Friday, October 20, 2017

House of Shadows by Nicola Cornick Giveaway (US/Can)

House of Shadows
Nicola Cornick
from Graydon House // Harlequin

The wooded hills of Oxfordshire conceal the remains of the aptly named Ashdown House—a wasted pile of cinders and regret. Once home to the daughter of a king, Ashdown and its secrets will unite three women across four centuries in a tangle of romance, deceit and destiny...

In the winter of 1662, Elizabeth Stuart, the Winter Queen, is on her deathbed. She entrusts an ancient pearl, rumored to have magic power, to her faithful cavalier William Craven for safekeeping. In his grief, William orders the construction of Ashdown Estate in her memory and places the pearl at its center.

One hundred and fifty years later, notorious courtesan Lavinia Flyte hears the maids at Ashdown House whisper of a hidden treasure, and bears witness as her protector Lord Evershot—desperate to find it—burns the building to the ground.

Now, a battered mirror and the diary of a Regency courtesan are the only clues Holly Ansell has to finding her brother, who has gone missing researching the mystery of Elizabeth Stuart and her alleged affair with Lord Craven. As she retraces his footsteps, Holly’s quest will soon reveal the truth about Lavinia and compel her to confront the stunning revelation about the legacy of the Winter Queen.

Giveaway!

Books à la Mode is giving away one print copy of House of Shadows—yay!

To enter, all you have to do is tell me in the comments below:
What is your nickname? Who calls you by this name?
Please make your comment MEANINGFUL. Comments solely consisting of stock responses or irrelevant fluff like "Thanks for the giveaway!" will not be considered for entry. Nicola and I really want to hear from you guys! :)

Pssst! Want to increase your chances of winning? Earn up to two additional entries in the giveaway drawing by following Nicola on Twitter and on Facebook. Just be sure to include your Twitter handle and/or FB name that you followed with in your comment to verify your extra entries.

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the publisher—a huge thank you to the lovely folks over at Harlequin!
Giveaway ends November 3rd at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US and Canada readers only—sorry, everyone else! Please check my sidebar for the list of currently running giveaways that are open worldwide. There are plenty to choose from!
Void where prohibited.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their winnings will be forfeited.
Although I do randomly select winners, I am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The First Line of The Welcome Home Diner by Peggy Lampman + Giveaway (US/Can)

The Welcome Home Diner
Peggy Lampman
from Lake Union // Amazon

Betting on the city of Detroit’s eventual comeback, cousins Addie and Samantha decide to risk it all on an affordable new house and a culinary career that starts with renovating a vintage diner in a depressed area of town. There’s just one little snag in their vision.

Angus, a weary, beloved local, is strongly opposed to his neighborhood’s gentrification—and his concerns reflect the suspicion of the community. Shocked by their reception, Addie and Samantha begin to have second thoughts.

As the long hours, problematic love interests, and underhanded pressures mount, the two women find themselves increasingly at odds, and soon their problems threaten everything they’ve worked for. If they are going to realize their dreams, Addie and Samantha must focus on rebuilding their relationship. But will the neighborhood open their hearts to welcome them home?

Friday, October 13, 2017

Interview with Kaira Rouda, Author of Best Day Ever + Giveaway (US only)

It is my utmost pleasure to introduce Kaira Rouda to the blog today to celebrate the exciting release of Best Day Ever from Graydon House, a Harlequin imprint!

Welcome to Books à la Mode, Kaira! Let's get this interview started.

Will you please share a brief bio with us?

Kaira Rouda is the USA Today bestselling author of novels including Here, Home, Hope, The Goodbye Year, In the Mirror, All the Difference, and most recently, Best Day Ever. Her stories explore what goes on behind closed doors of seemingly perfect lives. She lives in Southern California with her family and she's at work on her next novel.

It's amazing to get to feature you today! Readers, here's a bit about the book, which hit shelves last month:
Paul Strom has the perfect life: a glittering career as an advertising executive, a beautiful wife, two healthy boys and a big house in a wealthy suburb. And he’s the perfect husband: breadwinner, protector, provider. That’s why he’s planned a romantic weekend for his wife, Mia, at their lake house, just the two of them. And he's promised today will be the best day ever.

But as Paul and Mia drive out of the city and toward the countryside, a spike of tension begins to wedge itself between them and doubts start to arise. How much do they trust each other? And how perfect is their marriage, or any marriage, really?

