Please welcome Helen Lynch here today! You’re going to love her debut book! But first, let’s find out about her inspiration!
When did you first think about writing a book? Did you write it then, or put it off for a few years?
I like to joke that I wrote my first book when I was nine years old. It was a mystery and came in at a hefty three pages, giving new meaning to the term short contemporary. I’ve written for years, but didn’t start to write seriously until about five years ago.
Why did you decide to become an author?
Stephen King once said he writes because he can’t not write. I can relate to that. I’m happiest and most upbeat when I’m working on a story.
What inspired you to write this book?
I am a firm believer in the healing power of love, and in second chances. I’ve seen people face overwhelming loss and pain, and still be brave enough to live life to the fullest, and to risk their heart. Loving Matt is such a story.
Where do your ideas for stories come from?
Oh, everywhere! For a while, I tried to write romantic suspense and all I needed to do was read the headlines for inspiration. Now that I’ve settled on small town contemporary romance, inspiration is all around me. I focus on the things that are most important to me, love, family, friendship, all tied up in a happy ending.
What’s usually the first thing that sparks a story idea? (For example, you come up with a title, a character, an idea, a setting, etc. and the story grows from there.)
I always start with the characters: who they are, what they do, what they want, what their goals are, and then, what’s keeping them apart. Loving Matt, the first book in my Sunset Bay series, was sparked by a boxed ad I saw in a local Pennysaver. “Single dad with a six year old son looking for house to rent. Must have big back yard.” That just sent the wheels turning!
Widower Matt Copeland packs up his life and moves with his six-year-old son to a small New England town in an attempt to build a new life away from the sadness that haunts them. Refusing to risk his heart, or his son’s, ever again, the former police officer holds everyone at arms length.
Until he meets realtor Chelsea Abbott. Chelsea has suffered loss as well, but refuses to let it define her. She rents Matt a very special house, and helps him settle into life in Sunset Bay. Little by little, he begins to let his guard down and cautiously explores the possibility of letting Chelsea into his life.
Then Chelsea is hurt, and the nightmare of losing his wife resurfaces. He realizes he has put his heart, and more importantly his son’s, at risk again, and breaks off the budding relationship. Can Chelsea convince him that love is more powerful than fear and that some things are worth the risk?
Excerpt from Loving Matt, A Sunset Bay Romance
“Okay, I know you’re in here somewhere.” Matt tried to hide the exasperation in his voice as he quickly scanned the living room. How could a kid just disappear? One minute, Zak was standing next to him as he packed up the last of the books from the bookcase, the next he was gone.
“Come on Zak. This isn’t cool.” He couldn’t really blame him. He’d already been through so much upheaval, and now they were leaving the only home Zak had ever known. This, on top of losing his mom. Matt’s jaw clenched. There’s no way he was going there. Not if he wanted to survive.
Matt was no stranger to hardship. He’d been through a lot in his thirty plus years. First, his deployment to Iraq, and the horrors he’d witnessed there, followed by his years on a big city police force. Tough times, yes, but nothing had ever hit him as hard as the death of his wife. Hit him? It just about flattened him. If he hadn’t built the walls he did almost immediately after her diagnosis, he wouldn’t have made it past the first week.
“Come on, buddy. Help me finish packing this box and we’ll grab some pizza. I’ll even let you do the tape.” He smiled, remembering Zak all tangled up in duct tape the last time he’d ‘helped.’
Matt spotted the scuffed toe of Zak’s sneaker peeking out from under the drapes at the same moment his phone rang. Irritated, he reached across the couch and snatched it up, never taking his eyes off the lump behind the curtain. “Hello.”
Silence. His curt tone evidently had taken the caller aback. He repeated the greeting, struggling to keep his tone light even as he walked toward his son. “Hello?”
The caller hesitated for a moment. “I’m looking for Mr. Copeland?”
Her voice was firm, businesslike. Pleasant though. Probably a telemarketer. “You’ve got him.” He kept his eyes locked on the wiggling form, now just inches away from him.
“I’m calling about your ad…”
“Ha! Got you!” Matt dropped the phone and grabbed his son as he dashed from his hiding spot. He placed the blond haired six-year-old in a playful headlock and scrambled to pick up the phone. “Sorry. Hello?”
“Yes. I’m still here.” The tone had an element of frost in it by now. Or wariness. Either way, the slight warmth that he’d felt curling through the phone line was gone.
“Sorry. I was on a recon mission.”
Matt held back a laugh. “It’s sort of like hide and seek. What can I do for you?”
The caller recovered quickly. “I’m calling about the ad you placed in the Sunset Bay Courier.” At his continued silence, she went on. “For a house. To rent.” Now she sounded just a little flustered.
“I’m listening.” He could feel Zak wriggling against him in yet another attempt to escape. “Can you hold on a minute? I think a glass of lemonade and a cookie just might free me up enough to answer your questions.”
