Monday, October 29, 2012


My guest today on Books by Banister is Women's Fiction author Francine LaSala. As she is also a professional editor and has written many non-fiction pieces, Francine wears many hats! Her first novel, the humorous and quirky Rita Hayworth's Shoes, was such a hit that it caught the eye of publisher Diversion Books (more on that below.) And now she's back with the very clever and engaging The Girl, the Gold Tooth, and Everything. Read on to find out more about this interesting, multi-talented lady and be sure to add The Girl, the Gold Tooth, and Everything to your TBR pile!   

1) Can you give us a brief overview of The Girl, the Gold Tooth, and Everything?

You bet! Mina Clark feels out of place and somewhat frustrated in her upscale community, but there’s more going on than typical suburban angst. Mina’s struggling with a terrible case of amnesia sparked by an event most everyone believes is best she forget. Plagued by confusion, Mina does not quite have her feet on the ground, and gets steamrolled by life--mountains of debt, nasty creditors, her daughter in the throes of the “terrible threes,” her busy-body homeowner’s association, the “judgey” other mothers in her development and the pre-school. On top of that, her husband travels for work constantly and she’s worried he’s having an affair. Then a trip to an unusual dental practice leaves her (unwittingly) with a gold dental crown and everything changes. She makes an empowering new friend and starts taking back the reins in her life. She also re-connects with a significant figure from her past, and things start to look up as her memories slowly begin to return. Except she’s also kind of crazy so everything may not be as it seems...

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

Hard to say without giving things away about the story as my favorite quality in her doesn’t surface right away. So I’ll just say between you and me that my favorite quality of Mina’s is that she is blond! ;-)

3) What made you want to write The Girl, the Gold Tooth, and Everything?

I like to write books about objects that become catalysts for change in people’s lives. In Rita Hayworth’s Shoes, a woman feeling down on herself and down on life decides she’s worth the purchase of a fabulous--and fabulously expensive--pair of shoes, and her whole life turns around. She makes the decision to feel good about herself, and good things follow. The Girl, the Gold Tooth, and Everything first sparked in my head when I, too, (unwittingly) was implanted with a gold dental crown. I didn’t want it, I insisted it be removed, but the fit is so exact, it’s never coming out (it isn’t even cemented in). Anyway, I thought what if a woman being steamrolled by life got a sassy new attitude and empowered outlook on life after getting a gold crown implanted. That could make for fun story! The rest of the crazy mess pretty much just spilled out of that.

4) How long did it take you to write The Girl, the Gold Tooth, and Everything? What is your writing process like?

From inception to publication, I’m going to say about a year. My writing process is nothing like it was when I was younger. It used to be that in order to write anything, I needed absolute quiet. A full bottle of wine and a pack of smokes. The right music playing at just the right volume. If everything wasn’t “just so,” no words could come out of me. Once I had kids, I kind of had to “relax” my standards. I gave up smoking a long time ago, and while I still love my wine, I don’t ever drink and write. The most significant change to my routine, however, is the “absolute quiet” part of it. You can find me scribbling away in a notebook while waiting for the school bus, tapping on my keyboard while making dinner...generally writing for me now is all about sitting in the middle of a typhoon with a laptop, umbrella optional. Interestingly enough, I never finished writing anything within my old parameters, but since the “crazy” came into my life, I’ve published two novels, completed drafts for two others, and written three screenplays, all while juggling a pretty insane load of freelance work. I guess I’m one of those people that craves crazy, which is probably why I like Mina so much!

5) If Hollywood comes calling and asks you to sign over the movie rights for The Girl, the Gold Tooth, and Everything, who would you like to see play Mina on the big screen?

Christina Applegate is my top choice for sure. I didn’t write Mina with Christina in mind, but I just saw her the other night on Up All Night and I was floored. It was like somewhere in my mind, she was always lurking. Now is it because her character had amnesia on Samantha Who? Who knows. All I know is that when I see her, I’m like yep. That’s Mina.

6) What are you working on now?

Marketing! Also finishing some other books. Oh, and looking for a new job, if anyone knows anyone who could use a snappy copywriter, or a seasoned book editor. (Call me. Maybe?)

7) How do you think of titles?

I actually can’t write a book properly unless I know what it’s called because I can’t connect to what I’m trying to accomplish in a story without a title, but I can’t say I ever “think” of my titles. It’s more that they reveal themselves to me. Rita Hayworth’s Shoes came from a pair of shoes I fell in love with in an Ann Taylor store. They were called “Hayworth” and they were not in my budget, but they were so lovely I couldn’t resist! The Girl, the Gold Tooth & Everything is kind of an unintentional homage to an early ‘80s movie I loved growing up called The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything. It starred Pam Dawber and Robert Hayes and was about a guy who gained possession of a watch that could stop time. It has nothing to do with my book, but I love the musicality of that title, like Douglas Adams’ Life, the Universe & Everything, and I felt the elements of my story just fit so nicely into the framework.

8) Tell us about your cover art design. How did you come up with the concept or did you leave that to your publisher's art department?