Forcing us to ask ourselves just how well we know those who are closest to us, Best Day Ever crackles with dark energy, spinning ever tighter toward its shocking conclusion. In the bestselling, page-turning vein of The Couple Next Door and The Dinner, Kaira Rouda weaves a gripping, tautly suspenseful tale of deception and betrayal dark enough to destroy a marriage... or a life.

As a huge fan of first lines, I’d love to hear the first line of Best Day Ever. Could you give us a brief commentary on it?
I glance at my wife as she climbs into the passenger seat, sunlight bouncing off her shiny blond hair like sparklers lit for the Fourth of July, and I am bursting with confidence.
This is Paul Strom, my narrator, introducing himself to you. His life is perfect. His wife is perfect. They are the all-American couple. He is confident the day will go just as he has planned.

Tell us about your road to publication, such as how you first queried, unexpected challenges, and things you picked up along the way.

It has been a long and winding road to publication, with five different literary agents, five novels, two romance series with small press and self-publishing, and a nonfiction book published by Wiley under my belt.

It was six years ago when I published my first novel, Here, Home, Hope. I have so many stories I could share, so many query letters, so many rejections. Perhaps the most poignant was the first time I tried to go for my dream in 1999. I found my first literary agent at the Antioch Writer’s Conference. She loved my novel In the Mirror and went out on submission. A famous editor with a huge publisher called me and told me she loved it and a contract was on the way. She died the next day suddenly in the back seat of a cab in midtown. It was a traumatic, shocking and extremely sad situation. Of course, I didn’t have a signed contract. My agent dropped me because she said the manuscript was now bad luck. I didn’t submit another fiction work for years.


Are the characters from your book based off anyone you know in real life?

No, they aren’t based on real life people, but a lifetime of experience goes into each one.


Out of all the fantastic books out there, what makes Best Day Ever stand out from the rest?

Two things. The gorgeous red cover. I just love it, and I had nothing to do with it! My fabulous publisher Graydon House has a great cover artist. And second, a male first-person narrator in the domestic suspense arena. I’ve come to find out that is unique.

Blog babes, click "Read more" to find out Kaira's best advice. We're also hosting a giveaway for a finished copy of Best Day Ever, so you don't want to miss that either!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A Season to Dance by Patricia Beal Giveaway (Open Internationally!)

A Season to Dance
Patricia Beal
from Bling Romance // Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas

Ana Brassfield has her path to the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House all figured out until her first love, renowned German dancer Claus Gert, returns to Georgia to win her back. Despite a promising start towards her ballet career and pending marriage to landscape architect, Peter Engberg, Ana wonders if her dreams of dancing at the Met are as impossible as her previous romantic relationship with Claus.

Then, an on-stage kiss between Ana and Claus changes everything.

Convinced the kiss is more than a one-time mistake, Peter breaks off their engagement. With an old dog crippled by arthritis and dreams deferred but not left behind, Ana moves to Germany to be with Claus. But the ghost of his late wife, Ana’s own feelings for Peter, and the pressure of earning a spot in a large ballet company are a high price for a shot at success. Ana seems on the verge of having everything she ever dreamed of, but will it be enough?

Giveaway!


Books à la Mode is giving away three print copies of A Season to Dance—yay!

To enter, all you have to do is answer Patricia's comment in the comments below:
What was your childhood dream?
Please make your comment MEANINGFUL. Comments solely consisting of stock responses or irrelevant fluff like "Thanks for the giveaway!" will not be considered for entry. Patricia and I really want to hear from you guys! :)

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the author—a huge thank you to the lovely Patricia Beal!
Giveaway ends October 25th at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open internationally—that means anyone in the world can enter as long as you have a verifiable email and postal address. Yay!
Void where prohibited.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their winnings will be forfeited.
Although I do randomly select winners, I am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Exclusive Sneak Peek: Lilac Lane by Sherryl Woods + Giveaway (US/Can)

Lilac Lane (Chesapeake Shores #14)
Sherryl Woods
from MIRA // Harlequin

No one writes about friends, family and home better than Sherryl Woods. Told with warmth and humor, Lilac Lane is a brand-new story in her beloved Chesapeake Shores series, one readers all over the world have waited two years to read!

