Just a few of my favorite romance movies…

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When I was growing up, my parents often told me that I was an “old soul.” Part of the reason, I suppose, was my avid interest in classic movies—particularly any film made in the 1930s, 40s and 50s. To this day, I’d much rather watch Fred and Ginger dance across the silver screen or Clark Gable attempt to thumb a ride than, say, Hugh Grant’s face crinkling up in that signature grin of his.

In my new novel, If Ever I Fall, the heroine, Willa, finds herself with the time and leisure to do whatever she wants. One of those things is watching movies. This got me thinking: if I had that same luxury, what movies would I watch?

As I started to put a list of some of my favorite movies together I realized that 1) they all have a romantic storyline, and 2) they each have influenced my writing in some way. Whether it’s the many different ways a man looks at a woman, or how they speak to each other, or that slow buildup of sweet or sensual tension to the ultimate denouement. To transform those visual images into words is a constant—but very enjoyable!—challenge.

Here are just a few of my top favorites:

Summertime_posterFirst on my list is Summertime (1955), a David Lean classic that was filmed on location in Venice, Italy. It depicts the story of lonely, middle-aged, American, spinster secretary Jane Hudson—played to perfection by Katherine Hepburn—enjoying her first trip abroad. The evening of her arrival in Venice, she ventures alone to the Piazza San Marco where she orders a drink at a sidewalk café. As she films the scenery and people, she becomes aware that someone is watching her. She turns to discover a handsome Italian man sitting nearby.

Jane at the PiazzaAh, the scene that makes me all fluttery inside every time is when this Italian man (the gorgeous Rossano Brazzi) first notices Jane. As his half-hooded eyes travel from her long legs to her slender waist and farther upwards, he slowly rubs his index finger from his jaw to his temple, and his mouth quirks in a lazy, sensuous smile of male appreciation. Delicious! George Clooney has nothing on this handsome devil.

Summertime_the lookAnother movie I adore is The Clock, one of the few Judy Garland films that is not a musical. Set during World War II, it depicts the story of Joe (Robert Walker) and Alice (Judy Garland) who meet-cute at Pennsylvania Station in New York City while Joe is on a two-day leave. She agrees to show him the sights and they spend the day together. It is the classic “love at first sight” story told with sweetness and humor.

The Clock

Frantic to get married before Joe is shipped overseas, they have a quick civil ceremony at city hall. The ceremony is a rushed, impersonal affair, taking less than two minutes—which leads to one of my favorite scenes when later that evening Joe and Alice wander into a church. There, in the quiet church, they recite their wedding vows to each other with the reverence that wasn’t allowed in the civil ceremony. This is a lovely little film, made all the more bittersweet knowing Judy Garland’s real-life story.

The Clock_churchEvery one of my Favorite Movie lists, regardless of the category, has this next classic in the top five: It Happened One Night (1934).

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I enjoyed Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind, but this is the movie where I fell in love with him. I find him more lovable and charming in comedic roles. He’s my model for a handsome, devilish, funny, soft-hearted leading man. This rom-com, which won Best Picture at the 1935 Academy Awards, tells the story of a spoiled American heiress, Ellie, (the amazing Claudette Colbert) who runs away from her family. During her escape, she is helped by a man, Peter, who’s actually a recently-fired reporter looking for a story that will help him get his job back. Ellie and Peter dislike each other from the get-go. Or, do they?

Next is a film that I first watched on television when I was about ten years old. I fell in love with it instantly but was never able to find it at video stores or online, until I happened to catch it on TCM years later. I love TCM. See what I mean about being an old soul?

Margie_losing the bloomers

Margie (1946) begins with Margie (the beautiful Jeanne Crain) and her daughter reminiscing about Margie’s girlhood in the roaring twenties. In flashback, Margie—a smart but less popular girl at Central High—meets the handsome new French teacher. Margie, along with every other girl at the school, develops a crush on him.

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Circumstances keep throwing these two together. While the older me kept yelling at Margie to fix the elastic on her damn bloomers, the teenage girl inside of me still adores the awkward but sweet situations that arose from the “bloomer fails”. A very sweet, innocent love story in the teacher-student genre—without rulers or spankings!

