Ella Grace: Christy Reece’s not-so-dark secret

EllaGraceChristyReeceWhen I met Christy Reece at my first-ever Romance Writers of America chapter meeting in 2009, she’d just sold a three book series called Last Chance Rescue. In short order, she made another three book deal and became a best-selling author. Nine books later, the New York Times bestseller is switching gears—and names—to pen the new romantic suspense Wildefire series as Ella Grace.

Her first Wildefire book, MIDNIGHT SECRETS, comes out April 30th. I’m so excited she agreed to join us on Kiss & Thrill today to answer some questions about her new identity and the new series.

GH: We’re all dying to know, why the name change?

EG: My publisher decided they didn’t want to continue the LCR series and asked me to develop a new one. My editor had some specific elements she wanted to see in the new series proposal. She wanted a more character driven storyline, more romance, not as dark as my LCR books, and a domestic setting. (Many of my LCR stories had international settings.) With those suggestions in mind, I created the Wildefire series. I’ve always wanted to write a series based in the South since that’s where I’m from, so I created the town of Midnight and put it in South Alabama, not far from Mobile.

Then my publisher suggested a name change. I resisted at first. I already had a solid reputation as a romantic suspense author and didn’t want to lessen that by taking a new name. But as I continued to write the first book in the series, I realized the name change might be for the best. Christy Reece’s stories are darker and plot driven, featuring tortured, kick butt characters and nasty, evil villains. Ella Grace’s books are character driven, romance centered, and contain as much mystery as suspense.

Believe me, it wasn’t an easy decision to make and I still don’t know if it was the right one. It’s my sincere hope that my LCR readers will enjoy this new venture. I also hope to gain new readers who prefer less dark stories.

Fingers crossed!

GH: I have no doubt you’ll succeed. Good writing always wins. Your Last Chance Rescue series is full of seriously tortured (and hot) heroes and heroines, steamy encounters, international adventure, twisted villains, and well-deserved happy endings. I never would have guessed such a quiet, sweet woman could be so mean to her characters! 😉 Tell us about the Wildefire series, and what makes it different from LCR. What’s behind the name? Are there any cross-over characters?

EG: Ah yes, I do love to torture my characters. And quiet, sweet woman? I do have you fooled! ☺

The Wildefire series revolves around the three Wilde sisters who lost their parents to a murder/suicide when the girls were just children. Since their last name is Wilde and they live on Wildefire Lane, we chose to call it the Wildefire series.

Cross-over characters from my LCR books? No, they’re completely separate. However, I could definitely see my heroes being LCR operatives!

GH: The Wildefire series is set in Midnight, Alabama. What made you decide to switch to a southern setting? In what ways does Midnight resemble the small Alabama town you grew up in?

EG: I grew up in Alabama and the southern culture is one I’m familiar with and love. Every region of the country has its eccentricities and flavor. Southerners pride themselves on their uniqueness. I’ve enjoyed creating the town of Midnight and filling it when some unique and colorful characters. Thankfully, Midnight in no way, shape, or form, resembles the tiny community where I was raised. We only had a stop sign. Midnight has traffic lights, plus businesses like Tillie’s Hair Today, Gertie’s Wash and Wait and Faye’s Diner. Gossiping is a national pastime in Midnight and these three businesses always have the juiciest and most up-to-date news. Oh wait, my little community did have Ethel-Mae’s hair salon. ☺

GH: Wow, one stop sign! In your LCR books, you really put your characters through the ringer. They’re tough and kick-butt, but usually emotionally—and sometimes physically—scarred. How do the characters in the new series compare? And can you tell us a bit about the hero and heroine in Midnight Secrets?

EG: The Wildefire series features strong, heroic men and tough, smart women. The men are still kick butt, the women a little less so. But thankfully they are resilient, because I do put them through the emotional wringer.

The hero and heroine of MIDNIGHT SECRETS are Zach Tanner and Savannah Wilde, who were childhood sweethearts until something ripped their world apart. Ten years later, Savannah is a prosecutor in Nashville, Tennessee and returns to Midnight to sell the family home. Zach, who used to be the town bad boy, is a war hero and now Midnight’s new police chief. The two never stopped loving each other but must face some painful issues before they can be together again. In the midst of all of this, Savannah discovers that her parents’ death wasn’t a murder/suicide at all. She takes it upon herself to discover who and why.

GH: Ooh, sounds fabulous! Do you plot out your books ahead of time, or start with a basic premise and go with the flow?

EG: I don’t plot, however, I do a huge amount of world and character building in my head. And I have a tendency to chat with my characters, similar to a character interview, before I start writing. Before I begin the book, I try to write out a short synopsis just to make sure I know where I’m going. The story always changes, but if I get stuck, I can go to the synopsis to get back on track.

