The Bad Luck Bride BLOG TOUR!!

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The Bad Luck Bride will be released this past Tuesday (May 2nd) and to celebrate I am participating in a Blog Tour for the book! If you haven’t already seen it, you can find my review of the book here. See below for more information about the book, an excerpt, a short author bio, and author Q&A! This was a really good read and I would definitely recommend checking it out! 

SUMMARY

No one is left breathless at the imperious pronouncement of her engagement to Lord Pembrooke more than Claire. She hardly knows the dangerously outrageous man! But after three engagements gone awry and a fourth going up in glorious flames, she isn’t in a position to refuse…
Alexander requires the hand of his enemy’s fiancée in marriage in order to complete his plans for revenge. It’s his good fortune that the “cursed” woman is desperate. However, what begins as a sham turns into something scandalously deeper…

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Janna MacGregorJanna MacGregor was born and raised in the boot-heel of Missouri. She credits her darling mom for introducing her to the happily-ever-after world of romance novels. Janna writes stories where compelling and powerful heroines meet and fall in love with their equally matched heroes. She is the mother of triplets and lives in Kansas City with her very own dashing rogue, and two smug, but not surprisingly, perfect pugs. She loves to hear from readers. The Bad Luck Bride is her first novel.

AUTHOR Q&A

  1. Are there any books or authors that have really influenced you and made you want to write? What about those authors inspired or influenced you?

Without a doubt, I wouldn’t be a published author without Eloisa James and Maggie Robinson. They are both marvelously generous woman who helped me become the writer I am today. When I first came up for the idea of The Bad Luck Bride (back then it was called The Secret Affairs of a Duke’s Daughter), Maggie Robinson helped me with my plotting and taught me the basic craft of writing.

One summer I was lucky enough to take a seminar that Eloisa James was teaching on writing a romance novel. It was a wonderful experience. Her criticisms were tough, but she taught me about novel writing and digging into edits. Plus, she taught me about the business of publishing. I’ll be forever grateful.

Besides, just reading the lovely stories that Eloisa and Maggie write are wonderful influences not only to me personally, but also in how I craft a story.

  1. Do you have any special rituals that you find yourself following when you’re writing? OR Take us through your typical workday.

When I first wake in the morning, I have at least 2-3 cups of coffee. I’ve always been a coffee drinker and would happily drink it all day if it weren’t for the caffeine. After I feed my dog, I answer emails.  Then with Pollie, my pug, by my side, I’m ready to write. Normally, the night before, I’ve got a good idea of the scene I want to get on paper. I plow ahead until I get my word count. I may or may not read the scene(s) in the afternoon. When I’m actively writing a new story, I try not to stray too much with this schedule. After I finish a novel, I’ll take a break as I try to plot the next story.

  1. Do you usually work off of an outline while writing or do you tend to just start writing and see where the story takes you?

I’m a total outline person. But I’m no so married to it that I don’t listen to my characters if they want to take the story in a different direction. It’s all part of the storytelling process for me.

  1. Is there a certain message that you hope readers are taking away with them after reading your recent release?

True love forgives our mistakes and encourages us to release our guilt while offering the sweetest absolution.

EXCERPT

51Fo7+8vc8L._SY346_Alex smiled in earnest. “I would never allow you to be humiliated in front of society. I’m trying to help you.” Somehow, he had to convince her of that fact, then the idea of marrying him would be much easier to accept.

She blinked rapidly, then turned back to him and, for an instant, appeared startled to see him there. “That’s very gallant, my lord. Truly, thank you for the effort. But I must leave.”

This night could not end with her escaping, so he tried another tactic. “You need to protect your Wrenwood estate and your wealth from lechers who would feed upon your vulnerability. Not to mention stop that ridiculous curse.”

“I have two.” She held up two gloved fingers.

“Two? Two what? Curses?” No one at his club had uttered a peep about another curse.

“Estates. I have two estates, Wrenwood and Lockhart.” She returned his stare.

Her answer was unexpected, but his business experience had taught him to show nothing. The report from his private investigator had not mentioned additional properties. Thoughts were percolating if she chose to disclose this information.

A razor of lightning split the sky. She flinched and took a step closer to him, but her reaction had nothing to do with him. It was the storm.

Her gaze darted to the exit of the alcove, then she returned her attention to him. With a slight shrug of her shoulders, his evening jacket fell into her hands. She offered it to him. “My lord, good night.” Outside their hideaway, the voices of a man and a woman floated in the air.

Alex put his hand on her shoulder to prevent her escape. “Will you give me some assistance? I seem to have lost my valet.” He quirked an eyebrow. “Besides, if you leave now, whoever is out there will see us.”

She ventured a halfhearted grin and held his jacket in two hands. With a little persistence, he wrestled his way into the evening coat. Her hands smoothed the material across his shoulders and back, causing a pleasant sensation to cascade through him at the slight touch.

Claire took several steps toward the pathway. In a flash, he moved beside her and grasped her elbow. When he brought her close, something flared between them as he gazed into her haunted eyes. Whether the desire to keep her next to him was passion or the need to protect a vulnerable woman made little difference. He pulled her into the shadows and brought his mouth to her ear. “Wait until they pass.” The warmth from her skin beckoned.

A flash of lightning lit the gardens and the alcove.

With a gentle hand, he pushed her against the wall and stood to the side so he blocked her body from view.

A clap of thunder cracked as if the sky were breaking. It rolled into a loud rumble that refused to die.

“Please.” Her whisper grew ragged as she struggled for breath. In one fluid motion, she pulled the lapels of his evening coat toward her. She buried her face against his chest and pressed the rest of her body to his, almost as if she sought sanctuary inside. “Don’t leave me.” Her voice had weakened, the sound fragile, as if she’d break into a million pieces.

