Welcome once again to Duck Chat!
Today we’re talking to Sophie Renwick, who some of you may know as Charlotte Featherstone. Sophie writes fun, light, and erotic contemporaries and dark and sexy paranormals, and you are in for a treat with her debut book, Hot In Here. It’s a friends-to-lover story that takes you for an up-and-down ride through lust and romance while also sating the taste buds. Be sure to pick it up! She is also working on her first book in her paranormal series, the Annwyn Chronicles, so you will not have to wait without having a Sophie Renwick bookin hand for too long.
Sophie lives on the north shore of Lake Erie with her husband and their daughter. She loves to cook and loves Lisa Kleypas‘ Sebastian from Devil in Winter, as well as snowstorms, early mornings, high heels, and ethnic food. Her next book is out later this year, and since she’s living her dream, she’s always writing to bring her readers more of what they love to read.
In fact, Sophie is on deadline right now, but she will be stopping by to respond to any comments or questions you have for her. She’s also giving away two copies of Hot In Here, so make that comment or question good! Now let’s chat with Sophie.
DUCK CHAT: Sophie, you have a couple of new series we have to tell readers about. Let’s start with your Annwyn series. First tell us the idea behind the series, how it came about, and where you’ll be taking it in the future.
SOPHIE RENWICK: The series came about during a phone call from my editor. I had put in a proposal and she called the next day saying they couldn’t buy it because an author at the house had a new series coming out that was similar. I was bummed. But my editor said that the publisher was really eager to get a ‘dark and sexy shifter series.’ So we chatted for a bit, and I thought, what about using my Scottish background to make a series. So I picked Scottish or Celtic type animals to use, the Hart, the Raven, the Selkie, etc., and used them in the way the ancient Celts did. I added the Druid/Gothic feel because it’s an area of interest for me. I added the element of an overarching quest, and sinister magician, and the Annwyn Chronicles were born!
My editor has been very involved along the way, and it was really fun to throw in stories and images from my childhood. Plus, I got to research something that I’ve always been interested in.
I think what makes this paranormal series different is the Fantasy elements, the quest, and the fact that the Destroyer, who is an apprentice to the villain, is actually one of the characters in the series. But like most anti-heroes, something has made him turn. The identity of the person will be revealed in the last book.
I’m really, really excited about this series and it was so much fun building the world. I hope readers enjoy it.
DC: If you could retire any question and never, ever have it asked again, what would it be? Feel free to answer it.
SR: I think it’d have to be ‘how do you come up with your sex scenes?” The honest answer is, ‘they stem from the characters and their desires and conflicts.’ When I’ve given that answer I’ve had many people try to probe deeper, or some have an expression of disappointment on their face, like they thought they were going to get to hear something really juicy about my personal life, which, for the record, is not as remotely exciting as my stories!
DC: The first story in the series, Yuletide Enchantment, will appear in the A Highlander Christmas anthology, which also features Dawn Halliday and Cindy Miles and is due out in November of this year. Would you give us a look inside this novella?
SR: I was thrilled when my editor at NAL asked me if I wanted to participate in this project. It was a historical anthology, and she knew that I wrote historicals for Harlequin Spice under the name Charlotte Featherstone. We talked about what I would write and she thought we should try to use it as a platform for the Annwyn Chronicles. I was writing the first draft of Velvet Haven at the time (book 1 of the Annwyn Chronicles) and decided to use the historical novella in Highlander Christmas as a prequel to Velvet Haven.
Yuletide Enchantment is the name of the novella and involves the uncle of the hero from Velvet Haven. Daegan is his name, and he is co-ruler of the Celtic Otherworld, Annwyn. He falls in love with a mortal woman which is taboo, and thus thrusts Annwyn into the Dark Times, which is an era of imbalance and impurity. I really had fun with that story and I hope people will read it and be intrigued by the world building and the Druid/Celtic aspect of the series. Bran, the hero from Velvet Haven is in the novella, too! He makes a sacrifice for his uncle, which then becomes the focus of his book.
DC: I’ve heard writers often say their stories take them in surprising directions, or dialogue flows from some unknown place. Is it the same with you? Do your characters surprise you sometimes?
