I am shining my Gone Writing spotlight today on my friend and local author buddy, Alison Henderson, whose new book, UNDERCOVER NANNY, has just been released.
Alison wasn’t always a writer, but she has always embraced creativity and relished new experiences. Seeking to expand her horizons beyond Kansas City, she chose a college in upstate New York. By the time Alison was twenty-one, she had traveled the world from Tunisia to Japan. Little did she suspect she was collecting material for future characters and stories along the way.
Alison began writing when her daughter entered preschool (she’s now a full-fledged adult), and she became addicted to the challenge of translating the living, breathing images in her mind into words. She writes romance because that’s what she like to read. The world provides more than enough drama and tragedy, Alison believes, and she prefers to give her readers the happily-ever-after we all crave.
She has been married to her personal hero for more than thirty years. After decades of living in the Midwest, Alison and her husband heeded the siren call of sun and sea and moved to the most breathtakingly beautiful place imaginable – the gorgeous central coast of California. She looks forward to the new stories this place inspires
Alison and I get together for a weekly C&C (that’s caffeine and conversation), and she has told me a lot about how UNDERCOVER NANNY came together. I was especially interested in the origins of Balthazar, the Capuchin monkey, who is featured on the cover of the new book.
GW: What is a monkey doing on the cover of UNDERCOVER NANNY?
Alison: The inspiration for Balthazar came from a most unexpected source. My husband is a big fan of early rock ‘n roll, and one of his favorite songs is a number by the Coasters called “Run Red Run.” After hearing him sing this for years, I knew I had to add a monkey to one of my books.
GW: What role does Balthazar play in the story?
Alison: Balthazar, a white-faced Capuchin, likes to play dress-up and steal every shiny object he can lay his hands on. He thwarts a would-be kidnapper in UNDERCOVER NANNY.
GW: You’ve told me that you like to insert humor into your novels to break the suspense. Can you give us some examples?
Alison: Yes, I love to add humor to my stories, even the most action-packed suspense or mystery. An unexpected laugh can give the reader the perfect release from relentless tension. Each book in my Phoenix, Ltd. female bodyguard series features a specific humorous element. In UNWRITTEN RULES, a pair of meddling grandmothers stirred things up for my hero and heroine. BOILING POINT included a cooking robot named GRAMPA who attacked the villain with a kitchen torch at the opportune moment.
GW: And Balthazar fills that role in UNDERCOVER NANNY?
Alison: That’s correct. Given the lyrics of “Run Red Run,” Balthazar has a lot to live up to, but I think he rises to the occasion admirably.
GW: Having been privileged to read an early draft of UNDERCOVER NANNY, I have to agree that Balthazar is a very special character.
For those readers who are unfamiliar with “Run Red Run,” here are the lyrics to the first couple of verses:
“Oh, Red went and bought himself a monkey
Got him from a pawn shop broker
Taught that monkey how to guzzle beer
And he taught him out to play stud poker
Last night when they were gambling in the kitchen
The monkey he was taking a beating
The monkey said Red, “I’m going to shoot you dead
Because I know that well, you been a cheating.”
Well, run Red run, because he’s got your gun
And he’s aiming it at your head
Run Red run, because he’s got your gun
And he’s aiming it at your head
You better get up and wail
You better move your tail before he fills it full of lead.”
Alison was kind enough to share a sample of UNDERCOVER NANNY with us.
Kidnapping. Extortion. Antiquities smuggling. Add one light-fingered, bad-tempered monkey, and it’s all in a day’s work for novice bodyguard Casey Callahan when she’s hired to protect the five-year-old niece of a handsome archaeology professor.
Alec Bainbridge has been balancing excavation and teaching duties with single parenthood since the death of his sister. When a stranger attempts to kidnap his niece, he hires a bodyguard to pose as the little girl’s nanny. However, the young woman who shows up is a far cry from the matronly type he was expecting.
Amid break-ins, anonymous threats, and arson, Casey and Alec race to identify the villains before they harm the child or make off with a priceless Egyptian artifact. All the while, their mutual attraction complicates an already volatile situation. With an innocent child’s life at stake, Casey and Alec risk everything to solve the mystery before their growing feelings become the final casualty.
Alec climbed the two flights of stairs to the playroom, where he found Grace and Balthazar playing her current favorite make-believe—Jungle Adventurer. Grace was wearing her pith helmet, while the monkey sported his veiled pink princess hat.
“He’s a giant gorilla who’s rescuing the hippo from the flooded river.” She pointed at her stuffed hippo, who was wrapped in an old blue bath towel.
Alec gave a mental shrug. After the kind of day he’d had, he could see no reason why a heroic giant gorilla shouldn’t wear a conical pink princess hat.
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