I am absolutely blessed to have a close friend who is a phenomenal designer. She also did Rita Hayworth’s Shoes. The Girl, the Gold Tooth & Everything is such a complicated story, with a mouthful of a title, no one had any idea what the cover should look like. The publisher was also really worried about the title and how it would show on the cover. So I gave Trish my vision!

She graciously considered it without laughing, and gently fought me every step of the way to get to the cover we have now. She’s brilliant and highly recommended. And on Facebook! Go on over and “like” her here: Tricia McGoey

9) Your first novel, Rita Hayworth's Shoes, was originally self-published, then it was picked up and re-released by Diversion Books. Can you tell us more about your journey with this book and do you have any advice for indie authors who'd like to hook up with a publisher?

As Dory says in Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming!” It really isn’t easy--the past two to three years especially, with agents and publishers not taking chances on new novelists. The real eye-opener for me is that I have been in the business for almost twenty years and there was still so much “swimming upstream” for me! The old rules no longer apply. So definitely try and build a following for yourself and your work, but also keep track of what publishers are putting out there--and not just the big houses. There are many exciting start-ups cropping up who understand the new landscape of book publishing in some ways better than the big guys, like my publisher, Diversion Books. Do your homework and only approach publishers whose lists reflect what you have to offer! And if you have your heart set on a big publisher, go get yourself an agent because you won’t get in any other way.

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

Finding a market is tough but an important thing to remember is “Strength in numbers.” My advice is to get involved with other authors who do similar work and do a bunch of blogging, blog hops, interviews. Follow on Twitter and get followed. Retweet! Just REACH OUT! My other advice would be to try and promote in non-book areas. How can you cross promote your book? For example, when I first published Rita Hayworth’s Shoes, I approached shoe websites to offer some giveaways. And in June, for Book Expo, a friend of mine made 200 “red shoe” cookies for me, with tags that featured the book jacket and contact and ordering information, which I handed out to people on lines. See cookie picture here.  It doesn’t always work, but thinking outside the box can get you noticed. 

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?

Well I think this really depends on my mood!

12) Who are the authors who inspire you?

I love New York Times bestselling authors because they are wealthy! Just kidding! (Sort of.) I mean, I am inspired by J.K. Rowling, but more important to me is that an author delivers without selling out. When an author is true to her or his story, and doesn’t just write for the sake of “pandering to the masses,” even if their work never tops the bestseller lists, that’s the kind of author who inspires me. Mary Doria Russell flips genres with every book. I totally dig that! And getting back to Rowling, she could have done a spin-off Harry Potter series, but she had another story in her that had nothing to do with wizards and such, and she went ahead and told it. To me, that’s inspiring. 

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

I’m pretty eclectic. While I don’t read a lot of westerns or sci-fi or war stories (or anything in those genres, if we’re being honest), I like to laugh and cry in equal measure. I really do need to make more time for reading though. Between writing fiction and trying to make a living (for me not one in the same yet) and raising small children, there isn’t a lot of brainspace left at the end of the day for reading. (Though your In Need of Therapy is high on the list of must reads right now.) <Thank you, Francine!>

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

Mary Doria Russell’s Dreamers Of The Day really charmed and overwhelmed me, in a good way. I read it over the course of a few days and loved every minute.

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

Would I have to stay there? Could I magically escape before things took a bad turn? Because I’m pretty sure Alice In Wonderland is the book I’d most want to visit but I’ve had to deal with way too many evil “Queens of Hearts” in my life to stick around and endure that game of croquet and the panic of possibly losing my head!

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

Oooo, I like this game! Voltaire because Candide is my favorite book. Dorothy Parker because no one quips better. Woody Allen because despite his questionable personal choices, Midnight in Paris, The Purple Rose of Cairo, and Annie Hall are all on my list of top-ten favorite films. Steve from Blues Clues because I’ve always had a weird fixation on that guy (don’t ask). And Barack Obama, just because.

Fast and Flirty 

Favorite scent?  I’ve been partial to Burberry Brit for a while. Wait--you meant from a bottle, right?
Favorite color?  Fuchsia, obnoxious but true.
Favorite food?  Sushi (well, truthfully fried chicken, but I try to ignore that)
Favorite word?  My real favorite word starts with an F and ends with a K and it isn’t frock. I know it’s naughty, but it’s such a powerful, versatile word. So maybe we’ll just say “luscious.”
Favorite article of clothing?  My husband just got me a baseball cap that reads “Got Wine” in the “Got Milk” font on the front. Yep. That’s at the top of the list right now.
Dream vacation spot?  The Caribbean for sure. St. Anywhere.
Favorite time period in history?  Never thought about it but as I’m kind of a party girl at heart, let’s go with the 1920s!
Favorite girl's night out drink?  Vodka martini, extra dry, extra olives.
Favorite date night activity?  TALKING to my husband! I know, seems crazy, but our lives are nuts and we barely get any time to just sit and talk like adult human beings!
Favorite song?  I’m partial to show tunes so I don’t think I could answer this question without humiliating myself.
Celebrity hottie on your laminated list?  Hmmm... John Cusack... Jon Hamm... No! Jon Stewart, for sure!
Novel hero crush?  I know this is awful to admit, but I’ve never gotten over Rhett Butler from Gone With The Wind. I just can’t seem to shake him and I read that book about twenty-five years ago! <You'll have to fight me for Rhett, Francine! I fell in love with him when I was just 11 years old and remain a diehard fan to this day!>

Thanks, Tracie, for having me on Books By Banister! Here’s how to find me out in the world:

About Francine's books:


A fast-paced, richly layered, and darkly humorous satire filled with quirky characters and unforgettable moments of humanity! 

