Sarahlyn and I are both members of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) but only met in person at the Collingswood Book Festival in 2018. We were introduced by another WFWA member and friend, Jennifer Klepper, and we’ve managed to keep up with each other ever since.


A little about Sarahlyn:

She’s the author of Daytime Drama (released TODAY!) and her debut, Designer You (2018), which won the 2019 Indie Star Book Award and was included on the 2018 “35 Over 35” list.


Sarahlyn grew up in the Bay Area and spent a great deal of time in Southern California, where she attended college before moving to West Hollywood. The years of living and working in LA gave Sarahlyn a taste for the fun, fast, ambitious, and creative people in the entertainment industry.

When Sarahlyn and her family moved to Philadelphia in the summer of 2007, she fell in love with the east coast feeling of being close to the center of politics and culture, but she never forgot or lost her affection for the buzz of the entertainment industry. Her latest novel, Daytime Drama, was born of that love and the cold Philadelphia winter.


When she’s not writing novels, Sarahlyn teaches writing and literature at a local community college. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband, daughter, and cockapoo.


Needless to say, I was a fan of Sarahlyn’s first novel, Designer You, and I had the opportunity to read Daytime Drama several weeks ago. You all are in for a treat!


BC: We want to know all about you, the author. When did you know you wanted to be a writer, and how did you learn?


SB: I can’t think of a time that I haven’t been writing, but I am definitely not self-taught. Since grade school, I’ve soaked up lessons on all sorts of writing—academic, creative, nonfiction—and sort of cobbled together the knowledge I’ve gathered and eventually found my voice. So much of my time has been spent writing in the academic world, but I switched my focus to fiction over the last fifteen or so years and never looked back. And even though I have a lot of experience as a writer and now as a writing professor, I’ve taken quite a number of courses on learning the craft of fiction. I always have so much to learn, which is a big reason I get so much out of it.


BC: Designer You is your first published book. Is it the first book you’ve written?


SB: No way. The first novel I wrote is what I like to think of as my “learning novel.” I chipped away at the thing for years and even got into Pitch Wars with it. And it went nowhere and now collects dust on my hard drive. But I don’t see it as a total failure. I learned how to write a novel and then sold the next one I wrote.


BC: Tell me a little about your process.


SB: I’m a total plotter. I love an outline. I outline before I sit down to write, and I outline throughout. I outline when I get stuck, and I outline when I’m ready to edit. Some may say all the outlining is overkill, but it works for me.


BC: How do you find the time to write with a job and a family?


SB: I’m really lucky because so much of my work I can do from home. And my job is teaching writing, so my brain doesn’t have to do the mental gymnastics that someone who writes and works in real estate or as a bank teller does. That being said, time is a limited resource, and I don’t always get to write when I want. When my daughter was little, I’d get up at 5:00 and write for an hour or two before she awakened and started her day. I’ve also gotten a lot of writing done sitting in my car at her soccer practices.


BC: Are you a morning or evening writer?


SB: I’m at my best and most functional in the morning, but I’ve found I’m really a get-the-writing-done-whenever-you-can kind of writer.


BC: Let’s talk about your new book – Daytime Drama: I loved the premise! Where did you come up with the idea?


SB: During winter of 2017, I was freezing as usual and sort of pining for Los Angeles, where we lived before moving to Philadelphia. In LA. It feels like May pretty much year-round, so I thought I’d at least like to be there in my head, if not in my body. Also, I wanted to write about something fun, and when we were in LA, my husband worked in the entertainment industry and had a ton of friends who were also part of it. I loved being around so many creative people. So much warmth and fun—that’s how it started.


BC: That sounds wonderful. Now I want to move to LA. How long did Daytime Drama take to write?


SB: A little more than a year.


BC: That’s not long at all! At least in comparison to how long it takes me to write a book. How long did it take from the time you typed THE END until it was published?


SB: Oh goodness, that was another year. I queried on and off, and by summer of 2019, TouchPoint Press made an offer, and I accepted.


BC: Let’s talk about you. What do you do besides write and teach and raise a family?


