The Heart's Bidding by Jordan Riley Swan Genre: Clean Contemporary Romance
Kaylee Heart would rather run through a roaring fire than endure even a minute of public speaking. Put in an eighty-hour work week? No problem. Shut down her grandfather’s gold-digging girlfriend? Easy peasy. Stand in front of an auction crowd and call for bids? Show her the exit.
So she has no idea how Gerald, the golden-voiced auctioneer she’s been crushing on at the local auction house, can find the courage to stand on stage every week, with all those eyes on him. But as cruel fate would have it, she is about to find out.
Her family antique shop, the Vintage at Heart, has tripped over one financial hurdle too many and Kay is propelled, full speed, into her biggest phobia—the spotlight.
With terror chasing her, she’ll have to fight to keep the family business from closing forever. Even if the battle takes place in front of a live crowd.
Kay’s smile melted into a nervous line as Gerald strolled out of the building and into the parking lot. He stopped at the corner of the building with three other workers, hanging at the outside edge of their cigarette smoke, getting the rundown for the coming week.
Kay happily noted he didn’t have a cigarette in his hand. Not that it mattered, as it wasn’t even remotely her business—it was two cities away from even being in the same neighborhood as her business, in fact. Still, she hated the smell of smoke and wouldn’t even buy a piece of furniture if it had the barest whiff on it.
The magic hour of twilight accented his good looks, smothering out the rougher edges, giving some depth to his imperfect cheeks, some mystery to the casual look from his dark eyes.
Most importantly, the dying light accented the best thing about him: his whisper-sweet-nothings-in-the-dark voice. Gone was the professional detachment of the auction block, replaced with a warm softness that nestled in her ears. His bid-calling baritone must have been for show, but there was enough weight in his natural voice for it to roll the fifty feet across the gravel lot and park heavily in the middle of her stomach. It pulled her down and made her float in a constantly shifting balance.
Kay realized she’d been staring and snapped around to face her van. The cool night air gave no relief to the sudden sweat on her brow.
Heavy footsteps crunched through the gravel drive toward her.
“Excuse me. Bidder two twenty-seven, isn’t it?” Gerald asked. The change in his voice from his “bid-working” tone was even more obvious as he got closer.
Kay nodded without turning, using the distraction of balancing the chest of drawers on its side as an excuse to keep her eyes off him. His aftershave had worn down from a long day of work, but enough clung about him to remind her how intoxicating a singular smell could be. How much alcohol did they put in men’s cologne? A good whiff and she’d feel lightheaded and drunk.
Unfortunately—or perhaps fortunately—his scent carried the residue of his recent proximity to the smokers. The burned odor of cheap tobacco turned her stomach and cleared her head, saving her from a mad impulse to drop the mahogany chest, snatch the front of his shirt, and steal that voice from his mouth with her own.
Her knees locked as the thought startled her.
She must have been frozen for too long, because he repeated the question.
“You’re bidder two twenty-seven, aren’t you?” His voice was sterner the second time. Accusatory.
“Yes.” Kay didn’t turn to him. She intentionally concentrated on getting the proper leverage to shove the tall chest onto the rubber-mat floor of the van without damaging the side of the wood on the steel ball hitch.
“Well, that piece is marked six nine six. I don’t think you won it.”
“What?” Kay whipped her head toward him. She balanced the chest of drawers on the fulcrum point of the rust-pitted bumper with one hand and turned to fully face him. Its short, round oak feet dug into the dirty gravel. Her thoughts clung onto the gravel-popping distraction, welcoming it. Otherwise she might have spat some gravel at him for accusing her of theft.
“I’m saying you didn’t win that.” There was no malice in his voice, despite his accusation.
“You think I’m stealing?”
“No. But maybe loading something you thought you won, but actually didn’t?”
His diplomatic response doused her flare of annoyance.
“It’s my grandfather’s. I load the furniture for us.”
Hadn’t he heard the whole conversation inside earlier between her grandfather and Mr. Forest?
“Okay. Just wanted to make sure,” he said.
She didn’t respond.