Mina Clark is losing her mind-or maybe it's already gone. She isn't quite sure. Feeling displaced in her over-priced McMansion-dotted suburban world, she is grappling not only with deep debt, a mostly absent husband, and her playground-terrorizer 3-year-old Emma, but also with a significant amnesia she can't shake-a "temporary" condition now going on several years, brought on by a traumatic event she cannot remember, and which everyone around her feels is best forgotten.

When a trip to the dentist leaves Mina with a new gold crown, her whole life changes. Slowly her memory and her mojo return. But when everything begins to crash down around her, she's not sure if what's happening is real, of if she's just now fully losing her mind... especially when she realizes the only person she can trust is the one she fears the most. What's it all going to cost her in the end?

Buy The Girl, the Gold Tooth & Everything:  Amazon


Amy Miller gets dumped on her wedding day and everyone knows it's for the best her relationship with David had eaten away at her for years. Except for Amy... When her best friend, Jane Austen-Rabinowitz, and Jane's sagacious six-year-old daughter, Zoe, convince Amy to treat herself to an extravagantly priced, super-cute pair of shoes, which purportedly once belonged to a siren of the silver screen, she balks at first, but their allure soon wears her down.

Once they are hers, her life turns around. She gets refocused on her career and meets a true kindred spirit, the also-jilted English professor, Decklin Thomas. She's not attracted to Deck at first. But when circumstances lead to them spending more time together, they bond, and Amy starts to believe she may have found her soul mate. But when Deck's former wife goes missing, again, the perfect romance may not be what it seems... Sparkly and witty as a 1940s screwball comedy, and filled with quirky characters and lots of delightful surprises, Rita Hayworth's Shoes is a story of bouncing back, a heartwarming and potentially heartbreaking romance, and even a mystery rolled into one fun, hilarious page-turner.

Buy Rita Hayworth’s Shoes:  Amazon

Monday, October 22, 2012


Lots of excitement on Books by Banister today as I'm participating in a big event for my prolific, multi-genre writer pal, Elizabeth Marx (All's Fair in Vanity's War, Cutters vs. Jocks, Binding Arbitration.) Elizabeth will soon be releasing the first two books in The Red Veil series, Descent of Blood and Ascent of Blood. Today, she's sharing with us the blurbs for both of these Paranormal Romance novels, as well as the cover art. I am a big fan of the cover art for this series as it's so moody and atmospheric and the colors are gorgeous!

Elizabeth has generously offered to gift an e-book ARC (Advanced Reading Copy) of both books to one lucky winner! If you are a fan of stories about sexy vampires and starcrossed lovers, be sure to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below. This giveaway will end at midnight on Monday, October 29th.

Descent of Blood, The Red Veil Series, The Prequel

When times are darkest, some vampires desire more than blood …

England, 1465. Mortal men clash in the War of the Roses for the English crown, while vampire warriors’ move undetected among their ranks, savoring the flow of blood that battlefields provide.

Vampire prince, Severian Pearce, fears the revelation of the immortal clans to humankind should King Henry fall from power. While in pursuit of Henry’s enemies, Severian comes to the aid of Meridian Neville, a human woman he craves—and not for the scent of her blood … Meridian is torn between honoring her father’s dying wish and her unexplainable yearning for Lord Severian. But as Severian and Meridian work together to protect a relic hunted by mortals and immortals alike, the red veil descends over them. This all-consuming attraction can drive immortals to the brink of madness. Will the existence of this powerful bond between a human and a vampire be enough to unite the immortal clans or is the red veil a scourge set on destroying any chance they might have of happiness?

When all hope is lost, one vampire will fight unto death for his forbidden love.

Ascent of Blood, The Red Veil Series, Book One

Sometimes, love is conceived in the mind of a man long before it is ever realized.

1990, Cardiff, Wales.  Vampire prince, Sebastian Pearce, has waited six-hundred years for the right human mate. His own beloved mother was a mortal capable of carrying immortal offspring. While vampires no longer require live donors for sustenance, Mother Nature has played a cruel trick on them … making breeders a rare commodity. As numbers in his Imperial House dwindle, Sebastian’s virgin bride eludes him, until he happens upon a young woman searching for information about a sacred vampire text, the Book of Descent. Sebastian’s desire for her is more potent than anything he’s felt for another woman, but Everleigh Marbut isn’t innocent. She’s an American with a mind of her own, and worst of all, she’s already carrying an immortal being. Sebastian and Everleigh are so intent on fighting their attraction to each other and the influence of the red veil that they don’t realize they’re being pulled into a battle pitting medieval myth against the power of modern science to recreate life.

