Wednesday, November 10, 2021

WHAT WE CARRY, by author KALYN FOGARTY

**The Kindle copy is on sale for $1.99 this month. Grab your copy now!

Fans of Caroline Leavitt will relish this rich, complex novel born of the author's own loss and grief, about how one can overcome tragedy through bravery and self-discovery.

Cassidy Morgan's life has always followed a carefully laid track: top education, fulfilling career, and marriage to the love of her life, Owen. The next logical step was starting a family. But when a late-term miscarriage threatens to derail everything she's worked so hard for, she finds herself questioning her identity, particularly what it means to be a mother. Unable to move past her guilt and shame, she realizes there's more to fix than a broken heart. Grief illuminates the weaknesses in her marriage and forces her to deal with her tumultuous relationship with her own mother.

Cassidy hopes her work as a veterinarian specializing in equine reproduction will distract her from the pain but instead finds that one of the cases she's working on shines a spotlight on the memory of her unborn son. For once in her life, Cassidy is left untethered and wondering why she wanted to become a mother in the first place. 

Then the unexpected happens when Cassidy becomes pregnant again. But the joy over her baby is tempered by her fear of another loss as well as her increasingly troubled marriage. Now, she must decide whether to let her pain hold her back or trust that there's still something to live for.
 
What We Carry is a thought-provoking response to the author's own miscarriage and lack of fiction surrounding the topic, that she and other women in her situation crave.

Praise for What We Carry:

“Layers of insightful, beautifully rendered prose and absorbing monologues shine a light through a multi-faceted prism of loss and grief that ultimately reflects the hopeful beauty of learning how to start over.”
Shelf Awareness

"Heartbreakingly honest and wonderfully emotional, What We Carry is a poignant and heartfelt novel of learning--and loving--through loss, filled with characters you long to root for."
—Kate Hewitt, USA Today bestselling author of When You Were Mine

“In a tender story about one woman’s anguished choices in her determination to become a mother, Kalyn Fogarty takes an unsparing look at the raw courage it sometimes requires to do those things most people take for granted. Fogarty understands human nature and the ways in which compassion for another species — in this case, horses — can teach us the truest understanding of ourselves.”
—Jacquelyn Mitchard, author The Deep End of the Ocean

"What We Carry takes readers on a journey from to the depths of despair and back again in a moving tribute to motherhood. The family dynamics between Cassidy, Claire, and Joan are gripping. Their story of functional dysfunction will keep you turning pages to find out what happens next."
—Jennifer Bardsley, author of Sweet Bliss

"Few losses are as shattering as the death of a child, but when that loss occurs as a miscarriage, parents often find themselves isolated in their grief. This fresh, unflinchingly honest story depicts the chronic ache of grief, the challenge of self-forgiveness, and ultimately, the achievement of a new sense of balance. With fully drawn characters that will live in your heart long after the last page, this moving portrait is not to be missed."
—Rebecca Hodge, author of Wildland

Some Q & A with Kalyn ~

Tell us a little about yourself and how you started writing.

I’m an author and professional horseback rider and instructor. I began writing at a very young age- mostly books about ponies!- but have evolved over the years to writing Women’s Fiction. I am also trying my hand at a YA series.

What are some things you enjoy when not writing?

I am an avid reader. I love Women’s fiction, psychological thrillers and anything by Stephen King. I ride horses for a living and enjoy anything horse-related.

How do you start your day (a routine of sorts?)

When I am in the middle of drafting, I like to write from 4:30-6:30. This is the only time of the day that is quiet in my house. My two kids (3 year old and 15 months old) wake up around seven and from then until bed time I’m full speed.

Finish this: “I can’t write without…”

Coffee and my notebooks.

What did you think you’d be when you became an adult?

A horse trainer or veterinarian. Although, I always secretly wanted to be an author.

What is something about you that people would surprise people?

I am am introvert by nature, but my job and life are very extroverted.

Do you have a ‘day job’ as well?

Own my own horseback riding instruction business.

Is there a particular author or book that influenced or inspired your writing or decision to write?

I love Jodi Picoult’s style and ability to take very important- and often controversial- topics and show all the different sides and facets of that topic.

If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you’d change?

I pitched to agents and small presses simultaneously. I actually heard back from the small presses first and ended up going with one of my top choices. However, after signing the contract I was contacted by a few dream agents. But since I already got the deal, they asked me to send my next project to them. I wish I had waited a few extra months to get the agent first!

How do you market your work?

Social media, especially Instagram. 

What are you working on now?

Novel 2, a women’s fiction story about an unlikely friendship between a young mother experiencing postpartum depression and a septuagenarian widow. I am also in the early stages of a Young Adult series- think Oregon Trail meets Jumanji and Outlander.

Is anything in your book based on real-life experiences?