SB: Well, a LOT less since the start of the pandemic. We used to enjoy traveling to see friends and far-away places. I love watching my daughter play soccer on the weekends. We used to have people over for dinner parties. We liked to go out to eat and see movies in theaters. All that has been off the table for a long time, but like most people, I’ve discovered temporary workarounds. We’re ordering take-out from our favorite restaurants and having family movie nights in our living room. Instead of visiting, I Zoom with my family, who live in California. Right now, I’m super grateful that my flexible work schedule allows me to get outside almost as much as I want. To be healthy and safe is something I’m not taking for granted.


BC: Yes, COVID has changed all of our lives, but I’m happy to see that you’re coping. Tell me something about you that I don’t already know.


SB: Let’s see. You may not know that I love to play soccer. I’ve played on and off since grade school. I played competitively through high school and then took a break about halfway through college. After my daughter was born, I took it up again and continued playing up until I broke my foot summer of 2019. Hoping to get back to it again.


BC: I remember when you broke your foot! Next time I interview you, you will need a different secret. Tell us about your most recent book project.


SB: The book I’m finishing now is set in the world of girls’ and women’s soccer—something I’m pretty familiar with, lol. It’s about an injured professional soccer player who is desperate to get back in the game, but when her father suffers a stroke, she’s forced to return home, and in turn, confront a horrible secret from her past. Revealing the truth will upend her soccer dreams and ruin her relationship with her best friend. But how can she keep their secret knowing what they did?


BC: I read a draft of this book, and I can’t wait to see it out in the world!


You can follow Sarahlyn here:


Social media: FB, IG, and Twitter all use the same handle, @sarahlynbruck. And my website is https://sarahlynbruck.com


Thank you, Barbara! This was a blast.


Thank you, Sarahlyn, and congratulations on your new release, Daytime Drama!




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  • Barbara Conrey

January 18 - 22



As part of the A Promise to Keep Book Birthday Bash we’ll be celebrating the 1 year anniversary of the book’s release by Melony Teague.


Make sure you enter to win a $5 Amazon gift card. The giveaway will run from Jan 18 – Jan 22, and the winner announced the week of Jan 25th. Giveaway entry link at the end of this post. There are many stops on this tour, so be sure to check out the full schedule link posted at the end of this post.


Let’s party!


BC: We are celebrating your one-year anniversary of A Promise to Keep, so let’s start with what this publishing year has been like for you.


Melony: That’s a great question. It certainly didn’t turn out to be the year I expected, or the launch I expected, but it was a dream come true nonetheless. Without the support of fellow 2020 debuts, such as yourself, the year would have been much more challenging than it already was. Reaching out to support one another and knowing we are all going through the same thing was priceless. Not to mention making new friends along the way. One of the most rewarding parts was hearing from readers that they enjoyed the book, stayed up late reading it, or that it reminded them of happier memories was a treasure I will never forget. What would we be without our dear readers?


BC: You missed the COVID shutdown with your release date of January 21st. Did you do any on-site book signings? Launch party?


Melony: You might have thought that I missed the shutdown, but during release week, a snowstorm shut down my onsite (Niagara Falls) launch. Therefore, we planned to go down to Niagara Falls and take footage where some of the scenes in the book were set when the weather improved. In Canada, it was March/April by the time the weather improved; the pandemic had blindsided us and all in-person events were cancelled. I did however get to talk at one senior’s group about the value of story and fiction in our lives before that happened. Boy, did that talk turn out to be well timed? So really, by the time I recovered from the first bit of reeling from the sudden changes we had to adapt to (my teens suddenly learning online etc.) we did a virtual launch online in July – better late than never, right? Unfortunately, bookstores were closed, so no signings. Nevertheless, we did our best. In some ways, I think this book birthday may just be what I need to mitigate that pandemic 2020 launch.


BC: What do you wish you’d done differently?


Melony: Maybe not stressed about it all as much. I guess that makes me human, right? My goal for 2021 is to give myself a little more room and some grace. I think I am my own strictest critic and I put pressure on myself. Recognizing it will hopefully help me do better in that area. Fingers crossed!


