Interview with Crystal King, Author of Feast of Sorrow

We’re chatting with Crystal King, author of the historical fiction debut, Feast of Sorrow, out April 25!

Please describe what the book is about.

Set amongst the scandal, wealth, and upstairs-downstairs politics of a Roman family, Crystal King’s seminal debut features the man who inspired the world’s oldest cookbook and the ambition that led to his destruction.

Share a teaser sentence or two from your novel.

On a blistering day in the twenty-sixth year of Augustus Caesar’s reign, a young chef, Thrasius, is acquired for the exorbitant price of twenty thousand denarii. His purchaser is the infamous gourmet Marcus Gavius Apicius, wealthy beyond measure, obsessed with a taste for fine meals from exotic places, and a singular ambition: to serve as culinary advisor to Caesar, an honor that will cement his legacy as Rome’s leading epicure.

Apicius rightfully believes that Thrasius is the key to his culinary success, and with Thrasius’s help he soon becomes known for his lavish parties and fantastic meals. Thrasius finds a family in Apicius’s household, his daughter Apicata, his wife Aelia, and her handmaiden, Passia whom Thrasius quickly falls in love with. But as Apicius draws closer to his ultimate goal, his reckless disregard for any who might get in his way takes a dangerous turn that threatens his young family and places his entire household at the mercy of the most powerful forces in Rome.

What do you want people to know about your book?

It’s about food and feasts, love and loss, and the glamour and grit of ancient Rome.

What did you learn about yourself while writing this novel?

I learned that I could finish a novel! I had always written shorter pieces, non-fiction articles and poetry. The idea of writing hundreds of pages seemed so daunting. When I wrote the last word of my first draft I cried. I still remember it, sitting in my local library, alone on a cold winter day, the last word bright on the page.

What was your timeline from drafting to publication?

I’m not entirely sure I want to admit this! The actual drafting of the novel took about five or so years (off and on, mostly on weekends). Then I spent three years finding an agent and from signing with Touchstone to publication it will be 18 months. Hopefully, now that I’m established, things will go much faster. I’d love to have a new book out every 2-3 years.

What is your favorite part of writing (drafting characters, making up scenes, plotting, developing emotional turning points, etc). Why?

I love plotting and outlining. Writing historical fiction means that I have to tie in actual history with what is made-up and make sure it all fits together. I did my Masters in Critical & Creative Thinking and as part of my thesis I developed a series of exercises for writers in the middle of their work. I use a lot of those exercises to help me push through plot holes and I find that process to be sheer fun.

Briefly, where did the idea for your book come from?

I was writing a very different book, set in contemporary times, about a chef who owned a magical set of knives. I needed an origin story for those knives and around the same time I came across the story of Apicius and how he died. I wrote a scene for the other novel, thinking that would be the origin story but after I wrote that scene I realized that was the better story. Some of that scene still remains, late in FEAST OF SORROW, and the idea of those knives carries into the second book I’m writing. Maybe I’ll go back to the original idea someday.

When do you do your best thinking about your work in progress?

I am a big believer in incubation. I might go weeks not writing but I’m always thinking of my story in progress. Sometimes when I have a really sticky problem to solve I do my best thinking when I’m driving. I’ll put on classical music and talk to myself in the car. “Okay Crystal, what will Apicius do about his mother?” And then I will run through all the possibilities out loud. People driving near me probably assume I’m on the phone, which I suppose is better than them thinking I’m crazy, which is closer to the truth.

Share something people may be surprised to know about you?

Most people I know are surprised to find out that I spent my high school years in Idaho. The state seems so distant and remote from Boston where I’ve lived for nearly twenty years. I still have family and friends back west.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

It all goes back to Dorothy Parker. None of the other writing advice matters as much as this one: “Writing is the art of applying the ass to the seat.” Of course, it goes a bit beyond the seat—you have to be fully present when you get to it, ready to write, even if the words don’t want to flow. Something on the page is better than nothing on the page.

What’s next?

I’m working on a novel about a Renaissance Italian chef, a man named Bartolomeo Scappi. He was the chef to several popes and had a cookbook that came out in 1570 and was the bestselling cookbook for nearly two hundred years afterward. It’s a mystery, with a bit of romance and a whole lot of food.

What recipes have you made from the Apicius cookbook?

There are many of them. My husband and I make Parthian chicken regularly for dinner. We recently perfected a sweet and sour dill sauce for fowl and I’m also rather partial to Roman fig cakes. I’ve made honey water and honey cakes before and there is a wonderful goat milk bread that I also make from time to time. Recreating the recipes has been a lot of fun!

