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Interview With Debby Grahl

Debby Grahl is an award-winning author of suspenseful romance books, including Island Heat, the second book in her Carolina series. Debby joins us today to chat about her new book, the lemons-to-lemonade situation that spurred her story-telling career, the witch who gave her a bad review, and much more. Don’t miss the tantalizing excerpt from Island Heat at the bottom of the page!

Welcome, Debby! Tell us a little bit about Island Heat.

The story begins when Suzanna Shay wins a trip on a mystery cruise. While on the ship, she meets author Austen Kincade. Their instant attraction has them more interested in one another than searching for clues. They soon discover there’s a mystery beneath the mystery, which threatens their future together.

Who is Suzanna Shay? What makes her tick?

Suzanna, first met in Mountain Blaze, works for Preston Books in their Charlotte, NC, store. Suzanna dreams of one day owning her own bookstore and escaping from her controlling widowed mother. Suzanna loves mysteries and romance novels, jazz music, pepperoni pizza, red wine, and adventure.

How did you get interested in the contemporary romance genre?

Mystery cozies have always been my first love, but when I wrote my first book, my editor said cozies really weren’t selling. She advised me to try writing romance, another love of mine. All of my stories, being contemporary or paranormal, have a mystery plot along with the romance.

What are you working on now?

The sequel to Island Heat. Jennifer Perell, from Mountain Blaze, is sent by the Huntington hotel company to Charleston to help with the remodeling of an historic hotel. The current owner, Luke Chandler, isn’t at all happy about it.

How old were you when you wrote your first story?

I was around twelve. I have a disease of the retina called Retinitis Pigmentosa, which causes gradual vision loss. I lost the ability to read in my early twenties, but even when I had sight, seeing the printed word was always difficult for me. Reading a book would take me twice as long as a person with normal sight. I became frustrated with this and began to make up my own stories. I used to entertain my girlfriends with these as we walked to school. They were kind enough to listen, and today they’re some of my biggest fans. It wasn’t until the invention of screen-reading software that I was able to put my stories into print. Everything I write is read back to me, but I still have difficulty with some postings. For example, Facebook. I'm unable to tell if my book cover is upside-down or sideways. This is where my wonderful seeing-eye husband comes in.

Do you have a specific writing routine or process?

I like to write in the morning. I find there’re fewer interruptions then. Years ago, I had back surgery. I was unable to sit at my desk, so I’d sit in the recliner with the keyboard on my lap. I became so used to this, I don’t use my desk at all anymore.

Are you an outliner or a pantser?

Pantser for sure. When I begin a story, I have an idea of the plot, setting and characters, but a lot of times, the characters take over and the story heads in a direction I hadn’t planned.

Do you base your characters on real people or make them up from scratch?

Actually, I do both. In Island Heat, some of the secondary characters are real people.

What is your favorite part, and least favorite part, of the publishing journey?

Marketing is my absolute least favorite. I’m not a marketer, and I dislike taking the time to do this. But, I understand it’s part of the writing world, so I grit my teeth and do it. My favorite is finishing a manuscript and having my editor love it.

How do you deal with reviews, both positive and negative?

Every writer loves great reviews, but we have to deal with the negative ones as well. I learned a long time ago to ignore bad reviews and move on. I don’t have a problem with constructive criticism, it’s the ones who say outrageous things that make me crazy. I once had a woman tell me she could tell I knew nothing about witches because she was one herself.

What advice would you give an aspiring writer?

Take writing classes. I found these to be incredibly helpful. A number of classes are offered online, and they are usually reasonably priced.

Do you ever get writer’s block, and if so, how do you overcome it?

Yes, I believe all authors have this happen. I try and distract myself with something else. If this doesn’t work, I’ve found soaking in the hot tub with a bottle of wine helps.

What are you reading right now?

I found these wonderful books by Danielle Garrett. They’re fun paranormal stories that take me away from daily stress.

Who is your favorite author?

This is a hard one to answer. Here’re a few examples. For mysteries I like the classics; Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh. Historical; I enjoy Rhys Bowen and Amanda Quick. Romance; Heather Graham and Jane Ann Krantz; Paranormal, Molly Harper and Danielle Garrett.

If you could bring a fictitious character to life and spend time with that person, who would it be?

Hercule Poirot.

What’s something you’re good at?

Organizing events. This might sound strange, but I really enjoy watching things come together.

It’s karaoke night, and your friends just dragged you to the mike. What will you sing?

“I Am Woman.”