At the heart of Lilac Lane is Keira Malone, who raised her three children alone after her first marriage broke apart, and who, after years of guarding her heart, finally finds love again. But that love is short-lived when her fiancé suffers a fatal heart attack. Grieving and unsure of what’s next, Keira agrees to move from Dublin to Chesapeake Shores, Maryland, to spend time with her daughter, Moira, and her new granddaughter, Kate, as well as to help her son-in-law, Luke, with his Irish pub, O’Briens.

Not wanting to live underfoot, she rents a charming cottage on Lilac Lane, replete with views of the ocean and her neighbor’s thriving garden—not to mention views of the neighbor himself. The neighbor is none other than Bryan Laramie, the brusque and moody chef at the pub, with whom Keira is constantly butting heads. But things get real when Bryan’s long-lost daughter, whom he hasn’t seen since she was a baby, shows up out of the blue. As Bryan and Keira each delve into their pasts, reopening wounds, the rest of the town is gearing up for the Fall Festival Irish Stew cook-off, and making no bones about whose side they’re on. It’s Kitchen Wars meets This is Your Life—a recipe for disaster... or a new take on love?

You won’t want to miss this epic return to Chesapeake Shores, a place we’re betting you’ll want to stay forever.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Interview with Jeanne Kalogridis, Author of The Orphan of Florence + Giveaway (US only)

It is my utmost pleasure to introduce Jeanne Kalogridis to the blog today to celebrate the exciting release of The Orphan of Florence from St. Martin's Griffin!

Welcome to Books à la Mode, Jeanne! Let's get this interview started.

Will you please share a brief bio with us?

Okay, here are the bare facts: I was born in Florida on December 17, 1954, and I've been interested in books ever since. My interest in language led me to earn a B.A. in Russian in 1976 (although my major was microbiology until my senior year).

That was soon followed by a two-year stint as a legal secretary. The good part about that was, I learned how to type, which comes in useful these days. Then I wound up in grad school, and earned an M.A. in Linguistics from the University of South Florida. I also took a few post-graduate classes in computational linguistics at Georgetown University, just for fun.

With freshly earned M.A. in hand, I traveled with my beloved consort, George, to Washington, D.C., where I managed to land a job teaching English as a Second Language at The American University. I taught there for eight years before retiring to write full time.

At the moment, I live on the West Coast with the aforementioned beloved consort and two overly adored Labradors. My outside interests include yoga, Buddhism, quilting, dog training and reading everything ever published.


It's amazing to get to feature you today! Readers, here's a bit about the book, which just hit shelves last week:
In this irresistible historical novel set in the turbulent world of the Medicis, a young woman finds herself driven from pick-pocketing to espionage when she meets a mysterious man.

Giulia has been an orphan all her life. Raised in Florence's famous Ospedale degli Innocenti, her probing questions and insubordinate behavior made her an unwelcome presence, and at the age of fifteen, she was given an awful choice: become a nun, or be married off to a man she didn't love. She chose neither, and after refusing an elderly suitor, Giulia escaped onto the streets of Florence.

Now, after spending two years as a successful pickpocket, an old man catches her about to make off with his purse, and rather than having her carted off to prison he offers her a business proposition. The man claims to be a cabalist, a student of Jewish mysticism and ritual magic, who works for the most powerful families in Florence. But his identity is secret—he is known only as "the Magician of Florence"—and he is in need of an assistant. She accepts the job and begins smuggling his talismans throughout the city.

But the talismans are not what they seem, and neither is the Magician. When Giulia's involvement with him ends with his murder, she's drawn into a treacherous web of espionage and deceit involving the forces of Rome, Naples, and a man known as Lorenzo the Magnificent. Accused of the Magician's murder, Giulia is pursued by the handsome policeman Niccolo, Lorenzo's henchmen, and foreign spies, and in order to survive, she must not only solve the mystery of the mystery of the Magician's murder, but that of her own past.

As a huge fan of first lines, I’d love to hear the first line of The Orphan of Florence. Could you give us a brief commentary on it?
The night I was caught with my hand in a gentleman’s pocket—the night my life completely changed—it was burning cold, so bitter I’d never felt anything like it before or since.
I wanted the first line to grab my readers' attention thoroughly, and to place them right in the middle of the action. It also tells them a bit about the character. My hope is that it’ll keep them interested long enough to read the second line.

Tell us about your road to publication.

