Friday, April 3, 2009

Interview with Natale Stenzel

I’d like to welcome our guest today, Natale Stenzel. 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.

Thanks for having me back, Kim! And I *always* revisit places that serve plentiful chocolate. I'm shameless that way. (You're more than welcome. Thanks for coming back)

I understand you have a new release out called Between a Rock and a Heart Place (Dorchester ~ March 2009). Can you tell us a little bit about your fabulous new book?

Hey, if you're going to twist my arm . . .*g*. Sure. This is actually the third book in my series of funny paranormal romances featuring sexy, shape-shifting pucas, unexpected Druids, temperamental faeries, and even a flabbergasted human or two. The first book, PANDORA'S BOX, was released in February 2008, and the second book, THE DRUID MADE ME DO IT, was an August 2008 release. With this third book, BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HEART PLACE (Dorchester Love Spell ~ March 2009), we meet another kind of magical being in my enigmatic hero, Tremayne, a powerful nature spirit. His job is simple and yet enormously complicated. For two thousand years, he silently served as jailer to Riordan, the puca from PANDORA'S BOX; then we met Tremayne and wondered about him in THE DRUID MADE ME DO IT. In BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HEART PLACE, the Druids again call Tremayne into service, this time to keep a watchful -- possibly dangerously so -- eye over my heroine Daphne Forbes.

As an only child of feuding and exiled Druids -- the dethroned king and queen of the weirdo cult, in her opinion -- all Daphne wants is to start a new life far away from them. She wants to work and live among normal people who live in blissful ignorance of the existence of magic-wielding types like Druids, pucas and faeries. At long last, she has that new accounting job, that sleek new apartment, that new and utterly normal life lined up and waiting for her all the way on the other side of the country. Of course, this all blows up in her face. A stray thunk with no ordinary cornerstone and suddenly Daphne's a non-practicing but hereditary Druid wielding puca powers and trying to suppress a lifetime's worth of rage. The Druids won't let her leave town now that she's wielding undisciplined shape-shifting and mind-control powers -- a virtual powder keg just waiting for a stray spark to incite flaming chaos. That brings us to Tremayne. He's charged with helping Daphne learn how to control her powers or, failing that, *destroying* her in order to protect everyone else. This could prove difficult since he's been fascinated with Daphne for months now. Makes for a bit of a rocky romance, I guess you could say.

Sounds like it. You said Between a Rock and a Heart Place is actually the third book in a series. How are these books connected?

Although many of the same characters show up in each book and they all share the same story world, there's a different romantic couple and different conflict for each story. We're talking magical beings secretly walking among humans in the contemporary real world of Richmond, Virginia. Each book stands alone, but I'm told the experience is richer if you read them in order.

Why did you write a series and what are some of the challenges of writing books in a series?

Why? Heh. That's a good question. I honestly didn't know I was writing a series until I finished the first book on a perfect hook to start another book. It's addictive, too, I swear. When you create a world and fall in love with it, you like to stick around and explore it for a while, elaborate on it, and maybe rock it every once in a while*g*. Challenges? Oh, it's very easy to write yourself in a corner with these books if, like me, you hate to plot everything out in advance. Once that first book is printed, then you've already placed limitations on the next book. Character histories, timelines, relationships. You have to maintain consistency in the next book, and it, too, will elaborate on those same histories and timelines and relationships, which limits your options further with any subsequent book. Specific to the paranormal subgenre, I've learned not to use absolutes when defining magical laws. I never know when I might need to get around a law I've created, so I leave the means for a loophole later if I need it. That's not terribly difficult; a world based only on absolutes would be too simple to be believable. Our real world is full of loopholes and exceptions. It makes sense to me that any world I create should also be riddled with them.

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

Oh, man, that's tough. Obviously, I love all my characters or I wouldn't write about them. I admit I find it easy to identify with Daphne's story arc -- was rooting for her even before I started writing the story -- and it was a lot of fun watching her learn how to wield unfamiliar magic and grow into her own power. Still, if I had to pick just one character from this book, I guess I'd have to go with Tremayne, my hero. He really broke my heart in this story. He's so strong -- his powers so intimidating -- and yet he can be so vulnerable. He's a magical being who's lived in impossible conditions for thousands of years but now he's facing the challenge of his vast lifetime. He's learning to be human and learning what it means to love and be loved. His approach to these is so painfully direct and honest . . . and then he's willing to give up everything he's gained, purely out of this new and wonderful love for Daphne. The guy's internal growth is enormous. I think he really earns his happy ending.

What was the hardest part about writing this book?

That's actually a complicated question*g*. You see, the hardest part about writing this book was also the easiest part. The ending. I had a completely different ending in mind when I first sketched up my synopsis for Between a Rock and a Heart Place, but when I sat down to actually write the story and worked my way to that last chapter or two . . . well, a radically different ending sort of wrote itself in a heated rush. It was an ether-to-fingertip-to-screen process -- seeming to bypass the brain (and internal editor) entirely. The ending was a risk for me but was so natural, the progression so organic, that for me, the story couldn't have concluded any other way. Clues and details setting up the ending were already planted early in the story -- just the subconscious doing my work for me, I guess. The hard part, I think, was convincing myself to have confidence in that ending. I sent it to my editor and immediately panicked*g*. Guess it was okay, though, since nobody asked me to change it. I love it now.

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

Honestly? I blog and try to maintain an online presence with my website and Myspace and Facebook, but I don't know if any promotion I do has any direct effect on sales. I do believe, however, that each book I write helps to sell more copies of its predecessor. So, in a nutshell: writing another book.

What's next for you?

I have a hard time discussing projects while I'm working on them, but I will say that I'm still strongly drawn to paranormals and have some fun contemporary romance projects that are intriguing me at the moment.

Thanks, Natale!

To celebrate her book release, Natale is offering a free book to one lucky commenter on today's blog. The winner can choose one of the two prequels to Between a Rock and a Heart Place: either Pandora's Box or The Druid Made Me Do It. She will be around all day today. I'm sure some of you have questions or comments for her, so please ask away...


An avid reader and an incurable writer, Natale Stenzel has sold seven books for publication so far. The latest three are a series of funny paranormal romances published by Dorchester Love Spell. PANDORA'S BOX, the first book in the series, was released in February 2008; THE DRUID MADE ME DO IT was an August 2008 release; and a third book, BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HEART PLACE, a March 2009 release, is on bookstore shelves now. Prior to the paranormal romance series, she wrote four books for Harlequin's now defunct Flipside line of romantic comedies.

Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Natale earned degrees in English literature and magazine journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Currently, she resides in Richmond, Virginia, with a husband, two kids and a shamefully spoiled hound.

Check out author’s website at

Buy at:
Barnes & Noble:




Cate Masters said...

Congrats on your release! Your series sounds wonderful, can't wait to read it!

Natale Stenzel said...

Thanks, Cate!

Anonymous said...

Between a Rock and a Heart Place is sitting on top of my TBR pile, right now. Can't wait to crack it open, I'm sure its as great as the first two.

Netti said...

excellent interview! I'll be adding this series to my TBR pile!

Angie Fox said...

I just love funny paranormals and your books rock! Great to see you here.

Natale Stenzel said...

Aw, thanks, Anon -- I hope you like it!

Natale Stenzel said...

Thank you so much, Netti!

Natale Stenzel said...

Hi, Angie! Love me some funny paranormals, too*g* -- I'm looking forward to the next book in your series. Thanks for stopping by!

Jennifer Ashley/ Allyson James / Ashley Gardner said...

Congrats on your release Natalie! From a fellow Dorch author (do NOT draw my name for the contest--I buy the Dorchester books).


CrystalGB said...

Hi Natale. Great interview. Congratulations on your new release.

Lisa said...

Congrats on your release. I love funny paranormals and yours sound great.

Ida Plassay said...

Congratulations on your new release,it sounds like a good read.

Natale Stenzel said...

Thanks, Jennifer! Ian's on my wish list*g*.

Natale Stenzel said...

Thanks, Crystal!

Natale Stenzel said...

Thank you, Lisa! Nice to see you here:)

Natale Stenzel said...

Thanks, Ida -- and I hope so!*g*

catie said...

Hi Natale, I can't wait to start on this series--though I'm one of those people who's a stickler for reading a series in order, which is why I haven't started yet. Got my copy of THE DRUID MADE ME DO IT, but I want to start with PANDORA'S BOX.

Did the characters present themselves to you as Druids, pucas, etc.? They seem to be rather neglected by others draw on Celtic folklore/mythology, so I was wondering what led you to choose this for your books. :)

Can't wait for BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HEART PLACE. Congratulations!

Natale Stenzel said...

Hi, Catie -- and thank you!

Did the characters present themselves to me as pucas, Druids, etc. . . . I'm not sure. It was never a deliberate process. I'm not nearly that organized or efficient, unfortunately. I've never been able to build characters to suit my purposes.

When I get that first inkling of a story it's because I see a scene in my head like a movie. The characters are present and speaking to each other (I'm a dialogue junkie), their personalities already formed. If that doesn't happen, I don't have a story. So, spark, then snippet typed frantically by yours truly, and then later, brainstorming and fitting all the pieces together coherently.

What led me to choose pucas and Druids to use in my books? What captured my imagination first was the Stone Circle of Avebury and how many of the stones were busted up and used in construction. That tickled my imagination to no end. From there, I came up with the cursed cornerstone made out of one of those stones, and what might be inside of it (boom, Natale began typing that snippet mentioned earlier) and who might have cursed the creature inside of it. How did I arrive at a puca? I'm a Shakespeare nut and one of my favorite characters, Puck, was Shakespeare's interpretation of a puca. I love tricksters -- and that creature inside the stone I typed up in my snippet was definitely a magical trickster and I knew already of the puca, so there he was. Druids . . . they've fascinated me forever -- so revered and yet still such a mystery! -- and have been (erroneously) tied to the construction of this stone circle. He came a little later but was an obvious choice, given the timeline and the role he played . . .

And thus the unnatural imagination of Natale starts weaving things that fascinate her into a story. Hope that answers your question:).

Donna Del Grosso said...

Your book sounds oh so good! Lucky I'm on the way to the bookstore today!

Natale Stenzel said...

LOL Thanks, Donna!

catie said...

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer Natale. I always love knowing the sources of an author's inspiration. (I have a thing for the tricksters too--thought it's much more fun dealing with them in fiction as opposed to real life). :)

Natale Stenzel said...

LOL My pleasure, Catie!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations catie j. You're the winner of one of Natale's books. Please contact Km at kwatters 21 (at) hotmail. com. No spaces. Thanks for stopping by.