“I won’t. I promise.” Alex pulled her tight. One hand sank into the soft satin of her skirts while the other slid around the nape of her neck to hold her close to his chest. It was the most natural thing in the world to hold her. Her body fit perfectly against his.

With the slightest movement, she pulled away. Her eyes wildly searched his. For what, he couldn’t fathom.

He lowered his mouth until his lips were mere inches from tasting her. Madness had consumed him. All he wanted was to kiss her thoroughly until she forgot her fear—until she forgot everything but him.

Her breath mingled with his, and the slight moan that escaped her was intoxicating. Nothing in his entire life felt as right as this moment. He bent to brush his lips against hers.

“Pembrooke? Have you seen Lady—”

Claire leaned back and released his lapels. Without her warmth, he experienced a sudden loss of equilibrium. He turned with a snarl to greet the intruders.

Immediately, Lord Fredrick Honeycutt and his sister, Lady Sophia, took a step back as their eyes grew round as dinner plates.

The first to recover, Honeycutt announced, “I see you found Lady Claire.” He bowed his head slightly, then lowered his voice. “The Duke of Langham is looking for his niece and is directly behind us.”

A sense of wariness flooded Alex’s mind when Claire’s uncle strolled forward and came into sharp focus. As he stood, his feet spread shoulder width apart, the duke’s presence commanded everyone’s attention. His visage held the hint of a smile, but the two large fists resting by his sides were the real barometer of his mood. “Claire, are you all right?” The affection in his voice was at odds with the fury flashing in his eyes.

Copyright © 2017 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Press.

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Never Trust a Pirate BLOG TOUR!!

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Never Trust a Pirate was released TODAY (Tuesday, May 2nd) and to celebrate I am participating in a Blog Tour for the book! I haven’t had a chance to finish my ARC of the book yet, I should be done with it later this week though so check back for my review!! See below for more information about the book, an excerpt, a short author bio, and author Q&A! 

SUMMARY

The rules of engagement were never so scandalous. . .
A rumored pirate and the scurrilous black sheep of his well-to- do family, Cade Cavendish relishes his world of rebellion, deception, and seduction. Nothing and no one can hold him to be the duty-bound, honorable man he is expected to be. But when an unexpected run-in at his twin brother’s estate with a ravishing, raven-haired maid leads her to believe he’s actually a viscount, Cade’s renegade life is thrown wildly off-kilter. And even though a case of mistaken identity can be quickly set to rights, matters of the heart are quite different…
Miss Danielle LaCrosse is startled to learn that the handsome gentleman who radiates sin and has the devil in his eyes is not her employer the Viscount, but rather his infamous brother. A former heiress, orphaned and left penniless, Danielle has more than a few secrets of her own. Cade may be skilled at coaxing even the most hidden desires out of Danielle but can he earn her trust—and win her heart—as they embark on an adventure to confront a dangerous enemy from both of their pasts . . . and uncover the identity of the so-called Black Fox along the way?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Valerie BowmanValerie Bowman grew up in Illinois with six sisters (she’s number seven) and a huge supply of historical romance novels. After a cold and snowy stint earning a degree in English with a minor in history at Smith College, she moved to Florida the first chance she got. Valerie now lives in Jacksonville with her family including her mini-schnauzer, Huckleberry. When she’s not writing, she keeps busy reading, traveling, or vacillating between watching crazy reality TV and PBS. She is the author of the Secret Brides series, starting with Secrets of a Wedding Night, Secrets of a Runaway Bride, and Secrets of a Scandalous Marriage.

AUTHOR Q&A

Some of the questions below were from other bloggers, the publisher had put them all together for us so I figured I would share all the authors answers with you readers!

