Rad-Reader:  How did you come to write this book?

Stacey: It was the dead of winter in Italy (I’ve lived here for the past four years.) We’d just moved into a new apartment, but in Italy, it takes FOREVER to get the heat turned on, so I was shivering in my parka, three layers of shirts, a thick sweater and a pair of combat boots. It is very difficult to think fun, delightful, sexy thoughts when you’re freezing to death, but the sheer urgency of these characters wouldn’t leave me alone. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. All I did was suck down one cappuccino after another, growl at anyone who interrupted me and channel whatever these characters were telling me to write.

I’m lucky. I have a terrific critique partner. We do Google Hangouts once a week. She kept me from going completely bonkers. She also reminded me that when you are about to die of hypothermia (we could actually see our breath in the bedroom), it’s important to wear a hat. Being from warm wonderful California and Texas, the hat thing had honestly never occurred to me. 

Rad-Reader:  Is it part of a series or a

Stacey:  SWEET DREAMS is Book #2 in my Dreams Come True Series with Kensington Books.

Book #1 is DREAM ON, which came out in November.

Book #3 is DREAM LOVER, due for release in July.

I also have a novella called LOVING HAILEY, one of four novellas that comprise the novel A WEDDING ON BLUEBIRD WAY, coming out in May. Writers Lori Wilde, Janet Dailey, and Allyson Charles all contributed to the anthology. What’s really cool is we all got to pick a character from the story and run with it. I chose Hailey Deacon, who works catering and also as a pump jockey/mechanic at the local gas station. Why? Because I am positively addicted to working-class heroines. 

Rad-Reader:  Tell us about Maggie and Jake as characters.  Who are they?

Stacey:  Maggie was easy to write. As a woman, she’s of a type often found in Texas—outwardly tough, no-nonsense, even a little bossy—but inside, nothing but layers of warm marshmallow fluff. Maggie is all heart, even too much so at times, which means people (***COUGH***her ex-husband Todd***COUGH***) sometimes take advantage of her.

Jake was harder for me to write, but only in the beginning. I really struggled at first to flesh out his character, and the reason might surprise you: Jake is absurdly wealthy. I have decided prejudices about the absurdly wealthy. So I had to dig deep to find what made him human, what motivated him to succeed. Consequently, Jake is perhaps my favorite of my three heroes in the Dreams Come True series, even though Mason is the most noble and Brandon is the hottest. Just so freaking hot.

Rad-Reader:   Are they like anyone you know in your life or totally fictional?

Stacey:  I see Jake as looking something like Chris Pine if that helps! Maggie might be a slightly more feminine version of Wonder Woman’s Gal Gadot. But the great thing about reading (as opposed to having it all spelled out for you in a movie) is that the film projector is in YOUR head. You can cast that movie any way you choose to. It’s wonderful. 

As far as their personalities go, I was actually thinking of Beauty and the Beast when I wrote SWEET DREAMS—a smart, plucky lass meets a beast with a heart of gold. All she had to do was love him into finally becoming human again. In fact, all three books in the Dreams Come True series were based on fairy tales. DREAM ON is clearly the Cinderella story. DREAM LOVER is Sleeping Beauty. 

Rad-Reader:  How did you go about developing them as characters or did they just write themselves?

Stacey:  My characters ALWAYS write themselves. I think two of the most important qualities any writer can adopt in life and in fiction is the ability to listen attentively and the ability to listen without judgment. When people talk to me, I am truly interested (in them as people, not as potential book subjects!) The longer you listen, the more you realize all problems have common themes. Our experiences are actually one: the human experience. And I try to bring that lovely humanity to every book I write and every character I give flesh too. It’s my job, in fact.

Rad-Reader:  Was Maggie’s ex-Todd rich and a cheater?  Or just a cheater?  Because she seems to have a problem with both or is that just what I am feeling from her?

