Welcome to UTC, Kate! I was very happy to discover your books this year but for readers new to your books, can you tell us a little bit about the In the Zone series?
The In the Zone series is all about the fictional NHL team, the San Diego Barracudas. The Barracudas are a lively group of bachelors who think that they’ve got it all, but those silly men don’t understand they can never be truly happy without love.
Since this is your first time here lets get to know you a little better. Tell us three things about yourself that most people maybe wouldn’t know.
While I don’t think there is any pictorial evidence of this, I sported a spiked haircut in college. I was an art major. It was the eighties. ‘Nuff said.
In 1972 I wrote my very first book–“How the Squirrel Got His Fluffy Tail.” It was not a romance and was never published, but I did bind and illustrate it.
I have only been a hockey fan since 2011. Up until then I was somewhat of an anti-sports fan. I had no interest in watching professional sports of any kind. Now, I am a true hockey fanatic and I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t love the sport of hockey!
UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT is the fourth book in the series. Christine is a stage actress and Joe is a hockey player. What would you say they have in common? What differences do they have that may make a relationship between them difficult?
At the beginning of the book, they realize they have quite a bit in common. They’re both entertainers. They both dedicate their time to those less fortunate than themselves. They both love musical theatre, although Joe doesn’t go around announcing that, especially to his macho teammates.
With Christine and Joe, the main difference between them is that he’s on the tail end of his career while hers is about to take off. That kind of imbalance can put a lot of stress on a relationship, especially when the man starts viewing himself as less than he once was. I really feel empathy for professional athletes even though they usually retire with a lot of money. For many of them, their sport is all they know. They’ve played it since they were kids, made a living out of it as adults, and before they know it, their career is over. I hope that I did a good job depicting that anguish in UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT.
Sports and especially hockey romance series are extremely popular! What do you think is the draw these kind of athletes have that keep us coming back for more?
I think we love athlete heroes for a lot of reasons. They’re ideal physical specimens—a must for a romance hero, right? They’re intense, confident, competitive by nature. They’re hard workers. They’re rich. All that lovely money is so great for me as a writer because it allows me a lot of freedom in the romance department. It’s possible to be romantic and thoughtful with not too much money, but we read romance for the fantasy and it’s fun to imagine living in the lap of luxury.
There’s also a bit of the Cinderella aspect to all pro-athlete romances. These guys are sought after by legions of women, and if you’re like me, I’m living vicariously through the heroines, so when he chooses the heroine, he’s choosing me. I’m the vision of loveliness arriving at the ball and making him forget all those other chicks. Once I arrive on the scene, he only has eyes for me. That’s a powerful fantasy that gets me every time.
In sports romances, we also get to see the men being men. I love bringing readers into the locker rooms so they can experience the uncensored camaraderie we women don’t usually get to see. I also love making the sport of hockey come alive through exciting game scenes.
Do you read books in the genre you write or do you tend to keep things separate to keep your voice?
I have read my share of hockey romance. A lot of it was research so I could see what kinds of stories were being written. But I would get bored if hockey romance was all I read, so I read all kinds of other romance, mostly historical, thrillers, hockey autobiographies, and books on the writing craft.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
When I’ve tried plotting, I’ve felt too much like a puppet master, so I prefer pantsing. I like starting with a situation and a couple of interesting characters and seeing what happens.
What author did you discover this year that you have really enjoyed?
Anne Gracie’s Chance Sisters historical romance series has been perfection. I can’t wait for book four to come out. I also binged on several of Courtney Milan’s historical romances.
What’s next for Kate Willoughby?
I’m planning a spin-off series about a team in Washington. Unlike the Barracudas, the Seattle Cascades have a less than ideal owner, a weak coach, some selfish, ego-driven players, a lack of leadership. It’s going to be fun writing stories set in that unstable environment. However, there are many more Barracuda books in the pipeline too.
by Kate Willoughby
Released: December 14th 2015
Series: In the Zone #4
Published by Carina Press
Stage actress Christine Caspary couldn't care less about hockey, but when she first sees Joe Rutherford playing in a Barracudas game her mind goes to all sorts of dirty places. By happy chance, her work with Grant A Wish gives her an opportunity to meet him in the flesh.
Right winger Joe Rutherford saw Christine perform when the team went to see Chicago and was so taken with her, he secretly saw the show a second time, alone. When the gorgeous actress with spectacular legs contacts him out of the blue asking for a favor, it's a no-brainer.
Their chemistry is off the charts. Things heat up quickly and they can't keep their hands off each other. Soon they're hooking up whenever their busy schedules allow and having hot phone sex every night at midnight when they don't. But Joe's time in the hockey spotlight is fading, just as Christine's star begins to rise. When she gets her big break into a TV career, how will Joe take to being the arm candy for a change?