Susan May Warren is the USA Today best-selling novelist of 80 books. With more than 1.5 million books in print, she is beloved by reviewers and readers around the world. Michelle Sass Aleckson lives the country life in central Minnesota with her own hero and their four kids. She loves rocking out to 80’s music on a Saturday night and getting lost in good stories—especially stories that shine grace. And if you’re wondering, yes, Sass is her maiden name.
In this interview, Michelle answers our questions about book number three in the Deep Haven Collection…Crazy for You.
FF: What is the inspiration behind the story in your book?
I wanted to write a Beauty and the Beast story with a twist, to have the heroine as the beast character. She’s rough around the edges and blunt—okay, downright rude at times—but underneath that hard shell beats a very loyal and brave heart. I wanted to explore her transformation. And instead of having the story take place in her world, I wanted it to set it in the hero’s hometown. The hero on the other hand was loved by everyone but caught between two sides of his feuding family. So it’s a little like Beauty and Beast meets the Hatfields and McCoys.
FF: How did you go about building the world of this story?
Deep Haven isn’t a new place for Christian fiction. Susan May Warren already has many books set in this world. It’s a sweet little town on the Minnesota shore of Lake Superior. Deep Haven is based on a town Susie lived in and I visited often, so before I started writing I was already familiar with some of the locations from her previous series. I knew the layout of the town, the weather, and the surrounding area.
I also visited a fire hall near me to learn about small town volunteer fire crews since the hero is the Deep Haven fire chief. A friend walked me through what it is like for her on the fire rescue squad so I had a better understanding of what the hero’s job and world would be like.
The other interesting aspect to building this story world is that there are two other authors writing in this series, Rachel D. Russell and Andrea Christenson. That meant we collaborated on a lot of the setting to keep it consistent throughout all six books.
FF: How do you go about getting in the right mindset to write for your genre?
I like to listen to music before I write. (I can’t do it while I’m writing, or it will drown out the voices of my characters!) I write contemporary romance, but each scene has a different feel to it. I try to find songs that fit the mood of the scene I’m writing. I have a playlist of Break Up Songs, Love Songs, Action Songs, etc. After listening to one or two I find a quiet place and start typing.
FF: What do you want readers to take away after reading your book?
I hope readers will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are cherished, and they are never alone. Loving others is a risk, but it can bring about incredible transformation. Ronnie felt very much alone and for good reason, but with people looking beyond her beast-likeness and showing her true friendship and the love of a Savior, she changed. She learned to let others in, which takes a lot of courage.
For Peter though, who grew up in a good stable home, he needed to learn when to take a stand and even push back. We can serve others without becoming a pushover, and that means knowing when to say “no.”
FF: What can you tell us about the protagonists?
Peter Dahlquist is the Deep Haven fire chief and he’s on the city council. He is great at putting out fires—both literally and figuratively. But there’s not a spark to be found in the romance department since he’s related to practically everyone in town. Veronica (aka: Ronnie) Morales is a former soldier and paramedic. She leaves Minneapolis and comes to Deep Haven looking for a safe place to raise her brother. Peter and Ronnie have to work together and don’t exactly hit it off right away, but they both would do anything for those they love.
FF: Why do you think storytelling is such a powerful way to share truth?
As writers we strive to show, not tell. Instead of simply telling a truth or teaching a value, a story shows it in action and lets the reader experience it through the characters which makes more of an impact. Storytelling is versatile too. People can read the same story and take away something completely different away from it. Sometimes it’s a minor plot thread, a side character, or subtle theme that touches the heart of a reader. That’s pretty cool.
FF: What can readers expect from the rest of this series?
In the first three books of the series readers see the need for and formation of a Crisis Response Team…kind of an SAR for the North Shore. The next three books will continue that arc and tell the stories of some of the minor characters you meet in Books 1-3. If you’re familiar with other SMW books like the PJ Sugar series or You Don’t Know Me, you will be reunited with Daniel “Boone” Buckham who finally gets his own story in Book 4, Then Came You, and Colleen Decker who is the heroine of Book 5, Hangin’ By A Moment. Book 6, Right Here Waiting, is Nick Dahlquist’s story, a dogsledder and cousin to Peter, and we meet a new helicopter pilot, Jae Washington. These books will have more Deep Haven drama, rescues, and of course, romance!
What do you love the most about your genre (as a reader or author)?
I’m a romantic. I love seeing how two unlikely characters can overcome the odds, the obstacles, the issues and find true love in contemporary and historical romances. These love stories are a reminder of God’s pursuit of us and all He overcame. They might be fiction, but they are also a reminder of love, hope, and goodness that still exists in a broken world.
FF: How has your faith or world view impacted the way you tell stories?
Yes, I am a Christian, but I don’t have all the answers, I don’t have my act all together and I am far from perfect. My faith is not in my own abilities but in something so much bigger: what Christ has already accomplished on my behalf. Even though the characters in my stories are made up, I want them to feel like real people, so I write flawed heroes and heroines that don’t have all the answers too. I want the struggles they face to be relatable and realistic because there’s a lot of brokenness, tragedy, and hardship in the real world. Good stories are about how the characters grow and change through their circumstances. And most of all, I want readers to leave my stories with a sense of hope and a reminder of how they are loved by an Almighty God despite it all.
What authors or books have inspired you as an author?
One of the great things about working with Sunrise Publishing is the opportunity I’ve had to work with Susan May Warren. I’ve always loved her books because they show how a character is transformed through the story. It doesn’t matter the genre, she writes stories where both the character journey and the plot are equally engaging. To learn from her has been an amazing experience. And even though I don’t write historical romance, I love reading it. Jen Turano’s humor and Roseanna M. White’s characterizations are incredible! I want to write like these three when I grow up!
Crazy for You
Deep Haven Collection #3
Susan May Warren
& Michelle Sass Aleckson
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
She’s doesn’t want any trouble…
Former soldier Veronica “Ronnie” Morales isn’t going to let her kid brother, Tiago, get pulled into the gangs of Minneapolis, so, seeking safety and a fresh start, she heads to sleepy Deep Haven on the north shore of Minnesota. She’s hoping to put down roots as the paramedic for the new Crisis Response Team, but it’s not easy to be the outsider.
He can’t seem to escape it…
It’s also not easy being the guy related to everyone in town. Especially when you’re the holdout vote for a landmark project. Fire Chief Peter Dahlquist might be the loneliest guy in town when both sides of his massive family—the Hatfields and McCoys of Deep Haven—demand that he pick sides. The only one who seems to understand is the newcomer in town…his new, albeit street-tough paramedic.
Can trouble bring them together?
When Tiago finds himself caught up in small town shenanigans and the town blames Ronnie for tragedy, Peter is forced to pick sides. But this choice just might cost him the home—and the woman—he loves.