Monday, January 30, 2012


Today I’m interviewing Elizabeth McKenna. Her book, Cera’s Place, is a historical romance available in ebook and paperback.

Please tell my readers a little bit about your book.
Thanks so much, Sarah for inviting me to your blog. I love your Totally HOT Thursdays – great pictures! Cera’s Place is set in San Francisco 1869. Cera runs a saloon but, unlike other such businesses of the times, she doesn’t allow prostitution. Over the years, she has helped women escape their terrible lives and become “respectable.” Jake is an ex-soldier haunted by his Civil War experiences. He’s on a mission to find the daughter of a friend who died in battle. One of the subplots of the novel is based on actual events. During this time period, since the majority of the Chinese population in California was male, Asian women were kidnapped and forced into prostitution in America. The Anti-Prostitution Act of 1870 made it illegal to import women for criminal or demoralizing purposes. Cera and Jake team up to fight a gang that is kidnapping Chinese girls for the local brothels. Of course, in the process they fall in love.

Describe the genre of this particular title, and is it the only genre you write in?

It’s historical romance with a large dose of adventure. So far, it is the only genre I have published. I do have a contemporary romance started, but I keep going back to the historical because I love to research.

When did you start writing toward publication?

I started writing Cera’s Place in January of 2008 and published it in September 2011. I am a technical writer by trade, so this was my first attempt at creative writing since my college days – and I had a lot to learn.

Did you have several manuscripts finished before you sold? If so, did you send them out yourself?

Why have you become a published author?
I self-published because the perception of indie authors is changing thanks to Amazon and other sites that promote non-traditional publishing. I know Amazon is a dirty word in some circles, but over 90% of my sales are from this site, so I must appreciate their support. Over the years, I did submit numerous queries/partial manuscripts and even had an editor at Carina Press ask for revisions, but it was so frustrating to wait months only to be rejected. In the end, I decided if I sold even one book to a stranger via self-publishing, I would be happy. Right now, I am ecstatic.

Do you have any rejection stories to share?
I have committed every mistake a newbie could make. The biggest one was sending out my manuscript before it was ready. I essentially sent out my first draft. Ouch! Luckily, I was humble enough to ask for help after receiving the first round of rejections.

What is your writing routine like?

Unfortunately, I write slowly and I have to fit it in between my full-time job and my children’s numerous activities. I usually am able to spend some time in the afternoon writing. I’m happy if I can get a few strong paragraphs down every day.

What sort of promo do you do? Do you have help?
My only help is from the other writers on LinkedIn and Google+ who post information about helpful websites/articles/blogs. I run ads on Facebook, Goodreads, and Kindle Nation Daily. Besides my author website, I have an author page on Facebook, Google+, Amazon, Linkedin, Goodreads, Super,, The Romance Reviews, and Manic Readers. I have submitted Cera’s Place for review to over 50 romance blogs. (I try to add to that list every day.) I wish I didn’t have to spend the time marketing – I’d rather be writing – but I understand I need to build a fan base for future novels. Facebook has been great. My Cera’s Place page has fans from all over the world – the largest group is from India, which has a small but growing ebook market. I love checking it every morning.

Having achieved your goal to be a published author, what is the most rewarding thing?
Celebrating my success with my children is on the top of my list. When they were young, they asked me what I had wanted to be when I grew up. I answered an astronaut, until I realized I was claustrophobic. Then I decided I wanted to be a best-selling author. They asked why I wasn’t one, to which I replied, “Technical writing pays the bills.” I decided to write a novel to show them it is never too late to follow your dreams (there was also a scary psychic involved, but that’s another story). No, I am not a best-selling author yet, but I am closer to quitting my day job (please don’t tell my husband that). Having someone besides my mother enjoy my book is second on my list.

Are you a member of any writing organizations and, if so, have they helped?
No organizations, though I submitted most of Cera’s Place to several online writing groups for critiques and hired a professional editor before I published it. It helped me tremendously and I am grateful for the time these strangers took to evaluate my work. I learned so much from them.

Will you share some encouraging words for authors still struggling for that first contract?
I am the worst self-doubter. I go through periods where I refuse to read any fiction because I believe it is so much better than my own and I get depressed. Then I repeat this quote by Milton Lomask, “There's no right way of writing. There's only your way.” It is impossible for everyone to like your writing, so don’t sweat the rejections and the bad reviews. You don’t like everything you read, so why expect others to? Enjoy the process of creating something you can call your own and then get critiqued by someone whose writing you respect – it will help you grow.  

What’s next for you?
I’m working on Moonlight in Venice, another historical romance set in the 1750s. I still don’t have a clear description, but it involves death, theft, art, Cabalism, Freemasonry, Carnival season, pregnancy, and cataracts – and love, of course, lots of love.

It was her saloon and her rules – until the day he walked through the swinging doors…

Life hasn’t been exactly kind to San Francisco saloon owner Cera Cassidy, but she has built a successful business and a family of friends. She carries the reputation of a tough woman with a big heart, along with a derringer in her skirt pocket. One summer night, she discovers that the neighborhood thug is kidnapping Chinese girls to sell to the local brothels. Outraged, Cera vows to bring him to justice, but he’s not going to let anyone interfere with his livelihood.

Jake Tanner, a scarred ex-soldier haunted by his Civil War experiences, is on a mission to fulfill a friend’s dying wish. The trail has brought him to Cera’s door. Captivated by her Irish beauty, he is more than willing to join in her fight – if only she would let him.

A little bit about the author.
Elizabeth McKenna is a full-time technical writer/editor for a large software company. She never read romance novels until one Christmas when her sister gave her the latest bestseller by Nora Roberts. She was hooked from page one (actually, she admits it was the first love scene).

