Sunday, January 29, 2023

THE SWEET SPOT, by author AMY POEPPEL (out January 31st!)

In the heart of Greenwich Village, three women form an accidental sorority when a baby—belonging to exactly none of them—lands on their collective doorstep.

Lauren and her family—lucky bastards—have been granted the use of a spectacular brownstone, teeming with history and dizzyingly unattractive 70s wallpaper. Adding to the home’s bohemian, grungy splendor is the bar occupying the basement, a (mostly) beloved dive called The Sweet Spot. Within days of moving in, Lauren discovers that she has already made an enemy in the neighborhood by inadvertently sparking the divorce of a couple she has never actually met.

Melinda’s husband of thirty years has dumped her for a young celebrity entrepreneur named Felicity, and, to Melinda’s horror, the lovebirds are soon to become parents. In her incandescent rage, Melinda wreaks havoc wherever she can, including in Felicity’s Soho boutique, where she has a fit of epic proportions, which happens to be caught on film.​

Olivia—the industrious twenty-something behind the counter, who has big dreams and bigger debt—gets caught in the crossfire. In an effort to diffuse Melinda’s temper, Olivia has a tantrum of her own and gets unceremoniously canned, thanks to TikTok.

When Melinda’s ex follows his lover across the country, leaving their squalling baby behind, the three women rise to the occasion in order to forgive, to forget, to Ferberize, and to track down the wayward parents. But can their little village find a way toward the happily ever afters they all desire? Welcome to The Sweet Spot.


"Amy Poeppel brings her signature “big-hearted, charming” style to this wise and joyful novel that celebrates love, hate, and all of the glorious absurdity in between." The Washington Post

"With sly humor and sharp understanding, Amy Poeppel hits The Sweet Spot in this funny, twisty, goodhearted novel about families lost, found, and made." — Virginia Kantra, New York Times bestselling author of MEG & JO and BETH & AMY 

"Unabashedly warm-hearted and fun, THE SWEET SPOT serves up a fresh story about the chaos of family, flavored with classic components of the most entertaining dramedies: a charming New York setting, endearing core characters, and a hilarious supporting cast that often steals the show. Irresistible!" -- Mary Laura Philpott, author of BOMB SHELTER: LOVE, TIME, and OTHER EXPLOSIVES

"THE SWEET SPOT is an absolute delight. With its quirky characters, humor, and lovely writing, it is my favorite book of late. Amy Poeppel has the freshest, funniest voice around." -- Jane Green, New York Times bestselling author of SISTER STARDUST

Author interview with Amy ~

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

I guess you could say I’m a bit of a late-bloomer when it comes to writing. After doing a hundred other things with my life (from tutoring the Boston University ice hockey team to acting in plays to moving all over the country and raising three fabulous kids), I got this crazy idea to write a story about an unusual fact about my family: Although my grandparents were married to each other for over sixty years and seemed very much in love, they decided early in their marriage to design a house for themselves with separate his-and-her bedrooms. I was so puzzled by this arrangement as a kid, but never dared ask them about it. It was too personal! So I began to write a novel to invent an explanation for why a loving couple might choose to sleep in separate rooms for most of their marriage. 

While I had a great time writing that book—a quirky southern comedy about a sexless, geriatric couple—it was never published (surprise, surprise) and will never be published. But the good news is that writing that flawed book taught me a lot about how to (and how not to) structure a novel. It also taught me how to create believable characters and develop a workable narrative arc. As soon as I finished writing that book, I began the next one, which was published after I turned fifty. I’ve been writing ever since.

What are some things you enjoy when not writing?

I love to cook, take walks with my dog, go to movies and plays, spend time with my grown kids, travel with my husband, wander around museums, and read.

Do you have a particular writing routine?