Stacey:  Not rich (most rodeo cowboys do it for the love, not the money) but MAN, what a cheater! With him, I definitely mined my own past experiences with handsome, charming cheaters. They are all pretty much alike, and they operate under one guiding principle: say anything to get inside a woman’s pants.

In all fairness, when women are just throwing themselves at you all the time (which happens to most sexy men), it must take extraordinary willpower to say no. But learning to say no is part of the hero’s journey. No man can be labeled a hero until he has learned to master his own impulses.

But YOUR reader’s instincts are spot-on. Maggie distrusts handsome men because of the betrayal she suffered at the hands of Todd AND she distrusts handsome, rich men based on principle. She’s far from stupid. And trust is something that has to be earned. It can never be demanded. 

Rad-Reader:  How did Mason and Cassidy meet?  Was he a hometown boy?

Stacey:  I love Mason and Cassidy. Of all the books in my Dreams Come True series, their story is the sweetest. And they were absolutely moony for each other in high school. But Mason was a senior to Cassidy’s freshman, and like most eighteen-year-old boys, he was more interested in having uncommitted sex with a willing female than investing in a relationship, especially a relationship that couldn’t go anywhere. On prom night, he ended up at the Cattle Rancher Motel with a “sure thing”. And poor heartbroken Cassidy ended up in the backseat of another boy’s car … a decision that would have real-world consequences for her. 

Rad-Reader:  Where is Lexie’s daddy?

Stacey:  Not all readers may agree with me, but I think Parker Nolen is a real jerk. Not only does he manipulate a shy, emotionally vulnerable girl like Cassidy into sleeping with him, he does so know her broken heart belongs to someone else. But he doesn’t care! One in the win column is one in the win column—at least according to handsome, heartless Parker. 

When Cassidy tells her parents she’s pregnant (at fifteen), they notify Parker’s parents immediately. His parents do what a lot of people do: they blame Cassidy for “seducing” their son. Few things fire me up more than a sexual double-standard. And I try to make it clear in DREAM ON that Cassidy is not the one to blame here. Parker was predatory right from the start. 

Parker also has an ax to grind with Mason. Although they play different sports, he and Mason are not only romantic rivals, they’re athletic rivals, too. And that’s typical of small-town Texas. High school sports heroes all compete for big fish status in a very tiny pond.

Now Parker lives in San Antonio and works as a sales rep for a software company. I see him as being a lifelong playboy, an eternal Peter Pan who never grows up. For him, the kick isn’t getting a girl to sleep with him; it’s manipulating a girl into sleeping with him. His fetish is sexual coercion, not the sexual experience.

Rad-Reader:  How did Maggie and her ex-Todd meet and why did they divorce?

Stacey:  Todd was Maggie’s first love. You remember your first love, don’t you? You gave that person everything you had. With Maggie’s enormous marshmallowy heart, she has so much love to give, it could fill a football stadium.

When Todd blew into town with the rodeo, eighteen-year-old Maggie (like every other girl in Cuervo) found herself wildly infatuated. And Todd was never one to pass up a tempting morsel like her—or Maggie’s best friend Avery—which is ultimately why their marriage flew off the rails.

But here’s a secret I’ve told no one else about the character of Todd in SWEET DREAMS. He IS actually based on someone I knew, someone I had an ill-fated relationship with many years ago. “My” Todd was tall, handsome, small town, charming, rodeo-affiliated—and a natural born cheater. When I discovered how widespread his cheating was (if it breathed, he BLEEPED it,) I packed up all my belongings and left our house that same day.

A lapse is one thing. Compulsive cheating is quite another. And poor Maggie had it even worse than I did since her Todd got her best friend Avery pregnant and then ran off with her.

Rad-Reader:  Jake seems to put Maggie down when he kept asking her what she was doing in a small town?  It’s her hometown first of all right?  Second, he was degrading her job.  Why?

