A Q&A with Dr. Eve Shvidler, Author of ‘Burning the Short White Coat’

Adobe Photoshop PDFDo you love those medical dramas filled with McSteamy and McDreamy men walking around in tight jeans and white coats? Or are you a Mr. Big kind of girl? Well then, you’re in for a treat. In Burning the Short White Coat, Dr. Eve Shvidler gives readers an inside look into the world of a young budding doctor looking for love in the dizzying, sleep-deprived world of med school.

Read on to learn more about Dr. Shvidler’s debut novel—and how some of her own personal and professional experiences shaped the plot. 

What made you decide to write this book?

I wrote my book during medical school. I was amazed by everything that we were learning and experiencing and I wanted to capture that in real time.

At the same time, as single women, my friends and I really struggled to figure out how to navigate the singles scene. Sometimes we were crushed, other times emboldened and often placed in comical situations. I wanted to capture that dichotomy – the serious professional student and the single twenty-something looking for love.

How can readers relate to Elle Gallagher?

She’s just a regular single woman looking for love and somehow dating all the wrong people. Anyone who’s spent more than a minute in the singles scene can probably relate.

If you could take any of your characters out to lunch, who would it be and why?

First choice: Samy. He always gave the best advice. He was eight years ahead of Elle in his career. I’d be curious how he feels about his career now.

Second choice: James Ruhl. I’d be curious as to how he turned out after he got older and balder.

Did any of Elle’s experiences stem from your own journey through medical school?

Absolutely. In the interest in protecting patient confidentiality, patient stories were changed around and tweaked, but they are inspired by real experiences. The dating/singles scene stories resonate from experiences my friends and I had.

What do you hope your readers will take away from this book?

First and foremost, I want readers to have fun and enjoy the book. It is mostly meant to provide some easy reading and entertainment. Believe it or not, medical school was a blast. Despite some of the difficult times and the hard lessons, it was one of the best times of my life.

But, if there was one point I hope readers come away with, it’s a better understanding of how much we go through in the process of becoming doctors. We have to make difficult choices. We are very unsophisticated in our understanding of the human body. It takes time and repetition to make a good doctor. Elle isn’t there yet. Not even close.

What’s next?

I’m about a quarter of the way into the sequel. Elle’s adventures certainly did not end in St. Louis. She still has four years of residency in Los Angeles. In the mean time, I also have a day job that I love and will continue doing.

More about the Author: Dr. Eve Shvidler wrote Burning the Short White Coat while still single and in her medical school and residency training. She is now a practicing physician specializing in obstetrics and gynecology. She is married, and they have three children.

 

A Q&A with Katie Jansson Shahin, Author of ‘One Day this Will All Make Sense’

One Day This Will All Make Sense - Book CoverIn One Day this Will All Make Sense, Emma moves to LA from Sweden to embark on a new, exciting career. She soon finds the city of her dreams may actually be more of a nightmare. The sink-or-swim work environment is filled with an array of malevolent forces—from dirty office politics, to sneaky HR loopholes, to one heck of a Machiavellian boss who would make Miranda Priestly look like a timid kitten.

Take it from someone who knows, conquering these obstacles makes Frodo’s epic journey to the flaming eye of Mordor look like a stroll through the Shire.

Read on to learn more about Emma’s voyage into the maelstrom of corporate America. Seeing as how we’re both career girls who have been through the gauntlet and back, we should totally get together for drinks!

What made you decide to write a story about a Swedish woman trying to make it in the city of LA?

LA is such a fascinating place, with its huge population of “chasing dreamers.” It’s a character in itself and paired with a meaningful message, it can make for a captivating combination. But mainly I chose LA because that’s where the actual story took place. I myself had a very interesting experience trying to make a life for myself in LA. And I felt it was a story worth telling. For various reasons I actually tried many times to move the location to NYC, but it just didn’t work. The story, my story, I wanted to tell just disappeared outside of the world’s largest suburb.

How did you go about researching corporate culture in America and Sweden?

I’ve experienced them both first-hand myself. I moved to CA summer of 2010. I’ve worked for two different companies here in the US. But it wasn’t until early spring of 2013 when I switched departments, that I actually started to see how incredibly different they can be. I was suddenly in the extremes of the extremes of American corporate culture, and it’s not for everyone. It can be ruthless and with a lot of mind games and intimidation going on and at times feel like a cult. What’s even worse is that there’s nowhere for the intimidated employee to safely turn, and no one who can help them because of the politics and unwritten rules of the American workplace. When I saw that extreme difference from Swedish culture, I thought, “wow, this book practically writes itself.”

What do you hope your readers will take away from this book?

The importance to somehow see the humor even in the darkest period of your life. To consistently remind yourself that it will get better so that you don’t give in to the temptation to give up. But more importantly, that even if you don’t believe things happen for a reason, you can still give it a reason by taking advantage of it afterwards and making the best of it. My debut novel would not have been written this early in life had it not been because of what I went through at my old job, which in itself is a positive outcome.

If you could take one of your characters out to lunch, who would it be and why?

It would be Nicky. She’s actually one of the few characters who is completely made up and not inspired by anyone I know. I love her no-nonsense attitude, and I think her support would be great to have in any tough period you’re going through. We all need a friend like that. Someone who just says it like it is but still always stays loyal and has your back.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Music was such a big part of writing this book. Each chapter has the same title as the song I was inspired by while writing that particular chapter and showcases Emma’s feelings. I’ve posted a playlist on my blog (you can find it here), if anyone wants to take a look.

