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Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday Spotlight: Claire Ashgrove

Seduction’s Stakes – Enter the Sport of Kings

Every one of us has a different inspiration for our stories, and a lot of people have asked me “How’d you come up with that idea?” A week of blogging provides the perfect opportunity!

Not only that, but sharing my inspiration is the only way I know how to invite you into my world. So with that in mind, I’d like to talk about Seduction’s Stakes, the first book I sold. I wrote it more or less on a dare. Until the first words touched the page, I had never planned to go anywhere near the field of contemporary romance.

The idea came from the desire to craft something related to horses, but completely unrelated to anything I worked with directly. At the time, I had this belief that a writer who only wrote about the things they knew intimately was cheating. (I’ve since modified this very wrong belief.) So I set out to write something I knew about but didn’t invest my personal time in.

I’d recently purchased a Thoroughbred stallion who I’d spent almost a full year waiting for his racing career to close so I could lug him home. I followed his career while I was waiting for him to come home. I had daily racing announcements coming into my in-box, regular conversations with his owner/trainer, updates on entries, scratches, and race results. I watched him run after-the-fact on archived video. (He was on the east coast, nowhere near my home.) All this following Hesa Angel’s life, and all those long conversations with his trainer, gave me the information needed to compose a detailed story.

As for Mister Spoilsport… he was indeed a tribute to a horse I loved beyond all reason. The horse’s name was Wilhelm Tell II, and he was a regal Hanoverian stallion. I’d lost him that summer to cancer, at the age of 28. He was the gentle old man who treated my toddler children with shocking patience. Willie impacted my life in so many ways that it became necessary to immortalize him in some fashion. So I gave him the success he had known in his youth. Riley’s love for Mister Spoilsport embodies my love for Willie.

Speaking of Riley – I’ve been asked on many occasions if he was someone I know. Sadly, no. I wish this were true! I’m not sure where, exactly, Riley Jennings came from. I know there’s a little bit of Angel’s trainer/owner in there, but strictly in the sense of Riley’s profession. The man himself… not a single clue. He hit the pages rolling and never stopped. I think I’m still secretly in love with Riley.

We’ll talk more about Riley’s Labrador Retriever tomorrow, and I’ll leave you with the short blurb for Seduction’s Stakes:

Never make a wager you can’t afford to lose...

A member of horse racing’s elite, Maddie McCleery’s got her eye on the Triple Crown and her heart set on her rival’s unraced colt. Owned by the one man she can’t conquer on the track, the same man who humiliated her in a youthful game of Truth or Dare, the colt promises sweet victory. When he refuses her purchase offer, and outruns her at the Kentucky Derby, Maddie sets out to seduce Riley into selling. In the process, she’s seduced, and agrees to a shocking bet. The odds aren’t in her favor, and she’s desperate for the win.

Riley Jennings wants Maddie almost more than the Triple Crown. In his bed, in his shower – wherever he can have her. For two years she’s eluded him and he’s refused her offer on his horse out of spite. Enraptured by her post-Derby game, he learns the lengths she’ll go to for his colt, and sees sure-fire victory. His proposed wager stacks the odds in his favor – if her horse wins the Preakness, he’ll accept her terms. If his horse comes in first, they’ll negotiate his way.

But will love claim final victory, or will unexpected tragedy stop them in the gates?



Leanna said...

William Tell II is a Hanoverian stallion.

Alicia Dean said...

Very interesting story about how you came up with the idea. Great book, too! I loved it. Enjoyed the interview...keep cranking out those amazing books!