Stacey:  At first glance, it’s the “beast” part of Jake that compels him to say things to women that other people, people who play by the rules, would never think of saying. But with his exceptional insight (what he refers to in the book as “radar”), Jake also sees something in Maggie that few other people see: she’s hiding. After the Todd debacle, she re-built her life, sure, but she re-built it as close to home as possible. Jake can feel her hunger for more, and he’s right. Maggie has the spirit of adventure. Maggie wants to see the world. But she will never be able to fulfill that fantasy until she lets go of her need for safety and security. 

Rad-Reader:  Why did Maggie not speak up?  Tell him not to make fun of her job, home, or her choices?

Stacey:  Deep down, she knows he’s right! 

Rad-Reader:  Why did Todd even marry her knowing Avery was pregnant and he likes screwing around?

Stacey:  That is an EXCELLENT question, one that has public stakes as well as fictional ones. Why does any man (Harvey Weinstein, we’re looking at you) marry a beautiful woman and then compulsively cheat on her? I have my own theories about that (it’s not about the sex; it’s about the power) but Todd clearly sees what a good wife Maggie would make, and he likes the convenience being married affords him.

Did he love her? Looking back, I can see that “my” Todd loved me, but he loved cheating better. Men can compartmentalize these things: sex is sex and love is love. Todd certainly thinks he loves Maggie, but his way of showing it falls far short of what she needs and deserves. 

Rad-Reader:  Why was it a messy divorce if he was in the wrong and he got someone else pregnant?

Stacey:  Emotionally, it was absolutely messy. These things usually are. Financially, divorce is messy, too, especially in a community property state like Texas, where few women walk away from the victor no matter how badly the husband may have treated them. Maggie had to reconstruct a life for herself, which she did because Maggie isn’t just tough; she’s Texas tough. That’s what makes her a heroine worthy of our admiration and respect.

Rad-Reader:  Why had it been 8 years since Dillon and Jake spoken?

Stacey:  Despite being a dreamboat, Jake can also be a dick. He wanted his younger brother Dillon to go to college. Dillon wanted to go study at an ashram. No respecter of personal decisions, Jake tried to bully Dillon into doing what he wanted—ultimately, it cost him a relationship with his brother. For those eight years, at least. But in life and in fiction, things often change, don’t they?

Rad-Reader:  Todd shows up at her work and then her place as if nothing really happened and she is supposed to forgive and forget.  Is he looking for help raising his kids?  Why does she give him the time of day?

Stacey:  You nailed it! Todd’s a rodeo cowboy. He doesn’t lack for balls. And he really wants Maggie’s help raising his kids. There are a lot of men like that, unfortunately. They have kids, but they have no idea what to do with them. Todd knows Maggie has baby-fever. And even with her eyes open, Maggie falls right into the trap he sets for her. 

Babies are irresistible! See a baby, and you’re guaranteed to spend the next two hours talking your hormones off a ledge. Maggie’s no exception.

Rad-Reader:  Jake can’t get past his obsession with Maggie.  Is he falling for her or still just trying to get in her pants?

Stacey:  Such a great question! Like a lot of guys, Jake (in the beginning) thinks he only wants to get inside Maggie’s pants. In his mind, he’s invulnerable to love. Since Jake controls everything in the known universe (again, this is in his mind,) he can control his feelings for Maggie, too, right? As in making sure he never has any?

Only we don’t really have a say when it comes to the person we fall in love with, do we? In matters of love and desire, we are dealing with the strongest, most primordial force in the universe (besides the maternal instinct), which is the very thing that makes romance novels so exciting. 

Rad-Reader:  My thoughts after the first time Carmen meets Maggie.  Does Carmen have a crush on him?  If so, will she cause problems between him and Maggie?

Stacey:  I admire Carmen. She’s smart, talented, and above all, pragmatic. She and Jake have been friends for years. She’s watched him play the field with all kinds of women—watched him and waited for just the right moment to suggest they form an alliance of their own. They both travel in the same circles. They’re both attractive young professionals. Under certain circumstances, she might even be able to turn a blind eye to his far more wandering one. She loves him, yes, but Carmen isn’t the kind of women who let her feelings run away with her. So long as her vanity isn’t publicly affronted, she’s the perfect executive’s wife—indulgent of his extramarital straying and willing to present a united front. We are familiar with this type of wife just from reading the newspaper headlines.

