Boomer strode down the hall to answer the door. Before he could get there, she knocked again.
“I’m coming.” He answered the door.
“Welcome wagon.” She held up a box.
“My afternoon plans did not go as smoothly as I wanted them to.” She shrugged. “I bake when I’m frustrated. I thought you might like some cupcakes.”
He stared at the white box with a blue and green bow.
“It’s not going to bite you.” The humor in her voice rolled across his skin like a cool breeze.
This was uncharted territory. Women didn’t show up on his doorstep with cupcakes. Even when he’d been a hot shot football player. A murky memory of his mother surfaced. She would smack him upside the head and scold him about his manners.
He stepped back. “Come in.”
She stepped past him and glanced around. “Love what you’ve done with the place,” she drawled.
He hadn’t done anything but beef up the security. One look at the tilt of her lips told him she knew the front room of the cabin didn’t look any different than it had looked before he moved in.
“Here.” She handed him the cupcakes.
He stared down at them. “Thanks?”
His mother would have words for him if she knew he was being rude to a guest. Even though she was a few states away, Boomer was positive her radar had just kicked in and she was trying to sense which one of her children needed a talking to. She proudly claimed she was psychic when it came to her babies.
“I’m a great baker.” Delilah wandered into the kitchen.
He had no choice but to follow her. “What are you doing here?”
“Being neighborly.” She smiled as she sauntered through the kitchen like she was the one that lived there.
“We’re not neighbors.” The cabin was at the edge of a national forest. His nearest neighbor was miles away.
She smiled. “Not literally. But you’re in the south. That means everyone’s your neighbor, whether you like it or not.”
He’d grown up in Louisiana. This wasn’t news to him. It had just been a while since he’d seen it in action. “You make it sound like a horror movie.”
“Relax. It’s King’s Folly not Haddonfield.”
He laughed. How could he not? She was gorgeous, brash and knew her classic horror movies.
She cocked her head and looked at him. Her blue eyes assessing. “Were you hit in the head by a curling stone?”
It took him a second to register the new topic. “What?”
“You’re injury.” She waved her hand in his direction.
For the first time since he’d woken up from his coma someone talking about his injury didn’t make him want to put his fist through a wall. “No.”
She shrugged. Clearly unconcerned with his unwillingness to talk about it with her. “Let’s dish up some cupcakes and chat.”
Delilah stepped around the kitchen island to the counter next to the refrigerator. She opened the top cabinet and pulled plates out of the cupboard like she knew where everything was. Since most of the stuff in the kitchen had been here for a while, and she was friends with several of the previous occupants, she probably did.
“Did I invite you and not remember?” It wouldn’t be the first time.
Delilah turned to him. “That happen often?”
“You can relax. I’m just being pushy.” She set the plates on the table and some glasses of milk.
I had milk?
She indicated he should sit. “Besides, if you’d invited me, you’d remember.” She smiled. “I’m unforgettable.”
That he could believe. Her smile alone was tattooed on his brain. Boomer sat down. It was probably the smartest choice for him to go with the flow. Delilah seemed like the kind of person that would get to the point when she was good and ready.
She pushed the plate toward him. “This is a new recipe I’m trying. Tell me what you think and be honest.”
He stared at it. It was pink. Had he ever eaten anything that was pink? “I’m not much on sweets.”
“Perfect. It’s a lemon cupcake with a strawberry lemonade frosting.” She looked pleased with herself.
What did that have to do with anything? “Huh?”
“It’s a mix of sweet and tart. A little like me.” She winked.
“Okay.” For the first time in a long time he didn’t feel stupid. He had a feeling Albert Einstein couldn’t follow Delilah’s train of thought.
She huffed out a breath. “Just try it. Honestly, you’d think I was asking you to eat boiled slugs covered in fried worm fat.”
He blinked, not sure if he could eat anything now. “That’s an image.”
She laughed. “I promise. It won’t kill you.”
If a bullet to the head didn’t, he doubted her cupcake would. He picked up the little cake and stared at it some more before taking a bite. The flavors of lemon and strawberry exploded on his tongue. There was a hint of spice he couldn’t identify. It was almost gone in two bites.
She watched him with a smile on her face that was brighter than an emergency flare.
“What’s the spice?” He took the last bite and washed it down with some milk. Milk and cupcakes. How did his night end up like this?
She looked around like she expected someone to be listening. “A hint of black pepper.”
“I try to put just a little of a spicy flavor into the frosting, so it cuts the sweetness but doesn’t take over.” She pushed a second cupcake toward him.
“It’s good.” He grabbed the second dessert and ate it. It had been a while since he’d had home cooked anything. Besides, he was eating a snack, not asking her to go steady.
“Excellent. This recipe goes on the menu.” She smiled.
To distract himself from the way that smile made him feel, he tried to figure out where Monty might have disappeared to. He glanced over his shoulder then back at her. “What menu?”
“My bakery. I’m opening as soon as the renovations are done at Derringer House, and I want to be ready.”
“What do I have to do with it?” He still wasn’t sure why she’d shown up on his doorstep.
“I’ve been pushing desserts on my friends for a while. I need new input.”
He leaned back in his chair. “You want me to taste your food?” Was that code for something else?