FeastofSorrows

FEAST OF SORROW

 

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Interview with Leah DeCesare, Author of Forks, Knives, Spoons

Today we’re talking with Leah DeCesare, author of the women’s fiction novel, Forks, Knives, Spoons.

Please describe what the story is about.

There are three kinds of guys: forks, knives, and spoons. That is the final lesson that Amy York’s father sends her off to college with, never suspecting just how far his daughter will take it. Clinging to the Utensil Classification System as her guide, Amy tries to convince her skeptical roommate, Veronica Warren, of its usefulness as they navigate the heartbreaks and soul mates of college and beyond.

Beginning in 1988, their freshman year at Syracuse University, Amy and Veronica meet an assortment of guys —from slotted spoons and shrimp forks to butter knives and sporks—all while trying to learn if the UCS holds true. On the quest to find their perfect steak knives, they learn to believe in themselves—and not to settle in love or life.

Share a teaser sentence or two from your novel.

Amy unpacked her dad’s words along with her yellow Sony Walk- man, turquoise Benetton sweater, and peach comforter set. His lesson was tucked carefully in her memory, the details recorded in her reporter’s notebook, available for labeling the college guys she was about to meet. She would adhere to her father’s advice—she always did—though she wasn’t about to let any guy distract her from her dream of being a journalist, not even a perfect steak knife.

What do you want people to know about your book?

FORKS, KNIVES, AND SPOONS presents a fun, quirky system but in the end, I really want women to hear the message loudly that we all need to love and believe in ourselves. I love the discussion questions included in the book and would love to be an invisible listener when book clubs share their thoughts!

What did you learn about yourself while writing this novel?

The saying “you write your first novel to learn how to write a novel” was definitely true for me. I came at FORKS, KNIVES, AND SPOONS from so many different directions, and with the help of a lot of revisions, great editorial advice, studying the craft, awesome feedback from beta readers, and still more rewrites, I wrote a book I’m proud to put out into the world. I’m approaching my work-in-progress very differently and have spent a lot more time planning and considering story directions before doing the writing so I’m hopeful that this book will be written more efficiently.

What was your timeline from drafting to publication?

About four years. It definitely wasn’t a straight-line path! But it was about that time from when I got serious and sat to “write the book” until this incredible time of having an actual pub date.

What is your favorite part of writing (drafting characters, making up scenes, plotting, developing emotional turning points, etc). Why?

One of the parts I love the most is naming my characters. I put a lot of thought and research into the meanings behind their names, the time period, how the names sound, what the nicknames could be … I’ve gotten some raised eyebrows with my baby name books lying around.

Even if the reader never knows what a name means, I’m very deliberate about that selection. I’ve always loved symbolism and deeper meanings behind things. I like to decide on the names at the outset of my project so I can really begin to understand and get to know the characters.

Briefly, where did the idea for your book come from?

The kernel of FORKS, KNIVES, AND SPOONS that’s real is that my father told me before I headed to college, like Amy’s dad told her, that there are three kinds of guys: forks, knives, and spoons. In my freshman year, my girlfriends and I all added utensils and created this elaborate system. That nugget stayed with me for decades as I raised children and worked in the childbirth/doula arena for sixteen years until I finally asked myself when I was going to write my book. I got serious and reprioritized things to make room for writing and I knew my first novel would have to include this fork, knife and spoon labeling system.

There was just this system without a story behind it, so I had to invent the characters and the story arc through which this Utensil Classification System could be woven.

When do you do your best thinking about your work in progress?

Usually when I can’t get to paper or my phone notes app.

I have some very random notes that didn’t translate well when I’ve tried to speak my ideas instead of typing them.

I also like to take walks to work out story problems and sometimes I just open a document and free write to figure out where I want to go with an arc or plot problem.

Share something people may be surprised to know about you?

I volunteer doing leadership development training for middle school girls, collegiate and alumna women and I lead a team of fourteen leadership development specialists across the country and Canada. I have a very random work and volunteer history but when I examine it, I see the common thread is empowering others. That’s the message in FORKS, KNIVES, AND SPOONS too – believe in yourself.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

I don’t have to do it like everyone else does. I used to think that the “right” way to write a book was to have a daily word count goal and to do your writing in the morning during the same hours every day, but I don’t write like that. I’ve learned from hearing many authors talk about their own process that there isn’t one way or a right way – there’s my way and that’s a valid way!

What’s next?