Finally, here’s another classic where just a simple look or touch has my heart thumping like crazy. In I Know Where I’m Going (1945) Joan Webster (Wendy Hiller) plays a bright, ambitious woman who has been working hard to make her way up the social ladder. She is on her way from London to the Scottish Hebrides islands to marry a wealthy industrialist twice her age. Stormy weather interferes with her plans, and she is stranded in a fishing village with Torquil MacNeil, A Royal Navy officer and Scottish laird.

Joan is stubborn. Torquil is also stubborn but very patient as he opens Joan’s eyes to the mistake she’s about to make. Filmed on location, the colorful Scottish characters make this picture shine.

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So, those are just a few of the romance movies that continue to inspire me. What romantic movies would be on your list if you had a rainy weekend all to yourself?

An Interview with Sophia Renny

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[Original interview published in February 2014. “What are you working on next?” has been updated  as of October 14, 2019]

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Q: What’s the story behind your latest book?

A: Room 1208 truly comes from my heart. Both the hero and the heroine have issues from their past that have touched my own life, though not to the same extremes. “They” say to write what you know, and I do know what it feels like to be treated differently because of the way you look, and to experience the pain of losing a loved one to tragic circumstances. But I also enjoyed indulging in pure fantasy in this book. As one reviewer (5 Stars) said: “At its heart – even with the steamy *blushing* hot sex scenes – it’s a sweet, old-fashioned love story, complete with a few “it can only happen in a romance novel” scenarios. But, gosh darn it, in a world that seems to be turning more cold and cynical with each passing day, I absolutely adore a story that lets me completely escape reality for a couple of hours. I finished the story with a huge smile on my face and tears in my eyes.” I couldn’t have said it better than that!
Q: What are you working on next?
A: I’m busy working on my next story, a full-length novel set in Rhode Island (Little Rhody). Just as with Room 1208, I have fallen in love with my swoon-worthy hero – or perhaps I should say heroes as there are two hunks featured in the story. Brothers, builders, toolbelts and jeans. Need I say more? I’ll be sharing sneak peeks on my website: http://www.sophiarenny.com
UPDATES: Since doing this interview, I introduced my Rhode Island Romance series. Currently, there are 2 books: If Ever I Fall and Chasing Julia.  In the three years (gasp!) since then, my real job cut into my writing passion to the extent that I couldn’t put one chapter together, let alone an entire novel. I’m so happy to share that I made the bold step to leave that job and restore my life to a healthier balance of work and real life. I’m sure many of you can relate! But during that time I never stopped my daily journaling, and writing down notes about book ideas.
Very soon, I’ll be introducing my Montana Romance series. I live in Montana, you know. And the first story in the series is sure to please both fans of the very steamy Room 1208 and the more subdued but no less sexy Rhode Island romance series.  Hold on to your hats! The first book should hit the shelves in late winter 2019.
Q: Who are your favorite authors?
A: There are so many! I truly appreciate GOOD writing, writing that makes me want to be a better writer. One particular author who inspires me in that way is Sherry Thomas. She’s an auto-buy for me. Another is Anita Shreve. When I’m in a regency mood, I steer towards Mary Balogh (Slightly Scandalous is one of my top 10 all-time favorite romances). Sometimes I just want a quick afternoon read and turn to my favorite Harlequin authors. Kelly Hunter and Maisey Yates are my current favorites. I grew up on HQ romances, so they will always hold a special place in my heart. I also collect romance books written in the 1930’s and 1940’s.
Q: When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
A: Exploring Montana. Hiking. Reading. Enjoying life with my beautiful family.
Q: Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
A: The first story that I can remember reading on my own was The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton. I remember crying as the little house was surrounded more and more by the city. It made me realize that books weren’t just about happy things.
The first book I read that made me fall in love with romance was An Old Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott. I was about eleven years old when I first read it, and I read it several times during my teenage years. I think it was from that point on that I gravitated towards romance books, more importantly, romance books with a sweet tension and slow build-up to the ultimate reveal.
Q: What is your writing process?
A: Simply this: to write whenever / wherever I can. My travel schedule gets in the way of sticking to a rigid plan. But a day that goes by without me writing something – even if it’s just a paragraph – is a day wasted.

