I’m a little in awe of Molly O’Keefe, I don’t mind admitting. Maybe it’s because, the first time I met her, she cheerfully confessed that she was in bad shape from drinking too much at the Harlequin publisher party the night before. Maybe it’s the Rita award she won at that same RWA conference. Maybe it’s her authorial voice, direct and down-to-earth and often laugh-out-loud funny.
Molly and I met in the summer of 2010, when we had lunch with the editor who’d acquired us both in that past year. Since then, I’ve been anticipating her first Random House release almost as eagerly as I anticipated my own, and finally it’s within sight: Can’t Buy Me Love goes on sale next Tuesday, June 26. Take a look:
A girl from the wrong side of the tracks, Tara Jean Sweet knows that opportunity will never knock. She’ll have to seize it. Elderly Texas rancher Lyle Baker has a dying request: He will give Tara Jean a stake in his leather business in exchange for a little family subterfuge. All Tara Jean has to do is play the part of a gold-digging fiancée to lure his estranged children home. And the mission is soon accomplished.
Now, Lyle’s gone—and his ridiculously handsome son, Luc, an ice hockey superstar sidelined by injuries, is the new owner of Crooked Creek ranch. He’s also Tara Jean’s boss. But being so close to sinfully sweet Tara Jean does crazy things to his priorities. Like make him want to kiss her deepest secrets from those irresistible lips. But when Tara Jean’s past demands a dirty showdown, will Luc stay and fight?
I’ve had an early look at Can’t Buy Me Love and I can tell you it’s flat-out wonderful: full of sharply observed details, wrenching decisions, flawed characters who know their own flaws all too well, and truly combustible chemistry between hero Luc and heroine Tara Jean. I’m delighted to have Molly as a guest on the blog today, answering my questions and giving away a copy of her new book!
Q: I’m declaring this the summer of the sexually forthright heroine with a less-than-spotless past – and Tara Jean Sweet might have the spottiest past of them all. While she’s repentant, and trying to do better, there’s no getting around the fact that she did some pretty awful things. What made you want to write her story? And were you tempted at any point to soften her edges or clean up her past?
A: It is a good summer for the ladies, isn’t it! I actually pulled back on Tara, to tell you the truth, and I didn’t regret a moment of writing her; didn’t actually think that people wouldn’t “get her” until I read my first bad review and then I realized what I’d done! She’s a tough nut, that’s for sure. But that was my point going in, and I still really really like her. In my mind she’s what Tyra would have been like (Friday Night Lights reference #1) if her messed-up home life hadn’t been as supportive as it was.
Q: I knew we wouldn’t make it through this interview without an FNL reference :)
A number of plot threads in Can’t Buy Me Love – the fallout from concussions in pro sports, a Wall Street Ponzi scheme, small-time crooks scamming the elderly – feel remarkably “current.” Do you look for story inspiration in the daily news, or was it just coincidence?
A: The concussion issue in pro sports, particularly hockey, was the inspiration for the book. Sidney Crosby and the concern that he might be out of hockey forever was headline news up in Canada for a long time. Also, the Ponzi scheme stuff was obviously based on Madoff. I’d read an interview with his wife, who claimed, with what I thought was pretty convincing living-in-blinders innocence, that she didn’t know anything. Or chose not to know. That is crazy fascinating.
Q: Yes, fascinating! I can’t wait to see more of that story in your follow-up book (trying to avoid spoilers).
Which brings us to the issue of supporting characters. You write them so vividly. Luc’s worldly, elegant mother; his good-hearted “enforcer” teammate Billy; even the three women who work as fit models for Tara Jean’s clothing designs, all feel like they just temporarily stopped by from stories of their own. Can you talk a bit about your approach to writing secondary characters? And will any of the Can’t Buy Me Love secondaries appear in future books?
A: I just finished Billy’s book – Crazy Thing Called Love – and I think it will be out at the end of May 2013. That book wrecked me. It was like wrestling a bear.
My approach to secondary characters is born in When Harry Met Sally – every secondary character in that movie has a bit. A thing. Something really memorable, so I try to give everyone on page a “bit,” something theatrical that might read like a stereotype and have to be taken out later, but that can set them apart from the wallpaper. I find it’s easier to put that stuff in and then take it out, instead of trying to put it in when the book is done. The housekeeper in the books is a really good example of a supporting character I tried to add to in the editing process – she still reads flat to me.
Q: So glad to hear Billy will have a romance of his own. Loved that guy. (Also loved the housekeeper, especially when the three utterly mismatched women were sitting around watching tv together!) Now, what sort of research did you have to do for this book? Did you already know, for example, how to get a restraining order in Texas, or how a leather company gets Nordstrom to stock its cowboy boots? Or did you have to track that info down?
A: I think about the amount of research you must have done for A Gentleman Undone and scoff at the little bit of fact checking and question asking I did. I have a friend who used to be a buyer for a major retailer, she’s been very helpful. And I have the internet.
Q: Ah, the internet: best friend of research; arch-enemy of time management. Speaking of which, how many books do you have coming out this year? And how the heck do you produce at that rate? Do you make dinner every night? Do you have some special organizational system that helps you switch back and forth between your Harlequin series and whatever single-title book you’re working on?
A: All the books out this year were done years ago. It looks impressive, I know, but it’s all smoke and mirrors. I’m done with Harlequin for the time being; my experience there was amazing. But I am making myself sick trying to figure out how to write a 100,000 word book, edit another one, propose another one and promote the first one – it’s nuts!!!
And yes, I make dinner. Dinner is the bane of my existence. Mostly I make ham and cheese sandwiches.
Q: Finally, because we haven’t talked enough about Friday Night Lights in this interview –
You’re Taylor Kitsch’s agent. Do you keep steering him toward action blockbusters, or do you think it might be time for him to try something else?
A: I loved him in Battleship – but largely because it was Tim Riggins Fights Aliens and Saves the World! But I really loved him in The Bang Bang Club. He was exciting and nuanced. Skinny. I think the blockbuster parts are the low lying fruit for a physical, handsome guy. I’m excited about Savages – that may be the real test. I’d steer him away from any more alien movies; have him do more talking. More brooding.
And now, a question from Molly for you:
Let’s hear it for the sexually forthright heroine! Who are some of your favorite heroines? Why?
Leave an answer below and you’ll be entered to win a copy of Can’t Buy Me Love! Giveaway is open to US and Canada residents, through midnight Pacific time Monday, June 25.
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