Please Welcome Leigh Duncan to the Harlequin American Line. Leigh’s debut book, The Officer’s Girl, will be available in April, 2010.
Thanks for the warm welcome. It’s an honor to be here.
Leigh, tell us a little about your family and where you're from.
I consider myself a Florida girl, even though I haven’t always lived in the Sunshine State. I grew up on the east coast of Central Florida and met the love of my life at the University of Florida—go Gators!—and we’ve been together, well…let’s just say a long, long time. We moved around quite a bit—14 different places in the first 10 years of married life—and spent some time in Guam and Los Angeles, and a number of years in the DC area before we came back “home.”
I have two kids, a son and a daughter, who remind me quite often that they’re all grown up now.
What did you want to be when you grew up? Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I’ve been making up stories and putting them on paper ever since I learned my letters in kindergarten. In fact, I still have one of those early stories—about a blind princess who wound up rescuing the handsome prince who rode to her rescue. So, I’ve always known I wanted to be a writer, even when I was working as a teacher, a secretary or a government contractor, I found time to write. I used to set my alarm for 4 AM so I could get in a couple hours of writing time before I had to get the kids—and myself—out the door. Now that the kids are grown and I’m not paying college tuition, I’ve quit my “day job,” and those 4 AM alarm clocks are over. Thank goodness.
So, you’re an early riser then? What’s your writing routine?
Yes, I still get up with the chickens. I’m normally out of bed and drinking the first of many cups of coffee by 5:30. I usually sit down at the computer around 8, finish with email and “surfing” and am ready for my writing day by 9. I meet with my critique partners once a week, but most days I write till my hubby calls to say he’s on his way home, usually about 6:30 or so. The next 30 minutes or so, I kick into high gear, fix dinner and straighten up the house if it needs it (there’s just the two of us at home now, so housework is minimal). Evenings we hang out, watch TV or visit with friends.
Sounds like you spend a most of your daytime writing. What were you doing at midnight last night?
Sleeping. Always. I leave the staying up late and worrying to my hubby. Those are his strengths.
Do you have any talents readers might find interesting?
Riflery and fly fishing. My parents thought an “involved” kid stayed out of trouble so my sister and I were “involved”. In the chess club (I haven’t played in years), and the drill team and the rifle club. I lettered in riflery at UF, and I shot in the National Matches in Camp Perry, Ohio. I didn’t win, but I shot respectable scores. But I’ve never been hunting. Not ever. For me, it was all about the competitiveness, the precision required to put ten rounds in the bull’s-eye.
I don’t shoot much anymore. My eyes aren’t sharp enough. I like fishing though. Especially the precision and symmetry of fly fishing. And if the fish I catch and release is bigger than my husband’s, so much the better. Hmmm. I’m sensing a pattern with competitiveness.
When did you consider yourself a writer?
Always. When the kids were little, I concentrated on children’s literature. Later, when my son was in school, I wrote the newsletter for his college baseball team. For a while, I wrote a workout journal for our local newspaper. I completed quite a few manuscripts that the publishing world is better off without. (They live in a time capsule to be dug up when I’m gone.) Along the way, I sold a few essays and a magazine article, but I have to admit, I didn’t consider myself “an author” till the day my editor called to say Harlequin American was buying my book.
Can you tell us one thing about yourself that would surprise your friends and family?
No more roosters! No more fairies! I’m done with those. Gifts are always appreciated, but think e-readers, luxury cars and expensive jewelry. LOL!
Why did you target the American Romance Line, Leigh?
I’ve been a fan of Harlequin romances ever since I stumbled across a stash of them at the house where I babysat in high school. Believe me, once I made that discovery, I was always available to babysit for that family. Once the kids were settled in for the night, I’d settle down too—with a glass of soda and a Harlequin romance.
Growing up in a small town in Florida, I loved reading about all the wealthy men and beautiful women, their fascinating loves and lives. The stories resonated with me because, even though the heroes and heroines were rich and powerful, the problems they faced were the same ones as the ones my friends and family dealt with.
Community, family and friendships always play an important role in the stories I love to read, as well as the ones I write. That’s why I was so drawn to Harlequin American Romance. I think it’s why my work found a home here.
If you could wish for anything, what would you wish for?
A book launch party like Richard Castle…champagne and fan-fare. But I’ll settle for everyone liking my book.
One last question before we let you go, Leigh. Tell us a little bit about “The Officer’s Girl” and how you came to write it.
I grew up calling the beaches just that—Cocoa Beach, Melbourne Beach, Indian Harbor Beach. But times, and terminology, change. After twenty years of living anywhere but Florida, we bought a home in Satellite Beach where, all too soon, up went the familiar hurricane warnings along with not-so-familiar evacuation orders for the “barrier islands.” Of course, I knew about the Keys, but they were hundreds of miles south of us. It didn’t make sense that my radio and TV were blaring orders to “get out, get out” every five minutes. Puzzled, I called my dear hubby at his office and asked him where these islands were off the coast of Florida.
“Our house sits on a barrier island,” he said dryly. “Start packing.”
After the hurricane safely passed, I started thinking, “What if?” What if Florida’s newest resident didn’t heed the orders to evacuate? What if she was a career girl with all her hopes and dreams dependent on her staying put? What if a hunky, but disillusioned, cop showed up on her doorstep? Would he take her into custody if it meant ensuring her safety? Could this unlikely pair fall in love?
That set the stage for “The Officer’s Girl.” When it’s released in April, I hope you’ll have as much fun reading Stephanie and Brett’s story as I did writing it.