Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Home for Christmas Review and Interview with Ann Vaughn

  It's the most wonderful time of the year!

Yes, for Christmas...but best of all, for snuggling up and getting warm with a hot cup of cocoa or tea, sitting down with a fuzzy blanket and...well, reading a wonderful Christmas book, of course! I had the absolute pleasure of sitting down with author Ann Vaughn and asking her what she loves most about Christmas, and talking to her about her Christmas novel, A Home for Christmas. So snuggle up with a warm blanket and a hot cup of whatever you fancy, and join us for a little holiday discussion! (And while you're at it...pick up a copy of A Home for Christmas- a perfect Christmas read!)

  A Home for Christmas begins when a couple of punks try to steal Jenna Blackwell's purse on Black Friday. Jenna hasn't had the best luck in her life... Falling for Wade Blackwell was not the best decision she's ever made, though she wouldn't trade her son, Cameron, for anything in the world. 
  But something magical happens this holiday season when Jenna's stolen purse is retrieved by ex Navy SEAL and SWAT team volunteer, Riley Stanton. 
  It all starts with a Black Friday crime, a hunky hero, and an invitation to breakfast. Here begins the Texas-themed Christmas story of Jenna and Riley. 
  This book was just too sweet! A Home for Christmas has enough of a lovely balance of humor, romance, and depth to make a reader beyond content. One of my pet peeves with reading is the writing of child characters, especially overly cutesy ones. But in Ann Vaughn's story, Cameron, Jenna's ten year-old son, is an absolute joy, Jenna is a darling, Riley is...well, hunky beyond words, and Wade (Jenna's not-so nice ex-husband...) even becomes likable and sympathetic towards the end. I thoroughly enjoyed Ms Vaughn's story, and I look forward to reading more of her work. 
  What I really like about this book is how there is a romantic relationship between two of the characters that doesn't go overboard. There are no drawn out romance scenes, no childish games being played between the couple, and the story is topped off with a lovely ending and no ill feelings.
  A Home for Christmas is a perfect little holiday read! If you're looking for a Christmas story with depth, Holly-Jolly cheer, a sweet romance, and is just short and sweet enough to give you the perfect amount of time to decorate the Christmas tree, this is your book!


And now and interview with Ann Vaughn, author of Long Way Home, Finding Home, and A Home for Christmas... 

The Literary Connoisseur: Hello, Ann! Thank you so much for agreeing to do an interview about your Christmas story, A Home for Christmas. Jenna and Riley's story was just too cute! I'll begin with a few questions about you first, and then we'll go into Jenna, Riley, and perhaps even Cameron too!  Let's begin.Having other people read your work and fall in love with your words must be positively magical. What made you want to become a writer? 

Ann Vaughn: First, thank you for having me today!  I really appreciate you taking time to feature me and help get the word out for me and my work.  Indie authors like me couldn't make it without the help of all you bloggers out there telling people about our work. I began writing stories when I was in junior high.  I am a child of the 80s and the big books back then for junior high kids were the Sweet Valley High books.  My friends and I would pass them around between us during school.  In the summer, though, access to books wasn't as easily accessible as it is now with eReaders, etc.  So, out of boredom, I began writing my own, Texas-themed versions of Sweet Valley High (all centered around football, of course...I mean, come on, I grew up in Texas; Friday Night Lights, etc. :) )  Anyway, when school started back up, I would pass my spiral notebooks of my stories around between my friends and so I had my own built-in audience. I always knew I wanted to publish my work someday, but never got up the nerve to try the traditional route.  It wasn't until a friend introduced me to the wonderful world of Kristen Ashley's Rock Chick books that I began to consider self-publishing.  I looked into it and was talking to my husband about it, and then he dared me to try that myself.  Now, my husband and I grew up together; known each other since Kindergarten and we are HIGHLY competitive with each other.  So, when he dared me it was Game ON!!  I recruited one of my long-time friends (who was part of my first audience back in junior high) to help me polish up one of my stories, had another friend read it to tell me if she thought it was any good (since she's an avid reader herself) and then on August 7th of this year, I took the plunge and hit Save & Publish for my first book, Long Way Home.  It was a scary, exciting moment and it has been a blast ever since.

