Meet Brooklyn Ann

Love a good vampire historical? Or a great vampire contemporary? You’re not alone and our reviewer Miranda Owen had a chance to chat with Brooklyn Ann, author of Scandals With Bite series and Brides of Prophecy series.

Other romance authors have said that writing a love scene is very technical and it is not the same experience for them than it is for the reader. Do you find that to be true?

Technical wouldn’t be the word I’d use, though there is often a lot of pressure to get it right, to avoid cliches, purple prose, and to try not to be corny or crude when it comes to the naming of parts. I personally refuse to compare sexual organs with fruit or flowers.

However, sometimes my love scenes literally pour out of my fingers out of nowhere and I’m sitting there reading the screen, blushing and saying, “Oh my goodness, you guys!” To my characters.

Since you write a few different types of romance – contemporary, historical, paranormal, etc. – what is your favorite type of book to read? What do you enjoy most about each sub-genre you write in?

I love to read all genres, though my favorites to read are Historical, Fantasy, Paranormal, and Horror.

When I write historical, my favorite aspect is that it’s like stepping into another world with different rules and parameters. I also love researching customs and events from the past and working them into a real story.

I love paranormal because I get to create my own world with its own rules. Also since I set my Brides of Prophecy series in my hometown, it’s extra fun to turn my stomping grounds into a character of its own.

I am new to writing contemporary but I’ve discovered that what I love most about it is tackling current issues men and women face and how it helps or impedes modern courtship.

Gavin Drake, Baron of Darkwood – the hero in HIS RUTHLESS BITE – was a supporting character in your previous book, and the hero in BITE AT FIRST SIGHT was a supporting character in the book before that. Do you plan, at the start of a series, which character will have his own book, or does something about a particular supporting character stir your imagination as you write?

Since I originally had a 3 book contract for my Scandals With Bite series, Rafe (BITE AT FIRST SIGHT) was intended to get his own book right from the start. However, Gavin popped into BITE AT FIRST SIGHT out of nowhere and I leaned back in surprise saying, “Oh wow, this guy is totally getting a book.”

And HIS RUTHLESS BITE was supposed to be my last historical paranormal novel, but then it happened again. Another character popped in, not only demanding his own book, but inspiring a new spin-off series, so be sure to stay tuned for more on that. 😀

I love paranormal historical romance and a good gothic romance and your Scandals With Bite series has all of those elements. What is it about these types of stories that you enjoy writing about?

My first venture into the paranormal was with Anne Rice’s vampire chronicles. I immediately fell in love with the rich detailed history with a supernatural twist. And later I fell in love with regency romance and eventually decided to place vampires in that world. So not only do my characters have to navigate the tedious social strictures of the day, they also have their own supernatural rules to abide by.

Every author’s vampire mythology differs in some way – what is the vampire 101 in your Scandals With Bite series?

  1. My vampires are NOT animated corpses. They have a preternatural mutation, so they’re perfectly alive. They have heartbeats and can even eat and drink minimal amounts.
  2. My vampires cannot go out in the sunlight and can be killed by major heart damage or decapitation. They’re also sterile, so they can do the deed, but they can’t have babies.
  3. Their governing system is a cross between Feudalism and Bureaucracy. All vampires are ruled by a Lord of a specific territory and forbidden to enter another territory without written permission. Rogue vampires are exiles who do not have a lord or home. They are often hunted and killed off, though sometimes they may petition a Lord vampire to become one of his people.

In HIS RUTHLESS BITE, one of the characters is a mesmerist – what made you use that in the story? Were you inspired by a historical figure?

My editor enjoyed my use of historical figures so much in BITE ME, YOUR GRACE, that she made it a caveat for the entire series.

Personally I was more focused on the themes of each book. BITE ME, YOUR GRACE focuses on literature, ONE BITE PER NIGHT focused on art, BITE AT FIRST SIGHT focused on medical practices of the 19th century and HIS RUTHLESS BITE’s theme is psychology… which was in its infancy back then.

Mesmerists such as Dr. John Elliotson could be considered one of the forefathers of modern hypnotherapy. And since vampires mesmerize people on a regular basis, it was a perfect match for this story.

What are you currently working on? Do you have an ending point in mind for your Scandals With Bite series, or will you continue with it as long as you find stories to tell?

I’m currently working on the 4th book in my Brides of Prophecy series, which should release in the late summer or early fall.

As for “Scandals With Bite,” I have a feeling that series isn’t over, but for now I’m looking to start a spin-off series set in the same time and world.

Is there a heroine you created that is similar to yourself? How long have you been writing for?

I have a bit in common with all of them. I used to be a mechanic like Akasha in WRENCHING FATE, I love to sing and talk to cats like Xochitl in CONJURING DESTINY, I’m one of the guys and a metalhead like Kinley in KISSING VICIOUS, I’m a writer and a feminist like Angelica in BITE ME, YOUR GRACE, a painter like Lydia in ONE BITE PER NIGHT, and a nerd like Cassandra in BITE AT FIRST SIGHT.

Lenore (HIS RUTHLESS BITE) is probably more different than myself over all the heroines I’ve written so far. However, one major thing I have in common with her is that we both suffer from PTSD and experience the same symptoms.

I’ve been writing all my life, but I only got serious about it back in 2009 after my mother passed away and I’d been sitting on 2 complete manuscripts and countless files of partial books and story notes.

Why vampires instead of werewolves, or some other type of magical being? Do you prefer vamps?

Okay, first a disclaimer: I LOVE reading werewolf books. Carrie Vaughn, Terry Spear, Trina M. Lee, and Patricia Briggs are highly recommended.

However, werewolves just aren’t logical in my fictional universe, where magic is molecular manipulation and has little to do with lunar cycles. I suppose some of my more powerful sorcerers could use magic to shapeshift, but the classic werewolf just doesn’t work in my world. Also, for some reason I keep thinking that werewolves would smell like wet dog.

I DO have other magical beings in my books. If you check out my Brides of Prophecy series, you’ll meet mutants, psychics, sorcerers, luminites, and Faelin… as well as my vamps.

About Brooklyn Ann

Brooklyn Ann

A lover of witty Regencies and dark paranormal romance, Brooklyn Ann combines the two in her new vampire series. The former mechanic turned author lives with her family in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho.

Scandals With Bite | Brides of Prophecy

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Blog: http://brooklynann.blogspot.com

Yona Interviews Susan Shapiro

Is it dangerous to search for an old flame you never got over? What if you find him—and he doesn’t remember you? In her captivating new novel, Susan Shapiro—memoirist, novelist, humorist and writing teacher extraordinaire—explores the perils of revisiting the passion of yesteryear. Lila Penn leaves Wisconsin for graduate school in the big city, where she falls for her professor Daniel Wildman. Decades after their tangled link, she arranges a tête-à-tête in downtown Manhattan. But the shocking encounter blindsides Lila, causing her to question her memory as well as her sanity. Shuttling between Greenwich Village and Tel Aviv, the saga unravels the sexual secret that’s haunted Daniel and Lila for thirty years. Writing a Woman’s life columnist Yona Zeldis McDonough catches up with Shapiro to get the skinny on this hilarious yet piercing novel.

Q: How long did it take you to complete?

A: From start to publication six years. But I worked on a few projects in between.

Q: Are there autobiographical elements in this novel?

A: Yes part of it is very autobiographical. But the real story wasn’t ultimately very dramatic. So I wound up embellishing and dramatizing it a lot to make more page-turning as a novel.

Q: Can you talk about the role that humor plays?

A: I think everything I write has my fast dark sense of humor. A book reviewer who was critiquing my first novel said something like, “her dialogue sounds like Aaron Sorkin’s walk-and-talks.” Even though they meant to be insulting, I was very flattered and used it as a blurb.

Q: The dramas and rivalries of creative writing programs are given a lot of play; can you say more about this?

A: They say academia is so cut throat because there’s so little at stake. And what happens if you put a bunch of ambitious writers in the same academic program for two years or more? You’re bound to get several chronicles.

Q: What’s the real heart of this story for you?

A: I was forty when a midlife crisis inspired seeking out former boyfriends for my memoir FIVE MEN WHO BROKE MY HEART. That was a (hopefully) humorous take. A decade later, WHAT’S NEVER SAID explores the darker side of revisiting a romance from your past. It’s also about marriage and the road not taken. I’ve been in love with my husband for twenty years so that’s a topic that fascinates me.

