The Blueberry Swirl Waltz
Series Title: One Scoop or Two (Series from the Wild Rose Press)
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.
In addition to writing fiction, Maria is on the Friends of Thomas Edison State University Foundation Committee and is still involved with Dress for Success Central Jersey, having been a founding Board member. She also serves on the finance committee for The Present Day Club. She has received the distinguished Family of Edison Award for her work with The Thomas Edison State University Foundation, the Iron Mike Professional Achievement Award from Trenton Catholic Academy and was inducted into the Italian American National Hall of Fame.
Connect with her:
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.
Hello Maria! Welcome to the Spotlight!
Let's start with, how did you choose your genre as a writer?
I write contemporary romance because as they say, write what you know. Many of my books have lawyer characters or a lawsuit involved. Having been a divorce lawyer for over 30 years, I know lawyers’ personalities and I can talk to anyone at my firm to find out about other areas of the law if I need it for my story. In “Unchained Memories,” my heroine is a medical malpractice attorney and in “Dancing in the Sand” my heroine is an environmental attorney. In “Sworn to Remember,” the heroine is a divorce lawyer and she’s also going through a divorce.
I bet you've seen things that could fill hundreds of books! What was the hardest, most unusual or interesting part of the story to research?
Since the setting of this story is based on my grandmother’s ice cream and confectionery shop from the 50s, I interviewed my mother about the shop and asked her as well as some of my cousins for pictures they had of the store back then. I wrote a blog containing this interview and some photos which are on my website. I also interviewed my mother a second time about her ballroom dance teacher experience, which is also on my website. http://www.mariaimbalzano.com/category/blog/
In “A Song for Another Day” I wanted the hero and heroine to write a song together, so I had to write the song myself. I have never written a song before. The way I did it was to take a song I love, so I had a melody in my head, and match lyrics to it that would be significant and meaningful to the characters.
That's cool you had so much to draw from. What genre have you never written but would like to try?
A historical romance in the 1800s. The problem is, I know nothing about that period and would have to do a lot of research. This book, “The Blueberry Swirl Waltz” is considered a historical romance because it takes place more than 50 years ago But I was born in the mid-50’s, so I don’t personally consider it a historical.
I've thought about historical too. The research to do it right seems daunting though! Do you have any new projects coming up?
I had never written a novella until this book. I liked the speed with which it could be written and edited (it only took me six months instead of more than a year). As a result, I have just finished a second novella which will be part of The Deerbourne Inn Series published by the Wild Rose Press. It was fun to learn about the town and its residents from the Series Bible as well as other books written for the series. There is a map of the town and a description of some of the residents that must be used in creating a book for this series. My manuscript is called “A Song for Another Day” and the hero is from the fictitious town of Willow Springs where The Deerbourne Inn is located. He is a shuttle driver for the Inn and sings and plays the guitar on weekends at one of the local bars. I developed his backstory so that he is also a songwriter, has sold two songs to a country band, and has written dozens of others. His dream is to obtain a recording contract
When you were first published how did you celebrate?
My first book, “Unchained Memories” was released in 2013. My husband invited our daughters, my one daughter’s husband, and my mother out to dinner. While I thought it was a wonderful celebration, my husband surprised me with a gift while we were having our pre-dinner wine. It was a diamond ring with five round diamonds on the band. So beautiful and so meaningful. I call it my book ring. The first of my books to get a publishing contract was the fifth book I had written.
That is so wonderful! How special and what an amazing way to mark the occasion! What inspired the title of your book?
Since this book is part of the ice cream series (One Scoop or Two) put out by The Wild Rose Press, one of the rules was that our title had to have an ice cream flavor in it. Since there weren’t as many flavors of ice cream in 1951 as there are now, I chose blueberry because blueberries are grown in NJ. I wanted it to have a fancier name than blueberry so I added swirl because it’s also a play on a dance move. Since the heroine is a ballroom dance teacher, I wanted a dance to be in the title, but it had to be a romantic dance. Not the jitterbug or cha cha. So, waltz it was.
Great connection. How do you choose the names and physical characteristics of your characters? Do you base them on real people?
