So delighted to be hosting my great pal, the gorgeous goddess from Glasgow, Susan Buchanan, on my blog again. I interviewed her about a year ago, and adored her even more than after I’d finished her THE DATING GAME. Read that interview HERE and you’ll see what I mean!
To celebrate her new release, THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT, I asked her to tell you guys Five Fun Facts about her… So here they are. Enjoy! And please buy her new book. I did! I’m not finished yet, but I’m getting evermore charmed by the page. A great holiday read! Now I’ll stop my blabbing. Here’s Sooz!
As many know I love to travel, but I haven’t really shared where I’ve been. So, let’s just say I’ve posted on Facebook at 6am ‘Baku rocks’, as I had just returned from pretty much an all-nighter in Baku, Azerbaijan. I was out with my 70 year old rep (I worked in Sales) and God knows where we were. I could never have found my way home again! I did, however, bump into lots of Scottish people involved in the oil industry over there and we partied! I remember doing the conga at one point in a pub. Not sure why!
I’ve also been on safari in Kenya, which was amazing, but I haven’t done the Masai Mara yet. I’m torn between doing the balloon ride over it, as I don’t want the balloon to drop and me be eaten by lions. It’s not a good way to go, I hear.
I’ve been to a lot of the US, but I have to say one of the places which struck me most was Beale St in Memphis, where lots of the music clubs are. I was there on a Saturday and wandered up to this area in a park where loads of people were milling around. Random onlookers would take it in turns to sing and the whole crowd was behind them – it was amazing.
When I am in the car, bored sometimes, I try to work out how many countries I’ve been to. I think last month I got it to 50, I had forgotten three before. Well, if you will go to Honduras, just to play Scrabble, it does tend to slip your mind!
I am very accident prone, but have never actually broken any bones, although I’ve torn ligaments countless times and have a weakness in my right ankle. In fact, when my met my other half, Tony, at New Year in the Scottish Highlands, I was on crutches! I have a scar on my left shin where I fell off a climbing frame, shaped like an igloo. I was hanging upside down from it at the time, when I was eleven. I also have a scar on my left thigh where a girl bit me when we were fighting – I think I was twelve.
I am terrified of rats – they freak me out – it’s something about the tails. Also not keen on snakes. I’ve heard too many stories, although I did have a python wrapped around my shoulders when on holiday in India, in an attempt to get me over my fear. It was one of my least comfortable experiences ever.
I have no pain threshold – I am a total wimp, or so I thought. I was dreading childbirth, as the female members of my family kept saying ‘you’ll be a nightmare’, but you know what? I was fine. Yes, it was bloomin’ painful and long, but I wasn’t the person screaming so loud, her other half could hear her down the corridor. That was my kid sister’s friend!
I love quiz shows and board games. Baby Antonia’s head snaps around whenever she hears the theme tune to certain quiz shows and I’m sure it’s because when she was in the womb and for the first few months of night feeds, I had the quiz shows on. She will quite happily sit through them. I am hoping the knowledge rubs off on her!
Christmas is coming, but not everyone is looking forward to it.
Rebecca has just been dumped and the prospect of spending the holiday period with her parents is less than appealing.
Eighty-two-year-old Stanley lost his beloved wife, Edie, to cancer. How will he cope with his first Christmas without her?
Jacob’s university degree hasn’t helped him get a job, and it looks like he’ll still be signing on come New Year.
Workaholic Meredith would rather spend December 25th at home alone with a ready meal and a DVD box set. Can anything make her embrace the spirit of the season?
The enigmatic Natalie Hope takes over the reins at the Sugar and Spice bakery and cafe in an attempt to spread some festive cheer and restore Christmas spirit, but will she succeed?
Every year on this day, December 1st, her raison d’être and her job, as such, began. It only lasted a month, but her personal deadline was always twenty-four days. The other week was just to ensure there was no unfinished business.
Natalie hoped Christmas 2013 would be a good one for everyone. If she had anything to do with it, as in the past, those she chose would have a Christmas to remember.
This year she would be working in the small town of Winstanton about twenty miles north of Glasgow; more of a village really, with its carefully tended lawns, idyllic cottages and splendid views over Loch Lomond.
Each year Natalie had to choose a different country. This was her first visit to Scotland. She hoped she would get used to the Scottish accent and that her own would go unnoticed. Speaking several languages came in handy, but it was even better to blend in like a local.
Although Natalie’s job actively only lasted one month per year, her preparation lasted ten months. Well, she did get some holidays. Ten months in which to research, narrow down and shortlist her candidates. It was no easy task, as although a small town, Winstanton still had fifteen thousand residents and Natalie could only choose four. Now, she couldn’t possibly check them all out, could she? No. Natalie had a gift which helped her. She could feel other people’s happiness. The downside was, she could also feel their unhappiness. Marvellous, eh?
Natalie readjusted her handbag on her shoulder and grabbed hold of the handle of her carry-on case, dragging it along the deserted platform of Winstanton train station. She had picked up the keys to her new one-bedroom cottage earlier that day in Glasgow. Now all she had to do was make her way there. There wasn’t a taxi in sight; not surprising, since she was the only person who had got off at the station. Fortunately there was a phone box, an old style red one – how quaint. Even luckier, it hadn’t been vandalised and it had a Yellow Pages in it, which hadn’t been ripped to shreds. Natalie had never got around to getting a mobile phone. There was no reception where she lived most of the year, so there seemed little point. Taking out a piece of paper from her purse, she dialled the first taxi number she’d come across in her research of the area; she was nothing if not prepared. In her job she had to be. She was looking forward to her new role. Her job was always a job within a job; a little difficult to explain, but it was kind of like a secondment.
The taxi arrived soon after. Natalie could imagine there wasn’t much doing for a taxi driver on a Sunday night. A cheery old man, probably in his sixties, greeted her. ‘Miss Hope?’
‘The very same.’
‘Let me help you with your case.’
‘Thanks,’ said Natalie, when he swung it with some effort into the boot.
‘What have you got in there, bricks?’
Natalie laughed and said, ‘Wouldn’t you like to know!’
He looked as if he would indeed like to know, but was too polite to push it further.
They arrived at Rose Cottage within ten minutes.
‘Five pounds eighty, hen.’
‘Worth every penny,’ Natalie pronounced. She handed him seven pounds and told him to keep the change.
‘Do you want me to wait until you see if anyone’s home?’ asked the driver, eyeing the darkened cottage.
‘No, it’s OK, thanks, although that’s kind of you to be so thoughtful. I have a key.’
‘No problem. Have a nice night.’
‘You too. Hope it’s a busy one for you.’
The driver’s expression conveyed that was unlikely to be the case.
She noticed he didn’t leave until she was safely inside the cottage and she’d switched on the hall light. Nice soul, obviously a happy man. He wouldn’t be needing her help.
It’s Five for Friday time again and I’m delighted today to be welcoming one of my favorite authors–and favorite author pals–back to the Shed!I know Brea Brown via Facebook mostly (Twitter less–much, much less). She’s one of the most supportive writer pals I have. And she’s funny. Have I mentioned how funny she is? Because she is. I loved her Daydreamer and I’ve started to read her beloved The Secret Keeper series. She’s a talented storyteller and you will love her books.Brea and I also wear glasses. At least in pictures. And we feel this is a real bonding thing… I’ll give you a minute to reflect on that. Yep, that’s how how simpatico we are. Because isn’t the very definition of “simpatico” someone you can be a idiot with? In any case, I swear I will meet her one day! Before then, here’s how I connect with Brea, and it’s just how you should, too:
I live in Springfield, Missouri, where nothing ever happens, so I make things up in my head. My published books are Daydreamer, Quiet, Please!, Plain Jayne, and the Secret Keeper series (The Secret Keeper, The Secret Keeper Confined, The Secret Keeper Up All Night, The Secret Keeper Holds On, and The Secret Keeper Lets Go. Stop by my website for links to my books, a peek at my blog, and a glimpse of my Tweets (that’s right… hubba hubba). I’d also love it if you stopped by my Facebook page and said hi. I’m on there. All. The. Time. I have three boys, a very understanding husband, and a crush on several celebrities, including Colin Firth and The Man in the Yellow Hat.
