Karen's Korner

Beach Town by Mary Kay Andrews – Plus, a Giveaway!

untitledSummary: Greer Hennessy needs palm trees.

As a movie location scout, picture-perfect is the name of the game. But her last project literally went up in flames, and her career is on the verge of flaming out. Greer has been given one more chance, if she can find the perfect undiscovered beach hideaway for a big-budget movie. She zeroes in on a sleepy Florida panhandle town called Cypress Key. There’s one motel, a marina, a long stretch of pristine beach and an old fishing pier with a community casino-which will be perfect for the film’s explosive climax.

There’s just one problem. Eben Thibadeaux, the town mayor, completely objects to Greer’s plan. A lifelong resident of Cypress Key, Eben wants the town to be revitalized, not commercialized. After a toxic paper plant closed, the bay has only recently been reborn, and Eb has no intention of letting anybody screw with his town again. But Greer has a way of making things happen, regardless of obstacles. And Greer and Eb are way too attracted to each other for either of them to see reason.

Between an ambitious director and his entourage-including a spoiled “It Boy” lead actor-who parachute into town, a conniving local ex-socialite, and a cast of local fangirls and opportunists who catch the movie bug, nothing is going to be the same in Cypress Key. Now Greer is forced to make some hard choices: about the people and the town she’s come to care about, and about her own life. True love is only for the movies, right? Can Greer find a way to be the heroine in her own life story? Told with inimitable heart and humor, Mary Kay Andrews’ Beach Town is the perfect summer destination. (Excerpt from Goodreads)

NEWmarykayandrewsMy Thoughts: Mary Kay Andrews is one of my favorite authors and I absolutely adore every book she writes. Every time I read one of her books, I feel like I’m on vacation. When I read Beach Town, I was stuck at home in a snowstorm but I felt like I was at the beach soaking up the warm summer air. I flew through this book in two days and couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.

I instantly fell in love with the small town and all of the characters in this novel. Greer and Eben are two of my favorite protagonists from MKA’s novels and I enjoyed watching their relationship blossom. Also, the action and insight into the world of filmmaking was entertaining and something that I never really knew a lot about.

Beach Town is a quintessential Mary Kay Andrews book and even though I love all of her books, this one may be one of my favorites. Also, MKA just released a short novella Change of Scene which is the prequel to Beach Town. I haven’t read it yet but I’d recommend diving into that first before reading Beach Town.

Connect with MKA:

To celebrate yesterday’s paperback release of Beach Town, I am giving away a copy of Beach Town to one lucky reader! Enter via the Rafflecopter below (US entries only):

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Summer Secrets by Jane Green – Plus, a Giveaway!

51k86KdpnxL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Summary: Jane Green delivers her second blockbuster novel of 2015, a story of one woman struggling to right the wrongs of her past, with even more complications in the present.

June, 1998: At twenty seven, Catherine Coombs, also known as Cat, is struggling. She lives in London, works as a journalist, and parties hard. Her lunchtimes consist of several glasses of wine at the bar downstairs in the office, her evenings much the same, swigging the free booze and eating the free food at a different launch or party every night. When she discovers the identity of the father she never knew she had, it sends her into a spiral. She makes mistakes that cost her the budding friendship of the only women who have ever welcomed her. And nothing is ever the same after that.

June, 2014: Cat has finally come to the end of herself. She no longer drinks. She wants to make amends to those she has hurt. Her quest takes her to Nantucket, to the gorgeous summer community where the women she once called family still live. Despite her sins, will they welcome her again? What Cat doesn’t realize is that these women, her real father’s daughters, have secrets of their own. As the past collides with the present, Cat must confront the darkest things in her own life and uncover the depths of someone’s need for revenge. (Excerpt from Goodreads)

My Thoughts: I don’t think there is a Jane Green novel that I haven’t absolutely loved. Every time I hear she is coming out with a new novel, I anxiously count down the days until I can get my hands on a copy. Summer Secrets is another hit by Jane and her stories just keep getting better and better. I read this book back in December (I know…I’m a bit behind on some of my reviews) and this story has stuck with me since!

jane-green-headshot-smallThe story focuses on Cat, a woman who consistently struggles with alcohol addiction. The book takes you through Cat’s life starting with her downward spiral with alcohol and then through recovery and back down again – this was one emotional rollercoaster ride. Even with all of her terrible decisions, I really started to sympathize for Cat throughout the book and this story shines a light on the destruction addiction can have on a person’s life as well as on their family and friends.

Summer Secrets is a story about family, addiction, love and second chances. This book was full of twists and turns that kept me on the edge of my seat and had me dying to know what was going to happen next. I highly recommend picking up a copy of this one – you won’t be disappointed! Plus, Jane has a new novel coming out this summer titled Falling which I’m sure will be another winner.

Connect with Jane:

Summer Secrets comes out in paperback next month and to celebrate, I am giving away a copy to one lucky reader! Enter via the Rafflecopter below (US entries only):

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Author Q&A with Susan Meissner – Plus, a Giveaway!