  1. What is your favorite scene in Never Trust a Pirate? I truly do love the whole book but I think everything that happens after they get on the ship is especially fun. The book is sort of pre-ship and post-ship.
  2. What’s your favorite underappreciated romance novel?
    One of my favorite romances ever is Dark Future by KC Klein. It’s a futuristic scifi romance, which is not normally something I gravitate toward (I like to read historical romance!) but I picked up KC’s book and couldn’t put it down. It’s fantastic. She also has me reading contemporary cowboy stories.
  3. Are you methodical in your writing, certain hours of the day, certain rituals you may perform before you sit down? Or are you one of those writers who binge write when the mood is upon you? I’m a binge writer, but it’s not about the mood striking so much as it’s about having more time to write on the weekend because I’m not at my day job.
  4. Are there particular tropes you are fond of using? My favorite trope is probably reunited lovers or old friends who fall in love. I love the brother’s best friend trope, too. I’ve used all of those and am currently writing a story where a married couple (who haven’t seen each other in ten years) are forced to work together again. Of course hijinx (and romance) will ensue!
  5. What lead you to writing historical romances? My love of reading them. I read them a lot as a teenager. They made me so happy.
  6. How would you describe Never Trust a Pirate using only three words? Racy Regency Romp. That’s how I describe all of my books, actually.
  7. What is your advice for other writers? Write! It’s simple. I see a lot of would-be writers taking classes and reading books about writing but the best thing to do is just write, write, write. Worry about the mechanics later. You do need to study craft and learn the business but you’ve got nothing to improve if you’re not actually writing.
  8. Do you, or your publisher decide on your beautiful covers? If your publisher, do you have any input? My publisher makes the covers for the books and I love them. They send them to me for input but it’s usually quite minimal. They are gorgeous! I’m very lucky.
  9. Why this setting and why pirates? Inquiring minds want to you, or me anyway. I unabashedly love pirates! I love to read stories about them and when I was a kid I wanted to be one. Of course I get horribly seasick and am about the least adventurous person you’d ever meet. Swashbuckling would stress me out. I guess that’s why I have to write about it instead.
  10. What do you do to relax, after a day of writing? And how, do you set your writing day in order to achieve your goal of a certain number of pages? My favorite way to relax is to take a nap. I should have been born in a country that embraces the concept of siesta. That’s where I belong. Ha! I don’t count pages so much as I count words. So if I have to get twenty thousand words (about ¼ of a novel) written in a weekend, I would need to write about 6,600 Friday night, 13,000 on Saturday, and 6,600 on Sunday. I have a day job so weekends are very important to me as far as hitting my word count goals.
  11. Another inquiring minds want to you, approximately, how long does it take you to write a full length novel?  How many books can you write in a year? It takes me about two months to actually write the novel (working mostly nights and weekends around my full-time job) but it takes months to plot and think about the novel which is why I only write two novels per year.
  12. Which Hollywood stars would you like to see as the main characters in NEVER TRUST A PIRATE? I actually have a Pinterest board set up with my idea of who all the main characters in the Playful Brides series look like. For Cade Cavendish and Danielle LaCrosse it’s Chris Pine and Zooey Deschanel. You can find the board at: https://www.pinterest.com/valeriegbowman/playfulbrides/.
  13. Do you write fulltime? No and I actually have a theory that if I did write full-time I would get much less writing done. I think having to be so disciplined about my writing time forces me to focus. At least that’s what I tell myself.
  14. Twitter or Facebook? Both!
  15. Favorite TV show? Of all time? Gilmore Girls. As for what’s on today, I love Homicide Hunter: Lt Joe Kenda. I’m a sucker for true crime.
  16. Who is your ultimate Book Boyfriend? My book boyfriend is Jason Fielding from Judith McNaught’s Once and Always. Talk about the perfect tortured hero!
  17. What are you reading right now or what’s on your TBR? I’m currently reading Kerrigan Byrne’s, The Duke, and I can’t wait to dive into Anna Bennett’s, I Dared the Duke!
  18. 2017 Movie you’re most looking forward to? I just saw a trailer for Dunkirk and I got goosebumps! I can’t wait. I love WWII-era history almost as much as the Regency.
  19. Give us the “elevator pitch” for your new book. I call Never Trust a Pirate: The Scarlet Pimpernel meets Dirty Rotten Scoundrels in Regency England.
  20. Series or stand alone?  If series do you already have a set number of books that you plan to write? When I began to write the Playful Brides series, I planned three books. I’m happy to say it’s going to be eleven altogether, plus a novella. Plans change!
  21. If you could change anything in your past, what would it be and why? And how do you think it has affected your writing. – From Judy at Long and Short Reviews, she says hi! Was in a writing group in FL that you spoke at! I would love to go back to my twenty-two year old self and tell her to start writing romance novels right away. Alas, I have no time machine. Frankly, I don’t think my twenty-two year old self had the confidence or the patience to do it. I think life unfolds the way it’s meant to in due time. (Hi Judy!)
  22. What literary pilgrimages have you gone on? I’ve been to Bath and seen the Jane Austen museum there. Does that count?
  23. What are your future project(s)? Right now, I’m editing book 8 in the Playful Brides series. It’s called The Right Kind of Rogue and comes out on Halloween. I’m also writing book 9 of the Playful Brides series. And I’m always plotting future books in my head. In this case I’ve already got a lot of ideas for how I’m going to end the series with book #11 (Delilah and Thomas’s book) in Spring 2019.
  24. For novices who haven’t read a novel of yours what is it that they will find unique in your work? I hope they will find a book that doesn’t take itself too seriously and is filled with humor and heart. Above all, I just want my stories to entertain. I’m not here to give anyone a history lesson. I just want readers to smile and sigh.
  25. Do you find that you base any of your characters on people in your life? Have you gotten any inspiration for scenes in your novel from things that have happened to you in real life? The entire Playful Brides series was conceived based on my friend’s terrible boyfriend. She wouldn’t break up with him and I kept telling her to let me call him and break up with him for her (I was kidding, sorta). On a drive home from dinner with her one night, after she’d filled my ear yet again with a bunch of stories of the awful things he’d done (forgot her birthday, asked her to pay his cell phone bill), I started thinking how funny it would be if there was a service that you could call to break-up with your boyfriend for you. The opposite of Cyrano de Bergerac. I decided that would be great story and immediately began to think about how I could set it in the Regency. That was the idea for The Unexpected Duchess, the first story in the series.
  26. Are there any books or authors that have really influenced you and made you want to write? What about those authors inspired or influenced you? Lisa Kleypas was a huge influence on me. I was snowed in at an airport in 2007 and picked up Scandal in Spring. Many hours later (I couldn’t put the book down) I considered giving romance writing a try. She is a brilliant writer and a lovely person both inside and out.
  27. Have you read anything lately that you loved? Julie Anne Long’s The Legend of Lyon Redmond was sheer perfection if you ask me.
  28. Do you usually work off of an outline while writing or do you tend to just start writing and see where the story takes you? I don’t have an outline per se, but I sketch out a few sentences for each chapter in my Word .doc so I know where the story is going. I’ve been working lately on making my stories more character driven so I may change this up a bit.
  29. What other books or movies or music influenced this novel? As with all of the stories in my Playful Brides series, Never Trust a Pirate was inspired by a play. In this case it’s The Scarlet Pimpernel. I loved the concept of a character with dual identities.
  30. What advice do you have for pair wanting to get into the writing field? If you want to write romance, join Romance Writers of America (RWA.org). Hands down it was the best thing I did to learn how to write a romance novel. Leslie Wainger’s book, Writing a Romance Novel for Dummies, is also fantastic.

