Welcome! Please introduce yourself and tell us about your latest release.
Hello readers, I’m M. S. Spencer and I write contemporary action/adventure romances. My first two books, Lost in His Arms and Lost & Found, were released by Red Rose Publishing in 2009 and 2010. I have submitted a third, set in Chincoteague Island and am working on a fourth, about three sisters living in a Victorian mansion above the Potomac River. I’ve been writing since I could hold a pencil in my hand (which is why I’ve had a callus on my right hand for decades, only slowly disappearing with my increased use of the laptop). With the advent of e-publishing my submission anxiety diminished and I finally sent the first baby off. I am gratified that both books are bestsellers and have garnered excellent reviews.
I have two wonderful adult children and live in a house that backs on a park and a river next Alexandria, Virginia.
Have you ever had an idea for a story which scared you after you began writing it?
No, I don’t think so. Sometimes I’ve wondered where they’re off to, and some scenes are emotionally difficult, but not frightening.
Have you incorporated actual events from your own life into your books?
In a convoluted sort of way. I wrote a blog awhile ago about those really good bits you are sometimes forced to delete from your story. Life is made up of many anecdotes, many odd or funny experiences. I think writers tend to retain these more than other people, filed away in a little mental cubbyhole marked “Good bit: use when appropriate.” They never come out (on paper) exactly as they went in, but that’s how we avoid those pesky libel suits, right?
How much research do you do? Do you research first and then write, or do you write first, then research as needed?
I do a LOT of research, even though my books are set in places I know intimately. There’s nothing more irritating to a reader I think than coming across a glaring inaccuracy. Most of the time I check facts as I go along (google on standby). But I often take several trips to the place to check street names, distances, etc. in order to make sure the reader could walk the road my heroine walks without running into an unexpected brick wall.
Is there any message you want readers to take from reading your work?
I hope that my characters will come across as real, but imperfect, personalities. One reviewer said she sometimes wanted to wring my heroine’s neck, and sometimes hug her. I took that as a compliment! The heroine (and the hero) should remind you of that sister or cousin of yours whom you would kill if you didn’t love them so much.
I do not hold with the idea that the heroine always knows her mind or does what’s best for her, or even does the right thing. But somehow, because they are basically decent creatures, they find a way.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? And have you ever had a story take on a life of its own?
To be honest, I don’t know what a “pantser” is—do you mean “seat of the pants”? I do both outlining and improvising. I may start off with the best intentions along one path and find myself going down a totally different one. Picture me speaking sharply to my fingers, admonishing them for ripping my plot rug out from under me and sending it flying off toward a new adventure. All good stories take on a life of their own, don’t you think? One could put it down to the creative imp who peers over your shoulder and lets one long, green, reptilian finger snake past you to type in an unexpected twist.
How long did it take for you to be published?
Not that long actually, although it took a lifetime to actually submit anything. I was lucky to find an enthusiastic and energetic publisher in Wendi Felter at Red Rose on only my third try.
If you could go back and tell yourself anything when you first began your writing career, what would you say?
When I first had a garden I wouldn’t pull any bush or flower out, fearing that they were irreplaceable. In the same manner I would keep stuff in a story that didn’t work or was irrelevant to the story. Erasing any of my precious words was worse than cutting a finger off. I’ve learned to let go of that perfect metaphor that really isn’t so perfect, and now—surprise, surprise—I don’t even lose sleep over it! A great editor once advised authors: when you have written five pages, delete three of them and you’ll have a better product.
Laptop or pen and ink? What are your ‘must-haves’ when writing?
Both. I now write almost exclusively on the laptop, but I have several notepads on the desk and by the bed for jotting down ideas etc. I need the internet to check facts as I go (and, yes, email).
Who are your favorite authors? Who would you say influenced you the most?
Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, Margery Allingham, Shakespeare, L. Frank Baum (I have a large collection of Wizard of Oz books), Evelyn Waugh. I am not enamored of modern American chic (I don’t mean chick) fiction—I find the characters so unattractive I lose interest in whatever is going to happen to them which I am positive will be unpleasant and well-deserved.
What would your readers be surprised to learn about you?
That spending many years living in other countries (which I really enjoyed) has made me even more grateful for America’s amazing freedom and people (and junk food). That I spent 7 ½ years studying Arabic and can barely say hello in it. That I’m an avid birdwatcher, as long as I don’t have to get up too early.
An ice cold vodka gimlet, straight up.
Do you have any special Labor Day traditions?
Other than giving birth to my second child?
LOL:) I can relate to that; I have one born on the 3rd of July!
McDonald’s or Burger King?
I have been only once to McDonalds in over thirty years, and then only because we had to leave a cruise ship without breakfast. We had spent the night on it in Baltimore Harbor before its maiden voyage and, having had one heck of a great time lasting into the wee hours, overslept. I refused to let my children enter a McDonalds (although I’m sure they snuck in when my back was turned). I used to love Burger King but haven’t had the pleasure in a long time.
Thank you for being here today! Please tell us where we can find your books.
Meredith Ellsworth, writing as M. S. Spencer
Lost in His Arms
Published September 2009 by Red Rose Publishing
62,000 words, Contemporary Romance, Action/Adventure, M/F, 3 flames
eBook, ISBN 978-1-60435-375-0
In an era electric with possibility and peril Chloe Gray, political writer, and Michael Keller, CIA troubleshooter, meet under curiously conventional circumstances. Despite the instantaneous sparks, they both sense there is more between them than physical attraction. Chloe's professional detachment from the dramatic world events of the 1990s—a disintegrating USSR, Middle East peace talks, and Vietnam's reemergence on the world stage—dissolves as their love affair intensifies.