To celebrate the release of her new novel Stars Over Sunset Boulevard (which hit stores in January), we sat down with Susan and asked her questions about her new novel, her writing process, and what she has coming up next. We are thrilled to have Susan on the blog today and loved getting to know more about her – plus, we have a special giveaway for one lucky reader!

BookThank you so much for sitting down with Karen’s Korner for a Q&A session. What was your inspiration for Stars Over Sunset Boulevard? How do you come up with your ideas for books?

I have an idea file on my computer for historical nuggets I come across electronically and a drawer in my desk for the ones I find in the newspaper or in a magazine, and for jotted notes. Sometimes the idea, like the itch to write a story that takes place on the 1939 movie set of Gone with the Wind, is one that suggests itself to me out of my own life experience. I’ve always loved this movie, and have probably seen it twenty times. Taking inflation into consideration, it is still the highest-grossing movie ever produced. The why of that intrigued me and led me to pursue the making of this film as a backdrop for a novel.

What is your writing process like? Do you write an outline and do you write every day?

Once I have that historical event or setting in mind and done the research on it, I decide who to give it to. I brainstorm to figure out who the main characters are going to be, what they want and why they want it, which is the heart of every novel no matter who is writing it. Then I see how I can make the historical setting and the characters’ desires work together in both good and bad ways. And by bad ways, I mean the setting needs to provide a source of tension. I write only on writing days, which are distinct from plotting and research days. On writing days, my quota is 2,000 words. I usually need about four or five months’ worth of writing days to get to my 100,000 words for the finished novel.

What has been the best compliment you’ve received about any of your books so far?

I suppose the highest affirmation I’ve gotten is when a reader so identifies with my characters and the storyline and the thematic takeaway that he or she feels changed inside or looks at a time in history in a whole new way.

I love the cover of all your books but especially Stars Over Sunset Boulevard! Who designed it and how many different ones did you go through until you found the right one?

I am so very fortunate to have had such talented artists at my publishing houses. My last three novels are under Penguin’s Berkley/NAL label and were all designed in-house and, from what I hear, these artists actually read the manuscripts to get a feel for the book’s mood and aesthetic. I am asked for my conceptual ideas at the beginning of the process but then they run with it and I don’t see the result until they have come up with the one they like best. When I get sent that image, if there’s something about it that doesn’t feel quite right I send my thoughts and, if my editor agrees with me, it goes back to the drawing board. It also goes back to the drawing board if marketing comes up with an idea to give the cover more market appeal. You can still see the original cover idea for Stars Over Sunset Boulevard on Goodreads.

What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?

Freelance writing is a fairly solitary endeavor so if you’re just starting out it makes sense to gain community with other writers from whom you can learn and grow in your skills. Join a writer’s group, online or local, where you can get feedback on your writing that is objective and constructive. Having your mom or best friend read your work is helpful to a point. It is hard for someone who loves you to be completely objective. And keep writing, even when it seems like you are just swimming laps in a pool when no one is watching. Even Michael Phelps started out doing laps in a pool when no one was watching.

If you didn’t write books, what would you do for a living?

I like the idea of owning a little bookshop that also has a coffee bar. I can see it on a sweet little street in one of San Diego’s beach towns, like Del Mar or Cardiff-by-the-Sea. I haven’t the faintest idea how to make a small business successful, however, so I plan to keep writing books and just patronize shops like that!

With an author as a mother, do your children love to read? What were some of their favorite books growing up and what are some of their favorites now?

I am so happy to say that they do, all four of them. They are all adults and out of the nest but they still love and buy and read books. Their favorite books when they were little were anything by Dr. Seuss or P.D. Eastman and the Berenstain Bears books. When they were older they loved the Harry Potter books. Our daughter was a Laura Ingalls Wilder, L. M. Montgomery and Babysitters Club fan. My grown sons all have differing tastes now. Son #1 likes philosophy, Son #2 history and the arts, and Son #3 theology, sociology and matters related to law and justice. Our daughter still loves literary fiction and reads both classic and contemporary novels with a literary bent.

If you’re allowed to tell us, what can your readers expect next? Are you currently working on anything new?

I am in revisions or the book I am writing next, which is tentatively titled A BRIDGE ACROSS THE OCEAN. One of its key settings is the HMS Queen Mary during one of its many GI war brides crossings. The Queen is such a perfect place to set a story, because she has such a marvelous past. She started out as a luxury liner, was made a troop carrier during the war, and has been a floating hotel here in California since the early ‘70s. She is also fabled to be haunted by numerous ghosts, a detail I simply cannot ignore. This story thematically, though, is about three war brides – one French, one British and one German woman pretending to be a Belgian war bride – who meet on the Queen Mary in 1946. The current-day character, Brette, has the family gift of being able to see ghosts and she very much wishes she couldn’t. She also doesn’t want to pass along that hereditary gift to a child but her husband is anxious to start their family. All of these characters will face a bridge they need to cross where the other side is hidden from their view. The concept of a bridge across the ocean – which seems impossible — speaks to how difficult it is to go from one place to another when you can’t see what awaits you. This book will release in 2017.