AKatie Jansson Shahin - Picturebout the author: Katie’s love for writing is versatile. Before taking the big leap into novel writing she focused mostly on screenwriting. In addition to that, she has a blog where she writes book reviews and articles on writing: An Authorista’s Blog. Katie is originally from Sweden but moved to California summer 2010 and currently resides in the North Bay area just outside of San Francisco. When she’s not working on her writing, she is an HR and recruiting professional. Although her debut novel is not a biography, as you may have guessed, One Day This Will All Make Sense is heavily inspired by her own experience moving from Sweden to Los Angeles and her life there.

A Q&A With “The Dog Park” Author Laura Caldwell

Laura Caldwell headshot compressed (2)Dog lovers and hopeless romantics alike are sure to enjoy Laura Caldwell’s new novel, The Dog Park.  After taking a look at the synopsis, I can’t wait to read more about the loveable Goldendoodle, who forever changed the lives of his owners after one heroic act caught on tape.

Will Baxter’s overnight celebrity status catapult his owners into two separate directions? Or will his broken family overcome their irreconcilable differences and find their happily ever after?   You’ll have to read the book to find out!

Without further ado, I bring you an interview with the author.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go hug my dog now!

What inspired you to write The Dog Park?

I’d been writing mysteries and thrillers for a while, including six books featuring my series character, Izzy McNeil. I had one book left in my contract and started plotting the seventh. At the time, I had just gotten my puppy, Shafer, and was head over heels. My publisher’s pointed out that my social media posts and photos had gone from books and mysteries to dogs and dogs and dogs.  And they had an idea—why not write novel involving a dog?  A great beach book, something fast-moving and a little sexy. And maybe, just maybe, a happy ending. I was in.

Why did you decide to make a dog the focal point of your novel?

We wanted The Dog Park to be entertaining and fun, but my publisher really wanted a book with strong characters and strong relationships. 18812462Shortly into the book, I realized that Baxter, the dog who I’d seen as more of a sub character (albeit one who drives much of the action), was definitely much more. Just like a lot of our pets, Baxter is a creature with his own personality. His own preferences and tastes and quirks.

Of all the characters (canines included!) in the book, which one would you like to spend an afternoon with and why?

Billy McGowan! He’s a musician whose band became famous shortly after high school, and who managed eventually to turn himself into a man of integrity and intellect.

What message do you hope readers will take away from this book?

Overlaying all of the book is the profound, and yet often profoundly different, relationship that each different person has with their dog. There’s also the fact that social media has changed everything. It’s thrilling, but a little jarring and scary, to think that a person can be unknown at breakfast and trending on the news that night.

I read that you have your own Goldendoodle! What’s unique about this particular breed?

Friendly, fun, loves to chase balls, highly intelligent.

Finally, do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

If you really love writing, it’s great to be published, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. I truly thought I was never going to be published, but I kept writing because I loved it. It was a hobby I had on my own, where I could chart my own progress, and explore creativity and storytelling. I think passion shines through (or rather, reads through).

More about the author: Laura Caldwell, a former trial lawyer, is currently a professor and Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Loyola University Chicago School of Law. She is the author of eleven novels and one non-fiction book. She is a nation-wide speaker and the founder of Life After Innocence, which helps innocent people begin their lives again after being wrongfully imprisoned. Laura has been published in thirteen languages and over twenty countries. To learn more, please visit http://www.lauracaldwell.com.

 

This Year I Will Make Smart Changes! A Q&A with Cognitive Psychologist Art Markman

unnamedThe New Year has reared its ugly head and now it’s time to start jotting down all our ambitious plans to tap into our inner rock stars and become happier, slimmer, richer and more organized! Of course, we can always start anew anytime of the year, but there’s something about January 1st  that evokes a dawn of reckoning. Hey, who am I to judge? I’ve got my own little pink notebook filled a laundry list of lofty ambitions to rock it out in 2014. If it takes the New Year to finally ditch those cancer sticks, or to start volunteering at the local animal shelter – you go with your bad self!

9780399164118In his brand new book Smart Change, UT Psychology Prof Art Markman will show you the way. I was lucky enough to snag an advance copy  (job perk!), so I can tell you that it definitely contains some pearls of wisdom – especially for those who need some help in the self-control department. Read on for more details about the book, which will drop on Jan. 7. If you’re an Austinite, be sure to catch his book signing event at BookPeople on Jan. 9!

Briefly describe Smart Change. 

Smart Change starts with the observation that many people want to change their behavior, but few people really know why their brains make them continue to repeat the same behaviors they have had in the past. The more you understand about how the brain motivates you to act, the more effectively you can help yourself to act in new ways. After exploring the motivational mechanisms in the brain, Smart Change presents five sets of tools that you can use to change even the most persistent behaviors.

Why is it so hard to break a bad habit, such as late night snacking in front of the TV?

Your brain is optimized to continue doing what you did last time without having to think about it. So, when you decide you want to change a behavior, you are fighting against millions of years of evolution that have created mechanisms that want you to maintain your behaviors. The hardest part about these behaviors is that they are habits, and so they are done mindlessly. You are often unaware of when and why you are performing the behaviors.

One of the hardest parts about changing a behavior like snacking is that your first reaction is going to be to replace the behavior with nothing (that is, not eating). But, your brain cannot learn to do nothing. So, you need to start the process by trying to replace an existing habit with a new one. If you typically snack while watching TV, maybe you should take up knitting or do a jigsaw puzzle while you watch. That will keep your hands busy.

