Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, Candace! Tell us about your latest novel, Cooking up Love, book one in the Arrington Family series.

Cooking Up Love is a fun, flirty and sexy African-American contemporary romance novel set in Memphis, Tennessee. The heroine, Shelbi Arrington, is a food critic with The Memphis Tribune. She accepted the position in order to bury her medical career even though she is expected to start her residency and then join her parents and siblings at the family’s private medical practice. But because of something that happened during her internship in medical school, she’s reluctant to begin. She meets chef Justin Richardson on the trolley one afternoon and is completely taken by the handsome man. Justin isn’t exactly fond of doctors, especially the one who couldn’t save his mother during surgery when Justin was only twelve years old.

Oh, that sounds like a great read. Can’t wait to get to it. What’s next? 

I am currently working on the next book in the Arrington Family series, The Game of Seduction. It’s about Dr. Bria Arrington, an allergist who prefers to incorporate holistic and alternative medicine with traditional even though her father, the head of the medical practice, is totally against it. On top all that, she finds herself falling for her best friend, Rasheed Vincent, who only wants to be friends with benefits, which was the initial agreement but of course that doesn’t always work. I’m almost done with the manuscript and it will be out in Fall 2012. I’m also reworking the first book I wrote a few years ago about an interior decorator, Megan Chase (cousin to the Arrington family), who is being pressured by her family to date even though they don’t realize how happy she really is. Her friend, Congressman Steven Monroe, who is running for the state senate, is being pressured by his campaign team to settle down with one woman. He’s a self-proclaimed bachelor, switching women all of the time like George Clooney. The book is called The Perfect Candidate for Love, and I’m contemplating sending it to a traditional publisher this summer.

Both great premises, Candace. And I wish you luck with the traditional publisher. I am sure you’ll do well. I note you write African-American contemporary romance novels. So pleased to read this – we need more authors like you. Do you have plans to publish in another genre in the future or do you want to stick with romance?

Thank you! I considered at one point paranormal or historical romance because I love to read those genres, but for now contemporary romance

Absolutely one of my favorite genres to read. You use a pseudonym. Any particular reason?

Yes. I was an educator for ten years so just in case I decide to go back into the classroom, I would like to keep my private life private. I don’t know how parents would feel if they learned that their child’s first grade teacher wrote romance novels.  I don’t write erotica, but there are sex scenes in my books.  I write teacher workbooks for a top educational company under my real name, so I would like to keep the two separate. There is also another romance author with the same exact name as my real name, and I didn’t want people to confuse us. She’s actually one of newer critique partners. We became cool because we have the same real name!

I know another author who chose to write under a pseudonym for a very similar reason. Tell us about your writing regimen.

Ha! Well, if I actually had one…I really do, I just stray from it at times. I tend to get an idea all of a sudden and I try to jot it down as soon as possible. I have a ton of notes in my iPhone. I brainstorm my ideas, sometimes bouncing them off my husband for the male point-of-view and my critique partners.  Then I do a mini outline and sometimes a full synopsis which helps me to write straight through without having to skip around even though that happens at times. With Cooking Up Love, I wrote straight through without skipping scenes. With The Perfect Candidate for Love, I found myself writing the middle of the book last.

As far as a writing schedule, I tried to have one, but now I write whenever I’m in the mood. Ideas and words flow better for me late at night when I should be sleep, but I do write during the day as well, but it’s mostly editing or rewriting a scene. I also like to have my Beyonce, Maxwell, Corrine Bailey Rae or Sade CD’s or their Pandora stations playing in the background. Sometimes jazz.  I played B.B. King often while writing Cooking Up Love because the hero owns a dinner and blues club on Beale street in Memphis.  A lot of my ideas come from certain songs I’ve heard.

Until my latest, I always wrote the ending first and then skipped around until I was finished, then put it all together. I admire linear writers but find it challenging. What do you like most about writing? What do you dislike the most?

I like being able to use my imagination to create people, places, situations and events in order for them to have a happily ever after. I dislike writer’s block or not being able to write when I want to because something happens that I don’t have any control over.

I absolutely detest writer’s block and sometimes think I may be subconsciously sabotaging myself with that. What works best for you in regards to promoting?

My book was released a few weeks ago, so I’m still looking at the numbers and seeing what has helped the most. So far, it seems as if Facebook is number one. On the day of the release, I had 22 hits from Facebook to a particular post on my website. I also had 15 clicks to the Amazon page for my book and two to the Barnes and Noble page for my book. So, as of right now Facebook is the winner! I also promote on Twitter, Yahoo groups and I have some ads on a few websites as well.

Social networking has proven to be a strong aid in promoting books. Do you find having critique partners beneficial? Is there any downside to that?

It’s very beneficial to have critique partners and especially more than one because it’s good to have more than one opinion. I bounce ideas off of them all the time and they are always honest with me if they think my idea wouldn’t work and give the reasons why. Also, it’s great to have another set of eyes reading my manuscripts for typos, grammar errors as well as whether or not the dialogue flows, continuity and content. I don’t see any downside to having a critique partner. My books would be totally different without them.

The only downside is when you have a very negative, critical partner who seems to be there for their own agenda. I was part of an online critique group once with a person such as this and the rest of us decided to disband because of her. Other than that, they are wonderful assets in the writing process. Are you a pantser or outliner?