SR: This happens to me all the time! I’m a character-driven writer and usually do follow them where they lead me. Sometimes I’m surprised, and then sometimes I’m relieved because they seem to ‘fix’ a problem or enhance a scene. I actually love it when characters do that!
DC: We’ve mentioned Velvet Haven, the first full book in the series and it’s slated to be released in March 2010. Can you give us a little sneak peek into Bran’s story?
SR: Here’s the official blurb (and I’ve added the sexy cover art for Velvet Haven! It might change a little, but not much. The guy on the cover is very much like Bran. I love it!)
Hidden from mortals for all eternity, Annwyn, the Otherworld, is home to shapeshifters, wraiths and dragons. But in a nightclub called Velvet Haven, desire brings humans and immortals together…
Built atop the mystic passageway to Annwyn, the gothic nightclub Velvet Haven has seen its share of lost souls—both mortal and immortal. It is here that Bran, the shapeshifter king of the Sidhe, searches for his brother, who is ensnared by a centuries-old curse. When a vision foretells his own death, he knows his time to find Carden is running out.
For help he must turn to Mairi, a mortal woman with an unusual aura. Bran has never liked humans, other than using their sexual pleasure to restore his magic energy. But with Mairi everything is different. Her lush curves and teasing caresses enflame him like no Sidhe has ever done. He has no idea that the woman he’s falling for holds the key to his destruction – or his salvation.
Now, here’s a bit more. The Dark Times come to Annwyn during the period that Bran is searching for his brother. The Dark Arts which are Death and Sex magick have once more appeared in Annwyn, and Sidhe are being put death in black magick rituals. So Bran, as King, is trying to find the Mage responsible while dodging his feelings for the mortal Mairi. His journey leads him to the mortal realm which is presided over by a Fallen Angel. The Mage is also performing his rituals on mortals which thus unites the ruler of Annwyn, and the ruler of the mortal realm. Bran’s journey also leads him back time and time again to Mairi.
There is an overarching quest through the series to find a flame and an amulet which together forge a key that will lead them to the Mage who is known as the Soul Stealer. But the Soul Stealer has something up his sleeve. He’s recruiting an apprentice, and it’s one of the characters of the series.
The book is dark and sexy, and while it’s for the Heat line, which is billed as erotica, it’s definitely a romance!
I hope to put up some excerpts on my website soon, and as well I’ll be putting a glossary up and some tidbits about Druid religion and the practice of Death and Sex Magick, so keep checking back!
DC: I read on your site you had a Scottish upbringing. Please tell everyone a little about that.
SR: My family is very proud to be of Scots ancestry, and, as a child, my parents and grandparents would always tell stories of faeries and midgies. In fact, when we would get out of bed when we were supposed to sleeping, my parents would yell up, ‘get back to bed before the faeries come and steal you away!’ Faeries scared us!
The idea of incorporating some of those stories into books really interested me. The Highlander is iconic in historical romance, but I wanted to bring in some of the witchcraft and Celtic mythology of Scotland.
DC: How many books do you have planned in the Annwyn series?
SR: There are a lot of characters in this series. Some are more fleshed out in my mind than others. I don’t know if all the characters will have a book. But right now, there are six characters I’d like to write about and whose story I already know, the first character being Bran.
DC: Do you ever argue with your characters while you’re writing? Who usually wins?
SR: I used to. Then I realized when I did that and bullied my way to win, the writing felt stilted and stale. So I no longer do that.
Actually, if I’m having a hard time knowing where to open a book or doing a scene, I sit down and look at the computer screen and say, “Okay, whoever comes to me first, I’ll write, and I’ll write whatever he/she says.”
I did this with Velvet Haven. I originally started the book with Mairi in the Goth club. It never felt right. So I sat down, did my exercise, and boom, Bram came, took me to Annwyn, inside his magick circle during a ritual. I loved it and knew that was the right beginning.
The advantage of doing this exercise is that it allows you deep point of view for a compelling opening.
I did the same thing with Charlotte’s Addicted. The prologue where Lindsay is discussing opium was that exercise.
DC: Next is your Ryder Brothers series. Hot in Here was released a couple of days ago. Can you tell us, first, how the series came about, and then share a little with us about Bryce and Jenna?
