I am delighted to have with me today author Linda Tiernan Kepner, author of Second Chance. Here is the story:
At East Virginia University in 1969, Bishou Howard is a female Yankee graduate student in a Southern man’s academic world. It is a rough life, but no rougher than living at home. Her parents are ill, and she and her twin brother Bat (Jean-Baptiste Howard, a retired Vietnam vet) are raising their younger brothers and managing the rest of the family almost by themselves.
Because of her French-Canadian background as well as her tight budget, Bishou accepts a job as an interpreter for an attendee at a university conference. Louis Dessant, a French-speaking visitor from Reunion Island, is attractive, wealthy, lonely, and somehow vulnerable.
Why is Bishou sensing something wrong with him? What is his dark secret, and why is she drawn to him nonetheless? Is Louis’s attitude to her simple gentlemanly courtesy, or is he falling in love? Bishou finds it more and more difficult to remain professional about him. As Bishou unravels the secrets of tobacco millionaire Louis Dessant’s life, she feels drawn to him, the people who staunchly support him, and the beautiful island he calls home.
Bishou takes the risk and travels halfway around the world to see Louis’s tropical island. Can Bishou and Louis find a place in each other’s lives? Will Bishou be welcome there, or has this all been a mistake?
Linda, give us an overview of Second Chance.
Second Chance is considered “historical,” because it takes place in 1969. Bishou Howard is a woman in a man’s world – a graduate student researching for her PhD thesis. She acts as interpreter for a visiting Frenchman at the university’s World Tobacco Conference, and uncovers Louis Dessant’s secret – he’s a convicted felon, trying to atone for his crimes and become re-accepted by his community. He is also a widower, trying to recover from his loss – the beautiful woman who made him her accomplice. Bishou’s own family is imbalanced, her twin brother looking after their ill parents and younger brothers, so she struggles in every direction.
What drew you to writing romance? Are you a long-time reader?
A good romance just swallows me up, because I love those kinds of characters and their conflicts. I have published science-fiction and fantasy, novels and short stories, I hope without “cardboard characters.” But it’s romance that really lets me go to town!
When you begin writing a book, do you have the story all outlined in your mind or do you wait and see where the characters take you?
I usually have the beginning, and certain scenes along the way, in mind. I had envisioned Second Chance’s beginning, the spot where Bishou meets Denise Campard, and the dinner at Louis’s house with the ring, and connected the dots. I love the Creoles, and shy Etien Campard. I just let them talk.
How difficult was your hero/heroine to write? How do you view their characters?
Bat and Bishou Howard, “the twins,” are flip sides of the same coin, even though Bat is a Viet vet. Louis Dessant was toughest, because he had a set of problems that Bishou had to provide solutions for. Bishou had to be the answer to so many of Louis’s fears and desires, yet be virginal, or it wouldn’t work.
How important is the portrayal of families in your work?
Dead-on above-all important. Nobody lives in a problem-free family; we’ve all got issues to deal with. If anything done by Louis, Bishou, or Bat helps one person cope with life, then the Howards/Dessants have done their job.
After a long day of writing, how do you indulge yourself?
After a long day of WORKING, I indulge myself by WRITING. This is my joy and my luxury.
Tell us about your research for the book.
I live in New England and I’ve traveled in Virginia and North Carolina. But I’ve never been to Reunion Island, so that part of the story was part internet and part imagination. I had a marvelous high-school French teacher who imparted his love of things French as much as the vocabulary. The academia comes from my own experience with my alma mater, Eisenhower College, although the moving sculpture can be found at Keene (NH) State College.
What are you planning next for your readers? What’s next?
I’ve written a lot more about the Howards and Dessants and the problems they face and solve. Maybe some day those stories will see the light of day, too.
How can readers get in touch with you?
Linda Kepner has been a computer operator, librarian, medical researcher, college instructor, and magazine editor. She lives in Bennington, New Hampshire. Second Chance is her third novel, and it is available in ebook and paperback format.
Second Chance received a fabulous review by the New Hampshire Sentinel that you can read here.