New Girl in Town

by Philip K. Jason

LuANN McLANE"s LATEST NOVEL, Pitch Perfect, continues the celebration of a small Southern town that is at the heart of her ‘Cricket Creek’ series. This Kentucky community is a place where people are genuinely friendly, hospitable to strangers and unusually optimistic. The people who live there are very much aware of their good fortune, and the spirit of the place is an attraction to others. Though Cricket Creek, like countless American communities, had fallen on economic hard times, it has been finding its way back.

Cricket Creek is where Mia Monroe’s clunker car gives out one day, as she travels from Chicago to some unknown destination: this is a young woman in search of herself. Raised in luxury by a somewhat distant father who has made himself into a highly successful businessman, Mia has felt estranged from him, in part because he has never given her the face time that she needs, but particularly because she believes he has taken advantage of an old friend’s business difficulties.

In her mid-twenties, Mia is not really grown up. She has been handed a life that has sheltered her from reality and led her to take her material good fortune for granted. Because little has been expected of her, she has not had the opportunities to take chances and learn from her mistakes. She hasn’t really ever held down a job. She knows almost nothing about adult responsibilities.

The good thing is that she recognizes these shortcomings. Breaking away from her father is a blessing in disguise as it leads her to understand what independence means. It’s also a blessing in that it leads her to Cricket Creek. She needs to prove herself, and here people are willing to give her a chance.

With no resumé but her personal charm and openness, Mia is offered a job waitressing – one that comes with a place to stay. The man who runs the car repair business treats her with sympathy and respect. For a long while, Mia continues to believe that Cricket Creek is a place she is just passing through, but that perspective slowly changes.

This is a romance novel so right from the beginning Mia runs into a dazzling hunk named Cameron, a struggling less-than-minor-league baseball player whose dirt-poor beginnings lead him to mistrust and shun the wealthy. Cam has been offered his last chance to get back to the minors and then perhaps to the majors if he can keep out of trouble. His “wild ways” have been a problem so far. The Cricket Creek Cougars are his last hope.

In trying to make it on her own, Mia has hidden her true family name. Given Cam’s prejudices against the rich, hiding her background becomes even more important as their guarded romance heats up. Suspense builds as readers hope for a sturdy relationship taking hold before the truth comes out and blows everything to pieces.

And the truth is likely to come out, because Mitch Monroe has been having his daughter shadowed from the beginning – giving her the space she needs to test herself while making sure she is safe. Moreover, Mitch is one of the owners of the team and the stadium, integral parts of a plan to restore the town’s economy. Mia knows nothing of this and wins a job doing marketing for the team on her own.

In Pitch Perfect, LuAnn McLane reveals a deft hand as she transforms what could be merely froth and fluff into a substantial exploration of how self respect is lost and gained and how relationships grow. Both of her young lead players are blessed with extraordinary good looks, but also plausible self-doubts. Both need to grow up. Both must learn to value what’s below the surface and bring out of themselves whatever strengths of character are on the inside.

Surrounding Mia and Cam with a cast of well-sketched supporting characters, Ms. McLane packs secrets, sex, and sparks of gentle humor in an inviting picnic basket of Southern charm.

More about LuAnn McLane

LuAnn moved to Fort Myers this past January for the

fishing (her husband is a bass and saltwater angler) and the weather. She has already fallen in love with the area, enjoying particularly the riverfront delights. Pitch Perfect, which just appeared, is the third title in the “Cricket Creek” series, for which she recently contracted with Signet Eclipse to write three more. These and other titles are easy to find on her website: www.luannmclane.com.

I asked LuAnn how she happened to work with Wynonna Judd on Judd’s novel Restless Heart. “I was chosen to work with Wynonna Judd for several reasons. First, she and I share the same publisher so it made working together easier to schedule for both of us. I have also written several stories with country music as the background, namely ‘He’s No Prince Charming’. It also helped to be a huge fan of Wynonna’s. When my publisher offered to send her music for me to listen to there was no reason because I already had many of her CDs. I really enjoyed working with her and getting an inside look at the world of country music. My publisher sent me to Nashville and Wynonna’s manager took me to music row where I learned so much more than I ever knew about how a record is produced.”

Here are some of LuAnn’s thoughts on her writing habits:

“I am what we call a ‘pantser’ – in that I write by the seat of my pants. The only things I need to know when I start a book are the characters, the setting and the main premise. I let the characters tell the story to me as I write. This process gives the story a more organic tone and keeps me on my toes since I don’t always know what will happen next. Of course this gets me into trouble too! But it’s fun when a character walks into a scene that I never even knew existed and becomes part of the story.“

“I revise and edit as I go so that when I am finished with the novel it is pretty clean and ready to send off. My editor then reads it and requests any revisions she thinks the story needs. I usually grumble over this part, but the end result is always a better book.”

“I really enjoy getting to have past characters show up in several books, but keeping everything straight, including the timeline, can be challenging. I’m already brainstorming another series, but I would also embrace continuing with more Cricket Creek books. I also have something a little bit different in the works – fingers crossed that I get to do it! I would also like to write some Young Adult novels, hopefully middle-grade, where I think we lose young readers.”

“Without a doubt, writing a synopsis is what I dislike most. How am I supposed to know where the story is going before I write it? This is when it comes in handy to be a writer who outlines. Unfortunately, I must write them to give my publisher an idea of where the next story is going so that they can create a cover and back cover copy. All of this is done way before the book is written. I try to stay true to the synopsis, but it is difficult when the characters won’t behave. Deadlines are also tough – especially when life gets in the way, like my move to Florida!”

“Because of my style, dialogue is what I enjoy writing the most. My muse loves the water, so my move to Florida, where I have a lake behind my house, has really helped my creativity.” •

from the September-October 2012 issue

"The only things I need to
know when I start a book are
the characters, the setting
and the main premise.
I let the characters tell the
story to me as I write.