Shakespeare, hot Brits, and aspiring author advice – enjoy Danielle Dresser’s chat with award-winning romance author Melonie Johnson!
Hi! The Sometimes in Love series centers on a group of five best friends, and their friendship plays a strong role in all of the stories, but each book also focuses on one of the girls going after her goals, chasing her dreams, and finding her HEA. Of course, sometimes, the road to a happily ever after isn’t so smooth, so get ready for some bumps along the way. Smitten by the Brit is the second book in the series, and features Bonnie and Theo, the best friends of the hero and heroine in book 1, Getting Hot with the Scot. And speaking of bumps, this book opens with a pretty big one.
Bonnie Blythe is smart, hardworking, and fiercely loyal to the people she cares about – even though in the case of her fiance, he doesn’t deserve it. What did you love about creating Bonnie? What surprised you about her as she developed throughout the process of this novel?
Bonnie embraces the stories and characters she loves so much she often loses herself in those worlds, painting her own world to reflect her favorite books, even when it doesn’t match her reality. I loved her energy and innocence. Her flair for the dramatic. A Shakespeare and Austen fan myself, it was a delight to let Bonnie weave threads of those works into her own story. Bonnie’s stubbornness surprised me. I expected her to be as charmed by Theo’s dashing manners as everyone else, but over and over again, when I thought she’d melt into a puddle of goo at his feet she stiffened her spine and showed her spunk, reminding me there’s quite a bit of Anne of Green Gables in her too.
Theo Wharton is a modern-day duke, and while he’s not in line for the throne, his title still gives him a ton of responsibilities and obligations to live up to. Why do you think the aristocracy intrigues us so? What does being the 16th Duke of Emberton reveal about Theo’s overall character?
As far as the intrigue of the aristocracy is concerned, there is an element of magic to it, of myth and legend… a touch of grandeur and history that speaks to something deep inside us. That fascination has made Theo wary, and he tends to keep his background private when meeting new people. Inheriting the dukedom in his teens, he’s grown up with this title, not as a gift, but as a burden. The expectations that come with stepping into this role, and the failings of his predecessors, have shaped his aspirations and molded his future. A future Theo accepted without question…until meeting Bonnie.
Bonnie is often quoting literature in regular conversation and is teaching a summer course on Shakespeare at Cambridge. Do you have a favorite play of Shakespeare’s plays? Mine is Henry IV, Part 2 😉
Ah, a fan of Falstaff, are you? Great choice. Hm. Picking a favorite Shakespeare play is perhaps even harder than picking a favorite romance novel, and we all know how hard that is! When I was younger, I’d have said Romeo and Juliet, like Bonnie – I was obsessed with that play when I was in middle school. In college, I was fascinated with Richard III. But I have always had a special fondness for the comedies. And if I HAVE to pick a favorite, then I’m going to say A Midsummer Night’s Dream. There’s just so much physical comedy and opportunities to engage the audience directly. And the costumes and scenery…the creative possibilities are endless.
Cassie, Bonnie’s BFF and the heroine of book one, Getting Hot with the Scot, produces a fun segment called Coming Out of the Book Closet, where she asks celebs, athletes, and politicians to admit the books they love but may be embarrassed to talk about. Where did the idea come from for this? And do you have anything to own up to?
Well, honestly, the idea happened quite like it does for Cassie in the book. It was an epiphany! When people learned I was writing, I used to say, it’s *just* a romance…and then one day I asked myself why I felt the need to downplay the stories I loved that meant so much to me. I vowed to be loud and proud of the fact I’m a romance reader and author, and I’ve been true to that vow ever since! So, nope! I have nothing to own up to. I’m not ashamed to admit I love romance!
Bonnie takes a huge leap of faith after her breakup and takes the opportunity to teach Shakespeare at Cambridge for the summer. While there, she rediscovers her love of writing and makes a plan to explore this more once she’s home. I know becoming an author is a labor of love and leap of faith for many writers, but what’s a job you’ve always dreamed about attempting?
Oh, wow…what a question. When I first graduated college, I told myself I’d try my hand at being a professional actress while interviewing for teaching positions. I thought it would take some time to get hired, and hoped to enjoy a few on-camera experiences in the interim…but I ended up getting hired as a full-time high school English and theatre teacher pretty much right out of the gate, so aside from local community theater productions, I never really got a chance to give the acting on-camera thing a shot. So that’s a dream job I’d like to experience.