I’m working on my second novel set in eastern Connecticut about a doula. It’s a lot to juggle all the pre-publication activities for FORKS, KNIVES, AND SPOONS and working on a manuscript deadline, but it’s EXACTLY what I want to be doing and it lights me up in every way!
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FORKS, KNIVES, AND SPOONS

 

“Leah captured me on the very first line, ‘There are three types of guys: forks, knives, and spoons.’ With imagination, highly relatable characters, and witty dialogue, we are taken back to our youths – reevaluating and categorizing all of our crushes. A lovely story of friendship, love, and the amazing time between childhood and adulthood.” —Dawn Lerman, best-selling author of My Fat Dad: A Memoir of Food, Love, and Family with Recipes, New York Times Well Blog columnist

“Full of 1980’s nostalgia, DeCesare’s ambitious young women protagonists meet campus ‘Forks, Knives, and Spoons’ as they navigate how to ultimately place themselves firmly at the head of their own tables.” —Ann Imig, Founder of Listen to Your Mother

“FORKS, KNIVES, AND SPOONS is the perfect marriage of wit, romance, and, above all, heart. DeCesare’s writing is simply delectable and sure to woo any woman who has ever wondered if there is such a thing as Mr. Right.” —Nicole Waggoner, author of Center Ring and The Act.

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Interview with Kate Brandes, Author of the Promise of Pierson Orchard

Today we’re talking with Kate Brandes, author of the Promise of Pierson Orchard, which comes out on April 22 (Earth Day).

Please describe what your novel is about.

This story is Erin Brockovich meets Promised Land, about a Pennsylvania family threatened by betrayal, financial desperation, old flames, fracking, and ultimately finding forgiveness. 

Share a teaser sentence or two from your novel.

“He moved back over next to LeeAnn, stripped off his shirt, and lay down under the coat beside her and the baby, wrapping around them to offer what body warmth he could. “Your dad’s waiting for the ambulance. They’ll be here very soon,” he said, kissing LeeAnn’s forehead. “I’m here with you. That’s all I’ve ever wanted,” he said, muttering it over and over, hoping she heard.”

What do you want people to know about your book?

I’ve spent most of my career, not as a writer, but as an environmental scientist. I didn’t start writing creatively until I was in my mid-thirties. I’ve always loved stories about complicated families and relationships. I first learned about fracking (a method of natural gas drilling using deep rock fracturing) through my environmental science career. One of my first thoughts was that it would make a great metaphor in a novel about a fractured family. And that’s how this book began.

What did you learn about yourself while writing this novel?

I learned that I could be a creative person. That may sound strange, but before I started writing, I’d never done anything creative. It took me a long time to be able to refer to myself as a writer and to be able to think of myself as a creative being.

What was your timeline from drafting to publication?

It took me seven years from when I first began the novel to get a publishing contract.

What is your favorite part of writing (drafting characters, making up scenes, plotting, developing emotional turning points, etc). Why?

I love rewriting. The first draft is the hardest for me. I like the reshaping that comes afterward because I like to get under the surface of my characters and story.

Briefly, where did the idea for your book come from?

When I started my novel, almost no one had heard of fracking. I was fascinated by it early on because of my professional experience with looking at water problems deep underground. But also because I’m from a rural area of Pennsylvania, like the rural places where fracking has taken place in this state. I could see the struggle from the rural perspective that I didn’t think anyone was really talking about it. It’s complicated and I wanted to explore it through fiction.

When do you do your best thinking about your work in progress?

Walking. I love a long walk and go farther than most people consider reasonable. But I get the best ideas when I’m on foot, not going too fast.

Share something people may be surprised to know about you?

I’ve had a lot of different jobs in my life. Once I was in charge of counting potato bugs in huge plots of potato plants and then mapping their population density in each plot. It was part of someone else’s research, but I was in charge of the data collection.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

Love your characters. Especially the bad ones. In order to love them, you have to understand them.

What’s next?

I’m at work on my second novel. It will be another book club fiction novel with an eco-bent. But it’s a completely different story from my first novel.

ThePromiseOfPiersonOrchard

THE PROMISE OF PIERSON ORCHARD

“Brandes checks off all the boxes for quality fiction: the characters are well- rounded, the settings, such as the apple orchards, the crisp Silver Creek, and the rocky outcrops, are vividly described, and the plot is well-organized and crisply paced. The tension between the characters satisfyingly rises to a crescendo that’s in sync with the larger environmental crisis that threatens the town.”
— KIRKUS REVIEWS

Long before fracking ever came to Minden, Pennsylvania, the fissures in the Pierson family were developing into major fault lines.

