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Behind the Scenes: A conversation with Romance Author Charlotte Stein on When Grumpy Met Sunshine and Upcoming Releases

Updated: May 24

Do you have a favourite author? An author who is your one click every time? The one whose books you wait for with breathless anticipation and unholy glee? Yeah? Well, that person for me, is Charlotte Stein...


I was absolutely thrilled when Charlotte agreed to an author interview, to celebrate her new(ish) release, When Grumpy Met Sunshine. The trope is in the title, and Alfie and Mabel’s story is glorious! What's the book about? Let me share the blurb with you...

Cartoon scene of a grumpy cloud in a blue sky with rain coming from the  cloud, and a smiling sun. There is a  a green field below with the words in dark blue cursive "Author Chat with Charlotte Stein" and the words in white, When Grumpy met Sunshine

"When grumpy ex-footballer Alfie Harding gets badgered into selling his memoirs, he knows he's never going to be able to write them. He hates revealing a single thing about himself, is allergic to most emotions, and can't imagine doing a good job of putting pen to paper.


And so in walks curvy, cheery, cute as heck ghostwriter Mabel Willicker, who knows just how to sunshine and sass her way into getting every little detail out of Alfie. They banter and bicker their way to writing his life story, both of them sure they'll never be anything other than at odds.

Book cover When Grumpy Met Sunshine. The cover has a lilac blue background. the cartoon cover is of a man and a woman sitting back to back on a white couch. The man has a dark blue shirt and black pants. He looks a lot like Roy Kent. He is holding a phone and there is a football at his feet. The woman is curvy and is wearing a pale pink dress with love hearts and has a laptop on her lap. There is a floating bookshelf on the wall behind and a plant in a corner.

But after their business arrangement is mistaken for a budding romance, the pair have to pretend to be an item for a public who's ravenous for more of this Cinderella story. Or at least, it feels like it's pretend--until each slow burn step in their fake relationship sparks a heat neither can control. Now they just have to decide: is this sizzling chemistry just for show? Or something so real it might just give them their fairytale ending?"


I first found Charlotte MANY years ago when I was in a horrid reading slump. An author friend suggested one of her books to me, and I was absolutely hooked from the get go. You want spicy? Charlotte will give you spicy (check out her story, The Professor... fans self ).


But what she also gives you is something unique. A “voice” that's unlike any other author I’ve read. Someone could read me a passage from a Charlotte Stein book and I’d instantly know it was hers.


She even breathed a sigh of relief. Then realised 3 things in rapid succession: 1) she was now somehow at least a mile from her home; 2) said mile was very dark and quiet and ran through a park people referred to as, ‘that place where everybody gets murdered’; and, finally and the most damningly, 3) he was still hot on her tail.

Charlotte’s books are dialogue heavy and her characters get themselves into some of the most delicious tangles imaginable, mainly surrounding their emotions and their refusal to accept what is RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEIR FACE, because they believe they aren’t deserving. But, oh. When they finally fall they're all in, in all their ridiculous glory.


Charlotte doesn’t really describe setting. Sometimes all you get are the barest of details but they’re all the vital ones. She treats you like an adult, and lets your own imagination take over. Yet she manages to give you such a solid sense of place it’s like she took your hand, said, “Come with me”, and planted you in a chair whilst you simply watched her characters do what they do best. Live in abject denial.


Oh god, she'd never seen a man loathe sitting in a coffee shop more than he quite clearly did. He looked like he was being attacked by absolutely everything in the place. Starting with the small water bottle he had obviously been forced to order, because you couldn't be in here without something.

Sometimes it’s disorienting, like, “Where am I again?” But not in a bad way. More like being on a big night out full of fun and laughter and angst and wondering how you got there, all the while having an absolute blast along the way.


Cover of the book, The Professor. There is a black and white photo of a man in a white shirt with black tie. The man is undoing his shirt from the bottom up, and you can glimpse his washboard abs.

Her characters are complicated and complex. Many have traumatic back stories but they’re never caricatures. In many ways her characters a hyper real. Gritty, dynamic and even when the books are at their most erotic (I would use the word “dirty” but I find it a pejorative term when there is 100% nothing wrong with physical intimacy; Charlotte has used the word “lewd” in the past, and that's pretty apt too) can also be intensely, achingly sweet. Such a glorious paradox.


