Happy Saturday! Thank you for joining us today at the fire. We've had a few gorgeous days here in New Jersey and Pete, Hali and I have been hiking in the woods near our house. We even lit the chiminea and spent the evening reading around it. Is it just me or is everyone thinking it 10pm when its only 6? I hope you enjoy learning about today's guest who's also a "Jersey Girl".
Hi Maria! I'm so glad you're with us today. Let's get right to it. I have a bio, you have a bio, we all have a bio. But who you are other than your bio?
I’m the mother of two incredibly strong and independent daughters who love spending time with my husband and me, and we love spending time with them. I’m the daughter of a strong and independent 94 year old mother, who is my biggest cheerleader. I talk to her everyday and see her at least once a week. We do crossword puzzles and jigsaw puzzles together. I guess you could say I’m a family person. I’m also a lover of beaches, travel, dancing, music and lifelong learning.
That sounds wonderful. We do puzzles too. I like crossword-Pete sudoku. What interests besides writing do you enjoy? Tell us about what you read too.
I’ve loved reading since I was 5 and that hasn’t changed one bit. I am usually reading 2-3 books at a time, which I wouldn’t recommend, but I can’t help myself. There is always the book club book, which is generally something I wouldn’t have chosen myself, but I’m always glad I read it. They may be historical fiction, suspense, women’s fiction – usually something that’s been on someone’s list (Oprah, Jenna, NY Times). I also read romance (contemporary, historical, and sometimes erotica). In addition to reading, I like to exercise (Jazzercise because it’s dance-y or walking while listening to music).
Who is your network or support system? Those who contribute to your writing career. My husband is an incredible supporter of my writing. He’s only read a few of my books, but has been very positive in his comments about them. When other people ask if he’s read my books, he usually says that he doesn’t want to know what he should be doing and isn’t. For Christmas last year, he printed out all of my book covers and framed them. They are now hanging in our library and it makes me smile every time I see them. My mother is like my agent, but in an embarrassing way. Everywhere she goes (doctors, grocery store, Macy’s, church meetings) she hands out my bookmarks and tells people how wonderful my stories are (she has told me that the sex in them isn’t necessary though). I do love that she’s a huge promoter as long as I’m not with her.
He's so sweet. Your mom sounds amazing too. Can you tell us who or what books or authors are your inspiration?
Judith McNaught, Kristan Hannah, Emily Giffen, Rachel Gibson, Kristan Higgins.
Do you have any fun or outrageous talent?
Oh I bet you have some party trick you can pull out. But alas we'll keep wondering. What's your neighborhood like? Are there any places you frequent? What makes them special?
I live in a small town in central NJ- a typical suburb in a pleasant neighborhood. Since I hate to cook, my husband and I go out to eat frequently. Our local restaurants here in Lawrenceville and the surrounding area are the best. Chambers Walk, Metro Grill, Boro, Enzo’s, TJ’s, Yardley Inn. We’ve gotten to know the owners/managers of all of these restaurants as well as the wait staff, and everyone is friendly and welcoming. It’s like going to a friend’s place for dinner.
I love local restaurants where you feel like your in an episode of Cheers. Unfortunately two of our favorites are closed. Have you had any adventures lately? We just got back from a two week vacation—our first after staying put for the last year and a half. We went back to Key West (where we’ve gone every year for the past 35 years) for a week. It’s such a wild and crazy town. It was Fantasy Fest week and the college kid comes out in every adult there. Not us of course. People generally enjoy many cocktails throughout the day and night while listening to music at various open air bars. Halloween costumes are the norm, but if you don’t want to wear a costume, there are dozens of places to have your body painted sans clothes. The weather is warm, the spirit is lively, and it’s great fun – for a week. After that, we headed to Delray Beach to visit friends, then on to St. Augustine since we had never been there before. Seeing new places, whether in the US or abroad is what I want to do going forward. Next trip – Alaska.
The Keys are on my bucket list. And you're going to adore Alaska. If you could eat anything in the world right now, what would it be? Milk chocolate-any time, all the time.
Hah, as Charles Schultz said, "All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt". Would you rather have unlimited international first-class tickets or never have to pay for food at restaurants?
Unlimited international first-class tickets. There are so many places I want to fly to and being able to enjoy the flight because of a more comfortable seat and improved food would just make the whole experience that much better.
Did you ever win something? What? I’m very lucky in general. I once won a Mercedes SUV through a Big Brothers Big Sisters raffle. I also won a diamond necklace at a fundraiser.
Wowzah! Next time I buy a lottery ticket I'll pick you up first to go with me. What was your first job? I was the candy girl at a small local movie theater when I was 15. I loved it because all my friends worked there too. My job was my social life.
What subjects should be taught in school, but aren’t?
Oh, for the days of Miss Manners. Do you do research before starting a book?
I don’t spend any time researching before beginning a book. I create an in-depth outline (more like a blueprint) of the entire story and only research when I’m writing a scene that requires it.
Reviews are an author's lifeblood. Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I absolutely read my book reviews. I smile while reading the good ones and talk back to the reviewer who wrote a bad one – explaining what they missed.
Maria, thank you again for spending time with us. Before you leave can you share a bit about your newest book and where we can find out more about you and it?
Red Velvet Crinkles And Christmas Sprinkles
Competitive, work-obsessed Bella Simonetti has just been fired from her high-paying job at a Manhattan law firm. At an all-time low, she returns home and helps her parents at their small-town gift shop, but the business is failing and may not make it past the Christmas holidays.
Successful landscape architect Dean Jackson is like a son to Bella's parents. But he’s a persistent annoyance to her—he seems to have forgotten his unforgivable blunder thirteen years earlier.
When Bella transforms her parents’ gift shop into a cookie cottage, Dean's generosity and magnetic smile are hard to resist, and those feelings of unrequited adolescent love come rushing back. But can Bella let go of the past and accept Dean for the man he is today?
****Review from N.N. Light’s Book Heaven 5 stars***
Red Velvet Crinkles is a heartwarming enemies-to-lovers holiday romance I devoured in one sitting. Maria Imbalzano takes a few tropes, whips them until they're frothy, and then adds sugar to make the ending on Christmas sweet. The plot moves at a great pace with a close-knit cast of characters. I loved the small town, Bella's parents, and so much more. We get both Bella's and Dean's POV which filled a lot of holes in the story. Dean teased her in high school to keep his distance. His feelings scared him back then and now he has to make amends. There are some meaningful messages in this story, even though it's short. Sometimes what you've been looking for is right in front of you. The romance was so good and honestly written. I enjoyed the push and pull between Bella and her parents. The dialogue is humorous at times with plenty of snark. Red Velvet Crinkles is a delightful holiday romance and one I highly recommend!
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More about the author.
Maria Imbalzano is a retired matrimonial lawyer who now writes full time. Instead of drafting motions, legal memoranda, and briefs, although fascinating, she now spends her days creating memorable characters and taking them on their emotional journeys through her contemporary romance novels.
Her novel, “Unchained Memories,” won the Wisconsin Romance Writers Write Touch Readers’ Award and the ACRA Readers’ Choice Heart of Excellence Award. “Sworn to Forget,” the first of the four-book Sworn Sisters Series was a finalist for the illustrious RONE award as well as the Book Buyers Best Award. Her novellas, “The Blueberry Swirl Waltz” and “A Song For Another Day” each came in first in their category in the National Excellence in Story Telling contest and finaled in the Colorado Romance Writers Beverly contest.
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