EXCERPT

51HzyMz0VaL._SY346_CHAPTER ONE

London Harbor, July 1817

Only three steps. Only three steps separated him from the map. It was there, laying on the rickety wooden table in the captain’s stateroom aboard a ship aptly named Le Secret Francais. The only sound in the cramped space was his own breathing. Sweat beaded on his brow. He’d come this far. Braved the murky, cold water, swam out to the ship moored at the London docks. Climbed aboard silent as a wraith, dressed all in black. Wrung out his clothing to keep it from dripping so there wouldn’t be a trail. Managed to steal into the captain’s quarters as the man slept, and now, now only three steps remained between him and the priceless map.

One water droplet fell to the wooden plank floor like a hammer against steel. The sound of his breath echoed to a crescendo. The blood pounding in his head became a distracting whirring noise.

One step forward. The ball of his foot ground onto the plank. Stealth and silence. Always. The calling cards of the best thief in London.

The captain stirred slightly in his bunk and began to snore.

He froze. One leather-clad foot arrested on the wooden plank. A pistol rested on two nails directly above the captain’s bunk. If the man awoke, he might shoot first at any noise. The captain well knew the value of the treasure he carried.

He counted to ten. Once. Twice. He had long since mastered the art of keeping footing on a ship. He waited until his heartbeats became steady again before taking the next step. A slight creak in the wood floor. A hint of movement from the captain. Another endless wait. Impatience was a roiling knot inside his belly.

Out of the shadows now, he stood only one step away from the table bolted to the floor. The moon shone through the window above the captain’s bed, shedding light on the man’s balding head. The map lay spread out, anchored by pins in the four corners. He would have to remove those pins. Ripping the paper would be too noisy.

Another interminable wait as the captain turned away from him in his sleep. His snores subsided.

He glanced over at the bunk. The pistol shone in the moonlight. One hard swallow. He never carried a pistol. Too loud. Pistols brought the crew, the wharf police, and anyone else interested in such activity. The only weapon he carried was a knife, tucked in the back of his breeches. A weapon of stealth.

Another count to ten before taking the final step. There was no time for an in-depth study of the map now, but a quick glance revealed the destination. The island of St. Helena, off the western coast of Africa, circled in bold scrawl. The map of the route planned for Bonaparte’s next escape. That bastard in the bed had been planning it.

All ten fingers itched to snatch the paper and run, but he forced himself to take a deep, silent breath. Carefully, he dislodged the first pin at the top right corner. It popped out easily. The top of the map rolled toward the center, making a slight flapping sound. Breath held, he glanced toward the captain again. No movement.

He stuck the pin back into the table to keep it from rolling, then his hand darted to the next pin at the bottom right corner. It also popped out easily. He quickly stuck it back into the wood. With two sides free, he carefully rolled the map toward the center. Reaching up to the top, he grasped the third pin. No movement. It was lodged deeply into the wood. Must pull harder. With one black-gloved hand, he clasped the pin between a thumb and two fingers, pulling upward with as much strength as he dared. His own breath in his ear was the only sound … that and the water lapping at the sides of the ship.

The pin finally gave way. He pressed a hand to the top of the map, to keep the freed top left corner from curling and making a noise. His chest and torso flattened against the map and the table, he pressed the third pin back into the wood.

Click. An unmistakable sound. One he had heard too often before. Another hard swallow. Damn it. He’d been so preoccupied with keeping quiet, he hadn’t realized the captain’s snores had subsided.

Half-splayed across the table, he contemplated his options. The door was ten paces to the left, the open window five paces to the right. Would he fit through the window? It’d be a hell of a time to learn the answer was no.

“Step away from zee map, if you don’t want a bullet through your back.” The captain’s voice was harsh and angry.

He slowly rose from his position hunched over the map, arms braced upright at right angles near his head to show the captain he had no weapon. “Ye wouldn’t shoot an unarmed man, now would ye, Cap’n?”

“I’d shoot a thief without thinking twice,” the captain replied with a sneer, nearly spitting the word thief.

He glanced down at the map. Studying it in case he was forced to leave without it. He had been in worse situations, more times than he could count. He considered the knife in the back of his breeches hidden beneath his shirt. It would be simple, easy and quick to snake it out and whip it into the bastard’s throat. But a voice in his head reminded him … justice must be served in proper course.

“Turn around,” the captain ordered. “Slowly.”

“Why?” he asked, trying to garner some precious time.

“Because I want to see zee face of zee man who would steal my secrets.”

He began his turn. Slowly. So slowly and so quietly that he could have sworn he heard a drop of sweat from his forehead hit the wooden plank of the floor. He finally stood facing the older man.

Êtes-vous le Renard Noir?” the captain asked.

Pourquoi veux tu savoir?”

Visible in the light of the moon, the captain narrowed his eyes. “Ah, perfect French? Why do I find zat difficult to believe from an obvious Englishman?”

“Obvious?”

“Who else would want zis map?”

His fingers ached to choke the bastard. He might not be able to kill him, but he could wound the scoundrel. Nothing wrong with a wound. He whipped his hand behind his back, grabbed the knife, and hurled it at the captain. It hit the arm that held the pistol. The captain howled. The pistol fired. Smoke filled the cabin with its acrid stench. He ripped the map and fourth pin from the table and ran to the door.