No! And I wish I did. I’m what you might call a “binge writer” – meaning I spend a lot of time thinking and not writing … and then I write for long stretches and fail to do anything else (like walk the dog, shower, or sleep). I would like to have a better and healthier schedule that would allow time for writing, exercising, and doing things to relax. #goals

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

When I was writing The Sweet Spot, I made a huge mistake and told the entire story from the wrong character’s perspective. After the book was finished, I had to start all over again, changing the narration of the book from 1st person to 3rd person. Instead of telling the entire story from one (minor) character’s perspective, I rewrote it to give several characters a voice in close 3rd person. Starting over from scratch was so disheartening, but I’m very glad I did the rewrite. The story just didn’t work the way I initially wrote it.

I can’t write without …

… keeping my sense of humor. Also, I need my dog by my side, Scrivener (the software application), and a bag of Haribo gummy bears.

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

… a stack of books, bug spray, white wine, and a hammock.

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

As a kid, I always thought I would become a librarian. I loved going to my local public library as a kid, and I thought that would be the perfect job for me. But instead of becoming a librarian, I was a high school English teacher for many years, which was another great way to honor my love of books and reading.


If you have written more than one book, in which story would you choose to live?


I have two answers to that question! I would truly love to live in the fabulous Greenwich Village brownstone I made up for my characters in The Sweet Spot (although I’d hope to renovate it before I move in, lol). Or I’d be very happy living right by Central Park in the spacious Upper West Side penthouse that my fictional pop-star moves into while he performs on Broadway in my novel Limelight. BONUS: The condo in Limelight comes with a butler. J


How do you market your work?


Marketing is a challenge for many writers, and I’m no exception. I think the best strategy is to find what you’re most comfortable doing, whether it’s Instagram, TikTok, and/or newsletters, and lean into that. I found that one thing I like to do is to make funny, original book trailers. I write a script that is in some way related to my book, and then I go about filming it, thanks to my oldest son who is fabulous at editing videos. Readers can find my book trailers—for The Sweet Spot, Small Admissions and Musical Chairs—on my website and on YouTube. I hope these videos give readers a laugh and make them want to dive into my books.


What are you working on now?


I’m working on my fifth novel, tentatively titled Far Flung. It’s a story about two families—one in Texas and one in Germany—that swap homes for a year. I grew up in Dallas and spent a lot of time in Berlin, so I’m having fun writing scenes in these fabulous settings.


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


So many things! From my work in admissions to my love of Broadway theater to the shenanigans of my family, many of my life experiences become fictionalized and find their way into my books. The book trailer I made for Musical Chairs is about exactly that: how the elements of my life somehow end up on the page.


Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?


In Musical Chairs, I wrote a big family dinner party scene and introduced a new character named Jackie, an outsider who is seeing all of these characters for the first time. Jackie, a young woman in her twenties, is aghast at some of the things the family members do and say, and her inner monologue was so much fun to write. She notes that the family’s big dog helps himself to the cheese board, that the siblings fail to acknowledge their privilege, and that the adults go back and forth between completely ignoring her and putting her under the magnifying glass. I loved the chance to bring Jackie’s special perspective to the story.


Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?


I never feel like I’m in a position to give advice because I’m still figuring things out. But one thing I tell myself is that writing isn’t magic; it’s simply hard work, just like anything else. The most important thing is to have the willingness and the stamina to sit down and write, to edit the same paragraph over and over again, and even to throw out a whole book and start over when necessary. (I hope that won’t be necessary!)


The only other thing I know for sure is that to be a writer you have to be a reader. Read in your genre, read out of your genre; make sure you’re reading a wide array of books!


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


Thank you! That’s my main message to readers – Thank you so much for reading, for reviewing, and above all, for reaching out. It means the world to authors to hear from you. It’s because of all the wonderful readers out there—whether they check out books from the library or buy them from their favorite stores, download them onto their e-readers or listen to them while they commute—that writers get to keep writing. So thank you, thank you, thank you! And happy reading!

To connect with Amy~

Twitter and Instagram: @amypoeppel 

Monday, January 23, 2023

WHEN YOU SEE HER by author BARBARA BOEHM MILLER (debuts January 24th!)