“I’d have thought your grandfather… Bernard, right?”
“I’d have thought Bernard would’ve had me bring that chest when I came by later,” Gerald said.
Her heart jumped to her throat. “Bring it by?” Was he coming that evening? How long would it take her to zip through the shower?
Gerald continued, “He asked Mr. Forest to deliver the French buffet he won. I’m surprised he didn’t ask me to grab his other pieces too.” His expression was one of complete puzzlement, but Kay faked an uninterested shrug.
Did she have any clean clothes at the shop she could change into?
She busied herself by tipping the bottom of the chest of drawers off the gravel and wiggle-walked it across the gripping surface of the rubber flooring. Gerald stepped to her side to offer a hand, but she angled her body to stop him and regretted it instantly. Not because of the rude feeling that surged into her chest as she literally gave him her cold shoulder—that regret happened a full minute later—but because the smoky smell of his co-workers had finally cleared, leaving only his natural scent and a hint of aftershave. Up close, it was citrusy and smooth. Nothing like the body sprays other men in their mid-twenties tended to wear. It was subtle but unavoidable. Perfect.
Gerald retreated slightly from the van but didn’t leave. His mouth was pinched closed, holding back some comment she had probably triggered with her brusque refusal to allow him to assist.
Kay had better smooth things over. She didn’t want to throw up roadblocks between business and pleasure. If she upset an auctioneer, he could make things expensive by calling longer every time she was winning a bid. Worse than that, he could stop talking to her right then.
Jordan Riley Swan is a wild word hunter living in the far and dangerous reaches of rural Ohio. He spends his nights tracking down big-game stories, capturing them in paper cages, and training them to be better tales.
The Heart's Bidding was the first novel he'd dared to use the keys of his typewriter to release back into the wild.
Can you, for those who don't know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
I’m a country boy from rural Ohio. Not a cowboy or farmer or anything as cool as that, just happened to live in the boonies so fields and forests run in my blood. My journey into authorship begins at an early age. I wanted to tell stories but didn’t have the confidence in myself to believe I really could. I finished a few trunk novels in my very early twenties but you know how that goes. I would come back to writing every few years and try again, then stop when I realized I wasn’t as good as what I was reading. Then I started a business that I thought would give me plenty of time for writing. Fifteen years later I realized I’d been so busy building that business I hadn’t written a single word. One day at lunch, a few years back, the first line for a novel shot into my head. I opened up my work laptop I had in the restaurant with me and wrote the opening scene of a fantasy novel. With that, I started writing again. But this time I really took the craft seriously, learning everything I could, until I finally produced something I was proud to publish (at the ripe old age of 47).
What is something unique/quirky about you?
I collect medieval weapons and I can typically be found wearing a unicorn shirt.
Tell us something interesting that has happened to you!
I was in the middle of an argument with my girlfriend of the time as she said I wasn’t taking our relationship seriously and was afraid to commit. The song “Hey baby lets go to Vegas” by Faith Hill came on the car radio and I said “You want commitment? Do you? Well then let’s go to Vegas and get married right now!” We did. Drove out to Las Vegas from Ohio the next day. It ended the argument at least. Still, the marriage only lasted about as long as the song did, so there’s that…
What are some of your pet peeves?
Self-promotion. Hahahaha. Ok, since that’s likely to get me punch by the young lady who asked me to answer these questions I’ll go with my other pet peeve. People who take credit for other’s work. If you made/did something, you should get acknowledgement for it.
Where were you born/grew up at?
Ohio born and bred. I’ve lived elsewhere but I love the change of seasons too much to stay for long anywhere else.
If you knew you would die tomorrow, how would you spend your last day?
Who is your hero and why?
Fictional: Captain Mal, Firefly.
Real: Nathan Fillion.
Just kidding. Real: Beverly Jenkins. She’s whip-smart and funny as all get out. And the one time I met her at a romance writing conference she went out of her way to make sure that I, one of maybe five guys in an event of hundreds of women writers, felt included. She chatted me up, checking on me every so often to make sure people were engaging and being friendly. When I ran into her the last time at the end of the conference I thanked her for really caring that I was being included. She said (and I’m paraphrasing here) “Being left out because a person is different is something you can be damn sure I know all about.” So basically, I’d hide a body for her now if she asked me to.