The Literary Connoisseur: Do you find it difficult to switch from female to male perspectives? Or does it come easily once you understand the characters? 

Ann Vaughn: I've actually found it pretty easy to switch from female to male.  I've always enjoyed other books that do that.  I'm one of those who have to know what everyone important to the story is thinking.  I enjoy books that are first person and only in 1 character's POV as well, but not as much.  I want to know everything!! LOL...and weirdly enough, sometimes it's easier for me to jump into the male POV than the female.  

The Literary Connoisseur: Do you enjoy reading as well as writing? Who would you say are some of your favorite authors? 

Ann Vaughn: I do.  My first love is reading, and my favorite genre has always been romance, although I do love biographies, too.  There have been many, many authors who I love but two who have influenced me the most: Jude Deveraux and Nora Roberts. Back in the early 90s, I would devour everything of Jude Deveraux's I could get my hands on.  I loved her historicals but my all-time favorite book is Sweet Liar by her.  I believe it came out in 1993.  I went thru 3 paperback copies before getting my Kindle.  I've read it so many times I can pretty much quote it.  The hero in the book's name is Mike Taggert.  I have named two of my characters after him: Mike Casiano (who is Riley's best friend and makes an appearance in A Home for Christmas) and Taggert "Tag" Bainbridge (who made an appearance in my second book, Finding Home).  

My second influence is Nora Roberts.  I absolutely LOVE everything she writes.  She handles the male POV really well and she often has children in her books, which helped me with Cam's character in A Home for Christmas.  

The Literary Connoisseur: If you could say something encouraging to aspiring writers and authors out there, what would it be? 

Ann Vaughn: To absolutely never give up.  As writers, we always second-guess ourselves and we worry that no one will like what we've done.  If you are looking to self-publish, like I did, be sure you have someone other than yourself go through and proofread your work for mistakes (typos, punctuation, etc).  I have 3 people who help me with this.  My longtime friend who I mentioned above (she is also a teacher so that helps!), an extremely detail-oriented reader who responded to a desperate plea from me one day on my page and has been AWESOME at finding continuity issues.  I call her my Queen of Continuity & Detail!  And another reader who runs her own proofreading service (my next book will be the first one she will do for me from the start).  Anyway, if your work has very few errors in it and looks clean and professional, that will help a lot.  Also, what we write is never going to appeal to everyone.  Even Nora Roberts gets bad reviews.  Don't let the bad ones hurt you.  Yes, they sting.  Our work is our baby; we want everyone to love it, but in reality that rarely happens.  Just take the bad ones in stride and concentrate on the good ones.  Write from your heart, not what you think everyone will like and that will come through on the page.  If you love your characters and you love your story, that will show.

The Literary Connoisseur: Was writing a holiday themed story any different from writing a regular romance? Did you enjoy writing about Christmastime more than you would writing about a non-holiday season? 

Ann Vaughn: It wasn't that much different, except that I was having to get into the Christmas Spirit in early October!  But I love Christmas so it wasn't that bad.  My family got a little miffed at having to listen to Christmas music before Halloween had even hit but they took it in stride ;)  The only challenge for me in writing a book based during Christmas was remembering that it was Christmas and I needed to include Christmas-y things.

The Literary Connoisseur: What (or who) inspired you to write Riley, ex Navy SEAL/current SWAT team volunteer? Is there anyone you picture as Riley, famous or not?

Ann Vaughn: Riley actually started as a minor character in another book and as that book evolved, he evolved.  When I first created his and Jenna's story, it was for a creative writing class I was taking in college and it was a short story.  I plucked him out of the minor role he'd had in the other book and used him for the assignment story.  He was originally a homicide detective.  Jenna was always a housekeeper; her character hasn't changed much, but Riley's changed a lot, mainly because the original story he was a minor character in changed so much.  SO, he went from being a homicide detective to exSpecial Forces.  So, there really wasn't a person who inspired him, per se, but a necessary change to him so that he fit with the other story.  

