I’m please to welcome author Hope Ramsay to Thoughts in Progress today as the special guest blogger as she makes a stop on her virtual book tour.
Hope’s latest book, WELCOME TO LAST CHANCE, was released March 1. Here’s a brief synopsis of the book:
Yes, our town is way off the beaten path, but strange, wonderful miracles happen a lot around here.
I've owned the Cut 'n' Curl beauty shop for years, and I've seen folks come for a visit, then stay for a lifetime. Take Jane-that pretty firecracker of a girl who just arrived in town. I would swear she's running from something. She came with only five dollars in her pocket but she's worked real hard to make a fresh start. She's turned my son Clay's life upside down without even realizing it.
And thank goodness for that! Ever since Clay left his country western band, he's played everything too safe. He needs to take a chance on Jane. Besides, the more he tries to keep his distance, the more he'll realize that he and Jane are singing the same tune.
But I should quit ramblin' and go check on Millie's permanent wave. Next time you're in Last Chance, be sure to swing by. We've got hot rollers, free coffee, and the best gossip in town.
See you real soon,
Thanks to Hope and Anna at Little, Brown and Company, I have 2 copies of WELCOME TO LAST CHANCE to giveaway. Please see the end of the post for the guidelines.
Hope was kind enough to indulge my curious nature and answer some questions for me about her writing.
Mason - What inspired WELCOME TO LAST CHANCE?
HOPE - Inspiration comes from everywhere, so I can't say that one specific thing inspired WELCOME TO LAST CHANCE. I had been thinking about writing a story about a singer-songwriter hero for a long time. And I hit upon the idea of giving him a heroine who is on the run from something. I have no idea where that idea came from, but it was there in my brain for a long time before I ever started writing this story.
And then one day I was driving in my car, stuck in traffic, and the song Bless the Broken Road by Rascal Flatts came on the radio. I knew right then I had to write a book about two people who've made a lot of mistakes, but the mistakes made them ready for one another. It took a while to combine the idea of a book about a singer-songwriter with the Rascal Flatt's song, but when I finally sat down to plot out the story, it felt like my characters and the theme from the song fit perfectly together.
Mason - Did you start out to write a series or did it just develop as you began writing?
HOPE - No, I didn't start out to write a series. A number of years ago I wrote a story based on a little town in South Carolina where I spent my summers as a child. It was one of my earlier efforts at writing fiction. It didn't sell, which is a blessing for readers.
I shelved the story, but several minor characters refused to leave my brain. They would pop out at odd moments and demand stories of their own.
Like most writers, I listen to the voices in my head. So, I started again, this time fictionalizing the town to give myself more flexibility to make it larger and quirkier than real life. Before I knew what had happened, I had written three more stories about people who either live in, or hail from, Last Chance, South Carolina. The last of those stories is WELCOME TO LAST CHANCE. When my agent read this story, she suggested that we make it the first story in a series--but she required me to go back to the drawing board and work on coming up with a series arc that could carry from book to book.
I decided to base my series arc on the trials and troubles of Haley Rhodes, a seven-year-old with an unusual imaginary friend she calls the Sorrowful Angel. Haley will be in all four books of the series, but readers will have to wait until book four to find out how Haley gets the Sorrowful Angel back to Heaven.
I spent a lot of time in 2009 rewriting WELCOME TO LAST CHANCE and one of the earlier stories to make them fit together as parts of a series. By late 2009 I had a series proposal together that included WELCOME TO LAST CHANCE and a significantly rewritten version of one of the earlier stories, as well as chapters and outlines for two more, new stories. Forever Romance bought the series in February 2010.
Mason - What was the most difficult part of writing this book?