But she didn’t see Maggie coming. Not in a million years did Carmen think Jake would fall for some “cookie lady” from Cuervo, Texas. What Carmen does, in the end, is actually very noble—and it shows what a class act she is. The advice he gives him is actually one of the turning points in the book. 

Rad-Reader:  Why doesn’t Jake just see his mom and get closure?

Stacey:  A sage named Ram Dass once said: The minute you think you’re enlightened, go spend a week with your parents.

Family is tough! Especially Jake’s. His bitter, alcoholic mother just wasn’t strong enough to deal with life’s disappointments. She was crazy in love with Jake’s father (Jake looks just like him, by the way). When the father left, he took a part of her with him.

She had two kids to raise and no money to raise them. To me, it’s heartbreaking what Jake and Dillon had to go through just to find food for dinner. Poverty is no joke. But it was exactly these kinds of excoriating circumstances that lit a fire in Jake’s belly and drove him to make something of himself.

So of course when it comes to family, Jake has a hard time staying in the ring. He saves his energy for business and tries his damnedest to ignore painful emotional ties. But there always comes a day in everyone’s life when ignoring your family is no longer an option. In SWEET DREAMS, Jake’s refusal to make peace with his mother is what drives the narrative. 

Rad-Reader:  Is Todd asking for forgiveness because he knows what it feels like to be betrayed or is he gaming her to get into her pants?

Stacey:  Todd wouldn’t mind getting in any woman’s pants, but what Todd’s really grooming Maggie for is serving as a substitute mother for his kids. Sure, he feels a little guilty for having knocked up Maggie’s best friend … but not THAT guilty. This is Todd, after all. He’s a man who’s always in it for what he can get. In his mind, he’s doing Maggie a favor, right? Letting her have access to the children she’s always wanted but didn’t have? But then, of course, Jake shows up. 

Rad-Reader:  The Paris trip.  Jake plays hardball to win over Maggie.  What is his end game really?  Does he even know at this point?

Stacey:  Jake lives in a lot of denials. Maggie does, too, actually, but not as much as Jake. Maggie partially denies—to herself, at least—the hurt and betrayal inflicted on her by Todd and Avery, whereas Jake tears himself apart denying how crazy in love he is with Maggie.

The problem as Jake sees it is simple: Maggie wants children. Jake will do anything to avoid them. In order to be worthy of her, he must do a lot of soul-searching. He must uncover the reason why children are so abhorrent to him. And the enemy within is always the most formidable enemy.

The poet Yeats once wrote: “Why do we honor those who die upon the field of battle when a man when show as reckless a courage by entering into the abyss of himself”. And that’s exactly what Jake must do in order to be worthy of Maggie. He must enter the abyss of himself. 

Rad-Reader:  If your book was made into a movie who would you want to play…

Maggie:  Katy Perry

Jake:  Ryan Paevey

Todd:  Braden Hardy

Coralee:  Kat Dennings

Stacey:  Damn, girl, that Ryan Paevey is just a whole lotta salty goodness, isn’t he? ***fans self furiously*** Sooooo delicious. I didn’t know who he was until I Google-fu’d him. RAWR.

I don’t think I can top any of your choices, but here goes:

Maggie:  Gal Gadot 

Jake:  Chris Pine 

Todd:  James Rizzo

Coralee:  Melissa Leo 

Rad-Reader:  What song or songs best describes your couple or your book as a whole?

“Trying Not to Love You – Nickelback”
When Jake knows something changed but he can’t figure out what.

"Fear is a Liar - Zach Williams"
This is what Jake was told by his mama but he used it to be stronger.

“With Arms Wide Open – Creed”
When he tells Maggie all his secrets.

“Cry Baby – Demi Lovato”
When Jake walks away.