I actually sold my first novel in 1981, and I submitted it “over the transom”—that is, without an agent. It was easier to sell a novel back then, fortunately for me, although it took thirteen months for the publisher to read the manuscript and buy it.

Are the characters from your book based off anyone you know in real life? How much else of your actual life gets written into your fiction?

Well, the main character in The Orphan of Florence is a pickpocket. Luckily, I don’t know any pickpockets personally, so I resorted to online research. As for how much of my actual life winds up in my fiction: Writers who claim their protagonists aren’t at least partially based on them—and whatever personal emotional journey they’re currently on—are lying. All a therapist needs to do to get inside my head is to read my latest book. In terms of basing other characters on real people that I know, I tend to be cautious and make composite characters based on traits from many different people.


Out of all the fantastic books out there, what makes The Orphan of Florence stand out from the rest?

The fact that my heart is in those pages. At the very least, the book belongs in the category of page-turners; I guarantee you won’t be bored.

Blog babes, click "Read more" to find out Jeanne's best personal and professional advice. We're also hosting a giveaway for a finished copy of The Orphan of Florence, so you don't want to miss that either!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Interview with Jill Shalvis, Author of Chasing Christmas Eve + Giveaway (US/Can)

I'd like to welcome Jill Shalvis to the blog today to celebrate the exciting release of Chasing Christmas Eve from Avon, a HarperCollins imprint! What an honor! Jill is one of my all-time favorite contemporary romance authors. Can you even call yourself a romance fan if you haven't read one of her books?!

Welcome to Books à la Mode, Jill! Let's get this interview started.

Will you please share a brief introduction with us?

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental.

Look for Jill’s sexy contemporary and award-winning books wherever romances are sold and check out her website for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.


It's amazing to get to feature you today! Readers, here's a bit about the book, which just hit shelves last week:

Meet cute...

Run for the hills—temporarily. That’s Colbie Albright’s plan when she flees New York for San Francisco. Wrangling her crazy family by day and writing a bestselling YA fantasy series by night has taken its toll. In short, Colbie’s so over it that she’s under it. She’s also under the waters of a historic San Francisco fountain within an hour of arrival. Fortunately, the guy who fishes Colbie out has her looking forward to Christmas among strangers. But she’s pretty sure Spencer Baldwin won’t be a stranger for long.

Make merry...

Spence’s commitment to hiding from the Ghosts of Relationships Past means he doesn’t have to worry about the powerful—okay, crazy hot—chemistry he’s got with Colbie. Just because she can laugh at anything, especially herself... just because she’s gorgeous and a great listener…just because she “gets” Spence immediately doesn’t mean he won’t be able to let Colbie go. Does it?

...and hope for a miracle.

Now the clock’s ticking for Colbie and Spence: Two weeks to cut loose. Two weeks to fall hard. Two weeks to figure out how to make this Christmas last a lifetime.

As a huge fan of first lines, I’d love to hear the first line of Chasing Christmas Eve. Could you give us a brief commentary on it?

Our fearless heroine is having a life crisis:
Colbie Albright stood in the crowded LaGuardia Airport staring up at the flight departure board. Her chest was tight and her throat felt like it was closing in.

Classic anxiety, she told herself. Just breathe right through it.

Not that her body listened to her brain. Her body rarely listened to good sense.

In any case, it was December 1 and people were rushing all around her like chickens without their heads, while she stood still trying to figure out her choice of destination. Her only requirements were warm and tropical. An exotic beach would fit the bill perfectly.

Aruba.

Jamaica.

Oooh, I wanna take you...

Tell us about your road to publication, such as how you first queried, unexpected challenges, and things you picked up along the way.

I first started writing in the ice age, during a time I fondly refer to as the deep, dark years of hell. I had three kids under the age of five (don’t worry, we finally figured out what caused that problem :), I’d just lost my accounting job, and my husband had just officially burnt out on his job as a paramedic on the mean streets of downtown Los Angeles.

It was not a great time for either of to begin a new career. So of course we both did. I dove into writing with the same joy that reading romances had been giving me for years. I had no idea what I was doing, it was sheer reader instinct back then. In between diapers and bottles and baby naps (God bless the nap), I wrote what I thought was a suspense. When I finished, I bought the Literary Guide to Publishers and started sending out chapters randomly.

