Café Cala welcomes Sandra Antonelli

Hi Sandra, welcome to Café Cala,

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It’s a pleasure to be here, Maggie. Thank you for having me.

It’s great to have you visit Café Cala. I’m looking forward to reading Driving in Neutral now that I’ve finally bought myself a kindle. I’ve been making some special macadamia cookies this morning. I guess you’d like coffee with yours?

Am I THAT obvious?

1. Where did you get the idea for Driving in Neutral?

I met my husband in an elevator. It was a very tame meeting, unlike the elevator introduction of Olivia and claustrophobic Maxwell in Driving in Neutral. I like to call this book a love story about claustrophobia, wet hamsters, bizarre wedding cakes, and love, the scariest thing of all. I enjoy looking at the messy, scary aspects of love, so in the book I took that a little farther by looking at the messy aspects of fear itself. Claustrophobia may be terrifying, but love can be pretty terrifying too because it exposes a whole slew of anxieties hidden anxieties or anxieties you never realised you had.

2. What have you found most rewarding about your writing?

I’m really excited by the fact that someone other than a friend or critique partner is reading my story.

3 How did you start writing?

Probably in Grade 7, when I won a writing contest for a story about a detective who rescues a stolen painting. I wrote in high school too. I was even an editor for the school literary magazine and school newspaper, but I only started writing novels about 10 years ago.

4. What would you say has helped you most?

I have a very supportive husband. He makes my writing possible. Plus he keeps me in coffee.

5. What are you working on at the moment?

I have a number of things on tap. Cleaning House is a James Bond-ish homage of sorts that is a blend of romantic comedy and romantic suspense. Take Me I’m Yours, another rom com, questions the notions of family, responsibility, and love. It’s the third book in my Los Alamos series (the first two are A Basic Renovation and For Your Eyes Only). The third book, Next to You, is actually completed, but I am in the process of polishing it before I send it to my Editor. It’s a little darker than most of what I write, but still funny. Essentially, it’s about making assumptions and how appearances are deceiving. This backlog of stories is what happens when you spend 3 years doing a PhD.

6. What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

Be persistent. Keep writing and reading—although, and I find this quite fascinating, one of my favourite writers, Elmore Leonard, said when he was writing he didn’t read fiction because he didn’t want to be influenced by someone else’s work. I understand that. My reading tends to drop off when I am writing.

7 Which authors do you enjoy reading?Elmore Leonard, Jo Goodman, Jenny Crusie, Amy Tan, Bill Bryson, Julie James, Rachel Gibson, Susan Elizabeth Philips, Ainslie Paton—she colours romance outside the lines and I like that—Sarah Paretsky, Nevada Barr… I could go on and on…

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Excerpt from Driving in Neutral

Dark chocolate cranberry almond crunch was the unusual flavor Olivia chose, but Emerson went with green apple. He liked the idea of ambling around the town square, window-shopping and eating ice cream cones, but the afternoon sun was too intense. The ice cream began melting faster than they could lick it. Milky trickles started to run over golden cones as soon as they exited Kenton’s ice cream shop.
They found a park bench beneath the shade of a maple tree and sat.
Olivia handed him a paper napkin. “Have you ever considered you might have anger management issues?” she said.
Emerson licked the join where the apple ice cream met the cone. “I think I manage my anger very well.”
“I can’t argue with that. You did a great job getting hostile back there in the jewelry store.”
“I wasn’t hostile.”
She clicked her tongue. “You practically used him as a stand in for Timmons. Do you miss your little whipping boy?”
“You know if you talked less and ate your ice cream faster, you wouldn’t have chocolate all over your knuckles.” He sneered, wrinkling his nose.
Olivia made a face back. “You’re like my brother. It’s taken him over fifty years to learn you don’t have to yell to get what you want.” She watched him bite the tail off his cone and suck ice cream through the end.
He smacked his lips and said, “Look at it this way. This is how I manage my anger. I get mad, speak my mind, and poof, it’s over. I’m relaxed and I’ve got what I want.”
“Of course, because you use dictatorial intimidation tactics.”
“This coming from the woman with the chocolate Hitler moustache. Good Lord, you’ve got ice cream all over your chin too.” He handed back the napkin she’d given him. “It must be good if you make that much of a mess.”
She wiped her mouth with the crumpled paper. “It’s very good. Want to try it?”
“Great, and when you’re back in Kenton’s can you get me another napkin?”
It took him a second of watching her lick a circle around her ice cream before he got it. “You mean I can’t try yours?”
“No. Go get your own.” She stuck out her tongue and turned the cone against it.
Emerson stared at her.
“What are you going to do, yell at me until I let you try mine? Holler until I submit?”
“Just for that, you have to go back into the jewelry store and face Mr. Twenty-first Century Hair Fantasy alone,” he said.
“Like I was going to let you come back in there with me.” She licked her ice cream again and then shook the cone at him. “There is no way that’s going to happen. You are going to sit here and wait.”
In one motion, Emerson grabbed her wrist and yanked her close, sliding her across the bench until she was just a few inches from his chest. “I may employ a bit of intimidation…” He drew her closer and watched her lips part, her eyes widen. The heel of her hand pressed into his breastbone to push him away. The conductive energy of her touch shocked through him, but before she shoved him away, his head dipped. His mouth closed over her ice cream. Cone and all stuck out of his mouth for a moment like a strange, misplaced Pinocchio nose and he swallowed the semi-frozen blob, pulled the empty, sugary cone from his mouth, and finished his words with his sinus cavity smarting from the rush of cold, “…but at least I’m not a control freak like you.”
Olivia’s insides had dissolved into a warm little pond.

Twitter: @sandrAntonelli
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