You provide a free Smart Change journal online, which includes a 14-Day Habit Diary. Could you share some insight into how journaling helps people change their behavior? 

Much of what you do on a daily basis is mindless. It is hard to figure out the situations in which you are carrying out the behaviors you want to change until you can become more aware of when and where you are doing them. Spending two weeks just observing your behavior gives you a lot of insight into why you do what you do now. Those insights will be helpful when you start generating a plan to change your behavior.

In this age of instant communication, people often feel the pressure of being “always on.” How can this book help us adjust a balance between technology and our daily lives?

If you feel like one of your habits is to carry your work home with you, then you can use Smart Change to find new habits that will create a separation between work and home. In the book, I talk about how I took up the saxophone as an adult. I had to clear time and space in my life to add a new routine. Thirteen years later, though, my life is richer for it (and I even play in a blues band on Sunday nights).

In addition to productivity and time management, how can this book help people with their personal struggles?  

Your motivational system does not care whether the behaviors you are changing are ones you do at work or at home. Your brain helps you live your whole life. The principles you use to help you to be more productive at work are the same ones that engage to give you a meaningful life at home. The book draws on examples of behavior change at work and at home.

In your book, one of the five steps is to engage with people. Why is this important?

Human beings are social creatures. We are wired to adopt the goals of the people around us. If you spend time with people who have the habits you want to develop, it will naturally lead you to adopt the same goals. One important thing you can do is to find a mentor—someone who has the aspects of your life that you want. Then, spend time with that person and get to know how that person succeeds. Use their wisdom to help you make changes in your own life.

Once your readers follow the steps and successfully change their behavior, how can they pay it forward to others? 

After you have your own success changing your behavior, it is time to be one of those people in the community who has the life that other people want. When you become a mentor for other people who are trying to change their behavior, it also helps you to recognize aspects of your own behavior that you still want to improve. Being a mentor can give you added motivation to continue to move forward in your own life.

What sets this book apart from other behavior modification self-help books?  There are a lot of books out there on habits and behavior change. Some of the books describe how people form habits, but they don’t provide specific tools to help you change. Other books present a model of behavior change that is presented as a one-size-fits-all approach to developing new behaviors.

Smart Change is different, because it roots everything in the science of psychology. The first two chapters help you to understand the aspects of your brain that influence your behavior. Only then do I introduce tools to help you to change your behavior. Each of those tools has an evidence base behind it. In addition, each tool requires some work. It isn’t enough just to read about changing your behavior. You have to be active in your own change. The book comes along with a Smart Change Journal that you can use to take a comprehensive approach to changing behavior.

Finally, the book ends by pointing out that all of the tools that you use to change your own behavior can also be used to influence the behavior of the people around you. Real persuasion does not involve constructing arguments to convince people that a particular course of action is the right one. Instead, it requires the development of a plan that will ultimately change people’s behavior.

A Q&A with “Conspiracy Game” Author Adam Holt

unnamedI’m pleased to introduce you to an up-and-coming author who has written a book that is out of this world! Literally, the book is set in outer space. If you’re among the legions of syfy/dystopian fans who love books/blockbuster movies like The Hunger Games, Ender’s Game or Divergent, I highly recommend checking out The Conspiracy Game. Adam Holt, the mastermind behind this intergalactic coming-of-age story, was kind enough to answer a few questions about his brand new book. Read on to learn more about the first of many adventures that lie in store for Tully Harper! Be sure to visit his blog for more about the book series.

Tell us about The Conspiracy Game.

The Conspiracy Game recounts the adventure of Tully Harper, a 14-year-old boy who sneaks aboard his dad’s spaceship on a covert mission. Along with his best friends Tabitha and Sunjay, he uncovers The Conspiracy Game, which could be no big deal, or it could change the fate of the solar system. It’s an upbeat, heartfelt space adventure, and the first in a trilogy. I wrote it as a young adult crossover: accessible to teens but with a larger audience in mind.

What made you decide to become an author?

Writing and creating stories always elevated my soul, ever since I was in elementary school. I remember the joy of writing my first novel, entitled Space Vampire. It was two pages long, done on construction paper and Crayola. I show it off sometime. That one isn’t available on Amazon…

Becoming a novelist was different: I’ve written poems and short stories since I was a teen, but those don’t take commitment. Then I dreamed up a novel idea that would not leave me alone. At the time I was teaching middle school English. Writing a novel while grading essays and midterms is a recipe for insanity—for me and for the students, too. I needed to devote myself to being a teacher or a novelist. I left my teaching job and wrote The Conspiracy Game—starting in my condo in Dallas, finishing when I was traveling in Europe, and revising when I made it back to Houston, where I now live. It’s been an eventful year.

What draws you to the realm of deep space?  

I was born into the space business. My dad worked in Mission Control during the Apollo missions. He helped send people to the Moon and managed many shuttle missions. That didn’t fascinate me much as a kid for some reason. I never went to Space Camp. He never talked about work when he got home, which I respect. I was too busy to notice his job anyway. I was playing, reading, and ironically, memorizing every line in Star Wars. Over the past decade I’ve gained a good perspective on what human space exploration means for humanity. It’s lead to so many amazing breakthroughs that impact us every day on Earth. So I wanted to write a story that, among other things, showcased that opportunity.

I feel like people are best when they have big things to achieve. That’s certainly true for Tully, Tabitha, and Sunjay. I wanted to remind people that they have enormous challenges and opportunities in front of them. Traveling into space gets us away from our daily concerns and helps us focus on the bigger picture of life. Astronauts talk about that—coming back and feeling more connected to the world around them. So that’s one way to answer: leaving Earth makes us better people.