Charlotte hadn’t had a book out for five, looooong years (long for her readers, let me tell you). When I heard she had new books in the works, then a title, then a release date, I one clicked so fast I think I broke the sound barrier with my finger. I read When Grumpy Met Sunshine on my Kindle in a few days (darned work got in the way) then promptly bought the paperback (the book is magnificent in paperback, the way the pages are formatted. I can't explain. If you want to read it I highly recommend the paperback copy if you can) and read it a second time.


Yes, it’s that good. One for the keeper shelf.


Alfie shook his head and blew out a breath. ‘You’re sadistic, you are. Like a really evil Mary Poppins.’

 

I want to scream Charlotte's name from the rooftops, so she can get the accolades she deserves. Because aside from being an awesome author she’s a great person. So, follow along as she answers my random questions…


So many authors talk about the realisation hitting them when they were a child, that being an author is what they wanted to do. Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? What or who was your inspiration?

Oh gosh yes, very much so. I was writing from an early age – so early that I had forgotten when, until my Mum dug up a tiny story I had written when I was about seven I think? I wouldn’t even say I was inspired to do it. It was more like it was just in me to! Though later, many things did inspire me. The first ones I really remember were LJ Smith and Tamora Pierce, and then later on Christopher Pike. And for romance – Emma Holly!


Your book made me cry. That’s an automatic five stars. I simply adore Alfie and Mabel and am so thrilled to have another Charlotte Stein book in my hot little hands. This is your first book in five years. What caused the delay?

That’s so lovely to hear! And the delay was basically just thinking there was nothing more for me out there. I’d always wanted to have little print deals, get my books into stores, that sort of thing. But no matter what I did it didn’t seem in the cards for me. And when I had a pretty good hit of a book, and the series was still cut short despite being a digital deal…things felt pretty futile. So I basically second guessed myself and wrote lots of half things and then set them aside for half a decade. Nothing ever seemed right or enough!


‘It would be terrible to crush something as sweet as you. Like trampling a gentle talking mouse from a story about them triumphing over adversity,’ he said.

A lot of authors talk about the voices in the head telling them the stories. Do you hear those? Did they disappear when you stopped writing? Did you ever fear you’d never write again?

I hear my characters all the time. Almost constantly, really. I daydream scenarios for them even when I’m not thinking of writing or writing for those specifically people. For me, writing doesn’t come first. My love of what eventually ends up as writing does. And so no, they never disappeared! And I never feared I wouldn’t write again. Even during those five years, I wrote constantly. I just never dared send them to my agent or publish them or go further than halfway.


And oh, the silence that followed was satisfying. She had thrown him, a little. He was on the back foot now. Probably sitting there in his angry chair in his angry house, stewing angrily over what to say next.

What is writing like for you? Are you a morning writing person or a night person? Plotter or pantser?

Book cover of How to Help a Hungry Werewolf. This is an illustrated cover. There is a woman in overalls in the foregroud and a man in a plaid shirt in the background, whose hand has claws.

I’m pretty much nocturnal, and tend to write in big bursts through the night. And I’m definitely a pantser (someone who writes with no real plot and "flies by the seat of their pants" - Kali) who likes to write in order. I’ll sometimes half skip transition scenes or something tricky, but there has to be something there for me to continue.


There was a lot of publisher interest in this book of yours. What was it like to have more than one publisher clamouring for the story? Did it feel real?

Dear god no it did not lol. It was absolutely surreal and just completely the opposite of what I expected. I remember seeing the sub list my agent had compiled and thinking oh god, she’s shooting way too high. I thought it would be mostly smaller pubs and things like that, and even after we went out I was thinking well, when they all say no we can always try smaller places. All I really wanted was to be in stores and be able to keep trucking along writing my books. So it was a total shock when I got immediate answers. And half of them were hugely interested. Though I still didn’t think it would end up in an auction situation. I remember my hands shaking so much I spilled a drink all down myself.


‘Holy crapola, did you actually just say that?’ ‘No. I never. You've fallen asleep and me saying that is just a horrible nightmare. In a second, I'm going to wake you up by telling you something completely normal, like you looked like a soft rabbit.’

Are you now feeling pressure to “perform” at all, or is the writing coming naturally again?

In some ways yes, in some ways no. Having a contract always makes it easier to write, because that’s one battle down. Someone wants your work. You’re somewhat safe. But then there’s not wanting to disappoint your publisher and readers, and other dangers, and that gets keener whenever you put a book out!


Your book is called When Grumpy Met Sunshine? That’s such a beloved trope. Is it yours? If so, why? If not, what’s your fave trope?

