Welcome back, Readers! Here we are, in the fabulous fall season, officially! I hope everyone is faring well, between the changing seasons, and staying healthy! The weather here has been decent, for the North Country!
For the third installment of my Fall Blog Series, I’ll be sharing my interview with editor Vicki Lame, of Wednesday Books!
Wednesday Books is an imprint of St. Martin’s Press, which publishes a wide variety of unputdownable YA and Adult fiction. Vicki and I had a wonderful discussion about the publishing process, what her wishlist includes, and how she came to be an editor. I think you’ll agree, Vicki is an absolute rockstar, and authors would be lucky to work with her at Wednesday Books!
Vicki Lame can be found on Twitter @thedaysbetween
You can also check out @WednesdayBooks and @StMartinsPress, too!
Welcome, Readers! I am so happy you’re here. Today I am continuing with my Fall blog series: Meet The Editors, and today I’m sharing my interview with editor Dina Davis, of Mira books.
Mira Books is an imprint of Harlequin (HarperCollins). Dina will be chatting about her background, her editorial process in acquiring authors, and what she is specifically seeking at this time. Please note: Dina accepts AGENTED SUBMISSIONS ONLY.
Without further ado, let’s learn about editor Dina Davis and Mira!
Susan Thank you for joining me on my blog today, Dina! If you don’t mind, tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into the publishing world?
Dina I went to NYU, wanting to get into writing and be a journalist. I really liked it. But I did some internships, and felt that journalism, like newspaper journalism, wasn’t my style. I always loved fiction more. And so when I graduated, the internship that I was currently at was at a magazine. They had a book department and they had an editorial assistant job opening. I applied for that and ended up getting it. That was more nonfiction, Christian books. With a little bit of fiction and stuff. It was guidepost books, and it wasn’t quite what I wanted to do. Like, those weren’t the types of books that I like to read. I always was into romance, so I was always looking at Harlequin. And when the Love Inspired imprint opened up, it’s like, well, that’s it! I’m into romance, science fiction. And I also had some connections in the inspiration world already. So I went over there. What I always really wanted to do was get into the big books on the trade side. And that’s how I moved over here in April. I’m in Mira now, and I’m carrying a bunch of different things across genres. I’ve moved outside of the inspirational Christian space. I’m doing mainstream fiction and it’s really fun to get into the very dark stuff as well as still the light hearted RomCom-y things now.
Susan Yes, that’s great. What a journey, right?
Dina Yes! I’ve been kind of all over the place. I feel like most people in publishing have that windy road.
Susan So, you’re talking about how now you acquire more of an eclectic mix of things. Tell us a little bit more about that. What kind of books do you love the most?
Dina Well, personally, I read a little bit of everything, but romance has always been like my, “if I need something that I can just forget about stuff and get into”, that is my go to, or the complete opposite; Dark Horror kind of stuff. Escapism is my big thing. But when it comes to what I’m acquiring we don’t do a ton of romance at Mira. Our focus is more about commercial fiction. We do some RomComs. But we’re not really looking specifically for romance focused stories. I love a book that has a good love story, but has more to it than just a romance plot. Also, I wouldn’t say to send me a historical romance or a contemporary romance or something that’s not in that RomCom realm. I am looking for psychological thrillers, for some horror. I like character driven, issue driven stories. The Big Book Club fiction in the upmarket realm. I do a little bit of light Sci Fi Fantasy, and Speculative Fiction. So really, like across general fiction categories, mostly leaning commercial, but also some more upmarket and book club stuff, too.
Susan Wonderful. And so, part of what I wanted to talk with the editors in this series about is, the different roles that you might have, or the hats that you wear as an editor. When we’re on the agent side, or the author side, unless we work directly with that press or that editor, we don’t really know, you know, what goes on on the other side. So, I wondered if you could kind of walk us through what it’s like to work with an editor at Mira, like yourself.
