Good Afternoon Everybody! Today author Aurora Rey, Winter’s Harbor is here to chat with us about her work as well as herself. She is an energetic woman who has created works of art in written form. Be prepared to be ‘wowed’. Pull up a chair and join in.
Ay, there’s the rub.
Who is Aurora Rey? Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.
I’m a college administrator by day and a writer by, well, mostly early morning. I thought I wanted to be a biochemist for a while, then decided I wanted to be a writer. I started working after college and forgot that for a while, but fortunately I remembered. In the interim, I thought I wanted to be a cake designer. I still love to bake, but it’s nice not to have the pressure of someone’s wedding every other weekend. I grew up in Louisiana and, even though I can’t imagine living there again, it will always be home. I’ve probably watched You’ve Got Mail a hundred times and I never get tired of it. My favorite form of exercise is belly dancing, even though I’m not very good at it.
What is Winter’s Harbor about?
Winter’s Harbor is the story of Lia and Alex. Alex is a pastry chef who lives in Provincetown. She enjoys her work at the café she owns and the company of beautiful women. When Lia appears in her shop in the beginning of November, Alex thinks she may have found the perfect company for the cold nights of winter. Lia arrives in Provincetown looking to escape her ex, but also a New York City lifestyle that never felt quite right. She’s more than a little unsure of herself and finds Alex’s attentions both thrilling and disconcerting. They’ve got great chemistry, but also some baggage that makes them loathe to take emotional risks. I like to think they grapple with the kind of uncertainty and self-doubt most of us can relate to. To find a way to be together, they have to overcome that.
What was the deciding factor for your book title?
Lia goes to Provincetown to regroup after her relationship, and the life she’s built around it, fall apart. She’s looking for a safe haven. Provincetown, complete with its off-season quiet, provides that both literally and figuratively.
What is your process for character building? Can you expand on what influences your creativity?
I love watching people—at work, at the airport, at a dinner party. I try to absorb mannerisms, suss out their motivations. Characters are a great way to explore traits that are completely out of my comfort zone. Of course, sometimes, I throw in details or experiences that are close to my heart. Like Lia, for example, I listen to Evita when cleaning the house. Also like Lia, I get teased about it pretty badly.
Can you share with us your inspiration for Winter’s Harbor?
When I gave myself permission to write the kind of story I wanted to read, I started with one of my favorite places in the world—Provincetown. I’d just finished reading Michael Cunningham’s Land’s End. His description of the off season is both beautiful and compelling. And I spent a few years moonlighting as a baker, so it wasn’t much of a leap to feature a café and a pastry chef.
Me: Always follow your heart, especially with your work. This makes the story even more enticing.
Here is a five review from one of Aurora’s readers:
By JBaker on November 25, 2015
I loved this novel. Drawn to the setting of Provincetown, I thought the book captured the off season of my favorite resort town perfectly. I loved the scenes in some of my favorite spots – the Governor Bradford, The Squealing Pig – and felt like the energy of winter Provincetown really came through. The chemistry between Alex and Lia was what set the book apart from other romance novels for me. Yes, the steamy scenes are hot, but the build up and flirtation between the two characters made the first part of the book fly – I found myself trying to slow down to prolong the anticipation. The friend relationships between Lia and Sally, Alex and Stuart felt realistic and filled out the main characters nicely. I can’t wait for Rey’s next novel – here’s hoping we get more Alex and Lia!
What gets you into the zone when writing?
I love the idea of writing outside with a glass of wine, but I get a hell of a lot more done at the kitchen island with a cup of coffee. My writing music of choice is jazz, but when I really need to focus, I use this app called Coffeetivity. It mimics the background noise in a café. It’s kind of ridiculous, but it works.
Tell us a bit about your blog and what you like about blogging.
It’s mostly musings about writing and life. I also feature recipes for dishes featured in my books. I enjoy it because blog posts only require about half an hour of an attention span to write. It’s also a fun way to connect with readers.
Me: Here is the link to the blog. Feel free to share and leave comments.
Here is a blog interview that Aurora had with Bold Stroke Books. Check it out!
Where would you go on a dream vacation? Have you ever drawn from a vacation to inspire a storyline?
In a lot of ways, Provincetown is my dream vacation. I’ve never been anywhere else that feels so much like home, even more than actual home at times. I adore London and Paris and would love to see more of the world’s great cities, but there is something about the ocean, the restaurants, and all the queerness that keeps pulling me back.
What is the easiest part of writing for you? What is the most difficult?
I really enjoy the dialog. It’s easy for me to hear conversations in my mind, so much so that I often have to go back and fill in things like thoughts and gestures and whatnot. Like a lot of writers, I struggle with conflict. When you create characters that you love, it can be hard to have them make bad choices and suffer.
I understand you love gardening. What plants do you like to grow?