I was on my second book when I got a call. The woman identified herself as an editor from Bantam and I about passed out. I was standing in the kitchen with a baby in one arm, a kindergartener playing house with the Tupperware all over the floor, and me trying to shush them so I could hear. "I’m sorry," said breathlessly. "I missed your name."

She repeated it just as my middle daughter, a toddler, yelled from the other room, "Mom, I’m done, wipe me!" Hand to heaven.

"I want to ask you a question," the editor whose name I still didn’t know, said. "Would you consider adding some sexual tension to your story so that we could sell it as a Loveswept?"

Huh? What was a Loveswept? I know, I know, but though I’d been a bookworm since third grade, and reading romances since seventh grade, I had never heard of a category romance. "You want... sexual tension?"

"Yes, please. And a love scene would be fantastic. If you’re okay with that, I’d like to buy your book."

Holy smokes. "I-"

"Mom, WIPE ME!!!"

Thunk, which, by the way, was the sound of my head hitting the cabinets. "Consider it sold," I said, trying to remain cool, calm and collected when I wanted to do the happy dance.

And then I hung up.

On the editor.

My husband walked in the door and I shoved babies at him. "I sold a book."

"Cool. To who?"

"I have no idea..."

Thank God she called me back. I went on to write seven Loveswepts before that line closed. These days I write both single titles and still the occasional category, and hardly ever hang up on editors anymore.


LOL! Seems you've come a long way! Are the characters from your book based off anyone you know in real life? How much else of your actual life gets written into your fiction?

My characters are never based off anyone I personally know. It’s much more fun for me to make people up :) That said, a lot of things that happen in my real life do make it into the book. Because while I try to protect my family, I feel like I’m fair game :)


Out of all the fantastic books out there, what makes Chasing Christmas Eve stand out from the rest?

Well, that’s for the readers to say. But I do like to think I can bring the warm, fuzzy feel goods and a laugh at the same time.

Blog babes, click "Read more" to find out Jill's best personal and professional advice. We're also hosting a giveaway for a finished copy of Chasing Christmas Eve, so you don't want to miss that either!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Five Reasons The Sweet Life is set in Tuscany by Sharon Struth + $10 Amazon or B&N gift card Giveaway (open internationally!)

The Sweet Life
Sharon Struth
from Lyrical Press // Kensington Books

In Italy, the best attractions are always off the beaten path...

Mamie Weber doesn’t know why she survived that terrible car accident five years ago. Physically, she has only a slight reminder—but emotionally, the pain is still fresh. Deep down she knows her husband would have wanted her to embrace life again. Now she has an opportunity to do just that, spending two weeks in Tuscany reviewing a tour company for her employer’s popular travel guide series. The warmth of the sun, the centuries-old art, a villa on the Umbrian border—it could be just the adventure she needs.

But with adventure comes the unexpected... like discovering that her entire tour group is made up of aging ex-hippies reminiscing about their Woodstock days. Or finding herself drawn to the guide, Julian, who is secretly haunted by a tragedy of his own, and seems to disapprove any time she tries something remotely risky—like an impromptu scooter ride with a local man.

As they explore the hilltop towns of Tuscany, Mamie knows that when this blissful excursion is over, she’ll have to return to reality. But when you let yourself wander, life can take some interesting detours.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Perfectly Undone by Jamie Raintree + Graydon House Launch Release Giveaway! (US/Can)

Perfectly Undone
Jamie Raintree
from Graydon House // Harlequin

A stirring debut rife with intoxicating family secrets and dazzling insights into our most basic desires, Perfectly Undone offers an intimate, uncensored exploration of forgiveness and fidelity, in all its forms, as a young doctor struggles with her sister's death—and the role she played in it—while her own picture-perfect relationship and promising career unravel around her.

Yes is such a little word...

Dr. Dylan Michels has worked hard for a perfect life, so when her longtime boyfriend, Cooper, gets down on one knee, it should be the most perfect moment of all. Then why does she say no?

For too many years, Dylan's been living for her sister, who never got the chance to grow up. But her attempt to be the perfect daughter, perfect partner and perfect doctor hasn't been enough to silence the haunting guilt Dylan feels over her sister's death—and the role no one knows she played in it.

Now Dylan must face her past if she and Cooper stand a chance at a the courage to define her own happiness before her life becomes perfectly undone?

Set among the breezy days of a sultry Portland summer, Perfectly Undone is a deeply moving novel of family secrets, forgiveness, and finding yourself in the most surprising of places.