SR: I was at my parents and she had a Ricardo cooking magazine on her kitchen table. She’s a great cook, and Ricardo is cute! I made the comment, “Oh wouldn’t it be nice to come home to some hunk who had made you supper?” That was the moment that Bryce was born.
The characters just seemed to evolve, and I used my small, rural upbringing as a base. I grew up in Southwestern Ontario which is known as Canada’s bread basket. We have orchards, wineries, farms — you name it, we got it. We also have tons of food festivals. Cherry Fest, Apple Harvest, etc… Those were good times, and I used those ideas and that small town feel as a backdrop for Hot In Here.
I also liked the idea of three bad boy brothers, and three good girl sisters and watching what happened when they came together.
So, Bryce is, while having grown up rural, a big city guy who’s a famous chef. He gets misquoted in a magazine, and his future business empire looks very shaky. Jenna is his best friend. She’s a farm girl who now lives in the city. She runs a marketing company, but she still has those small town ideals. Bryce recruits Jenna to help him out with his reputation, and the sparks fly. It’s really just a fun, very hot romance. And I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed writing that book!
Here’s that special treat – an excerpt from Hot In Here:
Bryce couldn’t think. Hell, he couldn’t breathe. Watching Jenna saunter away in that pretty little chemise was playing havoc with his synapses. He didn’t even blink as he watched her walked away. The ecru- colored lace skimming just beneath the luscious curve of her cheeks commanded his attention, not to mention fueled his imagination.
She had the finest ass he’d ever seen. Full and round, begging to be cupped by his hand.
Shit! What was he thinking, cupping her ass? This was Jenna. Safe, little Jenna. The friend he hadn’t had any sexual thoughts about. Well, not since…Okay. He finally allowed the dirty truth to come up. There had been a few times when he’d awaken from a vivid dream, his sheets tangled and wet, his brain burning with images of him and Jenna.
But he’d always laughed it off. Always thought it absurd. He used to tell himself that the dreams were about Jenna because she was the only woman he really knew well. They were friends, had spent a lot of time together. Naturally she’d invade his dreams.
Pressing forward, he leaned over the counter and watched Jenna. Her profile was just as stunning as the back view. Her breasts were just as hot as her ass, and the way they bounced and moved as she reached for the blanket that lay across the back of the sofa had him groaning.
Man, he was hard. And completely fucking losing it.
Jenna was a friend. He wanted that friendship. Depended on it. No way was he going to toss a decade of friendship down the toilet because his subconscious all of a sudden decided to cough up a few instances of past wet dreams involving Jenna.
He couldn’t imagine his life without Jenna in it. She had always been there, to talk to and hang with. He liked just calling her up for no reason and chatting. He liked how they laughed at the same things. If he couldn’t have that anymore, if he ruined the relationship by making it all awkward and heavy with sexual shit, he didn’t know what he’d do.
But what about when she finds Mr. Right, the insistent voice in his head asked. How much do you think he’s going to tolerate your phone calls and late-night visits? Probably about as well as he tolerated the thought of Jenna wearing that skimpy nightie for another man—including Tyson.
God, he didn’t even want to go there. His emotions and thoughts were all over the map tonight and he couldn’t understand why. What was it about Jenna today? What was it about her walk, the way her ass moved, that had him wanting to risk their friendship by taking it into the bedroom? And what was it about her that suddenly had him thinking how damn nice it would be to always have this, this closeness with her?
The relationship word suddenly crept onto his radar and he panicked. Then, thank god, Jenna’s voice squelched the thought before it could become a full blown visual of a picket fence.
“Movie’s starting,” she called from the living room.
“I’m on it,” he answered back, not moving, just watching as she sat on the couch and crossed her legs. They weren’t overly long, but man, they were shapely. The kind that would feel really good and soft wrapped around him. The kind of shapely, womanly flesh he hadn’t felt in all his other girlfriends.
He heard the Psychedelic Furs singing “Pretty In Pink,” and he got his ass moving. Looking through the cupboards, he found two bowls and a couple of spoons, and tore into the still-steaming dessert.
Inhaling the aroma, he savored it, hoping to hell she liked it. This was an untested concoction he’d just created. And poor Jenna was the guinea pig.