Mostly vegetables, and herbs. We tilled a new garden from scratch last year after buying a house. The soil wasn’t great, but the one thing that took off was the tomato patch. There were days when I ate a tomato sandwich and a tomato salad for lunch and dinner. Or bruschetta. It was heaven. I have fantasies of a fruit orchard, too, but, my partner says we have to focus on one thing at a time. She says the same thing about getting bees. And sheep.
Would you tell us about how you got into fostering dogs?
Classic breakup story—former couple remains friendly, but only one keeps the dog. I’d never been solely responsible for a dog before and was nervous, so fostering felt like a good option. I helped Jessie find her forever home, then fell hard for Daisy. (You can read her story on my blog). I adopted her and then fostered a few more. It’s an amazing way to help dogs without the permanence or financial commitment; I recommend it to anyone.
Me: Here is a touching story that Aurora shares with us.
Have you ever done work for an animal rescue group in addition to fostering?
I volunteer with Cayuga Dog Rescue. There’s always somewhere to pitch in—baking cookies to thank the vets who help us, making “Adopt Me” caps for foster dogs to wear at events, doing home visits with potential adopters. I also occasionally drive for rescue transports. Rescue groups in the Northeast pull dogs from overcrowded shelters in the South. The dogs make their way north on coordinated transports where volunteers drive one or two-hour legs. It’s a lot of fun and an easy way to make a difference. (Am I making a good sell? I hope so. Contact the rescue groups in your area to see if there’s a transport near you!)
Tell us about your ‘Vintage Queer’ board on Pinterest.
I use Pinterest to find inspiration for books, including characters. I happened upon a few really cool images of women together, women in men’s clothes. They’re so handsome and striking. I haven’t written a historical romance yet, but these women might just inspire me to.
Me: Take a few minutes to check this one out. There is some interesting history here.
We share a common interest – cooking. Do you have a favorite recipe you’d like to share with us?
I’m always a little hesitant to share savory recipes because I’m terrible at writing them down. In the spirit of my Louisiana roots, then, I’ll share my family’s recipe for French Market Donuts. I’d put them up against Café du Monde’s any day of the week. (You can read the story behind the recipe on my now-defunct baking blog).
French Market Doughnuts
Pour 1 cup boiling water over 1/4 cup shortening. Add 1/2 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 cup powdered milk. When lukewarm, add 1 pack yeast dissolved in 1/2 cup lukewarm water. Add 2 beaten eggs and 2 cups all-purpose flour and beat well. Then add 2 1/2-3 cups more flour. Knead a few times and put in a greased bowl. Grease top and put in refrigerator for at least one hour. To make the beignets, roll the dough on a floured surface to approximately 1/4 inch thick. Cut into 2-ish inch squares. Slightly irregular shapes are okay. Place about an inch of vegetable oil in a pot over medium-high heat. I’ve never used a thermometer, but I’m guessing it’s between 350 and 375 degrees. To test the oil, drop in a very small bit of dough. It should bubble immediately and float within five seconds. Carefully drop the beignets into the hot oil. Flip after 1-2 minutes; they’ll be puffed in the middle and golden brown.
Remove the beignets and drop immediately into a paper bag containing 1-2 cups of powdered sugar. Close the bag and shake vigorously. This is a lot of fun and offers superior coverage to the (albeit generous) sprinkling of sugar espoused by Cafe du Monde and most beignet shops.
What is next for you?
My second book, Built to Last, comes out in April from Bold Stroke Books. (See second excerpt below). I’m working on my third novel now, a romantic intrigue set in New Orleans. It will be available in early 2017. My day job keeps me plenty busy and I’ve got some fun Pinterest projects lined up (like building a hoop house and making felted wool dryer balls). I think we’re going to get chickens in the spring, so there will be coop-building and roost constructing and other fowl-focused activity. I’m also really looking forward to weather just warm enough to drink wine around a bonfire.
Aurora has provided a nice excerpt from this exciting story. Read on!
About two hours, and three beers, after they’d arrived, Lia and Alex emerged from the bar. There were snowflakes falling around them and everything in sight was covered with a light dusting of snow.
“Oh.” Lia threw her arms out and turned in a slow circle.
Alex couldn’t tell whether Lia’s enthusiasm was genuine or more the result of the drinking. Either way, it was charming, and sexy. Lia had a way of being at once a deeply complicated woman and a disarmingly simple one. It made her want to test the taste of her, the feel of her skin, the response of her body to kiss and touch. Alex readily embraced the desire she felt, but remained unsettled by the additional stirring that seemed both exciting and a little dangerous.
“Can I walk you home?”
Lia turned toward her. She seemed to remember where she was, walked the two steps back to where Alex was standing. “I don’t want to put you out.”
“You’re not, I promise. And it would make me feel better knowing you were home safely.”
Lia poked her lightly on the chest. “You’re one of those chivalrous types.”
Alex had been called a lot of things by a lot of women, but she was pretty sure that chivalrous had never been one of them. “Neighborly. You’re still new to town, and I fear I’ve gotten you a little drunk.”