Brothers Jack and Wade were very young when their mother, Stella, abandoned them and never returned. Twenty years later, Jack, who recently separated from his wife, LeeAnn, is an orchardist tending to acres of apple trees in his economically depressed home- town. What the townspeople don’t know is that they could be sitting on vast reserves of Marcellus shale, an abundant source of natural gas.

Before long, Green Energy, a fracking company, comes calling and sends in a star salesman with a few local connections: Wade.

In response, Jack reaches out to their mom, now called Stella Brantley, who’s an established environmental lawyer, and convinces her that Minden should be the next battleground for pro bono activist work. The scene is set for confrontation: between the two siblings, between them and their mother, and between the small town and a large corporation.

Available April 2017 with Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing.

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Interview with Sara O. Thompson, Author of Otherwhere #1: Muddy Waters

Today, we’re sitting down to talk with Sara O. Thompson, author of the urban fantasy debut, Otherwhere #1: Muddy Waters.

Please describe what the story is about.

Convicted for murdering her family, and locked in a psych ward, witch Tessa Reddick has just made a deal with the FBI to be their newest Supernormal Investigator. Freedom has a price, though it’s one she’s willing to pay if it means she can track down who set her up for the fall. Solving crimes. Doing magic. Drinking bourbon. (Lotta bourbon.)

Share a teaser sentence or two from your novel.

“Athena’s tits, Tessa, you could talk the paper off the walls.”

What do you want people to know about your book?

I wrote a book that I wanted to read: something fun but not too twee with an interesting world.

What was your timeline from drafting to publication?

It took about eight months to write and edit, then three months of beta reads and querying. I signed my contract with Curiosity Quills in March of 2016. The book is out April 4, 2017.

What is your favorite part of writing (drafting characters, making up scenes, plotting, developing emotional turning points, etc). Why?

Until I wrote this book, I had never outlined anything except that one time in fourth grade when they tried to teach us outlining for writing papers. For this book, I ended up going a little bonkers and writing a 75-page 10-book outline.

Briefly, where did the idea for your book come from?

I’m a big fan of the X-Files and I was re-watching the old episodes. At some point, I asked myself what would happen if there was no barrier between what we think of as “our world” and the world of the supernatural. It’s all a blur after that.

When do you do your best thinking about your work in progress?

When I’m brainstorming, or freewriting. I write longhand in a blank notebook.

Share something people may be surprised to know about you?

Most people are surprised to learn that I’m naturally an introvert, especially since I perform improv comedy, which is scenes created off the cuff, in front of a live audience.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

Always be on the lookout for stuff you can use: physicality in the real world, bits of overheard dialogue, ephemera from other genres.

What’s next?

Book two in the series! I’ve got about half a draft.

muddy-waters-cover

MUDDY WATERS

Five years ago, Tessa Reddick was convicted of killing her entire family: 37 Witches from one of the most powerful covens in history. She’s been at Lakeland Psychiatric hospital, still grieving but mad as hell at whoever – or whatever – put her there.

Half an hour ago, a handsome FBI agent showed up to spring Tessa from the joint – but there’s a price. A series of murders is picking off Supernormals and the feds need the help of the last known Reddick Witch.

Determined to learn who had it in for her family, help solve the FBI crimes, and maybe get closer to her mysterious (and seriously hot) Dark Elf partner, Tessa is more than willing to play Witchy Nancy Drew. But Tessa has few friends left and something is coming for her, too – maybe it’s the one who framed her and killed her coven, or perhaps a new foe with a taste for Witch’s blood.

Solving crimes. Doing magic. Drinking bourbon.

Available April 4 from Curiosity Quills Press.

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Interview with Claire Marti, Author of Second Chance in Laguna

We’re chatting it up today with Claire Marti, debut author of Second Chance Laguna!

Please describe what the story is about.

Magazine editor and aspiring novelist Sophie Barnes left everything she knew to move to Laguna Beach to rebuild her life after being devastated by her fiancé’s jilting her at the altar. Little does she know she’ll meet the love of her life, player Nicholas Morgan, and fulfill her deepest dreams of becoming a successful author.

Share a teaser sentence or two from your novel.

“Not that she cared what he thought one way or the other as she was planning on being a single novelist for the foreseeable future.

Like Jane Austen.

Just like Jane Austen.”

What do you want people to know about your book?

It’s a story about finding the courage to start over after suffering a broken heart. Choosing to release the past, live in the present, and follow your dreams is a recipe for happiness.