Q: When did you first start writing?

A: Thanks to my mother, who saved everything I wrote, it appears that I started writing stories around the age of five or six. I wrote my first “novel” at eleven and my first “real” book at nineteen. So, you can say that I’ve been writing for most of my life. If the 10,000 hours rule holds true, I should be an expert by now, right? (Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell)
Q: What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
A: There is the joy of writing itself, the complete immersion in the story, losing all sense of current time and place as you write. A whole day can go by and it feels like minutes. That is the sign that you are following your true passion.
The other joy comes from giving my writing to others to enjoy (I hope).

One more time: James Spader’s monologue from Season 1, Episode 9 -The Blacklist

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Red and Donald

I didn’t want to get hooked into watching another television series but, while taking a break from NaNoWriMo last night I came across NBC’s The Blacklist and was immediately drawn into the episode. I haven’t watched any previous episodes but, judging by the superb acting and writing in last night’s episode, a Blacklist binge weekend on Hulu is definitely in order.

One scene in particular really struck a chord with me. While taking Reddington “Red” – James Spader’s character who plays the “bad” guy – to safety,  an FBI agent (Ressler) is seriously wounded.  Red protects him from the attackers and drags him to safety. He locks them in “the box”, a steel and glass, bullet proof, bomb proof? structure. They are in the box for the remainder of the episode while the villian lurks outside.  While Red tends to Ressler’s wounds, Ressler says they aren’t going to live through this. Red says he thinks they will. “How?” Ressler asks.

Here, Red gives one of the most touching dramatic monologues I have heard in a long time. Please watch this episode to see how beautifully James Spader gives voice to the excellent script. I see Emmys for both Spader and the writer(s) of this episode.


“How?”

“Have you ever sailed across an ocean, Donald? On a sailboat surrounded by sea with no land in sight, without even the possibility of sighting land for days to come? To stand at the helm of your destiny?

I want that one more time.

I want to be in the Piazza del Campo in Siena, to feel the surge as ten racehorses go thundering by.

I want another meal in Paris at L’Ambroisie  in the place des Vosges.

I want another bottle of wine and then another.

I want the warmth of a woman in the cool set of sheets.

One more night of jazz at the Vanguard.

I want to stand on summits and smoke Cubans and feel the sun on my face for as long as I can.

Walk on the Wall again.

Climb the Tower.

Ride the River.

Stare at the frescos.

I want to sit in the garden and read one more good book.

Most of all I want to sleep. I want to sleep like I slept when I was a boy.

Give me that. Just one time.

That’s why I won’t allow that punk out there to get the best of me, let alone the last of me.”


Ah. I just love good writing.

The Billionaire, or an Average Joe – which do you prefer?

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This is my official post for the Home for the Holidays Hop.  Like this post or Follow my blog to be entered to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card (from me)!  Be sure to leave a comment below along with your email to enter the drawing for the Home for the Holidays Hop Prizes!

(Since my blog mentions Billionaires I thought this yummy recipe was appropriate. I’ve been making these every Christmas for the last ten years).

Holiday Nuggets

Holiday Nuggets

Ingredients
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts
Confectioners’ sugar
Colored crystallized sugar

Directions
In a bowl, cream butter and sugar. Blend in vanilla and almond extract. Gradually add flour and salt. Stir in nuts. Shape into 1-1/4-in. balls; place on ungreased baking sheets. Flatten slightly with fingers.