Carrying the bowls, he hit the switch with his elbow, killing the light spilling from the kitchen. Candles glowed on the coffee table, and the light from the television screen made it bright enough for them to see.
“Mmm, what’s this?” Jenna asked as she reached out for a bowl. “Smells delicious.”
“Just something I cooked up in honor of your twenty-eighth birthday.”
Jenna wrinkled her nose. “Let’s not talk numbers tonight.”
“Deal,” he said, settling back against the leather sofa. “As long as that also includes my numbers and that plan of yours.”
“God, it’s been forever since I’ve seen this movie. Remember how you loved Blaine?”
“Yeah,” she said, blushing.
“I never got that, why you found him so hot. His hair really looked terrible in that prom scene.”
Jenna laughed. “You always say that.”
“Well, it did.”
“I’m sure you had the hots for Molly Ringwald. All the guys did.”
“Oh, the blonde then, the one dancing around in her underwear?”
“Definitely not her. I liked Andie, actually. Not Molly. But the character of Andie.”
Jenna shot him a sideways glance. “She was an outcast and kind of quirky, don’t you think?”
“What’s wrong with quirky?”
“Nothing.” A strange expression flickered across her face before she picked up her spoon and motioned to the bowl. “So, what do we have here?”
“Oh, just a little white chocolate and cream, and caramel filled chocolate squares, with some egg bread I had laying around. I suppose you’d call it chocolate caramel bread pudding.”
“I love bread pudding. I haven’t had a pudding like this since I left home. Although I know my mom never made anything this decadent.”
Bryce found himself grinning, filled with an absurd adolescent feeling of giddiness. He was always like this when someone waxed on about his cooking. He was even more giddy, he realized, when that someone was Jenna.
Jenna’s mom was a phenomenal cook, and Bryce knew that to wow Jenna was a difficult task. She was clearly wowed now, though. She was closing her eyes, savoring the sweet smell wafting up from the bowl.
She dug into the custard mixture with her spoon and was about to raise it to her mouth, when he wrapped his fingers around her wrist. “Wait.” She looked at him, and all of a sudden his heart did this weird flopping thing.
“What?” she asked, her voice so soft and quiet and so very feminine.
“I…” he licked his lips and pressed closer to her. “I just wanted to say Happy birthday.” He bent to kiss her cheek, something he’d done numerous times in their friendship. But he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Instead, he cupped her cheek and brought her forward, dragging his mouth against the curve of her ear and down lower to her jaw. God, she smelled good. And she felt good, so soft against his hand and mouth.
“Happy birthday,” he said once more, kissing the corner of her mouth, then he pulled away, horrified by his actions and wondering what she was going to say.
But true to Jenna form, she saved his ego by not making a big deal out of his lost control. Instead she smiled and pointed at the bowl with the tip of her spoon. “So what do you call this?”
“It needs a name. If it’s any good, that is.”
She smiled and raised a spoonful to her lips. Catching his gaze, she slid a bit of the steaming pudding into her mouth. With a groan, she closed her eyes. “Good? Bryce, this is awesome. This is…” she blushed and looked away.
He put his bowl down on the coffee table and cupped her cheek. “Tell me what you were gonna say.”
She wouldn’t meet his gaze. Bryce saw some struggle waged in her eyes before she lifted her lashes and looked fully at him.
“This is so good, it could be sex on a plate.”
His heart went into overdrive. Pressing closer, Bryce watched her take another bite. “Yeah?” he asked, his voice curiously hoarse.
“Yeah,” she replied in a rush of breath.
Her breasts pushed against the pink satin, her nipples pressing against the bodice. He watched as a lace strap slid down her shoulder. He reached out, hooking his finger beneath it, knowing he should slide it back onto her shoulder, but wanting to lower it, wanting to expose her breast—needing to feel all that soft flesh in his hand.
Her breath seemed to hitch, and so did his. What was he doing? Hell, what was she thinking, looking up at him like that?
“Do you want a bite?” she asked, her voice a little shy and tremulous.
He swallowed—hard. His fingers were still beneath the strap of her chemise, still frozen, immobilized against her soft skin. They started to move then, to brush the soft downy skin of her upper arm. His body heated as he felt the first flush of her goosebumps erupt beneath his fingertips.
