An Interview with Ava Stone and Jerrica Knight-Catania’s Alter Egoes

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I recently had the delightful experience of being invited to tea at Danby Castle with Emma, Viscountess Heathfield and Lady Isabel Lockwell, two of the heroines of our Christmas Anthology series–in Summons from Yorkshire and Summons from the Duke, respectively. Over piping hot oolong and crumpets, the two ladies divulged the details of life at the castle and their happily ever afters.

Ladies, I am so enthralled with Danby Castle. Tell me, what was the most extraordinary thing about growing up here?

Emma: There are so many things extraordinary about Danby Castle. Walking through the corridors, you can practically feel the history of the place beneath your feet. Whittons have always lived at Danby Castle, and I suspect they always will. So I would say, the sense of history and family that exudes from the walls and makes you feel as though you’re part of something bigger and older than yourself.

Isabel: (rolls her eyes) Exudes from the walls? I don’t know about that, Emma dear. Though I’ve seen water exuding from some of the walls, and really, if someone doesn’t take care of that this whole place will come crumbling down around us. But I digress…the most extraordinary thing about Danby Castle is that it’s so large, one can truly go unnoticed for days at a time. Pure bliss. *sigh*

Emma: And here I thought you’d say Grandpapa’s library collection was the
most extraordinary thing in existence!

Isabel: Yes, but books mean nothing if you have nowhere quiet to read

Point well taken, Lady Isabel. Does your grandfather permit you to waltz at Danby castle? Or is it simply too shocking?

Emma: Grandpapa does
not approve of waltzing, or rather he has never approved of waltzing for us. Luckily, Mama is more forward thinking and she is the one who has attended balls with us in the past. Grandpapa thinks he knows everything, but every now and then there are some things of which he is not aware.

Isabel: Well, thank heavens for Grandpapa. Waltzing is shocking.
Mother would have had us waltzing with everyone it town if it were up to her.

Speaking of family, are you close to your brothers?

Emma: I adore our brothers. Both of them. (And especially their friends, Well – really Andrew’s dear friend Lord Heathfield, but I digress.) Where was I again? Oh! Am I close to Andrew and Philip…? Yes, we are close, but they are usually so wrapped up in their own lives, they pay very little attention to whatever Izzy and I are up to. But we know quite a few things about them…

Isabel: Huh! If close means not seeing or hearing from either of them for years at a time, then yes, I suppose we are very close.

Both of you young ladies are recently wed. My best wishes to you both. Do you have any advice for young ladies who are still looking for their happily ever after?

Emma: Never give up on your dreams, no matter what they are – even if you have to concoct an outlandish plan that could go spectacularly awry. Your dreams are worth the risk, if you want them desperately enough.

Isabel: Be sensible. Don’t take up with any and every rogue who pays you a compliment. And don’t wrap all your dreams up in a man – there are wonderful things to discover in this world that have nothing to do with men.

Did you ladies get what you wanted for Christmas this year?

Emma: (grins radiantly) I not only got what I wanted this year, I got what I’ve always wanted my entire life – Lord Heathfield all to myself, from now until the end of time. *sigh*

Isabel: (sighs) Despite my best efforts not to end up
with a husband, I somehow did anyway. And though I didn’t know it until just a
few days ago, yes, it was exactly what I wanted for Christmas.

When do you think the duke will issue another summons?

Emma: Well, I know Grandpapa was annoyed that some of my cousins escaped his grasp this holiday. So I wouldn’t be surprised if he issued another summons before next Christmas. Perhaps a mandatory house party this summer?

Isabel: I don’t know, but thank heavens I won’t have to be a part of it! Never again will I have to contend with unwanted houseguests in my house!

Emma: But you must promise that you will visit me in my home, Izzy. I love Heath will all my heart, but I don’t know what I’ll do if I’m separated from you for too long.

Isabel: Oh, Emma, how could we be separated when you live permanently in my heart (they share a quick, teary hug)

(I hand both ladies freshly-laundered handkerchiefs.) What are your plans after the holiday?