BC: Let’s talk about your book, A Promise to Keep. What was your inspiration for writing this particular story?


Melony: My 20th high school reunion was being organized a few years ago in South Africa (where I was born) and for obvious reasons, I couldn’t go. I live in Canada. It’s a bit far and expensive to travel to South Africa at the best of times. But it got me wondering about reunions and the myriad of emotions that could be attached to memories of high school. Old flames. People not turning out to do or be what we thought. For those who didn’t have a good high school experience, a reunion wouldn’t seem like such a great idea. But for others who loved school, well, the social part at least, might see it differently. I wanted to explore these things and I dug deeper. Also, I thought about what would get someone who really did not want to go to their reunion to attend. That’s where the idea of the promise came in. Savannah makes a promise to her dying husband that she’ll attend their high school reunion and that promise ends up changing so much in her life.


Michael was a troublemaker at school, but let’s just say, he’s not the same boy he used to be. These two have a history they need to deal with. I may, or may not have a crush on my hero, Michael McCann.


BC: How long did it take to write this book?


Melony: The first draft took me about 8 months to write, then there were beta readers and many revisions which took a few months more before I sent it out to publishers. I landed my contract through a twitter pitch party, so that was different.


BC: Tell us about your publishing process. How long did it take to find an agent/publisher?


Melony: I don’t have an agent yet, but I’m working on it. I first submitted my story, with another title and only 55K words to a category romance publisher. They rejected it and so I reworked it, fleshed it out and added a few more thousand words. On a whim, I participated in a Twitter pitch party, not expecting a response.


I was asked to submit to what became my publisher, and submitted my query and first three chapters to my acquisition editor as a result of a Twitter pitch party. Within a few days she emailed to ask for the full manuscript. I almost fainted. Then I submitted that and it wasn’t long before I heard it was before the acquisitions committee and next thing I knew, I was being offered a contract with the publishing date of Jan 2021~ Basically 6 months from contract to publication! I could hardly believe it!


Then the hard work started, the developmental edits, and the content edits and all the other rounds of editing needed to bring this story to readers in the best shape it could be. The biggest challenge was getting news of my younger cousin’s diagnosis of terminal cancer and flying off to Europe to be with her, all while trying to do content edits. She has passed away since, but that book will forever be linked to memories of my time spent with her.


BC: What was the editing process like? I'm so sorry for your loss.


Melony: I love, love, love my editor, Candee Fick. She gets me. She is not only an editor, but she’s a coach and taught me so much about the process and what I needed to do to make my story shine. She is worth her weight in gold. She worked with me, and not against me. I appreciated that the most. I’ll admit, I had the hardest time trying to get the time zones sorted out in the book. She helped me with that. Who knew time zones could be so complicated, especially when the characters are in different ones!


BC: I know this is your debut, but is it the first book you’ve written?


Melony: No, it’s not the first book I’ve written. I completed a manuscript in 2010 during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) but that one will never see the light of day! It’s full of newbie mistakes which I will spare the readers from. But I had to start somewhere, right? I have about 5-6 other manuscripts in various stages of completion.


BC: Let’s talk about you: What do you do besides write?


Melony: Eat chocolate. And try to manage a household through online learning and through a pandemic. Sigh. But typically, when we are NOT under lockdown, I have taught seniors at the local community center to write their personal stories. It’s like a memoir class. I miss my students. I’m not sure if and when that will get back up and running. Also, I’m a freelance writer, so I do communications and freelance projects (including editing) for other clients, some of which are non-profit organizations. When I’m not working, I love to read and bake. We’ve really perfected the bread making process during this last year! Haha!


BC: I know you love to bake. Care to share a recipe?


Melony: In the book, A Promise to Keep, Savannah and a few others have a bit of an incident with the punch at the reunion event. So I decided to make my up my own punch recipe. Here you go!




BC: Are you working on a new book? Do tell!


