An Interview with Carrie Nichols, author of THE MARINE'S SECRET DAUGHTER

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Excerpt from The Marine's Secret Daughter

“This was not how her first meeting in over five years with Riley Cooper was supposed to happen. In her imagination, she was all sexy in a little black dress and killer heels after a relaxing spa day. Yeah, right; she’d spent the day cleaning and probably looked like Nick Nolte’s mug shot. So not fair! Riley was supposed to be breathless and falling at her feet, not vice versa. Stupid, stupid asthma.”

Summary of The Marine's Secret Daughter

The Marine’s Secret Daughter is a story of second chances filled with heart, home and humor.

She has his eyes. Her mother has his heart.

Years have passed since marine sergeant Riley Cooper last held his best friend's sister in his arms. Bound for Afghanistan, he believed walking away from Meg McBride was the kindest thing he could do. Now that he's home, he doesn't blame Meggie for hating him. But she hasn't told him everything. And he hasn't met the little red-haired girl whose gray eyes so resemble his own…

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Carrie Nichols' Biography

Carrie Nichols, is a hardy New Englander transplanted to the deep South, where two inches of snow can bring a city like Atlanta to its knees. She loves to travel, is addicted to British crime dramas and knows a Seinfeld quote appropriate for every occasion. 

Carrie has one tolerant husband, two grown sons and two critical cats. To her dismay, Carrie's characters, much like her family, often ignore the wisdom and guidance she lovingly offers.

USA Today called her short story, Snowbound with the Stork, "a charming debut".

Interview with Carrie Nichols

Prior to the paperback release of The Marine’s Secret Daughter on January 16, 2017 (electronic release February 1, 2017), Carrie answered a dew questions about her novel, her writing process, and about herself.

Question - Please describe what the book is about.

Carrie Nichols - The Marine’s Secret Daughter is a romance about forgiveness and second chances.

Q - Where did you get the idea?

CN - I actually got the hero first. Years ago I was a member of a local writer’s group and each month we’d write a very short piece using a ‘prompt’. That month’s prompt was: You get a call from an old high school friend who needs help and asks that you meet them in a favorite hangout. It was a nothing little piece but the guy who answered the call, Riley Cooper, wouldn’t leave me alone. He continued to tell me his story and that the person needing help was his best friend’s younger sister. When he told me he’d do just about anything to help and not ask questions, I knew I was onto something.

Q - What’s the story behind the title?

CN - As I was working on the story, I called it Rescuing Riley. The story won the 2016 RWA® Golden Heart® for short contemporary as Rescuing Riley. Harlequin asked me to come up with possible titles; and I knew from years of reading Special Edition what sort of titles they had. I came up with a few including The Marine’s Surprise Family which the editor loved and it was that title for about 30 days, but marketing thought The Marine’s Surprise Daughter worked better and that one lasted about 30 minutes before it had morphed into The Marine’s Secret Daughter.

Q - No spoilers, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.

CN - The cover shows the little girl holding a stuffed dog. In the story the toy dog’s name is ‘Mangy’ because it’s referred to as “Fiona’s mangy mutt” and she does something with the toy that reduces my big tough marine to tears. My eyes misted as I wrote the scene so I hope some readers feel the same.

Q - Tell us about your favorite character.

CN - That would be Fiona, the little girl in the story. But she gave me fits because she was larger than life and threatened to hijack the story whenever she was on the page. I had to let her personality shine through without letting it overshadow the romance between her parents.

Q - If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do?

CN - I would spend the day with my heroine Meg and we’d go for the spa day she never got in my teaser.

Q - Are your characters based on real people, or do they come from your imagination?

CN - All from my imagination.

Q - How long did you take to write this book?

CN - Years and years. LOL! The story underwent a lot of changes since I knew nothing about plotting and story arcs when I first wrote it as a series of scenes. But these characters wouldn’t let go and I’d learned enough by the 4th draft to start winning contests and to sign with my dream agent.

