Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Recently, I released my second Chick Lit novel, In Need of Therapy.  The heroine of this story is Pilar Alvarez, a 29-year-old, Miami-based psychologist who I envisioned as being the calm, sane center of a perpetually swirling storm; the storm being her needy patients and her mercurial, high-maintenance family. I've received a lot of great feedback from readers on the book, and Pilar's mother, Luisa, aka Mamá, seems to be a favorite. Several people have pointed out that Mamá is like a Latina Mrs. Bennet (from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.) I hadn't thought to make that comparison myself, but there are definitely some similarities between these two very colorful and memorable ladies:

[Alison Steadman as Mrs. Bennet and Raquel Welch as Luisa Alvarez]

- Both characters provide comic relief. Unintentionally, of course, because these women take themselves and their martyr complexes very seriously. Mrs. Bennet talks about her "poor nerves" frequently, and Mamá is referred to as a "drama queen" by Pilar. Anytime things don't go their way or they receive what is perceived to be a slight, hysterics, tears, and threats of disowning their daughters are sure to follow.

- Both characters were beauties in their youth. That's how Mrs. B ensnared an easily beguiled Mr. Bennet and how Luisa ended up with several beauty pageant titles. In middle age, Mrs. Bennet likes to downplay her looks, "I certainly have had my share of beauty, but I do not pretend to be anything extraordinary now," while Luisa does her best to fight back time by lying about her age and using a plethora of expensive skincare products that do everything from erase fine lines to remove cellulite. I fancy that if Mrs. Bennet were to be  transported to the 21st century, she'd be just as intrigued by Botox and plastic surgery as her modern-day counterpart is.

- Both characters are obsessed with seeing their daughters married, preferably to wealthy men. At the beginning of P&P, Mrs. Bennet has her hands full with five unwed daughters. Luisa only has three girls, and her eldest has already snagged a lawyer, so her matchmaking efforts are all directed towards her still-single middle child. Mamá champions Pilar's ex, restaurant owner Victor, and cannot understand Pilar's aversion to him.

"Victor was perfect! So charming, so handsome, such good manners . . . and he doted on you. But no, that wasn't good enough for you. You're too picky. You think that rich, attractive men just grow on trees . . ." --Mamá           

Mrs. Bennet was similarly miffed when Elizabeth rejected Mr. Collins' proposal.

"Aye, there she comes, looking as unconcerned as may be, and caring no more for us than if we were at York, provided she can have her own way. --But I tell you what, Miss Lizzy-- if you take it into your head to go on refusing every offer of marriage in this way, you will never get a husband at all." --Mrs. Bennet

[David Bamber as Mr. Collins and Adam Rodriguez as Victor Liscano]

Although Victor is "tiresome, relentless, and purposely dense" just like the Bennets' cousin, I like to think that he's not quite as odious as Mr. Collins. At least, he's handsome and has family money! 

- Both characters are perpetually exasperated by their intelligent, independent second-born children and have trouble relating to them.

"I'll tell you what your problem is. You think too much. You always have. I don't know how I ever ended up with a daughter who has such a big brain." --Mamá

"Lizzy shall be brought to reason. I will speak to her about it directly myself. She is a very headstrong, foolish girl, and does not know her own interest; but I will make her know it." --Mrs. Bennet

Neither woman fares much better with their youngest daughters. Although Mrs. B finds nothing wrong with Lydia's selfish, willful behavior, she comes to rue not disciplining the girl when Lydia disgraces the family by running off with the caddish Wickham. Mamá is always at odds with her "Oops!" child, Izzy, an unrepentant rule-breaker who pulls stunts that would put Miss Lydia to shame (None of which I can repeat here without spoiling the book!)

[Julia Sawalha as Lydia Bennet and Naya Rivera as Izzy Alvarez]

The bottom line is that mothers haven't changed much in the last 200 years. They will always want the best for their daughters, and there will be friction when their children don't fall in line with their maternal master plan! The mother/daughter dynamic is a complex and endlessly entertaining one that I'm sure writers will continue to explore for many centuries to come!  

Thanks so much for stopping by Books by Banister for The Girly Book Blog Hop! Don't forget to visit all of the wonderful sites participating in the blog hop, which are listed at the bottom of this post. To celebrate this great event, I am giving away a $10 Starbucks e-gift card! This is the perfect time of year to curl up with a Pumpkin Spice Latte (or two) and reread your favorite book or maybe try a new author or title! So, please enter using Rafflecopter below.

  • Giveaway will run from Thursday, Sept. 27th until midnight on Monday, October 1st.
  • Must be at least 18 years of age to enter. 
  • A winner will be chosen using
  • The winner will be announced here and notified by e-mail. 
  • Winner has 48 hours to respond before a new winner is chosen.