Emma: Heath and I will head to his country seat in Sussex. We’ll stay there until the Season when he’ll reclaim his seat in the Lords. I am quite anxious to settle into our new lives, the running of Heath’s estate, creating menus, hosting any of my family who wants to visit.

Isabel: Hm. I have no idea, actually. Damien hasn’t said as much…though he did tell me that his father has an extensive library that no one ever uses, so I do hope we’re going there soon! Who gives a fig where you are when
you have a good book and Mr. Lockwell?

At this point, we were interrupted by Mrs. Ealey, the housekeeper, who informed both ladies that their mother was ready to look over fashion plates together. Lady Emma was delighted but had to practically drag her sister along with her.

The two other books in the Danby series are A Summons from His Grace and A Summons from the Castle. I hope you enjoyed this tete a tete as much as I did. Please leave your comment below for a chance to win in our amazing 12 Days of Christmas giveaway and have the opportunity to win a Kindle!

An Interview with Phyllis Campbell

Phyllis Campbell is an award-winning, multi-published and best-selling author of romance; from the dark and mysterious hero who sends shivers up your spine to the feisty heroines who somehow manage to keep them in line. She’s been published with several small presses since 2006.  Most of her reviewers have given her the title of “Queen Of Sexual Tension”. Married with kids (and three grandchildren), Phyllis has lived in Utah all of her life and enjoys family activities when she’s not writing her next sensual story.

Hi everyone! As some of you know, the Christmas Anthologies were released yesterday, a series of novellas that center around the Duke of Danby and his wayward grandchildren. I wrote one of the stories, “A Second Chance for Christmas,” which is featured in A Summons from the Duke. Phyllis wrote “Becoming a Lady,” for A Summons from His Grace. I’ve been a long-time admirer of Phyllis’ and was so thrilled to have the chance to interview her for the blog. Let’s dive in, shall we?

What did you like most about working on an anthology? Was this your first time to participate in one? 

I had a lot of fun working on this anthology. It has not been my first anthology, yet it was my first anthology where I shared a family with the other writers. It was a blast getting to know all the cousins. My heroine is the one who is related to the Duke of Danby, and she has a half-brother who she is told about but doesn’t meet. Her brother’s story is written by Suzie Grant. I did enjoy this type of anthology better, I must admit. Then again, I was always family oriented.

Your heroine, Dorothy, is rather feisty, shall we say? LOL Did you have any real-life inspirations for her character or dialogue?

Yes, Dorothy is one very feisty American. She is far bolder than her British cousins, and she has a mouth on her that could make a sailor blush. hee hee Well, maybe not that bad… I didn’t have any real life inspirations for her character. Dorothy Paxton took on her own form and own voice, and I was more than happy to write her. I do enjoy writing feisty heroines who are a little more verbal than most women.

What’s your favorite period in history to write about?

I think Victorian is still my favorite period. While writing this Regency, my critique partners were pointing out my use of words that weren’t used in the Regency time. However, most of them were used in the Victorian days. So that right there let me know where my heart truly lies.

How do you get in the proper mindset for writing?

Because I write in a lot of eras, the way I get in the proper mindset is to read a story that is in that era. That helps a lot. Thankfully, I have a crit group who writes like I do.

Do you have any inspirations for the kinds of heroes you write?

I have many! When I write Regency, I have Mr. Darcy in my mind. When I write in the Colonial era, I have Capt. Jack Sparrow’s suave, charming character. Okay…maybe Will Turner’s looks, but definitely Sparrow’s personality. I love Hugh Jackman, Gerard Butler, and Antonio Banderas, to just name a few.

Do you find it difficult to write love scenes? 

NO WAY! I love writing love scenes. My characters like it, too. hee hee But I think I love writing sexual tension even more than the actual love scene. I really enjoy the sensual build up between my characters…which of course makes the final love scene that much sweeter.

What advice do you have for anyone who wants to write, but hasn’t given it a try?

I tell them to beware… If you start writing, you may never stop. That’s what happened to me. I was an avid reader, and one day I decided to just give it a try… That was about 16 years ago. The story ideas haven’t stopped, for which I’m grateful. I love writing! And for those who don’t know if they’re a writer yet, all they have to do is try. If they enjoy creating stories, then they are indeed a writer!

