Note from Jessa: Ines Johnson first caught my eyes with her “Pleasure Hound
” post-apocalyptic erotica series, and now she has the first in her contemporary romance “Cindermama
” series where single mothers get a second chance at happily ever after. Obviously she hits all my favorite notes :)
Please welcome Ines Johnson to Amok on Mondays.
Which Disney princess are you most like? Or least like?
I vacillate between Anya and Elsa. I’m fiercely strong and self-sufficient like the younger princess. I also have Anya’s proclivity to not edit what I say. On the flipside, I would love a fortress of solitude where I could be alone in the quiet, just like Elsa.
Which romantic lead tropes do you find yourself returning to in your stories?
I have a series of fairytale retellings where all of the heroines are single mothers who shun the wait for the prince or white knight model. These women pick up the sword and hop on the horse to save themselves.My story is a fairytale retelling of the Cinderella story, but in my story, Cinderella married the frog first and had a baby. I knew I wanted to convey the Cinderella trope in the title. I began thinking about symbols and a pumpkin popped into my head. That’s how my character got her nickname.
When did you realize you were a writer? What was your inciting incident?
I come from a family of storytellers. My mother would talk your ears off for hours and my father is a songwriter. I began my storytelling career in television, where I still dabble from time to time. A few years ago I’d written a script that I thought would make an excellent book, only I didn’t know how to write a book. So I took a couple of classes and started querying. I never received a single rejection letter. Instead, I got no responses at all in the beginning! But I never gave up and I never stopped writing. Wait, isn’t that the definition of insanity?
What do you like best about your current work, published or not?
Perfect heroines are boring and unrealistic to me; they must be flawed in some way. I prefer stories where the heroines are strong, bright, and successful in their careers but are clueless and inept in their love lives. The heroine of my current release, Pumpkin, is exactly this. She had her head in the clouds and storybooks all her life. Unfortunately, she kissed a toad! I loved knocking down her doubts and insecurities about falling in love again.
What inspired your current story?
This story is based on actual events. Shortly after my divorce, I was out with my two children at a community farmer’s market. A really handsome politician waved me over and began chatting with me about his platform. I was more interested in his light-colored eyes. But my burgeoning fantasy was dashed when my son sauntered over and embarrassing words spewed from his mouth. I ushered myself and my kids away, chiding my silly imagination. What man would be interested in a single mother of two school-aged kids? There are no fairytales featuring mothers as the heroines.
That night, I rewrote the events of the day to my liking. In my imagination, the light-eyed politician asked me out, after winning over my guard dog of a son. We got married and I moved out of my apartment and into some big mansion with a closet stocked full of name brand clothes. Oh, that closet…
Anyway, it was October, and so I plotted the book for the next month of NANO. The completed manuscript sat in a drawer for years because I didn’t think anyone would want to read a story where a single mother was the hero. Thankfully, I was wrong. Every woman deserves an HEA.
ABOUT INES JOHNSON
Ines writes books for strong women who suck at love. If you rocked out to the twisted triangle of Jem, Jericha, and Rio as a girl; if you were slayed by vampires with souls alongside Buffy; if you need your scandalous fix from Olivia Pope each week, then you’ll love her books!
Aside from being a writer, professional reader, and teacher, Ines is a very bad Buddhist. She sits in sangha each week, and while others are meditating and getting their zen on, she’s contemplating how to use the teachings to strengthen her plots and character motivations.
Ines lives outside Washington, DC with her two little sidekicks who are growing up way too fast.
Single mother Malika “Pumpkin” Tavares lost faith in fairytales after she fell for a toad. Town royalty Armand “Manny” Charmayne has been searching for his soulmate all his life, whom he’ll recognize at first sight by a golden aura, that only he can see, surrounding her person. Manny doesn’t see gold when he meets Pumpkin, but the more he gets to know her the more he considers defying fate, if only he can convince her to take a chance on love again.
The Grand Gesture
The Mistress of Ceremonies hurried through her introductions and then the microphone was in Manny’s hand, but he didn’t take out the notes of his prepared speech.
“Many of you knew my mother,” he began. There was a murmur of nostalgic assent throughout the crowd.
“You may not know that after her diagnosis, she spent most of her days watching romantic comedies. She believed she could laugh the illness out of her body. Her favorite moments in these films were something called the Grand Gesture. That scene just after all hope is lost because one of the lovers, normally the guy, has done something stupid that’s led to the end of the relationship. So he thinks up this bold, romantic move to get the woman back.”
A glance around the room told Manny that he held the largely female crowd in rapt attention.
“An example of a grand gesture would be a guy telling his estranged wife that she completes him in the midst of an angry mob of women. Or rescuing her underwear from the class geek and returning it to her at her sister’s wedding. Or holding a boom box over his head, in front of her bedroom window, early in the morning, while blasting the song that was playing as he deflowered her.”
A different wave of nostalgia swept through the crowd this time as they remembered these treasured moments of Hollywood cinema.
“In the real world, some people might call these behaviors creepy, or stalker-ish. But not my mother. She loved them. She believed in love, believed that when you loved someone you said it loud, you showed it often, and you never gave up.”
Manny paused here, partly for effect, mostly to collect himself as visions of his mother’s joyous face played in his head. He rubbed the heel of his hand against his chest.
“The national divorce rate is 50 percent.”
There was no surprise in the room, where most of the men were older and the women on their arms were younger.
“There’s never been a divorce in the Charmayne family. Not one recorded anywhere in our family line.”
The sparkle of young women’s eyes threatened to blind Manny from where he stood on the stage.
“What that means is when a Charmayne gives you their pledge, they are committed.”
The decision was a split second one, but once Manny made it he stuck with it. He stepped around the podium, mic in hand and dropped to one knee. The gasp of every woman in the room was near deafening.
“To earn your vote, I will do whatever I have to, including blast Peter Gabriel in the streets. Charmaynes don’t quit. I’m committed to this, to the people of this town. I hope that I can count on your vote.”
The room erupted in thunderous applause, and the women’s eyes sparkled even brighter.