Thursday, May 24, 2018

How I Came to Write Saving Each Other by Stacy Mitchell + Giveaway (US only)

Saving Each Other
Stacy Mitchell
PR by the Book

Two hearts, two souls. Devastated by loss, united through destiny.

The rules: Communicate only through text messages and never reveal our real names or other personal details.

My name is Ean Montgomery. After the drunk driving accident that killed my wife, son, and unborn daughter, I was forced to see a grief counselor. In an unconventional move, she gave me a private cell phone and the first initial of the name of a woman who had been widowed by the same accident. I had no intention of ever texting her but with all hope and the will to live gone, I found myself quickly slipping down the rabbit hole. Desperate, lonely, and unbelievably sad, I reached out to her and she became my everything.

My name is Dani Adams. I was married to my college sweetheart, the love of my life. Together we were raising our four-year-old daughter and running a successful business. Then the accident happened and life as I knew it ended in the blink of an eye. I didn’t want to answer his text but I was barely hanging on by a thread and he was in tremendous pain, so I replied. And once again, my world was forever changed.

Over the course of a year, through texting alone, we bond. Friendship blossoms into something deeper. We were never supposed to meet, but fate had other plans, and in this world of loss and despair, something amazing began to grow… But can the passion we’ve found sustain itself with the deep, soul-twisting pain that never seems to fade?

Monday, May 21, 2018

Exclusive Sneak Peek: Herons Landing by JoAnn Ross + Giveaway (US/Can)

Herons Landing (Honeymoon Harbor #1)
JoAnn Ross
from HQN // Harlequin

There’s no place to fall in love like the place you left your heart

Welcome to Honeymoon Harbor, the brand-new, long-awaited series by beloved New York Times bestselling author JoAnn Ross, where unforgettable characters come face-to-face with the kind of love that grabs your heart and never lets go.

Working as a Las Vegas concierge, Brianna Mannion is an expert at making other people’s wishes come true. It’s satisfying work, but a visit home to scenic Honeymoon Harbor turns into a permanent stay when she’s reminded of everything she’s missing: the idyllic small-town charm; the old Victorian house she’d always coveted; and Seth Harper, her best friend’s widower and the neighborhood boy she once crushed on—hard. After years spent serving others, maybe Brianna’s finally ready to chase dreams of her own.

Since losing his wife, Seth has kept busy running the Harper family’s renovation business and flying way under the social radar. But when Brianna hires him to convert her aging dream home into a romantic B and B, working together presents a heart-stopping temptation Seth never saw coming. With guilt and grief his only companions for so long, he’ll have to step out of the past long enough to recognize the beautiful life Brianna and he could build together.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

The Storm by Arif Anwar Giveaway (US/Can)

The Storm
Arif Anwar
Atria Books // Simon & Schuster

From an immensely talented new voice in international fiction, a sweeping tour de force that seamlessly interweaves five love stories that, together, chronicle sixty years of Bangladeshi history.

Shahryar, a recent PhD graduate and father of nine-year-old Anna, must leave the US when his visa expires. In their last remaining weeks together, we learn Shahryar’s history, in a vil­lage on the Bay of Bengal, where a poor fisherman and his wife are preparing to face a storm of historic proportions. That story intersects with those of a Japanese pilot, a British doctor stationed in Burma during World War II, and a privileged couple in Calcutta who leaves everything behind to move to East Pakistan following the Partition of India. Inspired by the 1970 Bhola cyclone, in which half a million-people perished overnight, the structure of this riveting novel mimics the storm itself. Building to a series of revelatory and moving climaxes, it shows the many ways in which families love, betray, honor, and sacrifice for one another.

At once grounded in history and fantastically imaginative, The Storm explores the human­ity that connects us beyond the surface differences of race, religion, and nationality. It is an epic novel in the tradition of Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner and Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance, by a singularly gifted and perceptive new writer.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Top 3 Ways My Real Life Experiences Enriched Becoming the Talbot Sisters by Rachel Linden + Giveaway (US/Can)

Becoming the Talbot Sisters
Rachel Linden
from Thomas Nelson // HarperCollins

Twin sisters Waverly and Charlie Talbot have drifted far apart as they pursue opposite dreams of stardom and service to the poor. On an astonishing journey across Central Europe, they must come together to face their fears, find their courage and fight for what they love.

Celebrity chef Waverly Ross has built a successful career with her home-entertaining show Simply Perfect. Yet she and her husband, Andrew, have never been able to realize the true desire of Waverly’s heart: to become a mother. Meanwhile Waverly’s twin sister, Charlie Talbot, buries her bitter disappointment and shattered idealism beneath a life spent serving others as an international aid worked in Budapest, Hungary.

