Please give a warm welcome to the very first guest in my new AUTHOR REVEALED series. Scarlett Cole burst on the contemporary romance scene with her sensationally successful debut novel, The Strongest Steel.
Tell us where you were born, Scarlett.
I was born in the shadows of George Orwell’s famous Wigan Pier. Wigan is a working-class town in the north-west of England. It is best known for its role in the industrial revolution when it became a hub for mining and mills. My grandmother actually worked at Trencherfield Mill, and if you are an engineering fan like me, to this day, it has the world’s largest working horizontal triple expansion steam engine, still in its original location.
I call Manchester, England, home right now, but I spent fourteen years living in Toronto, Canada, and call there home too. Manchester is a vibrant city steeped in history. I love the creative vibe and music scene. I often write my books in two of the great libraries, the Manchester Central Library and the John Rylands library.
Life is full of coincidences, isn’t it! I was born just a few miles away from Wigan, and one of my grandfathers was born there.
What’s your favorite season?
Spring. I love that sense of rebirth after hibernating through the winter. Those moments when you realise your favourite cherry blossom is starting to bloom, or when you spot your first snowdrop. Especially while living in Canada, I loved the first day I could go out without my thick winter coat or boots.
Any school/high school/college memories you’d like to share?
When I was in high school in the mid-eighties, A-ha was the big band to follow. We would write steamy (for thirteen year old girls) novels about them and share them between us. That was until our French teacher caught one of my friends reading another friend’s story and confiscated it. I remember watching in horror as he sat back in his seat and started to read it while we did a French vocabulary test.
Do you have any personal heroes/heroines?
Galileo Galilei. Random, I know, but I have a lifetime love of mathematics and an honors degree in Engineering. His pursuit of knowledge, and his desire to invent things to change the modern world, even at risk of arrest for what was considered heresy at the time, is awe inspiring. His work on understanding tides, his arrest for his writings in support of heliocentrism (that the earth was not the centre of the universe and that it rotated around the sun), and his pioneering work to develop the telescope are all individually incredible, but amazing when regarded as a body of work.
What is the worst job you ever had?
A Saturday job at a denim store in the local shopping mall. And they’d often ‘forget’ to have my measly pay ready for me at the end of the day.
Have you had any unusual or noteworthy occupations?
I have had a very varied career. I’m an engineer and started my working life as a car-maker at Toyota. My last position was Senior Vice President of Strategy and Marketing for a multi-billion dollar retailer in Canada. And I left it to become a full-time writer. Some people find that unusual.
Do you have any hobbies?
I read a lot, obviously… mostly romance and some women’s fiction. And I love to color. I use alcohol-based markers and Spectrum Noir are my current favourite. My favourite coloring books are anything by Johanna Basford.
What is your feeling about social media? Love? Hate? Beneficial?
All of the above. I love being able to connect with readers and other authors, which is always amazing. I hate how addictive it is, especially when I am on a deadline. It’s beneficial because it gives me a venue to engage with readers and an opportunity to share what I’m working on, news about new releases, etc.
Tell us something you are really proud of.
Hmm. This is a great question and a tough one to answer. You know, I think I am most proud of the travelling I have done for work. I got the chance to go and work as an engineer at IBM Fujisawa in Japan in my early twenties. I moved to Cleveland, Ohio in the USA, where I became a management consultant. I travelled the world over serving Fortune 500 clients. I relocated to Toronto to work for the same company and once flew from Toronto to Melbourne for a four-hour meeting. I’m proud of the fact that as a woman, I made a successful career on my own terms.
Can you confide something you wish you were better at?
Growing things. I can’t keep plants alive. Doesn’t matter what I do with them or to them. We had a large window with a wide sill in the kitchen in our old house in Toronto, and my husband used to call it Valhalla… the place were good and noble plants went to die. My friends and family have stopped bringing me houseplants, and my dad comes to my house regularly in the summer to look after the garden.
