BP: Can you tell readers, without using the blurb, what MARRIAGE BY DESIGN is about?
EA: MARRIAGE BY DESIGN starts off with heroine Angie Corcarelli, who is a carpenter and the owner of her late-father’s carpentry business, learning the historic row homes that she’s been wanting to buy and renovate are being torn down to make way for a highway. As fate would have it, the highway project is headed up by construction engineer Stuart Perrault, who just so happens to be the ex-boyfriend of Angie’s best friend-turned-sister-in-law. This is an enemies-to-lovers story with Angie hell bent on stopping the demolition of those homes, and Stuart in the impossible position of trying to calm her down so the project goes off without a hitch. There’s also a good dose of family drama thrown in—and of course some steamy sex.
BP: Oh, that sounds awesome, love the enemies-turned-lovers aspect. MARRIAGE BY DESIGN is the second book in the Designing Love series. Can you give readers who are new to this series a series overview?
EA: The Designing Love series is first and foremost about the lengths people will go for their families. In this case, the books focus on the large Italian-American Corcarelli family, who are described as “Jersey Shore” without the booze by a secondary character early on in the first book. They are loud, proud, loyal, and passionate. They make me laugh a lot too.
BP: They sound like a great family to be a part of. How would you describe the setting of MARRIAGE BY DESIGN?
EA: MARRIAGE BY DESIGN is set in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, specifically urban areas that are experiencing a resurgence in popularity, like Lawrenceville and Bloomfield (Pittsburgh’s Little Italy). These are neighborhoods with narrow streets and alleys lined with rowhouses, where you’re just as likely to see an eighty-year-old woman with a cane in one hand and a loaf of Italian bread in the other as you are a young professional couple parallel parking their BMW. And let me tell you, the restaurants are second to none.
BP: I adore the cover for MARRIAGE BY DESIGN, it is so charming and heartwarming. Can you tell us about what inspired you to write contemporary romance?
EA: I write contemporary romance because I think there’s inspiration to be had in stories that are relatable. I like my heroine in particular to be someone the reader can look up to and even aspire to be. That’s why the longer I write the more independent and unorthodox my heroines become. I really believe it’s time for women to see and hear about other women who are breaking gender roles and loving the results. If you like women who feel at home in a man’s world, then you will love my books.
BP: Tell us about the characters in MARRIAGE BY DESIGN, are any of them like you or anyone you know in real life?
EA: All of my characters are infused with physical characteristics or personality traits that I’ve observed in real life. However, my characters come to life shortly after I create them, and they take on their own mannerisms and behaviors. By the time the book is done, the similarities to me or real life people have been obliterated.
BP: Tell us more about your hero, Stuart, what about him makes him a "hero" for MARRIAGE BY DESIGN?
EA: Stuart Perrault is a great guy! He pays serious attention to other people’s thoughts, feelings, and circumstances, so it’s no wonder he started a non-profit organization to build low- and no-cost housing for people who have lost their homes in fires and other disasters. But what really makes him “hero” material to me is the way he treats the heroine. I love a man who knows how to take care of a woman while still celebrating her strength and independence.
BP: And Angie, what about her makes her "leading lady" material and a good fit for Stuart?
EA: A heroine should be someone who is admirable and not because she’s beautiful or rich. She should stand for something or stand up for something at some point in the story—even if she’s struggling to find her way early on. My heroine Angie Corcarelli fits the bill. She adores her family and wants to make their lives easier, and she’s willing to fight for the underdog. Of course, she struggles to find balance and often ends up giving too much of herself, like we all do.
BP: Which scene in MARRIAGE BY DESIGN was the hardest to write and why?
EA: The shower scene in MARRIAGE BY DESIGN was the hardest scene I’ve ever written. It was nearly impossible to keep Angie and Stuart from having sex when all I really wanted was a deeply sensual scene that was as sexy as it was emotionally satisfying.
BP: Turning to a bit different topic, as an author, you're also a reader. Do you have any favorite authors, anyone you would fangirl over?
EA: *laughs* not sure if I fangirl or not, but my favorite authors are the ones who have left the biggest impressions on me: Judith McNaught, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and Rachel Gibson. These are really my only “auto buys.” Unfortunately, Judith hasn’t written anything new in many years. The good news is I don’t mind rereading the twenty-something-year-old paperbacks that line my book shelf.
BP: Do you have any advice for readers who are aspiring authors?
EA: Write. It’s so overly simplistic, but it’s the most important thing you can do. Put your blinders on when it comes to everything else. I spent the first year of my career as a published author trying to read every book that made ripples in the marketplace, trying to build a vibrant social media platform, trying to make the right connections, trying to better my craft based on what this person said and that person said, blah, blah, blah. I ended up hating writing. I lost my heart and soul. It took shutting most everything out to find the joy again. You’re a writer for a reason. You should be writing more than you are doing any other career-related task. Those other things are definitely important, but they are useless if you aren’t writing anything.
BP: Can you share any awards/honors you have won for your writing?
EA: I entered one contest early in my writing career: The Central Ohio Fiction Writer’s Ignite the Flame Contest. I won first place. I guess you could say I’m batting a thousand.
BP: It's clear that your characters in MARRIAGE BY DESIGN, and the Designing Love series, are all about family and community. Are you involved in any community/charity organizations in real life?
EA: I’m woefully uninvolved at the moment. The past two years have been a whirlwind of deadlines while raising three teenagers and a puppy. One of these days I’ll get back to regular attendance and participation in the organizations I love.
BP: Raising teenagers is certainly being involved in a community--it takes a village *wink*. One last question. How can readers connect with you and learn about your books?
EA: My website is the best place to learn more about me and my books. You can check me out at www.elleyarden.com.
Thank you so much Elley for taking time out of your busy writing schedule to chat with us here at Barclay Publicity. It was a lot of fun. MARRIAGE BY DESIGN releases on August 11, 2014 and stay tuned, as we will be announcing the blog tour line up for MARRIAGE BY DESIGN soon!
Elley Arden is a born and bred Pennsylvanian who has lived as far west as Utah and as far north as Wisconsin. She drinks wine like it’s water (a slight exaggeration), prefers a night at the ballpark to a night on the town, and believes almond English toffee is the key to happiness.
Charming characters. Emotional stories. Sexy romance.
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