SusanAbout the Author:

Susan Meissner is a multi-published author, speaker and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. Her novels include A Fall of Marigolds, named by Booklist’s Top Ten women’s fiction titles for 2014, and The Shape of Mercy, named by Publishers Weekly as one of the 100 Best Novels of 2008. She is also a RITA finalist, and Christy Award winner.

A California native, she attended Point Loma Nazarene University. Susan is a pastor’s wife and a mother of four young adults. When she’s not working on a novel, she writes small group curriculum for her San Diego church. She is also a writing workshop volunteer for Words Alive, a San Diego non-profit dedicated to helping at-risk youth foster a love for reading and writing.

Connect with Susan:

About Stars Over Sunset Boulevard:

When an iconic hat worn by Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind ends up in Christine McAllister’s vintage clothing boutique by mistake, her efforts to return it to its owner take the reader on a journey to the past.

It’s 1938 and Violet Mayfield sets out to reinvent herself in Los Angeles after her dream of becoming a wife and mother falls apart, landing a job on the film-set of Gone With the Wind. There, she meets enigmatic Audrey Duvall, a once-rising film star who is now a fellow secretary. Audrey’s zest for life and their adventures together among Hollywood’s glitterati enthrall Violet…until each woman’s deepest desires collide.

What Audrey and Violet are willing to risk, for themselves and for each other, to ensure their own happy endings will shape their friendship, and their lives, far into the future.

To celebrate the release, Susan and her team have graciously provided Karen’s Korner with a copy of her new book for a giveaway! Enter via the Rafflecopter below (US entries only:)

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The Rumor by Elin Hilderbrand – Plus, a Giveaway!

51Ny5-y08NL__SX321_BO1,204,203,200_Summary: Madeline King and Grace Pancik are best friends and the envy of Nantucket for their perfect marriages, their beautiful kids, their Sunday night double dates with their devoted husbands. But this summer, something’s changed, and if there’s anything Nantucket likes better than cocktails on the beach at sunset, it’s a good rumor.

And rumor has it…

…that Madeline, a novelist, is battling writer’s block, with a deadline looming, bills piling up, and blank pages driving her to desperation–and a desperately bad decision;

…that Grace, hard at work to transform her backyard into a garden paradise, has been collaborating a bit more closely that necessary with her ruggedly handsome landscape architect;

…that Grace’s husband, successful island real estate developer “Fast Eddie” Pancik, has embarked on quite an unusual side project;

…that the storybook romance between Madeline’s son, Brick, and Grace’s daughter Allegra is on the rocks, heading for disaster.

As the gossip escalates, and they face the possible loss of the happy lives they’ve worked so hard to create, Grace and Madeline try mightily to set the record straight–but the truth might be even worse than rumor has it. (Excerpt from Goodreads)

My Thoughts: Elin’s books are the perfect escape and every time I read a book by her, I feel like I’m on vacation. The Rumor was no exception and once again, I was instantly transported and felt like I was plopped straight into the middle of Nantucket.

untitledGossip and rumors can be dangerous and the town of Nantucket is full of them. One minute, you tell someone what you think you saw or heard and it can instantly spread like wildfire leaving a massive path of destruction. I loved the different cast of characters in this book and watching them all intersect. There are some you love and some that drive you crazy but in the end, they all had me hooked!

I cannot get enough of Elin’s writing and The Rumor is another strong showing by one of my favorite authors. This book is full of suspense, family drama, and fun – I loved everything about it and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough in order to find out how it ended. If you’re looking to get away but can’t leave your house, pick up a copy of this novel and you’ll feel like you’re at the beach!

Connect with Elin:

The Rumor was released in paperback this February and I am giving away a copy to one lucky reader! Enter via the Rafflecopter below (US entries only):

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The Race for Paris by Meg Waite Clayton – Plus, a Giveaway!

51xQcdqXTbL__SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Summary: The New York Times bestselling author of The Wednesday Sisters returns with a moving and powerfully dynamic World War II novel about two American journalists and an Englishman, who together race the Allies to Occupied Paris for the scoop of their lives.

Normandy, 1944. To cover the fighting in France, Jane, a reporter for the Nashville Banner, and Liv, an Associated Press photographer, have already had to endure enormous danger and frustrating obstacles—including strict military regulations limiting what women correspondents can do. Even so, Liv wants more.

Encouraged by her husband, the editor of a New York newspaper, she’s determined to be the first photographer to reach Paris with the Allies, and capture its freedom from the Nazis.

However, her Commanding Officer has other ideas about the role of women in the press corps. To fulfill her ambitions, Liv must go AWOL. She persuades Jane to join her, and the two women find a guardian angel in Fletcher, a British military photographer who reluctantly agrees to escort them. As they race for Paris across the perilous French countryside, Liv, Jane, and Fletcher forge an indelible emotional bond that will transform them and reverberate long after the war is over.