Secondly, space is captivating. Weightlessness is all kinds of fun for fiction. The cold vacuum of space is all kinds of danger. It’s a place we can explore but only with the mind, for the most part. I think committed readers love to do just that—visit fascinating other worlds, see our own planet from the surface of the Moon. I wanted to bring readers on a short, intense trip into such a world in this first book. Really, it’s also a possible world, where we have colonies on Mars and androids to help us in our daily lives. The second novel, Tully Harper and the Rathmore Chaos, delves deeper into our solar system and the relationships previously formed.

How did the idea for The Conspiracy Game come about?

A toddler inspired me. I went to see the movie Prometheus on opening night by myself, and I was alone in the theater except for two women seated near the screen. They had a seat between them, but I quickly realized the seat wasn’t empty—a little hand popped up and reached for popcorn in one of the women’s laps. Prometheus is a great sci-fi movie, but it’s also part of the Aliens franchise. It’s gory, scary, and my stomach turned when I realized what this child was about to sit through. So I walked down and asked the mother if she knew this was a violent R-rated movie, thinking that they meant to see Brave or Madascar. She smiled at me and said, “Oh, yes, my daughter just loves scary movies!” I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t watch the movie with that little hand reaching for popcorn in the corner of my eye. I thought about how this child was about to see some magical and gruesome images that her mind couldn’t yet understand. It was at that point that I made up my mind to write a space exploration book, one that captured the wonder of space travel but that this young girl could one day enjoy. So the book was inspired by hope and fear, two potent emotions, and the ones which drive Tully Harper into space as well.

I’m intrigued by Tully Harper’s sidekick, Tabitha, who bears some similarities to Hermione Granger. Could you briefly describe this character?

Oh, definitely! I wanted my readers to find people like themselves swept up in the action of this novel, and I know not all of them would naturally relate to Tully, a 14-year-old only child. Tabitha Tirelli is less like a sidekick and more like Tully’s teammate. She keeps Tully and Sunjay focused on the right problems throughout their adventure. She is the wise counselor that Tully needs if he’s going to survive in space…and he’s not quite sure, but he might be falling for her, too. Tabitha is always so busy with local theater that they don’t spend much time together except in the summers when she has time for him…and for Cave-In!, their favorite video game.

The problem is that Tully holds some crucial things back from Tabitha at times. He has his reasons for hiding things from her, but she is intuitive. She can sense that something is wrong. I was pleased with how this played out once they get into space. So she’s a resourceful, divergent thinker, and she tackles problems in ways Tully never considers. That’s the beauty of friendship, isn’t it? It’s Tabitha’s beauty. My editors helped me mold this character into a tough, capable young woman. Oh, and Tabitha also likes vintage clothing from the early 2020’s. The book is set in 2069, so the 2020s are retro-chic by then. Anyway, she has a vintage scarf that changes colors with her moods. It’s Tully’s (and the readers’) window into her thoughts sometime.

Of all the characters in the book, which one would you like to spend an afternoon with and why?

Maybe Queen Envy. She’s a pop diva who is on board the Adversity to record the first album in space. She’s also there to disguise this mission as just a routine trip to the Moon, which it is not. Tully and Tabitha think she is ridiculous, but there’s more to her than meets the eye. If I could have a few minutes with Tabitha, that would be awesome, too. She could tell me things about Tully that I don’t know.

How can teens – and even adults – identify with some of the challenges Tully is experiencing?

Tully may be sneaking into space, but his motivations for doing so are real. He is an only child from a single-parent home. He is petrified of losing his father, but also brave enough to help him on a dangerous mission. I think that’s momentous—those moments when we’re struggling to put others first. Tully makes that transition—from fearful child to brave son. If you’ve seen or read Les Miserables—my favorite novel—remember when little Gavroche helps with the student uprising? He has an innocent bravery that I’ve always admired, and I hope Tully has a bit of Gavroche in him.

Of course, life isn’t always full of nation-inspiring moments. It can’t be. People are too quirky and unpredictable, and Tully is a teenager. He’s stumbling upon love for the first time. That’s fun and funny. He’s also figuring out that he can trust some adults, and others he can’t. How to navigate love and friendship is a universal struggle. I think readers will find Tully right in the middle of life changes that are familiar, either at sharp and present or as a distant, muddy memory.

What do you hope your readers will get out of this book?

What a reader takes from a book often has more to do with what they bring to the book—what hopes and fears and doubts. I hope they’ll see in Tully someone who is determined to live life to the fullest. There’s this great thing that Jesus once said: “I came that they might have life, and have it to the full.” I hope they’ll see in my characters people that are striving for lives full of love and accomplishment—and they’ll see those that oppose his efforts, too.

What I hope they will get is this: take risks in life, let the chips fall where they will, and be satisfied with the results. For Tully, that’s going into space to follow his dad. He hears a voice in a vision one night: “Go, and do not delay.” He follows that voice. I hope that phrase resonates with readers. What must they do with their “one wild and precious life?” as Mary Oliver wrote. It’s different for every person, but to be the people we could become, we have to step out and do things that take bravery.

What’s next for Tully Harper in the second installment of the trilogy?