Q: What’s next on your horizon?

A: Now I’m working on another memoir. Nonfiction is so much easier for me! Fiction kills me.

About Susan Shapiro

Susan Shapiro

Susan Shapiro, a Manhattan journalism professor, has written for the New York Times, Washington Post, L.A. Times, Newsweek, Salon.com, Daily Beast, The Forward, Village Voice, People, More, Glamour, and Cosmopolitan.

Sue lives with her husband, a TV/film writer, in Greenwich Village, where she teaches her own “instant gratification takes too long” writing method at the New School, NYU and in private workshops and seminars.

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About WHAT’S NEVER SAID

What's Never Said

It’s dangerous to search for an old flame you never got over. What if you find him—and he doesn’t remember you? In her captivating new novel, Susan Shapiro explores the perils of revisiting past passion.

Lila Penn leaves Wisconsin for graduate school in the big city, where she falls for her professor Daniel Wildman. Decades after their tangled link, she arranges a tête-à-tête in downtown Manhattan. But the shocking encounter blindsides Lila, causing her to question her memory—and sanity.

Switching between Greenwich Village and Tel Aviv, the saga unravels the sexual secret that’s haunted Daniel and Lila for thirty years.

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About THE HOUSE ON PRIMROSE POND

The House on Primrose Pond

A compelling novel about one woman’s search for the truth from the author of YOU WERE MEANT FOR ME.

After suffering a sudden, traumatic loss, historical novelist Susannah Gilmore decides to uproot her life—and the lives of her two children—and leave their beloved Brooklyn for the little town of Eastwood, New Hampshire.

While the trio adjusts to their new surroundings, Susannah is captivated by an unexpected find in her late parents’ home: an unsigned love note addressed to her mother, in handwriting that is most definitely not her father’s.

Reeling from the thought that she never really knew her mother, Susannah finds mysteries everywhere she looks: in her daughter’s friendship with an older neighbor, in a charismatic local man to whom she’s powerfully drawn, and in an eighteenth century crime she’s researching for her next book. Compelled to dig into her mother’s past, Susannah discovers even more secrets, ones that surpass any fiction she could ever put to paper…

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About Yona Zeldis McDonough

Yona Zeldis McDonoughYona Zeldis McDonough is the author of six novels; her seventh, THE HOUSE ON PRIMROSE POND, will be out from New American Library in February, 2016. In addition, she is the editor of the essay collections The Barbie Chronicles: A Living Doll Turns Forty and All the Available Light: A Marilyn Monroe Reader. Her short fiction, articles and essays have been published in anthologies as well as in numerous national magazines and newspapers. She is also the award-winning author of twenty-six books for children, including the highly acclaimed chapter books, The Doll Shop Downstairs and The Cats in the Doll Shop. Yona lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband, two children and two noisy Pomeranians.

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Kym Roberts | Bite into a Cozy

What’s in a name?

Everything when it comes to a cozy mystery. It must be witty, eye-catching, combine a hint about the series and the individual crime all in a couple quirky words. The author must turn a phrase, or twist it or just toss it out there and see if the readers catch the pun.

Of course we do—we always do. That’s why we read cozies. They snare our attention with that little wiggle at the end of the line. The one you can’t resist even if the pond is full of bigger fish with names that make your eyes pop. The cozy author has given you a taste. A tease. A temptation you can’t resist.

The new April releases are just so—titles you can’t pass up. Titles that made you go, “hmmm.” So what’s on your menu for tomorrow?

About REST IN PEACH by Susan Furlong

Rest in Peach

In the refreshing new Georgia Peach Mystery from the author of Peaches and Scream, an upcoming debutante ball turns into the pits when a juicy murder scandalizes a small town.

The annual Peach Cotillion, Cays Mill, Georgia’s biggest event, is fast approaching and Nola Mae Harper is just as excited as the rest of the town—even though she’s busy juggling both the cotillion dinner and the grand opening of her new shop, Peachy Keen. But she never expected that plans for the cotillion would end up in the pits because of the cutthroat competition between local debutantes.

When Vivien Crenshaw, insufferable church organist and despised mother of the town’s spoiled-rotten Peach Queen, is stabbed to death, the police turn to Nola’s friend Ginny as prime suspect. Apparently the two had fought over a one-of-a-kind cotillion gown. As Nola steps in to prove Ginny’s innocence she soon finds herself picking through a bushel of suspects, twice as many motives, and at the mercy of a killer all too keen on killing again.

INCLUDES RECIPES!

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About BREACH OF CRUST by Ellery Adams

Breach of Crust

Plate up another slice of Southern magic and mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of Lemon Pies and Little White Lies . . .

PIE SHELLS AND DEATH BELLES

Ella Mae LeFaye’s delicious pies are still drawing long lines—as well as the attention of Beatrice Burbank, president of the Camellia Club, a philanthropic organization comprised of high-society Southern ladies from the charming and affluent town of Sweet Briar, Georgia. To ensure the success of their centennial dessert cookbook, Bea hires Ella Mae to teach the tasty tricks of her trade to the club’s members at their annual retreat. Eager to work on new recipes for customers with food allergies and dietary restrictions, Ella Mae readily agrees.

But when Ella Mae finds Bea’s body floating in Lake Havenwood, she wonders what she’s gotten herself mixed up in. Someone certainly wanted Bea to eat humble pie, and the retreat offers no shortage of unsavory characters, including Ella Mae’s longtime nemesis, Loralyn Gaynor. Ella Mae definitely doesn’t need magic to tell her she must find the killer before someone else gets panned.

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About MOSS HYSTERIA by Kate Collins

Moss Hysteria

Abby and Marco’s new neighborhood isn’t as rosy as it seems in the latest Flower Shop Mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of Florist Grump and A Root Awakening.

Flower shop owner Abby Knight and her husband, Marco, are ecstatic to finally be moving into their new home, despite the prospect of unpacking a seemingly infinite number of boxes. After all, Brandywine—their new subdivision—seems like an oasis with its welcoming neighbors and beautifully manicured lawns.

But their idyllic community is suddenly uprooted when a body is found floating in a nearby pond. The police think Abby and Marco’s helpful next door neighbor is the culprit, but the newlyweds aren’t convinced.

Meanwhile, Marco distrusts his mother’s slick new boyfriend, and Abby’s cousin Jillian has agreed to decorate their new home, resulting in comic chaos. Even worse, as Abby and Marco dig through Brandywine’s secrets in search of a killer, they discover that some flowers come from very bad seeds…and danger stalks even the sunniest small-town streets.

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About NEEDLE AND DREAD by Elizabeth Lynn Casey

Needle and Dread

The Sweet Briar Ladies Society Sewing Circle is needled by the death of a highly strung woman in the new mystery by the author of Wedding Duress.

Downtown Sweet Briar is now home to a new sewing shop run by one of the circle’s own. With the help and support of her fellow members, Rose is determined to make SewTastic a success, and, to that end, she decides to sponsor a series of do-it-yourself weekends for sewing enthusiasts.

But when a group arrives at SewTastic to work on a project, a loud and argumentative guest pushes everyone’s buttons. And when she winds up dead in Rose’s project room—strangled by a sewing machine power cord—it’s up to Tori and the gang to stitch together the clues before Rose’s reason for living is ripped apart at the seams.

PATTERN AND SEWING TIPS INCLUDED

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Until next time, get cozy and read on!

Kym Roberts

Kym Roberts, author of DEAD MAN’S CARVE, A Tickled to Death Mystery, DEAD ON ARRIVAL, A Malia Fern Mystery, and DEAD RIGHT THERE, A Malia Fern Mystery—Coming 2016, is a retired detective sergeant who looks for passion, mystery and suspense in every book she reads and writes.

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Meet Sabrina Jeffries

Hi, Sabrina! Thank you for joining us here today at Fresh Fiction. I’m so happy to be talking with you about your books and your life!

I’m delighted to be here!

THE STUDY IN SEDUCTION is the second book in the Sinful Suitors series. I love the idea of a bunch of gentlemen banding together to form their own club in order to pool information about the ne’er do wells in society who might be prospective suitors, in order to protect their sisters and other females relatives from unsavory marriages! Can you tell me one fact that readers might be surprised to discover about the series (even readers like me who stalk you on Facebook, Twitter, and your website!)?