Based on daring, real-life female reporters on the front lines of history like Margaret Bourke-White, Lee Miller, and Martha Gellhorn—and with cameos by other famous faces of the time—The Race for Paris is an absorbing, atmospheric saga full of drama, adventure, and passion. Combining riveting storytelling with expert literary craftsmanship and thorough research, Meg Waite Clayton crafts a compelling, resonant read. (Excerpt from Goodreads)

My Thoughts: As I mentioned in a previous post, I am slowly catching up on my book reviews from the past few months. I finished The Race for Paris back in December and I am still in awe of how wonderful this book was. I must admit that I had never read anything by Meg before but after reading this, I desperately need to go back and read some of her other works. The Race for Paris is a riveting and emotional story of two female journalists and their journey to cover the front line. This book had me hooked from the very first page and will take you on a emotional ride with tons of twists and turns along the way.

220px-Novelist_Meg_Waite_ClaytonThe story centers on the experiences of two American journalists and one English photographer during WWII – Jane who is a reporter and Liv and Fletcher who are both photographers. The novel takes you through their trek to the front lines as they work towards being the first individuals to cover when the Allies take over Paris. I loved how raw and real the author got when detailing the war – Meg did not hesitate to leave anything out. I also enjoyed how the author focused on the roles of journalists and the steps they took to get their photos and stories captured and published, a topic that I personally never knew that much about.

I am a little obsessed with historical fiction these days and The Race for Paris is definitely in my top five favorite historical fiction novels. I cannot praise this book enough and I highly recommend picking up a copy regardless of if you are a historical fiction buff or not. I promise you will enjoy this story!

Connect with Meg:

Because I enjoyed this book so much, I’m giving away a copy to one lucky reader! Enter via the Rafflecopter below (US entries only:)

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No Ordinary Life by Suzanne Redfearn – Plus, an Author Q&A and Giveaway!

NoOrdinaryLife_coverSynopsis:

Suzanne Redfearn delivers another gripping page-turner in her latest novel, a story about a young mother’s fight to protect her children from the dangerous world of Hollywood.

Faye Martin never expected her husband to abandon her and her three children . . . or that she’d have to struggle every day to make ends meet. So when her four-year-old daughter is discovered through a YouTube video and offered a starring role on a television series, it seems like her prayers have been answered. But when the reality of their new life settles in, Faye realizes that fame and fortune don’t come without a price. And in a world where everyone is an actor and every move is scrutinized by millions, it’s impossible to know who to trust, and Faye finds herself utterly alone in her struggle to save her family.

Emotionally riveting and insightful, No Ordinary Life is an unforgettable novel about the preciousness of childhood and the difficult choices a mother needs to make in order to protect this fragile time in her children’s lives. (Excerpt from Goodreads)

My Thoughts:

No Ordinary Life was the first book I read in 2016 and if this is any indication of how my year of reading will go, I will be very happy. I picked up this book over the holiday season and couldn’t put it down; I think I finished it in just a few sittings. No Ordinary Life is a wonderful story about motherhood, the price we pay for fame, and the dangers of Hollywood – this story will take you on an emotional ride from the very beginning.

The story centers on a Faye, a mother with two kids who is struggling to support her family after her husband abandons her and her children. When she is finally out of options, Faye takes her children to live with her mother in LA. After a video is posted to YouTube of her adorable 4 year old daughter Molly dancing, she instantly becomes a childhood superstar and the family’s world is turned upside down. The book takes you through the ups and downs of Molly’s time in the spotlight and how Hollywood can take a toll on not only the celebrity, but their family as well. Until now, I’ve never fully understood what it takes to become famous and more importantly, stay famous.

No Ordinary Life is a wonderful and complex piece of fiction about motherhood and the wonders of Hollywood. This book will have you hooked from the very beginning. I never read Suzanne’s first novel Hush Little Baby but after reading No Ordinary Life, I think I have to go and pick up a copy!

Author Q&A with Suzanne Redfearn:

Thank you so much for sitting down with Karen’s Korner for a Q&A session. What was your inspiration for No Ordinary Life? How do you come up with your ideas for books?

Thank you for inviting me. The inspiration for No Ordinary Life came when I was in line at the grocery store. I knew my editor wanted me to write another story about a mother protecting her children, so I was keeping my eye out for ideas, and there in front of me was a tabloid with the headline, “Zac Efron Enters Rehab Again.” My daughter was a High School Musical fan when she was little, so I felt like I had watched Zac Efron grow up, and to know he was suffering and that his suffering was being made public made me feel horrible for him and his parents. The idea Child Star popped in my head. At that point I wasn’t certain what the story was going to be, but I liked the idea of exploring what goes on behind the glitz and glamour that causes so many young actors to suffer such tragic setbacks and downfalls. That’s how all my ideas sort of happen. I’m not really focusing too hard on it, and wham bam something hits me. Not all the ideas are great, but when a good one strikes, it feels like a gift, a zap from the universe.

How long did it take you to write No Ordinary Life?

In total about nine months. Of course that doesn’t count the editing and revisions that went on while it was in production (another fifteen months).

What is your writing process like? Do you write an outline and do you write every day?

