Please help me welcome today’s guest, Elizabeth Harmon, with an interview and her latest release!
Good morning, Elizabeth. Please tell us a little about yourself, where are you from? Where do you live now? Family? Pets?
I’m a lifelong Midwesterner and am a graduate of my hometown Big Ten university. My husband went there too, though at a different time. He grew up in a town about forty miles from mine, though our paths never crossed as far as we know. After graduation I moved to Chicago and pursued a marketing/advertising career. We now live in the suburbs and have two sons, one in his first year of law school, the other in his first year of college. I adore cats and have a sweet buff-colored tabby who hangs out on my desk while I work all day. Our household also includes a little red fish, whom my husband takes care of.
Where did you get the idea for Shining Through?
I knew I wanted to write Shining Through when I was writing the Red Hot Russians series’ third book, Getting It Back. Shining’s hero, Daniil Andreev, is the cocky rival to Getting’s figure skater hero, Misha. There’s a scene in that book in which Daniil trash-talks Misha in a delightfully cutting way, but there’s also an element of sadness to Daniil that Misha senses and wonders about.
I started wondering about it too, and once Daniil’s backstory began to take shape, knew I wanted him to have his own book. Because I love to cast opposites, I decided to pair my tattooed, guy-eyelinered Russian bad boy hero with a prim and proper blond American figure skating star, Tabitha Turner. But like Daniil, Tabitha is more than she seems.
Was there anything unusual, any anecdote about this book, the characters, title, process, etc, you’d like to share?
Usually I have trouble with titles, but this one came to me early on and it fit the story and characters perfectly. I know there is another book with this title, but it came out in the 1980s and is in a different genre, so I hope people aren’t confused.
I also had a great time bringing back several characters from my earlier books, one of whom has changed considerably—for the better! But as with all the Red Hot Russians books, Shining Through is written as a standalone story. Readers who discover the series with this book, can go back and read the others in any order they like.
What is the most difficult thing about writing a book? What was the most difficult thing about this one in particular?
When I began to write this book, I thought Daniil would be the character with the biggest transformation, with Tabitha in the role of catalyst. But as the story began to unfold, it became the opposite. I imagined Tabitha at the top of her sport, but also on the verge of aging out. As she enters the biggest season of her career, she’s burned out and exhausted by her own high expectations, and everyone else’s. Daniil turns everything, including how she sees herself, upside down.
I also fell in love with Tabitha’s family. Her mom, Fiona is an ex-groupie who hung out with all the best 1980s LA glam-metal bands. Tabitha’s sister Samara, is a Goth girl and film student, and the first person to recognize that Daniil is the perfect guy for Tabitha.
What do your friends and family think of your writing?
My husband, an avid reader and language arts teacher, has been an amazing support and my biggest cheerleader from the beginning. I think my sons would rather not think about what I write (sexy romance) but are very supportive too. My law student son offered suggestions to make Shining Through’s courtroom scene more accurate. And one of my younger son’s friends was really excited to learn I write (in her words) “exotic Russian sex novels!” I absolutely love this description, by the way! My non-writer friends think I have a very cool job—which I do.
What character in your book are you least likely to get along with?
That is a great question! I think it would come down to a toss-up between two well-meaning but misguided characters: Tabitha’s coach Peter, who has created her flawless but constricting public image, and her mom Fiona, who lives in a perpetual state of chaos.
Who is the most famous person you have ever met?
While attending Skate America, I’ve had the opportunity to meet several top figure skaters including Meryl Davis and Charlie White, Ashley Wagner, Jason Brown, Gracie Gold, and a number of others. What impressed me was how gracious they are to fans, despite being quite young themselves and dealing with pressure I can’t even imagine.
How did you come up with the title?
The title speaks to how both Tabitha and Daniil long to be accepted for who and what they are. In Tabitha’s case it’s about finding the courage to let her sensual, creative side emerge. For Daniil it’s a reflection of how he channels the pain of his past into his skating, and how his love for the sport shines through.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Definitely. Regardless of whatever public mask we wear, or how flawless and in control we try to appear, everyone has imperfections, painful memories and mistakes. But instead of feeling ashamed or embarrassed, we can recognize that things shaped our strengths, as well as our weaknesses.
How did your interest in writing originate?
I grew up an avid reader and always had a story going on in my head. When I was twelve, I actually put one of them down on paper and turned it in for a school assignment. My teacher wrote on the top, “I expect to see you published someday.” That was my first inkling that this was something I’d like to do. A few years later I wrote a teen romance for a creative writing unit in English class. I loved every minute of it, and the “A” I got was a bonus!
Movie- my all-time favorites include 1980s romance classics like “The Cutting Edge,” “Dirty Dancing” and “When Harry Met Sally,” plus some odd-ball comedies like “This Is Spinal Tap,” and “The Big Lebowski.”
Music- I listen to lots of different things, but am particularly fond of acoustic country, bluegrass, etc. I love listening to Spotify while I’m working, and having it pull up a random playlist. The hard part is not to keep clicking over to see the name of some great song, or reading about a new artist I’ve never heard before.