What if you needed to find a perfect place to hide in plain sight.

Trapped and isolated in small-town Wisconsin, Sarah wants nothing more than to blend in and lead a normal life away from her abusive brother. Weighing five hundred pounds and having no job or formal education, however, makes this almost impossible.

When Sarah commits an unthinkable act, she seizes the only opportunity available to escape the consequences of her actions. She contacts the carnival man who previously offered her a job as a sideshow act. Burying her guilt, Sarah leaves home and begins performing under the stage name Lola Rolls.

Traveling from town to town, Lola wonders if it's possible to hide in plain sight and truly outrun her past. She builds lasting friendships along the way, and as the quality of her performances improves, she starts on a path to self-reliance and self-acceptance.

Set in the late 1970s, When You See Her is an immersive page-turner that explores what it means to be both visible and invisible, simultaneously desired and reviled, while carving out space in a too-small world.


Dramatic yet heartwarming, this dazzling debut pulsates with all the fun and ferocity of the fair, quickly drawing you into the underworld of a 1970s traveling carnival. Miller is a gifted storyteller, displaying a conjuror's dexterity as she leads you through Lola's dramatic escape from reality to her introduction into this new, volatile world and her spectacular new colleagues.

--Jennifer Ryan, international bestselling author of The Chilbury Ladies Choir

Barbara Boehm Miller’s “When You See Her” is vivid and visceral, the perfect read for when you want to inhabit another world … or another body. While at first you might think you’re sneaking a lurid peek at the sideshow fat lady, in Miller’s capable hands you’ll move quickly beyond the spectacle of the carnival world and into the fully realized life of a courageous, dynamic woman. We all long to be seen exactly as we are; this novel isn’t afraid to look.

-- Julia Rocchi, author of Amen?: Questions for a God I Hope Exists

In When You See Her, author Barbara Boehm Miller creates a rich and colorful world that is inhabited by believable individuals who display remarkable resilience in the face of their difficult lives. Miller’s dialogue is masterful, and she writes with great authority. The first-person point of view and narrative in Sarah’s voice work together to give the reader a profound understanding of Sarah and her motivations.

Sarah’s character is drawn with compelling dexterity and empathy. From the opening scene where she is standing with a skillet in her hand to losing her virginity to a man more than twice her age, to her transformation into a self-sufficient woman, Miller hardly puts a foot wrong. The audience is hooked, drawn in and held to the last page.

When You See Her is a story that is well-written, gripping and emotionally charged.

--Thomas Anderson, Editor-In-Chief, Literary Titan, 5-star review

 Author interview with Barbara ~

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

Making up stories was my favorite activity as a child. As I got older, I began to write some fiction and kept a series of journals for about 10 years. In college, I focused on studying foreign languages because I wanted a career that could take me to different parts of the world and because I believe, to paraphrase a quote from Charlamagne, that in learning a second language, a person gains a second soul. 

Following graduation, I sought out language immersion opportunities in foreign countries, eventually earning the equivalent of a master’s degree from the Universidad Nacional in Costa Rica. After settling in the Washington, DC area, where I still reside, I began working as a diplomatic translator and pursued a degree in fiction writing. Some of the other students I met in that program are part of the writing critique group that read the many drafts of When You See Her. 

What are some things you enjoy when not writing?

Writers are readers, so reading, of course, and also spending time with my family, which includes a wonderful husband, inspiring twin daughters, and a comical brown dog. I like to cook too and host parties for friends and play piano (poorly).

Do you have a particular writing routine?

Because of my schedule, I have to write in my spare moments. The upside of this approach is that I’ve learned to block out pretty much all background noise and can make the most of even small snippets of time. Whenever possible, I like to write in the morning because it makes the rest of my day that much better.

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

So much has changed! I rewrote When You See Her many times. Some earlier versions had a dual timeline, and others were framed more as a fictitious memoir. The most significant changes, though, were in the characters. With each rewrite, they grew and became more complex and appealing. In short, they became better people.