When the beloved aunt who raised them passes away, Waverly and Charlie come together in their grief after living years on separate continents. Struck by a fierce desire to bridge the distance between them, Charlie offers Waverly and her husband the selfless gift of surrogacy.

But soon the sisters find they are each in danger of losing their jobs, seemingly putting their dreams on hold once again. When Waverly shows up unannounced in Budapest with a plan to rescue Simply Perfect, the sisters embark on an adventure across Central Europe that could save them both from occupational hazards. Though the twins haven’t had to rely on each other since childhood, an unforeseen dangerous turn in their journey across Europe forces them to stand together to save their careers, the baby, and each other.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Interview with Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz, Author of How to Love the Empty Air + Giveaway (US only)

I'd like to welcome Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz to the blog today to celebrate the exciting release of How to Love the Empty Air from Write Bloody Publishing!

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

Will you please share a brief introduction with us?

Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz is a New York Times bestselling nonfiction writer and poet. She is the author of six books of poetry as well as the nonfiction books, Dr. Mutter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine, which made 7 National “Best Books of 2014″ lists, and Words In Your Face: A Guided Tour Through Twenty Years of the New York City Poetry Slam, which Billy Collins wrote “leaves no doubt that the slam poetry scene has achieved legitimacy and taken its rightful place on the map of contemporary literature.” On the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) podcast Art Works, host Josephine Reed introduced Cristin as being “something of a legend in NYC’s slam poetry scene. She is lively, thoughtful, and approachable looking to engage the audience with her work and deeply committed to the community that art (in general) and slam poetry (in particular) can create.”

Cristin’s sixth book of poetry, The Year of No Mistakes, was released by Write Bloody Publishing in Fall 2013, and would go on to win the Writers’ League of Texas Book of the Year Award for Poetry (2013-2014).

Cristin is married to fellow bestselling author and screenwriter Ernest Cline. She lives in Austin, Texas with her family and their two eccentric rescue dachshunds.

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

Vulnerable, beautiful and ultimately life-affirming, Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz’s work reaches new heights in her revelatory seventh collection of poetry.

Continuing in her tradition of engaging autobiographical work, How to Love the Empty Air explores what happens when the impossible becomes real―for better and for worse. Aptowicz’s journey to find happiness and home in her ever-shifting world sees her struggling in cities throughout America. When her luck changes―in love and in life―she can’t help but “tell the sun / tell the fields / tell the huge Texas sky... / tell myself again and again until I believe it.” However, the upward trajectory of this new life is rocked by the sudden death of the poet’s mother. In the year that follows, Aptowicz battles the silencing power of grief with intimate poems burnished by loss and a hard-won humor, capturing the dance that all newly grieving must do between everyday living and the desire “to elope with this grief, / who is not your enemy, / this grief who maybe now is your best friend. / This grief, who is your husband, / the thing you curl into every night, / falling asleep in its arms...”

As in her award-winning The Year of No Mistakes, Aptowicz counts her losses and her blessings, knowing how despite it all, life “ripples boundless, like electricity, like joy / like... laughter, irresistible and bright, / an impossible thing to contain.”

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

How to Love the Empty Air is my seventh collection of poetry with my publisher, Write Bloody Publishing. I’m grateful to have such a wonderful, long term relationship with a publisher whose work I love. However, it should be noted that the reason that Write Bloody first became interested in my work is because I self-published it and toured behind it, before I ever had publishers interested in me. My first three books were all self-published at Kinkos, and available for purchase at my shows and on my website. Through this grassroots effort to share my work, I eventually caught the interested of a “basement press”—literally a fantastic publisher who handmade books in his basement!—who eventually published my back catalogue, along with a new fourth book. When my books (gratefully) began selling more than the basement press could handle, I was picked up by Write Bloody. The lesson from this which I always try to impart on new writers is that you don’t have to wait for an institution—be that a venue, a literary journal, or a press—to give you a “permission” to begin sharing your art. There are so many ways to find an audience, and once you have an audience, finding a publisher won’t be as big a deal at all.


How does writing poetry compare to writing non-fiction? Would you ever try your hand at writing fiction, or any specific genres within fiction?  

The common thread that, to me, links my nonfiction writing and my poetry writing is how it forces me as a writer to look closely at something and pull from it a larger meaning. In nonfiction, you frequently have to show how a person, an event, or a moment represents the time period in which it exists, and, thus, allow a reader to access something that was previously foreign to them.

Similarly, in poetry, I find myself returning to moments in my life that I can’t seem to shake, and then working hard to tease out why they resonate so deeply with me. In both cases, to successfully translate that meaning to the page is profoundly satisfying.

