Contemporary romance author Kemberlee Shortland visits the Plain today. Kemberlee is celebrating the release of Rhythm of My Heart, the latest installment in her Irish Pride series, which includes Coffee Time Romance Award Winner A Piece of My Heart and its short story sequel, Constant Craving. The third full-length book in the series, Shape of My Heart, is scheduled for release in November.
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Welcome, Kemberlee. Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from, and how on earth did you end up living in Ireland?
I’m originally from the Monterey Peninsula in Northern California, but I’m currently celebrating my 15th year in Ireland. Came over on a long vacation, stayed for a man ;-)Sounds like a good deal to me. What sparked your interest in writing?
I learned to read early so that probably got me started. I always enjoyed telling stories, even when they got me into trouble ;-) I don’t remember exactly what sparked me, but I do remember the moment I decided I wanted to publish my stories. I heard the Beatles’ song ‘Paperback Writer’ on the radio. I listened to the lyrics and thought, "Why can’t I do that?" The only change is that I’m publishing digitally rather than paper, but I still fulfilled my dream of publication.May your dream continue. What components, in your opinion, make a great story?
I don’t think there’s any one component to a great story. Stories are tapestries of carefully woven elements that make up an entire fabric.Do you set your books/stories in your home town, or do you prefer more exotic locations?
The first two short stories I published were set in my hometown of Carmel-by-the-Sea in California. The stories were part of a charity anthology based on crazy laws around the world. If there was any other town on the planet with crazy laws, it’s Carmel. They banned ice cream and made it a law to get a permit to wear high heels! I took these two laws and turned them into a couple very cute little romances, Tutti-Frutti Blues and Dude Looks Like A Lady. They’ve been rewritten and republished this year with Tirgearr Publishing and available as part of the Carmel Charmers Series.How much of your writing is based on people or events familiar to you?
The Irish Pride Series is set in Ireland, where I currently live. So far, none have been set in a town where I’ve lived, but in areas I love, such as Connemara, County Galway in A Piece of My Heart. Dublin City features prominently in Rhythm of My Heart and all of the Irish Pride Series novels. I’ve lived in County Dublin a few times and spent a lot of time in the city center so I suppose it’s like a home place for me.
I don’t write about people I know but I have written about events. A Piece of My Heart is a good example. One of the strong secondary characters is a Border Collie called Molly which I based on our own Border Collie, Daisie. Daisie’s adoption name was Molly and we came by her in a similar situation as what happened in the book. I can’t say without giving away part of the plot, but it wasn’t pretty. But she’s a gorgeous dog now and we’re so happy to have her. And Poppy, who also had a similar beginning in life. Both dogs are rescues.Sounds like a win/win situation for the dogs and for you. What inspired you to write Rhythm of My Heart?
Rhythm of My Heart started out as an erotica, the story of which got in the way ;-) Readers have told me how much they enjoy my love scenes and that I should try erotica, so I did. But the story quickly took over. The more I learned about Kieran and Eilis, the more I wanted to know. Their relationship quickly became full of torment and deep passion. They have their great love scene, alright, but rather than focus on the function of sex, I concentrated on the emotions of how they get to the sex.How did you come up with the title?
With difficulty! LOL All the stories in the Irish Pride Series went through a series of ‘match-matchy’ titles (titles that play off each other). Some of them so embarrassing I can’t even tell you what they were. One of my favorite songs is by Janis Joplin, ‘A Piece of My Heart’. I’d listened to it a number of times during the writing of the book. The book took on many aspects of the song, so it seemed natural to call it that – A Piece of My Heart. It really worked on so many levels, including how I love naming books after song titles. Rhythm of My Heart comes from Rod Stewart’s song of the same title. And Shape of My Heart is a Sting song. That’s the third book in the series, which will be out in November. Will there be any other books in the series? Maybe. I have a lot of possibilities with characters from these stories. And there are several other songs with similar titles I can borrow ;-)Was there much research involved?
Not a huge amount. Most came from just living in Ireland for so long and knowing the people and the culture. It’s not really research when you live it every day. However, for Rhythm of My Heart, as much as I love music of all kinds, I still had a lot to learn about guitars. Kieran dreams of one day being able to afford to buy the coveted Dobro Resonator. As he’s an accomplished blues guitarist, it seems sacrilege not to have one of these guitars. Part of my research was listening to a lot of Dobro music and researched how they were made. I read up for half a day alone just to add a couple lines in the book for when Kieran has a Dobro in his hands and is admiring its every detail. I had to write what he was feeling in order for the reader to feel it too.I love to learn new things when I read, especially when I know the author had done so much research. Is there a message in your story you want readers to grasp?
Three things, I guess – 1) Stop chasing love because you might be running in the wrong direction. Stop. Breathe. Let it happen naturally. 2) Never be too proud to forgive. And 3) Trust is not a right, it’s a privilege and must be earned.If you could go back in time, what author would you most like to invite to share a chat and a bottle of wine?
