Courtney Hunt - Second Chances and Happily-Ever-Afters
Courtney Hunt has loved Romance novels since the very first day she snuck one out of her mother's library bag. She writes whenever she can, in-between meeting the demands of being an attorney, mother and wife and all the admin that comes with self-publishing. As our author of the day, Courtney tells us about her book, The Lost Art of Second Chances, how she deals with writer's block and why she loves all things Disney.
Please give us a quick introduction to The Lost Art of Second Chances.
The Lost Art of Second Chances is a dual narrative novel. Belladonna’s story starts in pre-World War II Italy and the novel opens at her funeral. Jack and Lucy’s story occurs in the present as they travel to Italy to fulfill her grandmother’s final request to deliver a painting. The painting and its recipient turn out to be a long-held family secret.
The Lost Art of Second Chances is such a multidimensional love story. What kind of research did you do to ensure that the past and present elements of the story meshed so well?
The Lost Art of Second Chances started out as my National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) 2011 novel. I wanted to tell a second chance at love story, as it’s one of my favorite tropes. After just a few pages, Belladonna showed up with a tale to tell. Pretty soon, I was chatting to my history buff of a father about Italy’s role in World War II and how the Monuments Men preserved the cultural and artistic treasures of such an ancient country in a war-torn world. I watched several documentaries and read multiple accounts of World War II. After the war, Bella travels to Boston so I also needed to research what Boston was like in the 40s and 50s. Thankfully, my mother grew up there so I had a great resource in my mom and my aunts.
What do you think readers can learn from Lucy and her journey?
Lucy starts out the novel a bit lost. She’s a young widow, with a child leaving for college. For the first time in her life, she can really consider what (and who) she wants and the life she wants to craft for herself. I think readers will learn that it’s never too late to live your dreams and the life you imagine.
What are the top three things you think every good romance book should have?
An interesting, relatable heroine, a smart, strong hero to fall in love with, and a happy ending.
What was the hardest part about writing this book?
I have a very contemporary voice so writing the historical portions was a challenge. Also, not cramming in every bit of fascinating research that I did. I wanted it to sound like a novel, not a textbook.
Do you have any interesting writing habits, what’s your average writing day like?
No day is ever the same. I work part-time outside the home and have a very active almost eight-year-old son. So, often I’m writing in found bits of time—ten minutes here or there. I use several productivity hacks to get words down. If I have child-free time, usually when my son is in school, I write in 50 minute sprints with a ten-minute break. I usually can write around 1500 words in that time frame. I do outline my novels and I write in order, scene by scene. I use Scrivener so I can easily move bits around.
In addition to writing, since I’m self-published, on any given day, I’m also approving cover art, reviewing copy-edits and formatting, posting to Amazon, and arranging for audiobook production. It’s a busy job but I love it. I’m so lucky I get to do it and to share my stories with my readers.
Your descriptions of traveling through Italy and especially the food are quite vivid, is anything based on personal experiences in the country?
Sadly, not yet. My husband and I would love to travel to Italy. It’s on our bucket list but we haven’t gotten there yet. All of that is just research. Since Lucy is so into cooking and food, readers often assume I’m the same. Since I can barely boil water, her passion for cooking is far from autobiographical.
Tell us about your early stint as a Disney cast member.
When I was a senior in high school, Disney opened one of their first stores at the local mall. I was part of the original cast member team. Disney calls all their employees cast members. We had to memorize lots of Disney trivia and learn the precise art of folding Mickey t-shirts so the buttons lined up. Since we constantly had Disney songs playing, I also know all the lyrics for any pre-1990 Disney song. My son loved that when he was little. Though I ultimately found working for Disney too demanding with a full college course load, I still love all things Disney. Since my sister lives near Orlando, I’ve got a built-in excuse to go visit the Mouse several times a year.
You have written numerous novels, where do you get your inspiration from?
Plot bunnies usually arrive when it’s least convenient for me. They often arise from unexpected places. For Lucy’s story, I’d just visited family in Amesbury, Massachusetts so her little town probably came from that. In my first novel, Forever a Bridesmaid, my sister is a professional wedding makeup artist. On our annual trek to Myrtle Beach, we chatted about the new trend towards professional bridesmaids. Within a few minutes of splashing in the surf, Erin, her brother, Dylan, and her best friend, Lauren started chatting and the Always a Bridesmaid series was born. For the Cupid’s Coffeeshop series, I wanted to write a series set in a coffeeshop but had so many ideas I couldn’t winnow them down. I sat down with a legal pad and realized I had about 12 different couples. From there, it was a short leap to a 12 book series, publishing one a month in 2016.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I’m a big fan of the new coloring craze. It’s the only way I’ve ever been able to meditate. If I’m stuck on a plot, I’ll put on some relaxing music and color for a bit.
The Lost Art of Second Chances tells the tale of both Lucy and Belladonna. Whose voice did you find it easiest to write in?
Lucy. I prefer to write in a contemporary voice as it comes more naturally to me. That said, Belladonna is a force to be reckoned with and an inveterate scene stealer so I think her voice is pretty strong too.
What made you choose the theme of second chances for this book?
Like any lifelong romance reader, I’ve got some favorite tropes. Second chance at love is one of mine. I love the idea that, even if circumstances separated a couple in the past, that they can forge a new, stronger relationship the second time around. I also am a big fan of the friends-to-lovers trope.
Are you working on any new writing projects at present?
My current series is the Cupid’s Coffeeshop series. Patrick, Joe, and Zooey Lockhart who inherit their grandmother’s coffeeshop and have one year to make it work or they lose their inheritance. Each month in 2016, one lucky couple will find their happily ever after in Cupid’s Coffeeshop, filled to the brim with warmth, humor, and a dash of the unexpected. Cupid’s Coffeeshop brews love, laughter and happily-ever-after.
The June installment is Berries and Cream Chai, which features Joe Lockhart, the town bad boy, as the hero. It releases on 9 June. I’ve also just released a boxed set of the first four novellas in the series.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
Your author links:
- Website/blog: www.courtney-hunt.com
- Twitter: @courtneyhunt71
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Romanceauthorcourtneyhunt
- Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3430503
- Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/corrie71/
- Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Courtney-Hunt/e/B001HOK07G