Steps sounded on the planks above the captain’s cabin. In the pitch black belowdecks, he forced himself to wait in the shadows under the stairs until the first group of rescuers filed down the steps into the captain’s cabin. He flattened the map’s scroll and folded it into a six-inch square.

“He’s escaped, you idiots! Find him before he jumps from the ship!” the captain yelled in French.

The group dutifully filed back up to spread across the decks. The captain came running out, clutching his injured arm, blood seeping between his fingers, crimson dripping down his nightshirt. He made his way up the stairs and ran off across the deck.

Springing from the shadows, he raced back into the empty cabin. He flew over to the window, said a brief prayer to fit through the tight space, hoisted up to the ledge, and pushed his upper body through. He ripped off his black tricorn, stuck the folded map to his head, and pulled down the hat as firmly as possible.

A rope swung outside the captain’s window two feet to the right. Thank God for small favors. He lunged at it and grabbed it. Noiselessly, he lowered himself down the rope, bracing both feet against the hull to rappel toward the water. Lowering quietly, he winked back at the figurehead of a saucy French woman carved beneath the captain’s cabin. As soon as he made it into the water, he let go of the rope and swam like a mackerel fleeing a shark toward the shore, careful to keep his head out of the foul-smelling drink. He counted on the black of night and the murky Thames to hide him from the searchers on the ship.

As he covered the distance between the French ship and the shore, he could hear the Frenchmen yelling and running about. He dared a glance back. Every lantern on the ship appeared to have been lit and the crew was scurrying about like a bevy of ants on an infiltrated hill.

He swam to the darkest spot on the far end of the docks, around the bend from sight of the French ship, and pulled himself ashore beneath a creaky dock using only his forearms. Exhausted, he rolled onto his back and lay breathing heavily in the pitch-black night. One hand went up to clap the top of his tricorn and a wide smile spread across his face.

He’d done it. He’d escaped from a French ship with the map detailing the planned route to rescue Napoleon from St. Helena. Of course he had. He was the Black Fox.

 

Copyright © 2017 by Valerie Bowman and reprinted with the permission of St. Martin’s Paperbacks.

 

Author Interview! Tiffany McDaniel – Author of The Summer That Melted Everything

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I recently read and reviewed The Summer That Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel, you can see my review here. I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to interview Tiffany and get a little background info/behind the scenes look at the book and her writing process, plus a few other odds and ends. If you have not yet read The Summer That Melted Everything, I would definitely recommend it. Quoting from my recently posted review “This book was interesting and thought-provoking with what I thought was a very creative plot line. The characters were all complex and the story line was well-paced.” Definitely check this one out!

So, here is Tiffany’s About the Author from her website:

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An Ohio native, Tiffany McDaniel’s writing is inspired by the rolling hills and buckeye woods of the land she knows.  She is also a poet, playwright, screenwriter, and artist.  The Summer that Melted Everything is her debut novel.

 

 

 

Below is the interview I had with Tiffany. My questions are in bold and her answers follow.

  1. When did you realize you wanted to be an author and did you have another profession before this?

Writing was the first thing I remember doing as a kid outside of any external influence or direction to do so.  I just knew I wanted to pick up a crayon and put down what was in my head.  As a kid with my ‘still learning to write ways’ it probably appeared to be scribbles to the nearest adult, but to me as a kid I was writing an entire story.  I came out of the womb drawn to story.  Reading it.  Creating it.  I wouldn’t realize it was something I could do as a career until much later, when I was in middle school.  The guidance counselor came in with her Rolodex of careers and we had to choose a  card listing the career we wanted.  I had no idea what card to pull out.  So the guidance counselor asked me what I liked to do.  I said, “I love to write.”  And she said, “Well, then you’ll be a writer,” and she pulled out the card and handed it to me.  I remember there was another girl in the class who also wanted to be a writer, so we had to share the career.  Only I wouldn’t let her have the card to hold.  There was something so powerful about it.  As if it was a physical key and I didn’t want to lose it for the door I felt was just right there.  I wonder about that girl in the class who wanted to be a writer too.  I hope she became one.  I hope she’s a bestseller right now, and I apologize to her for not letting her hold the card.

  1. For this book, did you work off of an outline while writing or did you just start writing and went where the story took you?

I never outline or write a synopsis.  I find that writing an idea down before hand causes the idea to lose its appeal to me.  I always start a novel with two things.  The title and the first line, always.  These two things determine the course of the story for me.  I never know the direction the story will take.  I just sit in front of my laptop and type.  Whatever I type that day ends up in the story.  The more you draft and chip away, the more the story takes shapes.  I never force anything out.  I let it come on its own and that works best for me.

  1. Give us some insight into Fielding as a character, what inspired you to create him?

I always say what inspires me are the characters themselves.  I’m inspired by them to tell their story.  It’s almost as if this is their own truth and I’m merely the vessel through which they tell this truth.

  1. Do you have any special rituals that you find yourself following when you’re writing? OR Take us through your typical work day.

I have no routine or schedule.  I know some authors try to write a certain number of words or pages in a day, or start at a certain time and finish.  I’m very ‘whenever.’  Sometimes I work on one chapter for several weeks.  Sometimes I can write several chapters in a week.  It’s really just what’s there at that moment.  I don’t have any rituals I follow.  I do try to avoid distraction when I’m writing.  The internet mostly.

  1. What do you do to cure writer’s block? Do you have issues with this often or hardly at all?

I’m a very superstitious writer, so I don’t talk about that which is mentioned above.  It’s almost like the Bloody Mary game.  If you say it’s name three times, it will appear.  So I just don’t speak of it.

  1. What (if any) research did you have to do for this novel? What was your favorite piece of research you did for this novel?

