Please welcome Lisa Mondello to the virtual offices this morning! She’s here to chat about her Dakota Hearts series.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in five words or less.
[Lisa Mondello] Music, movie and book fanatic!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about your Dakota Hearts series?
[Lisa Mondello] I always love talking about my Dakota Heart series. The idea for Dakota Hearts came after my small New England town was hit by an F3 tornado two years ago. It’s very unusual for this area and the surrounding area was quite devastated. One thing that stood out in all the tragedy of people losing homes, the landscape completely ripped up, etc. was people coming out to help people. We had people from all over the country come to our town and stay to help with the cleanup and to help people displaced by the tornado. I wanted to capture that same sense of humanity of a town and family coming together in Dakota Hearts.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the books?
[Lisa Mondello] The stories in Dakota Hearts are more than just the devastating flood and ice storms, the fires and cleanup. It’s the people who live there in this small South Dakota town and how it affects all their lives. The McKinnon brothers are a tight knit family who have been touched by tragedy in the past. This brings them together. Of course, you have to create characters who have their own backstories before you can create the love story so I gave each of the characters a past, starting with Logan McKinnon from Her Dakota Man. I love reunion stories, so I started there and created quite a web for both Logan and Poppy to untangle in order to find love again. From the disaster, I tried to recall who would be in town during the initial clean up and created Regis Simpson, a nomadic insurance adjustor and partnered her with the town doctor, the sexy Keith “Hawk” McKinnon who was all about family and community. I loved writing about sexy Sam McKinnon, who is a Hotshot fire fighter, and Summer Bigelow, a dispatcher from Providence RI, because it gave me the chance to add just a touch of suspense in the story and bring in characters from my book MATERIAL WITNESS. Next up is Ethan McKinnon in Wild Dakota Heart. Despite all the successes Ethan has had as a Navy Seal, and now a cop, he can’t seem to wash away his bad boy past until he gains forgiveness from Maddie Newton, the sister of his best friend who died tragically years ago. Last up (or maybe not last because I keep getting emails about Ian McKinnon, the cousin who keeps appearing in the books) Wade McKinnon comes home after years of the family believing he died. There are secrets that are revealed in that story and it’s going to be fun to write. That should be available late March. And again, if I keep getting reader feedback about Ian McKinnon, I may just have to find Ian a lady love too!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you briefly describe your favorite scene?
[Lisa Mondello] You have no idea how hard that is for me! I fall in love with these characters just like readers do. In each of the books there is a scene that drives me, so it’s really hard to pick one. But I will say one. There is a scene in Dakota Heat that came out of the blue for me while I was writing the story. Sam is a Hotshot and is fighting fires with his team. It’s touch and go and the entire family comes together to be with the matriarch of the family, Kate McKinnon, who I have come to love writing. Except Summer is alone at the dispatch office until she gets a visitor. As I wrote that scene, the connection to an earlier scene became clear. It was completely out of the blue and I started crying as I wrote the scene. I’m not going to say any more because I don’t want to ruin it. LOL
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Which character gave you the most trouble?
[Lisa Mondello] None so far. I spend a little time in each character’s head before I start writing. I have more trouble with what my characters are going to do more than with the characters themselves. I have a feeling that Wade will be a challenge, but only because I don’t know enough about his story yet. So far he’s been revealing himself to me through the eyes of his brothers.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had a theme song, what would it be?
[Lisa Mondello] One? Only one? I think I have Spotify on 24/7. I don’t think I can do just one. When I wrote Her Dakota Man I listened to a bit of Lifehouse. For Dakota Heat I listened to The Pretenders. For Badland Bride I listened to Elvis Costello. Now I’m listening to some Adele and Christina Perri. None of it would make sense to anyone but me.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing you won’t leave home without.
[Lisa Mondello] I can’t think of anything. I know there are times I don’t want to take my cell phone because my kids seems to track me down wherever I am. They’re all adults now but still young enough that they check in with me all the time and I don’t mind that at all. But sometimes I like to drive and just have my thoughts to myself instead of listening to the phone going off in my purse in the back seat.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name three things on your desk right now.
