Today my guest is H. A. O’Connor.
H. A. O’Connor lives with her husband and three children in semi-rural Pennsylvania, along with three dogs, one cat, a guinea pig and four chickens. Â She’s been writing since childhood, having gained degrees in literature and education along the way, and is honored to share her stories with you. Â My Watcher’s EyesÂ is her first novel.
Today is also H. A.’s birthday so leave her a birthday wish in the comments.
Here are her answers to my interview question.
Top five favorite movies or books:
As much as I love movies, Iâ€™ll have to go with books: anything by Jane Austen, but especially Pride and Prejudice, Margaret Atwoodâ€™s The Handmaidâ€™s Tale, Barbara Kingsolverâ€™s The Poisonwood Bible, Ray Bradburyâ€™s Dandelion Wine, and Harper Leeâ€™s To Kill A Mockingbird. I could go on â€¦ I almost always fall in love with whatever Iâ€™m currently reading.
In 5 words, please describe your “Romance Writing Style.”
Sensual, vivid, funny, natural, relatable
What is your “girlie girl” thing? I.e. getting your hair done? Nails? Shopping? Gossiping? Chick flicks?
I canâ€™t say Iâ€™m much of a â€œgirlie girl,â€ but I do love to paint my nails. Iâ€™m usually limited to toenails, because my hands are too busy for nail polish, but thatâ€™s one bit of girlie-ness I like to indulge. My pedicures are do-it-yourselfers, though, and I even cut my own hair (which, unfortunately, tends to show). My favorite â€œgirlieâ€ thing to do is get together with friends, so we can catch up andâ€”the best partâ€”share lots of laughter.
This or That:
~ Wine or Beer? Wine (usually)
~ Sex in the City or Caroline in the City? Caroline (mostly because she was an artist)
~ Perfume or Jewelry? Jewelry (especially handmade or vintage)
~ Painted nails or Au Natural? Painted toes (fingers, too, if itâ€™s a special occasion)
~ Tall or Dark or Handsome? Handsome (but personality really does count most!)
~ Romantic Dinner at Home or Out? Out (so I donâ€™t have to wash the dishes!)
~ Roses or Lilies? Roses (I could inhale the scent of tea roses all day)
~ Diamond or Emeralds? Diamonds (but I love the color of emeralds)
~ Pirates or Ninjas? Pirates (even though Iâ€™m afraid of the ocean!)
Do your leading men come from any place in particular? Dreams? Movie stars? Your partner? Past partners?
I would say they most often come from my dreams and general imagination. A scene from a movie or the words from a song might trigger a thought and then the characters and plot begin to grow from there. My stories are definitely fictional, but my husbandâ€™s traits sometimes show up in my leading men.
If your sweetheart wanted to sweep you off your feet, what would they need to do??
Oh, maybe he could take me somewhere beautiful and natural, like an island or secluded spot in the wilderness. It canâ€™t be somewhere cold, though, unless thereâ€™s a roaring fire going at all times. Warm and quiet is the way to go with me. Iâ€™d love to have the chance to spend time together, away from all the pressures of daily life. Does that sound like escapism? Probably, but Iâ€™m okay with that.
Do you ever daydream about people you see at the park? Airport? Train station? Mall? And build romance scenes around them while you daydream?
Not so much specific people, as interactions between people. A lot of times, though, I find myself being inspired by other forms of artâ€”like a song, movie, or paintingâ€”or even by a philosophical question. Certain places will also catch my attention and Iâ€™ll find myself thinking about a scene that might play out there. Like most people, my moments of inspiration show up according to their own timing, usually when Iâ€™m nowhere near a pen and paper.
What do you do in your down time?
Hmm, down time. Thatâ€™s a rare and beautiful thing, but when it finds me, I usually choose to spend it outdoors somewhere, hiking with my family or just sitting in a quiet spot. If Iâ€™m alone, Iâ€™ll read or write, maybe even paint or take photographs. My life gets pretty chaotic at times, so the best way for me to use down time is to help feed some state of inner peace.
When you go to Starbucks or Jamba Juice, what do you order?
Iâ€™d love to be a real grown up and have my daily cup of coffee, but caffeine makes my heart, brain, and mouth race. Believe me, itâ€™s better for everyone if I abstain. Instead, my drink of choice is hot chocolate. That makes me sound like such a child, but Iâ€™ve decided to embrace this and make it one of my lifeâ€™s goals to become a hot cocoa connoisseur.
When you walk into a book store, where do you head first?
It depends on my mood, but Iâ€™d say wherever literature and romance intersect. I have a B. A. in Literature, so loving that comes with the territory, but how can you not enjoy a good romance? Still, Iâ€™m a sucker for great characters and rich description, no matter what the genre. Being in a library or bookstore is practically a religious experience to meâ€”so many lives to discover and explore!
If we sneaked a peek in your purse right now, what would we find?