“Writing process” sounds so organized. What I do is a mess. I wish I had a set routine and worked from an outline, it would probably be a lot less painful. I am a true “Pantster”—I write by the seat of my pants with no idea where the story is going to take me. I don’t write chronologically and usually need to write about 800 pages to get the 400 I keep. It’s not very efficient, but it does allow the story to grow organically and develop into what it wants to be. Though my routine is flexible, I do write every day. When I am working on a story, especially in the beginning, it is almost a compulsion, as if I’m afraid that if I don’t get it down on paper, I’ll lose it.

I love the cover of No Ordinary Life! Who designed it and how many different ones did you go through until you found the right one?

Thank you. I love the cover as well. The readers helped choose it. We ran a survey with four choices, and the cover that we ended up with is the one that won.

What has been the best compliment you’ve received about your books so far?

It is not a single compliment so much as the overwhelming number of women who reached out to tell me Hush Little Baby affected them because they felt I was telling their story. I have never been a victim of domestic violence, so it was incredibly humbling to know I had portrayed the subject in a way that connected with women who have.

Suzanne Redfearn HeadshotDo you have a favorite author and what authors or books have inspired you to write?

I hate to pick only one. Lately I’ve become a fan of authors of contemporary stories about substantial topics told with humor—JoJo Moyes, Lianne Moriarty, Gillian Flynn.

With an author as a mother, do your children love to read? What are some of their favorite books?

My daughter does. My son doesn’t. I keep hoping my son will find an author or genre that excites him. My daughter is a fan of Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games, and anything by John Green.

If you’re allowed to tell us, what can your readers expect next? Are you currently working on anything new?

I am writing a story that I am very excited about, a story about two moms on the run from the police and their husbands. It’s a road trip story, which I have always wanted to write, and so far I am having a lot of fun with it.

About the Author:

Suzanne Redfearn is the author of Hush Little Baby, which was chosen as a Target Recommends selection and Target’s Emerging Authors program. She graduated summa cum laude from California Polytechnic University and, prior to becoming an author, was an architect. She is an avid surfer, golfer, skier, and Angels fan. She lives with her husband and children in Southern California. No Ordinary Life is her second novel.

Connect with Suzanne:

To celebrate the release of her new novel, Suzanne and her team have graciously provided Karen’s Korner with a copy of No Ordinary Life for a giveaway! Enter via the Rafflecopter below (US entries only:)

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Author Q&A with Julie Christine Johnson – Plus, a Giveaway!

To celebrate the release of her new novel In Another Life (which has one of the most gorgeous covers I’ve ever seen), we sat down with author Julie Christine Johnson and asked her questions about her new novel, her writing, and what she has coming up next. We are so excited to have her on the blog today and loved getting to know more about Julie – we hope you do as well!

In Another Life Final CoverThank you so much for sitting down with Karen’s Korner for a Q&A session.

Karen, thank you so much for hosting me on your beautiful blog. It’s such a joy to be here!

What was your inspiration for In Another Life?

My husband and I spent a few weeks in the region in spring 2011. We’ve both lived in France and traveled all corners of L’Hexagone, but it was the first time we’d explored Languedoc in depth. We were enthralled by the scenery, the history, the culture—which are inextricably linked. History lives and breathes in the medieval ruins and Roman roads, the vineyards and the mountains. It is a culture shaped by the contours of its lands and one that worked its way deep under my skin. I left with a mental image I couldn’t shake: a woman standing on a cliff’s edge; below her stretches a valley laced with vineyards and studded with wind towers. Behind her, a man steps out from the ruins of a Cathar citadel. I was aching to find out who they were, but I knew she was from the present, he from the past. Then I read about the Cathars’ belief in reincarnation and I had my way into the story.

How long did it take you to write In Another Life?

The first draft took 18 months. I wrote the first words in July 2012 and made the last changes to the publishers’ proof in late October 2015.

What has been the best compliment you’ve received about your book so far?

A reader told me she was just about to add my ARC to her teetering “To-Read” stack, but she took a quick peek and set everything else aside to read In Another Life. Unputdownable. I was over the moon!

What is your writing process like? Do you write an outline and do you write every day?

When I began In Another Life I had a beginning, a handful of characters, but I had no middle or end; I wrote scenes out of order. About two-thirds into a first draft, I had 140,000 words and no sense of where I was going or how it would ever end. I stopped in my tracks, started from the beginning, cleaning up as I went along, putting things in order.

I’m still a pantser at heart. I don’t start with an outline, I don’t edit as I draft, I let it all pour out. But now, once I’ve got a solid first draft in hand, I use Michael Hague’s brilliant Six Stage Plot structure to discover and refine my character arcs. And I keep a process notebook for each novel, working out plot holes, asking myself questions, tracking key details. I draft in Scrivener, but I have to solve problems and plug plot holes in longhand.

I do write every day, but I have several projects going on at once. What I work on any given day is a matter of balancing writing with non-writing life, my energy level, scheduled commitments, and deadlines!

I love the cover of In Another Life! Who designed it and how many different ones did you go through until you found the right one?

Isn’t it gorgeous?! I can’t take even a smidgen of the credit. It was designed by Laura Klynstra, who is on the design team at my publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc. It was the first cover they showed me, and the last—the only. We all knew at first glance it was something magical.

Do you have a favorite author and what authors or books have inspired you to write?

