Monday, November 6, 2023

ALL WE COULD STILL HAVE, by author DIANE BARNES (out 11/7!)

In their attempts to have a child, a husband and wife must contend with personal desires, crossed boundaries, and broken trust as they reimagine what it truly means to be a family.

Nikki and Kyle Sebastian have a loving and healthy marriage. It’s only missing one thing they want—children. When the couple is diagnosed with “unexplained infertility” and endures several failed rounds of IVF, Kyle, for both their sakes, is unwilling to bury them deeper in emotional and financial debt.

Desperate to have a baby, Nikki betrays Kyle’s trust in an attempt to try IVF one more time. The choice fractures their once-stable union. Now burdened with suspicion, resentment, and further grief, their little family is falling apart.

Picking up the pieces of their broken home means reassessing their dreams for the future—dreams that Nikki’s not ready to give up. If she can’t find a way to forge a new path forward with Kyle, she may find herself alone at the end of the family tree she longs to help grow.


Reviews ~

All We Could Still Have is a deeply moving story about having no control over the thing you desire most and discovering a different way of looking at that desire along the way. Diane Barnes masterfully weaves through darkness to discover light and takes the reader on a beautiful journey with a host of compelling characters that feel like they could be any one of us.” —Suzanne Redfearn, #1 Amazon bestselling author of In an Instant

“In All We Could Still Have, Diane Barnes deftly navigates soul-achingly difficult issues and betrayals of the heart with such honesty and care that you just know—at each anticipated turn of the page—her story will leave you with the most redemptive emotion of them all: hope.” —Alli Frank and Asha Youmans, authors of Never Meant to Meet You and Tiny Imperfections

“Diane Barnes is a masterful storyteller, unafraid to lay bare the needs and desires of her characters. All We Could Still Have is the poignant story of one woman’s yearnings that lead her down a path of deceit from which she barely recovers, only for her to be thrust into an agonizing position where all her choices are heartbreaking. Or so they seem. Readers will fall in love with All We Could Still Have from the very first page.” —Barbara Conrey, USA Today bestselling author of Nowhere Near Goodbye

“With wry precision, Diane Barnes tackles what it’s like to be in a good marriage stretched to its very limits by desire, betrayal, and the definition of family. All We Could Still Have begs the question: Does deep struggle always signal a red flag to the end? Or, is it the very foils of being human that turn a good marriage into a great one? I read this book in one night, holding my breath until the very last line.” —Ann Garvin, USA Today bestselling author of I Thought You Said This Would Work

All We Could Still Have by Diane Barnes manages to be both heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. An emotional family drama, this story will leave you thinking about the ways we hurt the ones we love most and the power of forgiveness—for others and ourselves. Put this book on your TBR list!” —Alison Hammer, author of Little Pieces of Me

Author interview with Diane ~

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

I started writing in second grade. We came in from recess one day, and there was a trail of big paper footprints through the classroom. The path went under chairs, over desks, and eventually out the window. The teacher gave us a composition book and asked us to write a story about how we think the footprints got there. I filled the book and asked for another. When I went home that afternoon, I still wasn’t done with my story. The teacher gave me a stack of the composition books to take home. I filled them all, and I’ve never really stopped writing since that day.

What are some things you enjoy when not writing?

Like most writers, I love reading, especially on the beach or by a pool. More active things I enjoy are tennis and golf. The thing I enjoy most is spending time with family and friends, just catching up, having drinks or food, or going for walks.

Do you have a particular writing routine?

Write a sentence, check Twitter. Write another sentence, check Facebook. Write another sentence, check email. Just kidding, sort of!  I actually do my best writing in our camp in Maine because there is no cell signal or Internet connection there.

Is there anything major that changed in this novel from when you first plotted it out?

Yes, based on comments from beta readers, I felt I had to change my ending. I don’t want to give anything away, but if you read the book and want to know my original ending, email me (diane@dianembarnes.com) and I’ll tell you what it was. 

Finish this: “I can’t write without…”

A computer! I’ve tried to write in notebooks at the beach or in classes I take, but my handwriting is so bad that even I have trouble reading it sometimes.