The inciting incident of WHAT WE CARRY is a late-term miscarriage. It is loosely based off my own experience of miscarrying my first pregnancy at 17 weeks in 2017.

Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?

I love the parts of the novel where the main character is describing her equine patients. It was really fun to combine my two passions- horses and writing.

What would your job of choice be if you didn’t write books?

My day job is my other dream job, so I’m very lucky!

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Write truthfully. Readers are very perceptive and can tell when the writing is coming from a place of honesty. I think this resonates the strongest.

What are the downfalls of your writing career? The best parts?

The self-promotion and marketing are tough, but I love the writing and research. I especially love the revision process.

Favorite band or music? 

Anything country. I love Tim McGraw.

Place you’d like to travel?

Safari in Africa, road trip through the Rockies, and adventures in Costa Rica are all high up on my list.

Kalyn's social media links:


Website is kalynfogarty.com





Wednesday, November 3, 2021

THE WAY WE WEREN'T, by author PHOEBE FOX

This debuts November 9th, and is an Amazon pick for November! 

An unlikely friendship between a septuagenarian and a younger woman becomes a story of broken trust, lost love, and the unexpected blooming of hope against the longest odds.

"You trying to kill yourself, or are you just stupid?"
 
Marcie Malone didn't think she was either, but when she drives from Georgia to the southwestern shore of Florida without a plan and wakes up in a stranger's home, she doesn't seem to know anymore. Despondent and heartbroken over an unexpected loss and the man she thought she could count on, Marcie leaves him behind, along with her job and her whole life, and finds she has nowhere to go.
 
Herman Flint has seen just about everything in his seventy years living in a fading, blue-collar Florida town, but the body collapsed on the beach outside his window is something new. The woman is clearly in some kind of trouble and Flint wants no part of it—he's learned to live on his own just fine, without the hassle of worrying about others. But against his better judgment he takes Marcie in and lets her stay until she's on her feet on the condition she keeps out of his way.
 
As the unlikely pair slowly copes with the damage life has wrought, Marcie and Flint have to decide whether to face up to the past they’ve each been running from, and find a way to move forward with the people they care about most.

Reviews ~

"A story of the reassessment of the lives of two unlikely strangers who meet--an old man and a young woman--who together discover that the place in life they have chosen for themselves does not bring the fulfillment they had worked to have.  An insightful and compelling read of the courage to change horses in midstream to reach the shore of new beginnings.”—Leila Meacham, New York Times bestselling author of Dragonfly

"Phoebe Fox simply keeps getting better. Her latest The Way We Weren’t is so deeply satisfying on every level that it will continue to resonate with you long after you turn the page on one of the most exquisitely perfect endings you are likely to encounter in some time. As finely wrought as all of Fox’s characters are, special mention must be made of how fully and lovingly  she brings the Gulf Coast of Florida to life. The Way We Weren’t  is exactly the beach-trip-in-a-book that you are yearning to dive into right now.  An achingly artful portrayal of love lost and love reclaimed."—Sarah Bird, author of Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen

"Fox’s sharp storytelling will endear Marcie and Herman to readers, and a solid support cast (especially bar owner Darla) adds some heft. It’s a simple story, but the author gets it just right."—Publishers Weekly

Some Q & A with Phoebe ~

What did you think you’d be when you became an adult? 

I’ve always written, from the time I learned how to write, but I didn’t think it was something you could make a living at until I became a features journalist and entertainment reviewer, in my thirties.

When I was younger I thought I’d be a psychologist. Later I wanted to be--and was, for many years--an actor. The connective tissue of those careers—what I realize I really wanted to do all along—was figure out why people did what they do, to tell their stories.

What is something about you that people would surprise people? 

I’m six feet tall! Especially in the era of Zoom and social media I always forget that’s unusual for a woman (especially living in Texas) until I meet people in person, and invariably the first thing out of their mouths is: “You’re so tall!”

Do you have a ‘day job’ as well? 

I’ve been a book editor for the last thirty years, and I think I’m the luckiest person on the planet to do what I love most for a living. Now I don’t just get to tell my own stories--I’ve gotten to help thousands of authors tell theirs too.

Where do you get your ideas? 

Almost always it’s inspired by something in my life that suggests some “nut” I want to crack—something I’m trying to work through or figure out for myself.

For my first book, The Breakup Doctor, I’d had a very out-of-character reaction to a guy I’d been dating suddenly ghosting me after a very ardent courtship. I am usually cool as a cucumber in situations like that (my friends called me the breakup ninja), but this time I catastrophized it. I wanted to write about what happens when someone who advises people about moving past their breakups falls apart after a bad one of her own.

(BTW, that guy is now my husband, and he would like everyone to know that he did not in fact disappear, but went to a “no phones/no internet” yoga retreat for a week, which he’d told me about in advance, and called me from the airport en route both to and from the place.)

