lauren layneKeira: Only With You features an enemies-to-lovers trope. What is your favorite aspect of enemies-to-lovers plots?

Lauren Layne: From the moment I discovered romantic comedies, enemies-to-lovers became a favorite. Actually, probably THE favorite. But it’s not until I started writing my own romance stories that I figured out why: instant-conflict. Have you ever picked up a romance that had exquisite writing, relatable characters, but you just couldn’t get into it? It’s probably because there wasn’t enough conflict; not enough “stuff” keeping the two characters apart. With the enemies-to-lovers plot, there is so much anticipation on the page because these two people don’t like each other … and yet they DO. It’s like the Holy Grail for sexual tension.

The other reason I love enemies-to-lovers? It’s a great set up for fun banter. Banter is my favorite thing to write, and when my two main characters are at odds, I get to write lots of it!

Keira: It also features an office romance and a romance where a main character dates a sibling’s “ex”. Both can be tricky to navigate without coming across tacky and I think you hit a home-run. What were you most aware of as potential pitfalls while writing this book?

Lauren: I so appreciate you saying that these elements worked for you, because you’re correct … getting them right was HARD. As far as the office-romance goes, I’ve always been a sucker for them, but I’m also a feminist, so it was really important for me that Sophie wasn’t the little woman who was pushing papers, in awe of her big, important boss. In order to give a modern-take on the boss/secretary romance, I tried to make it clear that Sophie’s job choice was very deliberate. She was in charge of her life, she was calling the shots. And I’ve worked as a receptionist at a big company; it’s freaking hard, important work!

As far as the “dating of the sister’s ex,” that was even more difficult. I really have to credit my agent with helping me get that part right. In earlier drafts, I skimmed over it TOO much, so it wasn’t believable. In later drafts, I went too far the other way, and made Gray and Brynn too much of a thing. Finally, FINALLY I found the happy in-between phase. I think. I hope.

Keira: Gray has a gut reaction to meeting Sophie. She reminds him of his ex-fiance in her appearance. He’s introverted and awkward around people, failing at the most basic social niceties – in other words, he sticks his foot in it a time or two. What was something Gray said or did that he felt most embarrassed by later?

Lauren: Ha. Poor, poor Gray. But really, don’t we all know a few real life Grays? Those people who have a GREAT heart, but for whatever reason, are really, REALLY bad at showing it?

As far as “in the book” moments that he regrets: that in-the-elevator meeting with Sophie, for SURE. Not only was he guilty of a snap-judgment, but he’s guilty of saying it out-loud. Major no no. As far as moments in his past that the reader doesn’t get to see? I definitely picture him being an absolute disaster asking a girl to prom :)

Keira: How do you define love? What does it take to be with someone for the long-haul?

Lauren: You know, this is such a great question, and one I think about  lot, not only because my chosen career is writing love stories, but because of my personal life. My husband and I met at 15, started dating at 17, married at 23 … basically we’re a recipe for “married too young,” but we’re 31 now and seem to get happier every day. And sometimes I’m like, “How? Why? Why does this work SO well for us, and not everyone?” I think the difficult answer to this question is that it’s just not the same for every couple. For us, it’s definitely laughter. We make each other laugh SO much, every day, so the relationship rarely feels like work. But that’s just our personality; it’s not the way everyone works. We have friends in successful relationships that are all about shared goals. Or adventurous spirit. Or dedication to family.

I think what makes a relationship work for the long-haul is figuring out what brought you together in the first place and watering the hell out of that seed so that it continues to grow. But at the same time, give each other room to grow and change. And you know what? Be interesting. A significant other that has his/her own thing going on is SEXY.

Keira: What makes a sex scene in a romance? (And I think I know where you might go with this question – banter and anticipation – which Only with You has in spades!)

Lauren: Ha, you caught me! A sex scene without build-up is to me, just a description of body-parts touching other body parts. Snooze. Anticipation is everything. I recently read Screwdrivered by Alice Clayton, in which the hero/heroine don’t even kiss until the last 95% of the book, but it’s one of the hottest books I’ve read all year, because it’s been building the ENTIRE STORY.

