Presenting Laura Haley-McNeil

My guest today is Laura Haley-McNeil. Laura, thanks so much for joining us Four Foxes One Hound. We can’t wait to meet you and sample your work.


A native of California, Laura Haley-McNeil spent her youth studying ballet and piano, though her favorite pastime was curling up with a good book. Without a clue as to how to write a book, she knew one day she would. 

After college, she segued into the corporate world, but she never forgot her love for the arts and served on the board of two community orchestras. Finally realizing that the book she’d dreamt of writing wouldn’t write itself, she planted herself in front of her computer. She now immerses herself in the lives and loves of her characters in her romantic suspense and her contemporary romance novels. Many years later, she lived her own romantic novel when she married her piano teacher, the love of her life. 

Though she and husband have left warm California for cooler Colorado, they enjoy the outdoor life of hiking, bicycling, horseback riding and snow skiing. They satisfy their love of music by attending concerts and hanging out with their musician friends, but Laura still catches a few free moments when she can sneak off and read. 

Laura Haley-McNeil – My Writing Style

Writers seem to have two basic styles of writing:

  1. They write by the seat of their pants, or
  2. They outline.

As for me, I’d love to have the discipline to outline. I’ve read tons of craft books about how it saves time and keeps the author on track for the plot and the ending. Outlining is a cure for that frustration of going off on a tangent and then realizing I have to cut the last twenty pages I wrote because it no longer fits into the plot. My deleted scenes file tends to be quite lengthy.

With the best of intentions, I outline. Because I write romance, I know the ending. It’s how I get to that ending that can increase my annoyance. I’d like to say it’s not my fault. I should know by now my characters will do something totally unexpected taking me in a completely different direction that I’d planned. When that happens, the outline flies out the window. I’m sitting on the edge of my seat, steam pouring out of my laptop with one question dangling in front of me:  And then what happened?

So I guess I’m a hybrid writer. I will continue to start my book with an outline. It helps me to get to know my characters, but as my characters become more real to me, they tend to surprise me. With their own personalities and their own ideas, they will continue to do exactly as they please, and that’s when I feel more like a reader than a writer barely able to contain my impatience to turn the page to find out what happens next. 

When I started writing the Beaumont Brides Series, I knew I wanted to write about adult children from two different families who find they have more in common than high school friendship. Kim Lowe, the mother of six sons, and Steve Duvall, the father of six daughters, shock their families with one little detail: they just got married.

I hope you’ll want to read the Beaumont Brides Boxed Set Books 1-3 and that you’ll enjoy the ups and downs of twelve young people excited to embark on their careers but tend to get caught up in this crazy little thing called love.

Be well and safe, dear friends. God bless you all!

Beaumont Brides Boxed Set Books 1-3

Here come the brides!

Book 1: Wherever Love Finds You

It’s his game. He makes the rules. Rule number one – only he can break the rules.

Zach Lowe lives his life without relationships in business and personally. Getting involved doesn’t work well when you’re the Black Knight of Wall Street.

Ellora Duvall, the sweet kid who crushed on him in high school, waltzes into the world of corporate finance with the same wide eyed innocence she had in chemistry class. He hadn’t expected her to affect him the way she did, but he’s in control. A few weeks with Ellora will be pure pleasure, then he’ll move on. She’ll understand. He should, too.

Who broke his rules?

Book 2: When Love Whispers

Sometimes, love comes in packages.

As the top ranked student at Charleston’s military academy, Preston Lowe excels in class, in sports and with women. Only Willow Dockery, a barmaid at the city’s trendy nightclub, sees the pain in his eyes when he’s out with friends having a good time. But Willow doesn’t know how Preston inwardly struggles to forget a past that could derail the career he’s worked hard to achieve.

Willow wrestles with her own secrets. After a disastrous relationship leaves her broke and disillusioned, she vows never to let anyone rob her of her dreams again. But as she gets to know Preston, it’s as if their tumultuous pasts meld together into something so startling it transforms their relationship and their lives forever.

Book 3: Call It Love

A kiss isn’t just a kiss …

Struggling actress Addison Duvall hustles background acting jobs at the Hollywood studios in hopes for her big break. When she’s cast as the stand in for the lead actress in a blockbuster spy film, she can’t believe her luck. The surprises rush in―her first test shot is with Hollywood heartthrob Spencer Kingsley. Her even bigger surprise is when the director yells, “Action!” and Spencer presses his lips to hers in a kiss.