I have not written any fiction, but I married to fiction writer! We both talk all the time about how we could never do what the other does. He can’t imagine having to write and being so “limited” by having to stick to facts—let alone doing all the work you have to do to uncover those facts! Meanwhile, I find the idea of having no limits terrifying! You mean the character could just die? Or your editor could suggest making them into a man instead? You could decide to move the setting to a different continent, or a different time period? It’s total chaos! I could never do it!


That's super funny how you and your husband get to see the other genre on a daily basis, but don't want to touch it! Out of all the fantastic books out there, what makes How to Love the Empty Air stand out from the rest?

When my mother passed away, I took an enormous comfort in books. I consumed veraciously books about grief: The Year of Magic Thinking by Joan Didion, Dear Darkness by Kevin Young, Motherless Daughters by Hope Edelman, and more. How to Love the Empty Air is my attempt to give back to that community of writers whose work and vulnerability comforted me during that hard time. It’s an acknowledgment of how hard it is, how raw it feels, and how boundless grief can feel, but it is also a celebration of the light: the love you still feel, the ways the person you lost can still be seen everywhere, and how the people who surround you can lift you up. During my tour, I have been touched by how many people purchase books for themselves, but also for friends and family members who have suffered loss in their lives. It is my greatest hope, and would be the great honor, for my book to be a comfort to others, the way that the work I read helped guide me.

It's a much needed, much appreciated contribution I'm sure! Give aspiring writers a piece of advice you wish you had known before getting published.

I grew up in a working class neighborhood, and saying I wanted to grow up and be a writer seemed about as possible as saying I was going to grow up to be the tooth fairy. I knew from an early age that if this was the path I wanted to pursue, I needed to forge my own path. I read constantly how important securing a mentor was—someone who was accomplished in my field already who could help guide me as moved forward in my career. Certainly, mentors have been helpful to me, but what I’ve found more true to my experience, and what I’ve learned has been proven to be more successful in studies on the subject, is my own peers. The theory is called “Horizontal Loyalty,” and the idea that instead of striving for mentors, you should form connections with peers whose work (and work ethic!) you admire. As time goes on, and you and your peers naturally begin to rise up, you will be able to help each other more directly, include each other more naturally in opportunities, and introduce each other to agents, bookers, publishers and venues who more authentically match where you are currently are as an artist. I have found this to be incredibly true in my own life. Peers whose work I’ve loved, and championed, have toured me, published my books, introduced me to agents, and guided me through tricky circumstances (like social media) that weren’t exactly in the wheelhouse of my older, more established mentors. So if I were to give advice to an aspiring writer, it would be to find peers whose work you adore, and begin to form connections with them. Those same poets crashing on your spare futon now might be the the family of artists whom you trust and rely on the most as you move through life as writer and human in the next few decades. It happened to me!

Now give us your best personal advice—something you wish you had known when you were younger and would offer to your own kids.

When my mother passed away, my father gave me all her old journals. In one, she collection quotes she found to inspirational, and buried in that journal, I found a short list she wrote in her own hand—I support the culmination of what she had learned from all the quotes she had previously written, and it remains the most guiding philosophy for me I’ve ever found. She wrote: “Know your Purpose; Be Present; Act Decisively, Don’t be Attached to the Results.” Under this list, she underlined the phrase “True Work.” I have this page framed in my office, and refer to it often. It is the best advice I’ve ever received: to be authentic, and to move authentically in this world, and let that be its own reward.

Where can you be found on the web?


It was a pleasure to be able to get to know you better today, Cristin! 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 How to Love the Empty Airwoohoo! To enter, all you have to do is tell me in the comments below:
Are you a fan of poetry? What is your favorite poem or collection?
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. Cristin 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 FSB Associates!
Giveaway ends May 21st at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US 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!

Monday, April 30, 2018

Exclusive Sneak Peek: My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan + Giveaway (US/Can)

My Oxford Year
Julia Whelan
from William Morrow // HarperCollins

Set amidst the breathtaking beauty of Oxford, this sparkling debut novel tells the unforgettable story about a determined young woman eager to make her mark in the world and the handsome man who introduces her to an incredible love that will irrevocably alter her future—perfect for fans of JoJo Moyes and Nicholas Sparks.

American Ella Durran has had the same plan for her life since she was thirteen: Study at Oxford. At 24, she’s finally made it to England on a Rhodes Scholarship when she’s offered an unbelievable position in a rising political star’s presidential campaign. With the promise that she’ll work remotely and return to DC at the end of her Oxford year, she’s free to enjoy her Once in a Lifetime Experience. That is, until a smart-mouthed local who is too quick with his tongue and his car ruins her shirt and her first day.