Book blurb (In Need of Therapy):  Lending a sympathetic ear and dispensing sage words of advice is all part of the job for psychologist Pilar Alvarez, and she’s everything a good therapist should be:  warm, compassionate, supportive.  She listens, she cares, and she has all the answers, but how’s the woman everyone turns to in their hour of need supposed to cope when her own life starts to fall apart?

While working hard to make a success of her recently-opened practice in trendy South Beach, Pilar must also find time to cater to the demands of her boisterous Cuban family, which includes younger sister Izzy, an unemployed, navel-pierced wild child who can't stay out of trouble, and their mother, a beauty queen turned drama queen who’s equally obsessed with her fading looks and getting Pilar married before it’s “too late.”  Although she’d like to oblige her mother and make a permanent love connection, Pilar’s romantic prospects look grim.  Her cheating ex, who swears that he’s reformed, is stalking her.  A hunky, but strictly off-limits, patient with bad-boy appeal and intimacy issues is making passes.  And the sexy shrink in the suite across the hall has a gold band on his left ring finger.

When a series of personal and professional disasters lead Pilar into the arms of one of her unsuitable suitors, she's left shaken, confused, and full of self-doubt.  With time running out, she must make sense of her feelings and learn to trust herself again so that she can save her business, her family, and most importantly, her heart. 

Purchase In Need of Therapy at:

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Sunday, September 16, 2012


Blogger and British author extraordinaire, Mandy Baggot, and I, are doing something fun today - an interview swap! Read on to learn more about Mandy, who recently released her fifth novel, a contemporary romance called "Taking Charge." And pop over to Mandy's blog to read my interview (She asked some great questions!)

1) Can you give us a brief overview of TAKING CHARGE?

Taking Charge is Robyn and Cole’s story. Robyn has been living in the UK for the past nine years and she has to return to her hometown in the US when her father has a heart attack. Once there she has to look after his roadhouse which has been run into the ground and his ice hockey team who are slipping down the league. What she isn’t prepared for is meeting a hot guy on the plane – Cole. He’s travelling with much more than a carry-on and is hoping to start afresh in Michigan. He’s been hurt, he has a new focus but will meeting Robyn change all that?

2) What's your favorite quality about your hero/heroine?

I admire two things about Robyn. One is she often says the first thing that comes into her head and doesn’t think at all before talking. Somehow though that makes her quite endearing – she has a childlike quality about her. The other thing is I love her love of food. She eats all the things that are bad for her (chips, ice cream, hot dogs) and she doesn’t care!

3) What made you want to write TAKING CHARGE?

My dad lives in Michigan where the novel is set and when I went to visit him I fell in love with his town. The people there all have fantastic community spirit and old-fashioned values that seem to have all but disappeared over here. The story was fermenting in my head after about the second day and then when we went to watch the ice hockey it all took off from there! I listened to ‘Who’s Crying Now’ by Journey a lot too – that song really brought it all together for me.

4) How long did it take you to write TAKING CHARGE?  What is your writing process like?

It usually takes me between six and twelve months to write the first draft on the novel. Although I am now a full-time author that doesn’t mean I get all day every day actually writing. An author’s life consists of many things and I probably spent a lot more time each day promoting my books, doing interviews, supporting other authors etc. than I do creating something new. I do try and set aside time each day to actually write but you have to be flexible. I have two young daughters too so I’m making time to be mum as well!

5) What comes first for you -- character idea or plot idea?

They both usually come together in their most raw stage. I usually have an ‘idea’ about a scenario and then the characters form pretty quickly. Then I form the whole plot around those characters and the first seed of the scenario I thought of. It sounds highly disorganized but that’s how it works for me. I can start out with something and by the time I’ve finished the story’s completely different to how it was going to be. It’s good to evolve things though!

6) If Hollywood comes calling and asks you to sign over the movie rights for TAKING CHARGE, who would you like to see play Robyn and Cole on the big screen?

Ha ha! I’ve been asked this one a few times and I know!! I would have Amanda Seyfried as Robyn and Robbie Amell as Cole. [Tracie's note: The hockey hottie in the photo below is not Robbie Amell, but Mandy thinks he would make a great Cole and I wholeheartedly agree!] 

7) What are you working on now?

At the moment I am doing edits for my next novel ‘Security’ which is coming out on 4 April 2013. Sapphire Star Publishing have signed me again for this book and we can’t wait to share it with you. Here’s the blurb:

Autumn Raine is a pop vocalist at the very top of her game. She’s a style icon, the paparazzi’s darling and everyone wants to be her friend. But when her safety is threatened, her whole life starts to unravel.

Enter Nathan Regan, an ex-elite soldier who is assigned to protect her. He’s a good man doing bad things but what drives him? Passion? Madness? Or grief? Demons from his past are threatening to consume him. Can he win the fight alone or will he have to admit he needs help?