Names are easy. I choose names I like. If I get stuck, I go through a baby name book. Characteristics are much harder. I do base some of my characters on people I know, but many of my characters are a conglomeration of people. It’s much easier to have a character stay in character if he/she is based on someone you know. The villain in “Unchained Memories” is a medical malpractice lawyer and is based on lawyers I know who would walk the ethics line. I wrote two books (“Sworn to Forget” and “Sworn to Remember”) of a four-book series (The Sworn Sisters Series) which series is based on my high school girlfriends (who I am still friendly with). All four women are in each other’s book, but each book is a stand-alone book about one of the women (the characters are in their early 30s and have issues). Although loosely based on my high school friends, the stories are not their stories.
Have you written any other books that are not published?
I have three manuscripts sitting in a drawer that have never been published. I call them my learning curve. When I wrote them, I didn’t know enough about writing to make them publish-worthy. The first two books will probably never see the light of day, but I have aspirations to pull out the third book, edit it to death, and send it to my publisher for consideration.
Finally What's been the highlight of your career to this point? What would you most like to say to your readers?
My first book, “Unchained Memories,” takes place in Princeton. I live in the next town over and the editor of a local magazine, Real Woman, reached out and asked if I would like to be interviewed for an article. I was not only interviewed, they did a photo shoot. They sent a make-up artist to my house before I met the photographer on the grounds of Princeton University. Then, for the next two hours, I felt like a model, changing coats, locations, and looks. Only one photo was chosen for the magazine (but it’s takes up the whole page). The article was called “Stranger Than Fiction” by Jill Waldbieser. Here is the link (minus the photo) http://realwomanonline.com/stranger-fiction.
Escaping into a novel is the thing I like to do best. Whether its writing my own story and creating characters and their journeys or reading someone else’s words, I am the most happy when lost in a book.
I love to hear from my readers, so feel free to contact me through my website or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Book
The Blueberry Swirl Waltz
Release Date: June 1, 2020
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Cover Artist: Debbie Taylor
Genre/Sub-Genre: Historical (1951)/Sweet Romance
“I’m going to teach you how to jitterbug.”
“What better time? You only have a few weeks until the dance.” Katie backed her way to the radio, making sure he didn’t dart out the front door. The radio was already tuned to a good dance station, which she listened to while working, sometimes doing a few dance steps behind the counter.
“Come on.” She held her arms in position, waiting for him to take her hands in his. “Okay. Follow me.” She did the steps in slow motion. “Step with your right foot, then your left, then back with your right foot, step left, step right.” She guided him through the steps several times, talking him through until he only stepped on her toes a few times.
“I’m really sorry. You’re going to have black-and-blue feet by the time we’re done. Are you sure you want to do this?”
“Absolutely.” Even if she wasn’t getting paid to teach, this was so much better. Chaz was holding her hands, their bodies were close, and every nerve ending in her body sizzled.
“My hands are sweating.” He wiped them against his slacks.
“Don’t worry.” She would take Chaz’s perspiring hands any day if it meant he was holding her close.
She ran through the steps with him over and over, each time picking up the pace. “Don’t overthink it. Feel the rhythm.” After a while she was able to synchronize with the music on the radio, and they were doing the first simple steps of the jitterbug. Together.
“This is fun,” he admitted, before stepping on her foot again. “Sorry.”
She laughed. “I’m glad you like it. Let’s try a turn now.”
She showed him the underarm turn and the inside turn, which they practiced during the next few songs. Katie could have gone on for hours, but Chaz had hit his limit.
He pulled her over to the stools, and they sat. “I need a break. Please, teacher, please.” But he never released her hand.
His smile dimmed and his eyes grew serious. She could barely breathe.
He lowered his head, and his lips were inches from her mouth. She gazed into the depths of his aqua eyes and spun into his cocoon. His lips brushed against hers, fleeting, delicious. She wanted more. Needed more.
She reached for his forearms to steady herself, fearful that his dizzying kiss would topple her. They stood as one, and his fluttery kisses turned harder, passionate. She was right there with him, seeking his warmth, his strength, as his hands slid over her back, sending dreamy sensations to every synapse in her body. She swayed against him, her mouth opening to his insistent tongue. Glorious.