Author Bio:  Windy City writer Elizabeth Marx brings cosmopolitan flair to her fiction, which is a blend of romance and fast-paced Chicago living with a sprinkle of magical realism. In her past incarnation she was an interior designer--not a decorator--which basically means she has a piece of paper to prove that she knows how to match and measure things and can miraculously make mundane pieces of furniture appear to be masterpieces. Elizabeth says being an interior designer is one part shrink, one part marriage counselor and one part artist, skills eerily similar to those employed in writing. 

Elizabeth grew up in Illinois and has also lived in Texas and Florida. If she’s not pounding her head against the wall trying to get the words just right, you can find her at a softball field out in the boonies or sitting in the bleachers by a basketball court. Elizabeth resides with her husband, girls, and two cats who’ve spelled everyone into believing they’re really dogs.

Elizabeth has traveled extensively, but still says there’s no town like Chi-Town.

Where to find Elizabeth Marx:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, October 19, 2012


I'd like to welcome Welsh author Jaimie Admans to Books by Banister today. Jaimie just released her debut novel, Kismetology, and it immediately caught my eye because 1) I loved the cover and 2) I'm a big fan of humorous stories about the mother/daughter dynamic. Jaimie is a really funny and interesting lady, and I'm sure you'll all enjoy getting to know more about her and her book! She has been kind enough to offer up an e-book copy of Kismetology to one lucky winner, so don't forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below!

1) Can you give us a brief overview of Kismetlogy?

Of course! It’s about a woman called Mackenzie – she’s just moved in with her boyfriend, but unfortunately, they’ve only moved three houses down the road from her mother. She should’ve known better! Her mother interferes and meddles in Mac’s love life, and Mac realizes that her mum does this because she’s lonely. Clearly the only thing to do about it is to find her mother a boyfriend. Her plan of action is to meet the men herself first, find out if they are compatible with her mum, and then set them up on a date. But of course, things are never that easy! She meets a vast array of different men – some lovely, and some who make reptiles seem like attractive company, while she attempts to find someone who could be the perfect man for her mum.

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

She doesn’t give up. Even when it looks hopeless, when it looks like she’ll never find a man suitable for her mum, when she’s had bad experiences on dates, she keeps on trying.

3) What made you want to write Kismetology?

I love the idea of trying to find the perfect man, and I love stories where the characters go on lots of dates, but it had been done before. I had found myself thinking that my own mum needed a man a few times, but she would consider herself too old for dating “like you young ‘uns do.” I suddenly wondered why I didn’t combine those two ideas and make a novel of it...

I got loads of people to tell me their bad date stories, read through loads of personal ads, got people to fill out questionnaires on their idea of the perfect man, and eventually I had a semi-coherent outline!

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

The first draft was actually a NaNoWriMo project, so the first draft only took thirty days. I emphasize that was only the first draft though! It was actually my longest NaNo ever, it ended up at 92,000 words before November was up. The following year it was re-written over the course of a few months – a lot changed in that draft, almost the whole point of the plot changed, and a lot of things were altered. I then re-wrote it again earlier this year, trimmed about 12,000 words from it and added more scenes, and that became the third draft. That was then edited to within an inch of its life, and that became the published version.

That is generally my writing process for all books – I spend a little while planning them out, and then do nothing but write for a month or so to get a first draft done. It doesn’t matter how messy the draft is, that’s what editing is for!

5) If Hollywood comes calling and asks you to sign over the movie rights for Kismetology, who would you like to see play Mackenzie on the big screen?

Do you know, I’ve never even thought about that! I love Alicia Silverstone, so I’m going to say her. Yeah, she’d make a good Mackenzie!

6) How do you think of titles?

With difficulty, and usually in the bath! Titles are a big problem for me – almost always my books have working titles, and the closer I get to the end, the more panicked I get about finding a proper title! The working title for Kismetology was The Perfect Man, because Mackenzie is trying to find the perfect man for her mother – highly unimaginative as you can see! Someone said the word kismetology to me, I don’t even remember who said it or in what context now, but it suddenly clicked! The first draft was finished and I had a long list of possible titles, none of which were doing it for me, but that word was exactly what I’d been looking for!

7) Tell us about your cover art design. How did you come up with the concept? Did you execute it yourself or have a professional do it?

I did it myself, partially because I couldn’t afford to hire a professional, and partially because some so-called professional designs are absolutely awful and I didn’t want to end up with something that screamed ‘self-published!’ (And yes, I know people may think mine screams that anyway, but I like it!)

I had a little bit of graphics experience, but I’d never tried book covers before. I knew I wanted something with multiple hearts on the front, to signify the multiple dates and potential love interests in the book. I spent days finding images and fonts, and had already mocked up two covers which I was trying to decide between when I came across the images I ended up using. I threw them together in a huge rush and didn’t even finish it properly because there was a knock on the door, but when I came back, I knew that terrible mock-up was the cover for this book! It took me another few weeks to tweak it to my satisfaction and make various little changes, but that was the one!

