Thursday, November 29, 2018

Interview & Excerpt ~ CHRISTMAS CATCH by Mary Shotwell


Christmas Catch
by: Mary Shotwell
Genre: Contemporary Holiday Romance
Release Date: November 19, 2018
Publisher: Carina Press
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Can an unlikely romance return the magic of Christmas to an entire town?

All podcaster “Cheery Charlee” Ridgeway wants for Christmas is to land her one-millionth follower. But first, she needs a really good story. Amid hundreds of submissions, one stands out: a plea from Cape Sunset, a small fishing village that hasn’t celebrated Christmas since Jack Fortner lost his fiancĂ©e four years ago.

It’s the perfect pitch, but who knew Jack would be such a downright Grinch—or so heart-stoppingly handsome?

Jack’s comfortable crab-fisherman routine is shaken when Charlee blows into town with bells on. It’s not long before the pretty podcaster is breathing new life into Cape Sunset, captivating everyone—including Jack, who’s feeling things for Charlee he once thought he’d never feel again. Not that he shows it.

Despite Jack bah-humbugging her every move, the show must go on. But the closer Charlee gets to Jack, the more growing her audience is the furthest thing from her mind. Thankfully, Jack has a few surprises waiting under the tree…including a love that will last a lifetime.


Hi Mary. Welcome to Read Your Writes Book Reviews. How are you?
I am doing well. I’m happy to put Christmas Catch out into the world and be a part of Read Your Writes Book Reviews blog, so thank you for having me.

You are very welcome. Congratulations on the release of Christmas Catch. Tell me about the book.
Christmas Catch is a sweet small-town romance between a popular podcaster, Charlee Ridgeway, and a local fisherman, Jack Fortner. Charlee chooses the town of Cape Sunset as the Cheery Charlee contest winner. She vows to bring back Christmas, a holiday sworn off by the town since Jack’s fiancĂ© died several years ago. She is charmed by the residents yet feels opposition, especially from Jack. That is, until they really get to know each other.

What can you tell me about the town of Cape Sunset? Is it a real place or based off of a real place?
I love Cape Sunset, and it feels real to me! However, it’s a fictitious small town on the Oregon Coast. I did live in Seattle for some time, and the weather and culture are based somewhat on my experience in that part of the U.S. The town’s economy heavily relies on fishing, especially crab fishing. But what really pulls the town together no matter the circumstances are the wonderful people.

Tell me about Charlee Ridgeway and Jack Fortner.
Charlee is an outgoing, determined and positive person who runs a nationally-known podcast. She tries to see the positive in every situation. Jack Fortner has deep roots in Cape Sunset, as if the town itself is part of his family, which includes his mom and brother in town. He goes to great lengths to carry on what he sees as his burden to bear. At first glance, he has nothing but disdain for Christmas. However, one of the themes in Christmas Catch is that what goes on deep down may not be what is seen at the surface, and that is true for both of these characters.

What is it about these two that make them perfect for each other?
Outwardly, Charlee and Jack are complete opposites—a perennial optimist versus a staunch realist. The more they interact and reveal themselves to one another, the more they connect over loss, grief, and love for family and community.

Tell me about one of your favorite scenes from the book and why is it a favorite?
Just one? Argh! I think the most fun to write was when Jack’s brother and sister-in-law invite both Jack and Charlee (of course, a surprise to them) over for dinner. I felt the awkwardness in the dining room as I typed out that scene. I love the banter between those four characters and it still makes me laugh when I read it over.

I also love (I’m cheating, I know) the sunset cruise scene. It was one of the first scenes I had envisioned when the story came to me—Jack and Charlee out on a boat together, with nowhere else to run.

What are some fun facts about Christmas Catch?
The main road going through Cape Sunset is Ballard Street, named after one of the scientists that sparked my interest in marine biology when I was young.

The way the feuding neighbors store their Christmas lights on paper towel tubes is based off my parents. They can be overly-organized sometimes.

Ironically, I had not listened to a podcast in my life before writing Christmas Catch. I ended up researching podcasting for perhaps too many hours and it opened a whole world for me. Whether that’s a good thing or not in terms of my time is another story!

What’s your favorite part of a book to write?
I like the most awkward, uncomfortable situations the best. I tend to write those the fastest. It is fun to write the budding relationship scenes, but I connect most with the drama and mixed emotions of being thrown into an awkward situation. Relationships, especially when love is involved, can be awkward. It’s tough to plow through a gathering when you don’t want to be there, or talk about subjects you’ve buried deep down over the years. I like writing out how characters get through those moments in their own ways.

Christmas Catch is your first published book. What’s next for you?
In terms of romance, I can’t get enough of small-town stories. Currently I’m writing a summer romance that takes place on Lake Erie, near where I actually grew up. I’ve lived in so many parts of the country (and out) that I want to share the traits of those places with readers. Each one has its own charm and romantic qualities. Loosely, the story is about a big-city girl returning to her hometown ten years after leaving. Coming back means coming to terms with her past—including an old flame she had all but forgotten.

Mary, thank you so much for your time.

Thursday, December 10

The engine vibrated the hull of Forrester as it cut through the ocean miles off the shores of Cape Sunset, Oregon. Weighed down with the decent late autumn fish haul in its belly, the ninety-nine-foot vessel rode low. The discolored steel hull parted the sea more like a gavel through peanut butter than a hot knife in margarine.