For my last book, A Little Bit of Grace, I wondered how you could forgive the unforgivable with someone you loved. For The Way We Weren’t, I wanted to explore what might happen in a relationship after a foundational breach that seems insurmountable. I seem to write a lot about family and forgiveness, in various permutations.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published (or this book?)

Yes, please--authors, take note! I got my agent after 113 queries. With my first submitted manuscript we got a full round of publisher rejections on it, followed by another full round of rejections on a second manuscript. I did a major overhaul of the first manuscript (reworking and rewriting all but one scene), and we finally found a publisher for it, which turned into a four-book series.

Then I pulled my fifth book from the publisher before publication, worrying my writing career was over—till my wonderful agent Courtney Miller-Callihan submitted it elsewhere and we got a two-book deal with Berkley/PRH, a dream publisher for me.

Everything in this crazy career is a challenge. Know that going in and understand what an author friend of mine was kind enough to share with me early in my career: What separates published authors from unpublished ones often comes down to persistence.

What are you working on now?

Last May I released a book for authors on how to edit their own work, Intuitive Editing (under the name Tiffany Yates Martin), based on my thirty years working as an editor in the publishing industry. I’m currently working on the first of a series of follow-up books for it that dive deeper into specific areas of craft.

Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?

In The Way We Weren’t there’s a party scene, and things get…well, a little wild. Now, I’m the farthest thing from a cool, hip party chick, so I had to call a good friend of mine who is much more savvy about such things and have her talk me through an Ecstasy trip. I have no idea if it’s true to life, but if it’s as much fun to actually do it as it was to write about it, I get the appeal. 😊

Do you have a favorite character?

In the Way We Weren’t, Darla, the beef jerky of a woman who owns the run-down beach bar where Marcie winds up working, just kills me in every scene. I would love to meet her.

What would your job of choice be if you didn’t write books? 

I’m doing it--I love helping authors bring their vision to life on the page as an editor.

Favorite book and/or movie? 

Please, please put this interview down and go watch I Love You, Man right this minute. You can thank me later.

Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans? 

Just thanks, with all my heart. Readers are the reason we do this—to share our stories, and they don’t come fully to life until they’re in readers’ hands.

And thank you, Jill, for inviting me to share some of my writing life with your readers!

Author bio:

Phoebe Fox, a former journalist and actor, is the author of A Little Bit of Grace; the Breakup Doctor series; and—as Tiffany Yates Martin—of the bestselling nonfiction Intuitive Editing: A Creative and Practical Guide for Revising Your Writing. Her most recent novel, The Way We Weren’t, releases November 9 from Berkley/PRH. Visit her at https://phoebefoxauthor.com.

To connect with Phoebe: 

www.phoebefoxauthor.com

https://www.facebook.com/PhoebeFoxAuthor

Insta/Twitter: @phoebefoxauthor







Tuesday, October 5, 2021

THE KEEPER OF HAPPY ENDINGS, by author BARBARA DAVIS

This book released on October 1st and is already a best-seller! Make sure to pick up a copy of this must-read! 

An enchanting novel about fate, second chances, and hope, lost and found, by the Amazon Charts bestselling author of The Last of the Moon Girls.

Soline Roussel is well schooled in the business of happy endings. For generations her family has kept an exclusive bridal salon in Paris, where magic is worked with needle and thread. It’s said that the bride who wears a Roussel gown is guaranteed a lifetime of joy. But devastating losses during World War II leave Soline’s world and heart in ruins and her faith in love shaken. She boxes up her memories, stowing them away, along with her broken dreams, determined to forget.

Decades later, while coping with her own tragic loss, aspiring gallery owner Rory Grant leases Soline’s old property and discovers a box containing letters and a vintage wedding dress, never worn. When Rory returns the mementos, an unlikely friendship develops, and eerie parallels in Rory’s and Soline’s lives begin to surface. It’s clear that they were destined to meet—and that Rory may hold the key to righting a forty-year wrong and opening the door to shared healing and, perhaps, a little magic.


Reviews ~

“Historically sound with a thread of supernatural intrigue, this exploration of shared experiences, learned adaptations, and the power of trust is a book that fans of Catherine Ryan Hyde, Erica Bauermeister, and Lucinda Riley will fall in love with.” Booklist

“Davis’s tale of love and loss, expertly woven around the lives of two women who have nothing—and yet everything—in common, inspires hope that our own happy endings might be biding their time, ready to show up when and where we least expect them. The Keeper of Happy Endings is a perfect blending of romance and mystery with a sprinkling of magic—heartwarming and satisfying. Don’t miss it!” —Kerry Anne King, bestselling author of Whisper Me This and Everything You Are

“Like a wedding dress lovingly crafted, The Keeper of Happy Endings is stitched through with secrets, romance, and mystery sure to enchant…and leave readers believing in the magic of second chances.” —Christine Nolfi, bestselling author of The Passing Storm

Q & A with Barbara ~

Tell us a little about yourself and how you started writing.