Q - What kind of research did you do for this book?

CN - I love research so I did way more than I needed. I researched the fictional setting of Loon Lake, Vermont, including the loons that make the lake home. I consulted several nurse friends for the hospital scenes, a friend whose son was a marine and my critique partner whose husband is a Respiratory Therapist.

Q - What did you remove from this book during the editing process?

CN - We mostly added things during the editing process. I had already removed scenes that didn’t further the story thanks to my ever patient agent.

Q - Are you a plotter or a pantser?

CN - I’m a recovering pantser. I had the luxury of years to write and rewrite my first story but knew I had to learn plotting basics to sell on proposal. I still struggle with plotting but with the help of Laura Baker’s Turning Points and Discovering Story Magic online classes, I’m slowly becoming a plotster. I have a skeleton with the big scenes and story/character arcs and fill in the rest as I write.

Q - What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?

CN - Getting to know my characters and what makes them tick. They come to me fully formed and I have to figure out what happened to them (their backstory) to turn them into the flawed people they are. And because I write romance, I love giving them their HEA (happily ever after) after making them work for it.

Q - What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?

CN - Plotting and coming up with things for them to do. My characters love to talk and would be content to sit and talk through the whole story but that would be way too boring.

Q - Can you share your writing routine?

CN - I write in my home office. When my youngest moved out I cried when I walked into his empty room until I realized I had an empty room! As my husband observed, I wasted no time in making that room my own with paint and some bookcases. I am also lucky enough to not have a day job. I lost my job about a month after signing the contract with Harlequin and since my husband was already retired, I decided to join him.

Q - Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?

CN - All the time! When it happens I know I’ve done something wrong with the story or I’m forcing my characters to do something they don’t want. Luckily, my wonderful and talented critique partner listens to me whine, talks me off the ledge and we figure out where I went wrong.

Q - If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

CN - Don’t give up!!

Q - How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

CN - I have two unpublished learning experiences and right now two half-finished books I’m working on.

Q - Do you have any writing quirks?

CN - Not sure if this is a quirk, but my first drafts are sometimes pages and pages of dialogue aka talking heads.

Q - Tell us about yourself.

CN - I have one tolerant husband, two grown sons and two critical cats. I love to travel, am addicted to British crime dramas and I know a Seinfeld quote appropriate for just about every occasion. 

Q - How did you get into writing?

CN - I have always loved writing. In elementary school my best friend and I wrote what would today be called fanfiction. I was a freelance journalist for a time, writing human interest stories for a local newspaper. As my boys got older, I decided it was time to get serious about writing romance.

Q - What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

CN - Travel, watch movies & TV shows and counted cross stitch.

Q - Apart from novel writing, do you do any other kind(s) of writing?

CN - Not really.

Q - Share something about you most people probably don’t know.

CN - My writer friends who insist I’m an extrovert might be surprised to learn that as a kid, I was painfully shy.

Q - Which book influenced you the most?

CN -  It wasn’t books but authors that inspired me. As a kid I loved Beverly Cleary, as a teen I loved Gothics by Barbara Michaels & Phyllis Whitney and later I loved Anne Stuart’s dark and tortured romance heroes. Anne Stuart made me want to write about heroes who find redemption through the love of the right woman.

Q - What are you working on right now?

CN - I actually have two stories started, The Sheriff’s Little Matchmaker and The Fire Fighter’s Twins.

Q - What’s your favorite writing advice?

CN - The romance is not the story goal. The romance should make the goal harder to obtain.

Q - What book are you currently reading?

CN - For fun I’m reading Ruin You by M. O’Keefe, for research I’m reading Granite Mountain by Brendan McDonough and for craft I’m reading Story Genius by Lisa Cron & The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maass.

Links to Carrie Nichols

If you’re interested in reading The Marine’s Secret Daughter or learning more about Carrie Nichols, please check out the following links.




Twitter: @carolopal