• Barbara Conrey



I had the pleasure of meeting Gail the way we all seemed to meet this past eighteen months: through social media. Although to be fair, she lives across the pond from me, so chances were, social media was the only way we were going to connect.


Gail is a novelist, a poet, and a screenwriter, and I was immediately hooked. I had to know more.


Join me today in celebration of the release of Gail’s novel, This Much Huxley Knows, as we discuss her new book, her three writing passions, and which is her favorite.


BC: Which of these do you love the most: novel writing, poetry, or screenwriting?


GA: My heart is in novel writing. It’s the biggest undertaking and perhaps the most rewarding.


BC: Which is easiest?


GA: I don’t find any of them easy – all forms of writing have their own challenges – although scriptwriting collaboratively is a lot of fun. I work with two other women writers as part of 3-She, and we don’t stop laughing the whole time.


BC: That sounds lovely. I had the pleasure of reading This Much Huxley Knows and adored it! What inspired you to write this particular book?


GA: In my debut coming-of-age novel, The String Games, the catalyst for the story involves the disappearance of four-year-old Josh, who goes missing during a family holiday in France. It was because I enjoyed this child character that I decided to explore writing with a young narrator.

When I read early chapters of This Much Huxley Knows to my writing group, they were skeptical that I’d be able to sustain a child’s voice for the length of a novel. This proved to be a motivating factor – tell me I can’t do something, and I’ll always want to give it a try.


BC: Me, too! No wonder we clicked. And where did you find the adorable Huxley?


GA: My twenty-five-year-old son was a young boy once, so I mined my memories of him to feed into Huxley. My daughter’s experiences and incidents from my own childhood also informed the character. For twenty years, I worked with children in schools and included anecdotes from those days. So Huxley is a composite, and I’m very glad you find him adorable.


BC: Your second book is so different than your first, The String Games. What made you decide to go in an entirely different direction, and did you worry about jumping genres?


GA: The String Games was an emotionally draining novel to write. I needed to separate myself from the drama of a lost child and explore something lighter. Although there are strong underlying themes in This Much Huxley Knows, it was largely a happy and upbeat project. One of the challenges of swapping genres lies in taking your established audience with you. Will readers of a psychological drama enjoy a contemporary uplifting novel? Time will tell. But, I enjoy the challenge of writing across genres. To invest all my creative energy into one area would be a huge commitment. I don’t want to risk overlooking other projects that bring their own rewards.


BC: I think that’s very wise and that you are very brave. I’ve had ‘don’t mix genres’ so ingrained in me; I’m not sure I will take the chance. It might just depend, as you said, on whether I’m willing to overlook other projects. So, bravo to you! How long have you been writing?


GA: It all started with letter writing when I lived overseas in my twenties. Family and friends were fascinated with my tales from Australia and Papua New Guinea, and they encouraged me to write short stories. I built upon this at university when I returned to the UK. Afterward, I became a teacher and then had my own children, which sucked up most of my creative energy. As they grew more independent, I returned to writing. I’ve been writing for publication since 2010.


BC: Tell me about your poetry. I’d love it if you sent a poem that I could include in your interview.


GA: With the experience of writing across genres, I tend to know which ideas can be worked into long fiction, how to develop a narrative arc for short fiction, and the momentary pleasures that suit poetry. Here’s an example of poetry that was published in a recent anthology:


#MothersDay

sepals like stretched starfish arms

force velvet petals with bluish tips

to lap each other. the rose

strains to show what’s left

of her once vigorous splendour.


lily, on the other hand, is late to party

her veined cocoon splits.

serrated edges reveal

a pink and pearled shell

where stamen dance.


BC: This is lovely! Thank you so much! How in the world do you do all these things?


GA: Smaller projects take a back seat when I’m working on a new novel. But if an idea strikes, I do like to develop it. Because of the many networks I’m involved with, I’m sometimes asked to submit new poetry and short fiction for publication. Seeing work in print is always a joy.


BC: What’s a typical writing day like for you?


GA: Part way through the pandemic, I started joining Writers’ Hour. This is a Zoom call hosted by the London Writers’ Salon and offered four times a day. I join the 8 am hour in the UK, where hundreds of writers gather for a period of uninterrupted writing. This gives me a kick start to focus on my work in progress. Little Swot is a dual timeline crime novel set in 2010 with redundant, menopausal journalist Stephanie Brett who investigates the earlier disappearance of a teenage, west country girl in a cold case podcast. Through the 1978 storyline, Carolyn Forster tells her own story of infatuation and exploitation. Once I’ve made progress there, I focus on other projects. Most days, I stick to office hours and have the weekends off.


BC: Tell me something about you that I won’t find on the Internet.


GA: I have a fear of egg yolks.


BC: Hmmm. We just might need to continue this conversation. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk, Gail; I look forward to your next book, Little Swot.


About Gail Aldwin:


Novelist, poet and scriptwriter Gail’s debut coming-of-age novel The String Games was a finalist in The People’s Book Prize and the DLF Writing Prize 2020. Following a stint as a university lecturer, Gail’s children’s picture book Pandemonium was published. Gail loves to appear at national and international literary and fringe festivals. Prior to Covid-19, she volunteered at Bidibidi in Uganda, the second-largest refugee settlement in the world. When she’s not gallivanting around, Gail writes at her home overlooking water meadows in Dorset.


About This Much Huxley Knows


I’m seven years old and I’ve never had a best mate. Trouble is, no one gets my jokes. And Breaks-it isn’t helping. Ha! You get it, don’t you? Brexit means everyone’s falling out and breaking up.


Huxley is growing up in the suburbs of London at a time of community tensions. To make matters worse, a gang of youths is targeting isolated residents. When Leonard, an elderly newcomer chats with Huxley, his parents are suspicious. But Huxley is lonely and thinks Leonard is too. Can they become friends?


Funny and compassionate, this contemporary novel for adults explores issues of belonging, friendship, and what it means to trust.


‘Read this and feel young again’ ­– Joe Siple, author of The Five Wishes of Mr. Murray McBride


Moving and ultimately upbeat’Christopher Wakling, author of What I Did


A joyous novel with the wonderfully exuberant character of Huxley’ – Sara Gethin, author of Not Thomas



Purchase Links


AmazonUS, AmazonUK, Barnes and Noble, HiveUK, Book Depository


Social Media Links


Twitter: https://twitter.com/gailaldwin

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gailaldwinwriter/

Blog: https://gailaldwin.com

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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


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