I tend to look at structure of movies when I write; romantic comedy screenplays can tell us a lot about pacing. With the exception of Friends With Benefits storylines, rarely do you see the main characters getting it on until at LEAST halfway through. And THE kiss at the end of those movies? It’s everything.

Keira: In what ways would the story have changed if Sophie wore the sensible shoes instead of the boots?

Lauren: You know … GREAT question! I’ve never even thought about it, because those darn boots were in my very earliest conception of the story. I think, likely, Sophie and Gray would have exchanged polite smiles and never seen each other again (well okay, Sophie would have drooled, and Gray wouldn’t have smiled, because he’s Gray). But you get the idea … these characters are SO opposite, they really needed “exceptional circumstances” to bring each other together. Or in this case, exceptional footwear!

Keira: What’s the next Best Mistake?

Lauren: Next up is the story of Sophie’s uptight sister, Brynn. It was a really tricky one to write, because in book 1, she verges on being slightly unlikable. She’s rigid, a little prissy and self-absorbed. But honestly? Brynn’s books is one of my favorites because of these flaws. She’s my most imperfect heroine, and I think that makes her story so real. Made for You (October 28th) is the only book of mine that I’ve gone back and read “just for fun.” I love it that much :)

Layne_Only With You_MM[1]About ONLY WITH YOU

Getting mistaken for a prostitute is not part of Sophie Dalton’s life plan. Not that Sophie even has a life plan. She’s perfectly happy being everyone’s favorite party girl. But then a Las Vegas bachelorette party goes awry, and an uptight businessman gives Sophie a new label: hooker.

Unfortunately, what happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay there. When the same jerk who mistook her for a prostitute shows up as Sophie’s new boss and her perfect sister’s new boyfriend, Sophie’s carefree existence is turned upside down. Grayson Wyatt may have infiltrated family dinners and her professional world, but Sophie’s not about to let a judgmental prude anywhere near her personal life.

As Gray’s icy stares give way to quiet smiles, Sophie realizes that the one man she’s been so desperate to get away from just might be the one she wants to keep around forever.

Buy: Only with You (The Best Mistake)

Layne_Made for You_MMAbout MADE FOR YOU

Three years ago, Brynn Dalton made a rare error in judgment and had a one-night stand with the one man she swore would never get into her designer panties. Will Thatcher was exactly the type of sexy playboy that good girls like Brynn stayed away from. And when Will moved across the country just days after their fling, Brynn vowed to put him behind her, even as the memories haunt her.

Now Will Thatcher is back, and just in time to see Brynn’s perfectly structured life begin to crumble. Her job is dull, her social life is tedious, and Brynn’s perfect cardiologist boyfriend doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to get to Tiffany & Co. More than ever, Brynn needs her childhood nemesis to keep his distance.

But Will isn’t content to be Brynn’s dirty little secret any longer. This time, he’s out to show Brynn Dalton that the imperfect man might just be the best mistake of her life.

Buy: Made for You (The Best Mistake)

About Lauren Layne

Lauren Layne writes contemporary romance for Grand Central Publishing (Forever) and Random House(Loveswept).

After dabbling in an e-commerce career in Seattle and Southern California, Lauren moved to New York City where she now writes full time.

Lauren graduated from Santa Clara University with B.S. in Political Science that she has yet to put to good use. She lives with her husband and plus-sized pomeranian in a tiny Manhattan studio.

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Guest blog by Denise Moncrief, author of Laurel Heights

One of the nicest things a reviewer has said about my work lately is that she had to make sure she had something to snack on to keep from biting her nails. I loved that. To me that meant the paranormal romance kept her in suspense anticipating the next big moment. That was my intention, so I felt like I had accomplished what I set out to do when I wrote Laurel Heights.

The book is the first in a series, so I want the second book, Victoria House, to be just as riveting. I found myself biting my nails. Haven’t we all watched a sequel only to be disappointed because it wasn’t as good as the first movie? What if I don’t succeed in delivering something just as suspenseful the second time around? Writing a series of paranormal romantic suspense has a few challenges, like keeping the hauntings scary, the romance delicious, and the action fast-paced. A one, two, three punch.