I considered calling it the Guardians Club, but my friend Megan Frampton said that sounded oldish. I realized she was right. Once I came up with the Sinful Suitors series and the St. George’s Club, I liked the names much better.

There are now about 30 gentlemen in the St. George’s Club looking to protect their womenfolk from scoundrel suitors. You’ve talked last year about how you are intrigued with an open-ended series rather than one defined by a story arc set at the beginning. As you’re a little further into it, how many of their stories do you expect you will write for this series, roughly? And can you tell us who will be featured in the next book in the series?

Right now, I’m writing the book for the Marquess of Knightford (Warren Corry, Clarissa’s cousin and former guardian) and Miss Delia Trevor (remember her from the automaton exhibit?). But I’d also like to do stories for Clarissa’s brother Niall, another of Warren’s brothers (Captain Hart Corry), and Lord Fulkham. Right now, I’m only contracted for three, so we’ll see what happens down the line.

As a series grows, how to you keep track of all the details about the characters and how the stories are interrelated?

I have two charts for every series. One keeps track of characters—their ranks, physical characteristics, family relations, etc. The other is a timeline color-coded by book, which lists significant dates for the characters and the age they are for those dates. Anything that doesn’t fit in those two charts, I just look up in the old manuscripts. Thank God for search engines!

I love reading the Regency Tidbits that you post on your website! I have learned all sorts of fascinating things from you over the years. What is the strangest thing that you have come across in your research that you would have loved to put into a book, but just couldn’t figure out how to work it into a story?

Oh, there are so many. Like details about the adulteration of food during this period (chalk, dust, sand, plaster of Paris, and lead were among some of the additives). Or the story of the teenage girl who ran off with her uncle. When her family went to rescue her, she refused to return, preferring to live with him as his mistress.

After being raised amidst the rubber plantations in Thailand by missionary parents, have you traveled back to Asia as an adult? What places to do you like to spend time (anywhere in the world)?

The last time I was in Thailand was 1994, if I remember correctly (I was definitely an adult). It was also my last time to visit Asia. For several years after that, my husband and I were unable to travel outside the country and very little inside it because of our autistic son. But in recent years, we’ve managed to do it a few times. Not a lot, however. We’ve been to England twice and Scotland once, and that’s it. I love England. I would go every year if I could manage it. Next year we’re going on a cruise to Amsterdam, Scotland, one of the Channel Islands, and Ireland. I’m very excited! And maybe we’ll pop in to London while we’re nearby, too.

What prompted you to start your Will and Jane’s Excellent Adventure comic strips that you create? I find them endlessly entertaining! Do you take all the photos for the strip yourself?

My agent gave me a Jane Austen action figure for Christmas. The next Christmas, my husband bought me a Shakespeare figure, but he was more of a caricature. And he was short. When I put the two figures next to each other, I flashed on how they would interact if they were characters. Then my brother showed me the Comic Life software on my Mac, and that was it! Will and Jane were born. Yes, I take all the photos myself. Which is probably why the “artwork” isn’t fabulous—I’m not a photographer. But it’s fun to do.

Will and Jane's Excellent Adventures

Is there any book that you’ve read in the last year that you’ve thought, “I wish I had come up with that plot!”?

Not in the last year, no. But I’m not generally impressed by plots. I’m more impressed by characters. I always envy really well-drawn characters, because I have to work so hard at mine. Plots come easily to me.

What are you obsessed with right now? It can be a book or series, a tv show, a band… What’s captivating your soul currently?

I tend not to get obsessed but if I had to choose something it would probably be Downton Abbey. I’m mourning the loss of it! And considering watching the whole thing over again.

With a busy life and your writing career, how do you grab some “me” time, and what do you like to do for it?

I like to travel, but don’t get nearly as many chances as I like. I also enjoy doing jigsaw puzzles. They’re very soothing for me.

About Sabrina Jeffries

Sabrina Jeffries

New York Times bestselling author Sabrina Jeffries is a regular on both the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists and winning more than a dozen industry awards in the proces

New Orleans-born, Thailand-reared, Jeffries attributes her success to listening to what peers, her publisher and her own common sense told her she should be writing: “I write what I enjoy reading: lighter, sexier historical romances, with more dialogue and more sensuality.”

Writing about 19th-century English life comes naturally for Jeffries. Not only is she a lifelong Jane Austen fan, but she has a doctorate in English lit from Tulane and a specialty in Early Modern British literature. Yet the impetus for her stories, Jeffries says, is always “what if” — not what if her hero likes this or that, but what if this happened and this happened … what would it do to a person?

And she writes, she says, because “I can’t not write . . . I have stories in my head, and I have to get them out.”

Sabrina writes at her home in Cary, N.C., where she lives with husband, Rene, and their son, Nick. When not answering e-mails as she logs miles on her treadmill or doing jigsaw puzzles (“my reward for finishing a book”), Jeffries can be found championing the cause of autistic children in the name of her son.

Hellions of Halstead Hall | School for Heiresses | Duke’s Men | Sinful Suitors

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About THE STUDY OF SEDUCTION

The Study of Seduction

A marriage of convenience ignites into a passionate love affair in the hotly anticipated second novel in New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Sabrina Jeffries’s addictive Sinful Suitors series!

When Edwin Barlow, the Earl of Blakeborough, agrees to help his best friend’s impetuous ward, Lady Clarissa Lindsey, in her time of need, he knows he’s in for trouble. He’s been hunting for someone to wed, and she’ll just get in the way. Although captivated by the witty, free-spirited beauty, he fears she’d be all wrong as a wife…if she would even take such a gruff cynic for her husband. Yet he wants nothing more than to have her for his own.

Clarissa has no intention of marrying anyone—not Edwin, whom she’s sure would be an overbearing husband, and certainly not the powerful French diplomat stalking her. But when matters escalate with the diplomat, she chooses Edwin’s gallant offer of a marriage between friends in hopes that it will deter her stalker. She expects nothing more than an amiable union, but their increasingly tempestuous kisses prove more than she bargained for.

When her stalker’s vow to expose the lovers’ deepest secrets threatens to destroy their blossoming attraction, will their tenuous bond withstand public ruin, or will Edwin lose all that’s important to him to protect his bride?

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Meet Holly Robinson

In the coming months, I am going to be doing Q & A’s with a number of women’s fiction authors.  I think you’ll find their work engaging and their thoughts—on writing, life and how to balance it all—fascinating. I know I did!  First up is novelist, journalist and celebrity ghostwriter Holly Robinson. Holly is the author of several books, including The Gerbil farmer’s Daughter: A Memoir and the novels BEACH PLUM ISLAND and HAVEN LAKE. Her articles and essays appear frequently in The Huffington Post, More, Parents, Redbook and dozens of other newspapers and magazines. She and her husband have five children and a stubborn Pekingese. They divide their time between Massachusetts and Prince Edward Island, and are crazy enough to be fixing up old houses one shingle at a time in both places.

Holly’s newest novel, CHANCE HARBOR, tells the story of Catherine and Zoe. Though they are sisters, even their mother, Eve, admits her daughters are nothing alike. Catherine is calm and responsible. Zoe is passionate and rebellious.  Nobody is surprised when Zoe gets pregnant, drops out of college, and spirals into drug addiction. One night Catherine gets a call from Zoe’s terrified daughter, Willow, saying her mother has abandoned her in a bus station and disappeared. Eve blames herself, while Catherine, unable to have children, is delighted to raise Willow as her own. Now, five years later, Eve is grieving her husband’s death and making reluctant plans to sell the family’s beloved summer home on Prince Edward Island. But a series of unexpected revelations will upend the family and rock three generations of women.

How do you go about constructing a novel?

A: I wish I knew! When I was first starting out, I used to think, “If I practice writing fiction long enough, I will learn how to write a novel.” Slowly I’ve realized that novels are like children: each one demands a different sort of upbringing, and the tricks that worked for the first book probably won’t work for the next. You just have to trust yourself enough to push through the mud and sleet and disasters along the way. Basically, that means getting enough words on the page so that you can fix everything that’s broken.

What was the inspiration for CHANCE HARBOR?

