Friday, October 24, 2008

Interview with Dawn Atkins

I’d like to welcome our guest today, Dawn Atkins. It’s a pleasure having you come visit us at Much Cheaper Than Therapy, where chocolate is plentiful and advice is free. So grab some chocolate and a lounge chair. Your therapy session has begun.

I understand you have a new release out called HER SEXIEST SURPRISE. Can you tell us a little bit about your fabulous new book?

Sure. HER SEXIEST SURPRISE brings together wannabe chef Chloe Baxter and undercover cop Riley Connelly, whose investigation has Chloe spying on the friends who hired her as their cook.

HER SEXIEST SURPRISE is a very interesting title. How did you arrive at that name?

That’s a good question, since I didn’t choose it. My editors put their heads together to get the right title for each book. Sometimes they choose my working title, but often not. This one is appropriate, since it starts out with Chloe making a birthday wish to finally talk to Riley--she has a crush on him. She does and gets more of her wish than she ever dreamed. She went for a birthday kiss and got a birthday…well, you know. This is a Blaze, remember?

What made you decide to write in this genre?

I’ve always written funny, sexy books. That’s comfortable for me. I started out writing for Harlequin’s two humor lines, as well as for Temptation. Blaze was a natural progression. My Blazes contain my humor along with spicier themes and scenes, plus I’ve been adding suspense elements in the last couple of years, which I find quite exciting and very challenging. Writers are never content, you know?

Are you a plotter or a pantser and how did it affect the writing of this book?

I’m a little of both. I forget what famous writer said that writing a book is like driving in the dark. You can only see as far as the headlights, but you can make an entire journey that way. My only problem is when fog sets in and I can’t see at all, ahem.

I often vary substantially from the synopsis on which I sell the book. For this one, because I experienced a family crisis with a failing relative while I was writing it, I was grateful the synopsis was quite detailed and I didn’t have to flail around too much to make the story work, since the deadline crept up quickly this time.

Did you have to do a lot of research for the book? What are your favorite research books or sites?

I had to do research on catering and culinary school as well as some law enforcement procedures. I’m lucky to have a local police lieutenant and a female officer who have answered numerous questions for me in the past. I belong to a crime writers online group, which has been immensely helpful. For example, I needed to know how dispatch handles emergency cell phone calls from, say, the trunk of a car--and among the online experts were people who either had been or were married to 9-1-1 dispatchers, so I got exactly what I needed to know. I have a dear friend who graduated from culinary school who helped me with the food aspects. Of course, I hung out on the Food Network for months and months watching chefs and coming up with menu ideas--and drooling, of course.

As far as research sources, it varies with the story. I’m happy to get on the phone and cold call an expert when I need to. Email works, too, in some cases. Google is my friend, too, for spot questions or places to start. And I use my public library a lot for books to set me in the context of the subjects I need to understand well.

Where did you get your idea for this particular book?

It was one of those percolating ideas. I’ve been in love with Top Chef for years and I’m always fascinated by undercover police work. The themes of trust and dependence and loyalty pop up frequently in my writing.

Which character did you like writing about the most, and why?

I loved Riley sooo much. He was so sexy, so down-to-earth and practical, yet warm and caring and tenderhearted. My ideal man. Yum.

Tell us about how you develop your characters. Do you create character sheets, do interviews, that sort of thing? How does your research affect your character development?

They come to me in different ways. Sometimes I see them first. Other times I hear them or see them in action. I try different approaches, sometimes using a formal analysis sheet, but I stick with questions that seem pertinent to the character journey. I don’t need to know his favorite flavor of ice cream….unless they’re going to take it to bed with them….

Are there any authors that inspired you?

There are too many to list--I bet you get that a lot. Right now, I’m grateful to the members of a long-time loop of women who used to write for Harlequin’s comedy lines with me and stayed together. Daily, they inspire me as they struggle with their own plots and characters, and health and family, lose publishers, get new contracts and write books I love to read.

What do you feel is the most effective promotion you have done for your book?