Melony: Yes, I’m working on another book, but to be honest, for months my creativity was affected by the pandemic and the stresses we were all facing. But I’m determined to finish my manuscript, because I love my characters and their story needs to be told. That’s all I can tell you for now because I have to go through all the channels to get it published and into readers hands. You know how it is, Barbara. I’m also working on a little novella for my newsletter subscribers. I hope that will be coming out sometime this year.


BC: Tell me a secret: Tell me something about you that I don’t know, that your readers don’t know, that will make us love you even more.


Melony: I’m a hopeless romantic. But that’s not a secret.




ABOUT THE BOOK


A Promise. A High School Reunion. And a pact that proves harder to keep.


Research librarian Savannah Sanderson wants nothing more than to escape into her happily-ever-after novels with their larger-than-life fictional heroes. But a promise to her late husband has her attending her dreaded twenty-year high school reunion, drinking ghastly punch, and taking desperate measures just to keep her vow, even if she has to hide behind the décor to do it.


Once a reckless troublemaker, Michael McCann fled town after graduation. Now a professional technical rescuer, he’s back for the reunion, but on his trip down memory lane, he soon comes face to face with unresolved issues, namely Savannah. Before the night is over, a pact between these two old friends will lead them on an adventure into uncharted emotional territory where Michael must confront his past regrets and find the courage to reveal the truth. But can Savannah fly from her sheltered nest and risk her heart on a real-life hero?






ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Melony Teague is a freelance writer who believes everyone has a story to tell. As co-author of As the Ink Flows, she loves to inspire and motivate others through her written words. With foamy lattes in-hand, she writes Contemporary Romance with a dash of humor. Though she has no hobbies outside of reading, writing, and eating chocolate, she is a member of ACFW and The Word Guild. She teaches seniors in her community to write their memoirs. She confesses with no shame that she has a strong belief that pumpkin pie is an acceptable breakfast food since it’s mostly vegetables. Her Fiction Debut, A Promise to Keep, released in Jan 2020. Melony was born in South Africa and now lives in Toronto with her husband, their two teenagers, and two cats who think they’re humans.


You can connect with her here:


Website | Facebook | Facebook Group | BookBub | Twitter | Instagram | Amazon| Goodreads


ENTER TO WIN THE GIVEAWAY HERE


Find the full blog schedule with other fun posts here.

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  • Barbara Conrey













Anita and I are trying something new (to us). We are interviewing each other so that you, dear readers, get two authors for the price of one read.


Full disclosure, I don’t actually know Anita in the real sense of the word; I know her through the wonderful 2020Debuts group we both belong to (which is run by the equally fabulous Alison Hammer), and I know her through our writers group, Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) and I know her from reading her book, Secret Lives of Mothers & Daughters.


So this is what I can tell you: Anita is generous and kind and adorable; she has written a beautiful story about the secrets that bind mothers and daughters together. If you have not read Secret Lives of Mothers & Daughters, I recommend that you do. You can thank me later.


So! On to the interview.


BC: What would you like our readers to know about you?

AK: I’m a friendly Canadian with a background in socio-cultural and environmental research, who always wanted to be a writer, but took the long way of getting there. When I’m not reading or writing, I love being outdoors, walking, running, hiking, cycling, or being on the water. Baking and napping are also among my favourite pastimes. I live in Ottawa, Ontario, with my husband and cat, Noodles. We’re expecting our first child in March. And it’s a girl! For now, we call her Bean.


AK: Tell us a little about yourself.

BC: I love the reference to ‘Little Bean’ in your book!


I’m old. Let’s start with that. I’m a 70-year-old 2020 Debut who always dreamed of writing a book and finally did. I’m a mother and grandmother who writes about dysfunctional families with loads of secrets.


BC: Tell me a little about Secret Lives of Mothers & Daughters.