A: The novel starts with a child being left at a bus station by her mother, who says, “Call your aunt after I leave.” The mother then disappears. The genesis for that was the true story of one of my mother’s best friends, who was left at a city bus station by HER mother. I also wanted to set this novel on Prince Edward Island, because it has been my beloved second home for nearly 25 years.

New England seems very important to you; can you elaborate?

A: Because I grew up with a father who was in the Navy, my upbringing consisted of moving every few years whenever he got new orders. I think I was always looking for a place to belong. When I married my first husband, we were living in San Francisco, and we knew we’d never be able to afford a house there. My brother was in Massachusetts at the time; we moved into an apartment in his house, and when my brother took me on a day trip to the North Shore of Massachusetts, I felt, for the first time, like I was meant to live in this exact location. I love everything about it: the beaches, the small seaside towns, the do-it-yourself attitude of Yankees, and even the winters. I think I must have been a ship captain in a former life.

How do you use the settings in the novel to ramp up the emotion?

A: Like most writers, I’m often looking for a way to make scenes more emotional without using unnecessary adjectives or having my characters fall prostrate to the floor. In THE WISHING HILL, my first novel for Penguin, I used an old mill as a setting because it was where one of the characters worked and had a love affair, and because this mill (which I looked at from my own bedroom window as I worked on the book) oozed sorrow, with its water stains and rusty chains. For BEACH PLUM ISLAND, I used a barrier island—Plum Island, near my home in Massachusetts—because a barrier island is always changing due to storms, and the characters in that novel are facing enormous life upheavals because they’ve discovered a brother they never knew they had. CHANCE HARBOR, too, is an extremely emotional novel; for this one, I chose the very tip of Prince Edward Island. That easternmost point of the island really does feel like the end of the world, and these characters feel that they’ve reached a point in their lives where they might not be able to go on. Boy, that makes my books sound horribly dreary, doesn’t it? But I promise that good things happen, too!

Do you build your novels from your own family’s stories?

A: Absolutely! I’m extremely lucky to come from a family that loves to tell stories. I’ve been filing away these anecdotes since I was old enough to sit at a table with my parents and grandparents.

Are you drawn to writing about “broken” families and/or family secrets?

A: All families have secrets, and there are far more “broken” families than unbroken ones, so yes, I am. This is partly because, in my own family, my parents were divorced and my father married another woman. Then, after sixteen years, he went back to my mom and they were remarried. I, too, was divorced, and now I’m remarried and have a blended family of five children. The intricacies of families that break and reform are complex and endlessly intriguing to me. I like to say that I write “emotional family mysteries,” because I want to write books that read like your favorite mystery novels, but have at their core a family secret (or secrets) that will drive the narrative forward and reveal the characters as complex and relatable.

Some secrets are revealed in this novel; others are not. What’s your view on keeping secrets?

A: In my own life, or in my novels? Basically, my view is that everyone has secrets, and some really ought to be kept—especially if revealing them will do harm. On the other hand, the best fiction often involves secrets that are revealed unexpectedly and force the characters to go through a crisis and resolve their conflicts.

What’s obsessing you now?

A: I’m revising FOLLY COVE, a novel that will come out in Fall 2016, and it’s driving me bonkers. This book absolutely refuses to behave. So far, I’ve written it from three points of view, then decided a fourth had to be added, and when I did that, I discovered that one of the other main characters served no real purpose. Now I’m in the process of killing that character off early in the book—which of course causes all sorts of ramifications for the rest of the family—and revising the novel accordingly. At the same time that I’m doing all this, I’m researching my next novel —always the fun part, before I start digging in and realizing once again that writing is so HARD that sometimes I want to lie down and put a cold cloth over my eyes until my impulse to write fiction goes away.

About CHANCE HARBOR

Chance Harbor

Catherine and Zoe are sisters, but even their mother, Eve, admits her daughters are nothing alike. Catherine is calm and responsible. Zoe is passionate and rebellious. Nobody is surprised when Zoe gets pregnant, drops out of college, and spirals into drug addiction.

One night Catherine gets a call from Zoe’s terrified daughter, Willow, saying her mother has abandoned her in a bus station and disappeared. Eve blames herself, while Catherine, unable to have children, is delighted to raise Willow as her own.

Now, five years later, Eve is grieving her husband’s death and making reluctant plans to sell the family’s beloved summer home on Prince Edward Island. But a series of unexpected revelations will upend the family and rock three generations of women.

Buy CHANCE HARBOR: Amazon.com | Kindle | BN.com | iTunes/iBooks | Kobo | Google Play | Powell’s Books | Books-A-Million | Indiebound | Amazon CA | Amazon UK | Amazon DE | Amazon FR

About Yona Zeldis McDonough

Yona Zeldis McDonoughYona Zeldis McDonough is the author of six novels; her seventh, THE HOUSE ON PRIMROSE POND, will be out from New American Library in February, 2016. In addition, she is the editor of the essay collections The Barbie Chronicles: A Living Doll Turns Forty and All the Available Light: A Marilyn Monroe Reader. Her short fiction, articles and essays have been published in anthologies as well as in numerous national magazines and newspapers. She is also the award-winning author of twenty-six books for children, including the highly acclaimed chapter books, The Doll Shop Downstairs and The Cats in the Doll Shop. Yona lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband, two children and two noisy Pomeranians.

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A Strawberry Topped Interview with CC Dragon

I am of the mindset that there’s nothing better than having a ripe, juicy strawberry on top of my dessert, and I’m beginning to believe the same rule applies to cozy mysteries! CC Dragon’s promotion card caught my eye last fall at a conference in Colorado. There was something about it that was familiar—her cover styles were attractive and appealing—as it turns out, we have the same cover artist! So it makes sense, that I was drawn to her books as much as I am to strawberry topping.

I looked for her at the conference, to no avail and ended up stuffing her promotion card in my bag to contact her after I returned home.

I hate to say, that swag bag didn’t get emptied until the holidays, but what a great gift it turned out to be! If I’d contacted CC last fall, she would have only had two books out in her series, but as of January, she has three Strawberry Top Mysteries for you to gobble up;) Now that’s a delicious treat!

Kym: Please welcome CC Dragon to Fresh Fiction’s Cozy Corner!

CC: Hi! Thanks for tracking me down ?

Kym: CC can you tell us a little bit about your Strawberry Top Mystery series?

CC: Sure! Stacey is a smart Southern woman who is coming back to her home town in Tennessee after a divorce. She left for college, became a pastry chef, and got married but caught her rich hubby cheating. Now she’s back home surrounded by old friends/ frenemies/ and ex-boyfriends—plus Mama and Grammy! Don’t forget the cats—Salt and Sugar. She’s helping her mama at the café and trying to start her own little business with the help of her best friend but when things go missing, she can’t help herself.

Kym: The series is made up of three refreshing novella length mysteries. Did you find that harder or easier to write your mysteries in a shorter format?

CC: Considering that they aren’t murder mysteries, no it was actually a nicer length. People can read them quickly and get a dose of small town sass with recipes and heart without a huge time commitment.

Kym: Tell us about your heroine, Stacey Fields, what drove her to put on her sleuthing hat?

CC: That ex-husband of hers…she married right out of college and it was love. He happened to have money and a good family business…so she signed a pre-nup to prove she’s not a gold digger. But he was a cheater and luckily she got a lawyer to check over things before she signed.

However, to get the payout from the fidelity clause, she had to prove he cheated. She wanted what he promised and since he wasn’t faithful, she was going to get her share of the money…so she put on her amateur sleuthing cap and got the proof!

Kym: Stacey isn’t solving the latest small town murder, her investigations are crimes that will nag you to death if they go unsolved. What made you take this route with your series?

CC: Everyone does murder…lol. But really, if visit a small sweet town where people know each other and have manners…how many murders are there? The odd one from a stranger? A random teen high on drugs accidentally kills someone? The town isn’t big enough…if there were that many murders, Stacey would move her Mama and Grammy out of town!

The fun thing is, you can still have a compelling mystery when no one is dead. Something meaningful goes missing. Or someone in a bad financial situation is stolen from or loses something valuable. That stuff can happen all the time. Bad people with a little power can mess with others and it’s not front page news. That’s a more authentic small town…and I hope it makes the stories a bit more fun/believable.