I heard your interview on the Smart Bitches Trashy Books podcast, where you talked about your writing journey as well as narrating your own audiobooks (Check it out here: https://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/podcast/349-keeping-the-audience-in-mind-always-an-interview-with-melonie-johnson/)! What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Be patient and stay true to what is important to you. Don’t chase a trend, and don’t worry about what is or isn’t “selling” right now. Tell the story you want to read, and you will find your audience, those who are looking to read that story too (in fact, they will probably find you!) As with most creative industries, success in this business comes with a bit of luck – but that’s not enough – you have to be prepared for when luck strikes. This doesn’t mean you should sit around and wait for things to happen – you have to put in the time and the work – so when your moment does come, you’re ready.
What can readers expect next from you?
After Smitten by the Brit releases the end of May, the next book in the Sometimes in Love series, Once Upon a Bad Boy (Sadie and Bo’s second-chance at first love) will be out on June 25th. After that, I hope to give the rest of my Sometimes girls their HEA, but I also have a new project I’m working on involving a whole new group of friends with big dreams!
Rapid Fire Random Questions
Favorite Romance Trope: Enemies to lovers (give me that yummy snarky banter)
Go to mani/pedi nail polish color: Scarlet on the toes, nude/buff on the fingers
Do you dog-ear or use a bookmark in your books?: Never dog-ear! Preferably a bookmark, but have been known to use whatever is handy.
Pancakes or waffles?: Waffles
Favorite book from childhood: Morgan Mine by Stephen Cosgrove, illustrated by Robin James
Morning person or night owl: Night owl all the way.
First thing you’d splurge on if you won the lottery: College for my girls, haha. Oh, for fun? An epic vacation.
A song that will always cheer you up: Pretty much anything by Jack Johnson. Though I have to say, watching the first episode of The Umbrella Academy reminded me how much I love Tiffany’s remake of I Think We’re Alone Now. That scene really captured all the feels of that song and I could totally relate, uncontrollable urge to dance badly and all.
Favorite season: Autumn
You have a totally free afternoon – no deadlines, no obligations, no Twitter notifications! What do you do?: Spend time with the 3 B’s. My holy trinity: Book, Beverage, Beach.
An English professor starts a new chapter in her life and is
swept up in a Jane Austen-esque romance with a modern day duke
Bonnie Blythe has modeled her life after her favorite books.
If only her fiancé would get on the same page and agree to a
She’s not at all bitter that her best friend is getting
married to a man she’s known for less than a year, and
Bonnie most definitely isn’t thinking about the best man to
be, Theo Wharton. It’s just whenever she talks with the
blue-eyed Brit, sparks fly.
When a shocking reveal ends Bonnie’s engagement, she accepts
a summer teaching job at Cambridge—only an hour away from
Theo. Bonnie isn’t ready for a new relationship, but the
chemistry between her and Theo is impossible to ignore. But
Theo’s been hiding the truth about his identity; will Bonnie
be able to weather the plot twist and grab the happily ever
after of her dreams?
Romance Contemporary [St. Martin’s Paperbacks, On Sale: May 28, 2019, Mass Market Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9781250193056 / eISBN: 9781250193063]
About Melonie Johnson
Award-winning author Melonie Johnson—aka #thewritinglush—is a two-time RWA Golden Heart® finalist who loves dark coffee, cheap wine, and expensive beer. And margaritas. And mimosas. And mules. Basically any cocktail that starts with the letter m.
A Star Wars junkie and Shakespeare groupie who quotes both Yoda and the Bard with equal aplomb, she met her future husband in that most romantic of places—the mall—when they were teenagers working in stores across the hall from each other. Today, they live happily ever after in the magical land midway between Chicago and Milwaukee with their two redhead daughters, a dog that’s more like a small horse, and a trio of hermit crabs. After earning her Bachelor of Arts magna cum laude from Loyola University Chicago, Melonie taught high school English and Theatre in the northern Chicago suburbs for several years. Now she writes smart and funny contemporary romance and moonlights as an audiobook narrator under the pseudonym, Evelyn Eibhlin.
Fresh Fiction Editorial Manager Danielle Dresser is an avid reader, lackluster-yet-mighty crafter, and accomplished TV binge-watcher. Once upon a time, she was a publisher publicist and continues to cultivate her love of books and reading by chatting with the best authors in the business. She lives in Chicagoland with her very own romance hero husband, darling daughter, and two tempestuous cats. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram, @dj_dresser.