Monday, July 30, 2018

Interview with Beth Harbison, Author of Every Time You Go Away + Giveaway (US only)

I'd like to welcome Beth Harbison to the blog today to celebrate the exciting release of Every Time You Go Away from St. Martin's Press, a MacMillan imprint!

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

Will you please share a brief introduction with us?

Beth Harbison was born in the shadow of Washington, DC and grew up in the suburbs of that city. She began writing in 4th grade at St. Bartholomew's school, where she re-wrote the ending of Black Beauty, bringing all of the horses back to live in 64 handwritten pages. At that time it should have occurred to someone that she should be writing fiction or soap operas, but instead her first job was at Roy Rogers. 

After failing out of seventh grade, she was sent to a school for rotten kids in Potomac, Maryland, where she met some of her best friends and had experiences she has drawn on again and again in her work.

 Her publishing career began with cookbooks, then moved to Silhouette romance novels, before Jennifer Enderlin, of St. Martin's Press, plucked her out of obscurity and tapped her to write Shoe Addicts Anonymous, which put her on the New York Times bestseller list for the first time and has been optioned by Galgos Entertainment as a feature film starring Halle Berry. 

Today, Beth writes from her home in the DC suburbs, where she lives with her son, and her daughter, YA author Paige Harbison. 

She is still firmly against dead horses.

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

In New York Times bestselling author Beth Harbison's most emotional novel ever, a fractured family must come together at a beach house haunted by the past.

Willa has never fully recovered from the sudden death of her husband, Ben. She became an absent mother to her young son, Jamie, unable to comfort him while reeling from her own grief.

Now, years after Ben’s death, Willa finally decides to return to the beach house where he passed. It’s time to move on and put the Ocean City, Maryland house on the market.

When Willa arrives, the house is in worse shape than she could have imagined, and the memories of her time with Ben are overwhelming. They met at this house and she sees him around every corner. Literally. Ben’s ghost keeps reappearing, trying to start conversations with Willa. And she can’t help talking back.

To protect her sanity, Willa enlists Jamie, her best friend Kristin, and Kristin’s daughter Kelsey to join her for one last summer at the beach. As they explore their old haunts, buried feelings come to the surface, Jamie and Kelsey rekindle their childhood friendship, and Willa searches for the chance to finally say goodbye to her husband and to reconnect with her son.

Every Time You Go Away is a heartfelt, emotional story about healing a tragic loss, letting go, and coming together as a family.

As a huge fan of first lines, I’d love to hear the first line of Every Time You Go Away. Could you give us a brief commentary on it?

The first line is: “I can tell you exactly when I lost my will to live.”

Now that I think about it, that is a theme I really like to explore: not depression, per se, but the determination and path out of it. And so in this book, Willa lost her faith in ‘life being fair’ and her hope of ever finding happiness again when her husband died unexpectedly at 36. The book is about her finally coming to terms with that—with some help from the man himself—and moving forward before she has given up too much... too much time, too much life force, too many years.


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

It’s been a really long time now, but I began trying to write in earnest when Silhouette came out with a line called Silhouette Shadows. The PR for it cited many of the old gothic romances I had read and loved growing up; the very books that made me first think about becoming a writer. I wrote a ghost story called The House on Church Street. My opening won a Harlequin “Voices of Tomorrow... Today” contest, which was quite encouraging. Alas, that book did not get published but an editor liked my voice enough to encourage me to keep submitting, so I found myself trying to write a traditional series romance. For me, that was a challenge as I did not read them and thought I wasn’t interested in them. They turned out to be quite fun to write, though—they were like Hallmark romances, very fanciful and comforting.

Probably the most important thing I picked up along the way was to listen to editorial feedback, do what is suggested and RE-SUBMIT (assuming they’re open to it). It can be disheartening, but, as my sister said to me, “You haven’t failed unless you quit."


Are the characters from your book based off anyone you know in real life? If not/And, how much else of your actual life gets written into your fiction?  

Well, my husband did pass away unexpectedly, although at that point we had been separated for 10 months, but when I wrote about Willa’s memories of time and memories shared with her husband, and the horrible inability to ever truly reconcile things once someone has died, it was certainly based on feelings I’ve had myself. I guess I do that a lot in my books: any time a strong feeling is needed, I need to either be able to retrieve it or relate to it enough to really dive in and “feel” it when I’m writing.

I'm so sorry for your loss. The magic of writing is that you can continue your story through your fictional experiences on paper! Out of all the fantastic books out there, what makes Every Time You Go Away stand out from the rest?

Hopefully most books stand out from the rest, at least in some way. I’m not sure I’m objective enough to give much of an answer except for the bare facts: it’s about a literal ghost and how he helps his wife to move on.

Give aspiring writers a piece of advice you wish you had known before getting published.

It can be a long road with a lot of soul-crushing rejection along the way. I mean a LOT. I’d say to listen to editorial feedback, do your best to hear it and either follow instruction or - if you don’t like the suggestions—find a workaround. Try, try again. And don’t just give up and settle for a sub-par vanity publisher; work with a publisher who believes in you and supports your work.

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

Don’t stay in ANY relationship that makes you feel more bad than good. The most obvious example would be a romantic relationship but it doesn’t stop there: if you have a friend who cuts you down, whatever their personal motivations, avoid them. If you’re on Facebook or Twitter or whatever and someone on your list is constantly posting things that make you uncomfortable or argumentative, mute them. Life is too short to feel the constant strife and conflict that seems, more and more, to define modern life. Our bodies and minds can’t take it—we weren’t built to handle negativity on such a grand scale as life affords us today. Relax!

Where can you be found on the web?


It was a pleasure to be able to get to know you better today, Beth! 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 Every Time You Go Awaywoohoo! To enter, all you have to do is tell me in the comments below:
If you could change one thing about your appearance, what would it be?
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. Beth and I really want to hear your thoughts! :)

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the publisher—a huge thank you to the lovely folks over at St. Martin's Press!
Giveaway ends August 13th 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!