Embracing Romance is honored to welcome Kara Braden, author of LONGEST NIGHT. Kara makes her debut in modern romance with a story of love in isolation. She believes that engaging, romantic fantasy can be found everywhere in the world, even in the most unlikely places. With the support of her wonderful husband, cats, and dogs, she writes from her home office outside Phoenix, Arizona, where she spends her time hiding from the sunlight and heat.
ER: Hello, Kara, welcome to Embracing Romance. To start us off, what is the first thing you would like us to know about you?
I’m profoundly disappointed that Jurassic Park isn’t real. I’d love to visit Costa Rica for the gorgeous wildlife, but especially for the dinosaurs. However, they’d have to have feathers. I won’t compromise on the feathers.
ER: The Longest Night is your debut novel. Has the experience so far been everything you dreamed it would be?
It’s been amazing! I actually love the edit process, because every piece of feedback, good or bad, makes me a better writer.
The cover art also blew me away. I’d been nervous about cover art, because so many romance novels feature the long-haired heroine in a dress and lots of fancy, swirly script, but none of that is really appropriate for Ian and Cecily. From the moment I saw this cover design, I fell in love with it. It perfectly captures the essence of the remote, snowbound cabin and the emotional intensity between Ian and Cecily.
ER: The hero, Ian, and the heroine, Cecily, are isolated in a remote cabin. Was it difficult to write a story where your hero and heroine are alone day after day in the same location?
It was actually easier to focus on their relationship without having to keep track of too many external characters and sub-plots. Free from external distractions, other than everyday survival, they gravitated towards one another. Plus, having to share close quarters with a stranger was a perfect conflict for Cecily, since she’s such an intensely private person.
ER: You received some great pre-release reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist Online. Booklist said you were one of the best debuting romance writers in memory. What was the first thing that went through your mind when you read that?
Screaming. Then panic. And then I called my dad, because he’s the number one reason I’m a writer.
I really set out to write a romance novel that’s realistic and believable. I was nervous that people wouldn’t like the slow burn and the small steps that brought Ian and Cecily together. I’m so glad that I was wrong!
ER: Do you plot or are do you write by the seat of your pants? Can you share a little of your writing process?
Seat of the pants, all the way. I believe writing is like walking, one step at a time. You can plan a destination, but the individual steps that you take to get there have to progress logically, and sometimes you find those steps taking you places you never expected. If I try to force a book to aim for a specific target, it never works out. So instead, I put all of my creative energy into the characters’ motivations, personalities, and histories, and then just turn them loose to see what happens next.
ER: What is your favorite part of writing?
I love it when I get into the zone, when words are coming faster than my own thoughts. There’s this point where the story just takes life and seems to write itself, when I’m really deep and can actually see the action and hear the characters’ voices. I always try to keep the characters’ thoughts and emotions in mind, but I live for those moments when they really come to life for me.
ER: What is your least favorite?
Getting snapped out of the zone (usually by my dogs, cats, or husband) and then realizing just how much my wrists hurt from all that mad typing!
ER: Was your road to publication long and winding, Kara, or a walk in the park? Can you tell us about it?
It was like a surprise mugging in a well-lit alley. Really, it caught me completely off-guard. An editor at Sourcebooks saw some of my writing online and contacted me to ask about turning it into a book. It turned out that one of her co-workers had read one of my stories and loved it, so the editor read it, read some of my other works, and then got right in touch with me. It was probably the most incredible moment in my life!
ER: Everyone has a bucket list. What’s the top three things on yours?
1. Take my dogs up north to see snow, maybe to Flagstaff or the surrounding high country. I live in Arizona and haven’t played in real snow since 1998.
2. Visit the Isles of Scilly. (If you read The Deepest Night, you’ll know why!)
3. Drive a tank—as in, a fully armored combat tank. Because what could be cooler than driving a tank?
ER: What’s next for Kara Braden?
More writing! There are a whole bunch of single people working at Samaritan International Security, just waiting for love to strike at the right moment. And there’s that paranormal romance series that I’ve always wanted to write…
ER: Now, for a little fun. In one word, answer the following:
Favorite animal: dogs
Favorite food: pizza
A food you hate: mushrooms
Favorite drink: coffee
Favorite sport: lurking
Excerpt from LONGEST NIGHT
After Cecily washed the dishes, she dried out the skillet, listening as Ian finally pushed his chair away from the table. Usually, as soon as his plate was clear, he’d be in the living room to check his email. She had grown accustomed to bringing Ian his coffee at the desk. After email, they’d switch places, and she would get back to her writing.
This time, though, he had stayed at the table for coffee, and what had been a comfortable silence turned awkward as Cecily’s imagination took flight, filling the quiet with expectations and prying curiosity.
She left the dry skillet on the counter and went to the pantry, watching him out of the corner of her eye. Instead of going into the living room, Ian followed her and asked, “Dessert?”
Cecily’s breath caught. She’d never heard “dessert” laden with such innuendo—or maybe it was just her imagination, fueled by the heat of their kiss in the woods. It had been so long that she wasn’t just rusty at flirtation; she couldn’t even reliably tell when it was actually happening.
“Need to roast coffee,” she managed to say. “We’re running low.”
“Must you, tonight?” He pulled the door open and stepped closer to Cecily, who was trying to remember which of the plastic tubs held green coffee beans. Once the water heater had regenerated, Ian had also showered and changed clothes. Now he smelled of soap, and the cool humidity had dried his hair in messy blond waves hanging down toward his right eye. All through dinner, her fingers had twitched from the desire to brush those locks away.
“We’ll be out in three days if I don’t roast more. Maybe two, the way you go through coffee,” Cecily answered, resolutely not looking. She finally pried off one of the lids and glared at the rice inside. She replaced the lid with a loud snap.
“It can wait.”
Realizing they were about to have the talk, Cecily took a breath to steady herself. She rose from her crouch and turned to find him standing much closer than she’d expected, only inches away. “Look, I—”
“Please, Cecily,” he interrupted gently as his hands came up. Long fingers skimmed over her face, sliding back along her jaw to brush lightly, chillingly over her hair. “We’ve talked enough for tonight.”
She stared at him—close, so close—and wanted to say something, but she knew that she’d come off sounding like a babbling idiot if she started to talk.
Ian took her silence for consent—which, in a way, it must have been, because when he leaned down to steal a kiss, Cecily couldn’t find it in herself to protest. She leaned into it instead, hands sliding up to grasp his waist, holding him lightly but closely. The kiss was sweet, tasting of sugar and coffee, and full of his confident aggression, encouraging her to let go of her inhibitions.
Seven years of self-denial proved too much of a strain. The last of Cecily’s reservations dissipated like fog, and she pulled him close to take control of the kiss. She reveled in the feel of a body pressed to hers, warm and hard and very real. His fingers twisted in her hair as he parted his lips further, allowing her to explore his mouth and nip at his lips.
Somewhere on the other side of the kiss Cecily knew things would be worse. For now, though, the kiss was enough—almost too much, in fact. She was starved for intimacy, for knowing that she had someone in her arms and that person wanted her just as much as she wanted him.
Trivia Question: Now that Ian Fairchild is away from the glamor of Manhattan, what’s his favorite drink? Enter your answer here