Welcome, MJ! Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born and raised in Washington, and still live in a little old house less than a mile from where I was raised. I love to dance, cook and paint and draw, and I do my best thinking when I'm playing the piano. And of course I have two floor to ceiling bookshelves that are packed to bursting...that's why I started to buy ebooks;)
Facebook: Mj O'Shea
Describe your writing style(s) using just one sentence.
My writing style is emotional, inviting, and romantic
Complete this sentence: I write romance because…
I love experiencing the fantasy and the drama of falling in love over and over in different ways.
You’re here to promote your new novel from Dreamspinner Press, Coming Home. Tell us a little bit about it. Why are you excited about it, and what makes it a “must read” for us all?
What I love about this story is the two main characters. It's not a sweeping sci-fi saga, or gothic paranormal fantasy. It's a story of two regular guys, who have their share of heavy baggage, coming to terms with their respective pasts and falling in love. Tally used to be the king of the social scene, he was rich and feared, but not well liked. After he left town in a scandal, people never really got over how he'd treated them. Lex, who is successful and well liked now, spent his formative years as a geek who Tally used to torture. He's never really let go of those emotions. Tally comes back to town in need of money and a place to stay. He gets a job working for Lex and soon both animosity and attraction are flying thick. Lex has to let go of his old hurt, and Tally has a long hard road to hoe, making Lex and the rest of the town accept that he's not who he used to be.
I really felt like I got to know these two guys. That even while I was writing their story I was rooting for them to make it just like I'd hope any reader would. One of my reviews said something that I'll paraphrase — that I made her really feel the emotion, like she was falling in love right along with the characters, and for her that was something only some authors could do. That was exactly what I was hoping for when I wrote the book: to make the readers fall in love.
Here's a section from the very first chapter, as Tally drives back into the town he thought he'd never see again:
It was raining. Again. The kind of rain that fell in large wet drops and splashed noisily on the windshield. Rain that seemed to seep all the way through the glass to drown Tallis Carrington’s skin until even his bones were cold. It had been raining like that the whole damn four-hour drive from Seattle back to the last place he ever wanted to go again. Home.
He cursed and turned the windshield wipers to their highest speed. Any more of that bone chilling, godforsaken rain and he’d have to pull over. He was already nearly blinded by the downpour.
“Why didn’t I ever move to California?” he grumbled to the silence of his car. The only thing he had to talk to was a few beat up duffle bags that held every last possession he had to his name. “Why am I talking to myself is a better question. I’m already going freaking nuts, and I’m not even there yet.”
His car chose that moment to make a scary choking noise and shudder violently. It wobbled for a few minutes between life and death before finally settling itself in the world of the living… at least for the moment. He petted the steering wheel like it was the neck of some skittish prized horse.
Please don’t die, baby girl. I promise to take good care of you from now on if you just get me there.
Walking the last fifteen miles to town at midnight in the middle of a storm appealed to Tally about as much as sleeping in his car on the side of the road (and most likely getting arrested for it if his usual luck held out). Tally’s usual luck was nothing but bad, and that bad had taken a turn for complete and total shit in the past few weeks.
“Hey, Tally, I’m moving tables fifty-nine and sixty into your section starting tonight. Shelley’s having a hard time keeping up.” His manager’s voice was smug. The bastard didn’t like Tally much, and Tally knew it. He didn’t like that Tally was gay, liked it even less when Tally refused to give him head for a four-dollar-an-hour raise.
“Craig, that’s not fair. Shelley already has four less tables than me.”
His manager smirked at him. “Well, then I guess this will be an opportunity for you to make that extra money you were in my office whining about last week.”
Tally gritted his teeth together. He couldn’t afford to lose his job because his manager was a prick.
“Fine. Tables fifty-nine and sixty.”
Craig’s smirk grew more pronounced. “Table fifty-nine is a birthday party. Ten plates.”
Aw, fuck you, Craig. Tally bit his lip to keep it from coming out.
The gig at Cutter’s, a ridiculously expensive seafood place on the pier, had been his longest so far. He hated coming home every night smelling like beer batter and tartar sauce, but the tips were great. He didn’t want to lose it like he had all the rest of them.
Tally peered around the corner of the servers’ station to take a look at the party at table fifty-nine. Women. All women. He sighed. Hopefully they’d be drunk enough to leave a decent tip.
“Hey, ladies, can I get you started with some drinks tonight?”
“I’ll take a drink of him,” one of them stage whispered. Tally pretended not to hear. He took their drink orders and promised them he’d be back.
When Tally returned to pass out the drinks, the brunette in the corner with the loud whisper leaned back and looked up at him. “Hey, handsome, do you recommend the steak? I want something juicy.”
Tally gritted his teeth. “The steak is great paired with our Australian lobster tail.” He tried to ignore the hand curled around his hamstring.
“I’ll take that. I love a nice… lobster tail.” Her hand crept higher. Tally backed away quickly and moved on to the next woman at the table.