Finish this: “I can’t write without…”

A collection of my favorite pens and a notebook for jotting down ideas and possible plot items. I love pens, so they’re like toys as well to keep me entertained and engaged when my writing stalls.

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

If it’s a recently deserted island that has a nice, non-haunted hotel with a well-stocked kitchen and bar, I’d just need a couple of good books and some of my favorite people.

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

I thought I would be a writer, so publication of my first novel is very much a dream come true.

What is something about you that would surprise people?

I sound like a Costa Rican when I speak Spanish. I also make a killer falafel and can tell fortunes using playing cards and know how to read palms.


Do you have a ‘day job’ as well?

I have an entire “day career” and have worked for many years translating documents from Spanish and French into English.


What was the original title of this book?

“Lola Rolls,” which is the stage name of the main character. In effort to help potential audiences understand more about the book upfront, I later switched the title to the more descriptive “Lola Rolls, Sideshow Fat Lady.” 

After being accepted for publication, the book was renamed “When You See Her.” Even though adjusting to this change was no easy task, the new title is a much better fit in that it reflects the underlying themes of the book, rather than just its content.


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

For me, writing fiction is like a series of what-if questions. When You See Her starts with a plus-sized protagonist. Then I asked myself: What if her weight were extreme enough to keep her trapped and isolated? What if she lived in a time period when there were few overweight and virtually no morbidly obese people? What if she needed to go on the run? What if her only option was to join the sideshow? What if she could find a way to live a bold and meaningful life? What if she didn’t try to fit in?


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

Yes, and no way! I cringe now to think about that manuscript, containing, as it did, many instances of every mistake a fiction writer can make. For a while, I thought it might be possible to revise that work. It could not be fixed or improved enough to make it readable, however. Writing that first book did show me that I had the stamina to complete a novel. To my mind, an unredeemable mess of a rough draft far surpassed an unwritten or unfinished book.


If I wasn’t an author, I might be…?

I would be a person brimming with stories who never wrote anything down.


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

After working through the manuscript with the members of my writing critique group and before submitting it for publication, I give also it to one of the members of my book club because they are perfect examples of my target audience. Both groups are good, sensitive readers, and their feedback is spot on.


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

I read The Grapes of Wrath when I was young. That was the first time I understood how powerful a book could be—how it could wring your soul with both hands. The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving showed me what a wonderful and outrageous thing plot can be. I try to capture both of those ideas in my own work. I want my writing to tell a vivid story and have an emotional impact.


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

The biggest challenge was learning what I needed to do and then developing and acting on a plan. The path to publication also included a lot of rejections and raised hopes that then crashed hard. No matter how I rationalized these “thanks, but no thanks” responses, they still took an emotional toll. The upside is that my skin has become alligator-thick.


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’m very excited that my novel is soon to be published, so I wouldn’t want to change anything that led me to this place.


What are you working on now?

I’m revising a book I wrote about a troubled family, crushed together in the isolation of the Covid-19 pandemic. The father is a survivalist. The mother is having an affair, and the daughter is incandescent with her desire to move away from the small town where they live.


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

I’ve lived with weight issues for all of my life and I wanted my main character to be a fat woman who lives a fulfilling and unapologetic life despite the obstacles thrust in her way.


Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?

There is a wedding scene toward the end of the book that I loved writing. By that point in the story, the reader knows the characters well, and the wedding is a chance for all of them to interact and celebrate with each other.


Do you have a favorite character?

Probably Gigi. She is funny, endearing, and has an unconventional outlook on life. She also loves the main character, Lola, as much as I do.


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

I’m fascinated by closed-off or secret societies. At some point, I would like to write a book set inside a cult or a prison. I can only imagine the amount of creative planning needed to research the latter.


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

When You See Her takes place in the late 1970s, and much of the book is set in the sideshow of a rundown traveling carnival. I had to learn the business side of the carnival, which is quite complex, and also studied the lives and careers of various sideshow performers. One of the most interesting things I learned in the course of my research is that carnival people have their own secret language that they use to hide their conversations.


Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Keep at it and find your reward and satisfaction in the writing itself, not in how others perceive it. In my case, and I think this is true for many people, I wrote for a very long time before being published.


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

Writing is a solitary act and can, therefore, be a lonely experience. As a bit of an extrovert, I really struggle with that. The best part of being an author is the privilege of making up stories and creating entire worlds in which you make all the decisions about what happens and to whom.


Place you’d like to travel?

I love to travel and am fortunate that, in building my career as a translator, I’ve had the opportunity to live in various countries. At present, my foreign adventures are limited to vacations, though. When the pandemic hit, we had just begun to plan a visit to Thailand to celebrate a milestone birthday. I hope to take that trip within the next year or so. Also, I don’t know when it will happen, but I would like to visit the Galapagos Islands.


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

Thank you for reading my work! Being able to share my stories is a true privilege, and I’m so grateful to the readers who make that possible.

To connect with Barbara (all links):

Monday, January 16, 2023

AN ENEMY LIKE ME, by author TERI M. BROWN (book debuts January 24th!)

How does a man show his love - for country, for heritage, for family - during a war that sets the three at odds? 

What sets in motion the necessity to choose one over the other? How will this choice change everything and everyone he loves?

Jacob Miller, a first-generation American, grew up in New Berlin, a small German immigrant town in Ohio where he endured the Great Depression, met his wife and started a family. Though his early years were not easy, Jacob believes he is headed toward his 'happily ever after' until a friend is sent to an internment camp for enemy combatants, and the war lands resolutely on his doorstep.

In An Enemy Like Me, Teri M. Brown uses the backdrop of World War II to show the angst experienced by Jacob, his wife, and his four-year-old son as he leaves for and fights in a war he did not create. She explores the concepts of xenophobia, intrafamily dynamics, and the recognition that war is not won and lost by nations but by ordinary men and women and the families who support them.

Reviews ~

BookLife Reviews Says: The pro-Nazi Volksbund movement, its anti-German backlash, and the anxiety it induced in German Americans is seldom addressed in popular literature—and Brown's depiction of a unique angst within a much-chronicled American era sets this novel apart.

Feathered Quill SaysAn Enemy Like Me is a tremendous read that showcases the indelible mark the many facets and effects war leaves on the human spirit.

Independent Book Review Says: The power of Brown's writing is such that she makes us all feel how we did when we were left all alone to figure out life and its hardships, whether in a foreign place or in a place that once felt like home but now feels like anything but.

Author interview with Teri ~

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

As a child, I said I wanted to be a writer, but I also wanted to be a brain surgeon and an Olympic ice skater. So, I feel like those were just childhood fantasies. As a teenager, I wrote the typical romantic angst poetry and dabbled with a few short stories, but I never saw writing as an actual career. It certainly was not something to go to college for. My parents felt that writer was synonymous with “starving artist waitress.”

However, when my children were young, I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, but we needed a second income. I began writing for small businesses. I found that these business owners had great ideas but didn’t know how to get them down on paper. I spent 17 years writing non-fiction business-related materials, but somewhere deep inside, I wanted to try my hand at writing fiction.

Unfortunately, I was in a second marriage, and my husband was emotionally abusive. I didn’t believe in myself and was told, repeatedly, that just because I could write nonfiction didn’t mean I could write fiction. As soon as I got out of that relationship, I began to write.

The first manuscript will likely never see the light of day, but it showed me that I had what it took to write 50,000 words with a beginning, middle, and end. As one of my children said, “It had good bones.” It gave me the courage to try a second, then a third. My fourth and fifth manuscripts became my debut novel, Sunflowers Beneath the Snow, and now my second release, An Enemy Like Me.

Do you have a particular writing routine?

This question used to worry me because the answer is no. I figured if I didn’t write every single day, like James Patterson, then I must be doing something wrong. However, I’ve come to realize that whatever works for me is the right way to write!