1. For those who aren’t familiar with The Secret Keeper (TSK for us lazies) series, can you tell us what inspired you to start it–and what keeps you writing it?
Some people inspire others to tell them their secrets–from the silly and superficial to the deep and dark. One day, I was lamenting the fact that I seem to be one of those people on whom others like to dump all their dirty laundry, and I got this flash of inspiration about a fictional character with this same problem, only with more humorous results and with huge secrets of her own. In the case of my protagonist, Peyton Stratford, I made her family the biggest offenders of these crushing confessions, and instead of having Peyton turn to a therapist for guidance, I thought it would be more interesting–and certainly less conventional in this day and age–for her to seek support from a Lutheran clergyman… a very young, handsome, personable clergyman. I keep writing the series because I love writing about characters whose public personae rarely hint at their private lives, and people assume things about them that aren’t true or that are based on stereotypes. I’ve had a great time molding characters who just happen to be Christians in the context of true-to-life situations and dilemmas that often seem to have very little to do with faith and spirituality. This is not Christian fiction; I don’t have a “message” I’m trying to force on readers. I’m really just exploring what it means to be a person of faith (and I think it translates to any faith) in a society that seems to have less and less use for the concept.
2. What are you doing when you’re not writing or reading?
Sleeping? Ha! Seriously, when I’m not at my full-time day job or sleeping, I’m reading and writing. Occasionally, I take breaks to eat and do the things required of me as a parent and wife. As for what I do for “fun,” I still have a few friends who haven’t written me off as obsessed with imaginary people, and I get together with them occasionally to eat, drink, and be merry. I also have a mild (okay, it’s insatiable) addiction to British TV shows, particularly period dramas and series. Oh, and I love professional American football. Go Chiefs!
3. Can you give us some background about this excerpt you’re sharing?
In the excerpt, Peyton has become desperate enough with her current situation to seek the help of someone in touch with a higher power. Not a therapist, not a psychic, but a pastor. Unfortunately, she underestimates how awkward it can be to tell a man of God something as personal as what she feels compelled to tell him.
4. If TSK became a movie or TV series, who would star–and why?
Now, see… I hesitate to reveal these names, because I’m a firm believer that readers need to have the freedom to picture whomever they want when they read about my characters, but I have very strong feelings about who I see when I write the books. And I absolutely HATE when Hollywood casting doesn’t coincide with who I’ve pictured in a book as I’ve read it. That being said, I’m going to risk readers’ wrath by revealing who I picture when I write the books. And it’s really okay if readers don’t see the same people, but I don’t want a bunch of indignant messages about it, m’kay? There are no wrong answers here!
In my head, Peyton Stratford is Emma Stone…
And Brice Northam is Matthew Lewis (have you seen him lately???).
Of course, I’ve cast all the other characters, too, but I won’t bore you with the long, scrolling credits.5. What’s next for you? Can you tell us about your current WIP? Give us a little taste?I’ve just finished the first draft of the next book I hope to publish. I originally wrote it more than a year ago; I asked some beta readers to read it; they very diplomatically told me they didn’t like it; I agreed it was crap; I put it aside and wrote two Secret Keeper books; I picked it back up and started over. It’s been challenging but rewarding. I still have a ton of work to do on it before it’s ready for publication, but here’s the elevator pitch: A male nurse named Nate with an inferiority complex and a love for chick lit finds out the woman he’s recently started dating writes chick lit but is too afraid to publish it. He gets roped into being the face of the author when the books are self-published under a male pen name… and his picture is used–unbeknownst to him–as the author’s photo. Readers love the books, and he becomes the new face of Indie publishing with “his” outspoken views about the publishing industry. Meanwhile, all is not well between Nate and the real writer of the books… And that’s all I’m willing to say about it for now. I’ll be posting a cover reveal and sneak peek on my web page as I get closer to publication, but I don’t have a timeline for any of that yet. Soon, though. Very soon.
BONUS: Say I’m coming to Springfield for one night. What are we doing?
Well… I’m hardly a lady-about-town here, but I’d definitely take you to my favorite restaurant, a lovely establishment called Farmer’s Gastropub, a traditional English pub owned by a real Brit (in Springfield, Missouri!) who makes everything from locally grown ingredients. The atmosphere is great, and there’s usually at least one rugby game playing on the TVs mounted high on the walls. Then I’d take you downtown to visit many of the places that inspired the settings in The Secret Keeper series. Then after we’re really silly, we’ll go to Bass Pro Shops (Springfield’s not known for much else) and take crazy pictures of each other with the stuffed, mounted animals. Hopefully, none of this would end in charges of disturbing the peace or the need to be bailed out of jail. So, when can I expect you?
How about next Tuesday? Thanks, Brea! A pleasure, as always!
Don’t forget about following Brea all over the Internet:
And buying ALL her books! Look, here they all are. In one fancy ribbon!
And here’s an excerpt from the very first TSK book!
This is not going to be easy. Of course, no part of this entire experience is going to be easy. But this is going to be especially difficult.
I smile at Marilyn, the church secretary, when I catch her staring at me… again. She’s no doubt wondering why the heck I’m here to speak to Pastor Northam. I’d imagine that anyone under the age of sixty who goes out of his or her way to meet with him is in a sticky situation. I mean, isn’t prayer typically a last resort? Yes. For most people. Myself included. But I need divine help.
After returning my smile, Marilyn checks over her shoulder, nods, and informs me, “Pastor’s ready to see you now.”
I stand on wobbly legs, feeling like someone who’s wearing high heels for the first time in her life. After walking through his open office door, I stop abruptly, not sure what to do next or what to say.
He rises from behind his desk and offers me his hand. Young and fairly new to the church, he replaced the minister who passed away two years ago after more than twenty years with our congregation. I haven’t had much one-on-one contact with him, because, honestly, I’m not very involved at church, other than attending most Sundays (and that’s only because I go to the same church as my parents, and I’d rather not be lectured about one more thing). Based on some of the things he’s said in his sermons, I like him well enough, and I appreciate the forward-thinking direction in which he’s trying to take the church, despite some members’ best efforts to thwart him. I’m not in the habit, however, of just dropping by to have chats with him, so I’m nervous, complete with jittery tummy, dry mouth, and shaking hands.
He notices right away and acknowledges my unusual visit. “So! This is a nice surprise. What brings you here?” He gestures for me to take a seat on the sofa and sits next to me, instead of keeping the desk between us.
“I don’t have anyone else to talk to about this.” As soon as the words are out, I hear how terrible they sound and blush. “I mean… my friends haven’t been much help, and I really need help.”
He chuckles at me. “Okay… Um… I get what you mean, I think. So relax.”
Relieved, I nod. “Sorry. I’m just… My parents always taught me that when I needed help, I could talk to my pastor, but I’ve never had to…” I trail off, not sure how to finish and also mortified that I sound half my age.