HOPE - The most difficult scene for me comes right after a dramatic turn approximately in the middle of the book that I can't write about without spoiling the story. I had intended for Clay and Jane to have a showdown where Clay would demand a full explanation of Jane's shady and mysterious past. My outline had it plotted that way. But I couldn't make it happen on the page. Clay just didn't want to force Jane into a full confession. I soon realized that Clay was not ready to hear the truth, and Jane was not ready to tell it. By having my hero take a deep breath and tell the heroine he's okay with not knowing what she's running from, he makes a big leap of faith (which is growth for him). More important, the heroine learns she can trust Clay. The scene is so much better because I listened to what the characters were telling me, instead of sticking to my point-by-point outline. Of course this scene completely screwed up the rest of the outline, but that's sometimes the fun of writing a book. You never really know what's going to happen next, even when you're the author.
Mason - What is your writing schedule like - a favorite place to write or favorite time?
HOPE - I am both blessed and cursed because I own my own small consulting company. Being my own boss means that my schedule is flexible, but it also means I work long hours, and I travel more than I would like. I have to juggle the writing along with a wide variety of demands from my clients.
My writing space is wherever I can plug in the laptop. I've been know to write on planes, trains, and moving automobiles. Word of warning--do not write anything steamy in an airplane. I did that once, and the guy sitting next to me decided he could strike up a conversation. It was awkward.
Mason - What's next for the residents of Last Chance, SC?
HOPE - The next book in the series is HOME AT LAST CHANCE, which features Clay's younger brother, Tulane, who is a stock car driver. Tulane has a huge problem -- his sponsor, Cottontail Disposable Diapers, has painted his racecar baby pink and put a snuggle bunny on the hood. Even worse, Tulane and his pit crew have to wear pink flame retardant bunny suits every Sunday during the races.
Tulane, the quintessential bad boy, rebels against this assault on his good ol' boy masculinity. In response, Cottontail Diapers sends the prim Bostonian and marketing genius, Sarah Murray, to whip him into shape. Sarah immediately takes charge of Tulane's life. But when she starts bonding with Tulane's mother and the rest of the member of the Last Chance Ladies Auxiliary, he has to do something quick. So, he decides to get Sarah into trouble. Only problem is, he finds out that good little Sarah has a real talent for breaking the rules that just might cost him his career or his heart, or maybe both.
Look for HOME AT LAST CHANCE in bookstores this fall.
Hope, thank you so much for stopping by and giving us some background on your book. It’s fun to know the characters tend to rule the story more than the authors.
Now for a little background on Hope. She was born in New York and grew up on the North Shore of Long Island, but every summer Momma would pack her off under the care of Aunt Annie to go visiting with relatives in the midlands of South Carolina. Her extended family includes its share of colorful aunts and uncles, as well as cousins by the dozens, who provide the fodder for the characters you'll find in Last Chance, South Carolina. Hope earned a BA in Political Science from the University of Buffalo and has had various jobs working as a Congressional aide, a lobbyist, a public relations consultant, and a meeting planner. She's a two-time finalist in the Golden Heart and is married to a good ol' Georgia boy who resembles every single one of her heroes. She has two grown children and a couple of demanding lap cats. She lives in Fairfax, Virginia, where you can often find her on the back deck, picking on her thirty-five-year-old Martin guitar.
For more on Hope and the citizens of Last Chance, South Carolina, visit her website at HopeRamsay.com or find her on Facebook.
Here are the giveaway guidelines. To enter this giveaway, send me an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) with the subject line, “Win Last Chance.” Your message should include your name and mailing address. The contest is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only and no post office box addresses can be accepted. In addition, Hachette advises winners that they will be subject to the one copy per household rule, which means that if they win the same title in two or more contests, they will receive only one copy of the title in the mail. (Winners here have always be great about letting me know if they have already won the book somewhere else so another winner can be selected. However, this announcement is something that has to be passed along from Hachette). And, just so you know, I don’t share the mailing information or use it for any other purpose. The deadline to enter this giveaway for a chance at one of 2 copies of WELCOME TO LAST CHANCE (ISBN: 9780446576093), a 368 page paperback, will be 8 p.m. (EST) on Saturday, March 26.
What are your thoughts on small towns for settings? Would you rather the story take place in a real town or fictional?