When Ella discovers that her English literature course will be taught by none other than that same local, Jamie Davenport, she thinks for the first time that Oxford might not be all she’s envisioned. But a late-night drink reveals a connection she wasn’t anticipating finding and what begins as a casual fling soon develops into something much more when Ella learns Jamie has a life-changing secret.

Immediately, Ella is faced with a seemingly impossible decision: turn her back on the man she’s falling in love with to follow her political dreams or be there for him during a trial neither are truly prepared for. As the end of her year in Oxford rapidly approaches, Ella must decide if the dreams she’s always wanted are the same ones she’s now yearning for.

Friday, April 27, 2018

The Beauty of Dirty Skin by Whitney Bowe Giveaway (US only)

The Beauty of Dirty Skin
Whitney Bowe
Little, Brown and Company // Hachette

Internationally renowned dermatologist and research scientist Dr. Whitney Bowe presents, for the first time, the connection between a healthy gut and radiant, clear skin, with a 21-day program to maximize skin health and beauty.

Every year, nearly 80 million Americans will consult their doctors about their skin. In fact, skin disorders beat out anxiety, depression, back pain, and diabetes as the number one reason Americans see their doctors. Unfortunately, however, the vast majority will receive only a surface-level treatment, leaving the underlying conditions at the root of their skin issues unresolved. Skin doesn’t lie; it reflects overall health in unimaginable ways.

In The Beauty of Dirty Skin, internationally renowned dermatologist and scientist Dr. Whitney Bowe shows readers that skin health is much more than skin deep. As a pioneering researcher on the cutting edge of the gut-brain-skin axis, she explains how the spectrum of skin disorders—from stubborn acne and rosacea to psoriasis, eczema, and premature wrinkling—are manifestations of irregularities rooted in the gut. Lasers, scalpels, creams, and prescription pads alone will not guarantee the consistently healthy, glowing skin we all seek. Instead, Dr. Bowe focuses on the microbiome—where trillions of microbes “speak” to your skin via the brain—and highlights the connection between sleep, stress, diet, gastrointestinal health, and the health of your skin.

With simple explanations of the science, do-it-yourself practical skincare strategies, and a life-changing 21-day program, The Beauty of Dirty Skin is your roadmap to great skin from the inside out and the outside in.

Giveaway!

Books à la Mode is giving away one print copy of The Beauty of Dirty Skin—yay!!

To enter, all you have to do is tell me:
What do you do to take care of your skin?
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. Whitney and I really want to hear from you guys! :)

I'm a bit of a freak about skincare. I love all sorts of serums, creams, masks, and of course sunscreen to protect my skin! I also try to drink lots of water and get enough sleep, but I need to read up more about the gut-brain-skin axis and see what I can do to improve that.

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the publicist—a huge thank you to the lovely folks at FSB Associates!
Giveaway ends May 11th at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US 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, April 25, 2018

Interview with Joanne Serling, Author of Good Neighbors + Giveaway (US/Can)

I'd like to welcome Joanne Serling to the blog today to celebrate the exciting release of Good Neighbors from Twelve, a Grand Central Publishing and Hachette imprint!

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

Will you please share a brief introduction with us?

Joanne Serling’s fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in New Ohio Review and North American Review. She is a graduate of Cornell University and studied and taught fiction at The Writers Studio in New York City. She lives outside of New York with her husband and children and is at work on her second book.

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

A searing portrait of suburbia, friendship, and family strained by a devotion to false appearances.

In an idyllic suburb, four young families quickly form a neighborhood clique, their friendships based on little more than the ages of their children and a shared sense of camaraderie. When one of the couples, Paige and Gene Edwards, adopt a four-year-old girl from Russia, the group’s loyalty and morality is soon called into question. Are the Edwards unkind to their new daughter? Or is she a difficult child with hidden destructive tendencies?

As the seams of the group friendship slowly unravel, neighbor Nicole Westerhof finds herself drawn further into the life of the adopted girl, forcing Nicole to re-examine the deceptive nature of her own family ties, and her complicity in the events unfolding around her.

What was the inspiration for the plot?

I originally wanted to write a short story about resilience and parenting. I was interested in exploring the ways that children can survive all kinds of difficult circumstances and grow up to be relatively stable and mature. But as I got further into the material, I found that I was as interested in the community as I was in the girl. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that that I grew up with a single mom in a tight knit community in which we relied on our neighbors a great deal. The adoption itself was a bit of a literary device. I knew that Nicole, the main character, considered herself to be an outsider and I wanted her attraction to the little girl to be based on what she saw as a similar life condition.


How did you come up with the characters and setting? How much was drawn from real life?  