GH: Your writing style sounds very similar to mine, despite my constant struggle to be more of a plotter. Okay, now the fun stuff. 🙂 What’s a treat you just can’t say no to?

EG: Homemade chocolate chips cookies (without nuts!) Yum!

GH: Mmm, warm right out of the oven… Ahem. I read on your site that you once jumped out of a plane to impress a man. (You’re clearly a braver woman than I am.) How’d that work out?

EG: Let’s just say I’ve forgotten the guy but I’ll never forget the thrilling, pulse pounding excitement of the jump. It was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. So glad I had the opportunity.

GH: What’s next for you after the three books in the new series? Will you be doing any more writing as Christy Reece?

EG: So far, there are only two books in the Wildefire series, though I do hope to sell more. I have another sister I want to write a story about, plus three very sexy and intriguing men.

And yes, I will definitely continue to write Christy Reece books. I’m currently finishing up another Last Chance Rescue novel that I’m self publishing. I hope to write at least three more LCR books before ending the series. Then, I have several different romantic suspense series ideas I want to explore.

GH: I’m glad to hear there’ll be more LCR books, but I can’t wait to read MIDNIGHT SECRETS! Thanks so much for joining us on Kiss and Thrill today!

Here’s a bit more about MIDNIGHT SECRETS, due out April 30th:

secrets_.bAT THE STROKE OF MIDNIGHT, THE HEAT BEGINS

On a hot southern night, with a storm on the horizon, a family is shattered. Three beautiful daughters—Savannah, Samantha, and Sabrina Wilde—go on with their lives, each significantly changed, as they bear the memory of the murder-suicide that killed their parents. For years, they have stayed away from Midnight, Alabama. Until Midnight calls them home.

Savannah is the first one back, when a grueling case in Nashville leads the young prosecutor to seek shelter in the quiet of the once grand Wilde mansion. But when she finds letters casting doubt on her family’s dark, shameful past, she realizes that peace in Midnight is a shallow façade and sinister secrets lurk beneath the surface. Zach Tanner, once the town’s bad boy, is now the new police chief and still has a wild hold over her. Zach can feel it, too, but he hurt Savannah once. As teenagers, they broke every rule together. Now it’s his job to keep her safe, even though he isn’t sure who her enemies are, or which ones might be his own. All he knows is that they have only each other to face dangers they can’t see coming.

Ella Grace aka Christy Reece lives in Alabama with her husband and a menagerie of pets.

Ella’s giving away a copy of one of Christy Reece’s LCR books (winner’s choice) to one lucky commenter, and she wants to know your favorite Southern food or Southern saying.

Hers? 

“My favorite Southern food is fried okra and my favorite saying is, you guessed it: Bless your heart. :)”

Don’t forget to check back Thursday to see if you won!

About Gwen Hernandez

Author of SCRIVENER FOR DUMMIES & the Men of Steele romantic suspense series. Manufacturing engineer turned writer. Scrivener instructor, runner, reader, explorer, Kung Fu sifu, AF spouse, mom, vegan. gwenhernandez.com

Posted on March 19, 2013, in Author Interview, Gwen Hernandez and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 46 Comments.

  1. Ella, lots of luck with the new series. Thank you so much for stopping by and visiting with us today. I guess for my favorite food there’s nothing like a North Carolina pig picking. Nice interview, Gwen.. Bless your heart and lots of hugs.

    • Thanks so much, Diana. I’m delighted to be here. And thanks for the good wishes on my new series. Hmm. North Carolina pig picking? That’s something I’ve never had. Will have to check that out!

  2. I can’t wait to read this book, Ella/Christy! It sounds wonderful and sexy. My favorite food is my mother-in-law’s Frogmore Stew (she’s from a small sea island off the coast of Charleston). I love the blend of fresh shrimp pulled from the river boiled with a super-spicy sausage, corn from her garden, and new potatoes. All served with a side of fried okra!

    • Hi Sharon, thanks so much. I hope you enjoy MIDNIGHT SECRETS! And oh my, Frogmore stew sounds absolutely delicious. And served with a side of fried okra? Heaven! 🙂

  3. Johanna Jochum

    I’m not southern or ever been down south to ever had real southern cooking. Would love to try someday! Can’t wait for this book!

  4. Thanks for joining us today, Ella/Christy! My favorite southern food is pecan pie. Just writing the words makes me wonder if I’ve got all the ingredients on hand… I’ve trained my teenage daughter to bake them, so I get all of the joy without any of the work.

    • Rachel: Oh, I forgot about pecan pie. Mmmm.