Stacey:  WOW! Those songs are PERFECT! I can’t do any better, but I will add this vintage favorite of mine, sung by 60s’ crooner Jack Jones, which sums up Jake and Maggie relationship: 
“Our Love Is Here To Stay”

Rad-Reader:  If you could go anywhere where would it be?

Stacey:  I want to go to Bhutan! I know, I know, nobody’s ever heard of Bhutan, but the country looms large in my imagination. It’s a tiny Buddhist kingdom in the High Himalayas that actually pioneered the concept of “gross national happiness”. They really control their tourism (only so many people are allowed to go there on a given year), which I find admirable. Here’s a photo so you can see why I’m so in love with it. https://www.amplitudes.com/voyage-bhoutan/circuit-bhoutan/sejour-bhoutan/bhoutan/circuit-individuel-avec-chauffeur-bhoutan.html

Rad-Reader:  Do you believe in aliens?

Stacey:  The Spielberg kind? No. But extraterrestrial life? Absolutely! It might not be recognizable to us at this stage in our evolution, but the statistical probability that life exists elsewhere than planet earth is overwhelming! 

Rad-Reader:  Cakes? Or Pies?  What flavor?

Stacey:  Maggie is a far better cook than I am. When I cook, it’s a guaranteed kitchen fire. But I sure do appreciate people who possess those talents. My weakness is cake. Gooey chocolate cake, the richer the better. Death by chocolate? Bring it! Chocolate cake with pieces of candy bar or caramel or peanut butter chunks? I could snarf that up in one sitting.

Rad-Reader:  What is your favorite type of music?

Stacey:  I’m a huge Nine Inch Nails fan! HUGE. But I like all types of music. My boyfriend and my brother are jazz musicians (I love jazz). But I also listen to classical, swing, electronic, industrial, rock, punk, some pop, R&B, lounge, Gregorian chants, ambient, you name it. Not when I’m writing though. When I’m writing, it’s absolute monastic silence. 

Rad-Reader:  What is your favorite genre to read?

Stacey:  I love romance! Romance is the genre of the people. Anyone who says romance readers are sexually frustrated crazy cat ladies gets my boot up their backside. It’s not even remotely true!  

And there is nothing regressive or anti-feminist about romance either. Love knows no gender. It is not the exclusive province of women. Men fall in love, too.

And what could possibly be more entertaining than watching two people losing their minds but finding their souls? Romance is about self-discovery and transformation. Love reminds us that we are human.

The only difference between romance and literary fiction is that if both of them are on your Kindle, you’ll read the romance first. Make no apologies for it! Just because there’s a happily ever after doesn’t invalidate the genre or make it “less”.

Rad-Reader:  What is your next project and when is it coming out?

Stacey:  I’m working on a new trilogy called La Dolce Vita that takes place in Italy. For the last four years, I’ve been living in Italy, and I thought what fun it would be to write about three hunky Italian brothers growing up on a vineyard in Tuscany who find love with three very different American women.

For me, Italy is the birthplace of love, beauty and the Renaissance (I found the love of my life here.) How could I not share this magical cultural experience with everyone? As an immigrant viewing Italy through American eyes, I get to salt in all the idiosyncrasies that make Italy a veritable pasta bowl of beautiful traditions, maddening contradictions, and funny superstitions.

Rad-Reader:  Where can our readers buy your books?

Stacey:  They’re available everywhere! Here http://amzn.to/2GBQTz6 and here http://bit.ly/2Cf73QV are two places, but my books are supported across all platforms, including paperback.

Rad-Reader:  Where can our readers find you on the Web?

Stacey:  My website: www.StaceyKeithAuthor.com is probably the best place to find me. I work hard to keep it updated (lots of juicy blogs for readers to check out), but I am also on 

Thank you for making one of the most fun interviews ever.  It was so much fun talking with you and working with you.  You are now a 1 Rad-Reader Reviews Misfit for sure.  Make sure you come back and let us know when you have new books coming out by using out Shout Out: An Author's Place page.  Thanks again,

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