Erin Knightley is the author of More Than a Stranger. She stopped by the virtual offices to introduce herself and to chat about her new book.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about More Than a Stranger?
[Erin Knightley] This story has a nod toward the original social networking—of the paper and quill variety! What started off as a childish rebuke from 11-year-old Evie to her brother’s new friend, blossoms into a years-long correspondence that leads to first love . . . and heartbreak. Years later, when her brother shows up with a handsome stranger in tow, Evie doesn’t want the man interfering with her plans. Unfortunately, there is no denying the attraction between them, and she just can’t seem to stay away. When Benedict needed a place to lay low after a betrayal shakes him to his core, he had no idea his former correspondent would be in residence. Though he knows he should avoid her, he can’t help but be curious about the woman he’s never seen, but who knows him best of anyone in the world . . . even if she doesn’t realize it.
More Than a Stranger was actually my very first novel. That being said, I did rewrite it about seven times, lol! But no matter how often people told me the first book will end up under the bed, I just couldn’t give up on Evie and Benedict and their story. I’m so glad I didn’t! Not only did it catch the eye of my dream agent, Deidre Knight, but it also was a Golden Heart® finalist and ultimately sold at auction. To say this last year has been a dream come true would be an understatement!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the book?
[Erin Knightley] Believe it or not, the ideas generally evolved organically as I wrote. When I decided I wanted to write a novel, I literally just sat down and started typing—no game plan, no plot charts, no character arcs—just me and my fingers tapping away on the keyboard. There were times when I was writing, and I couldn’t believe that words that were coming out of Evie’s mouth, or things Benedict did. Every now and then I’d be working on a part of a book, and be struck with inspiration about a completely different scene. I’d drop everything and try the new twist, and if it worked, well, let’s just say that there was LOTS of editing in this book. Changing a scene is like pulling a thread in a knitted sweater. Everything is connected and the earlier in the book the change was made, the more revisions I had to do.
Since writing this first book, I have learned a lot about the beauty of plotting and development before sitting down at the computer. And as for coming up with concepts, it usually starts with a question: “What would happen if…” There are endless possibilities for love stories on earth—just look at all the billions of people who have found love since the beginning of time!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What was the most challenging aspect of writing the story?
[Erin Knightley] By far the hardest thing for me is putting my characters through the wringer. I like them—I don’t want to torture them! Of course, it must be done, but for me it usually takes a few drafts before they are truly tested. After all, why do I love romance? Because I love love! I love happiness, and it is darn hard to give your characters the smackdown when all you want is to see them ride off into the sunset together.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things Evie would never have in her boudoir?
[Erin Knightley] Well goodness, let me think! Evie’s pretty unconventional in life—she rather follows her own drum. She would never have separate beds—nor would she have any man but Benedict! But most importantly, she would never again have any secrets there – not after the mess secrets caused when Benedict first showed up on her doorstep.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you enjoy most about romance? What prompted you to try writing your own?
[Erin Knightley] I am a true romantic J There is nothing I love more than a sigh-worthy happily ever after, or experiencing the rush of first love all over again. I can remember in middle school we were required to read The Outsiders, which of course is an outstanding book, but one that I balked at being forced to read. Even at that young age, I argued with my friends, saying that there is enough bad stuff in the world as it is. When I sit down to read, I want to walk away feeling better, not worse.
I have always loved writing – in fact, you are looking at the school-wide Young Authors winner for Centerfield Elementary, 1989, my friend! I’m a storyteller at heart, and putting together the two things that I love—romance and writing—led me to a rather obvious conclusion: I wanted to be a romance writer!
PS-Did I mention that I work a day or two a week at a jewelry store, matching up soon to be engaged couples with their perfect ring? I adore it– after all, love is always in the air there!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?
[Erin Knightley] Authors like Sabrina Jeffries, Julia Quinn, Lisa Kleypas, and Suzanne Enoch, to name a few. Movies like Love Actually (I may have watched this one once or twice…or thirty times), Romancing the Stone, Pride and Prejudice (did I mention I’ve been hugged by Colin Firth? Now that’s inspiration!), and Little Women. And, of course, we cannot forget my newest obsession: Downton Abbey! As my friend Catherine Gayle says, it’s our Edwardian crack.
Also, my brother, Andy McLeroy, is a composer in his spare time. His music is moving and moody, and is great to get me in the mood to write. Actually, he composed a piece that is based on a scene in More Than a Stranger, which is available as a free download on my website. It is one of the most beautiful pieces I have ever heard, and I often play it before sitting down to write.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?
[Erin Knightley] Absolute, total, pin-drop silence.
An endless supply of gum.
Post-it notes. Lots and lots of post it notes.
(If I could say four things, I’d say my co-workers: Sadie (bird-dog mutt), Maggie (black lab mutt), and Darcy (border collie mutt). My three ladies (and, you know- Twitter) help keep the work from getting too lonely.)
[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?
[Erin Knightley] The Root Cellar, by Janet Lunn. I was in either fourth or fifth grade, and it truly opened up a whole new world to me. The magic was intoxicating, and I wanted more!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
[Erin Knightley] I’m blessed to live lakefront, so anything that involves the lake is good for me! I love wakesurfing, swimming, boating, lounging on the dock – anything that gets me near the water. The best of all worlds is when my husband and I take a cruise on the pontoon with the dogs, and I have a great book in hand. Heaven!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!
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