AK: I would love to! Secret Lives of Mothers & Daughters is a mother-daughter story told in alternating timelines. The story kicks off with a prologue where we’re introduced to a young couple who are moments away from meeting their adopted daughter for the first time. During that meeting with the social worker, they discover that their daughter has come to them through tragic circumstances. Her birth mother died under mysterious circumstances, and her birth father wasn’t able to raise her alone. By the time we reach the first chapter, that little baby, whose name is Asha, has just turned eighteen. She’s on the cusp of adulthood and excited about the future. However, it’s at that time her parents reveal to her the truth about the adoption secret they’ve kept from her until then. The revelation rocks her to her core, and she starts asking the big questions: Who am I? Where do I come from? Can I ever trust my parents again? What else are they keeping from me? And, of course, what happened to my birth mother? Why didn’t my birth father keep me? Was it my fault? These are the questions that propel Asha through her storyline and a tumultuous year that follows.

From there, we’re introduced to our second protagonist, a young scholar named Mala, who has just returned to her doctoral studies after a period of bereavement leave following the sudden death of her beloved father. As Mala struggles to get her life back on track, her mother has other ideas about what is best for her future. Mala finds herself caught between duty and desire, torn between following her heart and balancing the cultural expectations her mother places upon her.


The two storylines weave together, and I promise it all comes together in the end!


AK: What’s the premise of Nowhere Near Goodbye?

BC: A female oncologist, Emma Blake, is compelled to fulfill a childhood promise by creating a surgical procedure to cure glioblastoma (GBM), and in doing so, forfeits everyone she loves.


Synopsis: A mother’s love vs. a doctor’s oath.

Oncologist Emma Blake has dedicated her life to finding a cure for a rare brain cancer. Twenty-five years ago, Emma’s childhood friend Kate died of glioblastoma, and Emma vowed to annihilate the deadly disease. Now, Kate’s father, Ned, is pushing her to work harder to fulfill that promise.

When Emma discovers she’s pregnant, she’s torn between the needs of her family and the demands of her work. While Ned pressures her to do the unthinkable, her husband, Tim, decorates the nursery. Unwilling to abandon her research, Emma attempts to keep both sides of her life in balance.

Emma knows she needs to reconcile her past with her present and walk the fine line between mother and physician. But Ned has a secret, and when Emma discovers what he’s been hiding, the foundation of her world cracks.

Nowhere Near Goodbye is a story of family, failure, and second chances.


BC: Where did the idea for Secret Lives of Mothers & Daughter come from?

AK: There were a few different points of inspiration. I wanted to write a book that explored arranged marriage from various points of view, both positive and negative. I’ve also always wanted to write a tragic love story and there’s plenty of heartache in the novel, haha. I also have a great love of Victorian feminist literature, the Brontë’s in particular, so finding a way to weave my love of Jane Eyre throughout the story as a point of connection and meaning between the protagonists was important to me. I also write about bereavement and mental health quite a lot in my work, as a way of combating stigma and inspiring empathy.


AK: What inspired you to write Nowhere Near Goodbye?

BC: I also loved your references to Jane Eyre (you and I and Finola Austin, author of Bronte’s Mistress, should do an in-person meetup as soon as it’s safe).

A friend lost a loved one to glioblastoma (GBM) twenty years ago. It made me so angry at the time to watch my friend suffer her loss, and I didn’t know what to do with my anger, but I knew one day I would write a book where the tumor didn’t win, even though the reality is that the tumor almost always wins.

Since that time, two things have remained the same: my desire to write this story and the utter destructiveness of GBM.


BC: How long did it take you to write Secret Lives of Mothers & Daughters?

AK: Oh, wow, a long time! I think about six years? It’s changed a lot from that first draft way back whenever!


AK: What are you most looking forward to this debut year? And conversely, what are you most nervous about?

BC: At first, I never thought past seeing the book published. Then I began to imagine a book signing in my favorite local bookstore. Of course, the pandemic struck long before my book released, so it soon became clear that there would be no public anything.


Honestly, the thing that made me most nervous was realizing my book was out in the world for people to read and criticize, and I just wanted to pull it back into me so that no one could see it.


BC: Why were you compelled to write Secret Lives of Mothers & Daughters?