What did you learn about yourself while writing this novel?

That I believe in not just second chances, but in third, fourth…as many as desired. Choosing to change is powerful.

What was your timeline from drafting to publication?

I started in late 2014 and began pitching in 2015. I won a few contests and that helped me sign a book deal in March 2016.

What is your favorite part of writing (drafting characters, making up scenes, plotting, developing emotional turning points, etc). Why?

I’ve got two favorite parts. I love creating the characters because the entire story springs from their inner conflicts. Learning to love and accept themselves frees them up to love and accept others. I enjoy transforming the crappy first draft into flowing prose. It feels like putting puzzle pieces together.

Briefly, where did the idea for your book come from?

Real life. I’m a big believer in the universal boot—when you aren’t following your dreams or fulfilling your potential, the universe will change it for you whether you are ready or not. Courage, vulnerability, and transformation.

When do you do your best thinking about your work in progress?

All the time. Sometimes when I’m reading an idea will pop into my head. I also walk on the beach a lot and ideas tend to flow when my feet are in the sand.

Share something people may be surprised to know about you?

I’ve got the musical taste of a teenage boy from the 1990’s. Alternative rock, heavy metal—front row for Soundgarden, Foo Fighters, Muse, Guns n’Roses (back in the day.)

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

From Nora Roberts at the RWA conference: There is no muse sprinkling fairy dust on your shoulders. It’s a job—sit your butt in the chair and write.

What’s next?

I just signed the contract for the second book in the Finding Forever in Laguna series. I’m about to embark upon revisions of the first draft of book three. Then, I’m plunging into the historical romance world. After that, I’m planning a mainstream women’s fiction story set in 1920’s Paris and Antibes.

SECOND CHANCE IN LAGUNA

When Sophie Barnes’s fiancé jilts her at the altar, her carefully planned life implodes. Considering her ex’s betrayal to be a rude wake-up call, she leaves everything she knows in San Diego and flees to Laguna Beach. She vows to transform her life by avoiding men for a year and by fulfilling her dream of writing a wildly successful novel.

Sophie’s new landlord, Nicholas Morgan, is a gorgeous, successful architect with a player reputation. He makes it tough for Sophie to remember that she’s sworn to be single. Nick’s avoided the intimacy of a long-term relationship–until Sophie’s independence, courage, and beauty touch his guarded heart. Both Sophie and Nick are terrified of being hurt again, but can they resist the pull of true love?

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Interview with Jill Orr, Author of The Good Byline

Jill Orr talks with us about her debut, The Good Byline:

Please describe what the book is about.

A young woman uncovers corruption, murder, and suspicious taco trucks while writing her best friend’s obituary.

Share a teaser sentence or two from your novel.

So far my plan to change my life was not going well. I’d vomited on my first first date in over seven years, and instead of reconnecting with my old friend, I was writing her obituary. I told myself that if there was anything good to be found in the wake of Jordan’s death, it was a reminder that life was fragile, fleeting, and a gift not to be wasted. Her dying the way she had both strengthened my resolve to fix my life and terrified me because if a woman like Jordan James couldn’t make it in this life, what hope was there for a girl like me?

What do you want people to know about your book?

It’s a light, fun read similar in tone to Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels.

What did you learn about yourself while writing this novel?

That I hear voices in my head – and that’s not always a bad thing!

What was your timeline from drafting to publication?

Two years (one year to write, a few months to get an agent and publisher, then a year till release date).

What is your favorite part of writing (drafting characters, making up scenes, plotting, developing emotional turning points, etc). Why?

Definitely drafting characters! I am a people person and an observer by nature, so I like to take what I see out in the world –the good, the bad and the bizarre – and use it while building my characters.

Briefly, where did the idea for your book come from?

I was reading an article on how there is a subset of people who just love reading obituaries (even when they don’t know the deceased) and I thought that would be a great quirk for a protagonist. And obviously, with an obituary, death is implied – so it’s a natural fit for a murder mystery!

When do you do your best thinking about your work in progress?

Always in the morning, often while driving, which is terribly inconvenient. I’ve learned to use the voice memo feature on my phone to “jot down” ideas while I’m driving.

Share something people may be surprised to know about you?

I spent the weekend at the same vacation lake house as Oprah and Stedman when I was thirteen-years-old.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

“Good writing reflects clear thinking.” That was day one of Journalism school and I’ve never forgotten it. If you don’t know what you’re trying to say, you won’t be able to say it well.

What’s next?