When it comes to writing, I wish I were better at pantsing (having no plot at all before sitting down to write) rather than plotting… I spend ages plotting every detail. I think it might be fun to wing it once in a while.
What’s your pet peeve?
People who are perpetually late, then always say ‘I’m sorry I’m late.”
Do you like animals?
I have two cats, lovingly called the beer cats by the vet, because their names are Kokanee and Corona.
What do you enjoy most/least about being a published author?
I love that I get to daydream for a living! I really enjoy thinking up complex characters and plots. When I wrote my first book, it took nearly fourteen months, but fortunately I found an agent, and sold that book and the next two in the series to St. Martin’s Press. The second and third books in the series have been written to deadline. I’m the kind of person who works better when I have an external pressure to get things done so I enjoy that, too.
The tough part about being a debut author, as I was this year, is finding your audience and making sure your book ends up in their hands. When you are new, that is not only tough, but you are asking people to spend their hard-earned money on a complete unknown. I found that difficult.
How do you deal with writer’s block?
I read once that Nora Roberts said, “Every time I hear someone talk about ‘the muse,’ I just want to bitch-slap them. It’s a job. Do your job.” I don’t know if she did or didn’t says these words of wisdom, but I live by this. I often think back to my business career days. In most other jobs, you don’t have the luxury of saying to your boss, “I don’t feel like solving this/doing this right now.” If I am stuck, I usually go for a run to clear my head, then sit down and write. It might feel like I am pulling teeth, and what I write might be complete garbage, but I push through it until it gets easier.
To what do you attribute your success as a writer?
These are great questions, Anna. To be honest, I just work hard, like lots of other authors. I work hard to get new stories down on paper. I work hard to make two types of connections, ones with authors I can learn from, like the amazing ladies of the De Wolfe pack with whom I wrote a novella in the fall, or with readers who share their experiences of reading my stories. I work hard to meet commitments and deadlines so I remain professional. I work hard to stay organised. When I decided I was going to write full-time, I knew I only had a certain time period to make it work before I had to go back to a paid job, so I attacked it the way I was raised, with grit and determination.
Where do you find inspiration for your stories?
Sometimes it’s the news. Trent and Harper, the couple in my debut, The Strongest Steel, came about when I read an article about a tattoo artist who had volunteered his time to tattoo over surgical scars for someone, I don’t recall who it was now, but the tattoo artist talked about how it was difficult to do. I wondered what kind of scars needed covering and Harper began to form in my mind.
I was on a trip to one of my favourite cities, Miami, walking along the South Beach boardwalk, when the idea of the story came to me. Hence why the stories ended up set in Miami.
Often times, it’s a simple case of what I can see or hear. Song lyrics, people in coffee shops, a saying I read.
Tell us about your latest release.
My latest release is THE FRACTURED HEART, the second book in the Second Circle Tattoos series. For fans of the series, it’s simply known as Cujo and Drea’s story. We meet both characters in the first book in the series, but the books are standalone, and you don’t have to read the first book to enjoy this one.
I love writing series because it is also what I love to read. Jaci Burton’s Play-by-Play series inspired me to start writing romance because I loved the way she built books around the Riley family in such a way that we could focus on one relationship, but finish the book desperate to read the stories of the secondary characters.
I love how engaged readers become. I have had readers message me and ask me when other characters will get their stories, will certain couples have children, how many books will the series be… I even received a letter once from a very distraught reader who wanted the heroine of the second book to end up with the hero of the third book in the series. I love that kind of commitment because I understand it and am often guilty of it myself.
Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Anna. (And just in case you didn’t guess, Anna is one of those lovely De Wolfe ladies that I want to be when I grow up!)
All things, when placed under pressure, eventually break or leave a mark.