Any new projects on the horizon?

Oh yes! I have a few stories I’d started several years ago that I’ve never finished. And I have several new ideas for time-travel. I will always have projects on the horizon!

Thanks so much for stopping by, Phyllis. You can read more about Phyllis by checking out her blog.

Reading and writing the anthology really put me in the Christmas spirit! The other two books in the series are A Summons from Yorkshire and A Summons from the Castle. Download them all today for some great holiday road-trip reading! And post your email address below for a chance to win a Kindle or other fab prizes!

For Those of You Playing at Home…

When I worked a temp job at a marketing firm, my coworker would utter the phrase, “for those of you playing at home” at least once a day. For example, she would say, “I found out it will cost $2500 to repair my transmission. For those of you playing at home, that’s a month’s pay.” It was her catchphrase, the identifier that set her conversation apart.

Most television show characters have their own catchphrase. My daughter likes to watch The Backyardigans, and her favorite character is Tasha the hippo. Tasha likes to say, “Oh, for goodness’ sake” at least once per episode. If you’ve ever endured an episode of The Wonder Pets, then you know the answer to “What’s gonna work?” (ALL TOGETHER NOW: “TEAMWORK!!”) And the list goes on and on…

Frequently used phrases, or FUPs, take this concept one step further. Fups are a kind of shorthand for communication. One of my biggest FUPs is from the movie Rebel Without a Cause: “What’re we going to do with Moo?” My husband and I use this when discussing my daughter, like “So, guess who didn’t take a nap today?” “Really? Well, what’re we going to do with moo?” When we talk about doing something without fearing consequences, we say “with impunity.” As in, “You can pay that bill with impunity, because I deposited my paycheck.” And the list goes on and on…

I like to give my characters, if not catchphrases (which can get annoying) at least a few FUPs. It makes them recognizable, familiar–more real, I think. What FUPs do you use? Do you incorporate FUPs and catchphrases into your writing, or do you feel like they can be too big of a crutch?

A Tangled Web



Whenever I am sick or tired, I turn back to the books I read when I was a girl. And since I have been both sick and tired lately, I turned back to L.M. Montgomery. I fell in love with Anne of Green Gables first, reading it when I was in sixth grade.
After I exhausted the Anne series, right down to Rilla of Ingleside, I devoured the Emily books, the Pat books, and all the ephemera that has ever been published from the Montgomery oeuvre.

The most recent book I read was A Tangled Web, which I discovered only a few years ago. Along with The Blue Castle, Web has the distinction of being one of the only adult novels Montgomery wrote. The language is a bit more colorful, and the final page features a rare appearance of the N-word, which is rather shocking. But like all Montgomery books, it is set in Canada and focuses on the lives of rural Canadian farm families—or “clans,” as she calls them. This time, the book centers on the Darks and the Penhallows, two families who have been intermarrying and feuding for years. It’s one of my favorite books, bar none, and I turned back to it this week for comfort.

The plot of the story is simple: Aunt Becky Dark, the clan matriarch, is dying,
and she has a family heirloom that everybody wants when she kicks the bucket.
She holds a “levee,” which is the equivalent of Cold Comfort Farm‘s “counting,” in which she airs all the family gossip and dark secrets. She issues an ultimatum: every one must get his or her life in order to be eligible for possession of the Dark jug after she dies. The book then follows the various members of the Darks and Penhallows
over the course of a year as their lives change for the better.

I love these multigenerational stories, and I love that the characters aren’t terribly likable when you first meet them. Self-centered, selfish, and petty—Montgomery gives us the gift of hating them at first, or at least being terribly annoyed by them. Then, in time, we come to love them as they deepen and transform into better people.

I think my favorite storyline centers around Hugh Dark and Jocelyn Penhallow, who are separated on their wedding night and live for ten years both despising and adoring one another from afar. The resolution of their love story is, in my opinion, one of the most satisfying in all of Montgomery’s fiction—and yes, I am including Anne and Gilbert in that assessment. I wish she had devoted an entire book to their characters.

So, what about you? What books do you turn to when you feel sick or tired or both?