Adding a paranormal element is new for me, so I wanted to make sure there was just as much ghostly stuff in book two as book one. I took out my trusty calculator and began adding up the word count in each of the passages in Laurel Heights where someone had a paranormal experience. Then I went to my work in progress, Victoria House, and did the same thing. Does that sound pathetic? I don’t think so. It made sense to me to calculate word count so I could make sure I had the same amount of words devoted to the scary factor in book two as book one. I didn’t want to keep biting my nails wondering if my reader was going to bite her nails.

My dearly beloved spouse caught me with my calculator, and you know what he did? He laughed at me. It appears that no matter how much I use my creative side to produce romantic suspense, he thinks there is still a lot of the accountant in me. “You just can’t get away from the numbers, can you?” he teased. I whapped him on his muscled bicep.

How do I reconcile being an accountant with being a writer? (Okay, the word reconcile is a very accountingish word to use. Just saying.) Accounting makes sense to me. Assets equal Liabilities plus Equity. It has to balance. In a way, writing romantic suspense isn’t much different. Okay maybe it’s a lot different, but the genre requires balance as well. The suspense plot line must have as much weight as the romance plot line. Hopefully, I’ve mastered this delicate balance.

So why am I biting my nails? Because I added a third paranormal element, and the perfectionist in me wants to get the balance between the three elements just right, consistently from one book to the next. I’ll probably continue to count words to make sure everything is in balance, and maybe, just maybe I won’t bite my nails.

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Tagline:

Murder, revenge, and nightmares. Can their love survive the haunting of Laurel Heights?

Blurb:

A dark cloud of deceit hovers over her family tree…

Left an estate by an aunt she’s never met, Laurel Standridge takes possession of Laurel Heights, hoping it will be the safe haven she needs to recuperate from her ill-fated relationship with Rand Peterson. Secrets long buried rise to the surface when her cousin James is murdered and dumped on the highway just outside the gates of Laurel Heights.

Her past trails her to the mountains of Arkansas…

Caught in an obligation Chase Peterson feels he cannot ignore, he agrees to help his brother Rand take back the property he believes Laurel stole from him, but Chase remains at Laurel Heights after he discovers Laurel took nothing of Rand’s away with her except nightmares, fading bruises, and a broken rib.

Unexplained disturbances shatter her hopes of a normal life…

Are the strange bumps, thumps, and bangs reverberating through the night caused by the murderer of Laurel’s cousin James, someone Rand has sent to exact his revenge, or a disturbed soul existing in another dimension, trying to communicate with the living? Drawn together by the intrigue surrounding Laurel Heights, Chase and Laurel become hopelessly entangled in a relationship that goes deeper than lust. Can their love survive the haunting of Laurel Heights?

Buy: Laurel Heights (Haunted Hearts Series Book 1)

Excerpt:

Since Laurel had moved into her aunt’s house, she hadn’t fallen asleep once without pharmaceutical help. The sleeping aid usually lulled her into lullaby land, but the drug seldom got her through the night without a nightmare. She was quickly running out of the prescription and would have to resort to over-the-counter antihistamines soon. The doctor she had seen in Fairview wouldn’t renew her prescription. He hadn’t wanted to prescribe it anyway. She wouldn’t be going back to him.

She lay still beneath her comforter, listening to the unusual sounds coming from the lower floor. The house made a lot of noises, especially at night. She sucked in a ragged breath when it made a few more. Thuds and bumps sounded like footfalls. Was someone in the house or was she being paranoid? Every shadow reminded her of Rand. He was in prison and would be incarcerated for a very long time, probably the rest of his life, but he could easily send one of his loyal subordinates to find her.

She wrapped her fingers around the grip of the baseball bat she kept next to her bed and hoped she wouldn’t have to use it. Confronting an intruder with a hollow piece of aluminum seemed like a lame defense. She had been considering purchasing a gun, but hadn’t done so yet. Maybe it was time. She’d have to buy one under the radar because she didn’t want anyone doing a background check on her. Acquiring a shotgun shouldn’t be too hard. It seemed everyone in Arkansas owned a firearm of some sort.