I’m working on book two in my Riley Ellison mystery series! It’ll be out next April, with the third installment coming the April after that.

The good people of Tuttle Corner have unofficially changed Riley Ellison’s name to Riley Bless-Her-Heart. Reeling from heartbreak and adrift professionally, Riley is in a self-imposed purgatory waiting for her life to begin. When she learns her childhood BFF has suddenly committed suicide, Riley agrees to write her obituary as a way to learn why this dynamic young woman would suddenly opt out. Riley eventually becomes convinced that Jordan’s death was no suicide, and is led down a dangerous path toward organized crime, secret lovers, and suspicious taco trucks. Will writing this obituary be the death of her?

Interview with Jessica Strawser, Author of Almost Missed You

We’re talking today with Jessica Strawser, author of Almost Missed You, which debuts today, March 28, 2017!

Please describe what the story is about.

Everyone agrees that Violet and Finn are the perfect couple, and everything about their story seems meant to be—until they take their first family vacation and Finn vanishes with their three-year-old, Bear, leaving Violet blindsided and heartbroken. When he shows up at the doorstep of a mutual friend and blackmails her into hiding them from the authorities, we learn how far back their most damaging secrets go, and question whether the stories we tell ourselves are ever really the whole truth.

Share a teaser sentence or two from your novel.

“The not knowing why Finn had done this or where he had gone was enough to make Violet feel as if she might be on the verge of something essential coming loose in her mind. And of course she couldn’t let that happen. Bear would need her. Bear did need her. She knew it as sure as she knew that her husband was not the man she’d thought he was at all.”

What do you want people to know about your book?

Just as central to the book as the plot are its themes: Is there such a thing as fate—and do the perfect matches so many of us spend our lives looking for really exist? Or are some connections better off missed, some secrets better off kept?

What did you learn about yourself while writing this novel?

I learned that it really is true that no writing, even so-called “unsuccessful” or “failed” writing, is wasted effort. I’d written an earlier novel that attracted an agent but never found a home with a publisher. In the long months of waiting and accumulating slow feedback, I did a lot of thinking about what I might do differently next time. In writing this novel—which has little in common with that first unsold one—I discovered my compass had become steadier; my focus had become sharper.

What was your timeline from drafting to publication?

I wrote the book fairly quickly, between August 2014 and March 2015, signed with a new agent who loved the project in September 2015; she sold it in a preempt two weeks later, and it will be published in March 2017.

What is your favorite part of writing (drafting characters, making up scenes, plotting, developing emotional turning points, etc). Why?

I find the best writing to be a bit like putting together a puzzle—especially with my approach, which involves either no outline at all or a very loose one. My favorite moments are when a piece I’ve been looking for falls into place and I can suddenly see what the picture is going to look like when it’s done.

Briefly, where did the idea for your book come from?

I have always been fascinated by questions of fate and destiny, particularly where romantic relationships are concerned—not just “the one,” but “the one that got away.” Not just “what’s meant to be,” but “what might have been.”

When do you do your best thinking about your work in progress?

Inconveniently, when in the midst of something more mundane—showering, pushing the stroller around the block, driving to work, riding along the bike trail. I know I’m far from alone in this, so there must really be some magic to it.

Share something people may be surprised to know about you?

Through a lot of high school I seriously contemplated attending college to become a marine biologist. Discovering my weak stomach for dissection and wavy boat rides (not at the same time) helped to sway me back toward what had been my first love all along.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

Always stop a writing session when you know what comes next, so you have direction and purpose the next time you sit down at the keyboard, and can jump right in.

What’s next?

Another stand-alone book club novel, forthcoming from St. Martin’s Press in spring 2018.

AlmostMissedYou

Jessica Strawser – ALMOST MISSED YOU

Violet and Finn were “meant to be,” said everyone, always. They ended up together by the hands of fate aligning things just so. Three years into their marriage, they have a wonderful little boy, and as the three of them embark on their first vacation as a family, Violet can’t help thinking that she can’t believe her luck. Life is good.

So no one is more surprised than she when Finn leaves her at the beach—just packs up the hotel room and disappears. And takes their son with him. Violet is suddenly in her own worst nightmare, and faced with the knowledge that the man she’s shared her life with, she never really knew at all.

Caitlin and Finn have been best friends since way back when, but when Finn shows up on Caitlin’s doorstep with the son he’s wanted for kidnapping, demands that she hide them from the authorities, and threatens to reveal a secret that could destroy her own family if she doesn’t, Caitlin faces an impossible choice.