“…use this lifeline before?” he finishes for me, his eyes sparkling.
“I take it you’re not here to complain about the type being too small in the bulletin or the music becoming too contemporary, then.”
His joke actually makes me laugh. “No,” I confirm his assumption. “I don’t care about any of that.” Quickly, I correct, “It’s not that I don’t care, it’s just—”
Patting my arm, he consoles, “Shh. It’s okay. Take a deep breath for me.”
I do. Because you do what your pastor says. At least, you do when he’s sitting right there.
After I’ve settled down somewhat, he remarks, “You know, times like this, I think the Catholics may have the right idea with the confessional booth. I mean, logically, the confessor knows, ‘That’s Father So-and-So in there,’ and the priest knows, ‘That’s Suzie So-and-So out there,’ but it’s psychologically easier to talk to a screen. Don’t you think?”
When I nod into my lap, he urges, “Why don’t you just tell me what’s on your mind?”
Suddenly, I don’t think I can do it. And I’m afraid I’m going to chicken out and lie to my pastor about the reason for my visit. Only the knowledge of how truly terrible that would be keeps me honest. Or silent, more like.
I gulp. He waits. And waits. And waits.
Eventually, he rises and returns to his desk. “Tell you what. I’m going to do some stuff over here. And if you feel like telling me, go ahead. I don’t have any other appointments this afternoon. But I do have to work on this sermon that I’ve procrastinated on all week.”
When my head snaps up, he asks, “Is that okay? I mean, I don’t want you to think I don’t care, but I feel like it’s too much pressure, or something, with me sitting there waiting for you to talk.”
“It’s fine,” I answer automatically, too shocked to say anything else. Anyway, I’m not offended. Just surprised.
After a few minutes of neither of us saying anything and the only sound in the room being his typing and mouse-clicking, he queries, “What’s another word for ‘hopeless’?”
“‘Despondent’?” I supply, feeling the picture of it.
He thinks about it before nodding. “Yeah. That works. Thanks.” He goes back to typing furiously.
“I’m nearly ten weeks pregnant.”
His fingers slow on the keys, but he doesn’t say anything right away. Then he looks up at me. I have no idea what his opinion of my revelation—or me—is, based on his expression. “Oh. Hmm.”
“And I’m not married,” I prod, helping him to see part of the problem (the smallest part, in my book, but probably not in his).
“Yeah, I know that,” he says dismissively, tapping his cheekbone.
Now I feel an odd impulse to try to get a stronger reaction from him. “And I don’t have a boyfriend.”
He sits up straighter, but his expression remains passive. “Do you know who the father is?” he asks as if he’s inquiring if I know who invented the cotton gin.
“Of course!” I snap. “I’m not that horrible.”
Unruffled, he states, “Well, there are no degrees of sin. It’s not a matter of better or worse. Simply… sin.”
“So I should have gotten my money’s worth, huh?”
He laughs. “Uh… I guess you could look at it that way.”
“I’m just kidding,” I make sure he knows. I definitely don’t want him to think any money changed hands, on top of everything else. “Anyway, yes, I know who the father is. No, we’re not in a relationship. No, he’s not the kind of person I want to be in a relationship with. No, he doesn’t know I’m… you know.”
“Was this… act… consensual?”
I nod, feeling more ashamed than ever. If only I could say otherwise. You know you’re in a bad way when you wish that. That’s just sick.
“If you don’t particularly care for this person, why’d you have sex with him, then?” he asks bluntly, making me blush.
“Well… I… Uh…” I stammer.
He shakes his head. “Never mind. That’s not important.”
My face must have that question written all over it, because he qualifies, “I mean, it is, and it’s something that you should probably pray about, but it’s not anything I need to know to help you.” Taking a deep breath and shooting me a shaky smile, he asks, “How can I help you, by the way? I feel like I’m being anything but helpful with all my stupid interjections.”
Now I find myself reassuring him. “You’re okay. I’m the one who’s being weird. I schedule an appointment to talk to you; then I get here, and you have to drag it out of me.”
He shrugs. “It happens.”
“Anyway, I guess I just needed to tell an authority figure.”
Looking over his shoulder then back at me, he points to himself and says, “Who, me?”
And here’s some praise for the writing of Brea Brown!
“Ms. Brown is a gifted author with a unique voice and a talent for portraying true-to-life characters who find themselves landed in true-to-life situations.”
–KATHLEEN IRENE PATERKA, author of the James Bay novels and Royal Secrets.
“Like the rest of you I love to sleep, but I decided to forego that and read this book.”
–Rev. Denise V. Fournier
“It’s very hard to write any kind of storyline around organized religion without coming off as either preachy or patronizing, but Ms. Brown does neither here. What a wonderful, complex story, full of characters that are REAL, with foibles and depth.”
“Brea Brown is the kind of writer who inspires me (also a writer) to always give my best. TSK is captivating. At times laugh-out-loud funny, at other times heartbreakingly sad, it’s the kind of book you hate to see end.”
–Martha Reynolds, author of Chocolate for Breakfast and Chocolate Fondue.
Let’s connect! Find me on Twitter and Facebook, and email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
***I am re-running this fun interview with Patti Callahan Henry this week to let you know about a LIVE CHAT with Patti on Tuesday, June 25, at 3:30 p.m. EST on BookTribChat! During the chat you can:
Ask Patti questions directly
WIN a free copy of the book
See Patti’s fabulous, creative writing space where all the magic happens
I will be there, and I hope to see you guys there too!
I was first introduced to New York Times bestselling author Patti Callahan Henry. I was introduced to Patti when I was assigned to work on her novella, The Perfect Love Song. Telling a complete story in that condensed format is no easy feat, but Patti pulled it off–so much so that I immediately read her other books once I’d finalized the edits.
Patti has such a strong presence on the page, editing her is almost too easy. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again and again, no one puts emotion on paper as gracefully and seemingly effortlessly as she does. I know for me as a writer, sometimes trying to convey my soul in words feels like a dopey kitten that’s gotten all tangled up in a ball of yarn. Patti takes that “yarn” and weaves it seamless into a beautiful shawl you can’t help but wrap yourself in. Don’t believe me? Read the excerpt at the end of this interview from And Then I Found You, about the main character, Kate, and her experience placing for adoption the baby she just brought into the world. (Have tissues or at the very least, a dry sleeve, handy. You’ll need it)
Before we get to know Patti and what fuels her as a writer, here’s how to find her out in the world:
1. I am a big fan of your books and And Then I Found You, did not disappoint! I laughed and I cried. I couldn’t put it down; actually read it in two sittings, the second sitting in the middle of the night. I know this story is particularly special, for you and your family. Can you tell us a little bit about the background of the story?
Can I say that I’m glad I made you cry? Hopefully in the good kind of way. The background of the story is that twenty-three years ago, my sister, Barbi, bravely placed her baby daughter for adoption. And then three years ago, that beautiful girl found us on Facebook. The real story is full of magical synchronicity and reunion. I wrote a fictional version using this backdrop.
2. We all put bits and pieces of people we know into our books, but your characters and at least “the big event” that grounds the story are very real. Did you have any issues with family members and friends when they learned you were doing this?
My family wanted me to write this book. The only issue we had was when I tried to write the “True Story” – I couldn’t do it. I sat down with my sister and told her that it was her story to tell; I couldn’t “become” her. So we agreed that she’d work on a memoir while I wrote a fictional version. What I did was ask myself this question: What is the heart of the story FOR me? And then I took it from there.