    • Hi Rachel! Thanks so much for inviting me. I’m thrilled to be here! Yes, yes, yes on the pecan pie. Hated it when I was a kid–mostly because we seemed to have it so much. Now that my grandmother’s gone, I’ve realized how very much I miss her cooking, including her wonderful pecan pie. I love them now and always think of her when I have a slice. How cool that your daughter bakes them. I didn’t make my first pecan pie until after I was married. LOL My hubby got a lot of experimental food early in our marriage.

    • Goode Co. pecan pie, right down the street. Best pp EVER. Google them.

      If you order a whole one (only way I am invited to Thanksgiving anywhere is if I bring one) Goode Co gives it to you in a handmade wooden box that is branded on the outside with the Texas Star and the motto:
      Thank Your Lucky Stars You’re in Texas.

      That pretty much sums up our state’s arrogance, huh?
      🙂

      • Oh, I’m definitely going to look up Goode Co. pecan pie! LOL I love that motto. Nothing wrong with being proud of where you live. I remember my sister, who grew up in Alabama, lived in Texas for 20 years and felt exactly that way about your state. I think she still misses it.

  5. I cannot wait for this new series! Fantastic interview. Thanks Gwen and Christy.

  6. i would really like to try southern fried chicken. I am from PA and have never been to the south but would love to go someday. Thank you for the giveaway. Very much appreciated!!!

    • Hi Deborah! Oh, there’s nothing quite like Southern fried chicken. My grandmother would mix buttermilk, egg, salt and pepper, soaked each piece in that mixture, dredged it through flour and then fried it in hot oil until it was a crisp, dark golden brown. Yum!

    • Yeah, but you get Philly Cheesesteaks…(stomach rumbling!)

  7. Welcome Ella/Christy~
    You had me at the name of your small town! Midnight. LOVE IT. We were all just discussing the benefits and drawbacks of ‘writing as’ and changing our names. You’ll have to come back for the next Wildefire book and let us know if your fans followed you easily.

    I live in Houston: Sweet potato pie and “all y’all.”
    🙂

    Off to go sit out on our porch because it will be 78 degrees shortly.

    Great interview Gwen!

    • Hi Sarah! Thanks so much for having me here. I’m having a great time with all these wonderful Southern meal memories. And the ‘writing as’ will definitely be interesting to see how that works. Will be glad to report back and let you know how it works out. And yum on the sweet potato pie. LOL ‘All y’all’ is a favorite saying here too. Much prefer that to ‘you’ns’ 🙂

    • Oh and meant to say thank you for what you said about Midnight. I went through weeks of angst trying to come up with a name that fit. Believe it or not, I already had the title MIDNIGHT SECRETS because several events happen in the town at midnight. However, I just couldn’t come up with a name that I liked. Then it came to me that all those secrets were part of the town–so why not call the town, Midnight. When I finally named it, the town and its residents really came alive for me. Hope you enjoy the series!

  8. Christy/Ella… it is a great book and I think the series will do well. There definitely needs to be at least a third if not fourth book for the series (cannot leave out one of the sisters ).
    When we moved to Ok from IL I was reluctant to try a lot of the southern foods.. but I did come to like fried green tomatoes. Never did get to the point where I liked okra though.
    As for southern saying… God love her/him but….

    • Hi Linda, thanks so much. I’m thrilled you enjoyed MIDNIGHT SECRETS. Hopefully, once you read MIDNIGHT LIES, not only will you want a story for Sabrina, but also for Brody, Logan and Josh. 🙂

      Good fried green tomatoes are sometimes hard to find. I think there’s definitely a trick to cooking them right. Unfortunately I never learned the trick.

      LOL Yes, ‘God love her/him but’…can be another form of ‘Bless your heart, honey, but… ‘

  9. Hi Ella! Thanks so much for joining us today! I think we’ve had a few conversations on the blog recently about writing darker vs lighter romantic suspense. I tend to write dark, but I do I have lighter stories running around in my head. Anyhoo, thank you for sharing your story with us. I cannot wait to read Midnight Secrets!

    I grew up in Texas where we said, “I swanee!” a lot. My mom was from Louisiana, and she made the best okra and tomatoes ever. Her cherry pie wasn’t bad either.

    Awesome interview, Gwen!

    • Hi Carey! Thanks so much for having me over here!

      Yes, I tend to write dark, too. Switching to a lighter tone was an adjustment but thankfully my characters showed me the way. Hope you enjoy MIDNIGHT SECRETS!

      Oh, I’m so glad someone else says “I swannee” I’ve talked to some Southerners who had never heard that saying. I’ve heard it all my life. And we even shorten it to ‘swan’. I can just hear my mother-in-law say in her sweet, Southern drawl, “Well, I’ll swan…you don’t say.” It was her favorite saying–well, that and “Hush your mouth.” 🙂

      Okra and tomatoes–yum! With onion? That was a special treat in our house.