[Lisa Mondello] A small wizard made a foam for me to squeeze when I’m frustrated or thinking. My coffee mug which rests on a small plastic coaster that says love. My eReaders. (Yes, that’s plural. I need one for every store!)
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name some books that you enjoyed recently.
[Lisa Mondello] Since I’ve been writing like a maniac lately I haven’t been doing a whole lot of reading, but when I’ve had a free moment I’ve been finishing up C.L. Wilson’s Taren Soul series.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
[Lisa Mondello] Watch movies, work on the house. We’ve been living in our house for 20 years and there is always something that needs to be fixed or painted or decorated. Right now I’m shopping for new comforters and painting.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?
[Lisa Mondello] My blog is http://www.lisamondello.blogspot.com and that’s the best way to hear about news and info about my series. I’m on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/lisamondello.author, on Twitter at @LisaMondello and you can always email me at LisaMondello@aol.com because I love hearing from readers.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!
About the series:
Her Dakota Man
Genre: Contemporary romance
Word Count: 37,000 words
Cover Artist: Purple Girl Design
She needed to risk the truth to get a second chance…
Poppy Erickson had spent the year wondering how all their lives might have been different after hearing the deathbed confession of her childhood friend. She’d left South Dakota years ago because she couldn’t bear to watch the man she loved loving another woman. But now she knows the truth. She’ll keep the promise she made to a friend, but will Logan understand when he learns the truth? More important, can they again recapture the passion that had been between them all those years ago?
He needed to face the past to get the love of a woman he thought he’d lost…
Everyone knows that the Dakotas didn’t get the name Badlands for nothing. Harsh weather and rough living are a way of life. But single dad, Logan McKinnon, had seen more than his share of bad times after the death of his wife a year ago. The last thing he needs is Poppy Erickson, an old flame and his late wife’s best friend, showing up unannounced to help after devastating floods nearly washed away their hometown. With no place to stay in town, he has no choice but to offer her a bed at his house.
But can he live under the same roof with a woman he’d once loved passionately without feeling he’s betraying his late wife?
Excerpt Her Dakota Man :
One look on Logan McKinnon’s face told Poppy that his foul mood had very little to do with the devastating destruction all around the Badlands of South Dakota…and everything to do with her showing up in town after nearly ten years.
She didn’t have to be standing next to him to feel his anger simmering just below the surface of his composure. Sitting in her rental sedan was close enough. What the hell was she thinking coming back home? Why had she made that ridiculous promise to Kelly?
She parked the car next to his truck and took a deep breath, mumbling under her breath as she pulled the door handle, “This may just turn out to be the stupidest thing you have ever done, girl.”
Truth was, even as pissed off as Logan looked, he was still an amazing sight to see. Part of her had hoped that she was wrong. That she’d gotten over him a long time ago. That she’d take one look at him, make sure he and Keith were okay, and be able to get back in her car and drive right to the airport in Rapids City.
He turned to her, standing tall and proud. His thick dark hair blew in the March wind, fluttering around his face and making him all the more strikingly handsome.
He was taller than she’d remembered, and he’d long since lost that too-lean teenage body that had driven her crazy in her youth. He worked hard on his ranch and it showed in how much his arms and chest had filled with muscles.
Despite the cold, he’d taken off his jacket while he worked in the yard and Poppy had a clear view of just how much his male body had filled out in places she’d dreamed of touching.
Lord, help her. She was in trouble. And she hadn’t even stepped out of the car yet. She pushed the door open and stepped outside to get it over with. It was either going to be the shortest visit on record…or the life changing experience she’d been dreaming of ever since she was a teenager.
Logan starred at her for a long, agonizing moment. She read the emotional tug of war playing on his face as the sudden chill from the South Dakota winds bit into her exposed skin like a whipping.
Then his expression turned hard. “What are you doing here?”
He must have heard the car drive up. But Logan’s four-year-old son, Keith, remained so focused on the mud puddle he was poking a stick into to even notice anyone was around. That was good. The next few minutes would go easier for both of them if Keith weren’t aware of the tension.
Logan stared at her as if he’d been startled. Or maybe too focused on making sure his son was safely playing nearby to notice her car had driven up.
Or perhaps he’d been too pre-occupied with assessing the damage the recent angry South Dakota weather had done to his property. Poppy had seen just how Mother Nature had shown no mercy to her childhood town as she drove from the airport to the ranch. She couldn’t exactly blame Logan for being in a foul mood because of that.
Seeing her was just the icing on the cake.
“What the hell are you doing here, Poppy?” he repeated.
She took in a deep breath, smelled the muddy earth and decay all around her, and said, “I came to help.”
He took one long look at her, from her high-heeled boots, up the length of her legs, pausing at her hips. She could almost feel his eyes as if he were staring at the flesh beneath her fresh pair of blue jeans. When his gaze finally reached her face again, she slid her sunglasses to the tip of her nose and stared right back at him in challenge. A slow smile played on her lips. She could never last as long at this as Logan before caving into laughter. But she knew Logan was in no laughing mood.
“Poppy Ericksen. Rudolph was practically washed off the map from all that rain we had. After all this time, what makes you think I need anything from you?”
Even though his voice was even, she could tell he was still pissed. But he’d never show it. Keith was still poking at the mud and puddles on the driveway just a little ways away, completely unaware of present company.
“What’s the matter, Logan? You don’t look happy to see me,” Poppy said, pulling her sunglasses off her face with a wary smile.
Genre: western romance
Word Count: 28,000 words
Cover Artist: Purple Girl Design
She’d spent a lifetime packing armor around her heart…
Raised an Army brat, Regis Simpson was used to calling new towns home, learning to quickly make friends but never letting anyone get too close. When devastating floods tear through the Badlands of South Dakota, she thinks Rudolph is just another town that needs to be rebuilt. Nothing more. The sooner she gets her work done, the sooner the people of Rudolph can heal and she can move on to the next town in need. She never counted on the sexy town doctor, Keith “Hawk” McKinnon or his determination to break down walls she’d spent a lifetime building, making it impossible for her to leave.
He’s determined to break down her walls and give her a reason to stay…
Nothing pained Hawk McKinnon more than seeing people he’d known his whole life hurting. He traded a high-paying salary at a city hospital to come back to Rudolph and make a difference where he’d dug his roots. When the beautiful Regis Simpson comes to town offering help, he’s immediately drawn to her even though she’s spent a lifetime believing that everyone she loves leaves. Now she does the leaving and once her work is done, she’ll be leaving again. He’s determined to do everything possible to make her stay.
Excerpt Badland Bride
After easing herself out of the car, Regis limped up the newly built wooden ramp, unpainted and still sporting the color of wood that hadn’t been exposed to the elements for long. She winced through the pain as she took each step toward the front door. A small sign hung next to the door giving the clinic’s hours. She tried the door and it wouldn’t budge. Her shoulders sagged in defeat.
“What does he do in the middle of the day? Go fishing?”
“Nope, house calls.”
Regis swung around to see a tall man walking up behind her on the ramp. He had the Irish blue eyes she’d seen on many models in advertising magazines she’d bought when she was a teenager, and the dark hair that looked a little unruly in the wind, but seemed to fit him perfectly. The light scuff of a beard wasn’t more than a day old, but already dark and covering his square jaw.
For a moment, Regis was so taken with this handsome stranger that she’d forgotten why she was there.
* * *
“Dr. Hawk, or whatever his name actually is, does house calls? I thought that sort of thing went extinct with the dinosaurs. The guy must be a hundred years old.”
Hawk fought to keep from smiling. “There are days it seems that way.” He then looked at the woman’s leg, and frowned as he saw the blood staining her pants. “We’d better get you inside so that can be cleaned.”
“The door’s locked,” the woman said, leaning against the rail as he came up beside her. Her face was pale, most probably due to the pain she was experiencing and the loss of blood.
He smiled, looking down into her eyes. “Luckily, I have a key.” They were pretty brown eyes, he decided. No, they were hazel. And the fact that he didn’t want her to turn away so he could know for sure surprised him.
Standing six feet tall, he towered over her small frame, although he was probably no more than eight inches taller than her. And she smelled like fresh soap as if she’d just taken a shower. But looking at the dirt and blood on her hands, that probably wasn’t the case.
“You must rate to have your own key to the doctor’s office. When does this Hawk doctor usually come back?”
He slipped the key into the door and turned the handle. Then he smiled as he pushed the door open and held it for her to come inside. “Why don’t you have a seat here. It’ll just be a minute.”
Hawk curled his fingers around the woman’s upper arm gently and helped guide her to the chair. As she sat down, a look of relief washed over her face.
“Does that take some pressure off?”
“Your leg. Does sitting help?”
As he waited for her to reply, he walked behind the receptionist desk and sifted through the wall organizer that was filled with insurance forms. Nancy was going to have a fit if he had this woman fill out the wrong one.
“Ah, a little.”
He felt a muscle pull between his eyebrow as he glanced at the forms. For all his higher education, insurance forms were a mystery to him. Finally he sighed and dropped the papers on the desk.
“I’m going to need you to fill out some forms, but I’m not sure which one’s right at the moment and my receptionist, Nancy, will have my hide if I have you fill out the wrong form. So why don’t we just have a look at your leg first and fill out paperwork later?”
“Yes. She’ll probably be back from lunch before I’m done.”
“You? Wait, you’re Dr. Hawk?”
His lips curled up just slightly. “It’s just Hawk. But if you prefer, you can call me Dr. McKinnon.”
Her mouth hung open just slightly. “Oh, I’m…oh, okay.”
“Did someone tell you I was a deranged killer?”
“What? No, of course not, it’s just…”
She was adorable, all flustered with her flub. Hawk couldn’t resist teasing her. “They said I was a mean old bastard who was going to cut off your leg?”
She rolled her eyes. “Don’t be ridiculous.”
“You aren’t…I wasn’t expecting someone so…” She took a deep breath.
Color immediately stained her pale cheeks. “Young. You look like you just graduated college.”
He chuckled. “So they didn’t tell you I was good looking. They told you I was old.”
She sighed heavily. “No. Mr. Bennett didn’t say anything except your name is Hawk. What kind of person walks around with a name like that anyway?”
“Me,” he said. “And I can assure you that you are in good hands. I may not be a crusty old doctor, but I not only went to college, I made it all the way through med school, my internship and a stint at the city hospital in Sioux Falls before coming back to Rudolph and starting my practice here.”
Her shoulders slumped. “I didn’t mean to imply—”
“Let’s get you cleaned up,” he said. “Let me help you—”
He bent down to help her to her feet, and he caught a whiff of her soapy scent again. Normally he didn’t notice such things. But he was having a hard time not noticing every little detail about this woman from the slight hook of her nose to the patch of too many freckles on her left cheek.
“No, I can do it.”
“Okay, follow me,” he said as they made their way down the hall to the first examining room. He opened the door and let her into the well-stocked room first. Then he carefully helped her to climb onto the examining table before going to the sink to wash his hands. When he was done, he put on a white medical jacket that was hanging from a hook on the door, and then turned to her.
“Now that you know my name, why don’t you tell me yours?”
“Regis Simpson. But people call me Reggie.”
“Why would people call you Reggie when Regis is such a pretty name?”
Her lips lifted to a sideward grin. “You’ve got one hell of a bedside manner, Doctor.”
“Did it make you forget the throbbing in your leg?”
She thought a second and then chuckled softly. “That’s not why you said that to me.”
“Are you sure about that?”
Genre: contemporary romance
Word Count: 23,000 words
Cover Artist: Purple Girl Design
Hotshot Sam McKinnon was always leaving town, chasing another fire until his own hometown became vulnerable during the fire season after a devastating winter flood left debris and destruction in its path. He didn’t expect out of town dispatcher, Summer Bigelow, to catch his eye or his heart.
It hadn’t been Summer’s idea to move from Providence to South Dakota, but when a serial murderer suddenly turns his attention on Summer, her boss insists she leave town…at least until the heat dies down. She’s dealt with high tension, life or death situations many times in her job. It isn’t until she meets Sam McKinnon and falls for the sexy Hotshot that she really begins to know fear. The fear of losing someone she loves.
Excerpt Dakota Heat :
The girl was new. Sam walked around the Interagency Fire Crew basecamp with familiarity. He saw faces he recognized from working in different locations over the past few years. But the girl… Yeah, she was new. He doubted he would forget the soft blond color of her hair or the slight tilt of her head as she read through paperwork, pretending she didn’t notice the people around her.
He grabbed two water bottles from the bucket full of ice in the back of the Quonset hut and walked toward her. She didn’t look up until he held the water bottle in front of her.
Blue eyes met his with a mixture of irritation and surprise.
“You’re dropping ice pieces on my paperwork,” she said.
He noticed the smooth as silk sound of her voice before the water splatter on the top page of her paperwork. He immediately pulled the water bottle back a few inches.
“Sorry. I thought you might like something to drink.”
Her face softened as quickly as it had shown irritation. She reached her hand out and took the water bottle, and then placed it on the bench next to her before shaking her hand of the residual moisture the bottle left behind. “Thank you.”
“You’re new here,” he said as he sat down next to her.
Not looking up, she said, “So are you.”
She smelled like soap and lavender. After breathing in smoke and dirt for so long, it was refreshing to breathe in the sweet scents of a woman.
“Not exactly. I grew up in Rudolph.”
That earned him a lingering second glance. One that afforded him a few seconds to really look into her eyes, at her face.
“My whole life.”
She glanced around quickly. “When I got in last night I was told the basecamp here was new this year. I didn’t realize South Dakota had a dedicated fire basecamp.”
Sam had never worked fire duty in his home state before. And he’d never come to a new location and been so familiar with faces as well as the location. His reason for wanting to come back to South Dakota this year was personal.
A lot of his friends who worked with the Interagency Fire Crew were still reeling after the deaths of nineteen Hotshot firemen in Arizona last summer. Some had quit fighting fires altogether at the urging of their family. Sam’s own mother had tried her best to do the same during many phone calls since the tragedy, but Kate McKinnon settled for having him come home to Rudolph to work.
“This was just constructed this year. The Black Hills are a hot spot this year because of all the flood and ice damage that occurred over the winter. When I found out they were setting up a base here to do fire control for the season, I put in a request to work here.”
She nodded. “Must be nice to be home. At least for the season.”
She glanced down at her paperwork again.
He chuckled at how quickly she fell into her reading again. “You’re looking at that like you’re cramming for a final exam.”
She shrugged. “I feel I am. This is my first season working fire dispatch anywhere.”
“Ah, then that explains it.”
“Must feel good to be home after—”
Both Sam and the girl looked up to see the chief calling out from across the tent. The girl quickly collected her paperwork and stuffed it in a folder.
“Be right there,” she called out. She turned to Sam, lifting the bottled water in her hand. “Thanks for the water.”
But she was already trotting over to the superintendent’s office. He hadn’t even had a chance to get her name. But he would before the day was done. This was one woman he had a feeling he wanted to get to know.
About the Author:
USA TODAY Bestselling Author, Lisa Mondello, has held many jobs in her life but being a published authors is the last job she’ll ever have. She’s not retiring! She blames the creation of the personal computer for her leap into writing novels. Otherwise, she’d still be penning stories with paper and pen.
Her first book, All I Want for Christmas is You won Best First Book in the Golden Quill. Her books have finaled in the HOLT Medallion, and the Colorado Award of Excellence contests. In 2011 she re-released her award winning book All I Want for Christmas is You along with a re-issue of her romantic comedy, The Marriage Contract, with a new contemporary romance called The Knight and Maggie’s Baby.
In 2012 she reissued the first 3 books of her popular Western Romance Series TEXAS HEARTS including Her Heart for the Asking, His Heart for the Trusting and The More I See. Writing as LA Mondello, her romantic suspense, MATERIAL WITNESS, book 1 of her Heroes of Providence series made the USA TODAY Bestsellers List.
You can find more information about Lisa Mondello at lisamondello.blogspot.com
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