8) Your next book, scheduled to come out in November, is a children's holiday story called "Creepy Christmas." What compelled you to jump genres from Chick Lit to Kid Lit?

Generally I write Young Adult. Young Adult romantic comedies, sometimes with a hint of paranormal. Kismetology is my first venture into proper chick-lit (not counting my first novel, which will never, ever see the light of day!) Usually my characters are teenagers, but the idea I had for Creepy Christmas – it’s about a girl who has to help Santa and his daughter save Christmas from an evil Santa - just would not have worked with older characters. It didn’t seem like too big a jump to write slightly younger characters and attempt to keep out the swear words!

9) You have participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) since 2006. How has it helped you as a writer? And why would you recommend it to other authors?

I think NaNo is absolutely brilliant, and I can’t imagine a November without doing it! I have no idea how I am going to fit it in this year, but I will find a way!

I think it helps in two ways – firstly is the support of other writers on the NaNo forums. There are hundreds of people, who are all lovely and friendly, and all in exactly the same boat as you are! If you need help or support, there is always someone there who understands!

Secondly it can be just the push you need to actually get words on the page. If you procrastinate a lot, like me, or if you don’t think you have the time to write, NaNo can be just what you need. Yes, it’s crazy to try and write a novel in thirty days, but it’s the fun kind of crazy! 1,667 words a day is a lot, but not unmanageable. And it’s only for a month, so you may as well throw caution to the wind and give it a go! And even if you don’t finish, no matter how many words you write, it will be more words than you would have written otherwise!

I really love the NaNo strategy of writing, which is just to write. Don’t edit as you go, do your research beforehand or stick in a note to look it up later, don’t do anything but get the words down on the page, and worry about making them look pretty later. When I first heard about NaNo, it was absolutely unbelievable to me that you could have a first draft of a novel in just a month. But it is absolutely possible. This is my seventh year now, and I’ve done a couple of Camp NaNoWriMos in the summer months too, and I use the same method of writing whether NaNo is on or not. Write now, edit later!

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

Oh, I only wish I knew! I’m very new to this, and honestly have no idea what I’m doing! I love Twitter – I’ve always loved Twitter – and I use that to talk about writing, moan about writing, meet other writers, and hopefully not too often, plug my book! I can’t bear it when writers use Twitter only to tweet links to their book. I love being on there to meet new people and keep in touch with friends, and hopefully they all understand that sometimes book plugging is necessary (like on launch days or promo days) but I don’t want to do it too often and annoy everyone!  Other than that, I try to send out review copies to book bloggers, and blog occasionally myself!

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?

I much prefer to write sweet and romantic scenes. I’m absolutely useless at writing spicy-ness! When I try to write smut, it ends up sounding like an instruction manual! I’m much happier glossing over it with just a hint of what’s happening!

12) Who are the authors who inspire you?

Meg Cabot is a huge inspiration to me. She writes amazingly well, she writes in different genres and she’s brilliantly funny! Sophie Kinsella is amazing as well – surely any British chick-lit author would kill to be like her?! Both of those are writers whose books I will be first in the queue to buy on the day they come out, without even reading the descriptions anymore – you know their books are going to be brilliant! I have to mention Melissa Senate as well, as it was her book See Jane Date that made me want to start writing novels! And Judy Blume, because it was her books that made me love reading so much when I was younger.

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

Honestly, I’ll read pretty much any genre if the book sounds good! I’m not a huge fan of sci-fi or historical novels, but I would read anything if the plot sounded like something I’d enjoy! I do love reading Young Adult and Chick-lit, so I have more of them than anything else, but I also love thrillers and horrors and mysteries. It depends on my mood and also the time of year – I prefer summery beach reads in the summer, and I like something grittier and darker in the winter!

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

A lot of books wow me! Anything that I can’t put down and have to stay up until 4am to finish! Anything that makes me impatient to pick up my Kindle again and carry on with! I am in awe of authors who can do that, no matter the genre.

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

Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers series! I was desperate to go to Malory Towers when I was younger, even though I knew it didn’t exist!

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

Meg Cabot – as mentioned above. She’d be a great guest, and she could tell me how she manages to write so many fantastic books!

Jonathan Larson – he’s the man who wrote the musical Rent, which is one of my favourite things in the world. Jonathan died in 1996, before he got to see the success of his musical. Rent, Tick Tick... Boom, and his story have had a huge impact on me.

Johnny Depp – who wouldn’t want Johnny Depp at a dinner party?! I love him, he can do no wrong in my eyes!

Jason Mraz – I don’t really listen to a lot of modern music, I tend to stick to showtunes, but I love and adore Jason Mraz and could listen to him sing forever!

Lee Evans – He’s a British stand-up comedian, if you don’t know him. He was also in the film There’s Something About Mary. His stand-up shows are on TV all the time, and no matter how many times I see them, I can’t breathe properly from laughing by the end!