3. You have a such a gift for describing emotion. It seems to glide through the story without any awkwardness whatsoever. Do you find it easy to write emotion or do you struggle with it? And can you give some advice on how to craft it as you do?
This is the nicest compliment. It means so much to me because this is an important part of the writing for me—to convey emotion while moving the story forward. I don’t know if it comes easily; I don’t think anything about writing comes easily if it is any good. Advice? For the first draft: Pour it out there on the paper. Dump it without editing. Dig deep. Tell the truth. THEN edit it to smooth. I think maybe it’s like making something out of wood and then smoothing it with sandpaper when the shape of it is done. But you can’t smooth it if you aren’t pouring the truth (the emotion) out there.
4. Do you have any special rituals for writing? A time of day you like writing, a special drink to sip, or sweater to wear? Or maybe a special feather to have close by… (Read the book, guys!)
I believe I do my best writing when I get up to my attic (my office) first thing in the morning. Light a candle. Wiggle some words around in a journal and then dive into the story. This might be a myth I’ve created for my own use, but it works. My office is full of all my favorite things: feathers, books, photos of my children, poems, artwork, etc… and I believe this helps.
5. It was such a great idea to release Friend Requestas a lead up to And Then I Found You. Do you see yourself doing more of that kind of thing with your books going forward? How do you see yourself evolving as an author in this ever-expanding publishing environment?
Thanks again for the kind words! I do see doing this again. Because I always love to read “the story behind the story” I assume others do also. I don’t exactly know how I see myself in this expanding publishing environment—I think it has something to do with continuing to try to write a story well told while staying active in the social media community. A fine line to be sure.
BONUS QUESTION: Thanks to advances in technology and communication, you could literally “be” at a book club meetings anywhere in the world, just by sitting in front of your computer. Is this something you’re doing now or may consider doing going forward?
Absolutely. I’ve done it before and I love talking to my readers.
Great to know, Patti. Maybe sometime we can do a Google Hangout book event together. 🙂
There was, she found, a tunnel of darkness that she willingly entered as she pushed Luna from her body and into the world. Only the two of them existed—the crush of body cooperating outside time and space, allowing life to endure. The doctor, the nurse, and her mom were all in the room, yet they seemed somehow outside the world, another dimension.
Bearing down one final time, Katie was silent and resolute as Luna was born. For the briefest moment, the baby was simultaneously attached to Katie and in the world. The doctor cut the umbilical cord, releasing Luna from Katie’s body. It would be Katie who would have to release Luna from her life.
The nurse walked around the bed and placed a wide-eyed Luna into Katie’s arms. Katie looked down into her daughter’s face. “Oh, she’s the most perfect. Most perfect.” Luna’s hair was dark and thick, poking out in wet clumps after her journey. Her eyes were green, clear: Jack’s eyes. If grief had a sound, it was the silence of that birthing room.
Nicole walked over and took Luna from Katie’s arms, and the room filled with the deepest and most awful knowing: They would hold Luna this once and then she would be gone. Somewhere in the same hospital, a family waited to hold their new daughter.
Nicole held Luna and stroked her face, staring into her eyes. “We love you, baby Luna. We will, from this day forward, pray for you every day.” Nicole handed Luna to Katie.
Pictures were taken as if it was a normal birth—a day of celebration even—and then it was time to say good-bye.
“How do I do this?” Katie looked to her mom.
“I don’t know.”
Katie held her daughter, her heart yielded to the good-bye she hadn’t yet spoken. “I can’t go through this pain if there isn’t peace at the end. I can’t. Please promise me there is peace at the end of this.”
Nicole placed her hand on Katie’s forehead, but didn’t promise anything at all. The nurse entered the room with her own tears. The social worker stood at her side with papers and a sad smile. “Are you ready?”
Katie pulled back the blanket, memorizing every bend and curve and sinew of Luna’s body. Touching her. Kissing her.
Jack was there, at the hospital, waiting in a separate room to both meet and then say good-bye to his daughter. If a last living piece of Katie’s heart existed (which she wasn’t sure about) seeing Jack would have killed it.
“You, Luna, are beautiful and special and you are going to have a wonderful mother and dad. I want you to grow up to know your God, and be surrounded in and by love. Be a good girl. I love you with every piece of me.” Katie kissed her daughter’s forehead as a tear dropped on Luna’s wild hair.
In a motion she would have thought impossible, Katie handed her child to the social worker and then reached into her bag. “I have something I want to send with her,” Katie said in a voice suffused with sorrow. She handed the social worker a small feather.
“It will be up to the parents whether they will take this,” the social worker said softly.
“I found it the first day I thought I might be pregnant. It’s my only gift.”
Nicole laid her head on the pillow next to her daughter. “Life is your gift, Katie.”
“Kate,” Katie said to her mom. “Now, from now on, call me Kate.”
Kate handed Luna to the nurse, and something felt torn away, a hollow feeling like her insides had been scooped out. A great wind could blow through her without hitting resistance.
Kate’s words echoed across the empty hospital room. “What will fill the place where you were?”
The question was meant for her daughter, who was now someone else’s child.
Kate Vaughan is no stranger to tough choices. She’s made them before. Now it’s time to do it again.
Kate has a secret, something tucked away in her past. And she’s getting on with her life. Her business is thriving. She has a strong relationship with her family, and a devoted boyfriend whom she wants to love with all her heart. If Kate had ever made a list, Rowan would fill the imagined boxes of a perfect mate. But she wants more than the perfect on paper relationship; she wants a real and imperfect love. That’s why, when Kate discovers the small velvet box hidden in Rowan’s drawer, she panics.
It always happens this way. Just when Kate thinks she can love, just when she believes she can conquer the fear, she’s filled with dread. And she wants more than anything to make this feeling go away. But how?
When the mistakes have been made and the running is over, it’s time to face the truth. Kate knows this. She understands that a woman can never undo what can never be undone. Yet, for the first time in her life she also knows that she won’t fully love until she confronts those from her past. It’s time to act.
Can she do it? Can she travel to the place where it all began, to the one who shares her secret? Can the lost ever become found?
And Then I Found You gives new life to the phrase “inspired by a true story.” By traveling back to a painful time in her own family’s history, the author explores the limits of courage, and the price of a selfless act.
It gives me great delight to welcome a fantastic woman to the Shed who is not an author. (Well, at least not yet…) 🙂 I’ve known Gia Peterson since we were kids, and I recently discovered that she started a very cool, natural-health focused company called Wholesome Health. As I keep promising myself it’s time to get healthy, I was immediately interested in what she was up to. Not to mention that she has three daughters all under the age of seven (meaning, not in school all day) and I couldn’t imagine how she found the time.
You’ll learn more about Wholesome Health in Gia’s interview. Here’s how to find out even more about her company and what it offers, and how to follow her on the web:
1. Can you tell us something about your company, Wholesome Health? Your mission and something about the products and services you provide?
I started Wholesome Health to help others learn how to avoid toxins, maintain wellness, and prevent illness using the most natural means possible. As a mother of three girls, I am especially passionate about learning everything I can about natural wellness and avoiding toxins. Women and children are actually at a higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes because they tend to have higher levels of toxins and hormone-disrupting substances in their systems than men.
One of the best ways to detoxify is by eating more raw fruits and veggies, which provide the strongest immune support system known to man! For that, Wholesome Health offers whole food supplements made by Juice Plus+ and an aeroponic Tower Garden, also made by Juice Plus+.
The Juice Plus+ supplements are nothing more than juiced, raw vegetables and fruits, dried at very low temperatures to maintain their raw properties, and put into capsules or gummie supplements. (Learn more about Juice Plus+ Supplements.)