I was an Editor for an affluent suburban magazine while I was writing Good Neighbors. Meeting so many different families, touring their homes and getting an inside look at their aspirations and anxieties had a huge influence on the setting and the themes of the book. But fiction is never straightforward. Your experiences get mixed up with your imagination and appear on the page as something recognizable yet invented.


As a huge fan of first lines, I’d love to hear the first line of Good Neighbors. Could you give us a brief commentary?

The book begins with a prologue entitled, “What We Thought We Knew” and the first sentence is:
We knew we lived on the nicest street in the nicest neighborhood in Fair Lawn.
Believe it or not, this was one of the last sentences I wrote. I’d finished a fifth or sixth draft of the book and was getting ready to send it out to agents when the prologue arrived like a song in my head. I had to pull my car over and start typing into my phone to get it all down. After spending so much time with my characters in their world, I suddenly understood that this was a book about people who had an idea about themselves that would be dramatically challenged by the end of the story.

Chilling how that expectation will be subverted! Did you also have the ending in mind?

I always knew that it would be ambiguous but it wasn’t until about draft 6 that I knew that it also needed to be dramatic and tragic. You cannot live a life of self-deception and not have tragedy creep up on you.

What are the novels that have most significantly influenced your life and your writing?

Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell had a huge influence on me as a writer. It’s an indelible portrait of a housewife navigating the changing American landscape between the first and second world wars. Besides loving the depth and simplicity of the writing, I was amazed at the similarities between the domestic world of Mrs. Bridge and modern American motherhood.

I had a similarly charged reaction when I read That Night by Alice McDermott. Never before had I never read an author who unfolded a single event so masterfully, turning ordinary life into something dramatic and powerful in the process. McDermott showed me that everyday life can be made extraordinary with enough love and connection to the material.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention Kate Walbert’s Our Kind in this list. Her wonderful stories about a certain generation of upper middle class women, told in the first-person plural, were like a gateway drug for me. For many years and many drafts, I used a similar narrative style to help tell the story of Good Neighbors. Eventually, I switched the narrative to first person and relegated the large “we” narrator to the prologue and epilogue, but Walbert’s book was a huge inspiration.


What is your guiltiest pleasure?

Although I shouldn’t feel guilty about this, I love taking a break around 5pm to read in bed. There are usually a million things I should be doing, like starting dinner or paying bills, but thumbing my nose at my responsibilities gives me enormous pleasure and actually makes me a lot more efficient when I get back to business. I only wished I remembered to do it more often.

Where can you be found on the web?


Before we conclude this interview, what's something you'd like to ask our readers?

Do you believe Nicole did the right thing in Good Neighbors by calling Child Protective Services to report her suspicions about her neighbors? Why or why not?

It was a pleasure to be able to get to know you better today, Joanne! 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 Good Neighborswoohoo! To enter, all you have to do is answer Joanne's question in the comments below:
Do you believe Nicole did the right thing in Good Neighbors by calling Child Protective Services to report her suspicions about her neighbors? Why or why not?
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. Joanne 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 Twelve Books!
Giveaway ends May 9th 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!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Interview with Robert Dugoni, Author of The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell + Giveaway (US only)

I'd like to welcome Robert Dugoni to the blog today to celebrate the exciting release of The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell from Lake Union, an Amazon imprint!

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

Will you please share a brief introduction with us?

Robert Dugoni is the critically acclaimed New York Times, #1 Wall Street Journal, and #1 Kindle bestselling author of the Tracy Crosswhite series, which has sold millions of copies worldwide. Dugoni is also the author of the bestselling David Sloane series as well as the stand-alone novels The 7th Canon (a 2017 finalist for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for best novel), The Cyanide Canary (a Washington Post Best Book of the Year), and several short stories. He is the recipient of the Nancy Pearl Award for Fiction, and the Friends of Mystery, Spotted Owl Award for the best novel in the Pacific Northwest. He is a two time finalist for the International Thriller Writers award and the Mystery Writers of America Award for best novel.

His books are sold worldwide in more than 25 countries and have been translated into more than two dozen languages including French, German, Italian and Spanish.

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

From #1 Wall Street Journal and New York Times bestselling author Robert Dugoni.

Sam Hill always saw the world through different eyes. Born with red pupils, he was called “Devil Boy” by his classmates; “God’s will” is what his mother called his ocular albinism. Her words were of little comfort, but Sam persevered, buoyed by his mother’s devout faith, his father’s practical wisdom, and his two other misfit friends.

Sam believed it was God who sent Ernie Cantwell, the only African American kid in his class, to be the friend he so desperately needed. And that it was God’s idea for Mickie Kennedy to storm into Our Lady of Mercy like a tornado, uprooting every rule Sam had been taught about boys and girls.