The Rathmore Chaos. There are hints at the end of the book about this, and Google can help uncover the mystery of the name. I’ll just say that, by the end, both Tully and his enemies have lost some valuable people and things, and The Rathmore Chaos will give them a chance to win back their losses. It’s much more an action book than a thriller. You now know the characters and motives—or think you do. So the pace picks up.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Sure. I’ve received great feedback on the novel so far, and I’m nothing but grateful for that. For readers that like the book, I ask them to spread the word about The Conspiracy Game: email a friend, suggest it for a book club, like the Facebook page. There are some great self-published novelists out there, and all of them rely on readers as their best promoters. Since this is my debut novel, that goes double for me. I love to correspond with fans and other writers, so look me up on Twitter (@adamholtwrites).

A Q&A with Jennifer Brown-Thomas, Author of Blissful Lies

cover If you’re in need of a Gossip Girl fix, Blissful Lies just might do the trick. Look beyond the sprawling mansions, the glitzy couture gowns and the strappy Jimmy Choos and you’ll find a tangled web of lies, deceit, lust and betrayal. And it all hits the fan when five close friends stumble upon some dirty little secrets. The torrid affairs, the backstabbing, the jealous glares – it all brings back fine memories of Blair and Selena’s incessant fights over Lonely Boy.  

I caught up with the author Jennifer Brown-Thomas for some juicy details about her debut novel. Read on for more about the Blissful Lies movie, her fashion line, and what’s up next!

What made you decide to become an author?

Well, I wasn’t really planning this. My career plan was to graduate from TCU and continue on to law school. I’ve been writing for most of my life, and now it’s just blossomed into this amazing career. I’m so thankful.  

How did you come up with the idea for Blissful Lies?

Blissful Lies is such a fun storyline. I loved coming up with the characters because they are all different, but the same. They’ve struggled through some enormous challenges that no one around them knows about. To the outside, they’re privileged and almost elitist, but they’ve faced struggles and they’re trying to live their lives as normal as possible anyway. I just sat down one afternoon and started working on the screenplay, from there the story was born. I love it.  

What draws you to the world of the rich and powerful? 

It’s a world that’s interesting. It seems as though the extremely wealthy tend to adhere to a different set of rules and regulations, so I know I enjoy reading these types of stories—I hope everyone else does too! 

Of all the characters in the book, which one would you like to spend an afternoon with? Why?

Addison Hamilton. She’s amazing. She’s accomplished and on-point about everything she does. And finally, this woman who has sacrificed so much for her career and family is indulging in something for herself for once. She’s my favorite character, but they’re all unique and fun in their own ways. 

What do you hope your readers will get out of this book?

A small break from reality. I know how hard life can be and how much work it takes to get from day to day, so I hope my readers will get the chance to enjoy the story and take a few minutes for themselves. 

What’s next for you? 

So much! We’re so excited to be launching the first installment of a trilogy series in the fall. Vindictive Grounds is such an amazing story. I can’t wait to share it with all of you. We’re launching a clothing line called Kinsley Kouture in the fall and just established a non-profit organization called Kinsley’s Kure. It’s been a huge year so far! Stay tuned. 

Anything else you’d like to add?

Thank you all for taking the time to chat with me. I love having the opportunity to reach out to readers. So, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support.  

jennifer brown-thomasMore about the author: At just 25 years old, Jennifer Brown-Thomas is a celebrated book author and movie director. Her first novel, Blissful Lies, combines both of her passions. At the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, she presented Blissful Lies (the movie) starring Emmy award winning actress, Leann Hunley. YTINIFNI Pictures is working to bring the film to DVD and on-demand television this spring. Jennifer is a married, Texas Christian University graduate and mother of one. Her newest venture, LBT Enterprises, is set to launch a fragrance, a children’s clothing line and more. Watch for more novels from Jennifer – the next on its way is Vindictive Grounds. In February, Jennifer will begin directing the film version of this novel. She says, “It definitely has more of the explicit sexual contact comparable to Fifty Shades of Grey.” Find more about Jennifer on her website, blog, twitter,Facebook and Goodreads.

A Q&A With Lauren Clark, Author of Stardust Summer

StardustsummercoverFellow chick lit lovers, I am pleased to bring you a Q&A with one of my most favorite women’s fiction writers, Lauren Clark! Not too long ago, she broke into the publishing world with her debut novel, Stay Tuned – and I’ve been a fan ever since. Read on to learn more about her latest novel, Stardust Summer. I have a feeling I’m going to need a box of tissues for this one!

What compelled you to write a story about a young mother reconnecting with her estranged father? And how can women readers identify with her struggles?

The story is really about Grace losing her father. It’s about her coming to grips with never having the chance to reconnect. I’ve had close friends not speak to parents for years or known a sibling that shut out another sibling over a misunderstanding. I wanted to explore the shock of a life that’s taken away suddenly. Grace’s life was steady and predictable until then. I don’t think she would have grown up and faced her fears without some sort of terrible situation to shake up her same-every-day existence.

 What was the most interesting thing you had to research for Stardust Summer?

I’ve always loved Garrett Chapel, where Grace’s mother holds Henry Mason’s funeral service. It’s a rustic, gothic-style stone chapel built in the woods on Keuka Lake’s Bluff Point. The structure was built in memory of a young boy, Charles Garrett, who died from Tuberculosis in 1929. Garrett Chapel is still used today as a seasonal church and a popular setting for weddings and special events. I’ve been to the chapel several times with my family and it’s even more  lovely than the photographs. 

Tell me a little bit about the East Coast setting – and how it evokes your own childhood memories. 