“I want to watch you eat,” he said, feeling his erection harden even more.
She took another bite that was laden with chocolate and caramel. He watched, his mouth dry as she spooned the delicacy into her mouth and closed her eyes in blissful surrender.
What would it be like to experience that sweetness as it coated her lips, her tongue? What would it be like to feed her and have her feed him, to taste that warm liquid chocolate as it dribbled its way over her breasts and belly?
Like a voyeur, he watched her eat, conscious of the way his body hardened and his lips parted as if he were eating each and every bite with her.
He wanted her spread on the table like a meal for him to devour at his leisure. He saw himself seated, Jenna spread atop the table, his tongue licking away the sweet rivers of chocolate as she moaned and begged him to eat—other, more pleasurable parts of her body.
Her gaze locked with his, and she held the silver spoon which was overflowing with custard and chocolate out to him. Unblinkingly, he sat forward and wrapped his fingers around her wrist. He put the dessert in his mouth, and didn’t taste the rich chocolate, or the sweet caramel–the only taste he had was that of desire. The sweet, heady elixir was swimming in his mouth.
“Well?” she asked.
This time, he heard the breathless pant of desire in her voice, saw the flicker of awakening in her eyes. He swallowed slowly, then holding her gaze, he brought his mouth to hers until his lips brushed her lower one.
“Taste me, Jenna.”
DC: What is sure to distract you from sitting down and working/writing?
SR: Unfortunately, I’m not the most disciplined writer. I tried to make this my new year’s resolution, but, alas, it’s kind of fallen by the wayside! The truth is, if I’m not consumed by a scene or dialogue playing out in my mind or a very tight deadline looming over my head, I’m can be distracted by anything! I have to change that! Lol!
DC: Trey’s story is next in the series. Would you tell our readers about it, when it’s due out, and maybe a sneak peek to whet the appetite?
SR: Unfortunately, Trey’s book is not scheduled yet. The publisher was looking for something in his story, and it wasn’t really where I wanted to take Trey. My agent is going to be shopping his story to other publishers. I’m disappointed, but already I’ve gotten lots of reader email which say, “I’m dying for Trey’s book.” I’m keeping them all, and I’ll forward them to my editor. Never know. It might convince the publisher to put his book out! This is, unfortunately, something that happens in writing. The publishing industry is a business, and I respect that. Likewise, the publisher respected my creative vision. So that’s how the Annwyn series came about. I think it’s an amicable solution. And both sides are happy.
And, I swear, I haven’t given up on Trey. I adore him. He’s so dark and tortured. I have 75pgs written of his story, and have decided that if it never sells, I’ll post it on my website as a serial installment and free read! Trey will get his day in the limelight!
DC: How do you feel your male or female characters have evolved over your career? Do you think you write them differently now than you did when you started?
SR: I’m no longer afraid to write characters as they come to me. Whether they’re opium addicts or sexy chefs, I just write them how I want. In doing so, I’m much happier than when I first started writing and tried to fit into what was selling at the time.
I’m especially happier with my heroines. In the beginning I had such a hard time connecting with them, thinking they had to be perky and happy and stunningly beautiful. But I don’t write those women anymore. I write ‘real’ women. Skinny, plump, blonde, brunette, shy, outgoing, whatever the case might be, I think I write women who readers can relate to and can understand. Women, who are, like readers who read romance.
DC: Is there a genre you haven’t tackled but would like to try?
SR: Well, I never thought I’d write contemporary, so Hot In Here totally surprised me. I guess the answer is no, not right now. I’m writing historical, and I have AN historical paranormal novella coming out later this year with Spice. I’ve written contemporary and am now into contemporary paranormal. So I’d say I’ve got enough on my plate for now! But I never say never! Lol!
DC: I know you love to cook. Would you mind sharing your favorite recipe with us?
SR: I do love to cook! And why I don’t give you a recipe that appears in Hot In Here?