Place you’ve visited– My husband and I visited New York City for the first time a few years ago, and I can’t wait to go back. I love the energy of a large city, and New York is like Chicago, on steroids.
Place you’d like to visit– In addition to cities, I love remote places near the water, where it gets cold. For that reason, Nova Scotia and Alaska are both places I’d love to go.
TV show from childhood– Like almost very girl-child of the 1970s, I loved “The Brady Bunch.” “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia…”
TV show from adulthood– My TV watching time is limited, but some favorite recent shows include “Downton Abbey,” “The Americans” and “Lost.” I loved how “Lost” layered so many mysterious elements into a simple storyline about castaways. I haven’t found a show that does it as well, though I’m excited about “Stranger Things!”
Food– I love Italian food, seafood, and like most Chicagoans, really good pizza.
Which do you prefer: Board games/card games or television? Board games, definitely! I love Monopoly, but I rarely win because I’m not cutthroat enough!
Sports team– We’re Cubs fans! And as you might have guessed, I’m a big fan of the Olympics, especially the Winter Olympics. It was a lot of fun to write about two figure skaters trying to get there!
Thank you, Elizabeth! I enjoyed the interview. I won’t hold it against you that you’re a Cubs fan. 🙂 (I would say ‘Go Reds!’ but they never ‘go’ :/) Elizabeth has a question for readers, and a giveaway!
Since “Shining Through” is a sports romance, let’s talk sports! Please share your favorite sport and why you love it. Also, have you ever met a famous athlete?
Everyone who posts a comment will be entered into a giveaway to win a digital copy of any Red Hot Russians backlist book.
When the sweetheart of American figure skating falls for the bad boy of Russian figure skating, it puts her quest for Olympic gold on thin ice.
The Biggest Season of her Career…
America’s sweetheart Tabitha Turner is on track to win figure-skating gold in the Winter Games. Her family has sacrificed everything for her career, but the pressure is taking its toll. Burned out and living a lie, can the Golden Girl let off a little steam without melting the ice?
The Last Chance of His…
Russia’s bad boy of skating Daniil Andreev is determined to prove the toughest thing about him is his competitive fight. When Tabitha tempts him to help her take a secret walk on the wild side, he gives her a taste of the freedom she craves, never expecting that one unforgettable night could turn into something more.
Two Hearts on Thin Ice…
Chicago, Vancouver, Paris… the international figure skating season unfolds. Tabitha and Daniil compete and fall in love, but as the pressure mounts in a make-or-break season, can they set aside their painful pasts and spiral into a shining future together… or will their dreams shatter like thin ice?
“Dirty Dancing meets Olympic figure skating in this sweet and sexy sports romance!”
Available for Pre-order, releases Oct. 2!
Barnes and Noble
Enjoy an Excerpt from Shining Through!
She was queenly and poised, taller than the average skater, with the bearing of a ballerina. The one thing that didn’t fit with that picture was her hair. It wasn’t the sleek blond curtain she’d worn on TV, but a riot of blond waves, more like a gypsy than an ice princess. Soft. Untamed. Touchable. And his fingers itched to do it.
“Will you be at the other competitions this weekend, or just the pairs?”
“Oh no,” he said. “I plan to watch as many as possible, and cheer on all my favorite skaters.”
“Of course.” His gaze held hers. “And others.”
Her smile faded. “Viktor Domachev?”
“I suppose. Are you a fan?”
“Hardly. This morning he said something to Katia that seemed to upset her. I called him on it, and then he said something to me. It was in Russian, so I don’t know what it was.” She lifted one shoulder. “Who knows? Maybe he was complimenting my earrings.”
“Doubtful.” Daniil’s mood darkened as he imagined the ugly possibilities. “But whatever it was, I’ll make him damn sorry he didn’t keep his mouth shut.”
She softly drew in a breath. “No. Please don’t. I’d hate to see you in any more trouble.”
The fact that Domachev had acted like a douchebag wasn’t exactly a surprise, but her concern for Daniil’s well-being, was. Other women would have encouraged him to fight for their honor. But Tabitha was thinking of him. Though she couldn’t have known about the vow he’d made to stay out of trouble, she encouraging him to keep it. For her, he would.
He nodded. “Demochev’s an ass. No one likes him.” Well, almost no one. Bogdanov and the rest of the federation seemed quite enamored. Daniil began to skate in lazy circles beside Tabitha. He ought to be starting his warm-ups, but didn’t want this to end. “And he pads his dance belt.”
Her eyes widened with momentary shock, and then she laughed. “How do you know that?”
“I’ve shared a locker room with him enough times. You watch at tonight’s competition. See if you don’t notice an abnormally large package.”
“Oh my God. Are we really having this conversation?” Her gaze dropped from his face to below his waist and the curve of his tight black skating pants, apparently curious about what was inside his dance belt.
Daniil grinned. “No padding, all me. Covered in the flag of glorious Mother Russia.”
She let out a laugh, even as color rose in her cheeks. “Seriously? Your dance belt has the Russian flag on it?”
He liked the sound of her laugh, echoing in the deserted rink. He gave her a wink, did a quick spin, showing off a little. “Care to see?”
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