Friday Fanfare Welcomes:
M.J. Schiller, TRAPPED UNDER ICE
How did the writer’s journey begin for you?
I was born in Overland Park, KS, in the heart of Tornado Alley, and my life has been a bit twisted since. Actually, it’s not all that twisted, but I’ve always wanted to use that line. I grew up in St. Louis, MO, went to school at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and moved to Bloomington, IL, fresh out of college, after my husband got a job at State Farm’s corporate headquarters. I’ve worked as a high school/junior college teacher, personnel recruiter, office manager of a jewelry store, and, for the past ten years, as a lunch lady. I like to karaoke and attend rock concerts. I am actively involved at church and spend too much time on Facebook. I am the mother of a eighteen-year-old, and sixteen-year-old triplets, and have been married to my husband, Don, for over twenty-five years.
I have been a writer all my life. My first book, which was co-written with Mary Ellen Murphey in second grade, was titled The Black Cat, and was written on blue hotel stationary, hole-punched, and bound by white yarn. I believe it is currently out of circulation.
When I turned forty, I had an epiphany of sorts. I realized those bigwig publishing houses in New York were now probably run by people younger than me, so I shouldn’t be intimidated by them. At about the same time I was watching one of those award shows, and Jaclyn Smith got up to give a post-humorous award to Aaron Spelling. She credited him for encouraging her to go into acting, saying something brilliant like, “Reach for your dreams.” Nothing new. Almost even seems a little Jiminy Cricketish. But, for some reason, it struck me that night. When Aaron Spelling was thirteen, he was probably just like any other acned thirteen-year-old. But he worked to achieve his dreams, and became a household name. So, I began to write. Once I finished my first book, I wasn’t able to stop. I would rather write than do just about anything else. After all, you get to make people (characters) do what you want and design your own happy endings. What power! What a privilege.
Tell us three things about you-the writer-readers wouldn’t typically know.
1. At one point in my life I was a synchronized swimmer competing at the Junior Olympic level. This was the highest level at the time because it hadn’t yet become an Olympic event. I have a handful of medals somewhere…
2. My writing takes places in bits and snatches as I have an eighteen year old living at home while attending college, and three sixteen-year-olds. Yes, that’s right, they’re triplets! I’m always having to stop to attend to somebody’s needs (break up fights, etc.) so I am constantly re-reading my writing to make sure it flows.
3. I am determined that people will learn nothing from my writing. And what I mean by that is you shouldn’t have to think too hard reading an MJ Schiller novel. It is a ride for you that, hopefully, will be pure escapist entertainment—lots of action, passion, laughs, a few tears, and pieces you will be able to recognize and relate to.
It all began when…
I heard a song on the radio. The song talked about growing up in an abusive home and I began to wonder if the rock singer had actually experienced that, or if he knew someone who did, or if it just grew out of his imagination. Thus began the seeds of TRAPPED UNDER ICE, the story of Chad Evans, lead singer of the three time platinum record award winning band Trapped Under Ice. Chad grew up in an abusive home and had to raise his kid brother from the age of thirteen. He tries to shake the bad memories and play out his anger in his music, but it doesn’t always work.
When Chad meets Beth Donovan, lunch lady/romance writer, after one of his concerts, things begin to change. Beth is a widow, still grieving for her husband after three years. She and her daughter are attacked by two men after the concert and Chad comes to their rescue. The singer is tall, lean, and gorgeous and just oozes sex appeal, but there is also a sadness around him, a mystery, that draws Beth in.
This unlikely duo have to find their way through many problems—ex-girlfriends who resurface, fans that won’t take no for an answer—and when they finally seem to pull it all together Beth discovers that Chad has been receiving death threats!
What stands out about this story that made writing it different for you?
Chad was a very compelling character. His past haunts him, but, despite his public persona, he is a good guy. Beth, too, I feel for because of her aching heart. You want to see these guys find happiness because of their damaged backgrounds and because they are so good together.
Were there any difficult challenges or special subject matter you came across while writing this book?
