I am so pleased to have another author visiting on our cyber tour … welcome Sharona Nelson!. Her latest release, COVER ME is out now from Amber Quill Press.

BLURB:

COVER ME-the story of a single mom, a single man, and a health insurance plan…

Single mom Sunny Montgomery survived a lousy childhood with hippie parents as well as a terrible marriage with the cheating Kirk Stanley (AKA Kirk the Jerk), so she figured she could deal with whatever life threw at her. In short order, however, Sunny loses her job, car, health insurance, and life’s savings.

What’s a single mother to do? Get married, of course-though not for love.

Sunny accepts a marriage-of-convenience offer from her landlord, Ben Hart, so that she and Libbie, her asthmatic daughter, will have health insurance. The only problem is, she’s falling in love with him-despite the fact she thinks he’s gay. And, while she sometimes craves more distance from the temptation known as Ben, heaven knows that good, affordable apartments in Boston are as rare as winters without snow.

Through it all, Sunny perseveres. Whether beset by estranged hippie parents, money troubles, a creepy new boss, an is-he-or-isn’t-he faux husband, or the Boston mob, Sunny sustains herself with her inner strength, her best friend Dulcie, odd-duck neighbor Ray, and lots of mac-and-cheese, hot dogs, and ice cream. Oddly enough, what Sunny’s daughter, Libbie, wants-comfort food and plenty of SpongeBob SquarePants on the tube-aren’t fundamentally different from what Sunny wants-happiness and love.

Sunny’s struggles teach us that making lemonade from life’s abundant supply of lemons isn’t too difficult, as long as we follow our hearts…

Wow, that sounds wonderful! Where did you get the idea for your latest book?
A long time ago, I was living with the man who’s now my husband. We’d never felt any special impulse to tie the knot, but when my ex said he planned to remarry, that meant I’d lose my health insurance. So, my live-in of nearly ten years and I got married. Though we do love each other, we had some fun with the wedding, including putting the initials of the health plan on the arch over the bride and groom atop the ice cream cake (ice cream cake because my daughter doesn’t like regular cake.)

I told the complete story of my wedding to someone once, and they said, “You should write a story about someone who gets married for health insurance.” The idea appealed to me, and the inspiration for COVER ME was born.

I spent most of my adult life in the Boston area, so setting the story there was a no-brainer. By the way, the information about health insurance options for the unemployed was accurate when the book went to press. But now Massachusetts has a completely different system. (Just wanted Massachusetts readers to know that yes, I do the research, but the Commonwealth changed the game on me when it was too late to revise the manuscript!)

With which character do you identify most closely?
I partially identify with the heroine, Sunny, but also equally identify with her nutty hippie mother, Daphne (“Daffy”). Because both characters have elements of me in them, COVER ME was a pure hoot to write. I was very much a hippie chick for many, many years, and still hold a lot of the same political values. I also have a grown daughter, so I know how the mother would feel about the estrangement with her daughter. But, because I’ve also dealt with difficult parental relationships in my own life, I perfectly understand why Sunny might want to keep her mother and father at arms’ length, and why she might feel pissed off at them.

What makes a hero for you? Do you see them on the street, or are they simply in your head?
Ah, heroes. They’re almost always completely in my head, though occasionally inspired by men I’ve known.

While I sometimes write those alpha he-men guys, I tend to prefer someone a bit less, um, alpha in my real life. Ben’s sort of an amalgam, a bit more beta than I normally care for. However, he reminds me of some hard-science academics I’ve known and loved.

For me, a real hero is a man who’s not afraid to take a chance and reveal his heart when it’s clear he’s fallen for the heroine. Ben was a little slow to risk it all, but in the end, he jumps off the cliff of love. He may not be Rambo, but he wants to help and protect Sunny and her child. He’s a genuine, 100% good guy. In a movie or TV show, Ben might be best played by the actor who plays Henry on “Ugly Betty” (Christopher Gorham). Gorham’s character looks very much as I imagined Ben would, and he’s got the perfect combination of awkwardness, nervousness, inexperience, and willingness to pursue the woman he loves.

What do you have planned for your next book?
I’m working on two stories. One is a novel set in Seventies Boston that, again, is inspired by parts of my own life. The book is written, but needs revisions-a lot of revisions. The working title is “Alice in Boogieland”, but I’m not wild about the title. So far, I haven’t come up with anything that’s much better. (Unless a title comes to be at the beginning of a story, my titles usually stink.)

The other novel is a contemporary story of two sisters who are like day and night, and who can’t really stand each other, but who come together to search for their third sister. But is she really their sister? The working title is “Shirley Goodness and Mercy,” and I’m told the first chapter-a funeral-is reasonably funny. The book’s not finished. It’s set partially in southern NJ, southern Delaware (where I’m from), and in the deep south-the sisters, Shirley and Mercy, were born and raised in Louisiana.

What does your writing space look like?
It looks as if a paper bomb has gone off, and I’m sitting at ground zero. I am a very messy person when I’m creating. When I have some time after finishing a project, that’s when I clean up (if then).

More concretely, I have a nice, big desk with a computer and several small items that have personal significance, along with all the paper. I spent some money on ergonomics because I have fibromyalgia, and I need my work space not to cause me any additional pain.

I have a wall lamp I rarely turn on, so I’ve draped a very colorful net-and-sequins shawl over the lampshade. It brightens up my little corner nicely. I also have a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf that holds my research books and my promotional materials, among other things. My calendars (I have two) are within eyeball distance and/or reach. I live or die by my calendars. If I don’t write something down, I’ll never, ever remember the deadline.

What advice would you give to aspiring romance writers?
Write what you love, because if you become a hit, readers are going to want more books in the same subgenre. That’s one of the best reasons not to write to market in some genre you don’t enjoy-you might end up with a career in it.

I also suggest you take the time to school yourself on the basics of grammar and story construction. It’s rare for an editor to buy a story whose mechanics aren’t the best.

Also-as they say in “Galaxy Quest” (and what a wonderful, silly movie that is)-Never give up! Never surrender!

Don’t quit trying, no matter what.

As if I haven’t asked enough personal questions … could you tell us about yourself?
I spent most of my adult life in the Boston area. (I miss the city, but not the winters. Heaven is eighty degrees and blue skies.) While in Boston, I was a jack-of-all-trades, mastering two: radio personality and technical writer/online help designer. I also worked as a taxi driver, clerical chartist for the Federal Reserve Bank, and temporary office worker for half a dozen companies. However, fiction writing is my first and longest-lived love.

The inspiration for COVER ME was my own life, though the book was heavily fictionalized, of course. I did not marry my husband for health insurance, nor is my ex a rat like Kirk the Jerk-far from it. I will admit to being a single mom for a while, and I do have a daughter, now grown, who could show a bit of Libbie’s attitude when young-and still does, on occasion…

I read widely, adoring a good story with quirky characters. Besides reading, I enjoy being around horses and cats, singing, creating new recipes, taking solitary road trips, and hanging with friends. I confess to being hopelessly addicted to the wonderfully-over-the-top television shows Boston Legal, House, Men in Trees, Ugly Betty, Desperate Housewives, and 24. I write erotic romance under the name Barrie Abalard.

My family and I currently live in one of the Middle Atlantic states, but are considering relocating someplace it’s warmer in the winter.

Thank you so much, Sharona! To learn more about Sharona and her books, please visit her web site and blog. She’d also love it if you would friend her on MySpace.

You can read an excerpt HERE or buy COVER ME at Amber Quill Press.

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