What kind of world ruler would you be?
Better than about 99% of the people I see in charge now a days.
What are you passionate about these days?
My health. It took forty plus years but eventually I ran my body too hard. Now I’m paying the price so I’ve become passionate about eating better. And it really does take passion or you’ll find yourself slipping again and again.
What do you do to unwind and relax?
There is a park that they converted from an production factory nearby that I will walk the paths of, maybe go sit by the lake. Otherwise its unhealthy social media that tends to wind me up instead of down.
How to find time to write as a parent?
No kids. But if I did, I doubt I’d have gotten anything actually written. I look at the authors who have jobs, and kids, and a personal life outside of books and I wonder how the heck do they do it?
Describe yourself in 5 words or less!
Introvert based, extrovert when necessary.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’ll let you know when I finally do. Hahaha.
Ok, I’ll really answer. There are two points I can think of that made me believe I was a writer. The first one was in my twenties when I started going to community college. One of the classes I took was creative writing. I handed in my assignment and the teacher pulled me aside a few days later. She asked if she could include the short story in the handbook they were creating for the English second language department. They teach a grammar problem in the beginning of the chapter and then they put a short story at the back of the chapter and intentionally seed the story with the problem they are trying to get the student to identify. So, somewhere in my old alma mater, my story is showing people how to understand English better. And now that I answer this question I realize that if I told this story to my editor she’d ask if the grammar problem they used for my work was a split comma (apparetnly I have a real problem with those. Hahaha).
The second point I considered that I might actually be a real writer was when I finally wrote a novel I wasn’t embarrassed to have other people read.
Do you have a favorite movie?
Isn’t this one of my banking account login questions? What are you trying to pull here?
Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?
Of the stuff I have out now, I would have to say The Heart’s Bidding because it’s the only book I’ve published. I know, I know, quit with all the jokes.
So I guess I could say, I have a young adult fantasy that should be available late next year. That would be a great movie. If the question was what one would make a good Netflix series it would be Anniversary Guy.
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
That’s funny, I just did a huge physical pilgrimage across the US. My mother was in Washington state and I had to go out and assist her with family business. I decided rather than fly I would drive the whole way, going a couple hundred miles per day and stop at all the tourist traps I could find. It really reset my stress back to zero (other than having to dodge people who couldn’t be bothered to wear masks in the middle of a pandemic). But as to a literary pilgrimage I don’t think I have (other than driving to Denver two years ago on a whim to my first ever national RWA conference).
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
Well, the three dozen unicorn shirts in my closet would probably answer that.
What inspired you to write this book?
I work adjacent to the auction industry and own(ed) an antique shop. Over the years a few anecdotes would pop up and I sort of started mentally collecting them. I had just finished a book that will eventually be a massive series I’ll be putting out over the next few years and I needed to take a break and write a standalone that had nothing to do with the big project. A thought occurred to me, what if a person who hates public speaking (like me) was suddenly forced to have to be an auctioneer. The rest sort of fell into place. Several scenes in the book have real life (if majorly changed) counter part moments. It felt cathartic to share some of the moments with others.
What can we expect from you in the future?
My big series, called The Anniversary Guy, will launch in late winter. I have an urban fantasy I’m collaborating on with Diane Callahan of the Quotidian Writer (my editor) and Hero Bowen out of the UK that involves wishes with a touch of romance and that will likely be out next summer. Lastly, I have a heist series that I’m also working in collaboration with the same two ladies that should come out spring next year. Ever since I shut my shop down due to Covid (I didn’t wanting to risk my employee’s health as most of them were in there sixties) I’ve finally had time to really get some stuff on paper. If things keep going the way they are I’ll be writing full time for the foreseeable future.
Do you have any “side stories” about the characters?
I do. They will feature prominently in one of the Anniversary Guy books down the line. I like to think of that series as my MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) all my other standalone romance books will tie back into that series like Thor and Ironman in the Avengers.