0027-995x1024It’s the place where my family has vacationed since I was five years old. It’s gorgeous, with glacier-carved mountains, and a deep, cold lake full of fish and clean, clear water. I remember ALWAYS being the first one of the kids (there are 3 of us) to jump in the lake, no matter how cold it was outside or the temperature of the water. There was no TV, only radio, and we always ate outside, dining on whatever the Mennonite farmers put out on their stands—corn on the cob, fresh peppers, beans, and strawberries. I think, for me, the setting conjures up a time of innocence and purity of mind—a place where life was simple and love and beauty was everywhere I looked. 

Who was your favorite character to develop while writing Stardust Summer?

I actually enjoyed developing Ryan’s character. I’ve worked with a lot of physicians and many of my family members and close friends are in the medical profession. I wanted to show the dedication that many doctors have for their field of work, and how that career (and many others) has the potential to destroy marriages and families. Luckily, Ryan was able to recognize that he contributed to Lori leaving and grew as a result of that loss. When Grace stepped into his life, he was finally ready.  

Now, a little more about you! What made you decide to write women’s fiction? And what do you love most about this particular genre?

I love being whisked away to a place I’ve never visited. I believe that it’s a wonderful feat when an author can describe a setting in just enough detail that I can fill in the colors, sights, and sounds in my head. I do prefer stories with a bit of humor, and those that have a character with flaws who does grow and change as a result of a big catastrophe or problem that changes everything in her life. I adore a little flirtation and romance—the anticipation of that first kiss is so delicious.

Do you have a writing routine? What is your average writing day like?

I am such a morning person. I love the quiet and peacefulness, and always make a huge cup of flavored coffee. I do my best work at the local college. They have an amazing library with expansive windows that look over Mobile’s landscape and, in the distance, downtown city buildings. There’s a lot of green space around the cottage and the vibe is full of energy. It’s a happy place.  

I’m always fascinated by how authors can churn out multiple books in a short time span. How do you manage your writing time between Stardust Summer and your forthcoming Pie Girls?

I have some personal challenges in my life right now, so I made the decision to put Pie Girls on hold for a few months. Laura Pepper Wu had read Stardust Summer about a year ago, and suggested that with some changes—mostly in terms of Grace’s character development— the book would be ready to publish. I actually wrote the novel about seven years ago, so it was one of my first manuscripts. (So in terms of the short time span, it’s only one dog year, right??). It was a bit of a gamble, because I didn’t know if readers would embrace the storyline like they seemed to in Dancing Naked in Dixie.

After two months of hard work, though, I was pleased with the revisions. In the end, it was cathartic to release Stardust Summer. With the rest of my life in a bit of turmoil, it was a positive task that I was able to focus on. There’s nothing better than hitting that “upload” key!! 

And last, but not least, how do you spend your “free” time  when you’re not writing?

I went to the movies last night with about a dozen people—so fun—and we sit in the back row of the theater for $5.00 Tuesdays! This morning, I am actually running off to yoga class in about five minutes. I am meeting a close group of friends for lunch to celebrate a birthday, and then, this afternoon, have a meeting regarding a fundraiser for one of the local hospitals. It’s a Festival of Flowers event, and our job is to make Dancing Naked in Dixie into a visual display for the “Seeds of Wisdom” part of the charity event. I like to be home by 3:30 in the afternoon to see my children. I’m big on making dinner at home, even if it’s just burgers or tacos. And of course, at night, before I fall asleep, I love to read. I’m halfway through John Green’s fabulous novel, The Fault in Our Stars. Thank you so much for having me on Chick Lit Cafe, Jessica!

Be sure to check out Lauren’s blog for more about her writing life. Go here for my review of Stay Tuned. And go here for my review on Dancing Naked in Dixie.

A Q&A With Michele Gorman

17212148What would life be like if you pursued your passion in ballet instead of law school? Or if you reconnected with the one who got away? What if you dropped the monotonous office job and ran off to the bright lights of Hollywood? So maybe none of these situations apply to you, but you get my point, right? To live life to its fullest, you’ve got to take some risks. That’s the underlying message in Michele Gorman’s new novel Bella Summer Takes a Chance. Although everything seems hunky-dory in Bella’s lovelife and career, she knows that it’s just not enough.  With some help from a colorful cast of friends, she takes life by the horns and chases her dream to become a musician.

Michele was kind enough to chat with me about her new book. Read on to learn more about her writing process, character development, and…ahem…how she goes about describing some rather blush-worthy bedroom scenes.

What compelled you to write a story about a woman risking it all to pursue a career in music? And how can some of her struggles resonate with women readers?

I started to toy with the idea of what’s “enough” for a woman (complete with giant quotation finger movements). Where is that line? As I started to play with Bella’s situation (oh the fun of toying with my characters’ lives!), I found myself feeling very disgruntled on her behalf, in all spheres of her life. Why should a life in which nothing is wrong be a life that’s right? Just because society, or your friends or family or boyfriend say so? Nuh uh. I wanted Bella to grab the golden ring with both hands. She may fail, fall off the horse and end up in a heap on the ground with her underpants showing, but she’s going to try.  

The fragility of identity also interested me. Having taken ten years and four books to get my first publishing deal, I knew how hard it was to continue on a creative path when anyone else in her right mind would have given up. As Bella says: When do you stop becoming a musician-with-a-day-job and start being an accountant-who-is-musical? I think that having that experience helped me write her musical pursuits realistically.