“Among other things.” She waggled her eyebrows.
He held up a hand. “You seem nice, but I’m not interested in getting involved with anyone right now.”
Her laughter drifted around the room and wrapped around him like a hug. He imagined fairies must sound like her when they’re happy.
Where did that come from?
“You don’t have to worry about that. I just wrapped up a divorce that’s messier than a pack of dogs in a mud pit. I’m so gun shy even my vibrator looks suspicious to me.”
He blinked. The thought of her and a vibrator together sent a jolt up his spine and to his groin. Her presence seemed to resurrect that part of him, and he kind of wished it had stayed dead. There was no way he was going to do anything about it. Not for the foreseeable future.
“I get that.” His divorce had left him scars he never wanted to explain.
“Ugly divorce?” She commiserated.
She clapped her hands. “Perfect.”
“What?” A nasty split was perfect? Was she high?
“Here’s the thing. Ever since the coaching types started coming to town, they’ve been coupling up like they’re on a reality dating show. It’s been an adorable slow-moving train wreck.”
“Train wreck?” Was she mad that her friends were happy?
She held up a hand. “Don’t get me wrong. They’re all blissfully happy. It’s beautiful. Birds are singing. The sun is shining. The world’s a richer place.” Delilah rolled her eyes.
“Okay?” He wasn’t sure he was following the point of this conversation.
“You do know what happens when people start pairing up in a group of friends, don’t you?” Her question sounded ominous.
Not really. “Tell me.”
“They get all match makey.” She shivered.
Delilah leaned forward. “It’s inevitable. They’re so deeply in love and skipping around town with the joy of it.”
“I’d like to see Cade skipping.” He forced himself not to smile.
“That would be a sight.” She shook her head as if to jar the image from her mind. “Anyway, when people are that happy and start pairing off one after the other, sooner or later they want to start matching up their single friends. It’s like a disease.”
“What’s this got to do with me?” His friends weren’t the type to set him up.
“I figure we can pretend to date. Head off any attempts by our friends to find us soulmates and protect each other from the nonsense.”
“You want to what?” He must have heard her wrong. Maybe he needed to get his hearing checked now.
“You’ll be my fake boyfriend. I’ll be your fake girlfriend. It’s a perfect plan.” She leaned back in the chair, obviously proud of her insane idea.
“It’s something.” He wasn’t sure he would call it a plan at all, much less perfect.
“What’s wrong with it?” She sounded defensive.
It was the most ridiculous thing he’d ever heard. “There’s no need for it.”
“Of course, there is. They’re all googly eyed for each other. My girls want everyone they care about to be that happy.”
“Don’t they know you need time?” If she was as close to her friends as Cade had told him, they wouldn’t push her into something she wasn’t ready for.
“Yes, but they aren’t my only friends. I found out today that my contractor’s sister is itching to set me up.” She shivered.
“Your contractor’s sister?”
“Long story. Anyway. She has a bunch of crazy sisters and the craziest of all of them has her eyes on someone for me.” She shivered again.
He didn’t know what to say. The whole thing sounded nuts. And he wasn’t going to even think about the way his gut tightened at the thought of Delilah out on a date with some guy.
She smiled. “I get it. You’re new to this crew.”
“I’ve known Cade for eighteen years.” He was one of his oldest friends.
“In college and the military.” She waved a hand. “This is a whole new deal.”
“Why?” None of this made sense.
“It just is. Trust me.”
“I don’t know you.” And the number of people he trusted completely, who didn’t share his DNA, had been cut down to less than the number of fingers he had on one hand after he woke up from the coma.
She studied him. Her blue eyes were sharp and filled with intelligence. He shifted in his seat and clenched his fist. Waiting her out.
“I’ll make a deal with you.”
“What?” He wasn’t sure he wanted to risk it.
“You’ll think about what I said. If you don’t get even a whiff of matchmaking in the air, you can tell me I’m nuts, and we’ll see each other when the whole group assembles, act polite and nothing more. I’ll find another way to deal with my other crazy friends.”
He wondered what the other side of the bargain was. “Or?”
“If you get any sense that your boys or my girls are trying to set you up, you’ll agree to a pretend thing with me.”
He narrowed his eyes. “What would this pretend thing mean?”
“No lying. We just tell our friends we’re spending time together because we’ve both been through the marital wringer and we understand each other’s priorities. We’ll have the occasional dinner, which we won’t call dates, and we’ll hang out just the two of us sometimes.”
“What would we do when we hang out?” He didn’t think they had anything in common.
She shrugged. “You can sit here and stare at the walls and let me use this cute little kitchen to practice recipes, or I can sit on that huge leather sofa you’ve got and read while you stare at the walls or whatever it is you do for entertainment.”
He thought about it for a moment. She sounded a little crazy, but if anyone did want to set him up, having a fallback position was a good idea. Backup plans were always a good idea. Delilah had been here for a while and hadn’t annoyed the shit out of him, yet. That was definitely a sign he could spend time with her without going insane.
What the hell?
“Deal.” He held out his hand.
“Perfect.” With a smile, she put her hand in his and he felt the spark shoot up his arm and to every other part of his body.
What the hell have I done?
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