Told through alternating viewpoints of Violet, Finn and Caitlin, ALMOST MISSED YOU is a powerful story of a mother’s love, a husband’s betrayal, connections that maybe should have been missed, secrets that perhaps shouldn’t have been kept, and spaces between what’s meant to be and what might have been.

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Interview with Adriana Arrington, author of Bleed Through

Today we’re chatting with Adriana Arrington about her novel, Bleed Through, out this month!

What’s your book about?

Liam Murphy battles his schizophrenia while developing a paranormal ability to witness past events, which reveals a murder and places him in the crosshairs of the killer.

Share a teaser sentence or two from your novel.

“Three icy fingertips stroked the small of his back. Liam stiffened. Ragged fingernails sliced through bubbling blisters as they trailed toward his skull. Dread prickled up his spine along with the fingertips, his already frayed nerves set further aflame by their touch. “I’ve missed you,” Three Fingers said, his voice raspy and deep.”

What do you want people to know about your book?

My novel explores reality and our perception of it.

What did you learn about yourself while writing this novel?

That the longer I edit, the more curse words I sprinkle in my work.

What was your timeline from drafting to publication? 

I began writing Bleed Through in September 2014. I signed a contract with Curiosity Quills in February 2016, and it’s releasing in March 2017.

What is your favorite part of writing (drafting characters, making up scenes, plotting, developing emotional turning points, etc). Why?

My favorite part of writing is drafting the characters, because once you fully understand your character’s motivations and desires, you understand your story.

Briefly, where did the idea for your book come from?

My grandmother. She was a vibrant woman who loved life, and her positive energy charged the atmosphere of every room she entered. She was also a woman of secrets, treasuring them and storing them away where only she knew they existed. The last of her generation in our family, I can’t fathom that these secrets simply vanished when she passed. Perhaps, somehow, they’re strong enough to linger here on Earth. And if they do stay with us…would it be possible to catch a glimpse of one somehow?

When do you do your best thinking about your work in progress?

Usually while on I’m on a walk or exercising

Share something people may be surprised to know about you?

My sister and I married identical twins. Yes. Really.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

Don’t give up.

What’s next?

A young adult psychological thriller about a seventeen-year-old girl whose plan to rescue her younger sister from her video-game addiction goes terribly awry.

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Adriana Arrington – BLEED THROUGH

With his schizophrenia under control, life is looking up for twenty-five-year-old Liam Murphy. Independence looms on his horizon, and he’s under the care of a psychologist who understands him. Then he witnesses a murder at the yacht club. He worries it’s a hallucination and sign of regression, but soon becomes convinced that his meds have given him the paranormal ability to see past events, and that the murder actually happened.

Attempting to make sense of his new talent, Liam finds an unlikely confidant in Mai Nguyen, a fellow college student and eternal optimist. Though she helps him navigate the unsettling memories threatening to engulf him, the emotional toll of learning terrible secrets he can’t prove pushes Liam to the brink of lucidity.

Desperate to wrest back control of his life, Liam tosses his pills. He spirals into a relapse and captures the killer’s attention as he bumbles through investigating the crime. Hunted by a possibly imaginary murderer, and haunted by self-doubt, Liam must distinguish between hallucinations and reality. If he doesn’t, he risks losing either his hard-won sanity or his life.

Available March 14, 2017 from Curiosity Quills.

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Interview with Lindsey Frydman, author of THE HEARTBEAT HYPOTHESIS

Lindsey Frydman talks with us today about her debut THE HEARTBEAT HYPOTHESIS.

Please describe what the book is about.

THE HEARTBEAT HYPOTHESIS is about Audra, a girl who’s decided to honor her heart donor’s memory by recreating her done-it list—an anti-bucket list in the form of a photographic journal. She convinces Jake, the sexy photographer (and her donor’s brother) to help chronicle her newfound experiences. But while he might be willing to help with the list, he wants nothing to do with uncovering the painful truth behind his sister’s death.

Share a teaser sentence or two from your novel.

I couldn’t tell if I’d flirted with my heart donor’s brother…or made a complete ass of myself.

Or both.

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“I do want to kiss you, Audra. But if I do, it may become a habit…and I can’t seem to get rid of habits.”

What do you want people to know about your book?

THE HEARTBEAT HYPOTHESIS is about love and loss, grief and forgiveness. From the moment I started writing it, it meant something to me, and I can only hope others will find some meaning in it, too.

What did you learn about yourself while writing this novel?

That I have to write what speaks to me. It’s true what they say about not writing for trends or anything like that. Write for you.