Could you tell me a little about the setting, and why you chose that particular location?

michele-gormanThat’s easy. Bella is set in London, where I’ve lived for the past 17 years. I absolutely love my adopted hometown, so it’s the natural setting for my books. My debut, Single in the City, is about an American who moves to London, so the city is the other main character in that story. It’s easy to write about an American when you are American (I have dual nationality), but I’ve wanted to write about a British character in London for awhile. I got halfway there this time (Bella is Canadian-American who has lived in London for a decade, so her speech and characteristics are more British than American). My next book, The Reinvention of Lucy Winters, will finally have all British characters in London.

What was the most interesting thing you had to research for Bella Summer Takes a Chance?

Ooh that question made me snort my coffee! Well, okay, I’ll tell you. There is a threesome scene in Bella. Don’t worry, it’s not gross or explicit; I get terribly embarrassed writing about sex, so if I have to do it, I do it with humour rather than detail. Anyway… I felt I needed some help with this, since I had no first-hand experience (Bella gets kissed by a girl). So I invited one of my closest male friends out for lunch. Since he’s bisexual I figured he’d be able to tell me about the differences. Oh boy, could he ever. Unfortunately he described every detail with theatrical glee, in a very quiet restaurant full of old people. As he talked, I noticed the two couples beside us staring over their main courses. I got my research notes, and they got more than petit fours with their coffees.

Who was your favorite character to develop?

That’s a hard one! Usually I have just one or two favourite characters, but I loved Bella, Marjorie (her ninety-one year old friend) and Frederick (Bella’s flatmate). I couldn’t possibly choose!

What message do you hope your readers will take away from this book?

When I began writing, I saw the book as an exploratory journey for Bella but it soon became clear that this is a girl-power story J Each character faces “societal” pressures (there are those ditto fingers again) but lives her life exactly as she feels she needs to. Their stories are all very different but involve balancing ideals (whether that’s in love and relationships, or career or motherhood) against reality to find out what’s possible, and what’s right for them.

Now, a little more about you! Do you have a writing routine? What is your average writing day like?

I do have a writing routine of sorts. I’m an early riser, so usually get up, make a coffee and spend an hour or so answering emails and doing admin. Then I’ll go for a jog or a walk (otherwise the day can go by without me setting foot outside the house) and settle down for a few hours of writing before lunch. I’ll either carry on writing after lunch if I’m on a roll (or haven’t hit my word count – I aim for around 2,000 a day). I always have a nap, then spend the afternoon marketing. Marketing might involve doing Q&As for lovely bloggers, or working on the million little details that each soon-to-be published book needs doing. I try my best to stay off twitter and facebook when writing, but I always fail miserably. I do have a software programme called MacFreedom that I can turn on to block my internet (saving me from myself) when I really need to concentrate.  

And lastly, but not leastly, how do you spend your “free” time — when you’re not writing?

I’ve always been a homebody, so I hang out with my friends and boyfriend (technically he’s now my fiancée, but that’s very recent and I’m still getting used to that title!). Cooking, watching films, reading, going to the local pub or restaurants, having walks in the park. It’s a very low-key lifestyle and I love it!

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Thanks so much Jessica, for having me on Chick Lit Café! And if anyone would like their eBook copy of Bella Summer Takes a Chance signed and inscribed, there’s a genius website called www.authorgraph.com where you can send me a request (if for a friend as a gift, just tell me in the Comments). I’ll e-Inscribe your book and you’ll be able to add it to your kindle (or print it out, keep it as an email or send it to your friend). I’m happy to do that for any of my books – they’re all on there.

WWW Wednesdays

www_wednesdays42Happy hump day everybody! WWW Wednesdays is a bookish meme hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. To play along, just answer the following three questions:

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

6304335What are you currently reading?
I’m currently reading, or shall I say re-reading, Beautiful Creatures. I listened to it a couple years back on Audible and can’t seem to remember a darn thing aside from a few bits and pieces about a creepy song about 16 moons, a bewitched plantation home, tons of To Kill a Mockingbird references, and a small Southern town full of asshole bigots. The movie looks awesome, so I want to have the book fresh in my mind before I watch it all unfold on the big screen.

26050What did you recently finish reading?
Let’s see here…I’ve torn through a lot of books lately. I believe the last book I devoured was Angel Falls by Nora Roberts. I actually really enjoyed the Lifetime movie version (aside from the fact that a botoxed Heather Locklear was all kinds of wrong for that role) because it cut to the chase a whole lot faster than the long, dragged out novel. Sure there were a ton of plot holes and the scenes were choppy, but it was so much more bearable than those long, unnecessary bickering sessions between Reece and Brodie. And ugh – did the author really have to describe Reece’s pap smear procedure with the old grandfatherly family doctor? UNCOMFORTABLE! It’s a mystery to me why so many people gave that book five-star reviews.

15821735What do you think you’ll read next?
Hmmm…decisions, decisions. I think my next book is going to be Naturally, Charlie by S.L. Scott. I bumped into this Austin-based author at the Texas Book Fest back in October and still haven’t gotten around to reading her book! I’ve been reading a lot of supernatural stuff and mysteries, so I figure it’s time to give myself a break from fanged creatures and dead bodies. Normally I’m not into fluffy romances, but this one looks like a fun little escape.

A Q&A with Stacy Kramer

From left: Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas

From left: Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas

I’ll say it loud – I love young adult books and I’m proud! Typically I gravitate toward the dark and spooky stuff, but something about this fun little coming-of-age adventure really caught my eye. Perhaps I was allured by the Mexico shenanigans, which really takes me back to my glory days when I spent my weekends drinking it up in Tijuana and Rosarito. Ahhh Pappas and Beer…how I miss thee. Yes, I was a bit of a bad girl back in the day, but if it wasn’t for Tijuana, I never would’ve met my husband!