AK: I’m interested in exploring the social and cultural pressures faced by South Asian girls and women and inter-generational conflict, that is, how the lives of women and the expectations they face differ between generations and how that impacts the kinds of choices they have available to them overall. There are three different generations of women in this story, and their lives have very different outcomes based on the kinds of choices available to them, as well as the social support around them. I started with Mala’s story, wanting to understand this young woman living with grief, who wants nothing more than to return to her studies but, at the same time, struggles to make her mother happy. She struggles to be a “good daughter” while also pursuing a life of her own, a dilemma I know many daughters, regardless of background, can relate to.


AK: What authors do you admire and/or have influenced your development as a writer? Please feel free to add specific books; we love recommendations!

BC: I like books that are straight-forward, but with maybe a hint of religion in them. And to tell you the truth, I don’t know where that comes from since I’ve never considered myself much of a religious person. Peace Like a River by Leif Enger, and Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger and The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni are all books that have influenced my writing. They are all books that I love.


BC: What are you working on now?

AK: After Secret Lives, I finished two manuscripts, both sisterhood stories with lots of drama and family secrets. My agent is reviewing them now, so fingers crossed she likes what she reads! While I wait to hear back from her, I’ve recently started my first foray into historical fiction. A contemporary retelling of an ancient Indian myth in desperate need of an update.


AK: What are you working on now?

BC: I’m working on the prequel to Nowhere Near Goodbye. There’s a character in Nowhere Near Goodbye, Miss Maggie, who originally made only a brief appearance. Then through editorial revisions, she became a little more fleshed out so that she caught my attention. By the end of the editing process, I needed to discover the connection between her and Emma, my protagonist in Nowhere Near Goodbye.


BC: Tell me a secret. Something not many people know about you that you wouldn’t mind sharing.

AK: Perhaps I’ll share a little known fact about the novel! The first draft of Secret Lives was actually linear. It was an agent who asked me to do a revise and resubmit that suggested I consider two timelines. At the time, the thought of undertaking such a huge structural change blew my mind and felt very daunting. But it was an important change and has made the book what it is today.


AK: What question do you wish I had asked and answer it!

BC: There’s a subplot in Nowhere Near Goodbye about beagles and how they are used for medical and product testing. It’s real; the association I am most familiar with is the Beagle Freedom Project, which is an organization that rescues beagles, rehabilitates them, and finds forever homes for them. So, I wish you had asked me about the beagles.


To answer my question, I would explain that beagles are the most trusting of dogs – and that is why this breed is popular with testing facilities. It’s a horrific situation for the animals, and it’s a situation I needed to put eyes on. And yes, of course, I have a rescued beagle. I don’t think I can write about something I don’t care about.

Secret Lives of Mothers & Daughters

Website:

https://anitakushwaha.com/

Buy Links:

Chapters: https://amzn.to/2OHMx0m

Amazon: http://bit.ly/34J4gtQ

Indie Bound: http://bit.ly/2OSSHuV


Social media links:

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/388PkHx

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MsAnitaKushwaha

IG: https://www.instagram.com/msanitakushwaha/

FB: https://www.facebook.com/msanitakushwahaauthor/


Publisher’s website:

HarperCollins Canada: http://bit.ly/2rGoHcm

Nowhere Near Goodbye

Buy links:

Amazon - https://www.amazon.com/dp/1948051575

Barnes & Noble - https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/nowhere-near-goodbye-barbara-conrey/1137609443?ean=2940163049929

Apple Books - https://books.apple.com/us/book/nowhere-near-goodbye/id1523182318

Google - https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=A-D7DwAAQBAJ

Kobo - https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/nowhere-near-goodbye

Bookshop.org - https://bookshop.org/books?keywords=Nowhere+Near+Goodbye+by+Barbara+Conrey


Social media links:

Website: www.barbaraconreyauthor.com/

Facebook: www.Facebook.com/baconreywriter

Twitter: www.Twitter.com/barbaraconrey

Instagram: www.Instagram.com/barbaraconrey

Publisher’s website: Red Adept Publishing https://redadeptpublishing.com/

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/barbara-conrey

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54651398-nowhere-near-goodbye?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=9zFFbrw4aQ&rank=1

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