If I can choose only one, Jane Austen would be my main squeeze. Other favorites are Hilary Mantel, Kate Mosse, Colm Tóibín, Anne Enright, Mary Doria Russell, Elizabeth Gilbert, Lily King, Dani Shapiro, Tim Winton, Cormac McCarthy, William Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy, Jess Walter, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I tend to binge on authors. Last year it was Elena Ferrante and Francesca Marciano. This year I’ve joined an online group reading a Virginia Woolf work each month.

What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?

It takes a village to publish a book. No matter which path to publishing you take, traditional or independent, you cannot do it alone. Find mentors—writers at different stages of their careers—and listen, watch, learn. Ask questions, be humble, and don’t wait—reach out now. Writers’ blogs, Facebook groups, Twitter chats are all great resources for connecting with writers and finding your tribe. Reach out in both directions—up and back. Always be willing to help someone right behind you.

Julie C Johnson HeadshotAnd always, always be working on your next story. Don’t sit hitting refresh on your e-mail when you begin sending out queries or your novel is on submission with editors. The process can take months, a couple of years, even. Always be writing the next book. The first thing my now-agent asked me after reading and expressing enthusiasm for In Another Life was, “What else do you have?” I sent her a draft of my second novel and I had an offer of representation by the end of the week.

If you’re allowed to tell us, what can your readers expect next? Are you currently working on anything new?

My second novel, The Crows of Beara, will be published September 15, 2017 by Ashland Creek Press. I’m in the midst of working with my editor on revisions. It’s set in contemporary southwest Ireland, with a thread of magical realism woven through (of course, it’s Ireland!). I sent a draft of a third novel to my agent recently. Set in New Zealand, it’s perhaps the most personal of my stories. At least it started out that way. It became something else entirely by the end. It’s the first time I’ve written a child as one of the main characters.

But I don’t think I’m finished with Lia. I’m researching a sequel to In Another Life. Tentatively titled The Salt Road, it will be set on the border between France and Italy with Lia on a modern-day pilgrimage through the mountains, following closely in the medieval footsteps of a character from In Another Life, whom we met only briefly. Who else returns from In Another Life will be a surprise—even to me, at this early stage!

I would love to hear from your followers about recent reads they’ve loved—I’m always looking for great suggestions. Some of these books may end up in my newsletter subscriber raffle basket!

Thank you for the wonderful interview, Karen!

About the Author:

Julie Christine Johnson’s short stories and essays have appeared in several journals, including Mud Season Review; Cirque: A Literary Journal of the North Pacific Rim; Cobalt, and the anthologies Stories for Sendai; Up, Do: Flash Fiction by Women Writers; and Three Minus One: Stories of Love and Loss. She holds undergraduate degrees in French and Psychology and a Master’s in International Affairs.

Her second novel, The Crows Of Beara, a finalist in the Siskiyou Prize for New Environmental Literature, has sold to Ashland Creek Press for publication in fall 2017. In this work of women’s fiction, a struggling American PR executive and an enigmatic Irish artist face off over the development of a copper mine in rural Ireland, finding love and redemption amid the rugged, mystical land.

A runner, hiker, and wine geek, Julie makes her home on the Olympic Peninsula of northwest Washington State with her husband. In Another Life is her first novel.

Connect with Julie:

About In Another Life:

It is January 1208 and in a village on the border between Provence and Languedoc, a monk whispers a benediction over the body of a slain papal emissary. The Cathars—followers of a heretical faith—are blamed for the assassination. The Pope declares a holy war and Languedoc is forever changed.

Eight hundred years later, historian Lia Carrer returns to southern France to rebuild her life after the death of her husband. Instead of finding solace in Languedoc’s quiet hills and medieval ruins, the woman trying to heal risks love, and loss, again.

Reincarnation is familiar ground for Lia—an expert in the mystical beliefs of the ancient Cathar faith—but to reconcile the truth of that long-ago assassination, the logical researcher must accept religious fantasy as historical fact. Three lost souls enter her life, each holding a key to the murder that launched a religious crusade in the heart of Europe.

In Another Life is set amidst the medieval intrigue of thirteenth century Languedoc and Paris, intertwined with Lia’s modern quest to uncover the truth of an ancient murder and free a man haunted by ghosts from his past.

To celebrate the release, Julie and her team have graciously provided Karen’s Korner a copy of her new novel for a giveaway! Enter to win via the Rafflecopter below (US entries only):

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Author Q&A with Anne Girard – Plus, a Giveaway!

Platinum Doll Final CoverThis is my first author Q&A after taking a break from blogging for a few months and these are always some of my favorite posts – I love getting to know authors and hearing about the inspiration behind their novels.

To celebrate the release of her new novel Platinum Doll, which just hit stores last week, we sat down with author Anne Girard and asked her questions about her new novel, her writing and even what she has coming up next. We are thrilled to have Anne on the blog today and we hope you enjoy getting to know her as much as we did!

Thank you so much for sitting down with Karen’s Korner for a Q&A session. What was your inspiration for Platinum Doll?