Jack Fortner stood starboard, scanning for the blip the lighthouse made in the dead heartbeat of the horizon. “Old Bessie” signaled they were three miles offshore on a clear day, and anywhere from one mile to seaside when conditions were harshest. Today was overcast with no rain. The wind was strong but not strong enough to blow off his green Oregon Ducks cap. The hat, with frayed rim and faded emblem, fit his head like a second skin. It had survived eight seasons of Dungeness crab fishing, six years of off-season tug-boating, the blizzard of the century, and the occasional brawl at Tabby’s Tavern.

Jack scratched his face scruff, a short beard by most standards after the eight days of sea time. It wasn’t that Jack couldn’t shave with the rocking of the ship. Being cramped with nearly a dozen men didn’t make for ideal conditions, not to mention the plumbing problems Forrester would have if they all shaved in its tiny bathroom sink. But out at sea, there was no reason to. Heck, there was no reason to on shore either.

Jack entered the cube-shaped navigation bridge, which sat atop the ship near its stern, directly behind the base of the crab pot crane. First mate, Chris, was in control of the ship’s path, earbuds in, mind out. It brought a chill up Jack’s spine to see Chris in shorts. He wore a hoodie under a vest, but somehow his legs were warm enough. Jack pulled out one of the earbuds.

“Hey,” Chris said. “I was listening to that.”

“And you know full well I don’t like you listening to anything other than the sound of the Sea.”

Chris mocked the words shaking his weightier hips.

“I’m serious,” Jack said. “I’ve asked you, as your captain, not to do that anymore.”

“Cool off. I’ll put them away. Sheesh.”

“Don’t ‘sheesh’ me.”

“What, you gonna tell Mom on me?”

Jack stared his younger brother down. Sure, Chris was only three years junior to Jack’s twenty-nine years, but he seemed less mature than Jack had been at his age. Then again, Jack had needed to grow up fast.

Chris stuck out his tongue. Jack punched him lightly in the shoulder.

“Should be seeing Old Bessie any minute now,” Chris said, returning focus to his job. “Hup, there she is.”

A jagged dagger poked through the horizon, the black and white stripes not yet distinguishable. Jack confirmed the sight of the lighthouse with a nod.

Chris shook his head, scoffing.

“What?” Jack asked.

“Are you ever glad to go back home?”

Jack shrugged. “Sure, I guess.”

“Because each time we go out, the more disappointed you look when we return.”

“That’s not true.”

“Just saying,” Chris said. “An observation.”

Jack folded his arms across his chest and examined the global positioning system monitor, as if he didn’t already know they were a mile and a half from the dock at Cape Sunset. His eyes wandered to a card taped to the instrument panel. He ripped it off.

“What’s this?”

He waved the card at Chris, a Christmas tree on the front. Chris snatched it out of Jack’s Hands.

“It’s...” Chris took a deep breath, the boat engine and wind never sounding so quiet. “It’s from Jenny’s family.”

Jack didn’t say a word, the audacity of Chris overwhelming. It wasn’t that Jack hadn’t appreciated Jenny’s parents staying in touch throughout the years. But for Chris to openly remind him of Christmas? On his ship?

“You know how they always sent a Christmas card on our last trip out for the year,”

Chris said. “Just in case we didn’t make schedule and missed Christmas Day.”

Jack’s mouth tightened and he swallowed. “Keep it at your house. Not on my boat.”

He stormed out and stood port, grabbing the line. He held the rope, the frayed cords rough and pointy like a braid full of splinters. Jack’s hands looked just as rough. He had always been embarrassed by them, the thick fingers and knobby knuckles the trademark of a cold-water fisherman, even when he wore gloves most of the time.

Then he had met Jenny.

She had slipped her thin, soft fingers through his, tracing over the back of his hand. It’s a map, she had said.

Oh?

Mm-hmm. It’s a map of your life. The scar here. She touched where a hook had split the soft tissue between the thumb and palm. The tight palm and fingers.

Tight?

Yes. She smiled with a slight tilt of the head. Your hands seem to fight being open. Like they need to be clenched, as if you’re constantly holding on to something.

Jack stared at his hands that dwarfed hers. And what do these smooth, perfect hands say about you?

Oh well... Jenny laid her head on Jack’s shoulder. Her hair had smelled of light citrus that day on the beach some six years ago. I guess they’re saying I need to spend more time with the likes of you. I could use a little more adventure.

Jack had squeezed her hands in his, vowing no one else would ever hold them. Her hand never looked as delicate as when he had slipped the ring on her finger. She had nodded, tears Flowing.

“Captain.” Willie, the greenhorn, stood behind Jack.

Denny, the most experienced deckhand, echoed Willie although Jack barely heard their words over his memories. “Captain!”

“Jack, snap out of it!”

Chris’s voice whipped Jack fully back to reality.

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As an avid reader, Mary Shotwell always fantasized about writing a book. Throughout her childhood in northeast Ohio, she wrote poems and short stories as a hobby but ignored the call of writing to pursue a career in science.

After studying dolphin behavior and great white shark populations, she earned her Ph.D. in Biostatistics in Charleston, South Carolina. It was there, during the arduous dissertation process, where she had the idea to write a book. Creative writing served as a natural escape from technical writing, wedding planning, pregnancy, and job hunting.

Mary is excited to debut her first romance novel Christmas Catch (Carina Press, 2018). She loves incorporating her science and nature background into her fiction. When adulting, she’s a wife to husband Matt and mother to three dragons, sometimes referred to as children when nothing is on fire.

Places to find Mary Shotwell:

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