I’ve been writing all my life in some form or other, though I didn’t pursue writing as a career until about ten years ago, when I was laid off from my corporate job in the jewelry business. I’d been sitting on an idea for a novel for about four years, and when I found myself out of work my husband urged me not to get another job, to stay home and chase my dream of being a women’s fiction author. It was a scary decision, for a lot of reasons, but with his support, I wrote The Secrets She Carried and was blessed to find a wonderful agent who sold it to Penguin a few weeks later. It’s been like a dream, and as I work on my eight book, it still feels that way.

What are some things you enjoy when not writing?

I love to cook and to travel with my hubby, Tom. We’re both foodies and love trying new restaurants and local wineries. I’m also a HUGE college football fan, (Go Gators!) so in the fall my Saturdays are spent in front of the television, where I have sole control of the remote until the last game ends around midnight!

How do you start your day (a routine of sorts?)

I have a process I call “Bringing the Joy” that I run through every morning before I start to write. I decide what “My Three” are for the day: the three areas where my focus will yield the best results. Then I decide how I want to FEEL while engaging in “My Three.” (ie: focused, empowered, energized, on purpose) Next, I mentally run through what might derail me during the day, (ie: interruptions, stress, distraction) and come up with proactive strategies to cope with or avoid the derailments. Last, but not least, I come up with three things to feel excited about or grateful for, and let them fill me up as I begin to work. 

The whole process takes about ten minutes, and I find that focusing on how I want to FEEL and how I can stay “on purpose” makes an enormous difference in my level of clarity and joy throughout the day.

Finish this: “I can’t write without…”

Coffee. (dark roast w/hazelnut creamer)

Where do you get your ideas?

I wish I knew! As a rule, I don’t hunt for ideas. They just seem to find me, often nearly fully formed, and always when I’m not expecting them. It’s always a rush when an idea shows up like that. One minute it isn’t there, the next minute it is. I never know when it’s going to happen, but when it does I grab a pen and a notebook and just pour it all out onto as many pages as I can fill. 

The idea for my first novel was triggered by an oddly placed gravestone on the side of the road. Moon Girls came to me while I was driving and listening to a song called Water’s Edge. When Never Comes showed up while I was cleaning the toilet. Whoosh! I had the whole thing all at once. It still feels a little overwhelming when it happens, but I’m always grateful when it does.

Is there a particular author or book that influenced or inspired your writing or decision to write?

As far back as I can remember, I’ve loved books and wanted to write, but in middle school I absolutely fell in love with To Kill a Mockingbird and it turned up the creative flame. I wanted to be able to do what Harper Lee had done to me, to set a reader down in a stranger’s shoes and make them feel all those emotions way down in their own bones. And to do it with such beautiful, lyrical language. I still read To Kill a Mockingbird every few years—or any time I feel my prose is getting flat or stale. It always flips that switch for me.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on something kind of fun and different. It’s about a woman named Ashlyn who owns a rare bookstore and has the ability to hold a book in her hands and feel the echoes of it’s previous owner’s emotions while they were reading it. One day she stumbles onto a beautifully bound book dated 1940, but there’s no author name or copyright page. The book is entirely anonymous, but the minute Ashlyn touches it she registers an almost palpable sense of betrayal. 

The book reads like an angry letter from a jilted lover to the woman who broke his heart—a woman named Belle. Ashlyn tries to research the book’s history, but there’s no record of it ever being published. It’s as if the book doesn’t really existed. The plot thickens when a second book turns up, apparently written by Belle herself, as a rebuttal to the first. When read together, the books read like a bitter lover’s quarrel, portraying very different versions of the same events. Convinced the lovers actually existed forty years ago, Ashlyn embarks on a mission to discover their identities and learn once and for all which version of the doomed affair is true.

Do you have a favorite character?

My favorite characters, in my own books as well as those by other authors, are always those who have endured the most adversity, so I’d have to say Soline is my favorite. She has lost so much and buried so many dreams. Yet she comes through it all with such wisdom, grace, and empathy. Like most of us, she has scars, but she’s had to learn to live with them, and even move beyond them, and eventually uses her own understanding of grief to help others.

What was some unique research you had to do for a book?