If you could relive a day from your past, which day would it be?

The day I met my husband.

What’s the weirdest dream you ever had?

I seem to be always running around fancy department stores barefooted.

You find a hundred-dollar bill in the gutter. What do you do with it?

Buy shoes.

If people came with warning labels, what would yours say?

Danger, if you make me mad, I might kill you off in a book.

What’s something that’s on your bucket list?

I want to swim with dolphins.

Would you rather…

Be in jail for a year or die one year sooner than you would have otherwise?

Die sooner.

Be an amazing artist or a brilliant mathematician?


Live the rest of your life on the equator or in the Arctic Circle?


Lose your best friend or lose all your friends except for your best friend?

This is too tough to answer.

Lose a limb or be without a cell phone for the rest of your life?

Lose a limb.

Back Cover Blurb

When bookstore owner Suzanna Shay and writer Austen Kincade meet on a Who Done It mystery cruise, their instant attraction has them more interested in romance than searching for clues. But when the leading actress in the shipboard murder skit, Austen’s publisher’s wife, throws herself at Austen, she’s furious when he rejects her advances and vows to have Austen no matter what it takes.

After the ship docks, with plans for a future together, Suzanna and Austen part, unaware vindictive lies will soon test their newfound love and entangle them in a real mystery that proves deadly.

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Author Bio

Award-winning author Debby Grahl lives on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, with her husband, David. Besides writing, she enjoys biking, walking on the beach, and a glass of wine at sunset. Visually impaired since childhood by Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), she uses screen- reading software to research and write her books.

Rue Toulouse, a contemporary romance set in the French Quarter, medalled as second place in the Readers’ Favorite international competition, and was awarded first place in the Top Shelf Fiction for the Romance category. His Magic Touch, a paranormal romance, is also set in New Orleans. Her latest book, Island Heat, will be released May 1, 2023, and will be the second book in her three-part Carolina series. The first, Mountain Blaze, released November 2, 2020, has received a five-star review from Readers’ Favorite.

Excerpt from Island Heat

“There’s a full moon. How about a stroll out on the deck?”

Suzanna, you don’t know him. Think about what you’re doing. Her mother’s voice rang through her head. But as she gazed into Austen’s face, careful was the last thing she wanted to be. She stood. “Let’s go.”

They said goodbye to the Paiges and headed for the doors leading onto the deck. The night was warm with a gentle breeze. Stars filled the velvet sky as moonlight sparkled upon the water.

Suzanna breathed in the salty air. Right now, my life in Charlotte might as well be a million miles away, and I haven’t a care in the world.

“There’s Orion,” Austen pointed. “Studying the constellations is a hobby of mine.”

“I find the stars fascinating. And I love having my fortune told.”

“I can tell you what your future will bring,” Austen replied.

“What’s that?”

He took her into his arms. “This.” His lips covered hers.

The warmth of his mouth made Suzanna’s skin tingle. This moment came right off the pages of the romance novels she so loved — a moonlit night, a handsome man, and the faint sound of a piano in the distance. She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him back.

He held her close. His kiss, gentle at first, his lips moving slowly across hers, skillfully coaxed her lips apart. Their tongues met, and Suzanna let out a low moan as the kiss deepened. Her body molded to his. She slid her fingers through the hair on the nape of his neck. His hand glided up and down her back…

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Bryan Fagan
Bryan Fagan
May 05, 2023

Always fun to read the writing routine of others. Excellent interview.


Apr 25, 2023

Kimberly, thank you so much for hosting me! And thanks to all of you who stopped by to leave a comment. I do have to correct one of my answers. I would definitely rather live without my cell phone, than lose a limb. Best Debby

Apr 25, 2023
Replying to

My pleasure, Debby! And I'm glad you've changed your mind about that phone-or-limb question! 😆


Apr 21, 2023

It was fun learning about Debby. Though I'd rather go wit my cellphone than a limb.

Apr 21, 2023
Replying to

Ha ha—I'm with you on that, Randy! Thanks for stopping by to check out Debby's interview.


Mary Morgan
Mary Morgan
Apr 21, 2023

What a wonderful interview, ladies! I enjoyed getting to know you better, Debby.

All the best,

Mary Morgan

Apr 21, 2023
Replying to

Thanks, Mary! We're so glad you could join us today.


Apr 21, 2023

Thanks for sharing this! Great kissing scene.

Apr 21, 2023
Replying to

Thank you so much for stopping by! Yes, it's a tantalizing excerpt. 😀

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