Dina Okay, I am pretty new and still kind of learning the MIRA team and stuff, but I’d say editors, we do a lot more than just editing. We are your liaison. We are the person that is in contact with all the marketing and publicity and contracts and sales teams. When we fall in love with a book and acquire it, we really want it to do as well as possible. So our job in addition to making sure the project is as strong as possible, w are going to all the different teams and fighting for the right covers for it and pushing for the right distribution and talking about what we can do on the marketing/publicity side. And we have a great team that works really well together in all of those departments. I think that we’re pretty cohesive, and if an offer comes to us with questions or issues and stuff, we are pretty responsive and able to get feedback from the different departments pretty quickly. Are there specific questions that you have?
Susan A lot of times my authors and other agents wonder about what the behind-the-scenes process is. What does it look like? Is it a team approach? Obviously, it sounds like it’s a team approach at Mira. And another aspect of it that always comes up, at least with some of my authors is, what about the final product, like the cover? Does the author have any input? Is it a collaborative process with the author?
Dina We do run covers past authors, and take feedback from the authors. Like, back-cover copy; I see it, and I send it to the author before I send it to my boss to get approval, because the author is going to have the closest relationship with the material and will be able to say, “Oh, well, that thing isn’t quite accurate,” or “I don’t want to give that much away,” and stuff like that. We try to loop in the authors early on in the design process, asking if there certain poses you want to see if there are characters in the cover? Or what kind of settings and scenes and stuff would you like here? So we try to work very, very much with the authors to get to their sense of it. But it also comes down to, when we’re all debating on different little pieces of it, what’s going to sell. You have to ask if this cover is going to be eye catching, versus a different one and stuff. So we know that a lot of people on our team, the sales people, the marketing people, the publicity people, really know what’s going to stand out on both social media and on that shelf, and what we’re going to push. So yeah, we try to work as a team with everybody and try to make everybody as happy as possible when it comes to those things.
Susan That’s really neat. It’s such a process, right? So many different steps and different avenues that have to be followed before it’s done. So, from the time a book is acquired to the time that it gets onto the bookshelves, what kind of a timeframe is that? I know that in some cases, it’s years. Right? You’re looking at years down the road.
Dina Yeah, I think that that’s going to really depend on the book and what our schedule looks like at the time. And if they’re like spots that we have to fill right away, like, did we just buy a psychological thriller, and next summer, we don’t have a psychological thriller in a specific month, we can fill that hole with it. It is so it’s hard to give a general sense of that. I can say, I’ve acquired two new authors for the line since April, and one of them isn’t going to be published until 2024. And the other one is going to be published next June. It also depends on if we are buying a full manuscript or proposal? We rarely buy on proposal, but it depends on how well the author is established, and if there’s somebody who has worked on different imprints internally or something like that. And if it’s on a proposal, we have to wait for a book to be written. That pushes things out further too. I think we tend to try to publish everything within 18 months. But it all comes down to schedules.
Susan So, I guess it all depends. That’s the side of publishing that agents and authors aren’t always privy to. That’s really good info. So from an agent perspective, when we send things to editors for consideration, do you prefer that the agent send a proposal and sample chapters or a proposal and the manuscript? How do you like to receive materials?
Dina I know that this varies for every editor to but I definitely prefer to just have the full manuscript because if I start reading, and I really liked it, I don’t have to get back to you and be like, is this full? Is there more to this manuscript? Can you send it to me? And then I have to wait for it. What if you’re on vacation, and I really want to keep reading or something like that. I do like to have a synopsis, if it’s available. If it’s not, that’s fine too. It also depends on what the genre is. If it is like, a psychological suspense, I don’t think that I would want to know all those twists and turns that happen at the end. So I’d rather read the book and be drawn in and keep going. But it can be helpful. There have been a couple of books lately that I’ve been like, I’m interested in this, but I’m not sure if the ending is gonna hold up. If I could take a peek at the synopsis, that could save me time. It helps. But I’m definitely someone who prefers to have a full manuscript. I know, there are a lot of people who are like, just send me three chapters. It saves us an email, because I can read the first three chapters and make a decision based on that, but I can also just keep going.