I loved learning about The American Hospital in Paris, which was located directly across the street from Nazi headquarters and remained open throughout the war because letting the American Hospital treat wounded Allied servicemen allowed the Nazis to conserve their own valuable resources. During the occupation, the hospital’s Chief Surgeon, Sumner Jackson, was actually instrumental in smuggling wounded servicemen to safety, and was eventually arrested for collaborating with the resistance. He died while in Nazi custody.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Here are my Big Five: 1) Read good books by good authors. Study them: how their scenes work, how their dialogue works, how they pace their action. 2) Read books on craft. Learn about novel structure, dialogue, scene pacing, character arc. You really do need to know all that stuff. 3) Write every day. Real writers don’t wait for inspiration. They show up to the page every day, and create their own inspiration. 4) Get feedback on your work. Not your mom or your BFF. Real feedback, as in a writing group or a critique partner. Then be willing to listen and act on what you hear. 5) Keep Writing. No matter what, just keep writing. It’s the only way to get good.  

What are the downfalls of your writing career? The best parts?

The biggest downfall for me is that it’s such a sedentary job. You’re basically sitting on your butt eight hours a day, and the inertia that develops during all those sedentary hours can eventually lead to some unpleasant health issues if you don’t counter it with regularly scheduled movement. The upside is absolutely the people I’ve gotten to meet along the way. Book lovers make great friends because you never ever run out of things to talk about!

Favorite band or music? 

I grew up in performing arts and was the front girl for an 80’s cover band for several years, so I have pretty broad taste when it comes to music. I love anything I can belt out at the top of my lungs. (Adele, Benetar, Streisand) and adore old school R&B (Gap Band, Midnight Star, Earth Wind & Fire) But if I had to chose one band to listen to for the rest of my life I’d have to go with Depech Mode.  

Favorite book and/or movie?

Books: To Kill a Mockingbird, Jane Eyre, Outlander

Movies: Schindler’s List, Now Voyager, The Lion in Winter

Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans?

Yes! I want them to know how much I value each and every one of them. Our lives are so crowded these days, with so many things vying for our attention every day, that I’m honored and grateful that they would chose to spend a slice of that busy life with one of my books. Thank you for reading, sharing, and reviewing. You’re why I do what I do, and why I love what I do every single day. 

To connect with Barbara:

www.barbaradavis-author.com

Barbara Davis, best-selling author of women’s fiction

The Keeper of Happy Endings
The Last of the Moon Girls
When Never Comes
Love, Alice
Summer at Hideaway Key
The Wishing Tide
The Secrets She Carried





Wednesday, August 11, 2021

WAYWARD GIRLS, by authors CLAIRE MATTURRO and PENNY KOEPSEL

The e-book is on sale now for a limited time!

When late-night phone calls summon Jude Coleridge and Camille Prescott back to the Talbot Hall School for Girls, painful memories bombard them. Though estranged for years, both bear the physical and emotional scars from their youth.

At the boarding school, they were branded “the crazy girls, the ones who lie” and became unlikely best friends. They soon formed a trio with a new student, Wanda Ann, who pulled them into her bewildering relationship with the school psychologist, Dr. Hedstrom. But Wanda Ann’s wild stories masked a truth that threatened to engulf them all.

As teens, the girls could only rely on each other as they moved toward an unfathomable, fiery danger. Now, in the crumbling halls of Talbot, hours before the building’s demolition, they must grant forgiveness, to themselves and others, if they are to move forward.

Reviews ~

"Wayward Girls is a story for the times we live in now. As women of all ages demand equality and fair treatment, the shadow of the past looms larger than ever and must never be forgotten. It's a compelling read with characters who stay with the reader long after the book is finished." ~Carolyn Haines is the USA Today and multi-award-winning bestselling author of over 80 novels. 
 
"Wayward Girls" is a portrait of brave sisterhood, infused with beauty and exquisite pain. Your heart will melt with every turn of the page." ~Laura Benedict, Edgar-nominated author of the Bliss House novels and The Stranger Inside.
 
"Wayward Girls delivers suspense, emotional depth, social commentary, and a gripping story. Grab a copy, a box of tissues, and the phone number of your oldest friend, because you're going to want to talk about this one after you turn the last page. It's a terrific book." ~Mary Anna Evans, award-winning author of the Faye Longchamp archaeological mysteries, and assistant professor of creative writing at University of Oklahoma.
 
"Emotionally-charged and skillfully written, Wayward Girls is a poignant and heartrending story about trauma, its lifelong hold on one's psyche, and the need for self-forgiveness." ~Kelly Stone Gamble, US Today Best-Selling author.


Q & A with Claire & Penny ~

Q: Let’s see, you and co-author Penny Koepsel have a new book coming out, Wayward Girls (Red Adept Publishing 2021). Please tell us a little about the book, and how it came to be.

CLAIRE: Wayward Girls is a blend of women’s fiction/suspense and psychological thriller in which two women return to the site of their old boarding school on the eve of its demolition and relive the trauma of what happened to them as students there. It is inspired by a true story of tragic events that took place in a Texas wilderness school in the seventies, but our book is 100 percent fiction. Penny and I both attended the same Florida boarding school but different years, so we never met as students. However, when alumna began to connect for a reunion, an English teacher we both adored recommended that we meet each other, and so we started emailing. Once we were at the actual reunion, everyone was telling stories and we decided to write a book.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself and how you started writing.