Forty years later, Sam, a small-town eye doctor, is no longer certain anything was by design—especially not the tragedy that caused him to turn his back on his friends, his hometown, and the life he’d always known. Running from the pain, eyes closed, served little purpose. Now, as he looks back on his life, Sam embarks on a journey that will take him halfway around the world. This time, his eyes are wide open—bringing into clear view what changed him, defined him, and made him so afraid, until he can finally see what truly matters.

At its core, Sam Hill’s story is about how to deal with life’s many challenges. For Sam, this takes many forms: cashing in on his “prayer bank,” hiding his condition behind brown contact lenses, and eventually standing up to a bully, to name a few. What do you want your readers to take away from this novel about overcoming struggles and handling adversity?

Mainly, that we all have struggles, that we all face adversity, but that none of us is alone, and there will always be another day if we choose to find it. Too often, I think, we feel alone and we let our problems overwhelm us. We’re embarrassed to share them. We think it will reflect poorly on us as a whole, that people will shun us and treat us as different. Struggles and adversity are two things that bond us as human beings because they are universal. What we all need to accept is there are problems we can work to solve, and there are problems that our out of our control, like my brother being born with Down Syndrome. Those problems that are out of our control we have to accept and trust that they exist for a reason, whether we can see that reason or not.

You chose to tackle a difficult subject—religion—and paint it in many different lights. Madeline is the devout Catholic who looks to the Blessed Mother for intervention. Sister Beatrice should be the model Catholic but is wrestling her own demons. Mickey and Ernie reject, or at least ignore, their Catholic upbringing. And Sam falls somewhere in between: he questions his belief frequently, but always remembers his mother’s words that everything is “God’s will.” Is there any underlying message about faith you wanted to convey through your characters?

Religion is complicated. Organized religion is something that is perpetuated by men and women and those men and women are fallible. Faith is not religion. Religion is tangible, with its sacraments and its rituals and its masses. Faith is intangible. You can’t touch it. You can’t prove there is or is not a God. You just have to believe or not believe.

During the writing of the novel I was searching for that one thread that would pull a reader through the story to the very end, and I found that thread as I drove my family to church. What does Sam Hill want more than anything else in the world? He wants what we all want. He wants to believe. He wants to believe there is a God, and that all his trials and tribulations have a purpose. He wants to believe that his life is pre-destined, that he will lead the extraordinary life his mother so steadfastly believes in. We all want that to some extent. Faith is also a gift. Some of us receive it from parents or spouses, some from friends, and some directly from God. Some never receive that gift, but live extraordinary lives just the same. I’ve always said that if I had to choose between faith and religion, I’d choose faith.


One of the most common topics in the media lately has been race relations in America, and much of that coverage hearkens back to the Civil Right Movement of the 1960s, the same time period in which the first half of The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell is set. You of course address this at various points in the book, as Sam’s friendship with Ernie unfolds due to him being the only African American student in school. And yet, this is not a story solely or primarily concerned with race. Did you think about the race relation issue when you were writing about Ernie and his friendship with Sam?

I did. What I wanted to show was that Ernie was not black to Sam. Ernie was just Ernie, a kid who wanted to be Sam’s friend. Sam looked past the color of Ernie’s skin and Ernie looked past the color of Sam’s eyes to see the beautiful person within. That is what made them so close, because there were no pretenses or pre-conceived notions of the other. They were just two little boys looking for someone to be their friend and they found each other.

At the same time, race cannot be ignored, just as the color of Sam’s eyes cannot be ignored. It is prevalent throughout the United States, and especially back then. So I wanted to create scenes to let the reader know and understand the very real struggles Ernie faced on a daily basis, despite the willingness of some to accept him because of his athletic ability, and later because of his business acumen. I’ve had African American roommates and friends who told me that racism does not disappear simply because a person is a good athlete or a good student. Others are just more adept at hiding it to get what they want out of that person.

This novel falls into an entirely separate genre from your Tracy Crosswhite and David Sloane books, which are all thrillers. What did you most enjoy about writing in a different style of fiction? Did you have any particular challenges in writing this novel that you haven’t faced in your others?

This was the novel I always wanted to write, a story of the heart. I didn’t try to change anything I’ve learned that is crucial to the success of all novels. Readers want to read about great characters doing extraordinary things. Sometimes those novels are thrillers, mysteries, Westerns, or romances. I read, and I enjoy all kinds of books if those books allow me to become a part of the story, to step into the shoes of the character and feel what that character is feeling. I loved being able to write Sam in first person, and I loved finding out how everyone else revolved around him and his life. The challenge for me was not to overwrite the book in narrative, to show and not tell, so that the reader could completely immerse him or herself in the story.