Behind Spencer’s Hollywood façade hides the secret pain no one suspects. He’s the first to take a risk except when it comes to his heart. He can’t deny he and Addison have chemistry―chemistry onscreen and off―and he’s tempted to lower his guard. She seems real, not like the women he usually meets.

Once Addison’s star rises, so do Spencer’s doubts. She’s no different than the others looking for the connection to catapult their careers. He won’t let another woman damage his heart. His decision made, Spencer wishes her success.

But it’s already too late. How does he heal this Addison shaped hole in his heart? Should he risk more heartbreak for another chance at love?

Excerpt from Call It Love

Chapter One

Addison Duvall stood apart from the cast and crew crowded across the Hollywood soundstage and ended the call on her cell phone. She dropped her head back against the concrete wall and closed her eyes, but that did little to still the emotions rising in her chest. 

Her agent, Donny White, had just told her she didn’t get the part on the sitcom that she was sure she had. The director was looking for someone tanner, blonder, shorter. She could be all those things if given a chance. She could go to a tanning salon, dye her dark hair, and slouch. 

Donny laughed and told her he’d scheduled her for another audition. “Don’t worry, kid. I’ll get you something,” he said. But he said that every time they talked.

Sometimes she wondered if she should’ve accepted the teaching job she’d been offered and stayed in Colorado―even if it was January and freezing.

Conversations on the set silenced. Addison’s eyes flew open, and she clutched her copy of the screenplay for When We Say Goodbye to her chest. She’d been hired as the stand-in for Irene Wayne, the female lead in this top-budget spy film, and she didn’t want to miss her cue. 

A tall, powerfully built man stepped onto the set. Spencer Kingsley, the film’s star, was the grandson of Hollywood great Mirabelle La Marr Kingsley and the hottest actor in town. His parents would’ve been acting legends had a tragic accident not claimed their lives.

Addison’s heart beat rapidly. She might be Irene’s stand-in, but this was the closest she’d ever get to Spencer Kingsley. When Irene’s scenes were shot, she’d be with Spencer in nearly every scene. Lucky girl. 

Spencer’s blue gaze swept over the cast and crew and he greeted everyone near him, from the key grips to the supporting actors. Addison’s pulse quickened at Spencer’s outrageously handsome face and his easy manner. 

If Addison hadn’t taken Donny’s call, she would be standing with the extras in the cast, and Spencer would’ve talked to her. He stopped and chatted with a group of women standing a few feet away from Addison. They were leggy, tan and blond, and giggled when he said hello. He looked past them and straight at Addison. 

Spencer’s dazzling smile radiated, and he moved past the women and extended his hand to her. Everyone around her quieted, their stares like coarse sandpaper rubbing against her skin.

“You’re Irene’s stand-in for the Ruby character,” Spencer spoke into the silence. “Addison Duvall.”

Addison’s mouth dropped open. He knew her name? “Yes,” she stammered. Logical thought vanished from her mind. Staring into his brilliant blue eyes, she slipped her hand into his. It was large and well-shaped, its strength filling her with warmth.

“It’s nice to meet you.” His mouth spread into a roguish grin, and his hand fell away. “I’ll see you around.”

Chilly air rushed in where his heat had cocooned her. 

Turning away, Spencer moved across the set to the row of canvas chairs emblazoned with the names of the leading cast and crew.

The extras pushed around her, all gushing at once. Spencer knew Addison’s name. That had to mean something. 

If only that were true. Doubt crept in. Why would a big Hollywood star want to remember the stand-in for his leading lady? The answer was simple. He wouldn’t.

Spencer stood next to the film’s director, Howie Post. They laughed as if one of them had cracked a joked, then their conversation seemed to turn serious. Spencer lifted his gaze to where Addison and the other extras stood, but he wasn’t looking at the extras. He was looking at her. Howie looked at her, too. Addison let out her breath. Were they talking about her? Spencer said something to Howie that made the director lift his brows. 

“Get Irene.” Howie’s voice boomed through the hangar-like structure. He looked at his assistant, Effie. 

The young woman nodded. The strain of not knowing where Irene was pressed lines into her smooth cheeks, and she darted behind the cameras. 

Addison scanned the crowd, but didn’t see Irene. Not unusual. The actress was known for arriving on set bleary-eyed and late. Photos of her nightly antics graced the entertainment websites. If Effie had to search for Irene again, filming would be delayed, which meant Addison might be late for her catering job at The Palacio Hotel tonight. Her stomach knotted. She hoped Effie found Irene, and quick. 

A few minutes later, a pale Effie rushed onto the set. Whatever she said to Howie made his eyes bulge.