Bake at 325° for 25 minutes or until the bottoms are lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack. When cool, sprinkle with a mixture of confectioners’ and colored sugar. Yield: 3-1/2 dozen.
Originally published as Holiday Nuggets in Reminisce November/December 1991, p31

I made the mistake of turning on the television the other afternoon when I should have been writing and came across Pretty Woman about 15 minutes in to the movie. What is it about movies like Pretty Woman, or The Proposal, or Sleepless in Seattle, that I start watching them if I happen upon them while flipping through the channels? Do you do this to? It doesn’t matter that I might have them on DVD or could watch them on Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc. I am caught like a fish, hooked in to watching them for the umpteenth time—even sitting through the commercials! I know exactly what’s going to happen next, I could quote the dialogue word-for-word, but, still, I sink down into my sofa, pull the comfy throw over me, and snuggle in to watching yet again. It’s kind of like having a “remember when” conversation with a dear friend.

As I watched Pretty Woman (laughing out loud at that scene on Rodeo Drive showing the father and son talking on giant cell phones in a convertible—you know which scene I’m talking about) it struck me that things really haven’t changed much since the first fairytales came to be. Little girls grow up believing that some handsome, wealthy Prince Charming is going to swoop in on his white charger and carry them away into their Happily Ever After. Cue sunset and fade out.

Plug in “Billionaire” or “Billionaire Romance” on an Amazon book search and you’ll get page after page after page of results. All pretty much follow the same theme: girl meets (or works for) extremely wealthy and extremely good-looking and powerful man who eventually (if not a first sight) falls in love with her and guarantees her a lifetime of pampering and riches beyond her wildest dreams.

Funny thing is, these billionaires are so busy wining and dining (or flogging and spanking) their woman, that I can’t possibly see how they get any work done! Sure, you might see them occasionally sitting at their desk, or speaking with a colleague or client on the phone (until they are distracted by their woman), but most of the time they’re playing. After a while, for me anyway, it just all becomes one big yawn.

Give me the working man. Give me the average Joe who works with his hands, be he a plumber, electrician, builder, roofer, welder, floor installer, you name it. He gets up each morning, throws on his Carhartts and Timberlands (Love me a guy in blue jeans and steel-toed boots), and hits the road running. You may see him on the jobsite wearing a hardhat with a clipboard under his arm, or straddling the ridge of a roof, hammer in hand, or wielding a bulldozer over a tricky excavation site. He brown-bags his lunch and drinks his coffee from a thermos. His face may be lean and sunburned, maybe with a little bit of bristle, or a full beard. He has crinkles around his smiling eyes. He may come home smelling of sawdust, or grease, and good, honest, hard-working sweat. He picks you up in his strong arms—arms with muscles earned from manual labor, not a gym workout—plants a kiss on your lips, looks at you with love in his eyes. You ask him, “How was your day?” And he says, “It was good, and now it’s even better.” And he smiles the smile of satisfaction that comes with knowing he put in a long day of good, honest hard work.

You’ll find this average Joe (maybe more than one) in my next novel. I’m falling more in love with this guy with every word I put on the page. Follow my blog for sneak peeks and updates on the release date!

Thanks for reading! If you’re reading this as part of the Home for the Holidays Romance Troupe blog hop, please be sure to leave a comment with your email address in order to be entered in the Grand Prize Giveaway! First prize= $450+ Gift Card, Second prize = 1 eBook from each participating Author.

After leaving your comment/email, please return to the Troupe page for the list of stops: http://www.theromancetroupe.com

Happy Holidays!

Sophia

Get up and make your bed

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I don’t watch much television, but I’ve become a fan of The Bridge on FX.  I spent a sick day catching up on all of the episodes on On Demand and now I’m hooked.

One scene in the most recent episode I watched struck a chord. Without giving too much away, the female lead, Sonya, a detective with the El Paso police is trying to offer some kind of solace to her partner, Marco, a detective with the Juarez police. I say “try” because Sonya has Aspergers, and she struggles with basic social skills and emotional interaction.

Marco has just suffered a traumatic loss. Sonya has experienced personal tragedy as well. In the scene, she’s made Marco breakfast, probably his first real meal since he fell into a bitter depression. She asks him simply:  “Did you make your bed?”

“What are you, my mother?” he asks.