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in The Heart's Bidding?
Our main Heroine is Kaylee Heart (The Heart’s Bidding… get it? huh? huh?) is a young lady who had to leave college to take over the family business after her parents passed in a tragic accident.
Our hero is Gerald who recently graduate from auction school and has just finished his apprenticeship. And in a bad turn for Kay, she has a crush on him and he’s about to become her teacher.
How did you come up with the concept and characters for the book?
I thought, what would happen to me if I was forced to have to speak in front of a live crowd? Auctioneers have to do just that while fast-talking and entertaining at the same time. Since that sounded like my own personal hell, I thought why not put my heroine through it?
Where did you come up with the names in the story?
The heroine’s name is a nod to an auction buddy. The hero’s name was a fictional boyfriend we created for her after she started complaining about the men who would chase after her at the auction. Someone she could say was waiting at home for her to keep the lecherous old humps from hitting after her. They still hit on her anyway but at least they tried to hide it lest Gerald should happen to show up at the auction and beat the bids out of them.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
Putting the words “the end” on it. LOL. Okay, maybe I also really liked sharing some auction stories that I’ve seen happen in real life.
Tell us about your main characters- what makes them tick?
For my heroine, she’s just trying to lay the track down in front of the train as its running break nexk speed. For my hero, he just wants to create something (whether that is an acution house or a family or both I’ll let the reader decide).
How did you come up with the title of your first novel?
It was going to be The Paddle Apprentice but that didn’t really sound like a good sweet romance title… I’m not saying it doesn’t sound like a GOOD romance, just not a clean and wholesome one. So I’m saving that for a future book (I better not see that on Goodreads you crazy authors!) and I came up with the name The Heart’s Bidding, because in the end, aren’t we all really doing the heart’s bidding? Just named my main Kaylee Heart and BAM! A double meaning title.
Who designed your book covers?
Bookfly Designs. I swear by them.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
According to my first one star review I should have changed the entire book. Hahahah. But seriously, I’m proud of what I ended with. If left to my own devices I would rewrite it into eternity, but at some point you have to release it into the wild.
Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Holy crap, the whole thing was a learning experience from beginning to end. I only hope I learn as much every time. We should always be getting better at our craft, and I think this one proves it (if you compared first draft to last draft I’d hope you’d agree.)
If your book were made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I don’t know enough actresses’ names to answer that. But I can say I got my dream narrator to agree to read it (Xe Sands) and that makes me happier than it being turned into a movie would.
Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
This isn’t a typical romance. I don’t really hit the tropes like most people would want, just keep that in mind as you go through it. Whether that makes the book better or worse I leave to you.
What is your favorite part of this book and why?
The van ride in chapter three. It was fun to write. A lot of my later work in other novels resembles it more than the other chapters inside this one.
If you could spend time with a character from your book who would it be? And what would you do during that day?
I’d hang out with Bridgette. She’s the kind of no-nonsense woman I’d totally date if she were my age (and you know, real). We’d go to a concert and she’d belittle the fact that I have no idea who the singer is and ask me why I even bothered to come.
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
There is a seed of a real person in every character. Usually it’s a mixture though. I might take a personality trait from one person and combine it with a trait from another person and then describe the physicality of a third person. A few of them were made up whole cloth as I don’t really know anyone like my true love in this book, Bridgette. LOL
Do your characters seem to hijack the story, or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?
I felt like we worked together. They pushed me into story lines I wasn’t suspecting and I threw them for some curves that they didn’t like in response. But at the end of the day I felt like I was in charge.
Convince us why you feel your book is a must read.
Every so often a book enters into a genre that is of the genre but doesn’t follow the rules exactly. This is that book. Maybe you’ll find it frustrating, but the readers who want to try something a little different may just find this a perfect match for them.
Have you written any other books that are not published?
About ten or so. Three from my misspent youth. Several recently, but a few of those will eventually be published.
If your book had a candle, what scent would it be?
I’m allergic to strong scents. LOL. But I imagine with Kay doing so much painting and furniture repair it would smell like sawdust and milk paint.