What was your timeline from drafting to publication?

I drafted this story in about two months. I was querying it after about six months—definitely the fastest I’ve ever written and edited a novel. I queried agents for a year and a half, then found Entangled and an editor that loved my story, so the entire process took a little over two years.

What is your favorite part of writing (drafting characters, making up scenes, plotting, developing emotional turning points, etc). Why?

Drafting characters is definitely my favorite part of writing. I love combining a set of attributes, a goal, a personality, and a past to create a fictional person. That’s when they become real for me. 😉

Briefly, where did the idea for your book come from?

It came from a news story: a twenty-one-year old nursing student died in a drunk driving accident. Then, when a fifty-something-year-old woman received her heart, she decided to complete the young girl’s bucket list so that her heart could do all of those things even if she couldn’t. <3

When do you do your best thinking about your work in progress?

Usually when I’m driving, listening to music, with no appropriate way to write things down! Or in the shower. That’s a good thinking spot for me.

Share something people may be surprised to know about you?

I perform in burlesque shows—because I enjoy giving my introversion a worthy adversary. 😉

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

You will never please everybody.

What’s next?

I’m editing a YA romantic magical realism set to release in early 2018 from Entangled Publishing. It’s a story in which a girl who is cursed with seeing the end to all her romantic relationships meets a boy who makes her question everything.

 

“Now that Audra Madison has a second chance at life, she’s got a plan: Go to college. Get a tattoo. Date. You know, live. To honor her donor’s memory, she’s recreating Emily’s Done-it List—a photographic journal of all the things she experienced before her death. And she’s convinced Emily’s brother, Jake, a photographer with mysterious, brooding gray eyes, to help chronicle her newfound experiences. As they delve into each other’s pasts—and secrets—the closer they become.

 

Then he finally admits why he won’t talk about his sister. He doesn’t believe the bullshit story about how she died. Unraveling the mystery could bring Jake the peace he needs, but he wants nothing to do with uncovering the painful truth. When Audra starts pushing his trust, it’s clear she’s overestimated her detective skills and underestimated her knowledge of Jake.

 

She’s guarded and feels like she can’t trust anyone, including herself.

And he’s struggling with the fact that his beloved sister’s heart beats inside her.”

Interview with Heather McCorkle, author of Honor Before Heart

Today we’re chatting with Heather McCorkle about her book Honor Before Heart  — the first in a series!

Please describe what the story is about.

When Corporal Sean MacBranian awakens after being injured in battle, he is sure the luck o’ the Irish has run out on him. Or that he’s died and gone to Heaven. There can be no other explanation for the blonde-haired, blue-eyed angel standing before him. But his “angel” is a truehearted lass named Ashlinn, and she wears a nurse’s uniform. Her tender ministrations have brought him back from the brink of death—and have given him a new reason for living.

Ashlinn knows their parting is inevitable; her handsome hero must return to the 69th infantry of the Union army, and there are no guarantees of his safe return. With most of her family already destroyed by the war ravaging America, she is sure she cannot survive another loss. Yet she feels powerless against the draw of Sean’s strong and steady heart. Neither time nor distance nor the danger of battle seems to lessen their bond. But when their secret letters are intercepted, the devoted nurse’s love will face the ultimate test . . .

Share a teaser sentence or two from your novel.

Those eyes she had wondered about were copper with sunbursts of darker brown coming out from the pupil. They fixed upon her, their pain and beauty ensnaring her so that she couldn’t move let alone look away.

What did you learn about yourself while writing this novel?

That I’m deeply interested in Irish American history.

What was your timeline from drafting to publication?

One year.

What is your favorite part of writing (drafting characters, making up scenes, plotting, developing emotional turning points, etc). Why? 

I love the editing process. It’s where everything comes together and the diamond is pressed from the coal.

Briefly, where did the idea for your book come from?

A Dropkick Murphy’s song about the 69th infantry.

When do you do your best thinking about your work in progress?

Either in the shower or on a motorcycle ride (I’m not the one driving. That would be dangerous because I ‘see’ my ideas).

What would you like people to know about your book? 
Perhaps that I chose to center it around the all Irish (at the time) 69th brigade out of New York due to a desire to bring to light the important role the Irish played in the civil war.  

Share something people may be surprised to know about you?

I practiced tae-kwon-do for fifteen years.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

She who doesn’t give up, makes it. Keep writing.

What’s next? 

A sequel! This is the first in the Widows of the 69th series. And, readers will see a paranormal romance series from me soon as well.