Tattoo artist Brody “Cujo” Matthews knows how to keep things simple. In life and in love. Abandoned as a child by a mother who refused to stick around to raise three boys she didn’t want, he’s intent on staying clear of complicated women. The only things complicated in Cujo’s life are the killer tattoos he designs and inks. That all changes when he’s asked to help organize his best friend Trent’s engagement party, which means working with Trent’s fiancée’s best friend, Drea, the definition of high maintenance and sizzling curves. And the one woman he doesn’t want to walk away from.
Andrea “Drea” Caron is broke and tired. After years of caring for her ailing mom, she’s at the end of her rope trying to manage the piling medical bills, two jobs, and a life placed on hold. She certainly doesn’t need the added frustration of a sexy playboy tattoo artist messing up her best friend’s engagement party or her carefully balanced life. But when Drea witnesses the abduction of a woman from the café she works at, she can’t help but turn to Cujo who’s determined to prove to Drea that he’s someone she can count on forever…but as they attempt to bring the truth to light, someone is working to bring that forever to a sudden, deadly halt.
“Can I get a Gibraltar, please, Drea?” Cujo smiled, like he had ordered the most normal coffee in the world.
“A Gibraltar?” Drea asked, a slight look of confusion on her face.
Dark circles ringed her eyes, and he wondered briefly what had put them there. He wasn’t about to admit he looked it up on the internet to try and stump her.
“Are you sure, because you strike me as more of a cortado. Taller than a macchiato, but shorter than a latte. A Gibraltar is only four ounces, and you strike me as a guy for whom size matters. So I would have guessed cortado.”
A trio of pasty white girls standing behind him laughed. Touché. “You’re the expert. I’ll take what you’re offering,” he said with a smile.
Her eyes twinkled with mischief and a smile touched the corner of her lips. Drea’s laugh surprised him. He’d expected a haughty raised eyebrow or an eye-roll. The smile added to the whole package, and he took a moment to appreciate the way she filled out her uniform. She might be petite, but had plenty of curves to rock the black T-shirt with José’s written in italics across it.
She started to work on his order as he reached across to a grab a croissant off the tray. Where the metal spoon came from, he had no idea, but the shock of it hitting his knuckles caused him to jump.
“What the fuck, Drea?” First with a pen, now a spoon?
With one hand still on the nozzle that worked the steamer, she grabbed his bruised knuckles with her free hand and kissed them gently. “Don’t put your hands inside my cake case.”
Her lips were soft and warm, and the idea of putting his hands anywhere on that sexy-as-fuck body left him horny as hell. She grabbed a pair of tongs and put the pastry he wanted on a plate. Then she poured the coffee and milk into a small glass and gave them to him.
“Are you flirting with me, Drea? Because that sounded like a euphemism.” Cujo pulled out his wallet. “Definitely not, because you-for-me-isn’t gonna work.” “Clever. I wondered if you’d grab a bite with me when you get off work, see if we can’t figure out this party.”
He passed her some cash and waited for the change.
“That’s not a great idea, Cujo,” she said, placing the change in the palm of his hand.
He couldn’t resist. He closed his hand around the tips of her fingers. “It’s just food, Drea. It’s getting late. I need to eat tonight, so do you, and we need to arrange this party.”
Her fingers felt tiny in his hand, and when she pulled them away, he felt the loss immediately. Lips pursed, she gazed down the line before looking back at him. “Okay, I get off in fifteen minutes.” And there she went again. How come everything she said sounded like an innuendo?
“Good to know, but when do you finish work?” He caught the giggle before she covered her mouth with her hand and watched as she regained her composure. Flirting with her could become a new favorite pastime.
“I finish work shortly,” she said sharply, although her eyes sparkled with humor. “Can we go back to the getting-off part?” he asked with a wink. He made a mental bet he could do it in five.
“I have customers, Cujo,” she added sweetly, leaning across the counter, giving him a close up of her incredible chest. “But,” her voice dropped down to a whisper, “if you ever get the chance to get me off, you should plan for hours.”