What did you edit out of this book?
About 30k words. Hahaha. The first draft was nearly the size of an epic fantasy. I had to drop several subplots and dial back some of the background characters. Did it hurt? Yeah. Is it a faster, better read now? Absolutely. Will I overwrite my next novel like that again? Probably. I guess I didn’t learn enough after all.
The biggest subplot that got sacrificed was about a male character who was also crushing on the main hero but couldn’t confess it because said character has to hide the fact he’s gay because of small town and old men at auction prejudices. It had to go for multiple reasons, but I will reward him with his own book down the line.
Is there a writer whose brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
I have been blessed with the opportunity to pick a few brains of my real life hero’s for advice after meeting them at conferences. I can say with certainty that there are few, more rewarding things, then having a hero be as cool in person as they seem in their writing.
Fun Facts/Behind the Scenes/Did You Know?'-type tidbits about the author, the book or the writing process of the book.
Fact (not sure how fun it is): I chose my Pen name based on its androgynous nature. I researched the top hundred names shared by both boys and girls and picked Jordan and Riley out of them. I did this because I knew I’d be writing in both romance and fantasy and wanted the reader to associate my gender with whatever preconceived gender they assigned to the genre. Besides, I doubt too many people would buy a romance novel with the name Bernie on the cover. I mean, that does make me sound like I’m a Jewish sex machine, but might not be the best sales tactic for sweet romance…
What are your top 10 favorite books/authors?
A Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Sherry Thomas’s lady Sherlock series
The Dragon Prince Trilogy by Melanie Rawn
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
A Man Called Ove by Frederick Backman
Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Uprooted/Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
Beverly Jenkins (enough said right there)
What book do you think everyone should read?
Depends on the format. If you are reading it, I would go with “Spinning Silver” by Naomi Novik. It’s a masterclass in multiple first person perspectives.
For audiobook it’s a toss up between “Murmur of Bees” and “Starless Sea.” Both of which are so beautiful to listen to it makes me weepy thinking about it.
How long have you been writing?
Off and on for all my life. But usually only for one book’s length at a time. I’d reread whatever it was I just wrote and realize it sucked and then never read it again. Low and behold I was in my early forties before someone imparted the wisdom “a book becomes a publishable novel in the revisions” what a life changing moment that was.
Do the characters all come to you at the same time or do some of them come to you as you write?
I’m a plotter so they typically come before I start putting words to page. Secondary and trinary characters come and go though.
What kind of research do you do before you begin writing a book?
None. I like to just jump in and research along the way. It sometimes breaks the plot to find out later something doesn’t actually work the way I assumed but part of the fun for me is figuring work arounds to those plot derailments. If I researched before I started writing I would fall down the rabbit hole of research and never stop. I’d know a whole lot about something new though so that’s nice, I guess.
Do you see writing as a career?
I hope I can make it into one. But I do feel like I may end up going back to running an antique store when the Covid thing gets under control. I miss the excitement of auctions and the hunt to find rare things.
What do you think about the current publishing market?
I love the fact that even the author with a subject matter that isn’t mainstream can now reach out to readers through self-publishing. But I also love the idea of being trad published someday. My dream is to be hybrid.
Do you read yourself and if so, what is your favorite genre?
I tend to read fantasy and family saga. Murmur of Bees was my favorite book of this year, but my heart always goes back to the trilogy I read as a kid, The Dragon Prince by Melanie Rawn. I float back and forth between the two genres.
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?
I have tinnitus and if I don’t have some kind of background noise it becomes to much to ignore. So I listen to some wordless music on YouTube while I write (channels like Blume and MusicLab). I even have to have a fan noise running when I sleep the tinnitus can be so distracting. Now, if I try to write without something to distract my ears I end up shutting down the document to soon and not really getting anything done.
Do you write one book at a time or do you have several going at a time?
I like to concentrate on one book at a time but recently I’ve been collaborating with another author and it has forced me to learn how to juggle multiple projects as I wait for her to finish stuff (and I’m sure she’s having to wait a lot too…).