If I had to spend a week on a deserted island, I would need…

My husband, dog, and chocolate

What career did you think you’d have as an adult? 

When I was young, I dreamed about writing for a soap opera, General Hospital or Days of Our Lives.

What is something about you that would surprise people?

When it comes to playing games, I am wickedly competitive. When my nieces and nephew were young, I would never let them just win, and my brother-in-law always got mad at me.

Do you have a ‘day job’ as well?

I do. I work as a Marketing Writer for a company in the health care industry. I’m lucky that the job allows me to do what I love: Write.

What was the original title of this book?

My working title was Life, Unplanned. 

Where do you get your ideas, or what inspired this book plot?

While I was working on my debut, I was lucky enough to attend a writing workshop taught by Elizabeth Berg. She gave each participant a customized writing prompt. Mine was about a woman who bought sexy lingerie and parades in front of her husband wearing it, but he ignores her. I thought about why that would happen and came up with an idea that the couple had been unable to conceive. When I read the scene, everyone in the workshop was laughing at the beginning. By the end, they were all crying.

That my writing evoked so much emotion gave me a big boost of confidence. I finished my debut and wrote two other novels before going back to that scene and turning it into a novel, All We Could Still Have. During revision, I had to cut that original scene from the book. It killed me to do so.

If I wasn’t an author, I might be…?

I really can’t imagine doing anything other than writing.

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

Two, my sister Susan and my friend Susan. As I’m writing, I always bounce ideas off my friend Julie, who is also a writer.

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

I had a fun type of challenge with All We Could Still Have. I sent this book to my agent in the late spring. We did a round of revisions and went on submission in early summer. I started working on my next novel and put that book out of my mind. I was on vacation in our camp in Maine that has no cell service or Internet connection. One day I was out in the boat and there are points in the lake where I get an unstable signal, and my agent called to tell me we had an offer, but then I lost the signal. I kept trying to call back but the call kept dropping. By the time I was able to get to a place with a reliable connection and talk to her, we had multiple offers. So, that was really exciting.

What are you working on now?

The working title of my next novel is Mary Mulligan Gets a Do-Over. It’s about a 54-year-old woman who dreams about being young again. She gets her wisdom teeth removed and wakes up from the procedure as a 24-year-old.  She soon realizes that her daughter doesn’t exist in this second version of her life so she wants to get back to her old life.

Do you have a favorite character?

I really love most of the characters in All We Could Still Have, Nikki, Dana, Aunt Izzie, Hank, Sharon, Elizabeth, Casey, and the dog! I have mixed feelings about Kyle. I do think the way Nikki changes throughout the story is really special.

In my novel Mixed Signals, I love Mr. O’Brien, and readers always mention him to me.

Do you have other books you’d like to talk about here? (The research, how you came up with the idea for your story, etc.)

Before I wrote All We Could Still Have, I published a novel named More Than with Red Adept Publishing. The idea for More Than came from a boot camp style exercise class I attended at my local gym. The story is about Peggy Moriarty, an overweight widow whose twin children leave for college. Before they go, they give Peggy a gift certificate for an exercise class at the gym. Peggy reluctantly attends. Though her body doesn’t change much in the class, her attitude toward life does.  It was a really fun book to write, and I’ve heard from so many readers that Peggy’s story has inspired them in their own journeys. So, I’m really proud of that book.

What would your dream job be if you didn’t write books? (assuming this is your dream job!)

Shortstop for the Boston Red Sox or a professional tennis player.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

A rejection is just one person’s opinion. Never give up. To be a writer, you need to keep your butt in the chair and your fingers on the keyboard, even when nothing is coming to you.

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

The best part is the people I have met along the way. The writing community is so supportive. There’s nothing like it.

Favorite band or music? 

I love country music, Luke Combs and Carly Pearce, especially. I also have an affection for music from the ‘80s.

Place you’d like to travel?

I’d love to visit Italy. It’s where my grandparents are from. Also, I’ve read a few books that take place in Positano, and they make me want to climb through the pages into the setting.

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

There are so many great books to read; thank you for choosing mine! If you have left a review for any of my novels, I’m sending an extra thanks. 