Susan Okay, excellent. What do you feel is the best part of your job? What do you like the most about what you do?
Dina Well, I love the editing, and working with the authors. If I can get on a brainstorming phone call, and hash out all the little details. I did that with an author recently. We were on the phone for two hours, figuring out plot points, and, and it was really fun. It can be really engaging to get into the nitty gritty of that. And that’s one of the things that I also had loved about the journalism route that I was on, because it was kind of like the interview process of trying to pull information out of people. You can do that even more creatively in a fiction brainstorming session. So I like doing that. And then just also getting into the stories and really reading them and figuring out how to make them as strong as possible. I think that’s the most fun part of the job.
Susan I know that from the agent side, I’m more of an editorial agent, because I love digging in, too. Ironing out as much as we can together with the author. I love that aspect of it as well. So that’s really cool. Let’s see…What are some things that you’re most excited about seeing currently? Where would you see the most interest in your inbox?
Dina I’ve been trying to really find a great horror, but it has to be something that is an “at the moment” issue kind of book. I feel like it has to be something that has wider appeal, because we don’t get very deep into the horror or fantasy or science fiction genre at Mira. So it needs to have that emotional human element that drives it. And then, I am always going to be looking for character driven psychological thrillers slow burn kind of books, I am looking for rom coms, but they have to be a really fresh spin on tropes. And they really have to make me laugh; that’s the main thing that I’m looking for in that realm. That can be really tough to pull off sometimes, because it still has to have all that conflict and heavy parts to it, too. Yeah, I am interested in some historicals that are more in the commercial space. Recent historicals, but I’m not interested in World War Two. But I’d love to see things like like a story that’s own voices that takes place in New Orleans and is based around the Voodoo queen, something like that would be really fun. Something that is different from what we see every day. And then, in general, I’m just looking for things by marginalized creators who are writing in those spaces too, and books that are just outside of the bounds of what publishing has been kind of narrowly focused on for so long. So I’d really like to expand that especially within the Mira line and get more voices in.
Susan Thank you. And so just for the very end, I just wanted to find out some fun things: So what is your favorite color?
Dina Anything on the blue spectrum really kind of?
Susan Nice. And do you have a favorite musician, band type of music? What do you listen to?
Dina I’m a little all over the place and that like, I think that a lot of it kind of got stuck when I was in high school. So if you look at like the hip-hop, rap, emo stuff, punk stuff, that came out in like 2008. But I also like the stuff that my parents listened to. I grew up with my parents listening to Tom Petty, Alannis Morrisette, Metallica. I’m kind of all over the place.
Susan It’s a nice eclectic collection! Do you have a favorite place that you visited?
Dina I studied abroad for eight months in Florence, Italy, and it’s my absolute favorite place in the world. I’d love to have a vacation home there one day.
Susan That’s great. I think for myself, when I was finished with college, a friend of mine and I did a tour through Europe, and it’s just so amazing. You know, we spent a month there and it was just so inspiring. I’d love to go back.
Dina Yeah, it’s so great.
Susan Do you have a favorite food?
Dina Anything potatoes? Like, I’m an Irish girl. We make something called potato candies?
Susan Well, what’s that?
Dina It’s literally a pound of powdered sugar mixed with a mashed boiled potato and then you roll it out and put peanut butter on it and roll it up like a dessert roll, and then put it in the fridge until it hardens. It’s very, very sweet.
Susan Oh my gosh, I guess so! Lastly, just do you have a favorite book of your lifetime?
Dina Oh, man. It’s so hard to choose. Well, I guess the book that really got me into, well, okay, there are two that really got me into reading when I was a kid. So, the first book I ever read on my own was called Purple, Green and Yellow, and it was literally about a girl who would color herself with markers until she got “super indelible, never come off until you die or maybe even later markers.” Like, that’s literally a line in the book! And that’s always stuck with me because it was the first book I was able to read by myself. And then, The Giver was something that I read in middle school that has always stuck with me. It was when I was first getting into audiobooks, and wasn’t sure if I could handle listening to a book. I was like, “Oh, well, I’ve read that enough, and it’s something that would be an easy way to introduce myself to it.” That’s what I would go back to, and stuff. So that was kind of a big book for me throughout my life.