Well, I don’t drink, but I’d buy John Steinbeck a bottle of his favorite tipple if he’d spare me the time for a chat. I grew up in what’s now referred to as Steinbeck Country. It’s a part of the Central Coast of Northern California…aka America’s Salad Bowl because of all the agriculture in the Salinas Valley…aka the Monterey Peninsula. Many of Steinbeck’s stories were set in the region…East of Eden, Cannery Row, Sweet Thursday, etc. I’d love to talk with him about his life in the Salinas Valley and around the Peninsula. His family was from Ireland so I’d love to know more about them and what took them to America. I used to work on Cannery Row and a lot of the places in the book Cannery Row still exist…Flora’s, Doc’s Lab, Wing Chong Market, etc. In my younger years I worked on The Row, as locals call it, and read the book. It was kind of surreal to read a chapter or two, then look onto the street from my upstairs location and imagine those characters going about their business on the street.You’re marooned on a desert island. What’s the one book you’d want with you, and why?
That’s kind of an unfair question since we live in a digital world. Maybe you should ask what I wouldn’t have with me. You can be sure there would be a lot of romance on my Kindle. Anyway, I wouldn’t have much time to read since Liam Neeson would be with me! ;-)Ah, but how would you recharge your Kindle? Though I doubt you’d care if Liam Neeson was there :-) So what’s next for you? Can we look forward to a new story in the near future?
Next up is Shape of My Heart. I don’t have a release date yet, but it will be available in early November. This is the story of Kieran’s sister, Gráinne, who meets her match with John ‘JD’ Desmond. She’s decided to get her life back together, to grow up as it were, but ends up on the sticky end of things. There’s an excerpt of this story on my website.Go raibh maith agat, Kemberlee. All the best to you and your writing. Speaking of which, let’s enjoy a sampling of Rhythm of My Heart.
Thank you so much, Pat, for having me here today. It’s been lovely chatting with you. As they say in Ireland — Go n-éirí an bóthar leat. Go raibh cóir na gaoithe i gcónaí leat.
Artist Representative, Eilis Kennedy, gave up a singing career so that other women could have a fair chance at having their music heard. Having suffered rejection from callous men in the industry, she thought she would get away from ‘casting couch’ mentality. But when she finds herself in the office of Fergus Manley, all bets are off. Disgusted by his continual come-ons and lewd invitations, Eilis is looking for ‘the one’ who will take her career to the next level, getting out from under Fergus’s controlling thumb.
Aspiring blues guitarist, Kieran Vaughan, is looking for his big break. But after suffering near bankruptcy at the hands of an unscrupulous business partner, Kieran is left picking up the pieces. He’s unsure if the debts will ever be paid or if he’ll ever have a chance to do something with his music. At his whit’s end, he’s about ready to throw in the towel and find a full-time job with real hours.
When Eilis discovers Kieran playing in a seedy pub in Dublin’s Northside, she knows he’s the one rare talent she’s been searching for. With her know-how and his talent, Eilis will finally get everything she’s been waiting for. Neither of them count on the powerful attraction from first meeting. Eilis is so rocked by Keiran’s forthright words that it sends her running. Kieran risks being arrested as he chases Eilis across Ireland.
Seeing what’s happening between Eilis and Kieran, anger wells inside Fergus and he steps up his pursuit of Eilis. Refusing to let Kieran get in his way, Fergus vows to add Eilis’s notch to his bedpost, whatever it takes.
Will Kieran be able to protect her?
The Little Man Pub, Dublin City
"Kieran?" called the young man at the door.
Kieran Vaughan looked up from where he sat on a tattered brown sofa. In the tiny storage room, kegs of beer and boxes of crisps lined one wall and cases of hard liquor lined another. A single naked bulb suspended from the ceiling barely illuminated the room, which doubled as a catchall for anything that probably should have been thrown away. The sofa and side table had been an afterthought when Murph decided to start entertaining his patrons. It certainly wasn’t the dressing room he’d dreamed of. And not for the first time, Kieran wondered if he should count himself amongst the throwaways.
"What?" Kieran knew his reply was a little too abrupt and attributed his irritability to the twisting in his stomach. He set his pint onto the table, still half-full.
He was expecting Murph with his pay, but instead, his gaze met with the stagehand, Murph’s 15-year-old son, John.
John was reedy and nervous by nature. His father wasn’t an easy man to work for, and Kieran imagined not easy to live with either. John’s skittishness was obvious when he stepped into the room, his narrow eyes down-turned.
"Da told me to give ye this."
John practically threw the note at him then scurried from the room. Kieran gave it a cursory glance — a note that simply read, ‘Meet me at the bar. Eilis Kennedy.’
He tossed the note onto the grimy table. It landed beside his pint glass.
He sank back against the lumpy sofa and shut his eyes, blocking out his surroundings.
How had he gotten himself into such a mess?
This wasn’t what he’d expected when he’d set out to play his music. Seedy pubs, cheap drunks and slappers whose ages couldn’t be determined from all the make-up they wore. Not that anyone was looking at their faces when their arses were hanging out from under their miniskirts.
His stomach roiled again at the thought of the women who frequented The Little Man Pub.
