Carolina Blues, the fourth book in Virginia Kantra’s appealing Dare Island series comes out next month. Today, Virginia talks with AAR about heroes, sex scenes, and happy endings. Virginia is offering the Dare Island novel of his or her choice to three lucky AAR readers. To enter this giveaway, please leave a comment.
Dabney: You and I both live in North Carolina and, I have to say, your sense of place is such a strength in your Dare Island books. I have a hard time remembering that Dare Island, North Carolina doesn’t actually exist. Are you a native to the Tar Heel state?
Virginia: Thank you! That’s such a compliment! Dare Island (named for Virginia Dare, the first child born to English parents in North America) is set in North Carolina’s Outer Banks. But you can find little pieces of it up and down the Carolina coast from Manteo to Southport.
I’m Ohio born and Philadelphia bred, which may be why both Allison in Carolina Home and Jack Rossi in Carolina Blues are from Philly. But my husband’s dad was stationed at Camp Lejeune, and North Carolina was our vacation destination for many years before it became our home. This is where we raised our family, and we still sneak away to the beach every chance we get.
Purely for research purposes, of course.
Dabney: What made you move from the mystical (your Children of the Sea series) to small town romance? Is there anything you miss about writing paranormal romance?
Virginia: For me, it’s always about the love story, the romance. The basic stuff I have to say about the truths women know, the strength of family, the importance of relationships, the power of love, that stuff doesn’t change.
If I wrote faster, I would totally do both kinds of books at the same time. I love the fairy tale aspects of the Children of the Sea stories – the magic and wonder and even the very dark places. But in some ways they are not typical paranormals, even though they were marketed that way, and I think that made it hard for their natural readership to find them.
And like most people in tough times, I want to go to my comfort place. I started writing small town contemporary romance (my MacNeills series, now available in e-book). So Dare Island feels like coming home to me.
Virginia: I’m into commitment.
So maybe the hero is a military man, committed to bringing his buddies home alive. Maybe he’s committed to something else: the pursuit of knowledge or some standard of excellence or justice or revenge. Or family—that’s a big one for me.
The hero’s allegiance to his cause can create problems, of course. But ultimately, it’s his ability to commit to something outside himself that makes his eventual devotion to the heroine believable and satisfying.
Dabney: There’s a pretty big age difference between Alison and Matt, the hero and heroine of Carolina Home (he’s 36, she’s 25). My children claim there’s a dating rule: you can only date younger people whose age is no more than your age divided by two plus seven. Alison and Matt just make it! Would you ever write a love story with the ages of the sexes reversed: the older woman, younger man trope?
Virginia: I struggled with that age difference, but I think it sharpened Matt’s dilemma, his awareness that they were at very different places in their lives, without belittling Allison’s intelligence or sense of purpose.
I’m totally open to writing an older heroine. I did it in The Temptation of Sean MacNeill. In Carolina Man, Kate is three years older than Luke, though there’s no real difference in terms of their responsibility and maturity. In my upcoming novella, Carolina Heart, the heroine is only two years older than the hero, but she’s a single mom with two kids, which puts her in a very different place from the commitment-free hero.
Dabney: The heroine of your most recent tale, Lauren, has a really interesting background. Where did her character come from?
Virginia: Lauren shows up briefly in Carolina Girl as Meg’s first PR client, a psychology student who catapults to fame after negotiating the safety of other hostages in a bank-robbery-gone-bad. She needed to be loving and strong and funny and modern and damaged. Of course, I didn’t know how damaged until I started writing her. But I love Lauren. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have given her Jack.
Dabney: One thread that runs through all four books is children who were or are somehow in danger (Jane’s son Aiden, Luke’s daughter Taylor). That must have been a difficult topic to research.
Virginia: In feel-good, small-town contemporary romance, your characters are not going to save the world or foil a terrorist plot. But they still need conflict to grow and deserve their happy endings. You can put them in emotional danger, of course. But I don’t think you can give them a higher stakes conflict than to make them responsible for the fate of a child—and isn’t that something we can all identify with emotionally?
Dabney: Carolina Blues is–if you ask me–the steamiest book of the series. Do you think that’s true? Do you like writing love scenes or are they a chore?
Virginia: Yay, thank you! I think this story’s pretty steamy, too. I didn’t set out to write it that way, but Jack and Lauren are both observers—he’s a cop, she’s a psychologist. They need sex to break down their barriers, to get out of their heads. And because they both have issues with intimacy and control, the love scenes are a perfect place to explore those issues.
Because my love scenes come out of the characters, each one feels fresh to me. Which makes them as much fun—and as difficult—as any other scenes to write.
Dabney: Have you always been or wanted to be a writer? How did your career as a romance novelist come about?
Virginia: I’ve always been a storyteller. But it wasn’t until the youngest of our three children started school full time that I joined RWA and started writing seriously for publication.
Dabney: I am assuming the next book is Jane’s story, the single mom/bakery owner. After that, are there more Dare Island books in the pipeline?
Virginia: At least one. I can’t quit until I tell Josh Fletcher’s story (the hero’s son from Carolina Home).
Dabney: You’re a mom yourself. Have your kids read your books?
Virginia: I borrow liberally from our family in my writing, so I don’t want to know! But they’re very proud and supportive.
Dabney: Thanks again!
Virginia: Thank you so much!
For readers who may be new to the series, Penguin is dropping the e-book price on the first book, Carolina Home, to $1.99 before Carolina Blues releases on October 7th. The sale should run from Sept 10th-Sept 17th.
Readers who purchase the Kindle book for $1.99 will then be able to buy the audiobook for $3.49. (That’s both editions for just under $5.50 – less than the normal price of the e-book.)