As the threat deepens, Autumn starts to find out who she really needs in her life. Is there still room for personal assistant Janey or rapper boyfriend Rockweiler? And can Autumn put her faith in a forty-something Jamaican woman who handles an automatic weapon as expertly as she cooks?

Eluding kidnap and trying to stay alive, can Autumn find the strength to be the person she longs to be? And can two people, poles apart, forge something strong enough to survive anything?

8) How do you think of titles?

I love making up the titles almost as much as I love writing the blurbs! I don’t know how they come to me really. I try and define the essence of the book, hopefully a title that will intrigue readers and make them want to find out more. I’ve never thought of one and changed it…yet.

9) You've done a great job of branding yourself with each of your novels having a similar, but distinctive, look with a couple silhouetted against an eye-catching   background.  How did you come up with this idea?  Do you design your covers yourself or leave that to a professional?

I love my covers and I was lucky enough to work with a very talented designer called Jane Dixon-Smith. I had this idea that having your covers professional designed as going to cost money I didn’t have but it really doesn’t break the bank and it has been worth every penny and more. Jane listened to what I wanted, we looked at covers that were out there and she really got what I wanted to achieve. The first cover we worked on together was Strings Attached and then we went back and rebranded the others to match. I’m really happy with my brand and am always getting great compliments about them.

10) The e-book market is so competitive now.  How did you find an audience for your books?  What do you think are the most effective ways an author can promote herself?

There are millions of books out there all wanting a share of the market and it is difficult. I’m very lucky to have the support of two fantastic teams, Sapphire Star Publishing and Love a Happy Ending. Both Loveahappyending and Sapphire Star believe in authors supporting each other. There is strength in numbers after all and working as a team really does make a difference. Like blog guests for instance! I love having guests on my blog, it gets promotion for the guest and it draws their readers to your website. It’s a win/win situation.

Effective ways of promoting – for me it’s Twitter. I get most of my sales through promoting on Twitter. But as well as those promo tweets it’s a great place to meet new friends, readers, other writers, people with similar interests. I just like Tweeting in general!
11) What are your thoughts on love scenes in books?  Do you prefer to read/write sweet/romantic encounters between your hero and heroine or spicy ones?

It depends entirely on the book! I am a big of a fan of shutting the bedroom door where I can, with the readers firmly left behind it. For me, the most intriguing and special part of the romance is the reasons behind their getting together, that first realization that something is going to happen between them, that first kiss. That isn’t to say I don’t like writing spicy scenes if the characters demand it! There is definitely some spice coming up in ‘Security’.

12) Who are the authors who inspire you?

That’s a hard one. I don’t think I’m inspired by anyone necessarily. I read widely, I read a lot of contemporary romance, I have to say I have just started reading Debbie Macomber novels and I think she’s a brilliant writer. She’s written hundreds of books and that’s a position I’d like to be in one day. I just need to hire a nanny, a housekeeper and a cook!

13) What genres do you like to read?  Do you stick to one or are you eclectic in your reading tastes?

I mainly read contemporary romance novels but since being with Loveahappyending and Sapphire Star I’ve started to read out of my comfort zone and I am really enjoying doing that and finding some great novels. I’ve read fantasy, crime, thriller, paranormal, sci-fi…I don’t think there are many genres I haven’t read now!

14) What was the last book you read that really WOWed you?

I think it has to be Gary Kassay’s Murder in Silence. I love watching cop shows on TV and I pride myself at being able to tell you who the killer is from the get-go, but with Gary’s book I didn’t guess! He deserves a wow from me because of that and because the book was a page turner – the other great news is it was the first in a series!

15) If you could be plopped down in the middle of any book, which one would it be?

Fifty Shades of Grey – just so I could get to talk about my inner goddess.

16) If you could invite any five people (living or dead) over for a dinner party, who would they be and why?

Bryan Adams – because I want to duet with him
Lady Gaga – because she’s an amazing songwriter
My Dad – because I miss him
David Hasselhoff – he’s so entertaining
Dick Van Dyke – a legend

Fast and Flirty 

Favorite scent?  Cinnamon
Favorite color?  Black
Favorite food?  Mashed potato
Favorite word?  Yay!
Favorite article of clothing?  Leggings
Dream vacation spot? 
Corfu, Greece
Favorite time period in history?  Nineties
Favorite girl's night out drink?  White wine, no rum and coke, no tequila – all of them!
Favorite date night activity?  Meal out
Favorite song?  Too many to pick on! One day I’m all Pitbull, the next I’m Lady Antebellum
Celebrity hottie on your laminated list?  Richard Armitage 
Novel hero crush?  My own I’m afraid – Quinn Blake!

Thanks so much for dropping by Books by Banister today, Mandy!


Where you can find Mandy Baggot: