Interview with Julie Benson, Author of The Rancher and the Vet

Please welcome Julie Benson to the virtual offices today!  Julie’s latest, The Rancher and the Vet, was recently released under the Harlequin American Romance line.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Julie Benson] I’m a mom of three boys who started writing when they were little to save my sanity. Not sure it’s done that, but I keep writing anyway.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about The Rancher and the Vet?

[Julie Benson] When Reed Montgomery’s brother is deployed to Afghanistan, Reed returns to Estes Park, Colorado to stay with his fourteen year old niece. Talk about a confirmed bachelor’s nightmare. When she is sentenced to community service at an animal shelter for spray painting the building, Reed has to face Avery McAlister, the woman he loved and left. But Avery’s got problems of her own trying to keep the shelter she runs open, and the last thing she needs in her life is Reed.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Julie Benson] I thought about how fun it would be to write about a bachelor who was suddenly responsible for a teenage girl. Then one day I was talking to a friend about her son-in-law being in Afghanistan. That led to the idea of Reed coming home to stay with his niece because his brother’s been deployed. As to Avery’s character, when I wrote my first book for Harlequin Big City Cowboy, I knew I wanted to give Avery her own story. The idea for the shelter Avery works for being sold came from my best friend. She’s the Executive Director at the Hinsdale Humane Society. That shelter has a unique situation. They own the building, but the city owns the land. I decided to pair Avery with Reed for a lovers reunited story.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Avery?

[Julie Benson] Loyal, funny, and tender hearted (Technically the last isn’t one word, but they run together like one, and it really describes Avery and what drives her in life, both in terms of her relationships with people and in her career.)

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Reed had a theme song, what would it be?

[Julie Benson] Reed’s theme song would be Running on Empty by Jackson Browne. Since he turned 18, Reed’s been running—from his abusive past with his father, from the fear that one day he’ll turn into his old man and from how much he loves Avery. “Honey you really tempt me. You know the way you look so kind. I’d love to stick around but I’m running behind. You know I don’t even know what I’m hoping to find. Running into the sun but I’m running behind.”

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Avery is never without.

[Julie Benson] Her smile. She had a positive attitude and is very much a caretaker in terms of her family, her friends and the animals around her.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things will you never find in Reed’s pockets?

[Julie Benson] (1) a doggie poop bag—Dogs and Reed never got along well. Plus, having a pet is a commitment. It’s an emotional attachment and Reed avoids those any way he can. (2) a picture of his father who abused him (3) a pacifier—Reed, fearing he would repeat the cycle of violence, never wants to have children.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Avery’s greatest regret?

[Julie Benson] Avery’s greatest regret is that she never understood why Reed broke up with her after going to college. He told her he never wanted to come back to Colorado, didn’t want to get married and never wanted children—things he’d never given a hint of during their relationship. Deep inside she had the feeling there was more going on then he was telling her. Not knowing what really happened with Reed made moving on more difficult for her because she never trusted her judgment after that.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Julie Benson] I’d have to say the world around me. Often I hear or read about something that gets my creative juices going. I think what if it didn’t happen like that, or what if this happened. Doing that is how I get a lot of my story ideas.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Julie Benson] (1) The first thing I need is being at my favorite Starbucks at Custer and Renner in Richardson. That’s where I write. People find it odd that I can write there because of all the noise and distractions, but I’m very ADD. If a place is too quiet, my mind wanders. The activity in Starbucks helps me focus. Plus it keeps me connected with people. Writing can be a little isolating some times. (2) The second thing I need is a grande sweetened half green tea, half passion tea or a non fat chai latte if I’m in desperate need of caffeine. (3) The last thing I need is my laptop.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Julie Benson] There have been two books that I’ve read recently that did that. Angel in Chains by Cynthia Eden is a great story about a fallen Angel of Death who’s on Earth in search of redemption. I love a tortured hero story! During Mardi Gras he comes across a woman being attacked by panther shifters. But the woman he saves isn’t a fainting flower. The book had me reading as fast as I could. The other book is The Haunting of Maddy Clare. It’s set in England after World War I. A lonely, broke woman who works for a temp agency is sent to assist a ghost hunter. The story really pulled me. The ghost is real, and out for vengeance. The heroine Sarah gets thrown right in the middle of some dangerous stuff. This story has mystery, suspense and romance and kept me on the edge of my seat.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Julie Benson] When I was in grade school one of my teachers read The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett to the class. That story hooked me because it had it all—the suspense, the relationship between Mary and Dickon. Even then I was hooked on romance. The budding childhood romance between Mary and Dickon was my favorite part of the story. After my teacher read the book to us, I read it over and over. From then on I started reading everything I could get my hands on. I would order books through school from Scholastics. If my teachers got free or reduced priced books based on how big their orders were, I single handedly stocked some class libraries.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Julie Benson] I like to make jewelry, and of course I love to read. I’m also a do it yourself remodeling freak. I’ve remodeled two bathrooms and part of my kitchen. I’ve got a wet saw for cutting tile and everything.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Julie Benson] My email is Julie@juliebenson.net and I love to hear from readers. I’m also on Facebook.

[Manga Maniac Café] Thank you!

You can purchase The Rancher and the Vet, or any of Julie’s other titles, from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the links below:

About the book:

Cowboy, Come Home

Leaving his Colorado hometown was the second hardest thing Reed Montgomery ever did—the first was breaking up with Avery McAlister, his high school sweetheart. Now his Western roots are calling the citified CEO back to his family ranch to be surrogate dad to his niece, Jess. Of course, he can’t help being pulled back into Avery’s world.

Keeping her financially strapped animal shelter open is Avery’s first priority—her second turns out to be helping Reed with his parenting skills. They may be bonding, but her former flame still has some serious explaining to do about the secret that drove him away.

The ghosts of the past and a rekindled desire bring Reed and Avery ever closer together. But will Reed embrace his future…as a cowboy, a father and as the man for Avery?