The Summer that Melted Everything takes place in 1984 so I had to research not just the year 1984, but also the decade.  Make sure I got it right socially, culturally, down to the way people dressed, the music they listened to, the television and film they watched.  Since this is early eighties and right on the cusp of the AIDS epidemic, I had to make sure I had the appropriate news headlines to correspond with the disease and at what point it was coming to the masses at that time.  It was really wonderful to travel back to the eighties.  I was born in 1985, so the eighties were not a decade I was living it up, dancing to the boom box and getting a perm in my hair, so it was fun to write about a time not our own.

  1. Do you find that you base any of your characters on people in your life? Have you gotten any inspiration for scenes in your novel from things that have happened to you in real life?

I don’t tend to base any character on a specific person in my life.  I think that’s dangerous territory, because the person you base that character on might not like the portrayal.  I always say the characters are their own people, and really they are.  This is their story.  This is what is happening to them, in as a real a way as their fictional universe will allow.

  1. How long did it take you to write this novel, from when you first put pen to paper to when it was published?

I wrote The Summer that Melted Everything in a month during the summer I was twenty-eight.  It wouldn’t be submitted to editors until I got a new agent in the autumn I was twenty-nine.  It sold that autumn to St. Martin’s Press.  I turned thirty during the publishing process.  And I’m thirty-one now when I’ll see the book released, so it takes a while to see a novel on the shelf, even after you have a publishing contract.  Before I got the contract for The Summer that Melted Everything, I worked for eleven years to get published, having written my first novel when I was eighteen.  Eleven years of rejection after rejection, and me fearing I’d never be published.  I feel very fortunate now to be in the position I am where I am about to see my novel on the bookstore’s shelf.  And I certainly sympathize with writer’s still on the journey to publication.  All I can say is to never give up.  It’s hard, but never give up. Are you working on any future books now?

  1. Are you working on any future books now?   

    I just finished the novel I hope to follow The Summer that Melted Everything up with.  This novel is titled When Lions Stood as Men.  It’s about a brother and sister escaping Nazi Germany.  They end up in Ohio, and while there try to survive in their own special way.  It’s a unique story I really can’t wait to share with readers.  I do have nine novels total, so I write all the time.  I’m just waiting for publishing to catch up to me.

  2. Are there any books or authors that have really influenced you and made you want to write? What about those authors inspired or influenced you?

I didn’t read the literary heavyweights until I was much older.  Donna Tartt, Shirley Jackson, Ray Bradbury, Toni Morrison.  I wouldn’t say anyone influenced or made me want to write.  Writing is just something I’ve always done and been drawn to do.  But the writers listed above are definitely some of my favorite authors to read.  Especially Shirley Jackson and Ray Bradbury.  I also love the poetry of James Wright.  If you’ve never read his poetry, you’re missing out some of the  shiniest stars in the sky.

  1. Have you read anything lately that you loved?

I waited a long time to read Peter Pan and Wendy by JM Barrie.  Mostly because of the Disney version.  I just never really cared for the Disney Peter Pan movie and I thought that’s what the actual novel was going to be.  It’s definitely not the Disney story.  JM Barrie’s prose is beautiful and the story so melancholic.  It is so much more the ‘children’s story’ it is billed to be.  It’s honestly one of the saddest books I’ve read.

  1. What do you like to do in your spare time?

I read of course, a great deal.  I garden.  We always had gardens growing up so the message to work from the land was instilled in me from a very young age.  Right now in the garden there’s paw-paw trees, cherry trees, blueberries, strawberries, tomatoes, okra, zucchini, corn, broccoli, peppers, the list goes on and on.  I’m pretty into gardening, hope to have a greenhouse one day.  I also really like to bake.  Breads and pies mostly.  I think my crumb-top rhubarb pie is probably the best in the world, but I’m biased and I’m sure I am also sorely mistaken.

  1. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Like I said, never give up.  The eleven years it took me to get published was heartbreaking and oftentimes emotionally devastating as it is for most writers.  Being told over and over again that I was not publishable, or commercially relevant to publishers, that’s  a hard thing to hear.  The genre I write, which is literary fiction, is very difficult to break into, especially if you’re a female literary fiction writer.  So if you’re looking to get published, just remember you are worth it to yourself to keep trying.  Query all the agents there are, draft and re-draft your novel if you have to but don’t ever lose yourself.  And NEVER give up.  I do have a ‘pay it forward’ mindset with aspiring writers.  Meaning I never turn an author down who asks me for help.  I only ask that once they get published they do the very same thing to another author and pay forward the help and kindness.  We have to help each other out or we’ll go insane.

  1. What do you hope people are taking away from your stories? Do you have any particular messages you are trying to convey to readers?

When I was a kid, we didn’t have a lot of extra money.  So I’d go into the bookstore and I knew I could only get one or two books.  Books are not terribly expensive, but they are expensive if you don’t have a lot of money.  So I had to hope the books I chose would be well worth the money.  I remember how disappointing it was to have spent money on a book that ended up being not very good.  So that’s what I strive for.  That readers have in me an author they feel good about spending their hard-earned money on.  That they’ve bought a book they can close and say, “Well, that was worth the money after all.”

  1. Is there anything else about you that you’d like your readers to know?

That readers have all the power.  With books like mine, there’s not going to be a lot of marketing put forth as say a publisher would do with the Stephen King’s of the world.  So the novel’s success comes down to word of mouth.  It’s really up to readers.  If they like the novel, I hope they talk to people about it, and share the name of the book.  Especially with a debut novel, it all comes down to readers.  They determine your life as a writer in more ways than one.  No writer becomes a career author by herself.  My only hope with this novel and my others to follow is that readers like what they’ve read and they can honestly say, “I’m really glad I read The Summer that Melted Everything.  I’m going to tell all my family and friends about it!” Please do!

