My Fair…Laddie? Shannon Stacey puts a fresh spin on a timeless romantic trope

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In Shannon Stacey’s Falling for Max (Carina Press, July 2014) awkward is the new sexy. Max is everything the typical alpha is not—introspective, unadventurous, shy and—just what does he do in his locked basement all day? His social life depends on local sports programming and his big-screen television, a magnet in a town without a sports bar. When he adds “find a wife” to his October to-do list after “annual checkup for furnace” and before “buy birthday presents” a buddy recommends the local diner, the town’s social hub.

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Shannon Stacey

There he meets the Tori Burns, book cover designer and part-time waitress. It’s too bad that Max is so awkward because despite his stumbling he’s actually really hot. Intrigued by a sharp sense of humor hidden under his idiosyncrasies, Tori decides to help Max in his quest. The only problem is that she might have done too good a job. She may have turned his comfortable life upside down—but he’s not the only one who is all shook up.

In a sea of ripped bodies, sexy cowboys and steamy firemen, Max Crawford is a fun, fresh and delightfully geeky alternative to the guys whose killer abs grace our romance novel covers. Max prefers to lie in the freshly cut summer grass with you and make you giggle. And what woman doesn’t want a man who can make her laugh? BookTrib recently talked with Stacey about Max, Tori, the Kowalski series and the importance of bug-spray jokes.

BOOKTRIB: Falling for Max feels like a modern spin on Pygmalion, the play that inspired My Fair Lady. Did you deliberately choose this trope?

SS: I didn’t really set out to take on a timeless trope but their story simply came together that way. I knew Tori would see Max get shot down during an awkward attempt to find a date and decide to help the poor guy out. He makes a joke about being him being Eliza Doolittle and Tori the professor, and that cemented the story in my head.

BT: Why do you think that women like to fix up men so much?

SS: I think we all want happiness for the people we like or care about and sometimes we may think there’s something about their personalities or appearance holding them back. Tori thinks Max could be the perfect guy if he was more confident in conversation and downplayed some of his quirks, and she believes she can help him with that. But, of course, the best happily ever after comes when you love people just the way they are.

BT: Why did you decide to bring together your two recurring characters, Tori and Max?

SS: I knew I’d end up writing Max’s story as soon as he was introduced in All He Ever Dreamed, the sixth book in the series. It was something of a surprise when I realized Tori, who was meant to have a walk-on role, was the woman for him. She’s very curious and frank, and isn’t made uncomfortable by Max’s awkward attempts at conversation. She likes him and decides to help him find a date which, of course, goes sideways on her.

BT: What’s the best part of Max’s quirky personality?

SS: The heroes of the Kowalski series have all been fairly confident, sure-of-themselves men who could bring the charm when it suited them. They “walked tall” in their worlds, so to speak. Max has never found it easy to interact socially, which leads to awkwardness and has made forming relationships in the small town of Whitford somewhat difficult. Showing what a great guy he is through Tori’s eyes was fun to explore.

BT: What’s your main source of inspiration for developing the Kowalski series?

SS: The Kowalski series began when I started writing a romance just for my own pleasure, filled with things I loved, like camping and four-wheeling and s’mores and bug spray jokes. Eventually I realized that if I enjoyed it, so might others, and it became Exclusively Yours, the first book in the series.

BT: What is it about the Kowalski family that people love?

SS: I think they feel really authentic, as if you could run into them at the local diner or at a gas station. They’re blue-collar folks who work hard and play hard. They love their children, respect their parents or parent-figures and love to laugh. I think they’re people we’d want to hang out with in real life.

BT: Is the town of Whitford modeled after the New England town you live in?

SS: Whitford is quite a bit smaller than the town I live in and my town only has about 3,500 residents. It’s actually very, very loosely modeled after a town in central Maine I’ve visited, but I’m reluctant to say which because people familiar with it would shake their heads. It’s more about the feel of the place and having a point on the map to use when determining how long it takes to drive to the hospital or airport than modeled after the location.

BT: Why do you think people love small town romance novels so much?

SS: One of the things I personally love about small town romance novels is the cast of characters. As a reader, I get to know everybody in the community and become invested in, not only the hero and heroine, but the people around them. Returning to a small town series is like returning to a town I’ve enjoyed visiting or reconnecting with friends.

BT: What’s your main source of inspiration for developing the Kowalski series?

SS: The Kowalski series began when I started writing a romance just for my own pleasure, filled with things I loved, like camping and four-wheeling and s’mores and bug spray jokes. Eventually I realized that if I enjoyed it, so might others, and it became Exclusively Yours, the first book in the series.

 

has written for Green Life Guides, LLC, an eco-friendly lifestyle website, and contributed articles for Green Life Guides to Huffington Post Weddings, Huffington Post Green, The Daily Meal and Martha Stewart Weddings. She has also published poetry in the Albion Review, contributes DIY articles to Moxy Magazine and writes entrepreneurial topics for the women’s website, She's Self Employed. In her spare time, Amanda makes hand forged metal jewelry and loves to travel. She has an M.S. in Publishing from Pace University and currently lives in New Haven, CT.

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