Giveaway!

Books à la Mode is giving away an exciting giveaway package of Harlequin's newest women's fiction imprint, Graydon House's launch titles! Includes print copies of Perfectly Undone, House of Shadows by Nicola Cornick, Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda, and Something Like Happy by Eva Woods—all to one lucky winner! Yay!

To enter, all you have to do is tell me in the comments below:
Which of the four new Graydon House launch titles are you most excited to read?
Please make your comment MEANINGFUL. Comments solely consisting of stock responses or irrelevant fluff like "Thanks for the giveaway!" will not be considered for entry. Jamie and I really want to hear from you guys! :)

Pssst! Want to increase your chances of winning? Earn up to two additional entries in the giveaway drawing by following BookClubbish on Twitter and on Facebook. Just be sure to include your Twitter handle and/or FB name that you followed with in your comment to verify your extra entries.

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the publisher—a huge thank you to the lovely folks over at Harlequin!
Giveaway ends October 16th at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US and Canada readers only—sorry, everyone else! Please check my sidebar for the list of currently running giveaways that are open worldwide. There are plenty to choose from!
Void where prohibited.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their winnings will be forfeited.
Although I do randomly select winners, I am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Interview with Jane Goodrich, Author of The House at Lobster Cove + Giveaway (open internationally!)

I'd like to welcome Jane Goodrich to the blog today to celebrate the exciting release of The House at Lobster Cove from Benna Books, an Applewood Books imprint!

Welcome to Books à la Mode, Jane! Let's get this interview started.

Will you please share a brief introduction with us?

Jane Goodrich is a native New Englander who writes from an island in Maine, in a room that sits above Kragsyde's famous arch. A lifelong love of the 19th century has inspired her work as a designer, builder, printer, and story-teller. 

The House at Lobster Cove is her first novel.

It's amazing to get to feature you today! Readers, here's a bit about the book, which was released in May:

He was Boston's largest taxpayer with little interest in civic affairs. He was listed yearly in the Blue Book and joined no clubs. He possessed a dining room overlooking Boston Common and never entertained.

If George Nixon Black was mentioned at all, it was almost as rumor. He came and went from the opera in a carriage pulled by horses that were the envy of his peers. If he were glimpsed on the street, it was almost always with one of his beloved dogs by his side. His magnificent seaside greenhouses boasted rare plants, his collection of antiques and paintings, seldom exhibited, were said to be extraordinary. When his own portrait was painted, just twice, he chose women artists. Each winter he quietly boarded a luxury European-bound steamship with a man eighteen years his junior. The two had lived together for years.

Black's life was exceptional for his time. After a youth marred by violence and uncertainty, and a life of great privilege contrasted with the awareness of the danger his lifestyle placed him in, his happiness is remarkable and his secrecy understandable.

In the end, it was his house that gave him away. While Black himself was probably content to slip unnoticed into history, Kragsyde, his house at Lobster Cove, was to have no such fate. Published many times when it was first designed, and adored by architects and scholars ever since, the marvelous and photogenic house has made it impossible for Black to disappear.

In The House at Lobster Cove, you will meet the elusive Boston bachelor who was a curious blend of humility and fierceness, and see behind the doors of Kragsyde, the house that sheltered and shaped him, and continued to tell his story long after both were gone.

What was the inspiration for The House at Lobster Cove?

Most people, when they pick up my book do not realize that the house at Lobster Cove was a real life home. Built in 1884 on Lobster Cove in Manchester, Massachusetts for the novel’s protagonist, George Nixon Black and torn down at his death in 1928, the house was named Kragsyde.

Long before I ever wrote a word about Mr. Black I was fascinated with Kragsyde, so much so that my husband and I built an exact replica of the house over a twenty year period doing all the work ourselves. It certainly must be singular for a novelist to live in the setting of her novel—but I do, with all the old ghosts around me.

The replica of Kragsyde. Photo courtesy of Bret Morgan.
Thus, the characters, places and events of The House At Lobster Cove are all true to life. They were all real people and their real names were used. The events actually happened. Only their dialogue and feelings are imagined.


What were your challenges in writing such a novel?  


I had to write and plot within the parameters of real lives, and could not deter from the paths and choices these real people made. Rather than imagining a character from scratch, I had to imagine them within the framework of their actual physical features, and actions. Plotting can be difficult because real life progresses nothing like life in novels. Real life is more dull.