I can say for certainty that when it comes to first drafting, I can only work at one at a time. I can revise multiples though. I guess it engages a different part of my brain.
If you could have been the author of any book ever written, which book would you choose?
I don’t really like this question. I’m a firm believer of people getting credit where credit is due. To want to be the one to have written someone’s else’s famous work feels like credit stealing. As odd as that sounds.
Now, if you mean write like someone I wish I had the prose of some of the authors I read. Especially Patrick Rothfuss.
Pen or typewriter or computer?
Computer. But Lord knows I tried on a typewriter (and used to use an electric one way back when I first started as a word processor would have cost a thousand bucks and wouldn’t have even had a printer). For fun I once took home one of my old manual typewriters from my shop (a massive metal Underwood from the 1910’s if I remember right) bought a replacement ribbon and typed out a few pages of a kids novel I was going to write. Though it was fun, I missed cut and paste and autocorrect of Microsoft Word WAY too much…
Tell us about a favorite character from a book.
Locke Lamora from book of the same name.
What made you want to become an author, and do you feel it was the right decision?
I want to create stories and art and share it with people. I’ve always enjoyed telling a good tale. There is something about that look you get from people as you carry them through a narrative. I eat it up. Writing full length novels seemed like a good extension of that.
A day in the life of the author?
Get up early. Breakfast. Write a little in the morning. Go somewhere out doorsy and walk around to clear and think on stuff. Lunch Return home for some more writing. Dinner. End day watching some mindless programs online. And in-between all of that listen to an audio book.
Advice you would give new authors?
It’s never to late to take the craft seriously.
Describe your writing style.
Oh, you meant my story writing not my handwriting. Well, I’d say its linear and plot driven. Sherry Thomas once said, “I like big plots and I cannot lie.” I’d whole heartily agree with her. Sometimes that does put my characters and their emotions in the back seat but I am practicing to do better with that.
What makes a good story?
Did the reader have an emotional reaction (good or bad)? Was the ending satisfying? Yes? Then that’s a good story.
What are they currently reading?
Just finished Giver of Stars. Thinking I might pick up her other work. I loved Giver enough.
What is your writing process? For instance, do you do an outline first? Do you do the chapters first?
Come up with a broad concept first thing. Do some preliminary outlining of the plot over the next few days. Create some characters to fill said plot. Ask how can I make it harder for the characters each chapter (I love the try-fail cycle). Then write chapter by chapter in linear order through to a first draft with exceptionally light revisioning as I go. Come back to the beginning and start the heavy revisions. Send to developmental editor for notes. Talk myself out of strangling her when it comes back covered in red. Rewrite and revise. Resubmit. Then onto line editor. Copy edit. Onto Proofreaders. I don’t use beta readers as I will go into an endless cycle of trying to do appease them and end up rewriting into forever. Publish.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
That your writing has to be great out of the gate. Nobody’s first draft is great. I fell into that trap for DECADES.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Original (at the cost of the genre and good reviews from time to time it seems. I may have to rethink this now. Hahaha)
If you could tell your younger writing-self anything, what would it be?
Keep your butt in the chair and for the love of god revise and polish. When you read other peoples work look for what they did to evoke emotions. Read books on writing instead of assuming you know it all.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
As a guy, I’m deathly scared I’m going to find my work tweeted by the Men Writing Women account. LOL
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
First draft in a month. First revisions one month later. Endless cycle of changes and polishing: months and months. The Heart’s Bidding took a year and a half to write and polish. Anniversary Guy even longer. But I tended to do other projects while I let them rest. I’ve first drafted entire novels in a month and have some that are still not done years later. But I think now that I’m writing full time I’ll be putting out books a lot more frequently. Especially since I have actual deadlines for once.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
Yes and no. I believe we can concentrate on the wrong thing, aiming our self at something other than what we should be trying to accomplish, and lock ourselves up. If you write something that you don’t care about, the words will come. You didn’t lose your ability to write, your mind is just telling you something is wrong with the project you are working on currently and you need to step away from it to figure it out. But then again I may just be full of BS.
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