AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: ELISABETH BARRETT
Welcome to Joyfully Reviewed Elisabeth Barrett….
Tell us a little about Christmas in Tahoe, and what inspired you to write the book?
Christmas in Tahoe is a story about two people who meet and fall in love over the course of a long holiday weekend. It’s sweet, sexy and a little bit sad, but ultimately uplifting:
Silicon Valley actuary Ann Smith is an expert at calculating probabilities, but lately the odds haven’t been in her favor. Two years ago her fiancé died a week before their planned Christmas wedding, leaving Ann heartbroken and alone. When a friend suggests heading up to Lake Tahoe for a long Christmas weekend of skiing, wine, and relaxation, Ann thinks it might be just the thing to help get her life back on track. But Ann’s plans go awry when her friend cancels at the last minute, and Ann ends up driving to Tahoe with Chase Deckert, a sexy snowboarder who pushes all her buttons.
Chase Deckert is a man who lives by his own rules. A few years ago his business partner betrayed him by selling out their biomedical research for a quick profit. Chase left science far behind, and now spends his days snowboarding in Tahoe, wanting nothing to do with the dog-eat-dog world of Silicon Valley. Chase has closed his mind and his heart and only believes in one thing: fate. But fate seems to be in a giving mood, because joining him for Christmas is a brave, beautiful woman who shows him the true meaning of the season and helps him rediscover a part of himself he’d long forgotten.
Fueled by the mountain scenery, the season, and their unbelievable chemistry, Ann and Chase end up learning more about each other—and themselves—than they ever imagined possible. Can one long, steamy Christmas help them realize they’re meant to be together? Or when the holiday is over will they be right back where they started?
I was inspired to write the book for a number of reasons. I wanted to explore how different people struggle to recover from a significant loss (either personal or professional) during the holiday season, a time of year usually associated with happy memories. I also wanted to add an opposites attract angle. At first it appears that Chase is a big risk-taker, while Ann seems quite risk-averse. But when you dig into the story a little deeper, you find out that that neither of them are who they appear to be.
When you start writing, do you already have the story plotted out or do you let the characters dictate what will happen?
I’m a plotter. First I create the general story arc, and then I brainstorm the specifics. I spend a lot of time making detailed chapter outlines. But sometimes the characters will say something or do something and I’ll have to revamp everything! So maybe both?
What inspired you to write in your genre? Is this the genre you started writing in or have you morphed to this one?
I write contemporary romance because I enjoy reading contemporary romance. I wrote my first series (Star Harbor) about four sexy brothers living and working in their Cape Cod hometown because I was feeling homesick for my own New England hometown. The first book in that series, Deep Autumn Heat, sets up the small-town feel that carries through the rest of the series. And though it’s quite firmly a contemporary romance, there is a mystery and suspense subplot that also carries through the series.
Christmas in Tahoe is actually more of a classic contemporary romance than even the books in the Star Harbor series. There’s no suspense, and because it’s a novella, the focus stays squarely on the relationship between the hero and heroine.
Who was the toughest character for you to “get right” that you have written so far?
Cole Grayson, the hero in Long Simmering Spring, for sure. That book was the third one I published, but the first one I wrote, and Cole went through many incarnations. I think the last time I counted, I rewrote that book twenty-seven times. I think he turned out pretty well, though!
Do you draw inspiration for your characters from real life? Any fun stories you could share?
There’s always something I can draw from real life—a look, a phrase, a feeling—but none of my characters come from real life. I’m sorry to say they’re all made up. And I have no fun stories for you . . . that’s awful, right? I’m sorry!!
What do you find the hardest part of writing?
Actually finding time to write. My schedule is insane, and I have to block out the time or else it doesn’t happen.
Name one thing that your readers would be surprised to know about you.
I. Hate. Coffee.
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
Sweets. Especially chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate.
What TV Show/s are you addicted to?
Anything on Masterpiece Mystery, but especially Inspector Lewis and Sherlock.
Do you have a hobby that you like to try and squeeze in?