What’s next for you?

The sixth book in the Tracy Crosswhite series is coming in June 2018. A Steep Price is also a very personal story for Tracy and the detectives that are a part of the Violent Crimes Section’s A-Team. It touches on difficult issues of arranged marriages, breast cancer, and seeking justice for those innocent victims of crime.

I’m also working on a novel loosely based upon two true stories. Charles Jenkins, the ex-CIA agent from the David Sloane series finds himself drawn back into the agency and sent to Russia to hunt down an elusive spy responsible for the deaths of several double agents. Instead he finds himself running for his life and desperately trying to escape—only to return to the United States and be put on trial for treason. It’s one of those books in which the reader can never be certain about anything.


Very exciting! Where can you be found on the web?


It was a pleasure to be able to get to know you better today, Robert! 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 The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell—woohoo! To enter, all you have to do is tell me:
What is extraordinary or unique about your life?
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. Robert and I really want to hear your thoughts! :)

What's extraordinary about my life is how I was born into and raised in two separate cultures, and that has shaped my ability to be open-minded and conscientious as an adult.

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the tour publicist—a huge thank you to the lovely folks over at Little Bird Publicity!
Giveaway ends May 8th at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to continental US residents only—sorry, everyone else! Please check my sidebar 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, April 18, 2018

Interview with Robyn Carr, Author of The Family Gathering + Giveaway (US only)

I'd like to welcome Robyn Carr to the blog today to celebrate the exciting release of the 3rd installment of the Sullivan's Crossing series, The Family Gathering from MIRA, a Harlequin imprint!

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

Will you please share a brief introduction with us?

Robyn Carr was a young mother of two in the mid-1970s when she started writing fiction, an Air Force wife, educated as a nurse, whose husband’s frequent assignment changes made it difficult for her to work in her profession. Little did the aspiring novelist know then, as she wrote with babies on her lap, that she would become one of the world’s most popular authors of romance and women’s fiction, that 11 of her novels would earn the #1 berth on the New York Times bestselling books list.

Robyn and her now-retired husband enjoy traveling, often taking research trips together. Their children are grown—her son is an Army surgeon; her daughter, a police detective/hostage negotiator. Robyn says that, in addition to reading her novels and making snide remarks about how she’s used family scenarios to her advantage, they have made her a happy grandmother.

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

An exceptional storyteller, #1 New York Times bestselling author Robyn Carr beautifully captures the emotionally charged, complex dynamics that come with being part of any family. Readers will laugh and shed a few tears as they discover what it means to be loved, supported and accepted by the people who mean the most.

Having left the military, Dakota Jones is at a crossroads in his life. With his elder brother and youngest sister happily settled in Sullivan’s Crossing, he shows up hoping to clear his head before moving on to his next adventure. But, like every visitor to the Crossing, he’s immediately drawn to the down-to-earth people and the seemingly simple way of life.

Dakota is unprepared for how quickly things get complicated. As a newcomer, he is on everyone’s radar—especially the single women in town. While he enjoys the attention at first, he’s really only attracted to the one woman who isn’t interested. And spending quality time with his siblings is eye-opening. As he gets to know them, he also gets to know himself and what he truly wants.

When all the Jones siblings gather for a family wedding, the four adults are drawn together for the first time in a way they never were as children. As they struggle to accept each other, warts and all, the true nature and strength of their bond is tested. But all of them come to realize that your family are the people who see you for who you really are and love you anyway. And for Dakota, that truth allows him to find the home and family he’s always wanted.

When the book opens, Dakota has been keeping his distance from his family for a number of years, both because he’s been serving in the military and also because of his wandering, lone wolf nature. What is it that ultimately makes him want to reconnect with his siblings and settle down a bit?

He hasn’t had a lot of time for visiting, obviously, and he didn’t rely on his family, though he cared about his siblings and stayed in touch, but once he got out of the Army he decided to visit his brother and sister since they were both in the same Colorado town. He could immediately see they had built stable, functional lives for themselves, a long way from the way they all grew up. They had formed solid relationships. The people they associated with her also stable and functional. It seemed like a good idea to stay a few months to see if he could find stability and happiness of his own so he gets a job. No sooner does the idea form than he meets Sidney Shandon, a bartender in her brother’s pub, and he is immediately taken with her. Besides being pretty, he recognizes her intelligence, humor and independent nature. She is adamant that she won’t date which might even add to the intrigue.

Can you tell us a little about the title of the book? What does it mean for Dakota, and what can readers expect from this particular family gathering?