CLAIRE: I spent many happy childhood hours on the porch listening to my kith and kin tell stories. This infused me with a love of storytelling, which translated into reading books and then writing books. I started writing short stories and poems in high school, studied creative and nonfiction writing in college, and have gone from there.

PENNY: I began writing short stories in elementary school.  They were typically immature love stories about unrequited love or loss.  I still have one, typed in brown ink from my father’s office.  Occasionally, I accompanied him to his office on weekends.  It was always so much fun.  I sat at his secretary’s desk and used her typewriter to write short stories while he sat in his office and worked.

Q: What are some things you enjoy when not writing?

CLAIRE: Gardening, walking in nature, photography (especially of nature).

PENNY: I have several passions other than writing that include rescuing and fostering animals, working in my garden, and my career as a school psychologist.  My two dogs I rescued, could never find a home for them and cannot imagine life without them.  They give me so much love and companionship.  Working in my garden affords me peace, time to think, and experience gratitude for my blessings in life as I sit outside at night, sip a glass of wine and enjoy the beauty. 

Q: What is something about you that people would surprise people?

CLAIRE: For twenty years I lived in a homemade house in the woods in Georgia in an intentional community of environmentally conscious folks who wanted to get back to the land. Not, you understand just in the country, but in the deep, deep woods. UPS would not deliver to our house. My husband Bill and his friends built the house by themselves. Happiest years of my life.

PENNY: That I used to work for a railroad company; I started out as a stenographer, but later became weary of office jobs and applied for a job as a freight inspector and a foreman in the shops. I was told I could not apply as I was a woman. I replied that I had the seniority and they had to let me apply.  I applied, got the positions, and had to learn how to drive fork lifts, open box car doors, inspect damaged freight and box cars, drive a truck, and be assigned some of the worst areas to travel to such as the docks, refineries, warehouses.  My last position there was a janitor working from 4:00 PM to 1:30 AM so I could do my undergraduate in English and Psychology during the day. 

Q: Do you have a ‘day job’ as well?

 

CLAIRE: Not at the moment, though I have been a newspaper reporter, a lawyer, a college teacher and an organic blueberry farmer.

 

PENNY: Yes. Working as a school psychologist, making even the tiniest difference in the lives of children, their families, and ultimately society is so fulfilling.  It can be extremely sad and frustrating at times, but helping to make the difference in one child is huge.  I retired a few years ago, but contract back with a school District part-time.  I love it.  It made my gazillion years of college, internships, research, and dissertation writing worth it. 

 

Q: Where do you get your ideas?

 

CLAIRE: From my own varied experiences, from reading newspapers, stories my friends and family tell, and my imagination.

 

PENNY: I think most of them stem from something I experienced in life be it first or second hand.  Perhaps something I learned about from the news, or from someone else.  I was a shy, quiet, and reflective child and spent time paying attention to others. I have always reflected on my experiences, my feelings and emotions and tactile sensations.

 

Q: Do you have a go-to first reader after you feel your manuscript is ready?

 

CLAIRE: Yes, Mike Lehner, who has been my friend since high school. I trust him to be honest.

 

PENNY: Kate Birdsall with Red Adept Publishing did our line editing and was a joy with which to work. 

 

Q: Is there a particular author or book that influenced or inspired your writing or decision to write?

 

CLAIRE: Barry Hannah and Thomas Rabbitt, who were my creative writing professors in grad school, were both a tremendous influence, albeit in different ways.

 

PENNY: As a child, books like Little Women, Bobbsey Twins, Hardy Boys, Shirley Temple books.  I could envision the characters, their feelings and emotions. Lying on the hearth in front of the fireplace as a child, being catapulted to another time and place was memorable.  I learned that books were friends that could take one on an adventure to a different time and place. 

 

Later in life, I discovered Jefferson Bass.  Jefferson Bass is the writing team of Dr. Bill Bass and Mr. Jon Jefferson. Their “Body Farm” series is a poignant example of being a voice for those who cannot share their story. Jefferson Bass masterfully unravels and delicately re-weaves what the victims could not do. The first book of theirs that I read made such a lasting impression, and they have been role models for me as I strive to be a voice for those less fortunate in both my writing and my profession.


Q: Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published (or this book?)

 

CLAIRE: I had tried and failed for three years to get an agent for a couple of serious legal thriller manuscripts when an agent said my stories should be “more fun.” He rejected the manuscript but gave me that great advice, which I took to heart and wrote a funny legal thriller about an eccentric woman attorney. Even before I finished it, I entered the first chapters in a legal fiction contest in which a HarperCollins vice president was involved. Those chapters won first place and led to a four-book run with HarperCollins. Thus, my first book, Skinny-dipping (2004) was the result of listening to good advice and winning a contest—and three years of steady rejections. 