The Tower Garden is an amazing aero/hydroponic state-of-the art home gardening system in which anyone can grow beautiful, organic vegetables and fruits on their deck, in their living room, or even on their front porch. (Learn more about Tower Garden)
2. What other work had you been doing before you decided to take this path? When did you realize this company was your dream?
Before Wholesome Health I was mainly a stay-at-home mom, and before I had children I was in the insurance business. I realized after a few years in insurance that it was definitely not where my heart was. I made a good living, but I was as bored as can be. After I met my husband and we decided it was time to have children, I worked as a preschool teacher, but again, while I enjoyed the work and it was rewarding, it was not where my heart was.
Eventually my husband’s job moved us from Florida to Atlanta. At that point I had three little girls (a 4 month old, a 2 ½ year old and a 4 ½ year old) and I was getting through one day at a time. I realized then that my heart was in the health world and I was kicking myself for not having taken that direction in my career earlier–thinking it was just too late, since I was already my late 30s.
Then I came across the Tower Garden (TG). I was trying to find a way to grow my own vegetables and fruits to support my juicing and smoothie making. As soon as I laid eyes on the TG, I was sold. I knew this was my answer, my future, my path to my passion. Just talking about it right now is getting me all fired up! I’ve always had an entrepreneurial heart and starting my own business didn’t really scare me. I just had to have the right product and service that I felt passionate about. I’m not nearly a good enough sales person to sell something that isn’t backed by 20+ years of clinical research proving that it works–or something that I’m not 150 percent passionate about! 🙂
3. Have you always been so health-conscious? If not, when did you “turn the corner”–and was it difficult to begin making more healthful changes in your life?
I have been pretty health conscious for a large part of my life. My parents had me later in life–my mom was 41 when I was born and my dad was 48–so as a young teen I saw them beginning to have a lot of health problems. I knew and understood even then that many of their health problems were lifestyle-related. They smoked cigarettes (gasp!) a lot. They drank alcohol and partied a lot. They worked very hard and burned the candle at both ends. They didn’t exercise or watch what they ate. I started becoming healthier by exercising a lot, trying to make better food choices, etc. There wasn’t a real “turn the corner” moment. I was always doing what was being reported in the media as “healthy” for that time. Now I know that much of it was wrong, and the answer always was to get back to nature. You don’t have to walk around in clothing made out of organic hemp cloth to be back to nature, although that’s good too! 🙂
Every step to remove a synthetic item from your life improves your health. Your food choices, cleaning products, clothes, make-up and grooming products–all of these contain potentially carcinogenic substances. While each product alone probably isn’t carcinogenic enough to “cause cancer,” it’s all of these together causing sicknesses, auto-immune diseases, cancers, etc. The only real answer is to remove them, one by one, out of our lives and to live more simply. I am still in the loooong process of purging a lot of things in my life, on a lot of levels. I take it one level at a time.
4. People may not realize that you started your company and run it all while raising three small kiddos! How did you find the time / energy to get started, and for those who feel like they have dreams but no time to devote to them, how do you keep on top of everything? Any strategies you can share?
Well, that is definitely the (very) hard part! And that is the reason that my company is not nearly as big as it can be–I work on it part-time. The great thing is that the only quotas I have are the ones I put on myself, which takes a lot of pressure off. I already put enough pressure on myself. The last thing I need is an external “force” putting more on me! My girls, who are now 2 ½, 5 & 6 ½ must come first, and I have to occasionally remind myself of that. I tend to be a type-A overachiever (except with housework and cleaning – LOL) and have to remind myself to channel that to them sometimes.
The time to work on my company comes from where I can grab it. There are many days that I have to get up a 5am to get some things done or they won’t get done! In my opinion, do something you’re passionate about and you will find the time and energy. Of course there are things that have to give – some days we order out, some days we have (organic) pb&j’s, and some days we don’t get out of our jammies. I work when I can and have to “put it down” when I can’t. I do thrive on structure and routine and it’s been very hard for me to do it this way, but it’s the only way it works. Besides, there will always be work, but there won’t always be three sweet, precious little ankle biting girls.
5. What’s your “big vision” for your company? To expand to a huge international company? To change the way people think about health and food?
My “big vision” for my company is still evolving. I have so many ideas that I want to bring to life, newsletters I want to write, outreaches I want to do, vegetable cooking groups I want to start. I want to get more raw fruits and veggies into everyone I come into contact with through both Juice Plus+ whole food supplements and the Tower Garden as well as through education and articles I post on my business page. I truly get excited when I come across information that I feel is really important and presented in an interesting and engaging way–whether I created it or someone else did. I also want to guide people back to nature and help them remove all the processed, unnatural, synthetic things from their lives. I want to be a source of information and inspiration to anyone that is looking for that.
Specifically for the business, I want to keep it large enough that I can be financially secure, but small enough that I can be mom for the next 20 years, because in the end, that’s where my heart will be.
Please be sure to check back during my May “Month of Mothers” month-long tribute, featuring interviews and guest posts with tips and tricks from mothers all over the world. GIA PETERSON will be back with a super-healthy, super-yummy recipe. So please come join us again.
And please be sure to keep up with me on Facebook and Twitter. Lots of exciting things in the works.
I’m thrilled to have Libby Mercer in the “Shed” today. The editor in me just can’t help but notice this chick-lit lady’s incredible talent. Her books are so compelling and beautifully paced. Of course as a writer, I can’t help but feel a little jealous of how well she expresses her stories. Reading her definitely makes me want to become a better writer!
Libby and I share a lot of interests but here’s a fun fact I’m sure she won’t mind I divulge: We both have a passion for nerds. She may be the only other woman around my age I know who also has the hots for George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) in It’s A Wonderful Life–something we discovered during a Christmas promotion we did together.
Even if you’re not a nerd (or nerd lover), be sure to stalk Libby on the Web–she loves that kind of thing. Here’s how:
You want to know the number 1 reason I’m delighted to host Libby today? She’s sharing an excerptfrom her not-yet-released book, and the cover! Now let’s find out more about this fabulous fiction-ista and what makes her tick.
1. I loved Unmasking Maya (my review here). Can share with us what inspired you to write it?
I got the idea for Unmasking Maya when I first moved to San Francisco as a single gal. I thought it might be a good idea to look for love in Silicon Valley, given the insane amount of intelligent men with great jobs (and very few women working there) but I soon got wise to the fact that a lot of these guys are so brainy that their interpersonal skills are a little underdeveloped. Not all of them of course. Anyway, I got to thinking that this type of guy would make a great love interest in a book and that’s what got the wheels turning.
2. Can you explain how your story-making process unfolds? And do you have any special rituals when it comes to writing?
Usually I start with a general idea like the romance with a tech guy or the project I’m currently working on – a girl who opens up an ice cream shop. I let the ideas roll around in my mind for a while and figure out who my characters are. Once I’ve come up with an opening scene, I just go for it. I start writing and find out where the story wants to go. I can’t say I have any special rituals, but I do need silence in order to concentrate. I always have a trusty pair of earplugs nearby in case of noise outside.
3. Did you always want to be a writer? If not, what were you doing before you did? And either way, can you remember your “Aha!” moment?
I have always wanted to be a writer. I wrote my first story at the age of seven – a picture book entitled “BIG and small.” I still have it and it’s so much fun to look at. Basically I just compared things I observed: “Apartments are big, my dollhouse is small” and “My dad’s hat is big. Mine is only little.” I kept on writing stories all through childhood and my teens and college years too (creative writing major). After college, I worked as a journalist, a shopkeeper and the marketing director of a natural health company. While I was working full-time, I didn’t get much writing done, but I wrote entire novels during periods of unemployment! So no, I don’t have an “Aha!” moment – at least not before I hit the ripe old age of seven.