      • Christy/Carey: How do you use “I swanee”?? Is it like “I swear”?

        Signed, Confused Western Yankee Gwen 😉

        • LOL. Christy, We shorten to “I swan!” as well and yep we put onions in the okra and tomatoes 🙂 I need some now!

          Gwen, I don’t even know how to ‘translate” “I swanee!” . It could mean “I swear” “My gracious goodness!” “Do tell” etc. Speaker’s choice. 🙂

        • Gwen, I agree with Carey. I think it is used in place of ‘I swear.’ Probably mostly used by genteel, older Southern women who don’t want to use the word swear.

          One of my characters in the Wildefire series, Gibby Wilcox, the Wilde sisters’ elderly aunt, uses the word all the time.

  10. I would have to say favorite food is Southern Fried Chicken or Peach Cobbler. My favorite saying is Y’all. I have visited the south a few times and had some great food while I was there.

    This book sounds great. Definately on my reading radar. Thanks for the chance to win.

    • Hi Chris! Oh yes, I adore peach cobbler–probably my favorite dessert after chocolate cake. And it’s one of the few things I can make really well. Can’t wait till the summer peaches come in and I can make one…or four. 🙂

      Thanks for your kind words. So glad MIDNIGHT SECRETS is on your reading radar. Hope you enjoy!

  11. like fried chicken

    • I do too, bn100! My grandmother would make fried chicken at least 3 times a week when we were growing up. There was a piece we called ‘the pulley bone’. It’s actually the piece with the wishbone in it but we didn’t know that. Anyway, that was always my granddad’s piece and we weren’t allowed to eat it. I think my sisters and I always imagined that was the very best piece of chicken ever. I’m sure it didn’t taste any different than any of the others but since we couldn’t have it, we were sure it was better than all the rest. 🙂

  12. Hey, Christy/Ella. Oh, my the name changes make me nuts. I remember when I first joined my local RWA chapter and I’d meet new folks and think I’d gotten their name right and next thing I knew some one called them something else. Very confusing, let me tell you.
    I think your new series sounds cool and I look forward to reading about the Wilde sisters.
    Gosh favorite southern food? My mother made the best squash caserole–you know the kind that has Ritz crackers on top and in? Absolutely to die for. I’m always a little dissapointed when I get it at Black Eyed Pea. There’s is good, but doesn’t touch my mother’s.
    Expressions? I had to smile at the “I swan.” Hadn’t heard it in years. My aunts in GA used the term. I think the “gentile southern lady for ‘swear'” is right on. Y’all is hard to best. Interestihng post, y’all. 🙂

    • Hi Marsha! I agree with you. Different names for authors can be so confusing. I experienced the same problem when I joined my local chapter. I would know the author as their pen name but others would call them by their real name. Took me a while to learn the right ones.

      Thanks for your kind words. I hope you enjoy the Wildefire series!

      Yum on the squash casserole. Haven’t had that for ages. Most of the time when we ate squash, we fried it with a corn meal coating, like we did with okra.

      Glad you’ve heard of ‘swan’. LOL You’re right, y’all is hard to beat.

  13. I love hush puppies and my favorite expression is “the back of beyond.” Since I like a large dollop of mystery with my suspense, I’m looking forward to reading your new series. Christy, you come back real soon now, y’all hear 🙂

    • Hi Krista! Oh, haven’t heard ‘the back of beyond’ in forever. That’s a ‘far piece’ from here. 🙂

      And thank you, I do hope you enjoy the Wildefire series.

  14. I love fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy! I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.

    I’m not from the south originally, but now that I live in TX I hear people say “Bless your heart!” all the time. It’s like you can say anything you want about someone and if you end it with “Bless their heart!” its all good LOL!

    • Hey Alison! Oh yes, that’s one of my favorite meals, fried chicken, mashed potatoes and saw mill gravy and of course, hot biscuits.

      LOL Yep, you can insult anyone you like, just add ‘bless your heart’ at the beginning or end of the insult and you’re golden. 🙂

  15. My fave southern food is fried chicken.

  16. Ginger Robertson

    Hi EG
    I enjoyed reading your interview with GH. I’ve not read any of your books but plan to visit your website. I like the info that you stated for both series that you have written. Like you, I’m from a small town in Alabama, Bessemer and live in another now, McCalla, next door to Bessemer.
    Favorite southern expression “Momma and them.”

    • Hi Ginger! How cool that we’re neighbors. I live in Birmingham.

      Thanks for your kind words. If you get the chance to read either series, I hope you enjoy it.

      And wow, I don’t think I’ve heard the phrase “Momma and them”. Interesting!

  17. So many good southern foods – biscuits, shrimp boil, cornbread, fried chicken – yum!

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