Music, absolutely. I sing and play the piano, and for a long time (while my children were infants and toddlers), I couldn’t find the time to keep up my musical interests. I am happy to say I am back to doing both on a regular basis!
What do you need before you start writing? Anything that is just a must have or the creative juice don’t flow?
Quiet. I’ve figured out that I can edit anywhere, but I can’t lay down new words unless I’m out of my house, but working in noisy areas isn’t an option for me. I write in my car in safe, well-lighted parking lots. I call my mom-mobile my “mobile office.”
Does music influence your writing? If so, do any of your stories have a theme song?
Music sometimes influences my writing, but more along the lines of a sentiment or a feel than actual lyrics. For example, in Slow Summer Burn, the heroine, Cameron Stahl, is from an old Boston Brahmin family. She owns her own business, but she has to attend a lot of parties and charity events. Every time I wrote a scene with her in it, I had Ella Fitzgerald singing Cole Porter jazz standards in my head.
Do you write one book from start to finish or are there multiple works underway at any given time?
It’s easiest for me to write one book from start to finish, but of course, other books creep in. For each of my last three books, I had copyedits from previous books to handle while I was writing the new stuff. I stopped, dealt with the copyedits, then got back to writing. I envy those who can juggle more than one manuscript with ease.
Where were you when you got your first contract? What was the book and who did you tell first?
I’m pretty sure I was in my house. It was a two-book deal with Random House’s Loveswept for Deep Autumn Heat and Blaze of Winter. My agent, Nalini Akolekar, is this very down-to-earth, real woman, and during our conversation where she relayed the deal to me, I remember her saying that the second book deal was much harder to get than the first. I know she told me this because it’s true and not just to keep me humble, but that was definitely the effect it had. I called my husband (equally down-to-earth and real), and he was pleased, but there weren’t any fireworks or screaming. I told myself, “This is it. This is the call. Now get to work.”
How old were you when you read your first romance book?
Sixteen. My first job was in my small town bookstore, where I’d stay well after hours to read Nora Roberts, Jayne Ann Krentz, Sandra Brown . . . pretty much anything I could get my hands on! I got quite an education working there!
Do you have an all-time favorite romance book (not written by you J)?
Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It’s an extremely well-written, pointed examination of early 19th century British society that happens to be a romance.
What author causes you to “go fan girl”/ squeal over/anticipate upcoming books?
Oh, a bunch. Marina Adair, Jill Shalvis, Jennifer Ryan, Jennifer Probst, Jessica Scott, Robyn Carr, and Ruthie Knox, to name a few. I’m very quiet about my fan girliness, though. I should be louder.
If you still have one of those pesky non writing jobs what is it?
I’m a professional editor and writing instructor. It’s not pesky, though. I love doing it!
Do you have a favorite movie you have seen in the last few months and an all-time favorite?
I suck. I don’t watch movies because I don’t have any time, so I haven’t seen any recently except kids’ movies and anime (so any Hayao Miyazaki film would work). But my all-time fave is the Merchant-Ivory masterpiece, A Room with A View.
What are you currently working on, and what else is in the wings?
I’m working on the first book in my next series, a contemporary small-town romance set in Connecticut. I love this book so much, but it is SO hard to write because there’s a lot going on and the characters are struggling and then I feel bad for making them struggle so much. There are currently three books planned for that series.
Also, I’m definitely going to write a follow-up novella to Christmas in Tahoe which will focus on one of the secondary characters. That will also happen next year, and it’s slowly being plotted out in my head.
If you could co-write with another author who would it be?
There are so many authors whose works I admire, but I think I’d choose someone whose writing style isn’t exactly like mine but would dovetail well. There’s a woman in my writing group (the Roguers) named Lia Riley. You haven’t heard of her yet, but you will. Her debut novel is coming out next year. I’d choose Lia because our book would be epic and emotional. And well-written, of course! J
How did you hear about the “bunnies” at Joyfully Reviewed?
Word-of-mouth. You’re very well regarded in the romance community.
Where can readers find ?
And for the silly side –
What is your favorite type of ice cream?
Oh, now you’re talking. Mint chip.
Ranger or Morelli?
Ranger. No question.