4. Writing the book is only part of the equation when it comes to publishing a book. There’s so much more that goes into getting the word out that many new authors may not know. Can you share some of your process when it comes to launching a new book?
You said it, sister! Marketing makes all the difference in the world. After I’ve got a project ready to go (and this is after finishing all the edits and formatting it for e-readers) I write the blurb for the story. And after that’s done, I start contacting book bloggers to see if they’d like to review. Meanwhile, I’m working with an illustrator to come up with the right cover for the book, and I’m also thinking about ideas for guest posts (or writing them). So I’m constantly in contact with bloggers – sending my book out and arranging guest posts. I also try to tweet, post on Facebook and post on my blog in the hopes of generating a little pre-release buzz, but I’m afraid I haven’t been very good about that lately.
5. And speaking of “sharing” and “new”… Can you share anything with us about your WIP? And how about an excerpt? And…cover….?
Funny you should ask, Francine. As it happens, I’ve got another release coming up next month. Like Unmasking Maya, it’s a romance/chick lit hybrid, but the setting is very different. This one takes place at a wellness center in the mountains of Vermont, or as my hero, Adam, would say, “a nuthouse out in the middle of Nowhere, Vermont.” I had loads of fun writing in his point of view! Here’s the cover:
What is the universe up to?
Guilty of nothing other than working too much – or so they say – Adam Stowe is dumped at a “wellness center” in the middle of nowhere by a couple of concerned colleagues. When he meets Lorraine, the beautiful and bewitching yoga instructor, his spirits start to lift, but once he discovers what a flighty fruitcake she is, they drop back down to subterranean levels.
For Lorraine Jameson, Luna Wellness Center was a beacon of solace when her life was falling apart, and she can’t stand the way Adam’s toxic energy is poisoning the peace. He embodies everything negative about the life she discarded eighteen months ago. Despite being fiercely attracted to the arrogant man, she’s determined not to let Adam Stowe anywhere near her heart.
Adam and Lorraine couldn’t be more unsuitable as a potential couple… so why is the universe so dead set on uniting these two?
The Karmic Connection is a different kind of love story with a cast of quirky characters and a mystical, magical New Age-y flavor.
BONUS QUESTION: Congrats! Unmasking Maya has been optioned to become the next big summer blockbuster rom-com! (Wouldn’t that be the best thing ever?) You get to pick the cast! Who plays who?
That would be so fabulous! I’ve thought a lot about this and for some reason, I can totally see Michelle Williams as Maya. I’ve always thought there was something a bit haunting about her. Now, Derek is a bit more difficult to cast. To be honest, I’d want Jack Dorsey, the guy who created Twitter, to play Derek because there’s this one photo of him that looks exactly like how I pictured the character. As far as I know, this Twitter guy has no acting ambitions, but you never know… For Lin, I’d would bring Zhang Ziyi on board. I know it’s not her type of role (if you don’t know her, she’s the star of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon andMemoirs of a Geisha) but I’d love to see her in the role of Lin, the wacky IT girl. And for Maya’s agent, Inez, I’d cast Sofia Vergara. Aside from looking the part, I think she’d really bring a lot of fun to the set.
It was so great chatting with you today, Francine. Thanks for having me!
It was great having you here. Please come again sometime!
(The Karmic Connection is coming soon, but you can follow Libby’s release information on Goodreads.)
She walked over and knelt down beside him. “Adam?” she murmured. She touched his shoulder and he lifted his head with a wince. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah. I’ll be all right.” He closed his eyes and when he opened them again, he gave her a wry smile. “I just sat up too fast.”
She nodded in understanding. “How many cups of coffee do you drink each day?”
“Usually about seven. Or eight.” He lowered his head back to his knees. “I don’t suppose you guys have any aspirin?”
“I’m afraid not.” Lorraine bit down on her bottom lip. He looked so miserable. Her hands burned to stroke his cheek, to kiss away his pain, and she was mortified by her inappropriate desire. In order to prevent herself from doing something unacceptable, she kept talking. “But I can make you a special tea that will help.”
“Tea. Great.” He closed his eyes again.
Serena looked over from where she was rolling up her yoga mat, concern written all over her wise, old face. “Is he okay?” she mouthed.
Lorraine shrugged and then nodded. He would be okay, although she knew how gruesome he must have been feeling at that moment. She’d been there once.
She felt torn. There was something she could do to help (in addition to the special tea) but it would probably complicate her feelings further.
Stop being a baby, Jameson.
In truth, Lorraine really had no choice in the matter, being bound by oath and all…
“Give me your hand, Adam,” she instructed, sitting back on her feet.
He opened his eyes in surprise and then promptly narrowed them in bemusement. “What for?”
Now it was Lorraine’s turn to close her eyes in irritation, but only for a brief moment. She reopened them and said, “Pressure points. Just do it.”
He gave her a skeptical look, but he relented and offered her a hand.
Lorraine did her best not to notice the perfect shape of Adam’s hand, and she tried to ignore the thrilling sensation that shot through her body as she took that smooth, warm hand in hers. She did her best not to notice the way the candlelight gave Adam’s hand a delicious golden glow, as if it had been lightly glazed in butterscotch sauce, and she tried desperately not to fantasize about licking the sweetness off.
Honestly! She needed to get a hold of herself. She took one deep, cleansing breath after another, and then she balled her hand into a fist, jammed it under Adam’s palm, found the fleshy bit between his thumb and forefinger, and she pressed down as hard as she could with her thumb.
One, two, three, four.
“Yikes, Lorraine. You’ve got really strong thumbs,” he said quietly.
“Mm hmm.” She didn’t look at him. She couldn’t. Why wasn’t he being rude? It really helped her when he was being rude. Where was that negative energy when she needed it? He was so close. He was too close. The scent of him was intoxicating. Most of the men she came across these days smelled like patchouli and sandalwood. Adam just smelled clean. Like rain.
She tried to slow her breathing, but it was no use. Her body was out of control. It felt like each and every one of her nerve endings was waving a sparkler around and a marching band had set up camp inside her heart. As for her belly, it felt like there were two or maybe two-hundred trapeze artists swinging through the air down there.
What was going on?! Lorraine shook her head and peeled her gaze away from Adam’s hand. The studio buzzed with activity. Frank rolled up his yoga mat. Naomi pulled on a pair of warm, woolen socks. Joel waved to Lorraine before he left the studio, and she nodded back at him, smiling goodbye.
Breathe in… and breathe out. Breathe in… and breathe out.
The deep breathing helped. And it also helped to avoid looking at Adam and his hand. She locked her gaze on the candles flickering from the low wooden bench against the wall and focused on her breathing.
Lorraine was so preoccupied with maintaining control that she completely lost sight of the matter at hand. She tried to figure out how many seconds had gone by. Forty-seven? Sixty-two? Seventy-eight? She had no idea.
A gentle squeeze of her shoulder made her jump. Instinctively, she released her grip on Adam’s pressure point and clutched his hand tightly. Also instinctively (probably) he clutched her hand back just as tightly.
I can’t tell you how excited I am about today’s guest in the “Shed.” I’ve known Bonnie Trachtenberg for years. We used to work together as copywriters before each of us set off on our fiction-writing paths.
Because I have a background as an editor in traditional book publishing, Bonnie and I chatted before she published Wedlocked–when I was supposed to know something and be able to give her some advice. Well, turns out, I didn’t know anything!