To connect with Diane ~


Twitter/Instagram: dianebarnes777









Thursday, November 2, 2023

THE WILD BETWEEN US, by author AMY HAGSTROM (out November 7th!)

The rescue of two missing boys in the Sierra Nevada mountains relies on unraveling the mysteries of the past in an addictive novel of heartrending suspense.

After inheriting his uncle’s lodge, Silas Matheson hopes the grandeur of the California Sierra Nevada will be a fresh start for his two young sons, and a chance to finally face his demons. It was here, fifteen years ago, that Silas and his friends Jessica, Danny, and Meg ventured into the mountain wilderness and Jessica vanished without a trace. When his boys go missing in the same dark woods, the fear and guilt that Silas has been running from ever since come crashing back.

Silas’s panicked call brings in the local search-and-rescue unit, and two familiar faces: Danny and Meg. As the frantic search gets underway, the three friends are plunged into a painfully recurring nightmare, each of them thinking, This can’t be happening again.

With a storm brewing and the boys’ fates threatened with every desperate hour, the secrets of the past begin to surface, and this time, for Silas, Danny, and Meg, there’s no escaping the truth.   

Reviews ~

The Wild Between Us shows how a suspense novel should be written. The tension ramps up with every scene, starting with the call out through to the shocking resolution. With the authentic description of the search and rescue mission, and the beautifully realized characters and scenery, Amy Hagstrom has created a story that all readers of suspense will relish, an achievement all the more remarkable given it’s by a debut author.” —Authorlink

The Wild Between Us is an unputdownable novel full of heart-stopping suspense and emotions. I couldn’t read fast enough and was blown away by this stellar debut.” —Lyn Liao Butler, Amazon bestselling author of Someone Else’s Life

“If the tragedy that defined your life threatens to repeat, is it a moment of reckoning or redemption? That question drives this gripping dual-timeline story set in the Sierra Nevada. As rescuers race to find two missing boys, the mission reunites key players in an unsolved disappearance from fifteen years earlier. Packed with secrets, guilt, and regret, I loved every heart-pounding moment with Silas, Meg, and Danny. The Wild Between Us is a phenomenal debut!” —Barbara Claypole White, bestselling author of The Perfect Son and The Promise Between Us

The Wild Between Us is a taut, engrossing story about searching for lost people and lost love…Part thriller and part tender love story, this novel will find resonance with a wide array of readers.” —Nicole Baart, bestselling author of Everything We Didn’t Say and The Long Way Back

“Revolving between two search and rescue missions fifteen years apart in the Marble Lake wilderness, like two points of gravitational pull, The Wild Between Us explores the depths of guilt, secrets, and the unbearable weight of time in the face of tragedy. This immersive thriller had me riveted from the first page. Do not miss Amy Hagstrom’s exceptional debut!” —Mindy Mejia, bestselling author of Everything You Want Me to Be and To Catch a Storm

Author interview with Amy ~

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


Like so many authors, I have loved writing for as long as I can remember. It has always been the way I made sense of my world and my feelings and place in it, and I have journals going back to 2nd grade. I graduated college with a creative writing degree but went into journalism and then travel writing for over a decade. Fiction always called to me, however, and I always dabbled in it during the busy years of raising my kids and traveling for work.


Do you have a particular writing routine? 


I work full-time remotely as well, so I tend to divide my day into two parts: the morning is for my 'day job' and afternoons are for writing fiction. I tend to block out a couple hours a day when I am drafting, but once I'm in revision or editing mode, I find it most productive to immerse myself more completely until the task is done. When I go into 'editing mode', I can put in 12-hour writing days. It's probably not healthy, but it works for me.


What is something about you that would surprise people? 


Sometimes it surprises people to know I currently live full-time in a little town called Ajijic in Jalisco, Mexico. My wife and I both work remotely, and I have a background in travel writing and have always wanted to live abroad. This part of Mexico is a good fit because it is close to a major airport and easy to get back into the States to see grown kids, and parents, and take care of work obligations. Mexican culture is warm, friendly, welcoming, and beautifully paced, and we feel right at home here.


