First, thank you so much, Alicia, for having me on your blog today and giving me the opportunity to share my latest news!
You’re most welcome. You know you’re one of my favorite writers. I’m pleased to have you on my blog, and to help spread the word about your wonderful new book.
What made you decide to depart from your usual genre, and for a holiday story at that? What do you like most about Christmas Dance? What do you think will appeal to readers about it?
I love stories of romantic love. I love reading them and writing them, but for a while now, I’ve felt constrained by the formulaic nature of the romance genre, as defined by the industry (meaning the main story must revolve around the characters falling in love, there must be an emotionally satisfying/HEA ending, etc.). There are so many great love stories that don’t fit into the genre’s definitions: Gone with the Wind and Casablanca, just to name a couple. At the same time, I love exploring the intricacies of relationships, and the modern husband/wife relationship is one of the most complex. So many things can affect how happily that “ever after” becomes for a couple: finances, children, caring for elderly parents, whether one or both work outside the home. It’s easy (so easy) to become overwhelmed, to look at someone else who might offer what you find missing in your life, sometimes to the point that you decide to chuck what you have. I decided I wanted to write a story that acknowledges and tackles those challenges, and expresses love at the same time.
Christmas Dance is about a man and a woman (each married to other people) who meet at a church dance during Christmas, and struggle against their attraction. I set it during Christmas, at a church, to put a laser beam on the moral issue, and because I like torturing my characters. 🙂
The story takes at least a glancing look at those thorny issues of marriage, like money (the power struggles, who makes it, who spends it), the way children take over your lives (if you let them), and how easy it is to miss the blessings right in front of us.
I think it’s unique because the “romance” is told from the perspective of “the other man” and ‘the other woman.” I think it will appeal to women (and possibly men) who may relate to what this woman and man experience. Hopefully, in the end, it’s a story of hope and finding your way back to that HEA spark.
It is definitely unique. And gripping. I was drawn into these characters and their emotions and dilemma from the start.
What do you want readers to come away with after they read Christmas Dance?
That when you’re unhappy in a committed relationship (marriage or otherwise), sometimes it helps to step back and do a mental role-reversal, try to see through your mate’s perspective. I don’t mean to imply that sometimes marriages/relationships simply don’t work for many, many reasons. I know far too many women who have stayed with a spouse/mate for financial reasons, or because of children, when leaving would have made their lives far better. But if that love, that spark, still exists, if there’s respect and honor on both sides, the relationship might be worth fighting for, and stepping outside the box of our own perceptions can help.
What book have you read that you wish you would have written?
The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I’m awed not just by Stockett’s story-telling, but by the way she wrote each character’s voice, so unique and perfectly consistent, from beginning to end. I laughed, I cried, and by the time I finished, I felt like I’d made a couple new best friends. As a reader, what more could I ask?
Would you rather have a bad review or no review?
Can I say I’d rather have all good reviews? No, huh? 🙂 I suppose I’d have to say a bad review because you can learn from it, if it’s written with the intent of pointing out flaws as the reviewer sees them. My goal as a writer is to get better with each book, each story. So as much as they hurt, if the “bad” reviews are done honestly, I appreciate the lessons they bring. That’s presuming the reviewer knows what he/she is talking about though, and that’s not always the case! 🙂
What genre have you never written that you’d like to write?
Last Christmas, my office “adopted” a little girl to provide gifts from her mom and dad who were down on their luck, and all we knew about our little girl was her first name, her age, her clothing sizes, and that she loved princesses. Being the mother of two boys, I jumped on the chance to shop for a girl, especially one who liked princesses, and a bunch of women in the room jumped in too. Soon we had an accumulated a pile of clothes, dolls and toys that glittered and sparkled, but I thought it would be fun if we could do something personal for her. Since I work at a newspaper, in the newsroom (full of writers), I asked if we could write a story, design it on a front page (with a fun news headline), then print it out and frame it for her. Everyone said, “Sure, Leah, go right ahead.” So I wrote a story based on her name and enlisted the help of our page designer to add illustrations and put the page together, and someone else who has craft-y skills to frame it. (It looked wonderful!) The main character was a princess with our little girl’s name (of course), and there were fairies and even a young prince who becomes her friend. (I just can’t stop with the budding romances!) I had such a good time, I thought it would be fun to write children’s stories like that. Who knows, maybe someday I will!
I bet you will! What a fantastic story. How rewarding that must have been. Thank you again for being a guest on my blog. I enjoyed getting to know things about you that I didn’t before. Readers…rush out and get a copy of Christmas Dance…you won’t regret it. Wait…you don’t have to ‘rush out,’ you can get a copy right in the comfort of your home. 🙂
Alexandra Anderson has a loving husband who provides for her every need, a beautiful home in the suburbs, and money to fulfill her slightest whim. But after a lonely childhood, what she wants more than anything is a baby, a family of her own.