When I first created Riley, I didn't have anyone in mind.  I knew that he would be blonde and have green eyes.  That was about it.  I never really thought of anyone to portray him until I was asked to put together a dream cast for the book and I began scouring the web for pictures of people who would fit the image in my head.  It took a while, and then one day I stumbled across this picture of a shirtless blonde guy in black gym shorts and I remember thinking "Holy cow!!  That's Riley!!"...only problem was, I had no clue who the guy was.  So, I sent the picture to Christine Davison at Sinful Thoughts Book Blog.  She posted it to a group board she was on and got the answer in less than five minutes: he was Jessie Pavelka and he was my Riley!  (AND Bonus for me...Jessie is from Texas, like me, so that made me happy!! LOL)

(The Literary Connoisseur here! Just in case you want to know what Jessie Pavelka looks like...)

(Yeah, he's my Riley too!)

The Literary Connoisseur: What do you love most about Christmastime? 

Ann Vaughn: I love the magic of Christmas.  Seeing the excitement on little kids' faces.  I love that it represents the promise that God made, sending His son to us.  I love the songs and the decorations, the warmth of sitting by the fire and staring at the Christmas tree.

The Literary Connoisseur: Are any of Jenna and Cameron's traditions some of your own as well? (For example: Jenna's homemade hot cocoa?) 

Ann Vaughn: LOL, yes, I do make my own hot chocolate!  AND we buy a few new Christmas ornaments every year to represent something that happened during the past year.  

The Literary Connoisseur: Cameron was such a sweet, emotional, and sentimental character to read...how was he to write? I just wanted to jump into the book and hug the sweet boy!

Ann Vaughn: I loved writing about Cam.  I've had a few comment that he seems really mature to only be 10-years old, but I tell them that they have to stop and consider that it's just been Cam and Jenna since he was five years old.  I have a couple of nephews who grew up with single mom's and they were also pretty mature for their age.  I think, when it's a boy with a single mom, he sort of feels the need to step into the Man of the House role and that makes him mature faster than most boys.  I also based him a bit off my own son.  There is an 8-year gap between my kids so my son was essentially an only child for 8 years and he was rarely around kids his own age until he started school; therefore, his vocabulary and maturity were on a more adult level than a lot of kids his age.  Plus, the times Cam was with his father, he was exposed to things that weren't necessarily all that great for a kid.  I love Cam so much...he may get a book or at the least a novella at some point in the future.  We shall see... :)

The Literary Connoisseur: What would you say is your favorite thing about being an author? 

Ann Vaughn: I love being able to lose myself in my books and in my characters.  I'm sure that's the same for any writer.  After publishing and releasing my work to the world at large, it thrills me that people have actually read my stuff and liked it.  I love hearing from readers and seeing the things they liked about each of the books.  I also have a blast on my Facebook page, chatting with readers.  Sometimes, my characters make appearances and I let them cut up with readers.  That's a blast, too.

The Literary Connoisseur: Are you planning on writing more Christmas themed romances? You know I'll read them! 

Ann Vaughn: I'm sure I will.  Writing about Christmas is fun!  However, I think any future Christmas titles will either be novellas about existing characters, or true 100% stand-alone's.  A Home for Christmas is a Christmas-themed book, but it is also part of a series.

The Literary Connoisseur: And lastly, are you working on any new projects? Perhaps...a story about a certain cousin in A Home for Christmas? 

Ann Vaughn: I am!  I am currently writing the last book in the Home Series, titled Finally Home.  It is due out at the end of February and it is about Riley's best friend, Mike Casiano, and Riley's cousin, Lainey Riley.  Mike has been a recurring character in all 3 of the Home series books.  He is mentioned in Long Way Home, makes his first appearance in Finding Home, has a bigger role in A Home for Christmas and finally has his story told in Finally Home.  I have been writing about Mike and Lainey since 1993.  It was his book that Riley made his debut in, many, many moons ago and because of him that Riley evolved from cop to Navy SEAL.  In Finally Home, you will see all the couples from the previous three books.  Mike was the team leader when they were all in the military.  He put his life on the line several times over the years for his team and now they are all here for him in his time of need.  Finally Home is a true labor of love for me.  I know these characters better than any of my other characters and I'm hoping that my love for them translates well to the readers.  

The Literary Connoisseur: Ann, thank you so much for stopping by! I, and your readers, appreciate your work and your time to answer interview questions! Have a wonderful Christmas! 

Ann Vaughn: Thanks for having me!!!  Merry Christmas, everyone, and have a wonderful, safe and blessed Happy New Year!!!!!

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