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


So. Many. Challenges! I began the first draft of THE WILD BETWEEN US in 2008. 2008! It was certainly not ready to query at that time, so I workshopped it, and rewrote it several more times before querying it without luck. I put it in the proverbial drawer and went on to write two more novels. One of these felt ready to query, so I dove back into the trenches. I queried almost 100 agents before gaining representation. Then my agent and I went on submission with this and one other novel for two years without luck. I dusted off WILD and gave it another round of edits, and got my first contract three years after getting my agent and 12 years after penning the first draft. 


Where do you get your ideas, or what inspired this book plot? 


Every manuscript I write starts with a sense of place. Before I meet my characters, before I even sketch out a rudimentary plot, I somehow know where I need to be, drawn to a map dot with what feels like magnetic pull. Once I know the ‘where’, the what, who, when, and why tend to trail reliably after. For THE WILD BETWEEN US in particular, I knew I wanted to pay homage to the place I grew up, the Sierra Nevada mountains of Northern California. This place is in my bones, and when I began drafting this novel, I was missing it terribly. It was cathartic to write about these mountains at that time. The plot was inspired by an experience I had as a teenager, when a friend decided to play an ill-advised prank of another friend in the woods. Everything ended up just fine, but later I wondered: what if it hadn't?


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


Yes, quite a bit of it, in fact. In addition to being intimately familiar with the setting of the book, I was also very familiar with Search and Rescue operations. I went back to school for my EMT license when my children were very small, and worked for my county's Search and Rescue organization afterward. I didn't know at the time that my experiences there would inform my writing, but I tapped back into that time as I began to draft my debut. I think the process of learning all the protocols of SAR and being a 'ground pounder' during those years when I had small children at home impacted me greatly. I participated in searches for kids during that time, and I volunteered as a speaker in elementary schools, teaching kids what to do if they got lost in the wilderness.


Finish this sentence: “If I could write about anything, it would be…?” 


As a part of the LGBTQ writing community, I feel strongly about writing queer characters and centering them in my books. I have written two novels with gay protagonists, one of which landed me my agent, but as to date, we have not been able to sell these novels. It is definitely my dream to do so.


Do you have any advice for aspiring writers? 


I mean, we've all heard this before, but stick with it. You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take, and all that. Persistence is sometimes the only thing in a writer's favor! I must have heard 'it's just not right for our list at this time' more times than I can count, on three different novels! There are so many factors out of the writer's control, and while you are waiting to find that agent or land that deal, just keep writing.


What are you working on now? 


I am excited to say that I have signed the contract for my second novel, currently titled SMOKE SEASON. Set during wildfire season in rural Oregon about two women dealing with secrets riskier than the currently raging fire, SMOKE SEASON is close to my heart as a 20-year resident of Southern Oregon. It is scheduled to publish in late 2024.


To connect with Amy ~


Website: amyhagstrom.com 

Instagram: @amyhagstromwrites 








Tuesday, October 24, 2023

WHAT WILD WOMEN DO, by author KARMA BROWN

An aspiring contemporary screenwriter, a 1970s socialite-turned-feminist, and the camp in the woods that ties their stories together forever, in #1 internationally bestselling author Karma Brown’s new novel about ambition, betrayal, and the wildness that exists in all of us.

Rowan is stuck. Her dream of becoming a Hollywood screenwriter is stalled, and so she and her novelist fiancĂ©, Seth, retreat to an isolated cabin in the Adirondacks to hopefully get out of their creative ruts. There, Rowan finds herself drawn into a mysterious and unsettling story—that of socialite-turned-feminist-crusader Eddie Callaway, who vanished in these same woods the summer of 1975 and was never heard from again. A handbook found in the abandoned ruins of the Callaway camp gives Rowan glimpses into who Eddie was, and then a fateful discovery offers clues about what might have happened to her. Soon, Rowan finds herself with a story potentially more shocking than Eddie’s notes about sun salutations and pineapple upside-down cake would indicate.

As Rowan learns more about the enigmatic Eddie, who got a second chance at life after a profound loss, she discovers the camp leader’s greatest wish: to help other women unlock their true, though long-repressed, “wildness.” However, Eddie’s methods and wild ways weren’t welcomed by all, and rifts between the camp owners threatened her mission, perhaps perilously. As Rowan draws closer to the truth of Eddie’s unsolved disappearance, she realizes that the past may hold two keys: one that reveals what really happened to Eddie Callaway, and another that unlocks a future beyond her wildest imagination.

Reviews ~


"Karma Brown keeps delivering knockout after knockout. She is an auto-buy author for me!" —Taylor Jenkins Reid

“Brown cleverly converges the two storylines…and the descriptions of the natural beauty and peace of the forest will have readers longing for an escape of their own. Readers who enjoy dual-time-period novels featuring strong women characters will be delighted.”
Booklist

“A story of self-discovery in a gorgeously-drawn setting, 
What Wild Women Do isn’t afraid to confront the bold choices women must make sometimes, and its dual-timeline heroines are both perfectly suited for the job. Karma Brown’s latest is a heartfelt exploration into the importance of honesty, legacy, and being true to one’s self.”
—Shelby Van Pelt, New York Times bestselling author of Remarkably Bright Creatures


"
What Wild Women Do is a total joy to read—it’s mysterious, atmospheric and pacey, with heaps of heart and soul. Rowan and Eddie are two women to root for, each on their own soul-searching journey of independence and a reckoning with their past. An uplifting celebration of women, and the courage it takes to find one’s true self."
—Ashley Audrain, New York Times bestselling author of The Push

“Brown’s latest is a remarkable story of two complicated women, almost fifty years apart, trying to make a mark in a world that often demeans and trivializes their dreams. Set in the lush Adirondack forest, the story addresses feminism, friendship, and the creative spirit, and is guaranteed to keep readers guessing until the very end. A terrific read.”
—Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author of 
The Spectacular

Author interview with Karma ~


What is something about you that would surprise people?

For those who don’t know me well, probably that I’m an introvert. I like to say I’m an “extroverted introvert,” which means I can be outgoing and relaxed in front of large groups, or at social gatherings. But my energy comes from being alone, or enjoying the company of a couple close friends. I really excel at being a hermit!

Where do you get your ideas, or what inspired this book plot?

I am lucky in that I never seem to struggle with book ideas, though that doesn’t mean every idea works out. For WHAT WILD WOMEN DO, it was Rowan’s story (the modern day protagonist) that landed first, but the book also had a very different plot at the time. I went through many iterations of this plot, and it wasn’t until I settled on the Adirondacks and the great camp as a setting, based on my childhood visits to a similar camp, that Eddie’s story revealed itself. Finding the heart of the novel (which was always going to be about women finding independence, and self-discovery) was a journey and a half, but it was worth it in the end.

Do you have a manuscript(s) in your drawer? If so, will it ever see the light of day?


I actually have two completed manuscripts in a drawer, along with a half-dozen, multi-page synopses for other book ideas, and maybe one or two partial books? As for seeing the light of day, I don’t suspect any of these will. However, each one was critical in getting the nine books I have published now on the shelf. Every attempt is good practice.

 

If I wasn’t an author, I might be…?


In an alternate universe I would be a zoo veterinarian. Or maybe a pastry chef, working in Paris. My protagonist of my work-in-progress is an art conservator, and it’s a fascinating career I knew nothing about…so that might be something I would choose to explore, if I was career hopping. I’m endlessly curious, in case that wasn’t obvious!


Do you have a particular writing routine?

I’ve been writing in the early-morning hours (think 5 a.m. early) for about a decade, and it’s a solid habit now. I also use rigorous synopses and character outlines before I start writing a story, and am a die-hard Scrivener (writing software program) fan. Everything else varies, depending on story context and life happenings. With WHAT WILD WOMEN DO I wrote one entire timeline and POV before shifting to the other. I’ve never done that before, and wouldn’t set out to do it again, but it’s what made sense for this book.

Finish this: “I can’t write without…”        

Coffee. Because I write early in the morning, this is non-negotiable.

 

What is a bestselling book you’ve been itching to read?


One book I can’t wait to read is SHARK HEART, by Emily Habeck. I’m a sucker for a good allegory, and the concept for this one (a woman’s husband slowly transforms into a great white shark) sold me.

 

Do you have a favorite character?