It’s definitely up there, but I’d say fake dating is my absolute fave. Which is also in this book! And in my upcoming, My Big Fat Fake Marriage.


He shoved the words out from somewhere deep at the back of his throat. It sounded like very churlish gravel being shoved through an extremely sullen cement mixer.

Illustrated cover of  My Big Fat Fake Marriage. The background is pink and there is a double bed with a couple sitting on it. The woman is curvy in a green and white check dress and pink shoes. She is kissing the cheek of a man wearing jeans with red suspenders and a blue shirt. The man has a moustache.

You’re married. Is your relationship with your husband a trope? If so, what trope is it?

Friends to lovers!

(one of my faves too, and the story of my husband and me!!!! - Kali)


Where did you get the idea for When Grumpy Met Sunshine? What was your inspiration?

I’d say the main thing that inspired it was wanting Ted Lasso, but with a curvy gal in it getting to have fun and be loved and all of that. Which is my usual type of inspiration!


The cover for Grumpy is simply gorgeous. And by Leni Kaufmann too! What was your reaction when you found out that she was going to illustrate your cover?

Yeah, I really floated her name to my publisher as a pie in the sky sort of thing. There was no way I thought I’d get her! But my editor was just really casual about it, sure thing, let’s do it! And working with her was wonderful. She basically gave me exactly what I asked for. I said back to back (I wanted a clinch, but publisher preferred not), one grumpy one cheery, I described the sort of dress, the details of the story, and she came back with exactly that! And she’s done even more of a match for my upcoming. I’ve never had an image of a hero on my cover that looks so much like the man in head.


Let’s pretend you weren’t Charlotte Stein. How would you describe a Charlotte Stein book?

Great question lol. Super hot sexy bonkers punch you in the feels fun.

(That is a perfect description! - Kali)


He just sat there, mouth open, with no words coming out. While she frantically googled how do you take words back in her head.

You write your books in only one point of view (in Grumpy, the heroine’s). Why do you make that choice?

I never write dual point of view (pov), and it’s for the same reason every time – I like to discover a character through the main character's eyes. I want them to guess, to see hints of who the other person is but not know, I want the tension of that, I want it to be revealed only to the reader but not to anyone else. It’s where I get the chemistry, the attraction, the yearning. It all comes from using single pov to the fullest.


Your books are filled, with such a delicious sense of awkwardness and the absurd. Where does that come from and why does that sort of character attract you (if it does!)?

It’s just always been my favourite thing – misfits, people who are unconventional. Who are attractive BECAUSE they are.


‘…why did I say roast? I could have just said made love, but oh no. I had to let that come out of me like a horny demon with no control over himself.’

Who are some of your favourite authors? What are some of your favourite books?

Favourite books/authors: Stephen King (Desperation/IT), Talia Hibbert (Highly Suspicious And Unfairly Cute), Martha Wells (Murderbot), Olivia Dade (Spoiler Alert), Suleikha Snyder (Tikka Chance On Me), Tracy Deonn (Legendborn), Kalynn Bayron (Cinderella Is Dead), Kazuo Ishiguro (Never Let Me Go), Cathy Yardley (Role Playing), Travis Baldree (Legends and Lattes), Emma Holly (Fairyville), MR Carey (The Girl With All The Gifts), Ursula Le Guin (Tehanu).


I know you have some projects coming up. Can you tell us a little about your next books? A paranormal romance about a werewolf and what else?

The werewolf book is in a series about accidental witches and  a sanctuary for supernatural creatures, and the next two will be about a demon, and a vampire hopefully! And the next two contemporaries are My Big Fat Fake Marriage, which will be Beck and Connie, and then While You Were Seething, which…stay tuned to find out who that’s about!


***


WHAT DID I TELL YOU???!!!! If you've never read Charlotte's books, please give her a go. It's like journeying down a delicious rabbit hole. You don't want to miss out!


You are lovely, Mabel. And not just lovely in your soul, neither. No, I mean lovely, like a painting of someone important from a long time ago reclining on some fancy thing…’

So, who is your one-click-all-time-favourite author? And what's your favourite trope, Grumpy/Sunshine or something else? I'd love to hear form you here or on social media.


Anyhow, that's it from me. I do hope you enjoyed hearing from Charlotte and reading some snippets from her book. Until next time, stay safe and sparkle! Love, Kali


(If you want to keep up with my writing, books or life generally, you can also check out my Newsletter, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram)




 

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