Since Harlequin’s category lines tend to sell themselves, I don’t do very much promotion beyond my Web site, which I update before each book comes out. I belong to the DEADLINE HELLIONS blog and post there regularly. I give my readers a heads-up when a book is coming out via an email newsletter. Ooh, that reminds me it’s time for the next one! I’d better get on that.

What do we have to look forward next?

In STILL IRRESISTIBLE, out in April, Callie Cummings returns to Arizona to turn her father’s failing guest ranch into a desert spa only to fall in love with the ranch foreman, her old flame Declan O’Neill. Soon, she’s fighting off the town’s too-helpful police chief…and criminal charges. That was a complicated story to write, but I’m pleased with how it came out. I hope readers will be, too.

Thanks, Dawn!

To celebrate her book release, Dawn, is offering a free copy of HER SEXIEST SURPRISE to one lucky commenter on today's blog. She will be around all day today. I'm sure some of you have questions or comments for her, so please ask away...

Award-wining Blaze author has published 23 romances since 2001. Known for her funny, spicy romances with a touch of mystery, she’s won the Golden Quill for Best Sexy Romance and has been a several-times Romantic Times Reviewers Choice finalist for Best Blaze, as well as a finalist for the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award for “Best Love and Laughter.” She lives in Paradise Valley with her husband and son.

Check out author’s website at www.



CrystalGB said...

Hi Dawn. Great interview. Her Sexiest Surprise sounds great. I am a fan of the Blaze line.

Crystal Adkins said...

HI Dawn, you're a pretty little thing :) I love to see authors pics b/c I can get the feeling that they're "real" and not just words lol!
I loved the interview and your new book sounds amazing! A question for you? What would you be doing right now if you were not a writer?

Rebekah E. said...

Great interview. Congrats on the new book, it sounds like a great read.

Kris said...

Hey! That sounds like a great book, and I don't even read Harlequin. lol

Still, though, Riley sounds yummy. I'll be looking forward to this one. I loooove trying new authors. :)

Dawn Atkins said...

Crystalgb: The Blaze books are fun. I've especially enjoyed adding suspense to my books.

Crystal Adkins: Right now, if I weren't a writer....? Well, you'd have to pry the keyboard or pen out of my hands. I've tried to stop, but...I...just...can't....stop....

Rebekah: Thanks! It was fun to put together.

Kris: Yeah, Riley was lovely to write. I hope you'll give Blaze a chance. The stories might surprise you with the depth that can be squeezed in such a short read.

All my best,

Kim Watters said...

Thanks for joining us today Dawn. My question is: Were there any scenes either you or the editor took out before publication?

Susan said...

I love the Blaze line. Her Sexiest Surprise sounds terrific! I truly enjoyed your interview.

Dawn Atkins said...

There are always scenes that pop in and out in my books. I can't remember what I took out or condensed in this story. I think of my books as pretty fluid until they're finalized. I know that makes some writers nuts, but not me. It's all puzzle pieces to shift around. My editor rarely suggests a scene be eliminated, but she's good to let me know what's not working and then I come up with how to make it better.
Thanks for asking!

Jill James said...

Dawn, I love the storyline and the cover is yummy. I haven't seen many Harlequin's with such close-ups before.

Dawn Atkins said...

Susan: Hope you give the book a try.

Jill: Yes, I think my cover is unusual. I hope it will stand out on the shelves and catch lots of readers' eyes!

Crystal Adkins said...

Dawn, your answer was a good one, it is good to be passionate about something... good thing for you it's writing lol!

Kim Watters said...

Congratulations Kris. You're the winner of Dawn's book. Please contact Kim at kwatters21(at)

Kris said...

*Squee!* Hugs all around!

Too much in shock to think of a proper acceptance speech! Thanks very much!

Dawn Atkins said...

Congrats, Kris. I hope you enjoy it. Anyone who's interested in upcoming books, I have an e-newsletter I send out to let people know when a book's on the shelves, since the Blaze books disappear FAST!
All my best and happy reading!

Anonymous said...

how much reseach you do for the book?

Dawn Atkins said...

It depends on the book. If I have a character with a career field I know nothing about then I really scramble. The book coming out in April required TONS of research on everything from construction to heart attacks to herbal treatments to arson investigations. Let me tell you that can cramp your schedule!