I just wanted to say thank you to Tiffany for being featured on my blog. It was a pleasure reading your book and interviewing you! Readers make sure to check out The Summer That Melted Everything!

 

Author Interview! — Mary Waters-Sayer — Author of The Blue Bath

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I recently read and reviewed The Blue Bath by Mary Waters-Sayer, you can see my review here. I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to interview Mary and get a little background info/behind the scenes look at the book and her writing process, plus a few other odds and ends. If you have not yet read The Blue Bath, I would definitely recommend it. Quoting from my recently posted review “I found this story captivating, I couldn’t put it down. I was trying to read it during every second of free time I had. Vivid imagery brings the story alive for the reader, the words are strung together in an almost lyrical prose that surrounds the reader with beauty.” Definitely check this one out!

So onto Mary. Here is her About the Author from her website:

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Mary is originally from New York.  She has a B.A. in Literature and Rhetoric from Binghamton University and later studied writing at Stanford University’s Continuing Education program.
As expected of all good English majors, she began her career in publishing before moving to San Francisco where she worked in investor and public relations.  She spent twelve years as an expatriate in London, working in investor and corporate communications and traveling extensively.
She currently lives outside of Boston with her family.  The Blue Bath is her first novel.

Below is the interview I had with Mary. My questions are in bold and her answers follow.

  1. What is your favorite vacation spot?

Paris is tough to beat.

  1. Do you have any pets?

No.

  1. What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love to hike.  There is something about being in nature and in motion that helps me think more clearly.  And, of course, I love to read.

  1. When did you realize you wanted to be an author and did you have another profession before this?

I have always loved books and I harbored the secret desire to write one since I was very young.  I was in PR and investor relations for years and writing was at the core of my career, although it was decidedly of the non-fiction variety.

  1. Do you have any special rituals that you find yourself following when you’re writing? OR Take us through your typical work day.

I like silence when I write.  I wish I could listen to music, but it distracts me, especially anything with lyrics.  And chocolate is definitely my reward of choice.

  1. What (if any) research did you have to do for this novel? What was your favorite piece of research you did for this novel?

I did quite a bit of research on painting, which I really enjoyed.  I am a huge art fan and it was fascinating to look beyond the finished product and explore the process.  As someone with absolutely no talent for drawing or painting, it was great fun to create paintings out of words.  All of the paintings in The Blue Bath are completely real to me.  I can see each of them all in great detail.

  1. How long did it take you to write this novel, from when you first put pen to paper to when it was published?

That is a difficult question to answer as the book started so slowly.  I would say maybe six years from the first time I put pen to paper – four years to write and then another two to edit, find an agent, find a publisher, and make it to publication.

  1. Are you working on any future books now?

I am working on two novels at the moment, each very different from each other.  At some point I will have to choose to focus on one, but for the moment it is great fun toggle between the two.

  1. Are there any books or authors that have really influenced you and made you want to write? What about those authors inspired or influenced you?

I admire so many writers – anyone who can create something beautiful where there was nothing.  It’s astounding, really.  When I was young, I loved books that were adventures, books that took me to other places.  I think that is still true today, but my definition of adventure has changed.  I am inspired by so many writers.  Marilynne Robinson is a writer of sublime beauty and stunning talent.  Elizabeth Strout is devastating and true.  Ann Patchett combines magnetic characters and utterly engaging plots.  Donna Tartt is astonishing, as is George Saunders and Truman Capote.  I still remember the first time I read John Updike, he was such a revelation.

  1. Have you read anything lately that you loved?

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff, When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.

  1. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Read, read, read.  And write what you want to read.  You are your first reader and you have to love it.

  1. Do you usually work off of an outline while writing or do you tend to just start writing and see where the story takes you?

For this book, I started off writing individual scenes and then I pieced them together into the bigger picture – like a puzzle.  There was definitely a degree of outlining, but it didn’t happen until after I had written a fair bit of the book.

  1. What do you do to cure writer’s block? Do you have issues with this often or hardly at all?

One of the wonderful things about writing a novel is that it is so large that there is always something else to work on.  If one scene is giving me trouble, I simply move to another part of the story that needs work.  I found the process of fixing something else always seems to help unblock whatever might have been blocked.

  1. Is there a certain message that you hope readers are taking away with them after reading your recent release, The Blue Bath?

Books are so individual, it is difficult to be prescriptive about what readers might take away from them.  Perhaps simply the importance of recognizing beauty in our everyday lives.

I just wanted to say thank you to Mary for being featured on my blog. It was a pleasure reading your book and interviewing you!

Author Interview – Andrea Lochen – Author of Imaginary Things

So I was lucky enough to get an author interview with the very talented Andrea Lochen. For those of you who have not yet read her recent release, Imaginary Things, I would highly recommend picking up a copy. I absolutely loved the book, you can read my review of the book here. I’m looking forward to reading her other published novel, The Repeat Year, plus anything else she publishes in the future!!

Here is Andrea’s About the Author from her website

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Andrea Lochen is the author of two novels. Her first novel, The Repeat Year (Penguin 2013), was praised by Kirkus Reviews as “an engaging, satisfying read that explores friendship, love and who we really are when it truly matters.” A draft of the novel won the 2008 Hopwood Novel Award. The Repeat Year was also produced as an audiobook (Brilliance Audio) and translated into a German edition (Ullstein Buchverlage). The film option was sold to Ineffable Pictures. Andrea’s second novel, Imaginary Things, is forthcoming from Astor + Blue in April 2015. Lori Nelson Spielman, bestselling author of The Life List, called it, “a beautiful book, filled with vivid scenes, unforgettable characters, and oodles of heart. With a page-turning plot and an utterly unique concept, Imaginary Things entertains, inspires, and provokes thought—a perfect book club pick.”