The Jones siblings are members of a fractured family, having gone their separate ways and built their individual lives as best they can, going off in different directions. Now, with Dakota’s arrival, three of the four of them live in the same town and they begin to get to know each other for the first time in years. They’re very different from the kids who grew up in a converted school bus on their grandmother’s farm. Twenty years later they’ve all changed and they’ve each had to make peace with their childhood traumas. And in getting to know each other as adults, they begin to accept and respect each other, warts and all. Dakota had never counted on his family, they had never counted on him, but all that is about to change.

Sullivan’s Crossing is such a special setting for this series—what’s your favorite part of writing about this town, and do you discover new things about it with each new book?

Colorado really has it all—quaint small towns like Timberlake, the fictional town nearest Sullivan’s Crossing, big cities like Denver and Colorado Springs, chi-chi expensive skiing towns, lots of cattle land and the majestic Rockies. I’ve been building the town since the first book and new people and businesses keep popping up, new stories and characters to explore. In The Family Gathering we meet the amazing Sidney Shandon and her brother who owns the pub where she tends bar. The wildlife is amazing – elk everywhere, sometimes crowding the streets! It’s a wonderful place for outdoorsy types to hike and camp—the beauty of the mountains holds dangers, giving the place that edge of excitement. I can’t wait to see who I meet next. Would you have expected a stalker in Timberlake or Sullivan’s Crossing? Anything can happen!

One of our favorite new characters in this book is Sidney, the wildly intelligent Sullivan’s Crossing bartender who catches Dakota’s eye. What can you tell readers about her character?

Ah, Sid. She’s a PhD in quantum physics, but she doesn’t share that with the good folks of Timberlake. After a crushing divorce, she needs time to be Just Sid, someone who can have ordinary friends, do a regular job, get strong again. So, she has been living with her brother Rob, the single father of two teenage boys. He owns the pub where she tends bar, where most of the patrons know each other, where all the first responders like to stop for dinner. She has taken a break from the UCLA computer lab to massage her personality and form friendships; she has, as a bartender, developed a wicked quick wit. And she doesn’t have any interest in dating. Another relationship or, God Forbid, marriage is just too risky. The way her 7 year marriage ended just about killed her. And she’s very happy living with her nephews, working with her brother. Of course this refusal to date makes her all that much more desirable to Dakota. Did I mention Dakota is hot? Getting a date has never been a problem... till Sid.

By the way, Sid has these stunning though secret credentials and Dakota’s job? He’s driving a garbage truck for the county. They are both, in their private ways, so defiant. I love that.

You’ve penned over 40 novels—many of them debuting at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list!—throughout your impressive career. Where do you get your ideas, and what helps to keep you feeling inspired after all these years?

If you’re focused and always thinking about the story, ideas miraculously come. At least once in every book I think I’ve finally tapped out, that I have no ideas left. Two hours or two days later, I know what to do. I think working everyday generates that. I demand a lot of myself, I work hard, but my writing is my companion—I’d be so lost without it. It’s my best friend and confidant, it’s more than a job or pastime. It’s where I live out my dreams and fears and hopes for the world. I have a chance to create the kind of world I’d like to live in, where people are good to each other and angry and evil people are rejected.

I am inspired because I want to be inspirational. And I learned a long time ago to never underestimate the power of gratitude. When I find myself becoming cynical or ungrateful I write about people who, no matter how stiff and difficult the obstacles, forge ahead. I get to create characters who deserve happiness. Their journey is never easy but so worth the battle. Can you think of a better job? I can’t.


What’s next for you?

I’m at work on the 4th Sullivan’s Crossing novel right now and let me tell you, there are some lovely surprises in store for my readers. There is so much love being negotiated that it seems as if Cupid shot an arrow right into Sullivan’s Crossing. The central characters are two that were just introduced in The Family Gathering but all your favorite characters—California, Maggie, Sierra, Connie, and Sully of course—will be back, all up in each other’s business as ever. We don’t have a title yet but it will be released in January 2019. Then in the spring of 2019 another stand alone women’s fiction, also untitled.

Very exciting! Where can you be found on the web?


It was a pleasure to be able to get to know you better today, Robyn! 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 The Family Gathering—woohoo! To enter, all you have to do is tell me:
When is the last time you had a large family gathering? How did it go?
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. Robyn and I really want to hear your thoughts! :)

Over the winter, I went on a trip to Vietnam with my entire mom's side of the family (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins). It was extremely fun!

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the tour publicist—a huge thank you to the lovely folks over at Little Bird Publicity!
Giveaway ends May 2nd at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to continental US residents only—sorry, everyone else! Please check my sidebar 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!