These days, Bonnie is one of a handful of indies who have set the standard for how the book publishing game is played. I couldn’t be more proud of all she’s accomplished, or delighted that she’ll still not only give me the time of day, but also much-appreciated advice. Here, she graciously shares some of that advice with you, too.
Following the interview, you’ll find out how to connect with Bonnie, as well as where to pick up her books. And you will want to read them, believe me, because they are as fun and fabulous as she is!
1. Did you always want to be a novelist? Which authors and books have inspired you to want to pursue a career in fiction?
Not always. Although writing always came naturally to me, I didn’t even realize I wanted to be a writer until I was out of college, and then it took years before I actually earned a living at it. It wasn’t until I became Senior Writer and Copy Chief at Book-of-the-Month Club that I worked up the confidence to write a novel. I was inspired to write romantic comedies after reading the works of authors like Jane Austen, Nora Ephron, Susan Isaacs, Janet Evanovich, Jennifer Weiner, and many others.
2. I remember those days at the Clubs! Seems a lifetime ago. Before that, you were in Hollywood. You know I can’t help but be intrigued by that! Can you tell us about any script projects you worked on, actors you dated…?
It does seem a lifetime ago, doesn’t it? Well, after college, I thought I wanted to be a screenwriter since I loved movies. After moving out to LA, I wrote two of them, one of which made the rounds in Hollywood thanks to a producer’s interest. It was set in Coney Island in 1945, between VE and VJ day, and was the story of a 17-year-old singer who’s engaged to a returning soldier, but falls in love with a musician who has come to live with her family. The other was a quirky love story set in the 1960s. I’m sorry to disappoint you, Francine, but I never dated any actors! However I did date/meet all kinds of interesting Hollywood types who, years later, made for great characters in my novels! The protagonist of Wedlocked, Rebecca Ross, is a struggling actress in Hollywood whose heart is broken by a film producer, causing her to rebound into a disastrously funny marriage. The protagonist in Neurotically Yours, Dara Harrison, is a single advice columnist in LA who opens up a dating service for the romantically challenged, and inadvertently ends up becoming one of its members. So as you can see, there was plenty of room to use all my nutty experiences out in LaLa Land!
3. Wedlocked and Neurotically Yours (excerpt following interview!)are both great tales, but your own publishing story is like a Cinderella story for indies everywhere. Over the past couple of years, you’ve won a ton of awards and both your books have become bestsellers. Can you tell us how you decided to go indie, and maybe share some secrets for others on how to get the word out about their books?
Well, as I waited for my agent, the fabulous Victoria Skurnick of Levine Greenberg, to send Wedlocked out, my husband, a very wise business man, kept telling me over and over again I should be going indie. Having been raised at a time when traditional publishing ruled, and having worked at Book-of-the-Month Club, I had a poor idea of what indie publishing really entailed and, to be honest, turned my nose up at it. But when Victoria had no luck, I decided to take my husband’s advice, and boy am I glad I did! I got in just as the indie book world began to explode, and quickly learned all about social marketing by doing it round the clock. With a lot of work and the good luck of finding such amazing people as Melissa Foster (international bestselling author and owner of the World Literary Café) and Linn B. Halton (owner of LoveaHappyEnding.com, where I have my advice column) I found an incredible network of authors ready, willing, and able to help me get my name and my books out there in the world, as I helped them with theirs. I think going indie is a completely different and much more arduous route for a writer than traditional publishing, but it can also be more financially rewarding in the percentage of royalties you collect. I write the books and I sell the books, so shouldn’t I collect the bulk of the money? Makes sense to me! I also love having control over my content, my price, and everything else related to my books. I highly recommend all authors (indie or not) check out www.WorldLiteraryCafe.com and www.Fostering-Success.com. Both are wonderful resources that will help you learn how to sell your books and offer an incredibly supportive community!
4. Can you tell us about your writing process? Are you structured and disciplined? Or do are you more of a “write-it-as-it-comes” type? And do you have a special outfit or beverage or chair necessary for writing? Or are you the kind of writer who can write anywhere?
I am not a structured person when it comes to writing. I sometimes envy writers who sit down and just start writing, and then report in how many thousands of words they write a day, but that’s just not me. Before I start the actual writing of my books, I have to “live” in the new world of my book and get familiar with my characters in my head. Sometimes that means months of just jotting down notes and ideas and daydreaming about the story. Then, when I think I have a good synopsis, I sit down with a box of index cards and write out the story scene by scene. I need to know what is going to happen–and how–before I begin the actual writing. This ensures that by the time I finish my first draft, I’m very close to the final one. Therefore, my editing process is much faster and easier than many other writers who “wing” it on the first go-round. If you know in advance what’s going to happen, you don’t waste time writing things that you will end up cutting or greatly modifying because they no longer work in the context of the story. When I write, I like to switch rooms daily depending on my mood. On cold stormy days, I love bringing my laptop into bed with me or stretching out on the chaise lounge in my living room in front of the fire. Right now, I’m working from my sunny new kitchen. I do have an office, but find that I only write there sporadically. My favorite drink is flavored coffee before noon, Vitamin Zero Water after lunch, and an assortment of herbal teas the rest of the evening. And as for clothes–they are always very comfortable. I love that my work attire consists of sweats, yoga pants, tee shirts, leggings, and the occasional pajama set. Can’t beat that!
5. You have a great sense of humor, and it really comes through in your characters and their antics. Would you ever take a stab at writing outside the RomCom genre?
Thanks, Francine. Funny you should say that. My new book is about a materialistic, driven party planner in NYC who has a near death experience that completely upends her life. Most people would probably think that might not lend itself to a RomCom, but I plan to write it as such since I seem to have found a good niche in that genre and really enjoy writing it. Even if a book is serious though, there’s usually room for some comedy relief, and I can’t really imagine writing books that don’t have a great romance in them (except maybe for a humor book I wrote years back that I plan to publish in the near future.) I won’t say never, but I’m very happy as a RomCom writer!
BONUS QUESTION: If Hollywood called and decided to offer you a two-picture deal for your books, who would play Rebecca Ross and Dara Harrison?
Well, after I jumped up and down and screamed my lungs out for a few weeks, I’d recommend Reese Witherspoon play Rebecca Ross, and Jennifer Aniston play Dara Harrison. In truth, my books really lend themselves to the big screen, and my first is being shopped around Hollywood as we speak. Wish me luck!
I wish you all the luck in the world, Bonnie! Just don’t forget the little people when you win your screenwriting Oscar in a few years from now. 🙂
Here’s more about Bonnie, her books, and how to connect with her. When you get to the end, a special treat awaits: An excerpt from Neurotically Yours!
Bonnie Trachtenberg is the author of two bestselling romantic comedies, Neurotically Yours, and her debut novel Wedlocked, which won the Gold Readers Favorite Award, the Beach Book Festival Award and the Indie Excellence Award. She writes a monthly relationship and advice column for LoveaHappyEnding.com. Bonnie was senior writer and copy chief at Book-of-the-Month Club and has written seven children’s book adaptations. She lives in New York with her husband, four cats and a dog. You can learn more about Bonnie Trachtenberg and read her blog at http://www.BonnieTrachtenberg.com.
Leaning back in her office chair, still feeling rejuvenated from her workout, Dara spoke on the phone, while glancing at what she’d just written on her computer screen:Ten Questions to Ask a Man on Your First Date (Assume Nothing!) Are you married?