Lost in the haze of Chaz, her palms running over muscled shoulders hidden beneath his white dress shirt, she fantasized about staying in his embrace forever. The floating sensation tumbled her stomach and maybe even a little piece of her heart.
All too soon, Chaz broke their connection and whispered, “That was nice.”
More than nice. Incredible. Spectacular. Fireworks worthy. But all she could do was nod.
She was brought down to earth when Chaz gave her hand a squeeze as he was introduced to speak to the assembled crowd. Odd flurries assaulted her stomach at the contact. Moving toward the podium on a small stage at the far end of the park, he exuded leadership and style. His brown tweed sports jacket lay expertly over sculpted shoulders and a slim torso. Brown gabardine slacks, with precise knife pleats down the front, made him look even taller than he was. Leather shoes were polished to a radiant shine. He could have been in a Sears catalogue. Or maybe something more upscale.
His rich baritone echoed over the crowd, and he stepped a few inches away from the microphone to eliminate the echo. She hung on every word, so proud of his confidence as well as his message to the boys who would now go out into the world, or more likely than not, stay in Roebling to get a job. Yet his lesson for them was to deal honestly with their bosses and peers, commit to their role, no matter how low on the pay scale they might start out, have a positive attitude, and strive to attain a higher position through hard work, loyalty, and confidence.
The crowd cheered when he ended, and the principal, vice-principal, and athletic director all shook his hand and clapped him on the back. When he returned to stand next to Katie, he beamed.
“What did you think?”
“I thought it was amazing. Short and to the point. I can’t believe you weren’t even a little nervous.”
“I was. But having you here helped keep my nerves under control.” He placed his hands on her shoulders and locked into her eyes before focusing on her lips. Her entire being swirled under his gaze.
“Hey, Mr. Hollander. Can I get a photo of you for the Roebling Gazette?”
Chaz turned toward the reporter and gave him a nod, but Katie didn’t miss the disappointed sigh that escaped.
Before the man raised his camera, Chaz pulled Katie next to him, put his arm around her waist, and told her to smile. Stunned that he included her, she had no problem with smiling. She probably wouldn’t be able to get rid of it for the rest of the night.
Chaz gave the reporter Katie’s name for the caption.
“What’s your relationship?” asked the man, his pen poised over a notepad.
His response knocked the smile right off her face. Sure, they were friends. But she’d been hoping they were a little more. He could have said they were dating. Although, were they? This was the first night they had been anywhere other than the ice cream shop.
They stood side by side through the next half hour as awards were handed out to the players on different teams. Speeches were made, photos were taken, and applause was given. But through it all, Katie barely paid attention.
Her joy, from getting ready for tonight, seeing Chaz at her door to pick her up, asking her what she thought about his speech, gazing at her with purposeful intent, and pulling her next to him for a photo, had all dissipated with his one statement.
They were friends.
Let’s finish with everyone’s favorite… Speed Dating!
Favorite movie: Pretty Woman
Best place you’ve visited: Amalfi Coast, Italy
Place you’d like to visit: Croatia
Favorite food: Pizza
If a movie was made about your life, who would you want to play you? Jennifer Garner
What song best sums you up? Start Me Up by the Rolling Stones
Oxford comma, yes or no? I have no idea what that is. My editor would cringe.
Pen or pencil? Pen (even on crossword puzzles)
Favorite music? Country
Coffee or tea? Coffee in the morning, Tea in the afternoon
What does your desk look like? I always have piles. I can’t seem to get rid of them.
What is your writing vice or must-haves? M&Ms to keep me going
Plotter or pantser? Plotter to the n’th degree
Mac or PC? PC
Favorite dessert? German Chocolate Cake with Carmel Pecan Icing
What is your favorite thing to learn about in your free time? Current events. I love reading the newspaper, The New York Times in particular.
You have a time travel machine. Where and when? The Gilded Age in NYC as long as I could be wealthy. And wear beautiful gowns.
Are you earth, wind, fire or water? I had no idea, so I took a quiz on the internet and it says Earth. Who would have thought?