Fast and Flirty 

Favorite scent?  Impossible to choose! I’m a big fan of scents, I love perfume and have enough scented candles to sink a ship! When it comes to perfume, Hard Candy and Dior’s Hypnotic Poison are my favourites! For candles it changes with the season, although I always love Yankee’s Peppermint Cocoa!
Favorite color?  Pink. Or purple. Or a pinky-purpley mix of both!
Favorite food?  Anything unhealthy and fattening – glazed doughnuts, pizza, McDonalds Veggie burgers, macaroni cheese, any kind of cake, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Walnut Whips... The list goes on!
Favorite word?  Unencumbered! I also overuse actually and absolutely, which you have probably noticed in this interview!
Favorite article of clothing?  Big, furry, two shades of pink O’Neill boots that I wear as slippers in the winter because I love them so much that I don’t want to ruin them by wearing them out in the rain and mud!
Dream vacation spot?
 I’m torn between somewhere tropical like
Hawaii and a snowy log cabin somewhere cold so we could wrap up warm in front of the fire! 
Favorite time period in history?  I’m not a big history girl, but I grew up in the 90s and everything seemed much more fun and uncomplicated then! 
Favorite girl's night out drink?  I’m a bit boring and don’t drink much, so whatever everyone else is having! 
Favorite date night activity?  Can’t go wrong with a movie! Especially a horror movie, so I can hide behind him and he can be all protective and manly!
Favorite song?  Recently, I Won’t Give Up by Jason Mraz. Of all time, maybe Defying Gravity or For Good from Wicked, Seasons Of Love from Rent, and Never Forget by Take That! 
Celebrity hottie on your laminated list?  Christian Kane. He played Lindsey in Angel and now plays Eliot on Leverage. He’s absolutely gorgeous!
Novel hero crush?  Luke Brandon from the Shopaholic series!

Book blurb:  Finding the perfect man isn't easy. Especially when it's for your mother... 

Mothers. Can't live with them, can't live without them, can't live three doors down the road without them interfering in every aspect of your life.

Mackenzie Atkinson's mother has meddled in her love life once too often and something has to be done. Mackenzie decides to turn the tables and find love for her lonely mother.
Her lonely and very fussy mother.
Surely finding an older gentleman looking for love won't be that hard, right?


If you've ever thought that boys grow up, here's the problem: They don't. Ever.

And Mackenzie is about to learn that the hard way.

Faced with a useless boyfriend, dressed up dogs, men who wear welly boots on dates, men who shouldn't be seen outside in daylight, and men who make reptiles seem like attractive company - will she ever find the perfect man for her neurotic mother?

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Monday, October 15, 2012


Congratulations to Emily at Mrs. Mommy Booknerd Reviews for winning an e-book copy of Nicky Wells' novel Sophie's Turn and thank you to Sapphire Star Publishing for sponsoring this giveaway! 

Today, Books by Banister is shining a spotlight on contemporary romance author Nicky Wells. Having recently re-released the first book in her Rock Star Romance Trilogy, Nicky's here to tell us all about Sophie's Turn, her path to getting published, and what inspires her! If you'd like to win an e-book copy of Sophie's Turn, check out all the giveaway details highlighted in yellow below. Without further ado, allow me to introduce you to the always delightful and entertaining Nicky Wells . . .      

1) Can you give us a brief overview of SOPHIE'S TURN?

Sophie’s Turn is a glamorous, contemporary romantic comedy featuring a rock star and the girl next door. One fine day in Paris, Sophie Penhalligan suddenly finds herself engaged to her teenage crush and love-of-her-life-from-a-distance, rock singer and star extraordinaire Dan Hunter. But there is the small matter of her very recent, but very prior, engagement to Tim. Reliable, honest, trusting Tim, her boyfriend of two years stashed away safely in his mews house in South Kensington while Sophie is drinking rather too much champagne with Dan in Paris. What is a girl to do? Find out how Sophie gets into her predicament and how she turns it around in Sophie’s Turn, Part 1 in the Rock Star Romance Trilogy.

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

Do you know, nobody has asked me that before and yet this is such a good question. I think my favorite quality about Sophie has to be that she follows her heart and her instincts. She has been in denial about the true nature of her relationship with Tim for some time, and when Dan reappears in her life, it jolts her into recognition. Not immediately, and not rationally, but she acts on the instinct that she needs to make some dramatic changes in her life. And then she totally goes with the flow, just to see what happens. I adore that. I also adore her strength of character in the end… but I can’t say anymore right now or I’ll give it all away!

3) What made you want to write SOPHIE'S TURN?

I have always had, and presumably will always have, a soft spot for men with long hair and gravelly, strong singing voices. I have no idea why, it’s just how I am wired. My husband is quite indulgent of this little foible of mine. One night, when we were watching telly (I was quite pregnant and highly hormonal at that time) some long-haired, gravelly-voiced celebrity came on and I mock-swooned. “If he proposed, how’d a girl ever say no?” I said to no-one in particular. My hubby just laughed and remarked that it was a good job that I was already married to him. I laughed too, but it got me thinking. What if Jon Bon Jovi proposed to me tomorrow. What would I do?

Well, those weren’t my exact thoughts but it kind of went that way, and the core conundrum was born. I spun a story around that in my head that very night and got planning the next morning.