A little of both. I do an outline, but I may not always stick to it. When I wrote my first book about the interior decorator and the politician, I didn’t have an outline or any notes. Just a few ideas running through my mind. I started to type and the ideas just flowed. It wasn’t until I was preparing to send it to a few publishers, that I had to sit down and actually write the dreaded synopsis. That was the hardest part. Now that I’m rewriting the book, I have an actual outline.

I don’t actually outline until I’m finished, to make sure the story flows and the timeline is right. What do you do when your character doesn’t want to go in the direction you want him/her to go? Do you let the character lead or do you guide them?

I’ve had that happen on a few occasions. Shelbi and Justin pretty much did as I instructed them to, but the book I’m writing now…sigh. The hero is writing himself, which doesn’t surprise me because of his strong and commanding personality. He’s an alpha male and arrogant, but not in a mean way. He’s just a fun, sarcastic guy that likes being the life of the party. I swear he’s in my head telling me what he’s not going to say and do and what he is going to say or do. Writing his book has been easy just hard lately to actually sit down in front of my laptop and write because of promoting my current release.

Now, he sounds like a fun character to write – or maybe follow as he dictates. We love animals and I note you have a Weimaraner- absolutely my favorite dog; I’ve had Weims for years. Can you tell us about yours?

Yes! I love my weimaraner, Muhammad Ali. His call name is Ali even though he knows his whole name because I call it when he’s been naughty. Originally, my husband and I were looking at boxers (hence the name). But we were watching one of the dog shows on television and this beautiful gray dog strutted out with an aristocratic air about him. I grabbed my laptop and started researching. A month later, my husband surprised me with a cute blue weimaraner puppy. That was seven years ago. Ali is very intelligent, loyal, stubborn and can’t stand being away from us even though at times he likes his space. What I love the most is watching him think about what he’s going to do, usually something he has no business doing or when I tell him no he acts as if he doesn’t understand when I know he does. Ali follows me around constantly like a little bodyguard and when he knows my husband will be home soon, he waits by the door.

There’s a reason they’re called the Velcro dogs. All our Weims prefer interacting with humans over other dogs. And, like you, my husband surprised me for my birthday one year with a Weimaraner pup. We named him Boo Radley because our daughter’s friend said he looked scary, but he was such a gentle soul. I still miss him although he’s been dead 8 years now. Tell us about your part of the country.

I’ve lived in the south all of my life.  I was born and raised in Florida and that will always be home to me. My parents and other family members still live there and I visit as often as I can. What I miss the most is going to the beach all the time and being able to get fresh seafood less than 15 minutes from my home. I don’t miss the hurricanes. After I graduated from college, I moved to Metro-Atlanta and I now live Conyers, Georgia, a suburb about 35 minutes away from Atlanta. I love going into the city for dinner and shopping, but I don’t want to live in all of the chaos of downtown.

Atlanta is a bustling town, no doubt about that. I love to visit but would never want to live in the city proper – those interstates scare me with traffic whizzing by at high speeds.

Thanks for joining us today, Candace, for a really fun interview. The best of luck with your books. Readers, check below for a chance to win a $10.00 Starbucks gift card.

Giveaway Information:

One tour follower will win a $10.00 Starbucks gift card. Follow the tour and leave a comment at each stop to give you more chances to win. Plus, if you are a subscriber on my blog, you’ll have an extra entry. The winner will be selected on Random.org and I’ll announce the winner on June 1st on my blog. All entries must be in by 11:59 PM on May 31st.

 Excerpt

He studied Shelbi as she took a bite of the shrimp and grits. Her eyes closed while she moaned, and he imagined her doing the same underneath him with her smooth legs wrapped around his waist.

“Justin, I’ve had shrimp and grits before, but never quite like this,” she said, then took another bite. “I don’t want the bowl to ever be empty. It’s better than mine.”

“I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself.” He pushed his plate aside and rested his hands in a crossed position on the table.

She sampled another dish as her eyes fluttered shut again. Her sweet, sensual moans turned him on in ways he couldn’t even explain. If he weren’t in a professional setting, he would’ve pushed the table out of the way and pulled her to him to settle her on his lap and devour her kissable lips.

Her sculpted face, a little beauty mark on her right cheek, and her pouty mouth partaking of the food he’d prepared especially for her, made him want to stare at her all day. She was sexy in skinny jeans that fit her curvy hips like a glove, and a yellow blouse enhanced her perky, rounded breasts, which rose and fell while she oohed and aahed over the meal. When she licked her finger after eating a shrimp, the bear rose in his boxer shorts and pointed directly at the sweet honey pot in front of him. Justin took a long gulp of his water to cool down the erection interrupting his business meeting.

Her sultry voice filled his ears like sexy jazz as she continued to compliment him on the meal.

“This is so good.” She glanced at the plate he had pushed aside. “Why aren’t you eating?” She took a swig of her water before continuing. “You didn’t poison it, did you?” she asked with a laugh.

“No, baby. I sample as I cook. Besides, I enjoy watching you eat.”

“Well, you definitely can cook. I see why your restaurant is so successful.” She dabbed her mouth with her napkin and stood to retrieve her laptop from his desk. “I do have a few more questions.”

Her hips rocked back and forth in the jeans, and he almost poured his ice water over his head to cool down the burning desire to kiss more than just her hand.

*****

You can buy Cooking Up Love on Amazon, Barnes& Noble and All Romance eBooks

Ways to Contact Candace Shaw

Email: Candace.Shaw@aol.com

Website:  http://candaceshaw.net

Twitter:     twitter.com/Candace_Shaw

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Fanpage-of-Author-Candace-Shaw/278432475555023