Too much clutter. Pens and more mini-notebooks than necessaryâ€”for writing down scenes or story ideas, some random first-aid items for my kids, brush, wallet, lipgloss, a few coupons and receipts, keys, gum, cell phone thatâ€™s partially eaten (thanks to my youngest dog), tissues, hand gel, Vitamin C tablets for guinea pigs (forgot to take those out), and ibuprofen. No wonder itâ€™s so heavy.
In 4 words, describe yourself.
Observant, stubborn, intuitive, evolving
Top ten snacks while writing:
Dark chocolate, dark chocolate, dark chocolateâ€¦. There are worse addictions. Still, itâ€™s a little sad that Iâ€™ve occasionally resorted to bribing myself with it. Write a scene, get a treat!
Quiet and creative, Tess Young has been gifted with an eidetic memory, which allows her to recall images with astounding accuracy. Her mind also offers up visions she can’t decipher, such as the luminous blue eyes that haunt her dreams. Tess secretly refers to these as her watcher’s eyes and believes she’s the only one who knows about her watcher … if he even exists.
Although Tess stands at the dawn of her college career, her path detours once she discovers her watcher is real and recognizes how deeply she is drawn to him. When her best friend, Anna, insists he is a threat, Tess denies this until she no longer can: after receiving white roses with ominous, unsigned notes, and nearly being run down on the street by her watcher, Tess’s faith in her instincts crumbles.
Yet, when Tess and her loved ones are threatened, her watcher may be the only one who can save them. Can Tess put her faith in this man, whose secrets throw shadows over her life and leave her questioning all her beliefs?
Moments after sheâ€™s passed through my mind, my best friend spills from the darkness to my right. The scarlet light finds her chocolate-brown eyes and gleams warmly against them; it casts ruby-tinted highlights on her black, satiny hair and frustratingly-perfect cheekbones. My eyes skim over her plum-colored dress, which flatters her figure like it was custom cut; then, they fall back to my own, plain black one. It manages to hide what few curves I have.
A little sigh escapes me. Whenever Annaâ€™s next to me, I might as well be invisible; itâ€™s the way things are and Iâ€™m okay with it. Well. Iâ€™m used to it.
Anna just has time to hug me and exclaim, â€œHappy 19th, Tess!â€ before weâ€™re half tackled by another friend, Janie, whose teal-tinted hair has been altered to a strange shade of violet under the clubâ€™s red lights. Neither color is sufficiently alarming to compete with Janieâ€™s personality, I decide. Sheâ€™s got the dainty looks of a pixie and the demeanor of a fire station alarm.
â€œTess!â€ she shrieks into my ear, before squeezing both my shoulders and shaking me back and forth a few times. â€œYouâ€™re 19 now! We should be dancing!â€
My response is to break into a string of rough coughs; Annaâ€™s is to give me a deep frown and Janie a little shove backward. â€œYouâ€™re still sick,â€ Anna mutters and starts digging around in her purse. â€œI thought you were getting better.â€
I shrug, but thank her when she produces a couple of cough drops and presses them into my hand. Our other friends, Maria and Celia, arrive in the meantime and receive full-contact greetings of their own. By the time Janieâ€™s through with them, Maria is frowning and tossing her dark hair in anger and Celia is nervously twirling a periwinkle-tinged curl around and around and around her finger. Each gives me a birthday hug and, moments later, weâ€™re all dragged onto the dance floor in a Janie-led mob.
Iâ€™m fine for a while, thanks to Annaâ€™s cough drops and some ibuprofen I took earlier, but deep down, I know it canâ€™t last. Iâ€™m dancing on borrowed time.
My illness revives with a vengeance and my medications toss up white flags of surrender. My chest suddenly feels constricted and raw; my temples throb in time with the beats shuddering through the room. Bowing out of the action, I grab a soda and a seat, hoping the sugar will bolster my immune system, not to mention my wilting strength.
Janie spots me moments later. If I wasnâ€™t sure before, itâ€™s now glaringly obvious my eveningâ€™s a doomed one.
Making a phony, deep pout, Janie insists, â€œYou canâ€™t sit down! Itâ€™s your birthday and a guy over there–Jason–wants to dance with you!â€
With wide eyes, I follow the direction of her outstretched, perfectly-manicured finger. Two guys stand still among the movement; both are turned in our direction. The taller of the two, a blond, is keeping Janie in his sights, but his auburn-haired friend seems to be watching me.
I quickly scan the face of this second one and, returning to his intense, brown-eyed stare, feel my mouth slip into a frown. â€œNo thanks. Iâ€™m sick.â€
â€œCome on,â€ she shouts, grabbing my arm and pulling me from my seat, â€œtheyâ€™re playing your favorite song!â€
Sheâ€™s wrong: itâ€™s her favorite song, but I couldnâ€™t care less: an acute wave of nausea is on the rise, making me stop, mid step, and cover my mouth with both hands. Janie, feeling me hesitate, smiles back blindly and yanks harder.