4) SOPHIE'S TURN was originally self-published, then it was picked up and re-released by Sapphire Star Publishing. Can you tell us more about your journey with this book and do you have any advice for indie authors who'd like to hook up with a publisher?

You are absolutely right. I elected to have a go at publishing my masterpiece independently in July 2011, electronically on Kindle to begin with. Subsequently I connected with an amazing group of bloggers, gathered reviews, launched a blog tour, joined a fantastic reader-author project called Love a Happy Ending and established my author platform.

I also learned a lot about the publishing industry that I didn’t previously know. Specifically, I discovered that there was a cadre of smaller, emerging small press publishers out there who would consider direct submissions. I watched and observed and learned from others, and eventually came across Sapphire Star Publishing on Facebook in January 2012. I was intrigued by their website and their outlook, so I fired off a submission. It was a very different submission from ones I had done in the past; I had a stack of positive reviews behind me, a growing social networking platform, and a strong idea of how I wanted to promote myself and my brand. When I received a full submission request, I tried hard to keep calm. Been there, done that. But shortly afterwards, an email arrived offering me a publishing contract and I was delighted to accept.

My advice to indie authors who’d like to hook up with a publisher?

First of all, do the legwork and know what the publisher is looking for. Next, polish your manuscript, or at the very least the parts you wish to submit. Typos matter. Grammar matters. Presentation matters, even in electronic format. Give it your best shot, rather than shooting yourself in the foot.

Third, formulate a plan for marketing and branding yourself; include that in your pitch to demonstrate that you’ve got your business hat on as well as your author’s hat. Don’t be hesitant to brag about your platform, your Twitter following, your Facebook likes, your blog hits, your reviews.

And last, be yourself and have fun.

5) How long did it take you to write SOPHIE'S TURN?  What is your writing process like?

It took me about three months to write Sophie’s Turn, and another few months to edit and polish. However, owing to the arrival of not one but two babies in the interim, what should have been a seven to eight month timeframe got drawn out over several years.

The sequel, Sophie’s Run, took six weeks to plan, fourteen weeks to write and a few weeks to edit. I’m just in the last stages of chopping it down to size before Sapphire Star Publishing commences the serious editing rounds!

My writing process… well, you probably got the gist of it just now. I plan. I’m an obsessive planner. I plan the storyline in an iterative process, going back and forth between overviews and detailed plans. I do the research at this point—or at least as much of it as I can envisage. Eventually, I’ll have a one-page crib sheet for each section of the plot, typically about 20 in all, and then I’ll write. Once I write, it’s like an unstoppable force until I finish. Of course my characters take me on detours, and of course I adjust as I go along. But that, roughly, is the process. When I’m done, I dump the manuscript out of sight and leave it to mature for a few weeks while I get planning the next book. And so it goes…

6) If Hollywood comes calling and asks you to sign over the movie rights for SOPHIE'S TURN, who would you like to see play Sophie, Dan, and Tim on the big screen?

Oh, well, that’s a great question and one I have considered in some detail. Ideal world?

Meet:  The Dream Cast for Sophie’s Turn

Dan the Rock Star…. Played by Ewan McGregor! (Or Jon Bon Jovi, but he’d have to adapt an English accent!!!)
Sophie… Played by Keira Knightley!
Rachel … Played by Emma Watson!
Tim… Played by Jude Law!

 [Keira Knightley as Sophie]

[Emma Watson as Rachel]

 [Ewan McGregor as Dan and Jude Law as Tim]

7) What are you working on now?

I am working on two things at the moment. First of all, I’m editing the rough draft of Book 2, Sophie’s Run, before it goes to Sapphire Star for publisher editing. And second, I am writing  the final part in the Rock Star Romance Trilogy. The working title is Sophie’s Encore

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

Plot idea, very definitely. They come out of the randomest places. Just the other day, while I was blow drying my hair and letting my mind wander, I found myself wondering what would happen if I ever met my high school sweetheart again, and whether I would even recognize him. This gave rise to the rough outline for my fourth book… Watch this space!

9) How do you think of titles?

Great question. For Sophie’s Turn, I had a working title of “Full Circle” for the longest time; pretty much until the eve of self-publication! I thought it was apt and intriguing. When it came to designing the cover, however, I found the title was totally unsuitable and didn’t actually do what I wanted it to do at all. Enter the new, revised title of Sophie’s Turn.

For the sequel, Sophie’s Run, I spent days agonizing what title to choose. Stick with ‘Sophie’ in the title, or focus on the core idea, or both? I bounced ideas back and forth with my writing buddy and my beta readers and eventually decided that Sophie’s Run would be best. The title for the third book announced itself to me while I was planning, and I knew without a shadow of a doubt that it was perfect. (NB: this assessment is subject to change, based on previous experience—hahaha!)

10) How did you end up with the cover art for SOPHIE'S TURN? 

Isn’t it gorgeous? Sorry, I had to say this. Holding the paperback in my hand, I can really appreciate the great job my publisher’s designer did here.