Sonya goes on to tell him (and I’m removing anything that might be a spoiler if you haven’t watched this show) that after she experienced her loss she lived with an older couple. Every morning, the wife would ask Sonya if she had made her bed. That was the one house rule she had for Sonya: Always get up and make your bed. No matter how bad you feel, you have to face the day.

Many of the characters in my books have experienced some kind of trauma, whether that be the loss of a loved one, abuse, bullying–it runs the gamut. But, by the time I introduce these characters, they’ve reached a point in their lives where they’ve let go or are ready to let go of their past hurts, or to at least move on to a “new normal.”

Getting up and making the bed. Such a simple, ordinary thing to do. Most of us do it without giving it much thought. For some, though, it’s the first of many challenges they will face throughout the day as they move through the many stages of healing.

I love scenes like this that serve to remind us that there are no obstacles we can’t overcome. It may take days, months or years of doing the ordinary things–making your bed, brushing your teeth, preparing a good meal–before you eventually find the strength to move forward.

Get up, make your bed and face the day.

She opens the door…

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She opened the door.

He turned to face her directly, his eyes—a clear, vivid blue—took a burning sweep from head to toe and up again. “Hello,” he said, his voice low, soft as kidskin leather.

“Hello,” she breathed.

Up close, he was taller than he’d appeared in the lounge. She was five feet seven inches in heels. The top of her head was even with the bridge of his nose. This close, she caught the fragrance of his cologne, a hint of citrus with cedar undertones. God, he was so handsome. She swayed slightly and grabbed the doorjamb to keep upright. His eyes followed the motion before returning their piercing directness to her face. He frowned in question, dipping his head towards her. “Is your offer still on the table?”

“Y-yes.”

His eyes narrowed at the telltale quiver in her voice. Several seconds that seemed like eons went by during which he seemed to be locked in some inner debate. He inhaled sharply, closed his eyes for a moment before he lightly touched her waist and gave her a gentle nudge backwards. The brief flicker of indecision—or had it been nervousness?—in his expression had vanished. “Let’s continue this in private.”

She released her grip on the doorjamb and her hand drifted down to his shoulder—his broad, strong, firm shoulder concealed under the fine, clearly expensive, fabric of his black suit jacket. It was almost like a slow dance as he continued guiding her further into the room until the door clicked shut behind them. He turned slightly to flip the safety latch, quirking one eyebrow at her as he did so. “Okay?”

She nodded.

They stood close together in the narrow hallway, his hand still at her waist, both of hers now resting lightly on his shoulders. Her unsteady breathing seemed to echo his. She’d never, willingly, been this close to a man before. She lost herself for a giddy moment in the vibrant male warmth radiating from his body. His fingers tightened against her waist, tugging her forward until her chest brushed against his. He set the knuckles of his other hand under her chin, tilting her face up and capturing her eyes. “What’s your name?” he rasped.

“You can call me…Joan,” she whispered.

His mouth twitched as his eyes took in her red hair and vintage attire. “How appropriate…Joan. Call me…Don.”

What will happen next in Room 1208?

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Joan

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She removed her earrings and necklace and placed them in the safe along with her purse. She closed the closet door, concealing her suitcase and coat, then paused a moment to study her reflection in the full length mirror. The dress was her most recent find, ordered from an online boutique that specialized in vintage clothing from the Fifties and early Sixties. It was periwinkle blue and white floral chiffon with a ruched waist and full skirt. It had a bateau neckline in front, and a deep curved back neckline that came across the middle of her shoulder bones. Matching suede periwinkle pumps completed the look.

It was a dress that spoke romance. It was a dress, she hoped, that begged an easy touch and slow hands, not one to be torn aside in a rush of passion. Oh, she wanted that mad rush eventually, but not for her first time.

Her hands shook slightly as she skimmed them down her waist and over the skirt. She loved wearing dresses. For too many years, she hadn’t been able to wear them, not without feeling like she was on a poster advertising a carnival sideshow. She’d had to content herself with cutting out pictures of dresses she liked, taping them to her bedroom mirror or tucking them in a scrapbook. Someday, she’d promised herself. Someday.

[What happens next in Room 1208?]

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