“I’m not drunk. Tipsy, but not drunk. I will, however, accept your offer, because it’s nice, and I’m usually bad at letting people do nice things for me.”
Alex wanted to ask for an explanation, but didn’t. Instead, she bowed dramatically and gestured for Lia to lead the way. Lia laughed and tucked her hand into the crook of Alex’s arm and the two of them started walking toward the West End. It was hard not to like tipsy Lia. They walked in companionable silence. Lia leaned into her slightly and the proximity allowed her to just catch the scent of Lia’s perfume, the same one she discovered on Lia’s forgotten scarf.
When they arrived at Lia’s, Alex flipped on the flashlight function of her phone while Lia dug out her keys and unlocked the door.
“Thank you so much. I feel more like a local already.”
“It was my pleasure, both to introduce you to a neighborhood hangout and to spend the evening with you.”
Lia turned to Alex. Through the light haze clouding her brain, she had a flash of Alex’s hands in her hair, her mouth taking hers. Lia had to shake off the wave of desire that washed over her. “The, ah, the feeling is mutual.”
Unbeknownst to Lia, Alex was having the exact same thoughts. Her brain, however, was clear. And as much as she wanted to pull Lia against her and kiss her senseless, Alex sensed it was too soon. And if Lia’s judgment was impaired, it could ruin everything. She settled for keeping it light. “Will I see you tomorrow, then?”
Lia smiled. “Absolutely.”
Alex walked the short distance back to her place. She mulled over the decision not to kiss Lia. It was unlike her to be hesitant. Of course, Lia wasn’t like the women she was used to—women who knew what they wanted and had no qualms expressing it. That said, Lia might be exactly the kind of woman who waited for the other person to make the first move.
When she got home, Murphy was curled up on the couch. He got up and stretched, trotted over to the door when Alex motioned for him to go outside to do his nightly business. “Should I have kissed her? I keep thinking I should have kissed her.” Murphy looked at her intently, then lifted his paw. He placed it on her thigh at the exact place her phone sat in her pocket. Alex pulled out the phone, then scratched the dog’s ears. “Genius, my friend. Genius.”
Lia was about to climb into the tub when her phone buzzed. She picked it up and read the text from Alex.
I really wanted to kiss you. Just saying.
Lia felt a flutter in her stomach that then migrated decidedly south. Whether it was from the beer or Sally’s pep talk, she felt suddenly brave. She bit her lip and thought for a moment before replying.
I really wanted you to. Just saying.
She slid into the hot, sudsy water and thought again about what it would be like to have Alex’s lips on hers. Her phone buzzed again almost instantly.
Don’t go away, yet! Aurora has provided a sneak preview of her next book, Built to Last!
Built to Last
Joss pulled up to the house and smiled. She loved old houses. In part, she simply preferred the look and feel of them. Really, though, she appreciated the craftsmanship. More often than not, old houses were well-built. Even ones that appeared to be crumbling usually boasted more structural integrity and attention to detail than those built in the last thirty years.
This one was no different. If she had to guess, Joss would peg it as having been built between 1890 and 1910. The porch appeared to be falling off, a fact she would have spotted even without the yellow caution tape. The roof looked old, but the parts she could see didn’t seem to have any holes—a good sign, since water damage was the single biggest enemy of old houses.
She pulled her truck into the gravel driveway and parked behind a red hybrid hatchback. She shook her head and chuckled. Only in Ithaca did people simultaneously buy hybrid cars and drafty old houses. That wasn’t fair; they probably did that in Portland, too.
Joss climbed out and studied the exterior of the house. The windows looked original, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. The yard was unkempt, but it had a good slope. Hopefully, that meant the basement was dry.
She made her way to the back door and peered in. The kitchen was just as she’d expected—a bit of a mess, but not a lost cause. The floors and trim looked original and, thankfully, hadn’t been painted. It was just the sort of house she’d love to get her hands on. If she played her cards right, maybe she’d get the chance.
Joss turned her attention to the woman who was standing in the middle of the room with her back turned. She wore a navy blue sun dress and matching shoes, the kind with ribbons that went around her ankles and tied in neat little bows. Her hair was a fiery red, pulled up into some sort of twist that exposed her neck.
Joss wasn’t a monk by any means, but the intensity of her reaction took her by surprise. Maybe it was the contrast of the tired space that made the woman seem so striking. That had to be it. Of course, it didn’t help that she was dancing. It was subtle, for sure, but there was definitely a sway in her hips. Joss’s fingers itched to feel the movement.
Get a hold of yourself. She’s a client, and likely married. Deciding she needed to get out more, Joss shook off the strange surge of desire and knocked firmly on the door.
I want to thank Aurora for stopping by. I am excited about her book and would love for you all to tell me your experience. Feel free to share in the comments. Before you leave, be sure to check out Aurora’s links for more exciting news.
Until Next Time,
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Printed With Permission 2016.