Kym: You also have a full length Helena Morris Mystery. What is your favorite thing about that novel?

CC: Helena’s sister has an alcoholic poodle…with a real diamond collar. The dog is so funny, I wish I could’ve found more scenes for it!

Kym: I Love Helena’s nickname—Hel—what made you give her that name and how does it fit her?

CC: Oh, it fits her. Hel isn’t afraid of anyone. She’s a martial arts instructor with multiple black belts. She can take care of herself and her sister (who has a stalker). She’s not your standard cozy mystery heroine…she was married to an FBI agent so she’s pretty fearless and connected. She packs a gun but doesn’t need it to beat up bad guys or punch a rock star who gets out of line.

Kym: I love the name for your paranormal cozy series, A Deanna Oscar Paranormal Mystery, it’s full of southern charm and glamour. Who would you cast in the role of your heroine, Deanna Oscar and why?

CC: I love it too! It’s New Orleans so really anything is possible.

I don’t know. Probably a younger Sandra Bullock would play Deanna in my dream world.

Kym: Which you you like writing more, paranormal or regular cozy mysteries? Novels or Novellas?

CC: I really like it all or I wouldn’t do it…Paranormal is tricky because you don’t want to make it too easy to solve the murder. It’s not magical or supernatural solutions. Novellas are fun because I can get them out to readers faster and see if they like them.

Kym: On your website you mention that you are working on a romantic suspense, is there one in the works? If so can you give us a hint about the chemistry between the characters?

CC: I can that it involves a former government agent and a current psychiatrist working together to catch a dangerous criminal. The former agent wants our shrink to give up the files and medical info and she’s not giving an inch…

Kym: What are you working on now?

CC: Right now? I’m actually working on a YA series (I seriously have genre ADD and bounce around. But I always come back to mystery/suspense).

Book 1 releases 3/12: SUNFLOWER TOUCHES
Book 2 will come out 3/26 so get addicted to this blended family with 6 teenage girls!

Kym: Can you tell our readers where they can find you on social media?

CC: Website: http://www.ccdragon.com
Amazon Page
Facebook: ccdragonauthor
Twitter: @authorccdragon
Goodreads: GoodReads

Kym: Thank you for joining us at the Cozy Corner!

CC: Thanks for having me!!

PS: If anyone wants to grab all 3 of the Strawberry Top Mysteries, it’s cheaper to grab the boxed set: Amazon

CC will be giving away one print copy of the Strawberry Top Mystery set along with some awesome swag to one commenter on this post. Don’t miss your chance for a great series that will whet your appetite for more! (Must have a U.S. shipping address)

Strawberry Top

GRAMMY'S SECRET RECIPE

#1
Kindle | BN.com | iTunes/iBooks | Kobo

BLACK SHEEP CAKE

#2
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CHURCH LADIES TEA

#3
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About C.C. Dragon

A loyal Chicago girl who loves deep dish pizza, the Cubs, and The Lake! CC Dragon is fascinated by the metaphysical and paranormal. Loves creating characters, especially amateur sleuths who solve mysteries. Also a coffee and chocolate addict who loves fast cars. Still looking for a hero who likes to cook and clean…so she can write more!

Helena Morris | Strawberry Top | Deanna Oscar

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Until next time, get cozy and read on!

Kym Roberts

Kym Roberts is a retired detective sergeant who looks for passion, mystery and suspense in every book she reads and writes. She can be found on the web at kymroberts.com, on Facebook at Kym Roberts (author) and on Twitter @kymroberts911. Look for her newest release, FLIRTING WITH THE DEVIL, A Noble Pass Affaire Novella available now.

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Interview with Lynsay Sands

Our reviewer Monique Daoust is a big fan of Lynsay Sands novels especially the Argeneau Vampires series. She had the chance to ask Lynsay some questions. Please join us as we eavesdrop on their conversation.

“RUNAWAY VAMPIRE feels so fresh and new, it seems like a brand new series!”

What a thrill it is to welcome Lynsay Sands to Fresh Fiction today! I am so excited to speak with you today, Lynsay! I have been a fan for a long time of both your historical novels as well as the reason we’re here today: vampires!

I read A QUICK BITE, thereafter I got every one of your vampire books; I’ve remained a fan throughout the years for several reasons: your legendary sense of humour, the combination of sweet and sexy, and the originality of the series. Simply reading the blurb for ABOUT A VAMPIRE had me almost salivating. After so many books, how do you keep the stories so fresh? How do you find new ideas?

I bore easily, so I have to keep it interesting enough to entertain me. If it isn’t, then the story gets dropped and I start another. (The funny thing is this can also happen if I plot out too much of the story in advance and there are no surprises left. In that case I lose interest in it and have to move on to a different idea.)

Using different characters each story helps too. Different personalities lead to different responses and reactions to situations, which leads to different situations developing from the original ones… I hope that makes sense. LOL. Anyway, I tend to draw characters from people I know or meet. So each character has their own quirks and temperament, etc.

The way you explain the existence of vampires is simply brilliant; how did you come up with your theory?

Necessity? LOL. While chatting with friends I came up with some great funny ideas to use with vampires. Problem was, I just couldn’t bring myself to write a romance where the main characters were dead. For me it was just too unbelievable and I needed some sort of scientific explanation for my vampires’ existence, so I researched the latest science articles and nanos seemed to be the best explanation for how they came about. Making the nanos bioengineered so that they used blood to fight illness, make repairs and propel as well as clone themselves had to come into it to cause the need for more blood than a human body could support and it just went from there. The Atlantis part was needed because I also didn’t want a bunch of young vamps running around with modern technology in them. I wanted them older, with the wisdom to appreciate what they had and to have seen and done a lot. That meant hundreds of years and Atlantis was the only solution I could come up with other than aliens which is a direction I didn’t want to go in.

You’re Canadian, aside from that fact, was there a particular reason why you chose Canada for a branch of the Argeneaus, and why did you decide to continue to feature the Canadian angle prominently?

A wise man once told me to write what you know and I know Canada, especially Toronto, so that’s the main reason they’re primarily set there. When I place a story in other cities or countries more often than not it’s because I recently visited the area. Under A Vampire Moon was written after I took a vacation in St Lucia and The Rogue Hunter was written after I had a girl’s weekend in cottage country. I just wouldn’t want to write about a place I haven’t been in case I get it wrong, so…Canada it has to be.

Do you have any plans for Stephanie, whom we first met in THE IMMORTAL WHO LOVED ME again?

Ahhh, Stephanie. She’s made a lot of appearances over the years, from her kidnapping in IMMORTAL HUNTER to BITTEN BY CUPID, THE RELUCTANT VAMPIRE and most recently THE IMMORTAL WHO LOVED ME. I like Stephanie. As a teenager, she’s fun to play with and she’s like me when I was younger, always stumbling into trouble, lol. I’m not sure yet where Stephanie’s story is heading or even if she’ll get a story of her own. She has been taking on a more prominent role in the series and her abilities are surprisingly strong, but she’s still young. We’ll just have to wait and see how she progresses. (Sorry but I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen to her yet… besides the mystery is kind of nice.)

You write both historical and vampire novels. If I’m not mistaken, you wrote historical romance before paranormal; What prompted you to write your first book about vampires? And do you have any preference between the two genres?

I didn’t really decide to write about vampires, it just happened. As you say, I started with historicals, and then I was asked to write a contemporary for a spy spoof series, then a couple friends and I were kicking around ideas for anthologies we could do together and vamps came up. I laughed and said, with my sense of humor, my vamps would faint at the sight of blood. That’s one of several ideas I threw out that night and that I mentioned in answer to your second question above. Well, that idea stuck with me. Oh, the irony, to be a vamp with a blood phobia. I found it funny, and the other ideas were funny too. They kept sitting there on the edge of my mind taunting me until I finally had to write them down…et voila! The Argeneaus were born.

I don’t really prefer one over the other. In some ways historical is easier, and in others, the vamps are easier. But to me, they’re all just stories about people. The genre, time period, vamps vs non-vamps…that’s all just window dressing. The people are the story. They are the source of the humor, the cause of the mystery or danger, and the reason for the ending. Besides it’s nice to mix it up a bit in what you’re writing. If I’m having trouble with a particular story I can switch over to another story in the other genre. It’s all good.