I’m a pantster. This means that I write by the seat of my pants without an outline. I let my characters tell me what is going to happen next. I listen to what they have to say and, remarkably, the book comes together and makes sense!

However, I go one step further and call myself a binge pantster. I tend to write furiously for several days – often forgetting to do the laundry or cook meals – and then, I may not write again for several weeks. I wrote the first draft of An Enemy Like Me during a two-week writer’s retreat.

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

As a pantster, I don’t plot out the novel. However, there are significant changes between the first draft and the final draft. I started the book in a different spot – using a flashback scene to set the action. I also initially had three chapters that were the same scene but from different character viewpoints. That slowed the story down, so I made significant changes to those chapters.

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

When I went to college, I got two majors and two minors. I have a degree in Elementary Education and another in psychology. I have a minor in math and sociology. I had no idea what I wanted to do, so I just kept taking classes. I realized that I didn’t want to be a teacher while completing my student teaching portion of the degree, but I had no idea what else I might consider.

In the end, I worked at a bank for a couple of years and at a daycare center once my son was born so that I could be with him. Then, I became a stay-at-home homeschool mom while writing for small businesses. Finally, I became an author.

What is something about you that would surprise people?

Despite being a desk jockey, I wanted to have a big adventure – something that would prove to me and to others that I still had a lot of life left in me. So, when I married my husband, Bruce, in 2019, we decided to ride across the country on a tandem bicycle.

In 2020, we successfully rode 3102 miles from the coast of Oregon to Washington DC raising $34,000 for Toys for Tots. Every child that asked for a bicycle through the program in our campaign area got one and every organization that asked for help got what it needed.

Not only that, but the ride significantly changed me. I came away with a healed heart and a sure knowledge that I could do anything I put my mind to. It was that ride that gave me the courage to get Sunflowers Beneath the Snow published.


What was the original title of this book?


I considered several different options. Originally, I just saved it as “WWII Novel.” Obviously, that wouldn’t work! I considered calling it “Change.” Then, I considered calling it change in German, “Ă„ndern.”


When I sent the manuscript to my publisher, I liked An Enemy Like Me, but also sent them the alternative of “A Heart Divided.”


What inspired this book plot?


My grandfather fought in WWII in Germany. Our family is of German heritage. Although we had lived in the US for generations before the war, my grandfather said something to me when I was a teenager that always stuck with me. He said, “I always wondered if the person on the other side of my gun was a cousin.” It was this idea that inspired the book’s plot.


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


I have a couple of people that get to read the manuscript, often before it is completely ready – my husband and my oldest daughter, Kimberly. I also have a friend who is an avid historical fiction reader who beta reads for me and helps me see if there are any holes in the plot.


Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?


I don’t want to give away anything, so I’ll be a bit cryptic. However, there is a point when William, the son of the soldier, discovers how his father really felt about leaving for the war. Even though I wrote it, it still makes me cry.


Do you have a favorite character?


It’s as hard for me to pick a favorite character as it would be to pick a favorite child! Because the three main characters are loosely based on my grandfather, grandmother, and father, I would have to say that I love them all! However, I did enjoy the challenge of writing from the point of view of a four-year-old boy.


What are you working on now?


I’m working on a book about an NC woman who lives in the Appalachian Mountains during the late 1800s. She is a healer. The book explores NC mountain folklore and folk medicine through three generations of women healers. It also looks at how modern medicine changed the landscape of healing, and how people adapt to such changes.


Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?


I have learned that to be an author, you have to do more than write. Although writing is essential, an author also has to market their work – and to market, an author has to believe that what they have is valuable. So, my advice would be to come to understand that what you’ve written has worth, and then take that understanding with you as you learn how to market. By all means, don’t do what I did the first time and wait to begin the marketing process until after the book launches!


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


Thank you! Thank you for reading my books. Thank you for reaching out to me. Thank you for joining my newsletter. Thank you for leaving reviews. Thank you for being a reader. Without you, there would be absolutely no reason to write!

To connect with Teri ~

Amazon Author: