written that I can't put it down, but once in a while, I read a book that's all
that and more. A book where the characters are so layered and complex and the story so heartwarming and poignant that it stays with me long after The End. A book that won't put me down. ; ) Karen Rock's debut Harlequin Heartwarming, Wish Me Tomorrow, is that kind of story. Wish Me Tomorrow is a beautiful, gripping story about a patient counselor who falls for a single father cancer survivor whose battle and uncertain future have stolen his ability to embrace life. You'll need a tissue box (or two) on hand, but don't be fooled ... Karen will have you entertained and laughing, too. In fact, Karen's talent for writing is quite diverse and hard to ignore considering that she was snapped up by two different publishers just weeks apart! Karen teamed up with her sister-in-law, Harlequin Blaze author Joanne
Rock, to write Young Adult as J.K. Rock. Camp Boyfriend, book one of a series published by Spencer Hill, hit shelves in July. And Wish Me Tomorrow is currently at the top of the chart as a nominee for Goodreads' 2013 favorite debut romance!
Rula: Karen, welcome to HEA and congratulations on all your success,
including this month's release of Wish Me Tomorrow. You do an amazing job
of developing characters. One in particular stole my heart: your heroine's
forthright and feisty grandmother. What a hoot! In what way has your own
grandmother gone from handing you your first Harlequin Presents to inspiring a
character in your first Heartwarming? Did her love story factor into the novel, too?
Karen: Thanks so much for having me on HEA, Rula! I'm thrilled to be
here and excited that you liked Gran as much as I enjoyed creating her. However,
my imagination can't take all the credit. Gran is based on my own grandmother,
Grammy. She made sure to wear lipstick — red usually — until the end of her
hard-fought cancer battle, and lectured me for not taking care of my appearance
when I visited her! I love her present tense — even though she's been out of my
physical life for 20 years. She was a vibrant, witty, gutsy, speaks-her-mind
'40s gal who behaved like a movie star and looked like one, too. I still chuckle
when I remember some of her best wisecracks. Any scene that included Gran made
me feel so close to Grammy. It's funny that it just occurred to me that we named
her after an award. That figures!
The inspiration behind Christie and Eli's love story actually came from my
dear friends and neighbors, Michael and Katy (names changed). They met in
nursing school and began dating shortly before Michael learned he had leukemia.
To his surprise, Katy stayed with him and helped him through his chemotherapy
treatments and school work so that they graduated together with RN degrees.
Twenty years later, Michael is cancer-free, and they are married with three
beautiful children. Michael says Katy is the bravest woman he knows, and I
agree. It takes great courage to love someone through a life-threatening
illness, to risk your heart when the future isn't guaranteed. This, to me, is
the purest, most unselfish, giving kind of love, whether it is for a partner, a
parent, a child, sibling, relative, or friend. The idea of writing a story where
characters love each other in such a selfless and true way inspired me and when
I learned of Harlequin's Heartwarming line of tender, wholesome, deeply romantic
love stories, I knew I'd found a home for such stories. The title of the novel
expresses a feeling many of us have had when caring for someone through a
difficult illness: the wish for one more day.
Rula: That's a truly heartwarming story, Karen. Heroine Christie and hero
Eli have each had their share of heartache and challenges. Life is unpredictable
for all, yet everyone has a unique way of coping. I love the way Wish Me
Tomorrow explores and contrasts fear, hope, pessimism and optimism ... while
throwing in a superstition or two. ; ) Don't underestimate the power of the
mind, right? And a bit o'good luck never hurts. So time to fess up. Are you
superstitious like Christie, or a hard-core realist like Eli? Do you have any
good luck charms that get you through the day?
Karen: Great questions! Before becoming a teacher and then a writer, I
worked in a hospital as part of the Code 99 response team. I monitored patients'
hearts with an EKG when they'd stopped breathing. It was a stressful job, but
one that opened my eyes to the very real possibility of miracles. Many times I
witnessed those who seemed beyond help pull through. It brought tears to my eyes
when I watched them leave ICU and eventually the hospital altogether. When I
worked in a doctor's office, I also helped resuscitate a patient who stopped
breathing. He opened his eyes twice while I performed manual CPR and I told him
he'd be OK, even though I had no clue if that was possible. But I had faith that
it would be, and it was. Terry (name changed) still bowls in our local league
and has a pacemaker that saved his life. I'm not as superstitious as Christie
in that I believe certain acts or things bring us luck. However, I do have great
faith in the universe and the great plans it has in store for all of us.
Rula: Wow! What an incredible, and no doubt stressful, experience!
Speaking of stress … all pets are great for stress reduction, but dogs in
particular make remarkable, intuitive therapists. You're the proud owner (and
rescuer) of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, the same breed that earned a
starring role in Wish Me Tomorrow. As a therapy dog for cancer patients,
Christie's Sweet Pea is rewarded with a lot of smiles and affection on the job.
Are your dogs as well behaved? Have they been arguing over which one of them
Sweet Pea is really based on? ; )
Karen: Hah! I wish me pups were as well behaved as Christie's therapy
dog, Sweet Pea. They are both so adorable that I had hopes that they might
become a part of our local therapy dog group. But their feisty charm didn't
translate into the world of courageous dogs that blithely walk by pills without
investigating and wait, patiently, when commanded to do so. They love to give
and receive attention on their own terms. I had to content myself with that,
along with their refusal to play Fetch properly. Unless, and this is a wild
thought, their version of the game entails me retrieving the ball for them every
time? Oh, dear. Their cuteness strikes again!
Rula: Methinks they have you wrapped around their paws. ; ) If your wish
for tomorrow was granted, and you were given a second wish, what would it
Karen: Now you are going to make me cry, Rula! My wish for tomorrow
has to do with my Grammy. She died while I was in college during finals week.
I'd been visiting her every weekend during the second semester of my junior year
when her lung cancer took a turn for the worse. Yet despite her pain, she never
stopped asking about my life and offering wonderful advice that I follow to this
day. One weekend, when I was broken-hearted over a recurring boyfriend issue,
she said, "Karen. Don't cast your pearls before swine." It took a little while
for her meaning to sink in. Suddenly I realized that I shouldn't chase a boy who
had little respect or care for my efforts. I broke up with him shortly
thereafter, and her response the next weekend was, "Good. Now you've made room
for Mr. Right." Unfortunately, she died before I could introduce her to my "Mr.
Right," my wonderful husband, Greg. Since they both have similar senses of
humor, I know she would have loved him. My wish for tomorrow would be that she'd
danced with me at my wedding and I'd heard her say her trademark phrase, "Now
aren't you glad you listened to your Grammy?"
Rula: Now to put you on the teacher hot spot. As an English teacher,
you've graded your share of student papers. Have you gotten any feedback from
your students on your YA novel, Camp Boyfriend? Can you tell us a bit
about the story and give us a sneak peek at book two, Camp Payback, and
book three, Camp Forget-Me-Not? Love those titles!
Karen: Thank you so much for your compliment on the titles. : ) My
students and I shared our writing throughout the school year and they were
incredibly helpful while writing Camp Boyfriend. Since I live in a rural
community full of camps, they loved the concept of a teen love story set at
summer camp. It's a great place for teens to experience the many firsts of
growing up: heartbreak, setbacks, friendship issues and identity questions. Yet
without parents or old school friends nearby, kids at summer camp learn to
handle life on their own. My students identified with the themes of personal
growth, friendship and independence. Most importantly, they loved the message
that it's important not to label others, including yourself.
In Camp Boyfriend, released 7/13, 15-year-old Lauren has an identity
crisis. After losing her glasses, braces and making the cheer squad at a new
school, she's dated the star quarterback and become part of the in-crowd. Only,
at heart, she still feels like an outsider who's more interested in science than
makeup. When she gets an e-mail from her former "camp-only" boyfriend, Seth, she
longs to return to camp and reconnect with him and her old self. Yet her
quarterback boyfriend, Matt, disrupts her break-up plans by telling her that his
parents are divorcing and he's accompanying her to summer camp. In Camp
Boyfriend, Lauren must reconcile her old self with the new, and deciding
which boy is best for her is a part of figuring out who she really is.
Camp Payback, out April 2014, focuses on another camper, Lauren's
friend Alex, and a new character, Javier, while Camp Forget-Me-Not, out
August 2014, tells a "friends to love" story between campers Kayla and Nick. In
between each book, we have free novellas starting with Camp Kiss, out now
on Spencer Hill Contemporary's website to download at no cost or on Kindle for
99 cents; Camp Christmas, out in December 2013; and Camp Crush,
out in June 2014.
Rula: They all sound great! After reading Wish Me Tomorrow, I can't
wait to experience your next Heartwarming story! Can you give readers a hint
about your next Harlequin Heartwarming?
Karen: That is kind of you to say! My next Heartwarming, His
Hometown Girl, is coming out in the spring of 2014 and I couldn't be more
excited. It features Jodi Chapman, a divorced, single parent to an autistic
4-year-old who stopped speaking when his father left. She's desperate to raise
the funds for a specialized day care that will help him. When she receives an
offer she can't refuse from her agribusiness employer — return to her hometown
and convince her neighbors to sell them their farmland in exchange for a raise
and promotion — she can't refuse. However, returning to Vermont means
confronting a painful past she'd vowed to forget. Daniel Gleason is her longtime
childhood rival and the leading opponent to her company's bid to buy up the
community. He's determined to thwart Jodi and defend the traditions he values,
especially when he learns that some of the older farmers may be put in nursing
homes if their children sell their property. He's got a plan that he hopes will
be a game-changer and will save his neighborhood's way of life. If only he could
stop his growing feelings for the spirited, challenging woman who's come to
steal his home and, it seems, his heart.
More details for my YA books and my upcoming Harlequin Heartwarming novels
are available at www.karenrock.com. I appreciate visiting with HEA
fans and with you, Rula. : ) Thank you for having me!