When you wrote A QUICK BITE, did you think you would write more vampire novels? Did you think of it as becoming a series?

Right off the bat I planned to do the first four books, and while A QUICK BITE was first and should have been written first, my editor at that time wasn’t interested in “the sister.” He wanted the brothers’ stories, so Single White Vampire actually got written first and was followed by Bastien’s and Etienne’s stories. It wasn’t until I switched publishers to Harper Collins that I was allowed to give Lissianna her story, A Quick Bite.

You have two books coming up, RUNAWAY VAMPIRE in February, and IMMORTAL NIGHTS in September. Can you like to tell us more about those new instalments in the Argeneau series?

The Notte twins will both be getting their stories this year and as usual my characters threw me for a loop.

In RUNAWAY VAMPIRE, Dante meets his match when he’s literally run down by his life mate’s RV. When Mary finds the gorgeous, naked- but badly injured-man onboard her RV and he insists they are meant for each other, Mary can’t help but wonder just how hard he’d hit his head. They may be off to a rocky start, but we have high hopes for Dante and Mary.

As for Tomasso’s story, IMMORTAL NIGHTS, even I was surprised by some of the things that happened. Tomasso’s story starts off with him naked and caged in the cargo hold of a transport plane…only he’s not alone. Thinking it was a good opportunity for a mini vacation with an old friend, the pilot hides Abigail in the cargo hold only to realize too late that this was not a flight of leisure and that his paying customers were dangerous. Oh… and our stowaway Abigail also happens to be Tomasso’s life mate.

And in conclusion, what does the future hold for Lynsay Sands?

Within the next couple of months I’ll be writing a historical and another Argeneau.

The historical will be the 5th book in my latest Scottish Highlanders series and it’ll be about Edith Drummond, one of the ladies that showed up at Castle Sinclair as a potential bride for Cam in TO MARRY A SCOTTISH LAIRD.

The Argeneau will be the 25th book in the series but as of yet I’m still debating on who it’ll be about. I’m not big on planning things like this until just before I sit down to write it.

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit Fresh Fiction today, it has been a pleasure talking to you, and I’m very much looking forward to reading those new books!

Thank you!! I appreciate your interest in interviewing me, and I’m glad you enjoy the stories. Hope you continue to do so!

About Lynsay Sands

Lynsay Sands

Lynsay Sands has been writing since she was a child. She has a degree in psychology, enjoys reading both horror and romance, and believes a sense of humor can “see you through nearly anything.”

Night Huntress | Argeneau Vampires | Rogue Hunter

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About RUNAWAY VAMPIRE

Runaway Vampire

Buckle up—the Argeneaus are back in a sexy, witty new novel from New York Times bestselling author Lynsay Sands

Dante Notte has heard it said that love hurts. He just wasn’t expecting it to run him over in an RV. Still, a punctured lung and broken ribs are nothing compared to the full-body shock he feels whenever he’s near the vehicle’s driver, Mary Winslow. He needs to keep her safe from their pursuers while he rescues his brother. Most challenging of all, he needs to claim this smart, stubborn woman as his life mate.

The naked, injured, insanely gorgeous younger man who clambered into her RV insists they belong together. If Mary wasn’t feeling their incredible connection in every inch of her being, she wouldn’t believe it. But now that the men who took Dante’s twin are after her too, trusting her gut means risking her life for an immortal who’s the very definition of a perfect stranger.

Buy RUNAWAY VAMPIRE: Amazon.com | Kindle| BN.com| iTunes/iBooks | Kobo | Google Play | Powell’s Books | Books-A-Million | Indiebound | Amazon CA | Amazon UK | Amazon DE | Amazon FR

Escape to Majorca with Anita Hughes

Juliet Lyman is a senior executive at Yesterday Records. Music is her passion and she’s very good at her job. That’s why her famously philanthropic boss Gideon sends her to Majorca, Spain to work with a very tortured, but talented client. Lionel Harding is one of the best songwriters of the 20th century, the multi-Grammy award-winning lyricist of the third most recorded song in history. But now he’s forty-two and six months overdue on the his latest paid assignment. Juliet is not leaving Majorca without either new lyrics or a very large check.

For Juliet, business comes first. Emotions are secondary, and love isn’t even on the menu. But to Lionel, love is everything, and he blames Gideon for his broken heart. He’s determined to show Juliet that nothing is more important than love, but Juliet is just as determined to get Lionel to create the music that made him famous. As her professional and personal lives start to mix for the first time, Juliet is forced to reevaluate her priorities, and open her heart—perhaps for the very first time. Writing a Woman’s Life columnist Yona Zeldis McDonough chats with author Anita Hughes about her delectable new offering.

YZM: You tend to set your books in exotic locales, like Majorca, Rome, and Lake Como, to name a few. Have you travelled to these places?

AH: My parents were European and I was born and raised in Sydney, Australia so I have always loved to travel. I have been to most of these places when I was young. I particularly love Spain and the Costa del Sol and Majorca. The scenery is breathtaking and the culture is fascinating. Now with children and living at the St. Regis, Monarch Beach, I’m quite happy to stay at home.

YZM: There are many—and delicious sounding!—references to food in the novel; do you do a lot of cooking?

AH: That’s a funny question because I am not a good cook. I grew up eating very healthy food that didn’t include a lot of sauces or preparation. But I love wonderful dishes like I love beautiful clothes. I think food can be a real visual and culinary experience. Presentation is important and so is the use of fresh ingredients. I generally leave the cooking to the gourmet section of my grocery store!

YZM: Music is another major theme in Island in the Sea. Does this reflect a personal passion?

AH: Yes, I have always loved music. I associate music with different times of my life and it conjures up memories so easily. I walk for forty minutes a day and I always play music. I don’t think I could walk without it!

YZM: Filled as they are with stunning locales, fashion and food, your books could be described as escapist in the best sense of the word. Care to comment?

AH: I am a huge fan of escapist fiction! We all need a break from our daily lives and it is not always easy to get on a plane. I like to be transported somewhere when I read and write. Often when I’m writing I think I’m actually at the location and it’s like taking a short holiday. (complete with a little drama and heartbreak).

YZM: What’s in the works currently and where is your next novel set?

AH: My next novel, SANTORINI SUNSETS, comes out on August 2 and is set on the spectacular Greek island of Santorini. CHRISTMAS IN PARIS comes out on October 4 and I’m currently writing a book set in St. Bart’s. So lots of great locations.

YZM: What’s the one question I did not ask that you wish I did?

AH: Maybe what do I love to do besides write? The answer is always the same: be with my children!

About Anita Hughes

Anita Hughes

Anita Hughes was born in Sydney, Australia and had a charmed childhood that included petting koala bears, riding the waves on Bondi Beach, and putting an occasional shrimp on the barbie. Her writing career began at the age of eight, when she won a national writing contest in THE AUSTRALIAN newspaper, and was named “One of Australia’s Next Best Writers.” (She still has the newspaper clipping.)

She received a B.A. in English Literature with a minor in Creative Writing from Bard College, and attended UC Berkeley’s Masters in Creative Writing program.

She lives in Dana Point, CA with her family, where she interrupts her writing to watch the glorious sunsets.

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About ISLAND IN THE SEA

Island in the Sea

A Majorca Love Story

Juliet Lyman is a senior executive at Yesterday Records. Music is her passion and she’s very good at her job. That’s why her famously philanthropic boss Gideon sends her to Majorca, Spain to work with a very tortured, but talented client. Lionel Harding is one of the best song writers of the 20th century, the multi-Grammy award-winning lyricist of the third most recorded song in history. But now he’s 42 and six months overdue on the his latest paid assignment. Juliet is not leaving Majorca without either new lyrics or a very large check.

To Juliet, business comes first. Emotions are secondary, and love isn’t even on the menu. But to Lionel, love is everything, and he blames Gideon for his broken heart. He’s determined to show Juliet that nothing is more important than love, but Juliet is just as determined to get Lionel to create the music that made him famous. If she can sign up local talent, even better. Her new friend Gabriella has a voice like an angel, but she’s not interested in fame. Her grandmother, Lydia, wants the world for Gabriella, and she wants Juliet’s help to give it to her.