With this book, and with all of my ROCKING ROMANCE COLLECTION, I run up against a preconceived notion about rock stars. People tend to think of them as they are seen on stage or in the tabloids. I had an editor ask once, “Would a rock star go to a mall?” It’s almost like saying, “Would a doctor go to the mall?” Of course some would and some wouldn’t. Certainly, they’d have to take some precautions that we “normal” folk don’t have to take if they went to the mall, like wearing a disguise and/or bringing a body guard, but not everyone of them fits that image we all conjure up when we think of a rock star.
What about this book would make us want to read it more than others of similar taste?
As I mentioned earlier, my rock stars don’t fit into neat little stereotypical boxes. Some are drinkers, some are not. Some are womanizers at the beginning, some are not. Just like the rest of us they have their own peculiarities, gifts, and flaws. The sex is hot, but not raunchy, which I think a lot of people expect in a rock star romance. If you’re hoping to find that here, you might be disappointed. If you are looking for a story that moves you, but still turns you on, you might enjoy TRAPPED UNDER ICE.
What do you want readers to take away from this book?
I want them to have escaped from their crazy lives for a while. Life is hard. We all need a little rock star romance, a little vicarious adventure, or even just a cathartic release, every now and then.
Tell us about the finished book. Is there anything special we might not know after reading it?
One thing that readers may expect with my ROCKING ROMANCE COLLECTION is a continuation of the story in the next book. This is not a series, it is a collection, so you are introduced to entirely different characters and circumstances in the next book, ABANDON ALL HOPE, which is due out in the next couple of weeks. The commonality is the rock star character, but they are all very different. One that is expected to come out at the end of the year is even about a female rock star!
Here’s a little taste of what you can expect from TRAPPED UNDER ICE:
For the first time, the pair was alone with no ready subject for conversation. They both took a sip of their drinks to stall for time.
“Your drink all right?”
“Good, good.” She nodded.
“Good,” he repeated, seeming at a loss as to where to go next. He exhaled with a laugh. “You know, I don’t know anything about you, other than your name is Beth, you have a daughter named Cassie, and you’re one hell of a singer.”
“Ah…well…” Again she was unnerved by the praise.
“You’re staying at this hotel, so you’re not from here. Where do you live?”
“Bloomington, Illinois.” When he stared at her blankly, she added, “It’s about halfway between here and Chicago.”
He nodded. “What’s it like?”
“Well…it’s a college town. In fact, we have the little known distinction of being the only city with a university at either end of the same street,” she threw in, remembering seeing that in a paper Cassie did for social studies.
“I see,” he replied, bemused. “And what do you do in this fair city? I mean,” he back-pedaled, “do you work outside of the home?”
“Ah, so politically correct. Yes, as a matter of fact, I’m a lunch lady.”
The singer looked for a minute like he was going to spit out his drink, but he swallowed hurriedly and laughed.
“What?” Beth retorted, pretending to be hurt. “You’ve got something against lunch ladies, I suppose?”
“No, no,” he insisted. “It’s just…you don’t look like any lunch lady I ever had.”
She took a long drink and considered his words. Was there a compliment in there somewhere?
“So how did you land this lunch lady gig?”
Now it was Beth’s turn to laugh at his choice of the word “gig.” “Well, in truth it wasn’t all that difficult. I just showed up for the interview, they told me what the hours were, how much it paid, and what it entailed, then asked me if I wanted the job. So, hearing what glamorous duties I was to have and what a fabulous paycheck I would be bringing home, I, of course, took it.” He laughed. “No, really, I love my job. I love working with kids. I can come home and take a nap every afternoon before Cas gets home from school. What’s not to like?”
“Well, when you put it that way…”
“Not to mention, sometimes I get to bring home leftover sloppy joe meat.”
“It gets better and better. Sign me up.”
“Oh yeah. ‘Cause this whole rock star thing can’t compare to the wonderful benefits I just described. Tell me the truth, it was the sloppy joe meat that really sold you, wasn’t it?”
Where can readers find you and your books?
Is there anything else you want to share or add?
Only that I had a good time answering your questions and appreciate the opportunity you gave me to talk about my writing and get the word out about TRAPPED UNDER ICE!