Eddie Callaway, my 1975, 50-year-old socialite-turned-feminist protagonist, is probably my favorite character. I turned 50 around the time I was editing the book, and Eddie became a beacon for me as I navigated some of the challenging parts of being an aging woman. Plus, she was fun to write! There’s something special about crafting a woman who is firmly anchored in who she is, and w

 

Finish this sentence: “If I could write about anything, it would be…?”


I’m obsessed with the idea of writing a haunted house story. One day…

 

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?


I’m always hesitant to give advice, because what works for one writer may not work for another. However, the “you can’t edit a blank page” advice is worth taking, meaning you need to get your butt in the seat and get the words on the page. The only job of a messy, terrible first draft is for it to exist. That’s it. Everything else can be fixed later.

 

Favorite book and/or movie?


One of my favorite books is THE STEPFORD WIVES by Ira Levin. I’ve probably read it a dozen times, and am on the hunt for an original 1972 edition that I can add to my bookshelf.

 

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


Thank you for reading books! Not only mine, but all books, in all genres. It warms my author’s heart (and my reader’s heart, too). 


To connect with Karma ~

















Friday, October 6, 2023

THE BLUE IRIS, by author RACHEL STONE (debuted October 3rd!)

Sometimes, uprooting the thorn-filled past is the only way we bloom. 

Tessa Lewis is set to embark on a Big-Time Career and marry Toronto's fastest-rising lawyer, who loves her to pieces. But when a visit to a flower market from her childhood sparks memories of the mother she lost too soon, Tessa puts her bright future on hold to work there, determined to come to terms with her past.

At the Blue Iris Flower Market, everything is blossoming except the rag-tag crew, each hiding deep scars of their own. When Sam, the beloved but troubled man in charge, takes off and leaves the market reeling, Tessa and her unlikely new friends come face-to-face with their most uncomfortable truths, uprooting lives carefully cultivated-and just maybe, unearthing everything they've ever wanted.

Told from multiple perspectives, The Blue Iris is an intricately woven exploration of love tested beyond its limits, chosen family, and the beauty that grows in letting go. 

Reviews

"A story of found family, impossible romances, and the ghosts of the past, The Blue Iris is a riveting page-turner as stunning as the blooms that fill the shop at the heart of the book. Haunted and haunting, it keeps you guessing even as you cheer for Tessa and the broken but irresistible makeshift family she builds for herself. A story of growing up and deciding who you really are, it's an unforgettable tale of roots in more ways than one."-Grace O'Connell, Author of Be Ready for the Lightning

"Riveting, soul-searching, and full of heart. . . . A spectacularly told story. . . . Told in multiple characters' voices, the narrative is riveting, with shocking surprises unraveling at a steady pace. The plot's top-grade tension grows taut as Tessa works herself up to take the hard decision. Readers won't want to put this down." -
The Prairies Book Review

"A gorgeous novel-Stone brilliantly captures the power of optimism, the allure of memory. Readers will fall in love with the Blue Iris Flower Market and the vibrant cast of characters they meet there."-
Stacy Bierlein, Author of A Vacation on the Island of Ex-Boyfriends

"In 
The Blue Iris, Rachel Stone shines as a gifted wordsmith. Her narrative is like walking through a lush garden; our senses explode with the beauty in her vivid descriptions. With each chapter, her rich cast of characters take root, grow, and evolve, Tessa most of all. Hers is a difficult journey-to ground herself in truth, she must peel away the facade that has sustained her. Tessa learns a lesson important to each of us: when we let go of dying things, it frees us to hold fast to that which nurtures us. The Blue Iris is an engaging, unique novel of love and chosen family-the best kind." -Carla Damron, Author of The Orchid Tattoo

Author interview with Rachel ~

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

The Blue Iris was born from a personal crisis. A rare benign orbital tumour, successfully removed years ago, resurfaced out of the blue (at less than one percent odds). Suddenly my writing dream felt very now-or-never. 

I put my corporate career on hold and enrolled in creative writing classes, thinking if nothing else it would distract from the “what ifs.” I planned to work on a collection of essays, maybe some poetry—a  novel was nowhere on the horizon! But writing fiction was magic. It was like hypnosis. I kept at it every day and night; I never wanted to work on anything else.