As her professional and personal lives start to mix for the first time, Juliet is forced to reevaluate her priorities. Gideon hasn’t been totally honest, and love may be the only thing that gives them all what they need.

Island in the Sea is Anita Hughes’ captivating sixth novel, filled with exotic descriptions of food, fashion, and romance.

Buy ISLAND IN THE SEA: Amazon.com | Kindle| BN.com| iTunes/iBooks | Kobo | Google Play | Powell’s Books | Books-A-Million | Indiebound | Amazon CA | Amazon UK | Amazon DE | Amazon FR

About Yona Zeldis McDonough

Yona Zeldis McDonoughYona Zeldis McDonough is the author of six novels; her seventh, THE HOUSE ON PRIMROSE POND, will be out from New American Library in February, 2016. In addition, she is the editor of the essay collections The Barbie Chronicles: A Living Doll Turns Forty and All the Available Light: A Marilyn Monroe Reader. Her short fiction, articles and essays have been published in anthologies as well as in numerous national magazines and newspapers. She is also the award-winning author of twenty-six books for children, including the highly acclaimed chapter books, The Doll Shop Downstairs and The Cats in the Doll Shop. Yona lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband, two children and two noisy Pomeranians.

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Meet Molly McAdams

It’s always an exciting time when Molly McAdams has a new book out, so we were very pleased to be able to talk with her about her latest book: TO THE STARS. So settle back and enjoy our conversation with Molly. Leave your comments below to be eligible to win a copy of TO THE STARS thanks to her publisher.

Harlow is a very misunderstood young woman throughout the book. She can sometimes appear, on the surface, to be unsympathetic, but she was always interesting and spunky. How did you find the right balance in creating her and her story?

Well there are so many sides of Harlow that we see throughout the book. In the past scenes, we see her growing from a 15-year-old girl, to an 18-year-old young woman. During that time she’s trying to guard herself from the idea that she might not ever get to have what Knox is promising her, while falling in love with him. In the present, we see the broken Harlow that Collin has created: a young woman who has been so beaten down that she’s just living to survive and save her family. It wasn’t so much about finding a balance for her, more just attempting to show the stages in her life accurately, all of which are drastically different. Hopefully readers will see the stages of her life for what they are (the ages and how girls of that age can be), and they won’t view her as “unsympathetic”, they will just understand that in everything she has had to guard herself from something.

Knox loves Harlow so much, and his love for her makes the reader swing to her side, but he can also be naive to her shortcomings. For you, is love something people need to go into blind or is it important to see all the shades of someone?

I think love is different for everyone, so I can’t answer that in a way that would be saying this is how it should be. Sometimes you fall in love only knowing the bare minimum about the other person; sometimes you fall in love after years of already knowing so much of them. I happened to know I was going to marry my now-husband the day I met him, and I knew I was in love with him so so quickly; but my oldest sister didn’t fall in love with her now-husband until they had been best friends for something like six years. For Knox and Harlow, they fell for each other quickly. Harlow was up front in that she couldn’t promise Knox a summer—because at that time in her life, who could? I think she fell in love with Knox slowly, Knox fell in love hard and fast. But they didn’t need to know everything about each other in order to fall in love. And even after they bore all years down the road, it didn’t change their feelings. They still felt the same way they had long before.

Knox thrives as the white knight for Harlow, especially when those around her don’t always get why she stays with Collin. Can you talk about the push and pull of being a savior to those people who don’t necessarily want to be saved?

It’s difficult to help (or sit back and watch) someone who doesn’t want to be saved. Probably the hardest thing when you know even a fraction of what they’re going through. But it wasn’t that Harlow didn’t want to be saved—she felt like she couldn’t be saved. The lives of her family were at risk, and so she stayed with Collin for them. Even still, her insistence to stay with Collin (or anyone in real life that this is happening to, for that matter) is something that weighed heavily on Knox. Because not only was he the only one who knew about Collin’s true nature, but he loved her and he felt like he needed to protect her, and he didn’t know how to. I think it said a lot about Knox that he trusted her enough not to go to the police when she begged him not to—because in Harlow’s case, it would have made her situation so much worse. In everyday life, we would automatically think that we need to get police, or someone, involved. But in giving up that means of help for her, it just puts more strain and worry on Knox—as you can see in ‘To The Stars’: he starts getting paranoid about every little thing when it comes to Harlow.

Domestic abuse runs through the veins of TO THE STARS, and fiction is always a great place to have this discussion. What sort of research did you do to get the domestic violence in young relationships just right?

Without going into too much detail, Collin was made after someone from my past. So it was easy to slip into both Harlow’s and Collin’s roles in To The Stars’; especially Harlow Brushing off what someone does, blaming yourself for it, then growing to hate them and be scared of them was something I went through—though not nearly as intense as what Harlow goes through.

What do you hope younger readers of TO THE STARS get out of the novel?

While this story is pretty intense, and is listed for New Adult Romance and Suspense, I know that there is still a possibility that younger readers will pick it up. If they do, I hope that they will see the mistakes Harlow made in the early stages of her relationship with Collin—where she brushed off what was happening with him, or made herself believe that it wasn’t happening because she was in love with him. I hope they understand that they never deserve anything like this—or any kind of abuse. Also, if you ever find yourself in that situation and feel like there is no way out, I promise there is. There are so many websites, or people just waiting to help you. ncadv.org is one of them. It doesn’t matter how much time you have put in a relationship, or how much you love that person, there is someone out there who will love you, cherish you, and treat you the way you are meant to be treated.

About Molly McAdams

Molly McAdams

Molly McAdams grew up in California but now lives in the oh-so-amazing state of Texas with her husband and furry daughter. Her hobbies include hiking, snowboarding, traveling and long walks on the beach…which roughly translates to being a homebody with her hubby and dishing out movie quotes.

When she’s not at work, she can be found hiding out in her bedroom surrounded by her laptop, cell, Kindle and fighting over the TV remote. She has a weakness for crude-humored movies, fried pickles and loves curling up in a fluffy comforter during a thunderstorm…or under one in a bathtub if there are tornadoes. That way she can pretend they aren’t really happening.

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About TO THE STARS

To the Stars

In the second standalone book in New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Molly McAdams’ Thatch series, Knox Alexander must convince his long-time love Harlow Evans that they’re meant to be together.

He promised to wait for her.
She told him he was wasting his time.
Not waiting for him ended up being the biggest mistake of her life.

When they were younger, Knox Alexander swore to Harlow Evans that he would wait for her to turn eighteen so they could be together. But that was two and a half years away, and Harlow couldn’t ask him to give up all the fun and thrills of going away to college for her. As the years passed, Knox remained a constant in her life but when her eighteenth birthday came around, Harlow’s heart belonged to someone else.

Every day for the last four years, Harlow has been haunted by that fateful choice. And though he may appear unaffected by what happened in their past, Knox has always tried to fill the void Harlow left. But when he comes stumbling back into her life and refuses to leave, will Harlow finally let him into her heart…?

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Meet Lisa Gardner

Our reviewer Sandra Wurman, wrote FIND HERfirst and foremost I have to say I’ve never been more emotionally invested in a story. FIND HER crept into my heart and consciousness and refused to leave. This book is so well written with obvious attention to details and sequences that the author, Lisa Gardner, deserves plaudits for a job very well done. I’ve read lots of crime novels, but FIND HER is gritty and scarily plausible, and that’s what makes it attention-grabbing.

So now it’s time to talk to the author and find out more about FIND HER (February 2016).

I can’t help but wonder – just what or who was your model or inspiration for the character of Flora Dane? Flora had to be one of the most resourceful characters ever written – human to be sure – but so mentally secure in her own way. The mantra she developed was awe inspiring.

I developed Flora’s character after interviewing two victim specialists from the FBI’s Office of Victim Assistance. These specialists focus on working with a victim’s family during a crisis as well as developing a post-captivity plan upon recovery. One of the specialists emphasized over and over again that survivors are strong. That’s why they survived. The biggest mistake you can make upon recovery is to treat the survivor as a victim. Instead, remind the survivor that yes, he and she can do this. Strength is the antidote to fear, and survivors need to hold on to their strength, or they can lose their way to fear.

There are times – albeit briefly – that we almost see Flora’s Monster trucker in a human light. The spare moments when he seems to “care” for Flora. Brilliant portrayal of a demonic person without a soul. Just how did you “see” Jacob? By the way I love the way she called him her monster.

