Out on tour this week is author Sharona Nelson with her book Cover Me. Here’s the 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…
I caught up with Sharona and asked her a few questions:
1. 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!)
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. Describe yourself in one word.
Independent as the day is long!
5. Do you have a favorite comfort food?
Like my heroine, Sunny, and her daughter, Libbie, I love most all comfort food: old-fashioned macaroni and cheese (not some low-fat imitation), ice cream, homemade soups, rice pudding with lots of cinnamon and raisins. I love pretty much anything chocolate, though peanut butter’s a close second, and I’ve been known to go ga-ga over a rich, cinnamon-y coffee cake, too.
And coffee—I love coffee (any anything mocha). I would drink it 24 hours a day if it didn’t destroy my sleep. Starbucks is on my speed dial.
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.
Modern romantic comedy with attitude—because you don’t want to read your mother’s romances