Realizing itâ€™s easier to submit than struggle against this petite, aqua-haired maniac, I pull myself together and trail along. At some point, I realize weâ€™ve veered off our path. Panic sets in and I search for a familiar face among the crowd, while earth-quaking chills overtake my body.
This is when things take yet another turn for the worse. Janie tows me between a pair of dancing figures when the beat picks up and the guy next to me–clearly a football player in Goth disguise–sends a flailing elbow full force into my chest.
If I wore false teeth, they would have gone flying. As it is, every available ounce of air evacuates my lungs at the speed of light, leaving me gasping, clutching at my chest in agony.
â€œWatch it, you big dope!â€ Anna screams out, suddenly beside me. Her face turns to mine with a look nearly equaling my pain. â€œAre you ok?â€
Janie gives us both an annoyed frown and trots away, back on the trail of her tall blond or, possibly, someone new. Anna glares icily at her back and addresses me again.
â€œYou look awful. I should take you ho–,â€ she begins to announce, but I interrupt her.
The first scorching cough bursts from me as soon as I begin funneling oxygen back into my lungs. Seizing again at my chest, Iâ€™m shocked by the intense pain which must have lain in wait all night, released by my unexpected injury.
Though I try to suppress the next cough, it and several others follow. I can only cover my mouth while my body reels under their violence.
Someone grabs my arm and, slowly, I look up to discover myself operating in disjointed motion, like Iâ€™m trapped inside an old movie being melted by the projector playing it. My hand seems wet when I lift it away from my mouth. Dazed, I raise my palm and notice something dark speckling my skin, something gleaming in the roomâ€™s low light.
A new onslaught of coughing seizes me and I cup both hands to my mouth this time, fire searing once more through my lungs. Iâ€™m not surprised to feel a cold sweat break out over me.
More of the dark substance is visible now and when I again peer at my palms, it finally registers: blood. Iâ€™m coughing up blood.
A rush of heat floods my cheeks and for a moment, the fog lifts. I hear the music again and feel a violent chattering in my teeth, along with a sharp pain in my arm where Annaâ€™s hands are tightly clamped. She might be whatâ€™s keeping me from collapsing. Loud words are being spoken nearby; I glimpse a mix of faces, among them the Jason who was pointed out by Janie. Heâ€™s standing close, his features animated by concern or anticipation, I canâ€™t tell which. This, I disregard, along with everything else.
Thereâ€™s something far more important seeking my attention–a pulling sensation, drawing at my head. My scalp prickles while my eyes climb upward by degrees and, finally, I see him.
Him. Alone, despite the mass of movement and forms in the room. Everything else falls away the instant our eyes meet. His are positively luminous: a vibrant blue, though I notice an unnatural crimson hue wash through them as I stare, some strange effect of the red neon. Still, these are the eyes, the ones I know.
The core of my being gives a violent lurch in response. Itâ€™s like Iâ€™m peering into a void Iâ€™ve always carried inside me, a void filled with anguish and loss. A void I pretend isnâ€™t there. Yet, Iâ€™m also looking across the void–to the other side, to those liquid blue eyes, staring directly into my own.
A minor annoyance picks at a sliver of my attention: thereâ€™s some kind of wetness on my lower lip. My hand automatically lifts to wipe it away and, when he catches the movement, pain swells in his eyes and my hand drops limply to my side. I realize my legs are shaking. Annaâ€™s grasp is faltering.
I sink ever so slowly, though all that is occurring, this full sequence of events, must pass in milliseconds. As I slip down, he rises from his seat at the bar. His eyes flare scarlet with the roomâ€™s red glow and the inferno within my chest blazes, sending darkness, like soot-filled smoke, billowing up to block my vision. My head drops against my will and reality bursts in around me. People are grabbing me, pulling me up. Iâ€™m trying to make my legs work again.
â€œI have to get her out of here; I need help,â€ I hear Anna call out in frantic tones. â€œI need help!â€
A deep, male voice surfaces somewhere, everywhere around me and it sounds like the voice of salvation. I recognize this voice, though I canâ€™t place it. I give myself up to it anyway, certain everything will be okay now.
The blackness clouding my sight persists and deepens; I no longer know if my eyes are open or closed. My ears, filling with a rushing sound, offer little help. Even my skin feels anesthetized, yet I sense Iâ€™m moving–forward or backward, I donâ€™t know which. Iâ€™m just sure Iâ€™m safe.
â€œTake her to the hospital. Now,â€ I hear the familiar male voice say close by my ear, pushing through the static in my head. Though I scowl at his command, I canâ€™t help acknowledging heâ€™s right.
â€œAnd keep. That blue-haired girl. Away from her.â€ The voice growls again. If I could find my mouth, I would smile. I might even laugh.
Then, all of a sudden, my mouth is there again; it resurfaces when something cool brushes lightly across my lower lip. In that moment, my mouth becomes the only thing I can feel.
Nothing else in the world comes close to mattering.
You can buy My Watcher’s Eyes at the following places:
And if you want to know more about H. A., you can find her here: Facebook