But I digress, this is an AMAZING book, and I had a ton of fun reading it all the way through in one Saturday. Not since Flowers In the Attic have I been so enamored by a young adult book. Don’t judge, you know those smutty, incestuous books were crazy addictive back in the day!

So while I was tearing through the pages, I kept wondering how the heck the two authors found the perfect movie quotes for each chapter, which character they like the most, and whether they’ve experienced the gorgeousness of Ensenada for themselves. Luckily I was able to wrangle an interview with Stacy Kramer, one of the two lovely ladies who masterminded this rollercoaster ride of thrills, romance and teenage angst.

What made you decide to get together with Valerie Thomas and co-write a young adult adventure/romance novel?

Valerie and I are good friends. We met years ago while both working as film producers. We then both segued, around the same time, to becoming writers. Just for fun, we decided to work together on a screenplay and ended up selling it to Twentieth Century Fox. It was a great experience and while Valerie eventually decided to go back to school to pursue a graduate journalism degree at Columbia University and I went on to write film and television, we always knew we wanted to work together again. Over lunch one day, a few years later, we were discussing the possibility of writing together again when we landed on an idea that we both loved and realized it would be best suited for a young adult novel, rather than a film. That idea eventually became KARMA BITES, a middle grade novel for Houghton Mifflin.

I’m curious about how you and Valerie seamlessly wrote a page-turning story filled with complex characters and rollicking adventures. What is your secret?

Our secret is simple, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, until eventually, our voices merge and there is no distinguishable difference between what Valerie wrote and what I wrote. Sometimes, it’s hard for us to tell who wrote what since we’ve both rewritten each other so much.

What are the perks and challenges of co-authoring a book?

I feel like it’s all upside, at least right now, after having two published novels (KARMA BITES and FROM WHAT I REMEMBER) and two new novels just recently finished. Talk to us in a few years, maybe we’ll change our mind and be fighting like cats and dogs. But, so far, it’s been great to have someone to bounce ideas off of, someone to break story with, someone to complain to, someone to commiserate with and someone to laugh with. I don’t think I could nor would I want to do it alone after having worked together on four books. It’s too much fun doing it this way. If it ain’t broke and all that…It’s also like having a built in editor, which is great. So by the time our books make it to our editors, they often feel like most of their work has already been done.

All of the characters in your book are endearing in their own ways – even the high school mean girl! If you could go out to lunch with one of them, who would you choose?

Hands down, Will. He’s both of our favorites. He’s funny, smart, charming, snarky and endearing, everything I look for in a lunch date. Personally, I could have lunch with him every day.

I got a big kick out of the foreshadowing movie quotes at the start of each chapter. How did you go about selecting the perfect quotes?

It was a bit of a process. We started by culling our favorite movie quotes from our favorite movies. It was a fun project and a great way to postpone actual writing (which is something every writer looks for in their day). After a week or so, we had lists and lists of fantastic quotes, too many to use. After we wrote each chapter, we’d pore through our lists and choose the quote that best matched the tone of the chapter. Once we finished the book, we changed a lot of the quotes but made sure to keep our favorites in there.

The picturesque backdrop of the Mexican coast really set the mood for romance and adventure. How did you become familiar with Ensenada?

We’ve both road tripped to Ensenada. I lived in L.A. for ten years, during which time I must have made ten or so road trips into Baja (one particularly treacherous one where my front tire blew and since it was a Mexican holiday, I couldn’t get the tire repaired and had to drive forty miles and back over the border with a flat until I could find a service station in San Diego). I always loved Ensenada for it’s quirky scenery, the fun mix of people and the delicious food. Valerie grew up in Berkeley, California and went down to Ensenada for a holiday with friends. It’s a fun town and a perfect setting for a rollicking adventure. Once we decided we wanted to have Kylie and Max taken over the border inadvertently, Ensenada was a natural destination. Toronto seemed slightly less exciting (no offense to Toronto, I actually love it there, it’s just a different scene).

If you could go back in time and have your own pre-graduation adventure with your high school crush, where would you go?

We’d both love to have Kylie’s adventure, which is, in part, why we wrote it. Sort of living vicariously and all that. I grew up in Pittsburgh so the closest border I could get to was Canada, which wasn’t very inviting. And Val, in Northern California, was quite far from any actual borders for a day trip. Ideally, I think, if I could live anywhere and go anywhere on my own hypothetical high-school adventure in the way back machine, I’d choose to live in London and then get lost in Paris with the boy of my dreams.

Could you give me a sneak peek into what you’re working on now?

We’ve just finished two new novels and can’t wait for people to see them. We’ll let you know when they’re coming out, just as soon as we know. One is called FAKER and it’s set in the world of Hollywood but that’s all we can tell you as there’s a big secret at the center of the book and if we tell you the secret, we’d have to kill you (not really, but it would be a HUGE spoiler). It’s a romantic comedy, although less of an adventure than FROM WHAT I REMEMBER and slightly more poignant. The second book is called SURFACE BURN and it’s a bit of a departure for us as it’s a thriller, set in Berlin and involving uranium smuggling. It’s about a teenager who’s forced to rescue her father when he’s kidnapped. It’s a bit of a reverse TAKEN.

Want to know more about these two talented authors/screenwriters? Go here to check out their website! Go here to read my full review of the book.