Chocolate Caramel Bread Pudding with White Chocolate Kahlua Sauce
6 cups day old French bread, cubed
4 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
½ cup white sugar
8 oz white chocolate
1-2 Caramel filled chocolate bar, such as Cadbury’s Caramilk (depending on size of your casserole dish)
2 whole eggs
5 egg yolks
Preheat oven to 350. Place cubed French bread in large casserole dish and toast bread in oven for 15mins. Remove from oven. Place heavy cream, milk and sugar in medium saucepan and heat just until the boiling point. Remove from stove, ad white chocolate and stir until chocolate has melted. Whisk together egg yolks, and whole eggs. Add to cream mixture and whisk until incorporated. Pour mixture over toasted bread and allow to soak for 20 mins. Before placing in oven, break chocolate bar into squares, and press into the bread mixture, putting some deep into the pudding, and leaving some just at the surface of the pudding. Place in oven and bake 35mins covered. Uncover and bake for additional 15mins. Top each serving with Kahula sauce.
1cup heavy cream
4 oz white chocolate
¼ cup Kahlua
Bring heavy cream and Kahlua to a simmer in a small saucepan for 3-5 mins. Remove from stove and add chocolate and allow to sit until the chocolate is melted. Stir until smooth.
Yields 12-15 servings, and does re-heat well in the oven, or microwave.
Now, being Scottish, we love custard, and I gild the lily with this dessert by adding some warm custard with it. Any commercial, powered custard will do, but I use Byrds.
*This dish is best served with Bryce Ryder feeding it you*
DC: What advice would you give to your younger self?
SR: To not be afraid to explore all the things I wanted to do.
SR: OH, I LOVED them! I haven’t gotten through all of Lora’s Breed series yet, but I plan to this summer. And I adored Joey’s mermaid series. So beautifully written. (I love angels, btw. Especially those fallen ones!) I have her third mermaid book, A Mermaid’s Ransom, on pre-order and am really looking forward to reading that.
DC: If you had never become an author, what do you think you would be doing right now?
SR: Probably nursing. It’s a safe income bet!
DC: You also write as Charlotte Featherstone. What is Charlotte up to right now?
SR: Charlotte has an historical paranormal coming out with Harlequin Spice in Nov ’09. The anthology is entitled Winter’s Desire, and my novella is Midnight Whispers. The anthology is written with Kristi Astor and Amanda McIntyre and it revolves around the Winter Solstice.
As well, I’m finishing up Sinful, which is Lord Wallingford’s book, which releases from Harlequin Spice in May 2010. Readers saw him in Addicted. He was the hero’s best friend. And let me tell you, he’s living up to his name!
DC: What’s on the horizon for Sophie Renwick?
SR: I hope to be writing more on the Ryder brothers and definitely more Annwyn Chronicles. I’m starting to think about the second book and what character will get his book next. The quest is involved, and I can take different paths, allowing me to kind of pick and choose who I want to write. So I’m definitely hoping to develop this series!
– dark or milk chocolate? – Definitely milk!
– smooth or chunky peanut butter? – Smooth all the way!!
– heels or flats? – Oooh, I love heels! Not always practical, but love them.
– coffee or tea? – Both. Coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon and evening.
– summer or winter? – Summer. Although I do love that first snowfall of the winter!
– mountains or beach? – Beach. I love the water and the moon.
– mustard or mayonnaise? – Mayo
– flowers or candy? – Flowers
– pockets or purse? – Usually I like pockets, but also collect evening bags. I love them!
– Pepsi or Coke? – Coke!
– ebook or print? – Print, because I’m one of those people who love to hold a book in her hands, smell the pages and keep flipping back to the front cover.
And just because:
1. What is your favorite word? – I love words! Probably it’d something like love, passion, pleasure
2. What is your least favorite word? – Can’t
3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – Almost anything. I’m surprised where I get inspiration, or peace
4. What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – Fatigue
5. What sound or noise do you love? – Waves crashing on a beach, the sound of leaves rustling on a summer evening
6. What sound or noise do you hate? – Dentist drill
7. What is your favorite curse word? – OH, the F bomb for certain!
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? – Book store owner
9. What profession would you not like to do? – Nursing. ‘That’s my current ‘paying’ job and I’m ready to be done with it!
10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? – “You were a good, honest, honorable person.”
Thanks so much for having me and for the really great interview questions!
DC: Thank you, Sophie, for taking the time to chat with us!