“What do you mean you can’t find her?” Howie’s face reddened. Before Effie could answer, he yelled, “She’s fired.” 

Everyone on the set stared at him. No one moved. No one breathed. Addison’s heart throbbed a sickening beat. Did that mean filming was canceled? Or would the set be locked until Irene was found? If it were locked, Addison would miss her catering job for sure. Not good. She needed the money. 

Howie’s stormy gaze swept over the crowd. He opened his mouth and yelled, “Get me Addison Duvall.”

Spencer looked at her, his blue eyes as beautiful as they were serious. The extras around Addison turned and stared. 

Addison’s knees turned to water, and she grabbed the back of a chair. “Me?” she whispered. Why did Howie want her?

“Where’s Addie?” Howie looked at Effie. 

His assistant scanned the crowd. When she spied Addison, she pointed. 

“I’m here.” Addison gulped air and moved past the tall blondes. With a weak smile, she gave a slight wave.

“I want you here.” Howie pointed to the floor in front of him then stared at his tablet.

Addison clutched the bound screenplay to her chest and wove through the crowd. When she reached Howie, Spencer smiled at her and stepped to one side. 

Howie looked up from his device. “You got a script?” His gaze dropped to the well-thumbed binder.

“Yes, sir.” She held it out to him.

“I don’t want it.” A frown pressed between his brows. “You’re going to need it.” His gaze moved from her to Spencer. “You got one hour, then I want you in makeup.” 

Addison didn’t know why Howie looked at her. She was a background actor. She had no reason to report to makeup.

Turning away, Howie strode through the crowd. “Set up the next scene,” he shouted.

The camera crew jumped to their feet and rushed across the set.

Addison stared after Howie, confusion roiling through her mind. 

“Are you ready?” Spencer’s deep voice broke through the commotion surrounding them. When she looked at him, he flashed her a reassuring smile.

“I might be if I knew what I should be ready for,” she said.

“We’re rehearsing the next scene, the one I was supposed to shoot with Irene this morning.” His manner was casual, relaxed. 

Addison closed her eyes and shook her head. “I don’t understand. Why am I rehearsing for Irene’s role?”

“I believe Howie made it clear.” Spencer looked at her, his brilliant gaze intense. “This role no longer belongs to Irene.”

Laura, I enjoyed your excerpt very much. I hope you have good luck with your boxed set.

Readers, don’t forget to leave your questions and comments for Laura.


About Elaine Cantrell

Elaine Cantrell was born and raised in South Carolina. She has a Master’s Degree in Personnel Services from Clemson University and is a member of Alpha Delta Kappa, an international honorary sorority for women educators. She is also a member of Romance Writers of America. Her first novel A New Leaf was the 2003 winner of the Timeless Love Contest and was published in 2004 by Oak Tree Press. When she isn't writing you can find Elaine playing with her dog or maybe collecting more vintage Christmas ornaments
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4 Responses to Presenting Laura Haley-McNeil

  1. Jeff Salter says:

    Welcome to 4F1H. Enjoyed the excerpt.
    Like you, I tend to write a hybrid of pants-ter and plotter… though I tend more toward the pants-ter side.
    Love this quote: “…my characters will do something totally unexpected…”
    One of the things that has surprised me with fiction writing is how delightful (but at times exasperating) it can be for my characters to take over their story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ma Di says:

      Hi, Jeff! It’s wonderful to meet you. Yes, it can be frustrating when characters take over their story, especially when you’re staring at the outline you worked so hard on and see that it’s going to useless now. But I agree, that it’s wonderful when your characters are so real with minds of their own, and they work hard to bring about a satisfying ending to your (their) story, which can also be quite surprising. Best wishes in your writing journey.

      Laura Haley-McNeil

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Welcome,Laura! Panser here, but whatever works for each individual, well, works!
    I was just discussing the pantser-vs-plotter idea with a former guest half an hour ago. Planning is fine, but as long as a writer is open to their characters doing “something totally unexpected”, they get the job done. I believe that over-plotting and trying to force characters into doing what the writer planned with no leeway is the leading cause of frustration and works that are abandoned.
    Good luck with all of your writing!


    • Ma Di says:

      Hi, Tonette! It’s wonderful to meet you, and thank you for sharing these wise words. The process shouldn’t matter as long as we’ve written something that the reader finds satisfying. Many times I’ve told myself, “This is never going to work.” But the mind is an amazing thing in how it’s always searching for a solution,and when I finally type “The End,” I’m relieved as well as very surprised.

      Best wishes in your writing journey.

      Laura Haley-McNeil


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