She had always wanted to write fiction, so when a psychic told her she would write a book, Elizabeth felt obligated to give it a try. She combined her love of history, romance and a happy ending to write her first novel Cera's Place. She recently released a short story titled The Gypsy Casts a Spell.

Elizabeth lives in Wisconsin with her understanding husband, two beautiful daughters, and sassy Labrador. When she isn't writing, working, or being a mom, she's sleeping.

Cera noticed the stranger while she leaned against the bar, drinking her third cup of coffee for the day. It was the first chance she’d had to catch her breath. Business was brisk, as everyone wanted to talk about last night’s fire over some food and drinks.

He sat alone, hunched down into his faded officer’s coat, reminding Cera of the many war-weary drifters who had passed through her place. His worn boots rested casually on the seat of a chair, and though his Stetson sat low over his eyes, she got the sense he could see just fine. He seemed to be waiting.

More often than not, Cera could see trouble coming. When she looked at this stranger, an uneasy feeling rose in her belly. Unfortunately, she couldn’t decide if it was because of the bowie knife and Colt revolver strapped to his sides or because his tangled, dark hair and chiseled jaw made him the best-looking man she had seen in months.

As she pondered the stranger, his face moved out of the shadows, revealing a thick jagged scar running from the outer edge of his left eye to the corner of his mouth. Startled by the sight, Cera’s hand jerked, sloshing coffee over the cup’s rim. Their eyes met and, for an instance, Cera thought she saw a flash of anger in the stranger’s gaze.

Embarrassed, she turned away to hide the blush blooming in her cheeks. As she wiped her wet hand on her apron, she chided herself for such squeamish behavior. Since the end of the War Between the States, plenty of men had walked through the saloon’s doors with injuries far worse than a scar. There was no reason for this one to unsettle her.

When her composure returned, she sought out Ginger. “See that drifter over there?” She inclined her head slightly in the stranger’s direction. “Has he said anything to you?”

“Oh my, my, my, that dusty Yankee? I’ve been trying to catch his eye since he sat down. I think they’re blue, by the way. Too bad about his face, but luckily I’ve never liked my men prettier than me.”

Cera laughed, despite her present worries. “Well then, you’re the perfect girl to go charm him—find out what he’s about.”

Ginger’s painted on eyebrows knitted together as she cast a discreet glance at the stranger. “You think he’s trouble?”

“Maybe, but maybe I’m just nervous because of last night. Either way it will be good to know who he is and what he wants. He looks barely able to afford the beer sitting in front of him. Who’s been serving him?”

“Sonya, I think.”

“Try to get him talking. I’ll go see if he’s paid for anything yet.” Cera gulped the rest of her coffee and moved to where Sonya sat playing cards with three other men.


Across the room, Jake watched the redhead and the saloon owner exchange words. Then, after grabbing a bottle of wine and a glass, the redhead sashayed toward the piano player. She whispered in his ear, and when he struck up a new tune, she began to sing in a clear sweet voice.

“Drink to me only with thine eyes and I will pledge with mine. Or leave a kiss within the cup and I'll not ask for wine…”

As the men in the room shouted their encouragement, the redhead twirled from table to table, stopping only for a brief flirt. As she ended the song, she stopped in front of Jake, striking a pose with one hand on her ample hip.

“You’ve been tasting that beer for a long time now, Captain. Want to try something better?” She smiled, waving the wine bottle at him. “My name is Ginger and I have here the finest sparkling white wine in all of California—from the Buena Vista Winery. It’s all the rage in Paris—very chic. The first drink is on me.”

In his mind, Jake saw the dinner parties that he watched from the top of the main staircase in his boyhood home. His parents and their friends dressed in finery, making toast after toast with wine glasses filled to the brim. His mother’s laughter always carried above the din of lively conversation.

Now in the smoke-filled saloon, his eyes traveled over Ginger’s gravity-defying bosom, colored hair and made-up face, including a painted on black mole next to her full red lips. The Southern belle held out the glass, waiting for his response. Fate sure had a mean sense of humor, he thought, smiling wryly.

How can my readers buy your book?

Cera’s Place is available in the following formats:

Ebook: $2.99 (US) at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, Sony and Diesel.

Paperback: $11.99 (US) at CreateSpace, Amazon and

Come visit me!

Elizabeth McKenna's website / Facebook (Elizabeth McKenna) / Facebook (Cera's Place)

***NOTE- Elizabeth McKenna will be giving a free copy of her book to one lucky commenter!***


  1. Great interview. I love historical romance, and the characters in Cera's Place have already caught my attention.

  2. Hi Christina - I personally picture Jake as Viggo Mortensen ala Lord of the Rings - rugged AND dreamy!

    1. A terrific interview, ladies.
      Self publishing is tempting me.
      Thank you for going over all the promotion needed.

      Your novel subject is unique to me and makes for a compelling read.

  3. Thank you Christina and Sandy for stopping by! I think this book sounds intriguing also. I love the heroine already.

  4. I like the sound of this story, Elizabeth! Love the time period, and give me an adventure story any day. Enjoy your research and keep 'em coming! Thanks for a wonderful post, Sarah!

  5. Nice to meet you today, Elizabeth. Wishing you lots of luck with a lot of sales. Your story line sounds very interesting. I write historical west and love this time in history.

    1. Thank you for stopping by. Who doesn't love a rugged, dusty hero? Good luck with your writing!

  6. An absolutely fascinating subject matter & time in history. I would love to read CERA'S PLACE thank you.


    1. I'm glad you think it sounds interesting - it was a lot of fun to write. Good luck with the giveaway!

  7. Thanks everyone for stopping in!!!!