by Stephanie Cage
Crystal: Today I am so happy to have Stephanie Cage stop by to answer a few questions. Welcome Stephanie, I'm so happy to have you here today. Would you share a little bit about yourself with us today?
Stephanie: I'm British, a total bookaholic, and as well as books, I love music, dance and theatre. My bachelor's degree was in English Literature from Oxford University, where I first learned to ballroom dance, an experience which inspired me to write Perfect Partners. Since then I've worked in marketing and administration, as well as taking a master's degree in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. I belong to the Romantic Novelists' Association and a local writers' group, and am a frequent guest on my friend's community radio show, 'Book It'. I live in Yorkshire, with my husband and a LOT of books!
Crystal: Where did you come up with the idea for Perfect Partners?
Stephanie: I’d always wanted to write about dancing since I learned to dance at university, and I’d thought a lot about Lisa and Redmond, but the story didn’t come together until years later when I became fascinated by the TV talent show Strictly Come Dancing and realised that I wanted the thread of a competition running through the story. Strictly inspired me to create the show Couples for my characters to take part in, and after that the story flowed.
Crystal: What are you currently working on?
Stephanie: I have a bad habit of having several projects on the go at once. I’m half way through a sequel to Perfect Partners which features two students in one of Lisa’s dance classes. I’ve also just started on my second seasonal romance, which is set in Australia and has the working title Kangaroo Christmas.
Crystal: Do you have any special routine that you follow when you are writing?
Stephanie: I work full time so I don’t write every day, but when I do sit down to write I usually start by reading over the last section I wrote and making a few changes, before following on from wherever I reached. I never draft longhand any more. I always write on the computer, often in short bursts using Write or Die, which is a brilliant piece of software for keeping my attention focused on the writing. Otherwise I’m very easily distracted by facebook, twitter and on occasions even housework!
Crystal: Did you have to do a lot of research for this book or any other? If so do you have a fascinating fact that you have learned you would like to share with us?
Stephanie: I cheat a lot! I like to experience the settings I’m writing about, so I based Perfect Partners in the ballroom world, which has always been a great love of mine. Most of my stories are set in Britain, but I’m writing an Australian romance at the moment. Although I’ve spent some time in Australia, I am having to do more research for this story to make sure I get the details right. One fact which I love, and use in the story, is the reason the Blue Mountains (outside Sydney) got their name: it comes from the bluish haze in the air from all the Eucalyptus oil.
Crystal: Who are some of your favorite authors that you like to read?
Stephanie: I read all kinds of stories. In romance, I’m a fan of Nora Roberts and I also read a lot of British authors like Rachel Brimble, Kate Johnson, Christina Courtenay and Imogen Howson. I also love reading in other genres. I am addicted to Jeffery Deaver’s crime stories featuring paralysed detective Lincoln Rhyme, and I am working my way through Val McDermid’s crime novels. My favourite fantasy writer is Guy Gavriel Kaye, who writes intense, almost poetic novels inspired by different periods of history. Basically, as I said, I just love books!
Crystal: Is there a genre you haven't written that you would like to try?
Stephanie: I’ve never tried writing a crime story, and I’m not sure whether I ever will, but I would definitely like to write romantic suspense. Lately I’ve been reading Nancy C Weeks’ In the Shadow of… series and I love the intensity of the romance overshadowed by danger and with a hint of paranormal. I’d love to write something like that one day.
Crystal: Do you have a favorite scene you would like to share with us?
Stephanie: This is the scene from Perfect Partners where my heroine, Lisa, dances with the hero, Redmond, for the first time in eight years. Red was Lisa’s first real crush back when they used to dance together. He’s been living and working overseas since then, but now he’s back, and he’s asked her to dance with him and pose as his girlfriend so that they can take part in a TV show, Couples, a contest between dancing couples who are also real-life partners.
AUTHORS FAVORITE SCENE EXCERPT:
Redmond straightened and held out a hand to her. “Shall we dance?”
No apology, no pleasantries. Just straight to work. Well, what had she expected? Roses and a red carpet? The most romantic thing he’d ever bought her was a fish and chip supper. Though, come to think of it, eating fish and chips under the stars with him on the promenade outside the Winter Gardens at Bournemouth had been one of those perfectly peaceful moments that had sometimes come back to her with a stab of regret as she’d squabbled with Brandon across a restaurant table someplace in Kensington. Well, you couldn’t have everything, could you? She needed a dance partner, and she wasn’t going to get better than Redmond Carrington, Junior British Open and twice Ten-Dance Champion.
What was he doing here? Outside the floor-to-ceiling windows, traffic queued nose-to-tail up to the traffic lights at the end of the road. A driver honked repeatedly as the Shepherds Bush bus pulled out from the bus stop into his path. On the common, one hardy dogwalker watched his black Labrador chase a crisp packet across the thin, muddy grass. And Redmond had left a comfortable job in Florida for this and the promise of a medal and five minutes of fame? It didn’t stack up.
But she couldn’t think about it forever. He was standing over her, waiting with infinite confidence and patience for her to join him on the dance floor.
Lisa never turned down an opportunity to dance.
She stood up, dropped her fleece onto the bench, and took his hand, willing herself not to notice the way his strong fingers encircled hers, making her feel safe and protected. Whatever his body told her, it was a lie, she told herself. He’d never been anything but trouble, and he never would be. Their partnership was a convenience, nothing more. But his hand on her back, where her low-cut dress gave way to bare flesh, still felt warm and firm and right. And when he shifted his hold, her body still responded, sending soft shivers down her spine.
He pressed the play button on the CD player as he passed, and after a moment’s pause the music began. Even though they were dancing a rapid jive, skipping and spinning and dipping, she still had time to notice how his eyes were fixed on her with almost frightening intensity. That was something she’d forgotten about him. The way he did everything as if his life, or maybe more than that—the fate of the world—depended on it.
It was as if time stretched when they were dancing. In between heartbeats he could move his feet in perfect unison with hers, adjust his routine to avoid other couples on the floor and fit around her occasional slips, and still favour her with a long, lazy smile whenever she followed a particularly tricky move.
Finally, just as Lisa was becoming breathless, the track began to slow down. Redmond’s effervescent energy softened to an easy swing, and as the music drifted to a halt, he swung her into a slow, languorous drop.
“What’s he doing back in London after all this time?”
Eight years ago, Lisa Darby’s dancing partner and first love, Redmond Carrington, left London for a fun summer on the cruise ships – and never came back. Lisa’s grown up a bit since then, and she’d like to think she’s prepared for anything, but when Red comes back from America with a proposal for her, she’s not sure she’s ready for what he’s suggesting.
A TV studio is filming a knockout competition of six of the world’s best couples – each of them partners both on and off the dance floor. Redmond wants Lisa to pose as his girlfriend so that they can compete. It’s an unbelievable opportunity for an aspiring professional dancer, and the spectacular prize money would help save Lisa’s beloved dance studio, which is in need of major renovation. Scooping the prize is going to take the performance of a lifetime from Lisa and Redmond, but with the sizzling tension between them, they might just pull it off.
It turns out that putting on an act for the cameras is the least of Lisa’s worries. As time goes on and she rediscovers her feelings for Redmond, she’s left questioning what’s really behind his offer, and where their partnership is heading this time.