Andrea earned her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where she was a Colby Fellow. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she was the Fiction Editor of The Madison Review, a nationally-distributed, student-run literary magazine. Since 2008, she has taught undergraduate writing at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha and was recently awarded the UW Colleges Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. Andrea currently lives in Madison with her husband and daughter and is at work on her third novel.

Below is the interview I had with Andrea. My questions are in bold and her answers follow.

  1. What was your favorite subject in school? It probably will surprise no one to discover that it was Creative Writing. In elementary school one of my teachers taught a unit called “The Writers’ Workshop” in which we wrote, illustrated, and “published” our stories.  I adored it (and her)!  Throughout my education from kindergarten until graduate school, I have always loved language and reading in its all forms—spelling, literature, writing, etc.
  1. What is your favorite vacation spot? Riviera Maya, Mexico. It’s only a short flight from Wisconsin (where I live) though it feels like worlds away with its gorgeous white sand beaches, turquoise waters, and warm sunshine.
  1. Do you have any pets? A Teddy Bear dog (a Bichon Shih Tzu mix) named Maddy. She’s a fluffy, spunky, affectionate girl.
  1. What do you like to do in your spare time? Ha!  Spare time?  What is this concept you speak of?  As a new mom, I haven’t experienced much of it lately, so it would certainly feel like a luxury.  I like going for walks with my dog and my baby in her stroller, reading good books, baking, watching movies, and spending time relaxing with friends and family.
  1. If you could have any magic/supernatural power or have something supernatural happen in your life, what would it be? That’s a really fun question to answer because it’s something I’m always imagining in my novels!  In my first novel, THE REPEAT YEAR, my protagonist Olive gets to relive a year of her life in order to attempt to right wrongs.  In my second novel, IMAGINARY THINGS, Anna gets to see her son’s imagination.  I guess if I were to be granted one supernatural event, I would want to be able to time travel back to certain moments in my past, just to observe and see loved ones again.  For example, I would love to witness times I spent as a little girl with my grandma (who has since passed away).
  1. When did you realize you wanted to be an author and did you have another profession before this? I’ve wanted to be an author since I was in the third grade (because of my cool teacher and the Writers’ Workshop).  Currently, in addition to writing novels, I also teach English at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha during the fall and spring semesters.
  1. Do you have any special rituals that you find yourself following when you’re writing? OR Take us through your typical work day. How’s this for a special ritual?  Despite having a beautiful office with a comfortable chair and desk, lately I tend to find myself writing at my coffee table on the living room floor.  I re-read my work constantly as I write and sometimes even aloud to get a sense of the flow and if the dialogue sounds authentic.  I always need to have something to drink at hand (most often a glass of ice water) and sometimes a snack as well.
  1. What (if any) research did you have to do for this novel? What was your favorite piece of research you did for this novel? I wanted to understand the phenomenon of imaginary friends in childhood better, so I read psychologist Marjorie Taylor’s book Imaginary Companions and the Children Who Create Them.  I highly recommend it to anyone else interested in imaginary friends.  It was particularly entertaining reading the case studies of what kids said!
  1. Do you find that you base any of your characters on people in your life? Have you gotten any inspiration for scenes in your novel from things that have happened to you in real life? Quirks and traits of my characters are sometimes based on real people I know, but there’s never a 1:1 ratio.  As for inspiration from real life: definitely, yes, all the time!  The fictional town in IMAGINARY THINGS, Salsburg, is actually based on a real small town in Wisconsin that my husband spent a lot of time in growing up.  I loved the town’s intimate feel with its few businesses and once a year parade and carnival.
  1. How long did it take you to write this novel, from when you first put pen to paper to when it was published? Hmmm….let me go back to my computer files and check it out.  It looks like I started the draft in August of 2012, and it was published in April of 2015.  So a little less than three years.
  1. Are you working on any future books now? I am, thanks for asking! Book 3 doesn’t have a name yet but it has a magical premise like my first two novels, but I won’t give it away.  It’s about two sisters and the lake house that has been in their family for a century.   I’m really enjoying writing it!
  1. Are there any books or authors that have really influenced you and made you want to write? What about those authors inspired or influenced you? My literary hero is JK Rowling.  I love how rich her imagination is and that she was able to create an entire world that millions of people want to inhabit.  I love how she turned on an entire generation of readers.
  1. Have you read anything lately that you loved? I just finished M.L. Stedman’s THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS, which broke my heart (but in a good way).  It’s such a beautifully written, moving novel. (Just as an aside, I recently read this book as well and loved it! You can see my review of that book here.)
  1. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers? If you want to write a book, you need to carve out time to do it.  There are never enough hours in a day, and there are always some other more important tasks to fill those hours with.  But if it’s a goal of yours and you love you doing it, try to set aside at least an hour every day to work on it, whether that’s reading/researching, outlining, drafting, revising, or even just daydreaming about it while you walk the dog.  Spend time with your book every day.
  1. Is there anything else about you that you’d like your readers to know? How much I appreciate them!  Thanks so much for reading my books!  I love hearing from readers, so if you want to connect with me, please check out my author Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/andrealochen.author) or follow me on Twitter (https://twitter.com/AndreaLochen).

I just wanted to say thank you to Andrea for being featured on my blog. It was a pleasure reading your book and interviewing you!