As part of my research for FIND HER, I read several of the memoirs written by survivors of major abduction cases, you know, the headline-making crimes where the girls were held for years, even decades. One of the more surprising things I read is that a monster can’t act terribly all the time. It’s too much work for one thing. So, for all the moments of violence and terror and shame, there’s also movie night, or a gift of a radio, or the time he brought home her favorite food. It becomes part of the complexity of the relationship. As Flora admits, she hates Jacob, will always hate Jacob. And yet, part of her misses him, too. For better or worse, he is the single most powerful relationship she’s ever had, which is awful for her.

There’s that issue with people developing feelings for their captors – Stockholm syndrome – and Flora battles with herself about her “feelings” for Jacob. How did you manage to do this without making Flora appear weak which would have been against her innate survivor mentality?

Trauma bonding, Stockholm Syndrome, these are all very real, very powerful conditions. Two years later, when the kidnapping victim is left home alone, why doesn’t she call the police for help? Because she can’t. Because none of us are wired that simply. As a suspense novelists, I’ve always been fascinated by criminology—what makes a predator. But FIND HER is really Flora’s story—what makes a survivor. Which I think is even more compelling.

The relationship between Samuel and Flora is necessary for the healing process. But his knowledge was imperative in the search for Flora when she once again is missing. Did you purposefully make him the thorn in D.D.’s side? Candidly there were times when I was angry at the nerve to enact patient privilege with her life probably in peril.

From a detective’s perspective, of course any expert arguing privileged information is frustrating. So on D.D.’s behalf, I’m glad you gnashed your teeth! J But privilege is all about protecting the survivor, which is Samuel’s main priority. Flora trusted him with a story she’s never told anyone else. Never. To violate their agreement, and their bond, would be more damaging to someone like Flora, than anything else. And remember, Samuel has faith in Flora’s strength. That’s his job as well. Much to D.D.’s dismay.

Okay we love to hate characters. In FIND HER there are several. Since this is an interview to entice people to read FIND HER I hesitate to even mention one in particular. But we come to realize this character is an important cog in the Monsters machine. So it goes back to an old question or quandary. Nature or nurture. Are monster born or raised?

As a suspense novelist, nature vs nature is one of my favorite arguments. In my free time, I read a shocking number of true crime stories, in order to understand how predators are made. It’s probably not good for me. :-) My own take: the answer is all the above. You can find case studies where clearly the serial killer was “wired-wrong” from the get-go, to much more tragic cases where the cycle of violence, lack of nurture, was definitely a contributing factor. Human beings are very, very complex creatures, which means I’ll never run out of things to write about.

After being abducted and abused, victims find it almost impossible to return to a normal life. Your characterization of the intelligence and cunning of Flora is so realistic. When you write about victims returning home what resources do you use to keep that realism so spot on?

While I’m known for writing dark books, I feel that overall, I’m always telling stories of characters working their way to a better place. We are all stronger than we think. The challenge is discovering that strength and honing it. For Flora, part of finding her strength is making it tangible—she’s become an expert on self-defense, self-reliance, etc. But at the end of the day, it’s her mental fortitude that will always be her best asset. That, of course, and her knowledge of deadly uses for plastic straws.

This is a relationship story. Flora and her mother and brother. Jacob and Molly. D.D. and her husband. And Samuel and Flora. Each of these relationships are the foundation of this story. What I found so telling was the relationship between the old Flora and Flora 2.0. Flora 2.0 is hard on herself for the things she had to do to survive. And yet we know if old Flora hadn’t been smart and strong she wouldn’t have survived 472 days in captivity. What was your motivation in making Flora 2.0 so hard on herself?

According to the victim specialists, one of the biggest challenges survivors face is second-guessing themselves. Once they’re out of crisis, they find themselves looking back with a terrible case of would’ve, could’ve, should’ve. I should’ve fought harder. That day, I could’ve escaped. Second-guessing what already happened, however, undermines their ability to respect and acknowledge how well they did cope, the fact that they did survive. For Flora, she’s had to let her old self go. For her, Flora 1.0 was stupid and naïve—the kind of girl who’d wind up in a coffin-sized box. To move forward, she needs to be stronger, smarter, more resourceful. Flora 2.0. Samuel would probably argue they’re both still Flora, but for Flora, this separation works for her.

I loved the idea that Flora made use of her surroundings. There were times that I actually laughed out loud when I realized what her plan was. I am still amazed that you got me to laugh while reading one of the most disturbing stories. How did you ever think of her “tools”?

I got it from reading survivor’s accounts, and then I just became fascinated with the idea that there are tools all around us. And yes, even garbage can be used brilliantly and efficiently for self-defense. Some of the tricks I used had nothing to do with crime—just, household hacks for say, creating fire when you don’t have matches. But for someone like Flora, determined to feel strong, I can see how all these tips would appeal to her. And frankly, researching just exactly what you can do with a plastic straw, was great fun!

Last but not least – the time spent in the box. Did you actually spend any time confined to be able to write so convincingly of things Flora thought about, did, and said to herself? The total absence of light, no conceivable way to escape, dependent for everything. I know this was done to make her docile but your insight actually gave her strength.

I don’t know if this is embarrassing or not, but yes I spent a morning on the floor of my office, pretending I was trapped in a box. Just how much could I move? Just what options did I have? Method writing! :-) Given than I’m claustrophobic, I’m happy it was just make believe. But it did help give me insights into Flora and it was interesting how many options for exercise, self-entertainment I could come up with.

Now I’m going to have to read it again. This is a book that is definitely going to be dog eared. Thank you.

Ah, that is high-praise indeed. Thank you very much!

About Lisa Gardner

Lisa Gardner

Lisa Gardner, a #1 New York Times crime thriller novelist, began her career in food service, but after catching her hair on fire numerous times, she took the hint and focused on writing instead. A self-described research junkie, her work as a research analyst for an international consulting firm parlayed her interest in police procedure, cutting edge forensics and twisted plots into a streak of internationally bestselling suspense novels, including her most recent release, FIND HER.

With over 22 million books in print, Lisa is published in 30 countries. Her success crosses into the small screen with four of her novels becoming movies (At the Midnight Hour; The Perfect Husband; The Survivors Club; Hide) and personal appearances on television shows (TruTV; CNN).

Lisa Gardner’s novels have also received awards from across the globe. Her novel THE NEIGHBOR was recognized as the Best Hardcover Novel from the International Thriller Writers in the United States and Grand Prix des lectrices de Elle, prix du policier in France. She was also recognized with the Daphne duMaurior Award presented by RWA in 2000 for THE OTHER DAUGHTER.

Readers are invited to get in on the fun by entering the annual “Kill a Friend, Maim a Buddy” Sweepstakes at LisaGardner.com, where they can nominate the person of their choice to die in Lisa’s latest novel. Every year, one Lucky Stiff is selected for Literary Immortality. It’s cheaper than therapy, and you get a great book besides.

Lisa lives in New Hampshire with her auto-racing husband and black-diamond skiing daughter. She spends her days writing in her loft with a gentle old sheltie and a wonderfully silly puppy.

Detective D. D. Warren

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About FIND HER

Find Her

Flora Dane is a victim.

Seven years ago, carefree college student Flora was kidnapped while on spring break. For 472 days, Flora learned just how much one person can endure.

Flora Dane is a survivor.

Miraculously alive after her ordeal, Flora has spent the past five years reacquainting herself with the rhythms of normal life, working with her FBI victim advocate, Samuel Keynes. She has a mother who’s never stopped loving her, a brother who is scared of the person she’s become, and a bedroom wall covered with photos of other girls who’ve never made it home.

Flora Dane is reckless.

. . . or is she? When Boston detective D. D. Warren is called to the scene of a crime—a dead man and the bound, naked woman who killed him—she learns that Flora has tangled with three other suspects since her return to society. Is Flora a victim or a vigilante? And with her firsthand knowledge of criminal behavior, could she hold the key to rescuing a missing college student whose abduction has rocked Boston? When Flora herself disappears, D.D. realizes a far more sinister predator is out there. One who’s determined that this time, Flora Dane will never escape. And now it is all up to D. D. Warren to find her.

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