Months later, I learned the tumour had stabilized--in fact, it appeared to be shrinking. The Blue Iris stopped feeling like a decision; no matter how many rewrites, revisions or queries it took, I was never turning my back on the thing that had given me so much.

Is there anything major that changed in this novel from when you first plotted it out?

Oh, just, you know, minor things like . . . an entire main arc and the climax scene!

My developmental editor flagged that neither were working at all. I remember feeling completely defeated; deep down, I knew she was right, but tackling it seemed impossible.

Someone told me not to attempt any changes right away, but to give it a few days--ideally a week. That advice was GOLD. Sure enough, the longer I sat with it, the more time I spent walking outside, the clearer the path through the changes became.

What was the original title of this book?


The Blue Iris had THREE titles before this one! Originally, it was called All Ways Will, because the book revolved mainly around Tessa and Will’s arc. As rewrites progressed, the secondary characters grew more central, so it no longer fit.

Then it was Deeply Rooted Lies, because everyone is carrying their own stubborn secrets, then Deeply Rooted Goodbyes, because the characters learn to let go of their past traumas. I liked both, but they didn’t match the book’s tone (which is much more uplifting than either suggests).

When I stood back, I realized that as the drafts had evolved, the flower market became the piece tying everything together. It was the heartbeat of the whole thing. Aha moment! The Blue Iris was the obvious choice, and it’s the sort of title that takes on new layers as the story progresses, too, which I always enjoy as a reader.

 

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting this book published?


That road was so bumpy, I’m not sure those bruises will ever heal!

It was a six-year process from start to finish. I queried it over 150 times (an estimate, because I’d stopped counting after 100), pausing in between to rework and reassess.

The pitch and opening chapter were the biggest problems, I knew that. But I’d revised both to death, and for the life of me, couldn’t figure out how to fix them. I just kept making them worse! I reached a point where I felt good about the rest, but of course, it didn’t matter; if those first pages aren’t on point, you’ve lost your chance. Nobody is reading past them.

At the urging of my writer friends, I ended up workshopping both the pitch and the opening chapter through the WFWA, which allowed me to test out different versions with a broad set of fresh eyes. Finally, I was able to break out of the revision rut! Next time out with the submission package, I had much more traction.

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 wouldn’t start each editing pass at the beginning--you lose more and more objectivity each time!

 

I wouldn’t spend so much time on line edits and polishing (for me, the most fun part) until I was sure the bones were solid--a ton of well-polished scenes ended up being slashed and cut!

 

Above all, I’d put myself out there earlier with fellow writers. I’m very shy at first, and I had this idea that writing should be a solitary venture, anyway. Just me and the page. But that got really lonely after awhile, and I was second-guessing myself in circles. Finding my tribe of writers changed everything–I learned from them, listened to their stories and discovered that everything I’d been experiencing was a normal part of the journey, and that was immensely encouraging.

 

Starting out, I didn’t know just how much I didn’t yet know; I’d have saved years of time and energy had I made those connections sooner. The people of the WFWA were so willing to share their insights and lessons learned, and so encouraging at every step. It brings me great satisfaction now when I can do the same. I always tell writers, find your people! No, seriously, do it now! Yes, writing is a solo activity, and putting yourself out there when you’re new at it is SO scary. But we’ve all been there, and it’s infinitely easier (and a lot more fun) when we’re all in it together.

 

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?


Be obsessed with your characters and ruthless about doing them justice. Obsessed and ruthless carry this negative connotation, but in this context they shouldn’t. The road to publication is so arduous, the revisions and rejections so exhaustive, that I really do believe some degree of both are necessary to keep at it. 

Be in love with your book, because you’re going to spend WAY more time inside of it than you can possibly imagine. Write the story that keeps you up at night and kicks you out of bed in the morning. The one you cannot get out of your head no matter how hard you try.

Then, keep doing whatever it takes–whether that’s restructuring the whole thing, or rewriting an arc or a character (or five!). Life will tell you there are more worthy priorities. The world will tell you to move on, and try something else. But when you’re in love with your book and obsessed with its characters, you’ll find that ruthlessness you need to see it through. And once you’re in that headspace, there’s just no way you won’t get there eventually.

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