Do you have a steady girlfriend? Do you live with any females (including your mother)? Are there any women with whom you are sleeping and would call a “close friend”? Are there any female relationships in your life that you would classify as “complicated”? Do you have any reason to hate your mother? How many children are you supporting? How many children might come looking for you in the future? Are you wanted in any of the fifty states or abroad? Is there any reason your fingerprints might be on file with the FBI?“I’d be delighted to speak at the seminar, Ms. Randolph,” Dara said, dragging her attention back to the phone. “How much time is allotted for each speaker? Great, I’ll make sure to prepare enough material. You know, you should really put an ad in our paper if you want to increase your attendance.” She laughed charmingly. “Of course you can use my name. I’d be flattered.” Dara noticed Reggie standing over her shoulder and motioned that she was almost done. “Okay, terrific. Bye now.”
Dara sat up and looked at him with excitement.
“I just got my first full seminar,” she sang.
“I’m impressed,” he told her.
“Now, what can I do for you, my darling Reginald?”
“For me? Nothing,” he said, then lowered his voice to an ominous whisper, “but The Beast wants to see you.”
Dara’s high spirits began to deflate. “Oh, what now?” she asked with exasperation.
Over the last month, since Bob “The Beast” Bastley had taken over the job of editor-in-chief, she’d been chewed out for several new company violations, most notably: contaminating the refrigerator with outdated half and half; eating a grilled cheese sandwich at her desk instead of in the newly christened Corporate Dining Area (a makeshift four-by-four kitchen); and using Valuable Company Time to schedule a dentist appointment.
“I don’t know,” said Reggie. “Did you flush something other than toilet paper down the toilet?”
“I’m going to flush his K-Mart tie down the toilet,” she whispered angrily, “after I strangle him with it.”
“Now, now,” Reggie whispered back, “he’s only trying to ‘ensure a safe and hospitable work environment for everyone.’ Remember?”
Reggie flashed his stunningly white teeth.“Hospitable, my ass,” she retorted, rolling her chair back on the plastic carpet saver and heading toward the editor’s office.
Dara took a cleansing breath and knocked on the half open door. The Beast glanced up from his computer with barely disguised annoyance, his diminutive figure eclipsed by his oversized desk. He had brown wavy hair combed neatly to one side, wore an ill-fitting bargain basement suit, and looked to be in his late twenties. She wondered how someone so young could secure an editor-in-chief position at a reputable entertainment newspaper. Smitty, the previous editor, had been with the paper for twenty years until his retirement, an announcement that had brought tears to Dara’s eyes. She knew that work relationships like theirs came few and far between.
“You wanted to see me?” she asked.“Yes. Please close the door and have a seat.”Something in his formal tone told her this had nothing to do with outdated dairy products. She waited for him to open his mouth and breathe some fire her way, but instead, he opened a folder on his desk and shuffled through the stack of papers inside. It didn’t take long for Dara to realize the folder contained a collection of her columns. He pursed his flaky lips and narrowed his eyes as he looked at her.
“I’ve read over your columns, Dara, and I’m very concerned.”
“Really? Why would they concern you?”
“I’ve never seen an advice columnist let loose on her readers the way you do. You’ve been writing this column for, what, almost eight years?”
Dara nodded slowly.
“I understand that a column will progress along with the columnist over a period of time. It’s only natural—but in your case…”
“Well, I find the progression quite disturbing.”
“Disturbing?” she echoed with surprise.
“Well,” he said, “early on, your column was more like a pep talk, more hopeful. That’s good. That’s what people want to hear, but lately…”
The Beast tapped his bony fingers on his desk while sighing.
“You can get to the point, Bob,” she said with some irreverence. The change in tone brought out the editor she was starting to know and hate.
“Telling people they’re better off on their own is not the best romantic advice.”
“It is if they’re dating a creep.”
“Last month you suggested that a forty-eight-year-old woman—” he shuffled through the file so he could quote her accurately, “‘would be better off with goldfish for company than the pathetic stream of misfits polluting her dating waters.’”
“Well, it’s true,” Dara replied.
He pulled out another page. “And in March, you told Stymied in Santa Monica that, and I quote again, ‘Couples therapy would be a waste of time considering your fiancé’s obvious obsession with killing small, defenseless animals.’”
Bob looked sternly at Dara. “So he’s a hunter,” he said with annoyance. “Lots of people are hunters. That doesn’t disqualify such a person from couples therapy—or good relationships.”
“It does when the person does it every weekend instead of paying some modicum of attention to his fiancée. My God, they’re not even married yet, and he’s totally ignoring her, not to mention murdering innocent wildlife.”
“Well,” Bob added as he pulled Exhibit C from the pile, “at least you’re an equal opportunity offender. You told this man that his girlfriend was ‘clearly a narcissist who will play nice until she sinks her claws deep enough into your skin to hold you down and eat you alive.’ Then you quoted lyrics from a Hall and Oates song, ‘Maneater.’”
“Yes,” Dara commented coolly, “I’ve seen it happen many times with women like that.” “You told him to ‘get over his hard-on for bitches unless he wants a life of pain and misery.’”
She nodded with assuredness. “Sound advice.”
The Beast huffed at her and began to raise his voice, “First of all, you can’t diagnose someone with a personality disorder when you’ve never even met her.”
“Oh, come on, it’s so obvious though—” she started.
“And, second, if he breaks up with her after reading this, we could have a lawsuit on our hands!”
“We have a disclaimer, remember? This is only for entertainment purposes, blah, blah, blah—”
“That doesn’t mean someone won’t start trouble anyway! We live in a very litigious state.”
The Beast tried to calm himself with a deep breath. “Dara, your column is way too… depressing.”
“Depressing?” she repeated with indignation. “Then why is it more popular than ever? I’ll tell you why,” she added before he could interrupt. “Because people know it’s the truth. I’m not dolling up my advice with bull and phony platitudes. I tell it like it is, and my readers appreciate it. There’s a hunger for practicality and realism out there. Many of my readers are older and wiser and more cynical because of it. They’d see right through a fairy tale answer.”
“And what about the hopeful younger readers?” he asked.
She folded her arms across her chest. “They’d do well to get their heads out of the clouds and learn the lessons early so they don’t have to become cynical older readers,” she proclaimed.
“Dara, it’s not the readers who are cynical, it’s you. And as editor of this paper, it’s up to me to decide its tone.”
He looked intently at her, but she didn’t shrink from the gaze.
“No offense, but if your advice works so well, I imagine it would have worked for you by now. That ring isn’t fooling anyone around here.”
The remark hit her like a kick in the stomach. She swallowed and felt her cheeks burn. “Excuse me, Bob,” she said venomously, “but what does or does not happen in my private life is none of your business and does not affect my job in any way.”
“You’re right. It is none of my business, but you have to admit this fact might give some people…pause,” he said leaning back in his chair. “Anyway, getting back to the subject at hand, I don’t like cynicism. I’ve decided to go with another, more cheerful columnist. I’m sorry.”
At first his words didn’t compute.
“Excuse me?” she managed with a slight laugh. The thought that she was being fired was so unbelievable that her brain couldn’t comprehend it.
“I’ve arranged for a severance package for you. HR will lay out the details.”
The no-nonsense tone coming from a man who could have been her annoying little brother made the reality even more difficult to accept. She leaned forward.
“Do you have any idea how popular my column is? How many thank you letters I get? That I have actual fans?!”
When The Beast shook his head and said nothing, Dara couldn’t seem to choke out any more words.
“You have until tomorrow to clear out your things—and that includes anything you might be…storing in the company refrigerator.”