It’s my pleasure! I’m always inspired by true stories from history where I see that there is more than meets the eye. If there is an angle I can share that not a lot of people know, I’m really drawn to it. In the case of Jean Harlow, I hoped to make her a fully dimensional character rather than just the iconic doll-like beauty from photographs.

How do you feel your writing has changed since your first novel?

Great question. My writing has had to adapt to a gradually changing market. When I sold my first novel, it was during a period where historicals were allowed to be lush, detailed and long. Now, with paper costs, and the interest of readers in shorter more concise books, I have had to learn to pare down. I prefer my former style of writing, to be honest with you, but things change.

How long did it take you to write Platinum Doll?

From start to finish, including research and editing, I am generally given a year to write a novel, and that is about what it took for Platinum Doll.

What has been the best compliment you’ve received about any of your books?

It’s lovely when someone says they couldn’t put one of my books down. I think the best compliment though would have to be that after 23 years, they still love my first novel, Courtesan, and they’ve never forgotten it.

What is your writing process like? Do you write an outline before every book you write and do you write every day?

I write a very long and detailed outline, yes. When writing about real historical figures, that is essential because there are so many details and years to get right, and get in the proper order. I usually write between a 35-50 page outline. This is after I have read every possible biography I can get my hands on, as well as books on costume of the time, and current events of the time. I write five days a week. I need to catch my breath on the weekends!

I adore all your book covers and the cover of Platinum Doll is absolutely stunning (it may be one of my favorites.) Who designs them and how involved are you in the process?

The art department at my publishing house designs all the covers. Then it is a team decision, involving the editors and sales team. I’m never really involved initially but I have been known to speak up when something was inaccurate, or I absolutely hated it. After all, it’s my name that’s on the cover if it’s dreadful!

Do you have a favorite author, and what authors or books have inspired you to write?

There are too many fabulous authors who have inspired me to have only one (that would almost be like trying to choose a favorite child!), but some of them whose work have forever left their mark on my heart are Oscar Wilde, Edith Wharton, Irving Stone, and Karleen Koen.

What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?

Do your homework as to what it takes to get published: attend seminars, read books on it, and then… write! You can’t sell something that isn’t on paper. And my favorite quote of all time for writers is: “The purpose of the first draft is not to get it right, it’s to get it written!”

If you’re allowed to tell us, what can your readers expect next? Are you currently working on anything new?

I will be going back to my Diane Haeger persona for the next book—another historical novel based on a wonderful and complex real character from history. I’m obsessed with the story already and can’t wait to be able to share it with readers. Stay tuned!

Diane Haeger - Anne Girard HeadshotAbout the Author:

Diane Haeger, who currently writes under the pen name Anne Girard (Madame Picasso), holds a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University, and a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature from UCLA. A chance meeting with the famed author Irving Stone 25 years ago sharply focused her ambition to tell great stories from history, and write them only after detailed research and extensive travel to the place her character lived. That determination has provided a fascinating journey that has taken her from the halls of Chenonceaux, to a private interview with one of Pablo Picasso’s last surviving friends, and most recently an invitation inside Jean Harlow’s home.

Since the publication of her acclaimed first novel, Courtesan, in 1993, a novel that remains in print today, her work has been translated into 18 different languages, bringing her international success and award-winning status.

Platinum Doll, a novel about Jean Harlow, is her 15th book. She lives in Southern California with her husband and family.

Connect with Anne:

About Platinum Doll:

Set against the dazzling backdrop of Golden Age Hollywood, Platinum Doll tells the enchanting story of Jean Harlow, one of the most iconic stars in the history of film.

It’s the Roaring Twenties and seventeen-year-old Harlean Carpenter McGrew has run off to Beverly Hills. She’s chasing a dream—to escape her small, Midwestern life and see her name in lights. In California, Harlean has everything a girl could want—a rich husband, glamorous parties, socialite friends—except an outlet for her talent. But everything changes when a dare pushes her to embrace her true ambition—to be an actress on the silver screen.

With her timeless beauty and striking shade of platinum-blond hair, Harlean becomes Jean Harlow. And as she’s thrust into the limelight, Jean learns that this new world of opportunity comes with its own set of burdens. Torn between her family and her passion to perform, Jean is forced to confront the difficult truth—that fame comes at a price, if only she’s willing to pay it.

Featuring a glittering cast of ingénues and Hollywood titans—Clara Bow, Clark Gable, Laurel and Hardy, Howard Hughes—Platinum Doll introduces us to the star who would shine brighter than them all.

To celebrate the release of her new novel, Anne and her team have graciously provided one copy of Platinum Doll for a giveaway (US entries only). Enter to win via the Rafflecopter below:

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The Sound of Glass by Karen White – Plus, a Giveaway!

51sUwrukhPL__SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Synopsis: It has been two years since the death of Merritt Heyward’s husband, Cal, when she receives unexpected news—Cal’s family home in Beaufort, South Carolina, bequeathed by Cal’s reclusive grandmother, now belongs to Merritt.

