Welcome to fellow New Zealander Leigh!
When did you read your very first romance novel? And can you recall what it was, or your opinion of it?
I was quite young, maybe around nine or ten years old. It was one of the old hard cover Mills & Boons and it sat on a shelf in my grandparents bach at Maketu, a small seaside settlement in the Bay of Plenty. I don’t remember the details, but the story revolved around a heroine who decided to enter into a ‘trial marriage’ with her hero. This was very risqué stuff in the early 60s! If my grandmother caught me reading it she’d take it away, but she always replaced it back on the same shelf. I had to burrow under the bedclothes several times before I got to the end. The heroine’s daring and the sensual undertones were exciting.
I believe that the cover art for your debut novel “Kincaid’s Call” wasn’t quite as you’d originally visualized it would be. How do you feel about it now that the book has hit the bestseller lists? And how much do you think the cover contributes to reader appeal?
I had a very strong impression of how I wanted the cover of “Kincaid’s Call” to look. My heroine, Kate, would be bending backwards over Nathan Kincaid’s arm in a deep dip. She wore a slinky amber gown. I saw their faces very clearly so that when the cover arrived and there were no faces I was quite disconcerted! I now think my visuals were a little old fashioned – perhaps I was channelling images from ‘Gone with the Wind’. I’ve had many positive comments about the cover. Rae Monet from The Wild Rose Press did a great job and I’m grateful for her professional expertise. Speaking only from my own experience, I would not choose a book based on its cover, but there are some books I would bypass because of their covers (does that make sense?!).
Many authors continue to work at a ‘day job.’ If you also do so then how many hours a week can you devote to writing? Do you have any tips on how to balance job/family/writing/marketing, etc?
I wish I could say I lead a balanced life! I have a day job which I work from home, but which also takes me away to other centres from time to time. My partner also works from home so he’s in and out throughout the day. I have three small grandchildren nearby plus elderly parents. If I took my own advice I’d: say ‘no’ more often; separate my day into defined time slots; finish what I start because that would be less stressful than leaving tasks half-finished; write every day (or at least five days a week) either for a specific period of time or to complete a specific number of words. To finish ‘Kincaid’s Call’ I wrote daily from 5am-7am. Although marketing wasn’t something I took into account before my debut novel came out as an e-book, I now realise online marketing is essential and needs a daily time slot for itself. At the moment my writing time is a bit haphazard and I need to rein myself in.
Is there any particular author or mentor who inspires you?
I admire Daphne Clair and Robyn Donald, two multi-published New Zealand writers who have each had long careers as romance writers. I’ve attended their weekend workshops and was awestruck by their professionalism. Going to Daphne and Robyn’s workshop for the first time made it really hit home for me that writing may be a craft, but writers should understand that publishing is a commercial activity.
Do you use your hobbies/interests/sports or occupational knowledge in your stories? If so, which ones? For most of my adult life I’ve been self-employed and I’m more comfortable if my heroines are independently employed. I couldn’t call myself an outdoors person but I feel deeply attached to the New Zealand landscape and I love to integrate this into my writing. I enjoy artmaking and I often mention the art in a person’s surroundings or sometimes use a piece of art as a metaphor or to highlight an emotional scene.
“Kincaid’s Call” is contemporary. Do you write, or plan to, in any other genre?
Under my ‘real’ name I’ve had short stories and freelance articles published. I’ve also produced children’s literature in the form of oral histories. My WIP is another contemporary and this is where I’ll continue to focus, but I’ve been doing some reading on medieval times as I’ve become interested in setting a romance during this period. I’d also quite like to tackle a generational saga – one day!
How did you choose your pen name?
‘Dansey’ is my mother’s maiden name. Apparently it used to have an apostrophe and I decided to put it back just for fun, really. Leigh is a name I like that also begins with the initial of my Christian name, ‘Lyn.’
Tell us a little about your current work in progress.
‘Married to McAllister’ is a reunion romance set against the dramatic landscape of New Zealand’s Hawkes Bay. Rugged mountain ranges stand guard over slopes blanketed in vineyards. Gravel-bottomed rivers thread through the flatlands, nourishing the vines and the orchards that proliferate. There’s something colourful and quirky about the main townships of Napier and Hastings, rebuilt in the Art Deco architectural style after a devastating earthquake in 1931. When Jack McCallister comes back to town, Sam Ryan’s world is rocked, just as the region was rocked decades before. Why did Jack need to escape the confines of his small town upbringing; and why is Sam so afraid to leave her childhood surroundings?
Do you have a particular writing room or space in your home? I work from a corner in the dining room. It isn’t the best arrangement but it’s one of the warmest areas in a cold house.
First novels are often perceived as being semi-autobiographic. In what way might your heroine reflect aspects of yourself?
Mmmm… this is a tricky one. Perhaps in her independence. I think Kate’s the kind of person I’d like to be, more than the kind of person I am.
Describe your hero. What is it about him that the reader will fall in love with?
Nathan Kincaid is a hunk. He’s tough, but the tragedy in his background gives him compassion. He hurts but he doesn’t let his pain rule his life. He has a nice sense of humour and he can ride a horse like he was born in the saddle.
Entice us with an excerpt of “Kincaid’s Call.”
With a faint moan she moved her lips on Nathan’s throat, flicking her tongue against the dark stubble that hazed his jaw. Blame it on the wine and the music, she told herself helplessly. His hand spanned down across her bottom, pressing her against his tautening erection.
“See what you do to me?”
She did more than allow Nathan to hold her against his masculine hardness. She pressed even closer, moving her hips against him. She felt as if she were swimming in dark honey. Whatever she did to him, he did to her threefold. She delighted in his maleness, in the musky smell of him, the feel of his springing dark hair as she tangled it in her fingers at the back of his neck.
“Let’s play a game, Kate.”
She tilted her head back and looked at him through heavy-lidded eyes. “What kind of game?”
“A let’s-pretend game. Let’s pretend we don’t work together. That we’re out on a regular date. That we can go upstairs and make love any time we want.”
“I didn’t think you were going to let me have your body.”
“As far as you’re concerned, my body seems to have a mind of its own.” That was becoming blatantly obvious. So much for sex not fitting into the equation, Kate thought despairingly. Nathan obviously made up his own equations as he went along.
“Anyway,” he insisted softly, “this is just pretend.”
“You want to play a game of ‘let’s pretend’ on the dance floor? Don’t you think that’s a little childish?”
“The ‘let’s pretend’ I’m thinking of is strictly for grown-ups. Come on, humour me.”
“Uh…so what are we doing?”
“We’re going upstairs.”
“To your room?”
“To my room.”
“To make love?”
“To make love.”
“Who makes the first move?”
“But you’re the man. You’re supposed to.” She knew it was a pathetic argument.
“Don’t be so old-fashioned. There’s no rulebook in a fantasy.”
“What do I do?”
“Use your imagination.”
Kate swallowed. “Maybe I could dance.”
Nathan moved his hands down to cup her hips. Under his touch they seemed to sway provocatively without any conscious effort from her brain. “That’s a good start. What next?”
“Umm…” Kate brought her hands to his chest, smoothing the silky material of his shirt against his skin. “I’d take your jacket off.”
“You’ve played this game before.”
“Not so often.”
“Now it’s my turn.”
“Mm…mmm.” His hands came up to the narrow straps on her shoulders. Kate wound her arms around his neck.
“I’d slip these straps down. Are you wearing a bra?” She shook her head mutely. He growled softly. “Then what, Kate?”
“I’d step out of my dress,” she whispered.
“I’d take off my shirt.”
“I’d come towards you.” Her hands slipped down to his hips. “Are you touching me?”
The music stopped. “Oh, God…Nathan.” Kate pushed herself away from him. “This is insane!”
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WIN A PRIZE: Leigh generously offers you the opportunity to win a copy of “Kincaid’s Call”. Post a comment to be in the draw on Saturday, 10th July.
Congratulations to Judy Cox, the winner of Leigh’s draw.