Character Interview: Tanyalee Marie Newberry from STEALING TAFFY by Susan Donovan

Hello, everyone…this is Tanyalee Marie Newberry of Bigler, North Carolina speaking. Now, I know ya’ll were expecting the author Susan Donovan to write something on this blog, perhaps even answer some of the nice librarian’s questions. I know ya’ll weren’t expecting one of her contemporary romance heroines to just barge in uninvited and start blabbering away! But I don’t always do what people expect. I’m complicated and flawed. My insecurities have led me to use people — especially  men — to get what I want. I’ve done a lot of things for which I am not proud. But here I am. Susan has often said that once I showed up in her head, she just could not get me to shut up!

I hear that a lot.

My story came out on August 30, 2016. It’s called STEALING TAFFY, which Susan’s publisher thought was a catchy title since I have a problem with theft. I’m on probation for it, to be completely honest. But now that I’ve returned from ten weeks in a swanky rehab center and have started community service hours volunteering at the Cataloochee County afterschool Girl’s Club, I’m sure my probation period will just fly by! There’s another reason for the title is STEALING TAFFY. There’s a man, a DEA Agent by the name of Dante Cabrera, who is trying to steal my heart. (Don’t tell him I said this, but I might decide to give it to him willingly. You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens, but let me just say this — Dante is one hot hunk of man! But that’s not all he is. He’s kind. Wise. Funny. And he likes his women “with an extra-large side of crazy sauce.” His words, not mine. So you can see the attraction.)

Now, let me address something that’s been a little concerning to Susan. It seems some of the advance reviews of my story are not very charitable. One reader said she threw the book across the damn room because she couldn’t stand me! Susan was a little shocked by this, but I can’t say I’m surprised. I’ve never been Bigler’s most popular woman. There were even some readers who said they didn’t even like me enough to find out what happens in my story! They didn’t stick around to see how I grow and change, how I make amends to those I’ve harmed, and how I figure out how to love and be loved. I’m sorry they felt that way, but you know what I’m not sorry for? Telling the truth about who I am. Being honest about what I’ve been through. And being brave enough to try to be a better person.

Lord knows none of us are perfect.

Susan wanted me to tell ya’ll that this is the third book in the Bigler, NC series. She’s writing a Christmas novella set here as well, entitled HIS CHRISTMAS COOKIE, which will be available in e-format by November 1. It’s the story of two strangers who meet at the Christmas Eve wedding of Thomas (Tater) Wayne and Kelly O’Connor. I’ll be there, and I hope you will, too!


Tanyalee Marie Newberry

P.S. (Since I’m here I may as well go ahead and answer a few of the questions the nice librarian had for Susan, since she’s busy watching Bachelor in Paradise.)

Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?

Susan started out as a newspaper reporter and decided to try writing fiction when she had young children at home. Since she was particularly interested in making a living at writing, she did some research and found that the best-selling fiction was genre fiction — like mystery, horror, sci-fi, detective, and romance. She decided she’d try her hand at romance, since it gave her the most storytelling freedom. She started writing in 2000, and by 2001 she’d written three books. Her first novel was published in December, 2002. In the years since, Susan’s had more than twenty-four novels and novellas published, many of which have been translated into dozens of languages.

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?

Susan was born a storyteller. By kindergarten she was telling stories about the giraffes and zebras she met at the bus stop. Susan became very offended when her mother told her she had a wonderful imagination — since it was all completely true.  

What do you think most characterizes your writing?

Susan says she thinks her novels are known for their fully realized, imperfect characters and a funny, sexy, and suspenseful story.  Susan frequently gets told she has some of the best secondary characters in romance.

What was the hardest part of writing this book?  

Lord love a duck — this is a long story, one Susan hasn’t talked much about. Only lately has she opened up about what happened when she was writing this book. But I’m going to go ahead and let ya’ll know.

When Susan proposed the Bigler series to St. Martin’s Press back in 2010, they asked for two novels about best friends who lose everything in the real estate collapse and are forced to return to their hometown in the hills of western North Carolina. So Susan wrote the sexy adventures of my sister Cherise (Cheri) Newberry and her BFF Candace (Candy) Carmichael. I made an appearance in both books, and Susan’s editor liked me so much that she asked Susan to write my story, too.

Well, that sent her straight to the Merlot.

You see, Susan had already made me so hilariously over-the-top awful that she had no idea how to turn me into a heroine. It was a wild ride, but she did it, and now she considers me one of her all-time favorite characters. Susan says that this book is for those who enjoy a funny and sexy redemption story.

This is where things take a turn for the worse.

Susan was supposed to turn in my book early in 2012 for publication in 2013. As ya’ll know, it’s now 2016. There’s a reason for the delay. In early December of 2011, Susan thought she had the flu, and put off going to the doctor. She ended up riding in a Medevac helicopter to University of Maryland’s Shock Trauma Unit, where they determined she was in septic shock.  All Susan’s organs had failed. She had almost no blood pressure and a sky-high fever. Her heart went into tachycardia. The doctors said she was going to die.

Susan wants me to fast-forward to the punch line.  After three months of hospitalization and more than twenty surgeries, the doctors still didn’t know how she got an infection that spread from her left leg through her whole body. No one will ever know. But she was sent home with a pacemaker, one leg, and minor brain damage.  She couldn’t remember her own name let alone write a romantic comedy novel about yours truly. She tried many times to finish my story and failed. She found it impossible to return to a story she’d started in what now felt like a past life. So Susan set STEALING TAFFY aside and worked on another series. Finally, in early 2015, she decided to start all over, and it was a happy day in August of last year when she sent her editor a completed manuscript. Exactly a year later, we have publication!

Susan thanks her readers — and her publisher! — for being so patient.



Ten weeks in a swanky Arizona rehab center and Tanyalee Newberry, aka Taffy, is ready to give up everything that isn’t good for her—her forgery habit, taking (i.e., stealing) things that don’t belong to her, and, of course, men. But when her flight home gets rerouted, she finds herself in a hotel room with her smoking-hot travel companion. One night together is all it should have been. But passion is oh-so sweet…

Special Agent Dante Cabrera has been duped at his own love-’em-and-leave-’em game by this so-called Taffy. To forget she ever existed, Dante buries himself in his work…until a case leads him to North Carolina and, impossibly, right back to her. He has no business messing around with this felonious femme fatale, especially one who could be in more danger than she thinks. But Dante also knows there’s more to her than great looks and hot nights—a soul-searching woman who wants amend her past sins. Is he ready to take their desire to the next level…and steal Taffy’s heart?

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LBTC Bonus Clip – Susan Donovan – Starting to write romance from Laurie Kahn on Vimeo.


SUSAN DONOVAN’s novels are “the perfect blend of romance and women’s fiction,” according to Publishers Weekly. She is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Bigler, NC Series (CHERI ON TOP, I WANT CANDY, and STEALING TAFFY), The Bayberry Island Series (SEA OF LOVE, THE SWEETEST SUMMER, and MOONDANCE BEACH), and dozens of other novels and novellas. The former newspaper journalist has been nominated for two RITA Awards and received the Best Contemporary Romance award from RT Booklovers Magazine.

Susan loves to hear from her readers, so connect with her:
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