By the time he returned with their salads, the ladies had each had another round of drinks. He started on the opposite end of the table, dreading going near the groper again. At last, though, all of the other salads were served. He had no choice. As he was leaning over to place her salad on the table, he felt a hand grab onto his ass and squeeze. Hard. There was no way he could pretend he didn’t feel it. The other women twittered behind their hands, but Tally had had enough. Not okay. He’d been groped, pinched, propositioned, and just about everything else, more times than he could count. Apparently for him, it was one time too many.
The plate in his hand started tipping. He couldn’t seem help it. Oh well, it was just too bad. The woman let out a bloodcurdling scream when her lap was all of a sudden filled with Caesar salad.
“Sorry,” Tally muttered with a small smile. It was hard to hold in the laugh. Craig was rushing toward him, face beet red. Tally could almost see the steam coming off of him.
Less than ten minutes later, he was sitting on the pier with the contents of his locker in a plastic bag.
After that, he’d tried to find another job, really he had, but apparently, the market for guys with few real skills who’d spent the last fourteen years relying on their looks had finally dried up.
And then there was the eviction notice.
Tally wanted to groan just thinking about it. It had been exactly one week, five hours, and twenty-three minutes since he’d gotten fired that he came home to the last in a long line of shitty apartments, only to find his stuff piled out in the hallway and a glaring final eviction notice tacked to his door. Like he had the damn money to pay his rent. That notice had landed him broke, newly homeless, and with the exception of his mother, who refused to speak to him, and one grandmother who he hadn’t seen in nearly fifteen years, he was completely and utterly alone. So he’d made an extremely humiliating call to the long-lost grandmother, the kind of call that no thirty-two-year-old man should ever have to make, and he hit the road—back to the town where he’d once been a god but was now something like the sludge that was collecting in the ditch on the side of the road. If he’d had a different choice, other than perhaps a park bench and a tarp or selling his ass for dinner, he’d never have chosen to go back to a place where his family’s name was practically a cussword.
But that’s where he was going. Back to Rock Bay, Washington, small town USA, south and west of Seattle—almost in Oregon, almost on the ocean, almost quaint and picturesque, but missing the mark every single time. Home sweet home.
He’d ruled the town once, a bit less than benevolently, but left under a cloud of shame years before, vowing to never return. Didn’t quite work out that way, did it? Well, they were going to have to put up with his presence again. At least until he got his shit together enough to leave—and this time for good.
Tally slowed when he noticed the faint lights of town gleaming wetly through the rain. He unconsciously let up on the gas a little more every time one of the distant landmarks grew clearer. And then he was there, pulling onto Old Main, the street that ran through the center of Rock Bay. The prodigal son returns. He felt like he was on the walk of shame to beat all walks of shame. Even though there was no one out, the wet streets gleamed bare in the late night storm, Tally felt people’s eyes on him, boring under his skin. He could feel them judging him for his past and the sins of his family. He wanted to turn back, run like blazing hell—he would have if he’d had any other choice. He didn’t.
Welcome back to Rock Bay—home of everyone who doesn’t have any other goddamned choice.
What motivated you to write this story, and what do you hope readers will take away with us having read it?
I actually had this idea when I ran into a guy I'd gone to high school with who had been mister popularity, and he looked like he'd fallen onto harder times. I thought about him for a few hours, and like any writer I put him into the context of a book. I liked the idea of that character, the prince who'd fallen, so I started to build the book around him.
Honestly, the main thing I hope readers come away with is happiness. Happy that the two main characters managed to get together, a lingering sense of the love that they just finished reading about. I don't profess to being a revolutionary, or trying to teach the hard lessons, I just want to entertain my readers and make them fall just a little bit in love.
Tell me a little about the cover to this work. What does it say to you?
I was really excited when I saw the cover. Anne Cain was the artist, and she captured the tone of the story perfectly. The guy on the front is Tally, the rich boy who fell on hard times. He looks, at least from the back, exactly like I pictured him. He has nice clothes that are a bit worn around the edges from time, and it's been a while at the beginning of the book since he's had enough to eat. I love the way he looks a bit dejected, and how he's separate from the town that doesn't approve of him. It fits the story beautifully.
When you were researching and writing this book, did you face any particular challenges? What did you learn that you perhaps didn’t know before?
This book didn't have a lot of factual research involved. The writing, however, was quite a challenge. This was one of those books that I really really loved, so it wasn't a matter of disinterest, but I found myself putting it aside and finishing entire novels before I'd come back to it. Part of me thinks I didn't want to end Lex and Tally's story. End result is, mental roadblocks and all, this book took me about nine months to finish.
What's next...lots of things! I did write a spin-off of this book featuring one of the secondary characters. It's due out in the fall from Dreamspinner Press. I also have a paranormal romantic comedy coming out later this spring/summer called A Little Taste of Magic. May will bring another of my co-written books with Piper Vaughn called One Small Thing (Dreamspinner). I'm also brainstorming a sequel for my urban fantasy novella Dark Sun (LooseId). I've kept busy!
Any last words for us?
Thanks for having me stop by BookWenches!