I also had to try and be empathetic with each character and the point of view they seemed to hold during their life and times. I certainly found I “liked” some of the characters more than others, but it was important to imagine them within the context of their circumstances, and not as heroes or villains.

The research for the novel was extensive, it took ten years. Besides using primary sources which told me about the time period, I studied Mr. Black’s will and contacted as many descendants of his beneficiaries as I could find. It is from the stories and letters they provided me that I built the personalities of the characters I only knew from old photographs.

I gave myself a challenge in writing this first novel as well. I wanted to create as fine a work of literary fiction possible. I am a descriptive, poetic sort of writer, and am impatient with stories that have big loud events which carry them. I don’t like bombs going off, or worlds ending or space invaders. To me the smallest of gestures and events written lyrically are much more moving.

I agree! As a big fan of first lines, I'd love to hear yours. Can you provide some commentary on it?
The dog simply slipped off the cliff.
Yes, the first sentence was designed to draw the reader in, but also to give the message that even in a setting of wealth and beauty, sad things happen, and they can happen quickly. Mr. Black did have a dog which fell off the cliff at his home. Not as momentous as the world blowing up, but just as poignant, and something nearly every reader can really relate to. The novel is full of the sudden unexpected joys and sorrows we all experience. To me, that is the value of literature, to unite people in feeling, and provide clues to how we all live and thrive.

I think that's a wonderful technique, to be able to portray such a relatively small moment as extremely sad. Poor dog :( Can you talk a bit about your publishing journey?


It was as full of unexpected twists and events as my novel!

The very hour I sat down to begin writing a query for an agent, I received a call at my business to place an order for a product I sell. (I am a greeting card designer and publisher). The woman on the phone told me she was seeking a card we made with a quote about books because she was a literary agent and wanted to send them to friends and associates.

I immediately went into “elevator pitch” mode, told her I was writing a query at the moment she called, and asked if if she would read my manuscript. She was polite but very cool, but she did agree saying “I don’t believe in coincidences.”

She called me back within the week, told me she thought the novel was marvelous and I signed with her before the month was out. This is going to be easy- I thought.

She submitted my novel to three publishers and they rejected it. She called me to reassure me this was not unusual and not to worry, and then she suddenly died. A few days later, my dog died. It was a bad week.

I rapidly found out that it is perhaps worse being “half-agented” than not having an agent at all and another year passed before a friend of a friend put me in touch with the publisher of Applewood Books.

This time the stars were properly aligned and I had found my publisher. Applewood was also savvy enough to suggest that since I am a letterpress printer and have sold my own greeting cards to bookstores for over 30 years that I have a hand in designing and printing the book’s cover, which I did.

In the end, I have created more facets of my novel than I ever expected and the reader has a special volume. My thoughts have been in every word, and my hands have been on every cover.


It was a pleasure to be able to get to know you better today, Jane! Thank you again for dropping by, and best of luck with future endeavors!

Giveaway!


Books à la Mode is giving away four print copies of The House at Lobster Cove—woohoo! To enter, all you have to do is respond to Jane's question in the comments below:
Because of its fame, Kragsyde, the house at Lobster Cove ended up telling the story of the secretive man who owned it. What story would your house tell about you? What would be its secrets?
Please make your comment MEANINGFUL. Comments solely consisting of stock responses or irrelevant fluff like "Thanks for the giveaway!" will not be considered for entry. Jane and I really want to hear your thoughts! :)
Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the tour publicist and publisher—a huge thank you to the lovely folks over at TLC Book Tours and Harlequin!
Giveaway ends October 13th at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US and Canada residents only. Sorry, everyone else! Please check my sidebar on the right for a list of currently running giveaways that are open worldwide—there are plenty to choose from!
Void where prohibited.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their winnings will be forfeited.
Although I do randomly select winners, I am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Interview with Christopher Meades, Author of Hanna Who Fell from the Sky + Giveaway (US/Can)

I'd like to welcome Christopher Meades to the blog today to celebrate the exciting release of Hanna Who Fell from the Sky from Park Row Books, a Harlequin imprint!

Welcome to Books à la Mode, Christopher! Let's get this interview started.

Will you please share a brief introduction with us?

Christopher Meades is the author of three previous novels, including The Last Hiccup, which won the 2013 Canadian Authors Association Award for Fiction. In addition, Meades’s work has appeared in several literary journals including The Potomac Review and The Fiddlehead.