He placed the phone on the end table, carefully avoiding the silver framed photo sitting there. That was another place he wasn’t willing to go.
He tousled his son’s hair, then gently pushed him ahead as they entered the kitchen. “Okay. Here’s the deal. You get the cookie and the lemonade and I get five minutes without you trying to disappear on me. What do you say?”
Zak looked up at him. Blue-green eyes, so like his mother’s, clouded with a sadness that never really went away. “Okay, daddy.”
His heart hitched at the small voice and the emptiness it held. Crouching down in front of Zak, Matt looked him straight in the eye. “It’ll be okay, buddy. I promise.”
Even as he said the words, he knew what a lie they were. Things were never going to be okay again. Not for him. Not for Zak. Even a six-year-old knew that much. With one lingering glance, he returned to the living room.
Matt sighed and picked up the phone. The woman was probably long gone by now. “Hello?”
The silence that greeted him confirmed his prediction. He was just about to click the phone off when she responded.
“How was your cookie?”
“My…?” Matt couldn’t help but smile, even if it was fleeting. So, the woman with the smooth-as-syrup voice had a sense of humor. Or, she was totally clueless. “It was delicious.”
“I’m happy for you. But, if you have a moment, I’d like to discuss the ad you placed. For the rental house in Sunset Bay.”
Matt stared at the ceiling and wondered for the millionth time if he was doing the right thing. He glanced around the living room, almost completely bare now of anything but basic furniture. No pictures on the wall, and just a few books and toys strewn around. They’d all been packed up in anticipation of this move. In spite of what his parents and friends thought, it was not all part of some plan to eliminate Emily from his life. Fate, or God, or whatever, had already taken care of that. No matter what they said, he managed to steel himself from the doubts that crept up when he wasn’t looking. Most of the time. “I’m listening.”
“Great. I have just the house for you and I’d love to show it.”
Pushy. But not too. And nice, if her voice was any indication. But that could all be for show, for business purposes. The whole honey-catching-fly’s kind of thing. “And you are?”
She laughed, a light happy sound. “Sorry. My name is Chelsea Abbott. I’m an agent with Sunset Bay Realty. Would you be interested in a showing? I actually have a couple of houses that I think would work for you, and would be happy to set that up. What would be good for you?”
Matt sighed. What would be good would be for his life to go back to what it was before fate blew it apart. Before he lost the love of his life and his little boy lost his mom. He already had a house, make that a home, one that used to be filled with laughter, noise and happy confusion. It was quiet now. All the time. Like the sadness in his son’s eyes. He felt the all too familiar anger begin to build.
“Mr. Copeland?” she prodded.
“I’m here. Just going over my schedule.”
Schedule. Right. The one with all the empty days, stretching as far as he could see. He’d resigned from the police department right after the funeral, even though everyone tried to talk him out of it. Take a leave, he’d been urged. Take time to heal. Your job will be waiting for you. But how could he ever think of going off to work every day, knowing that as a cop, there was always the possibility he wouldn’t be coming home? Ever. He couldn’t do that to his son. The job was too dangerous, and Zak had already lost too much. No, he’d turned in his badge and his gun, and walked away. “Saturday would be a good day.”
“Great. Any particular time?”
“How about one?” That would give him time to drive to Sunset Bay, check out the houses, and be back home in time for dinner. He’d made an effort since Emily died, to keep some sort of routine for Zak. Not that it did any good. The child was still as listless and hollow-eyed as he had been when he’d first come home to a life without his mom. Matt straightened up. This was the right decision, the only decision. A new town, new friends. Maybe there, the memories wouldn’t haunt them at every turn. Maybe there he would get a real laugh out of his son again.
“I’ve got you down for one pm Saturday. Any questions?”
None the cheerful realtor could answer. A philosopher couldn’t answer the questions that had been burning inside him since it all fell apart. Why Emily? Why them? “No. Sounds pretty straightforward.”
“How about directions? I can e-mail you some.”
“Thank you, but I’m good.”
“Are you sure? It’s no trouble.”
“I appreciate your help, but no thanks. I’ve traveled all over the world. I think I can find my way to Sunset Bay.”
The sarcasm had evidently not been lost on the woman, judging by the sudden chill in her voice. He sighed. It was like he couldn’t help himself. He really didn’t mean to be a jerk. He was just so damn tired. “Sorry. See you there.”
This was it. No turning back now. In spite of his earlier resistance, he found himself looking down at their wedding photo on the end table, staring at the two smiling people pictured there as if they were total strangers. He picked it up gingerly, running his fingers over the cold, flat surface. It was all ahead of them then, the joy, the heartache. The loss. Hardening his resolve, he walked over and dropped the picture in an open box. It was time to move on.
After working as a reporter at her hometown newspaper for almost twenty years, Helen followed her heart and began a career as a romance writer. A life-long reader and lover of books, especially ones that promise happily-ever-after, she now spends her days writing sweet contemporary romance in a small town in Western New York.