Michael appears and disappears at unpredictable moments, leaving her limp and lovelorn. Is he using her or protecting her? In her quest for answers, she is yanked into the dangerous world of Michael's work—in Washington, DC, in France, and in Spain. Looking for safe harbor (for her emotions? or her body?), she submits to the advances of a dashing French diplomat. Will she embrace the luxury and comfort of Emile and his chateau or the romance of international intrigue with Michael?
Chloe pulled his arm closer. "It is not just a cut. It's a gash. Look at all the blood you’ve dripped on my floor! Come here." She held his arm under the faucet and carefully washed the grit out of the wound. "Now just stay there. Press this paper towel against the cut. I'll go get some Neosporin and a bandage." She slipped up the stairs and through her bedroom to the bathroom. As she came out with the supplies she stopped short. He was sitting on her bed.
"I thought I would save you a trip." He spoke diffidently.
"Oh…that's…okay." Chloe willed herself not to touch his thigh as she sat down on the bed next to him (too close?). She applied the ointment and bandage, trying to keep her hands from trembling. He must have noticed anyway, because he put his larger one over hers and gently squeezed.
"Is the blood bothering you?"
She hesitated, breathless. He looked into her eyes, and before she knew it his arms went around her and she was kissing him. No, he was kissing her. She lost all sense of time and place and clung to his mouth as though she were drowning and it was a lifeboat. She felt herself falling, landing on his chest. He held her tightly, squeezing the life out of her. Or was it her soul he was drawing into his own? How could she tell him it was not his blood that was bothering her but her own, boiling up in waves of desire? He let her go reluctantly, but she held onto his buttons, tearing them off. She opened his shirt and buried her face in the soft black hairs of his chest. His hands went to her arms and gently moved her off him to the side. Slowly he undid her blouse, unhooked the bra and brushed each breast with his lips. She lay back, her eyes unfocussed, waiting for the touch, living for the scent of his hair. He looked up through his bangs and blasted her heart out with a glance of those azure eyes.
She did not need elaboration. She nodded mutely. He kissed her neck, her shoulders, her breasts, and down her stomach. A thousand butterflies fought to escape from her belly. He pulled down her zipper and tugged at the skirt. She still lay quietly, lost in pleasure. It all seemed to pass in slow motion. Everything felt perfect. Then he stopped. She opened her eyes. "What?"
His expression had altered. He was glaring at her, his face only inches away from hers. "What the Hell am I doing? This is nuts!" He sat up, facing away from her. She saw that she had taken his shirt off and his belt and zipper were undone. For some inexplicable reason his shoes were neatly arranged at the foot of the bed. She put a hand on his back. He stood up abruptly.
A sudden flash of panic hit her. He couldn't leave. Not now.
Lost and Found
Published June, 2010 by Red Rose Publishing
69,000 words, Contemporary Romance, Action/Adventure, M/F, 3 flames
eBook, ISBN 978-1-60435-707-3
What do you do when David, your husband of a year, ups and disappears? If you're Rose Culloden, a beautiful, wealthy woman in her forties who had despaired of finding happiness, you do anything to find him. The trail takes you first to the North Woods of Maine, then to Florida, and back again to western Maine. Along the way you meet James Stewart--a Maine guide--who vividly highlights the contrast between a real man and your delicate Harvard professor of a husband. Loyal to your marriage despite your powerful attraction to James, it takes the dramatic discovery that David is not just vicious and venal, but insane, to free your heart for true love.
Rose would never forget the tight knot of panic squeezing her heart as she looked down, down an almost thousand-foot drop to moss-dusted crags, down through the cold wraiths of mist circling the mountain in the chill September air. Ignoring the fear, she took a tentative step forward, away from the comfort of the cliff face, felt the icy breath of high altitude fan her face, and retreated. What she’d thought was solid rock behind her yielded slightly and she froze, engulfed in a surge of terror. I’m going to fall. I’m going to die in agony, crushed on those distant jagged spears. The rock behind her moved again. She began to totter forward, but a furry paw seized her elbow. The paw tightened its grip, and Rose let it pull her sideways, back into a gap between the damp stone walls.
Okay, Rose, girl. Steady. Take a deep breath. Now, open your eyes and look at the paw. Five fingers encased in a furry glove. Okay. It’s human. She followed the fur up a forearm, then to a broad furry chest. She risked a peek at the dark face, encircled with more fur. It was scrunched up, not with the cold but with a cold fury. The deep brown eyes flashed. She meekly dropped her own. “I was perfectly safe, Mr. Stewart,” she whispered. Did that sound as stupid to him as it did to me?
The face scowled. Her rescuer moved around Rose and knocked lightly with his heel at the ledge on which she’d been standing. A large chunk broke off and tumbled in crumbly bits into the ether. She heard pops and bangs as it immolated itself on the crags below. Still scowling, he turned back to her. “Get back to the others.” His voice was deep and primal.
Contacts: Website: www.meredithellsworth.com
Facebook Author Page: http://www.facebook.com/mssellsworth#!/pages/M-S-Spencer/132571588515?ref=ts
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