"Feckin’ hell!" The curse choked him.
What the hell was he doing here anyway? If he wanted to make it big, America was the place to be. No one in Ireland wanted to hear him play the blues. If any race of people knew the blues, it was the Irish. They didn’t need the likes of him to remind them.
The sound of the latch turning on the door snapped Kieran out of his thoughts. He opened his eyes to a short, scruffy-faced man whose belly preceded him into the room, as did the smell of the man’s sweat-stained shirt. Kieran’s heart leapt in his chest. As unsavory as Murphy was, the man still held his livelihood in the palm of his hand.
Kieran hauled himself out of the old sofa and strode over to the sullen little man and snatched the envelope out of his hands, tearing open the flap. His anticipation died at the contents.
"What is this then? Forty euro?"
"What can I say, boyo? Slow night." Murphy shrugged, totally unsympathetic.
"What am I supposed to do with forty fecking euro?" Kieran tossed the money onto the table beside the slapper's note, then ran his fingers through his hair. He knew his pay was based on the amount of drinks sold at the bar during his performance times. This forty euro told Kieran sales had been poor tonight. He knew it wasn’t true, but getting Murph to admit it would be like trying to convince the man that a bath would make him a more pleasant person, or at least less of an assault on people around him.
"That’s your problem, not mine. But if you don’t start bringin’ in the punters, I’ll be finding me someone else to take me stage and ye’ll be out on your arse, wishin’ you were still bringin’ in the forty feckin’ euro for ninety minutes of that catterwallerin’ ye call music." Murph stepped through the door to leave, then turned back. He grinned, showing missing front teeth. "Don’t look so glum, lad. Ye could be on the Dole."
"Feck off with yourself, Murph!" Kieran launched the pint glass at the door as it shut behind The Little Man. Shards of glass sprayed out, stout staining the door and wall. He heard the old man laughing in the corridor.
Anger rose in him. Not at Murph, but at himself. A blues guitarist wasn’t going to get noticed playing in a two-bit pub on Dublin’s Northside. The Irish wanted U2, Boyzone and Paddy fecking Casey, not a wannabe blues guitarist like Kieran Vaughan.
He loved playing the blues. The blues ran through his blood as if it were his own special life force. But if he was going to get noticed, he was going to have to go to America. He abhorred the idea of it, but he loved the music. He just hated the thought of leaving Ireland more. And Gráinne. She was all he had left. And if he lost her for the sake of a pipedream, he would be nothing and there would be nothing left for him to live for.
If I want a better life I have to do something about it.
He’d suffered through years of bloody fingers from long hours practicing on steel strings to play to the best of his abilities. He’d thought he was getting somewhere with his last music venture, only to see it destroyed before his eyes because of a dishonest business partner. It seemed like years of one step forward and two steps back. Now he found himself resorting to playing in seedy pubs to repay his debts and no hopes of getting heard. He was failing to make something of all his hard work.
Holding onto his tattered pride was getting more difficult each day. There had to be a compromise somewhere. There just had to be.
Just once he’d like to be offered the brass ring and go for it.
Just once he wanted something in his life to go the way he’d planned.
Just once he wanted to be someone.
Fed up, he kicked the guitar case lid closed and flipped the latch with his booted toe. He shrugged into his leather jacket and shoved the forty euro into his pocket. He considered the note on the table. Maybe this Eilis could help him forget his troubles, at least for tonight. But the thought if it disgusted him. He just wanted to go home.
Guitar in hand, he flipped up his jacket collar and headed for the back door.
The weather outside The Little Man Pub was better than inside, even though it was pissing rain. The dark lane suited his dark mood. Thanks to late night mischief-makers, there were few
working streetlights, which is why a car just missed him as it sped past. Its tire hit a pothole and splashed dirty rainwater up the front of him.
"Feckin’ hell!" he bit out for the second time tonight. "Bloody feckin’ hell."
* * * * *About Kemberlee Shortland:
Kemberlee Shortland was born and raised in Northern California in an area known as America's Salad Bowl. It was home to many authors, including John Steinbeck, and for a while Jack London and Robert Louis Stevenson. In 1997, Kemberlee had the opportunity to live in Ireland for six months where she ended up meeting a man who convinced her to stay. Kemberlee is now celebrating her fifteenth year in Ireland and has been lucky to travel the country extensively, picking up a cúpla focal along the way—a few Irish words.
Kemberlee has been writing since a very young age and over the years she has published dozens of travel articles and book reviews, as well as worked with some notable authors who’ve set their books in Ireland. 2006 saw the publication of Kemberlee’s first two short stories, Tutti-Frutti Blues and Dude Looks Like a Lady, set in her hometown. Since then, Kemberlee has published a number of short stories, and in 2010 her first full-length novel was published, the award-winning A Piece of My Heart, and its short story sequel, Constant Craving.
Next up for Kemberlee after Rhythm of My Heart is the next book in the Irish Pride series, Shape of My Heart, coming in the autumn 2012.
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Rhythm of My Heart / Available from
A Piece of My Heart / Available from