He lives in British Columbia, Canada, with his family.


It's amazing to get to feature you today! Readers, here's a bit about the book, which hit shelves yesterday:

A magical, provocative tale of forbidden love and one girl's struggle for liberation

Hanna has never been outside her secluded community of Clearhaven. She has never questioned why her father has four wives or why she has fourteen brothers and sisters. And in only one week, on her eighteenth birthday, Hanna will follow tradition and become the fifth wife of a man more than twice her age.

But just days before the wedding, Hanna meets an enigmatic stranger who challenges her to question her fate and to follow her own will. And when her mother reveals a secret—one that could grant her the freedom she's known only in her dreams—Hanna is forced to decide whether she was really meant for something greater than the claustrophobic world of Clearhaven. But can she abandon her beloved younger sister and the only home she's ever known? Or is there another option—one too fantastical to believe?

With lush, evocative prose, award-winning author Christopher Meades takes readers on an emotional journey into a fascinating, unknown world—and, along the way, brilliantly illuminates complexities of faith, identity and how our origins shape who we are.

Were the characters in this book based on anything in your life?

I laced my previous books with people I knew growing up, embarrassing incidents (that changed only the names) and random events from my own life. For this novel, I created the world of Clearhaven out of thin air, so to speak. Creating characters solely from my imagination was a daunting challenge, but one I took seriously because this book means so much to me. I have two young daughters and one day, the oldest one picked up one of my earlier novels and started reading it. I almost had a heart attack (it’s not appropriate for children) and stopped her after one page. I hid the book and eventually we had a good laugh about it. But that moment inspired me to create a young female protagonist who finds her own path, who never gives up in spite of the obstacles in front of her. In Hanna, I created the kind of character I hope my children one day aspire to be: brave, honest, and above all—empathetic.


Would you share the first sentence and give us a bit of commentary?  

The wolves were lurking.
Hanna is in peril right from the start of the novel, surrounded by wolves as she and her disabled sister struggle to make their way through the woods. I sought to establish a sense of jeopardy and vulnerability right away, to show the dangers Hanna faces, what she must overcome to grow into herself throughout the novel, which starts as a story of survival and turns into one of potential.

Can you give us a behind-the-scenes peek at a crucial moment in the book’s history?

The first draft of Hanna Who Fell from the Sky had an ambiguous ending, leaving the reader hanging, which really isn’t fair to the reader (I personally hate it when a book leaves its story unresolved). Later, I placed a frame story around Hanna’s main tale and kept it there for over a year. When my editor told me that the frame story just didn’t work for the book, I spent months agonizing over how to change it. Two days before my edits were due, I had an epiphany and quickly wrote a new chapter, which (without revealing any spoilers) I believe gives hope and promise to the novel.

What did you learn as a result of writing this book?
  • Your editor is (almost) always right. If she says something’s off, askew or downright wrong about the novel... believe her!
  • Readers relate best to characters who care about the people around them
  • Sometimes the paragraph that you like the best—the one with the MFA-style wording and fancy turns of phrase—is the one getting in the way of your story
  • The best way to get any work done is to turn off all social media
  • To paraphrase Paul Valery, “A novel’s never finished, only abandoned.” You can keep fine-tuning a novel for thirty years if you feel like it. At a certain point, you have to say, “It’s done,” and send it out into the world.

Where can you be found on the web?


It was a pleasure to be able to get to know you better today, Christopher! Thank you again for dropping by, and best of luck with future endeavors!

Giveaway!


Books à la Mode is giving away one print copy of Hanna Who Fell from the Sky—woohoo! To enter, all you have to do is tell  me in the comments below:
What is the farthest you've traveled from home?
Please make your comment MEANINGFUL. Comments solely consisting of stock responses or irrelevant fluff like "Thanks for the giveaway!" will not be considered for entry. Christopher and I really want to hear your thoughts! :)
Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the tour publicist and publisher—a huge thank you to the lovely folks over at TLC Book Tours and Harlequin!
Giveaway ends October 11th at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US and Canada residents only. Sorry, everyone else! Please check my sidebar on the right for a list of currently running giveaways that are open worldwide—there are plenty to choose from!
Void where prohibited.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their winnings will be forfeited.
Although I do randomly select winners, I am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!