Sam Herrmann is married to his college sweetheart, and together they have three healthy, boisterous boys. Sam spends his days running numbers as a government accountant, and his nights and weekends trying to keep up with the grueling family schedule set by his wife – a wife he can barely remember.
What happens when two married people take a look at the perfect lives they’ve created and decide it’s not enough? What happens when those same two people catch the eye of a stranger, and like what they see?
Her voice had risen to something close to a shriek, and she knew she was perilously close to hysteria. Worse, she didn’t give a flying fuck.
“What the hell is wrong with you people? It’s Christmas! Supposedly a time of giving, joyfully, to others. Peace on earth, good will toward men, and all that horse hockey. Animals are God’s creatures, too. Open up your frickin’ wallets.”
That she’d managed to control the “f” word, at least to some extent, pleased her, despite the realization that she’d ranted herself far over the line of grace. If her own internal barometer hadn’t told her that, the screaming silence that met her outburst did. She gulped and viewed the group. Some frowned, looking even angrier than before she’d opened her mouth. Some averted their gazes, as if they’d been caught in the act of something foul and dirty. And others moved to escape, probably off to buy their own wrapping supplies.
“Good going, Alex,” her booth-buddy said. “You chased them away.” And she didn’t sound the least bit grateful.
Before Alex could respond, she heard a chuckle, low and sinful-sounding, from the back of the dwindling crowd, followed by, “Bravo. Well done.”
Her gaze raced to find the source, although she’d already recognized the voice. Then she found him. Sam Herrmann, leaning against a fake potted tree that dripped twinkling white lights that made him look like he was wearing a halo. He stood in a relaxed pose, his legs crossed at the ankles, his arms crossed over his chest, like he felt easy, and happy to be there. One of those half-smiles that did funny things to her stomach deepened the dimple on the right side of his face, and she felt her mouth curl in response.
Until she remembered what she’d just done, and what he’d just seen.
Oh Lord, he’d seen her melt down in the most un-Christian, ungracious manner, and he was laughing. At her. Shame nearly flattened her, and she slapped her palms to her face and said, “I am so sorry. I don’t know what’s come over me. I’ve never done anything like that.”
“We believe you, Alex. But why don’t you take off now? We’ll get someone to cover your shift. I’ve already placed the call for a replacement.” This from their shift leader, Ellie, an older woman who’d probably seen it all, although certainly not done it all, if Alex guessed correctly.
Alex removed her hands and attempted to smooth her face, tried to retrieve some of the dignity she’d had when she arrived that morning, then pivoted to face the booth. Ellie’s brows were scrunched in a frown, her mouth twisted at one corner, and she was breathing so fast little gusts of air were coming out of her nose like she was a bull getting ready to charge.
Another bubble of hysteria moved through Alex, but she managed to swallow it while she grabbed her purse from under the booth. “I am so sorry. I don’t know what’s come over me,” she said as she stood. “Maybe it would be best if I called it a day.”
She removed her wallet from the purse, thumbed through the bills she’d stuffed in there earlier, and pulled a couple out. “I hope this will help defray some of the trouble I’ve caused.” She passed the notes to Ellie, whose eyes rounded as if it had been million instead of a couple hundred.
“Thank you,” Ellie said, then paused as if debating what to say next. “That’s very generous of you, Alex.”
“Thank Ben. He makes the money.”
Alex hadn’t intended to make such a snarky remark, but there it was, the root of her marriage problems. Ben made the money and didn’t much care about anything else, except maybe looking like a good provider and righteous man.
Her head throbbed now, along with her neck and feet, and she could feel Sam Herrmann’s stare as surely as if he’d pointed a laser beam at her skull.
Figuring it was always better to meet a challenge head on, she turned, and there he was, closer than ever and looking as if he could eat her for lunch.
The air sucked from her lungs in one giant squeeze, and her heart dropped like it was on a one-way trip to hell.
Stop it! she scolded herself as she tried to force air back into her body. She was imagining things. The notion had been only frustration talking. Frustration, and disappointment that despite all the money, all the trappings of wealth, she wasn’t happy. Unhappy didn’t even cover it. Lonely. Miserable. Those might do. But that’s what she got for placing all her hopes on another human being, her husband, to bring her that happiness.
Everyone knew another person couldn’t make you happy. And if that’s what you were waiting for, you’d have a long wait.
Still, the lure of this new hope drew her, like a kid to a lit firecracker, and she found herself moving in his direction, one tentative step after another until they stood face to face, inches apart, so close she could see the dilation of his beautiful green eyes, the quickening of his breaths, as if she affected him the same way he affected her.
“What are you doing here, Sam?”
“I came for you.”
A story of love and marriage. A story of hope.
To learn more about Leah, please visit her on the web at www.LeahStJames.com, or catch up with her on Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads (Leah St. James) or Twitter (@LeahStJames).