She threw off the comforter, rose from the bed, slipped across the room with the bat over her shoulder, and opened the door to peer down the hallway toward the front stairs. Nothing moved. The house was quiet. Maybe a little too quiet. Only moments before, a symphony of strange noises had disturbed the night. It was as if opening her bedroom door had turned off the sound.

She stared at the back stairs directly across from her bedroom and considered going down to the first floor to check the door locks, but nixed the idea. Locked doors wouldn’t keep someone out of the house if they really wanted to get in. Better to barricade herself in her bedroom and keep the bat close by. She slammed the door shut.

No moonlight filtered through the flimsy fabric covering the window. The moon hid behind a thick cloud cover. She tugged at the curtains, pulling them tighter to keep out the night. Before she stepped away, she caught a glimpse of something not quite right. Peeking between the curtain panels, she stared across the backyard. On the other side of the grimy window, a dim light flitted back and forth inside the detached garage.

She shivered with apprehension. The structure was derelict, unlike her garage in California. The four-car garage had been attached to Rand’s half million-dollar house. They had been living in the two-story, five-bedroom house for at least a year, but the place had never seemed like home to Laurel. Everything belonged to Rand. By the end of their disastrous relationship, he had treated her like a possession as well. Actually, maybe he had all along.

Comparing her life then to her life now brought up memories of the beating Rand had given her and his attempt to attack her again. If Foster hadn’t shown up when he did, she’d probably be dead.

She glanced at the clock beside her bed. It was nearly four in the morning, the darkest hour of the night. Who could possibly be snooping around her place in the dark? Who would be in her garage at any hour? She contemplated calling the local Sheriff’s Office, but decided against it. She didn’t want cops involved in her personal business. No. She would find out who was messing around her property without involving local law enforcement. Eventually the intruder would show himself, and she would be ready for him.

Buy: Laurel Heights (Haunted Hearts Series Book 1)

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Suspense, She Writes

Where the road to happily ever after takes a suspenseful detour. Fast paced twists and turns that keep you turning the pages. Romantic happily ever after moments that take your breath away. Paranormal romantic suspense that keeps you on the edge of your seat.

Want to know a little bit more about Denise? She’s a Southern girl who has lived in Louisiana all her life, and yes, she has a drawl. She has a wonderful husband and two incredible children, who not only endure her writing moods, but also encourage her to indulge her writing passion. Besides writing romantic suspense, she enjoys traveling, reading, and scrapbooking.

Accounting is a skill she has learned to earn a little money to support her writing habit. She wrote her first story when she was a teen, seventeen handwritten pages on school-ruled paper and an obvious rip-off of the last romance novel she had read. She’s been writing off and on ever since, and with more than a few full-length manuscripts already completed, she has no desire to slow down.

You can connect with Denise at

http://www.denisemoncrief.com

http://www.facebook.com/DeniseMoncriefAuthor

http://www.twitter.com/dmoncrief0131

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Review: Reckless Games by M.J. Lowell

Review: Reckless Games by M.J. Lowellby Lynn Reynolds

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So You’ve Had a Bad Day? Write It Out!

So You've Had a Bad Day? Write It Out!by Guest Blogger

Guest blog by Ishabelle Torry, author of The Gift We’ve all been there. A seemingly endless day full of aggravation or sorrow, and you just want to sit on your couch and eat ice cream— self-pity and self-loathing are your new BFFs. I’ve recently been through one of these stints. Sure, it felt great to […]

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Get into Bed with Molly Harper (Author Interview 2)

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Exclusive Sneak Peak…

Exclusive Sneak Peak...by Guest Blogger

Hello, I’m Mia Epsilon and I write contemporary romance. I’m a southern USA girl blessed to live in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Next to my Hubby, I adore Doctor Who and chocolate. I have a blog at: miaepsilon.blogspot.com and would love to see your comments there. I’m often asked how I handle the dreaded Writer’s […]

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