The cover for Sophie’s Turn started out as a signpost on a pink background with the obligatory butterfly and flower. It was cute, it was charming, it was a little bit on the naïve and innocent side: like Sophie at the start of the book. My husband handcrafted it for me, it was beautiful.

However. After a few months, I decided that I could no longer ignore the nagging voice in my head that called for something with more panache; something more glamorous, sophisticated, romantic, mysterious. I connected with a long-term friend and very talented designer, Jessie Dalrymple, and asked her to start from scratch. The cover you see today was her idea in concept. Sapphire liked it so much, they decided to take it on and polished fonts, backgrounds, effects and such. I am absolutely thrilled with it!

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?

I like a little bit of both. I’m not shy of injecting quite a bit of spice into my love scenes, but it doesn’t need to be explicit to the last detail. There’s got to be something left for the imagination! As for reading… well, I have a thick skin and am not adverse to quite a lot of heat.

12) Who are the authors who inspire you?

I adore a large cadre of writers of contemporary romance such as Jill Mansell, Sophie Kinsella and Jane Green. However, I think my greatest inspiration comes from crime writers like Sue Grafton, Jeffrey Deaver or Lee Child. Their stories leave me breathlessly turning the pages, and I try to emulate some of their ideas to keep my books fast-paced and page turning.

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

It might be easier to start with what I don’t read. I don’t very often read non-fiction and I have to confess that I don’t have the patience for autobiographies. (I don’t think I’ve ever read one, ever; I must be a philistine!) I am also not a huge fan of science fiction. I used to be but I’ve kind of fallen out of love with it; I don’t know why.

Other than that, I read everything. Romance, fantasy, literary, crime, thrillers, suspense, mystery: I’m game.

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

There’s too many to count. I get wowed by a book quite easily. If I can’t put it down, if it makes me laugh or bite my fingernails, then I’m official wowed. You don’t like a cop out answer? Ok then… let me think… it would have to be… The Labyrinth by Kate Mosse.

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

Five Go Down to the Sea by Enid Blyton. I know, weird! But I’ve always adored their innocent little adventures, and I love the seaside. As I child, I was always searching for the elusive secret tunnel or hidden pathway. Now that my kids are old enough for these stories, I am rediscovering them one by one and their uncomplicated, low-tech nature infuses me with a yearning for days gone by. So yes, I stick by my guns. Five Go Down to the Sea.

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

Jon Bon Jovi, definitely. Marilyn Monroe. Enid Blyton. Joey Tempest (Sorry, there will be a theme here, obviously). The Queen. And (because five is an uneven number if I host with my lovely husband): Freddy Mercury.

Fast and Flirty 

Favorite scent? Joop! For Men
Favorite color?  Blue
Favorite food? Lobsters. Scallops. Prawns. Pizza. Not necessarily all together.
Favorite word?  Mellifluous. Discombobulated.
Favorite article of clothing?  Jeans
Dream vacation spot? 
A lighthouse on a headland down in
Cornwall. In winter!
Favorite time period in history?  1920s
Favorite girl's night out drink?  Strawberry margarita
Favorite date night activity?  Date night activity? I’m a married woman!! I haven’t dated in years… **Furrows brow, trying to recall long forgotten past** Dinner. Lovely food, and the unspoken anticipation of what’s next, with a built-in let-out clause. Hm. Maybe that’s why there are so many dinners in Sophie’s Turn?
Favorite song?  Tough It Out by FM
Celebrity hottie on your laminated listNathan Fillion
Novel hero crush?  Jack Reacher

Book blurb:  Slapper? Slut? Adulteress? Sophie Penhalligan's life and moral universe is turned upside down when rock star Dan proposes to her in full knowledge that she is already engaged. She has always loved Dan, in a remote-crush kind of way. She thinks she loves her fiancé, Tim. What is she to do? 

It's all happening because her past has come to tempt her. Nine years ago, she met her teenage idol and rock star extraordinaire, Dan Hunter, up close and personal. Well, almost! 

Now Dan has crash-landed back in her life just as Sophie is happily embroiled in a relationship with Tim, her boyfriend of two years. Until recently, she was confident Tim would eventually propose. But while his persistent inaction is beginning to cast a cloud over their relationship, Dan's sudden reappearance poses a whole new dilemma.

Having accompanied Dan's band to Paris, Sophie suddenly finds herself engaged to Dan while her erstwhile fiancé Tim is... well, doing whatever it is Tim does back in
London. Torn between the dream-come-true and the sensible-thing-to-do, Sophie concludes her inadvertent journey of self-discovery with an ending that surprises herself, and everyone around her. 

Sophie's Turn is a glamorous contemporary fairy tale that will make chick-lit and romance lovers laugh, cry and rock along every step of the way.

Sapphire Star Publishing is pleased to offer an international give-away of one e-copy of Sophie’s Turn. To be entered in this giveaway, please answer the following question in the comments below: 

Who would be the rock star you couldn’t resist if he proposed to you today?

Don't forget to leave your e-mail address so that I can contact you if you win!  This giveaway will be open until midnight on Sunday, October 21st. The winner will be contacted via e-mail and the name will be announced here on this blog. Good luck, everyone!

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