 

PENNY: OMG – don’t know if we have enough time in this blog (LOL). It was time-consuming, discouraging at times, exciting at other times, eye-opening, sobering, and amazing.  We have an amazing agent, Liza Fleissig with Liza Royce Agency.  She supported and encouraged us throughout the entire process, during those times we were so confident, and again during those times when we were discouraged and ready to throw in that proverbial towel.  We also have an amazing publisher, Lynn McNamee.  We could not be where we are today without either one of these phenomenal women. Thank you both so much.

 

Q: What are you working on now?

 

CLAIRE: These days I am working on another book with some of the same characters that appear in The Smuggler’s Daughter (Red Adept Publishing 2020).

 

PENNY: Marketing Wayward Girls. Thinking about brushing off a manuscript I began working on a few years ago and trying to breathe new life into it. 

 

Q: Is anything in your book or books based on real-life experiences?

 

CLAIRE: Oh, yes. As I had been a practicing attorney in Florida for years, I naturally used some of my own real-life experiences in writing my legal thrillers. The Smuggler’s Daughters is loosely inspired by the infamous (in its time) sinkhole murders in Florida.


PENNY: Wayward Girls is a work of fiction, but some of the events were loosely based on actual events experienced by children and adolescents at private schools, wilderness schools, boot camps and other facilities after being sent there by parents, guardians, or the courts.

Two years after graduating from the private school in Florida, I read a local newspaper article about the death of a female student in a Texas wilderness school. A school psychologist was originally accused of the murder, and there are documented accounts of the death and subsequent legal proceedings.  I communicate with a former student who attended the same school when the student died.  She shared some of the horrors they experienced. I visited the isolated area where the school was located, walked around the area, closed my eyes, and felt the hair raise on the nape of my neck as I imagined the horror the students felt. 

Claire and I both attended the same private girl’s school, though a few years apart and never met.  We were blessed to have had an English professor, Jesse Mercer.  Jesse lit the flame of creativity in me, encouraged me, and was such a source of support for me. When I graduated from the school, I lost contact with Jesse for decades.  However, I never forgot him and thanked him in the acknowledgements section of my PhD dissertation. I was able to locate and contact him in 2004.  We remained in contact for a few years. I sent him a copy of my dissertation with his acknowledgement and he sent me copies of books he wrote. We remained in close contact on a regular basis via email, phone calls, and cards until he passed away several years later. He encouraged me to contact Claire, told me she was an author, graduated a few years after I did, and that he thought we would enjoy meeting each other and had a great deal in common. 

I contacted her, and we did have a lot in common.  We became friends over the internet and phone calls.  A multi-year reunion was being scheduled the next year and I flew to Florida and Claire and I drove to the reunion together. Sometime over the reunion weekend, we decided to write a book about a murder of a student by a school psychologist, at an exclusive girl’s school, the rest is history and breathed life into Wayward Girls.

 

Q: Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?

 

CLAIRE: There is a scene in Wayward Girls where Jude, one of the main characters, has a panic attack after some shattered glass triggers a PTSD flashback when she is breaking into her old boarding school’s building. Her dog, Carson, a Rhodesian ridgeback, who is based completely upon a friend’s dog (also named Carson), rescues her. The strong connection between Jude and Carson is one of my favorite scenes in any of my books. The very real Carson, and his person, Sally, and I went through a serious hurricane together a few years ago. I can attest to Carson’s steady, calming nature.

PENNY: There were several.  However, sharing them might be a spoiler and I do not want to do that.  I also have scenes that were extremely important, yet difficult for me to write and to read.  Again, no spoilers here either. 

Q: Do you have a favorite character? 

CLAIRE: Jude in Wayward Girls. Maybe Carson is a tie with Jude for favorite character.


PENNY: Probably Camille because I can relate to her.  She was shy, analytic (to a fault at times), athletic, a tomboy and a dare devil. She was involved in school activities both academic and athletic and dreamed of being a writer someday. 

Q: What would your job of choice be if you didn’t write books?

CLAIRE: Book review critic for a newspaper. 

PENNY: Exactly what I am doing now – providing psychological services to children. 

Q: What was the most unique research you had to do for a book? 

CLAIRE: I do extensive research on all my books, which is how I have come to know about forensics, weapons, specific real-life murders like the sinkhole murders, drug smuggling, phosphate mines, and a lot of esoterica. Perhaps my most unique—or certainly the most troubling—research involved what became a full-scale obsession with researching crimes against teenagers which take place in wilderness and other boarding schools targeted toward disciplining “wayward kids.” It’s horrific and such abuses continue to make headlines even today. During the research phrase of Wayward Girls, Penny and I both read trial transcripts, government documents, books, newspapers and other media, and spoke with people who had been students at the wilderness school in Texas. It was exhausting emotionally. 

PENNY: That would have to be all my research and my dissertation “Recidivism in a Short-Term Crisis Stabilization Facility.” I worked for a community mental health agency and was “on call” one night a week and one weekend a month to respond to psychiatric crises in hospitals. We also rotated from our on call/crisis intake and screening position to our day treatment facility and provided group therapy, individual counseling, relaxation therapy and whatever else was needed.  I became aware of the recidivism of certain clients/patients and their mental health disorders. That was my hypothesis for my research and dissertation and the most unique, long term and challenging research.

Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

CLAIRE: Read. Read. Read. Join a critique group. Take writing classes, online or in person. Consider journalism classes which will teach you to get to the heart of the story in a hurry. Persevere.

PENNY: Don’t give up.  It is okay to set aside your writing at times, but pick it back up again. Do not expect your book to automatically be published the first time.  If it is, you are lucky. When it is critiqued and edited, do not be insulted.  Keep trying, especially if it is your passion.  Have a mentor who can help you, be your sounding board, your cheerleader, your counselor, and your voice of reason. 


Q: What are the downfalls of your writing career? The best parts?

 

CLAIRE: The best parts—meeting people. I have met so many wonderful writers and readers who have enriched my life. Downfalls include carpel tunnel and back aches from hours at a computer. 

PENNY: I like beginning with positives so I’ll first mention the best parts.  Writing is truly my passion. I feel inspired to write and afterward enjoy reading the fruits of my labor, albeit I am my own toughest critic.  My downfalls are just that – being my own toughest critic, being a bit obsessive compulsive at times.  I also vacillate between spending too much time at the computer vs. having to make myself get back and write again.  I spend hours on end sitting at the computer, reading, re-writing, sometimes doodling detailed designs on a piece of paper.  I need to work on time management and multi-tasking between being a wife, mother, providing psychological services, taking care of my fur babies, and pursuing my passion for writing.  Taking time for one’s self is important as well.  Meditation, self-reflection, relaxation, enjoying life and time with friends and family can easily be overlooked when trying to juggle too many plates in the air without a break. 

Q: Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans? 

CLAIRE: Thank you. And thank you again. 

PENNY: Thanks to all of you who followed us on Facebook, blogs, emails, and supported us during our long journey to publishing Wayward Girls. It was definitely a long journey, but the fruits of the labor were worth it. 

Q: If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you’d change?

For a new author of fiction, there was so much to learn.  Because I have no point of reference, I cannot answer this appropriately and defer to my co-author, Claire Matturro, who is better qualified to answer this.  With the exception of a couple of short stories and poetry, I have primarily been published in journals, and a PhD in Psychology dissertation. 

Q: How do you market your work?

PENNY: Since this is my first experience at marketing, my close friend and co-author, Claire Matturro has assisted me in “learning the marketing ropes.”

Q: Favorite band or music?   

PENNY: I can’t identify just one, but some of my favorites include:  Led Zeppelin, The Who, Yes, ZZ Top, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jefferson Airplane, Cream, Rolling Stones, The Eagles, Guess Who, The Beach Boys, Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple, Shawn Phillips, Shake Russell – I could go on and on and have probably overlooked some who have made an impression on me over the years. 

Q: Favorite book and/or movie?

PENNY: Elementary School: it would have been a close race between Nancy Drew, The Bobbsey Twins, and Little Women.

Middle and High School: Atlas Shrugged, Fahrenheit 451, To Kill a Mockingbird, Valley of the Dolls, The Hobbit, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Erle Stanley Gardner, Little Women (can’t name just one).

Later Years: I’ll mention those authors in whose books I read and was transported to another time or place and fueled my love of psychological thrillers and mysteries. Jefferson Bass as I mentioned above. These are not in any special order as I adore all of them.  Michael Connelly, James Patterson, Patricia Cornwell, Anne Rice, Dean Koontz, Jodi Picoult, Alex Michaelides, John Sanford, Johnathan Kellerman, George Orwell, Delia Owens, Stephen King, Gillian Flynn, Claire Matturro, All my Red Adept Publishing author family members.   I know I have inadvertently forgotten someone and I apologize immensely. 

Q: Place you’d like to travel?

PENNY: We lived on Maui for 3 years when I accepted a job with the Hawaii Department of Education as a school psychologist.  I loved living on Maui and have returned several times. The Aloha spirit remains forever.  My dream place to travel would be to Ireland, Scotland, England, and ferry over to France. My husband and I were going to fulfill this dream over the summer, but COVID-19 threw a wrench into our travel plans.

To connect with Claire and Penny:







Penny's social media:

Claire at boarding school (wearing white skirt):


Penny at boarding school (wearing shorts):