Charting the course of an uncertain life—and feeling guilt from her husband’s tragic death—Merritt travels from her home in Maine to Beaufort, where the secrets of Cal’s unspoken-of past reside among the pluff mud and jasmine of the ancestral Heyward home on the Bluff. This unknown legacy, now Merritt’s, will change and define her as she navigates her new life—a new life complicated by the arrival of her too young stepmother and ten-year-old half-brother.

Soon, in this house of strangers, Merritt is forced into unraveling the Heyward family past as she faces her own fears and finds the healing she needs in the salt air of the Low Country. (Excerpt from Goodreads)

My Thoughts: I read this book back in the fall but sadly am only now posting my review. It was a rough end to 2015 for my family so I had to take a short break from blogging. However, I’m pleased to say that I am back and hoping 2016 will be a brighter year! Now, on to my review.

I adore any novel Karen White writes and The Sound of Glass was no exception. Not only was the story fantastic but the cover of this book is stunning and instantly pulls you in. The Sound of Glass is a beautiful piece of southern fiction about family, secrets, forgiveness and redemption.

The story center centers around Merritt, who moves to South Carolina two years after her husband Cal died. When she arrives in Beaufort, she learns a great deal about Cal’s past and the secrets of Cal’s grandmother Edith who used to live in the Heyward home. I loved the complexity of all the characters, including Loralee and Owen, Merritt’s stepmother and half-brother who show up on her doorstep soon after Merritt arrives. I enjoyed the quirks of each character and ultimately watching them blossom and heal in their own way. Karen does such a fantastic job navigating between the past and present and bringing all of the pieces together – I never once felt lost between the various storylines.

Karen’s novels are the ultimate indulgence and there is just something perfect about the way she tells a story. I have yet to read a story of hers I haven’t fallen in love with or been completed hooked from the beginning to end. It’s hard to pick a favorite but I have to say that The Sound of Glass may be either my favorite or a close second.

I cannot wait for Karen to release her new novel Flight Patterns this summer (it hits stores in May!) Plus, Karen co-authored The Forgotten Room which just came out this week so go pick up your copy today!

Connect with Karen:

I am giving away a copy of The Sound of Glass because I loved this novel so much. Enter via the Rafflecopter below (US entries only):

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Cover Reveal – Lies and Other Acts of Love by Kristy Woodson Harvey

Dear Carolina, the debut from Kristy Woodson Harvey was one of my favorite books of the summer so I was thrilled when asked to be a part of the cover reveal for her second novel Lies and Other Acts of Love (which hits stores in April!) To see my full review of Dear Carolina, click here – I promise you will love it as much as I did.

I am extremely excited to be a part of the cover reveal for Kristy’s newest novel along with a number of other bloggers (who I happen to love!) And no surprise…the cover is absolutely stunning! So here it is – the cover of Lies and Other Acts of Love…

LiesAndOtherActsofLove_HiRes

Summary:

Dear Carolina was praised as “Southern fiction at its best.”* Now author Kristy Woodson Harvey presents a new novel about what it really means to tell the truth . . .

After sixty years of marriage and five daughters, Lynn “Lovey” White knows that all of us, from time to time, need to use our little white lies.

Her granddaughter, Annabelle, on the other hand, is as truthful as they come. She always does the right thing—that is, until she dumps her hedge fund manager fiancé and marries a musician she has known for three days. After all, her grandparents, who fell in love at first sight, have shared a lifetime of happiness, even through her grandfather’s declining health.

But when Annabelle’s world starts to collapse around her, she discovers that nothing about her picture-perfect family is as it seems. And Lovey has to decide whether one more lie will make or break the ones she loves . . .

LIES AND OTHER ACTS OF LOVE releases April 5th, 2016 from Berkley/Penguin Random House and is currently available for pre-order at your local bookstore, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Participating Bloggers:

Be sure to check out the list of amazing bloggers who are participating in this cover reveal!

Connect with Kristy:

Giveaway:

To celebrate the cover reveal, Kristy and her team are giving away three wonderful bundles of books penned by Tall Poppy writers!

  • Book Bundle 1: MY VERY BEST FRIEND, Cathy Lamb; THE DOG YEAR, Ann Wertz Garvin; CONFESSIONS OF A PARIS PARTY GIRL, Vicki Lesage; VINTAGE, Susan Gloss; DEAR CAROLINA, Kristy Woodson Harvey; FUGITIVE COLORS, Lisa Barr
  • Book Bundle 2: THE COINCIDENCE OF COCONUT CAKE, Amy Guertin Reichert;  CLOSE TO DESTINY, Adria Cimino; LEMONGRASS HOPE, Amy Impellizzeri; KEEP THE ENDS LOOSE, Molly Duncan Campbell; ROME IN LOVE, Anita Hughes; LITTLE BLACK LIES, Sandra Block
  • Book Bundle 3: THE MIDDLE OF SOMEWHERE, Sonja Yoerg; WAKING UP JOY, Tina Ann Forkner; WHILE YOU WERE GONE, Kate Moretti; THE BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTERS, Nicole Baart; ENTANGLEMENT, Katie Rose; DEAR CAROLINA, Kristy Woodson Harvey

Enter to win via the Rafflecopter below:

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