Susan That’s cool. Well, I really appreciate your time. Thank you so much for participating in my blog series!
Dina Thank you for including me, and it was great to talk to you.
Welcome Readers! I am so happy you’re here for the launch of my Fall Blog Series, which will focus on the editorial side of the publishing world. Today I am so excited to share my conversation with Tina Moss, co-owner of City Owl Press. Tina and her co-owner, Yelena Casale, started this press from the ground up several years ago, and their press has grown by leaps and bounds since its inception a decade ago.
In today’s interview, Tina shares with us a little bit of the background behind City Owl Press, as well as the process of publishing itself. Have you ever wondered what the query process is like, or what happens after you sign a publishing contract? Now’s your chance to find out!
Fall is on the horizon, folks, and I have been pretty busy planning something AWESOME! A Fall blog series is in the works, and you’re not going to want to miss it! First, a few questions for you:
Are you a writer?
Are you curious about the editorial process, from the perspective of the publishing house?
Have you ever wondered how editors choose which projects they accept for their publishing houses?
If you answered “YES!” to any or all of these questions, you’re in luck! I will be meeting with some amazing editors soon, and sharing our conversations with you. In the process, we will discuss these topics and many more.
I am lining up interviews now, and when I have a schedule for posts nailed down, I will share that here as well. I hope you’ll join me!
You’re Turn! If you have any questions for the editors that you are dying to know the answers to, drop them into the comments, and I will do my best to include them when I interview the editors.
Today on my Fave Summer Reads series, I’ll be featuring Part Two of my conversation with author, actress, and producer, Robinne Lee. Robinne’s book, The Idea Of You, is a swoony, beautiful, and emotion-filled read, that has kept me thinking about its characters ever since. While I didn’t read this book when it first released, I believe that this book came to me when I needed it most–during Covid Lockdown, when I was turning 50. It’s a real gem!
In the last post, Robinne and I discussed the inspiration for the story, as well as the rationale for how much of it was written. A link to that post is here.
**A note about the heat level: The love scenes in Idea Of You are steamy. Really steamy. Incredibly steamy.
For this post, we’ll dig in to the relationship between her amazing characters, Solene and Hayes, and what makes their journey such a beautiful, emotion-filled adventure. We’ll also get a glimpse into Robinne’s personal experience and connection to Hayes and Solene’s characters. My heart…Get ready…Here we go…
Writer’s Block: I am so glad to be able to continue our discussion with my readers today. Something I had on my list of notes for you was about the relationship of Solene and Hayes. It’s so multifaceted to me. It’s beautiful, imperfect, emotion filled. There are so many layers to their relationship all the way through to the very end. The end, by the way, nearly broke me. But, you know, for that reason, for all those different facets, I feel like the story really appeals to, and resonates with, so many people. I was curious what it must have been like for you, as the writer of all of these characters and all of these feelings that they were going through. What was that experience like?
Robinne Lee: It was a psychological and emotional rollercoaster, the likes of which I’d never experienced, up until that point and have not experienced since. It was very intense and intimate, and overwhelming. I felt that I was walking around constantly with different voices in my head, like his voice, her voice and my own voice. Like their thoughts would enter my head constantly, No matter what I was doing. It was very bizarre to have access to these people in a way that I don’t remember ever having before, as a writer. I don’t feel like any of my characters have ever been that intrusive. I was like, “You guys. I’d like for you to come to me when I’m sitting down to write.” I felt like they were there all the time. It was a little overwhelming and a little scary. And I remember thinking, oh my gosh, I’m gonna need therapy. I have these people living in my head, and they’re so loud that it doesn’t feel normal. I should probably talk to someone about it. (laughs). But I mean, I would cry a lot. Yeah, it was, it was scary. But then I was afraid that if I talk to someone, and I was “fixed”, then the voices would go away. And I wouldn’t be able to write.
Writer’s Block: Right? Wow, I hadn’t even thought of that. That’s a really powerful reaction.
Robinne Lee: I remember thinking, hopefully I can make it through. And I did. And it took a long time to come down, and to separate from it. There was a lot of crying at the end, particularly, the last two or three months of writing, partially because of what I was writing and partially because I knew I was coming to the end of my time with these people. And I enjoyed it, as insane as I felt. I still enjoyed having them around at times. And so, just separating was really difficult. I finished the book in February, 2016, and it sold in March 2016. It came out in June 2017. I wouldn’t say I really finally started separating from it until fall of 2017. It took me that long to separate. And then the book came out. And then I got this overwhelming demand for sequel.
Writer’s Block: Goodness! I don’t know what to say. I can only imagine. Here’s a funny story, well, I can laugh about it now… I was in the car, and I was listening to the audiobook at that time, and I had my headphones in. My husband was driving. The last part of the book was playing out, and I just started shouting in the car, “No! No, Hayes! You can’t !” It was just happening, and my husband was looking at me like, “What’s going on?” I was so emotional about that ending! And I just thought to myself, there has to be more, there has to be more. So I can understand the desire for a sequel. But if it was so emotional for me as a reader, I just couldn’t imagine as the person writing it. I just couldn’t imagine what that was like.
Robinne Lee: Yeah. Like I said, I’ve never experienced anything like that. Extraordinary.
Writer’s Block: Another question I had for you. So much about Solene and Hayes’s relationship felt like it was supposed to be taboo, right? I’m thinking about their age difference and gender expectations. I’m way closer to Solene’s age than I am to Hayes’, and yet as their story and romance grew. Somehow, I just felt like their relationship could possibly work. You know, it could possibly last forever. They connected together on so many levels. So, as the author, did you grapple with the expectation that a 40 year old guy could easily date a 20 year old woman, but the reverse is often frowned upon?
Robinne Lee: Yes. So, I’m gonna say I’ve always been attracted to younger guys. You know, when I was a sophomore in college, I dated a freshman. Then in another relationship, I was 25, and he was 20. And it was pretty intense. I got a lot of slack from my friends and family like, ‘This baby’s still in college’, and I was out of college living in the real world. To me, he was incredibly mature and sophisticated for 20. He traveled the world, he lived a little, he was really smart and well read and loved poetry. I felt like many things about him were just wonderful and mature. So much of Hayes’s character came out of that relationship. And, by the way, that relationship was the inspiration for the book that I spent six years writing prior but I could not sell. So, when I was writing Hayes’ character, I knew he was going to be this kind of precious age. There’s something really special to me about a 20 year old guy; they’re still boyish in many ways, but they’re, like, men physically. But, I feel like, internally, they’re going back and forth. The beauty of them, I think, is that most of them have not been completely destroyed (laughs); their hopes and dreams. And so, there’s this kind of optimism and hopefulness and energy, that you will not find in a 30, or 40 year old man, or a 60 year old man for sure. There’s something that’s really kind of beautiful; they’re not jaded in the relationship. Their eyes are still wide open. It’s such a great age to capture.
Writer’s Block: Yes.
Robinne Lee: I knew I wanted to make Solene old enough that their relationship was going to be a bit scandalous. I was 40 when I was writing this book, and I was going through a lot. I’d been an actor at that point for, like, 20 years, and suddenly, there was a shift in the kind of roles that I was seeing at auditions. Suddenly, you’re not the “Ingenue”, you’re not the “Leading lady”. You’re the part of the “mom”, or, you know, the DA, the police detective that comes in. Unfortunately, a lot of those roles were not very multidimensional. They were kind of like peripheral characters, and they just served the purpose of getting the story moved forward. They weren’t seeing the internal life of what it was like to be these women. And I kind of felt like, you really become a shell at 40.
Writer’s Block: Wow…
Robinne Lee: And then I thought, I’m black and a woman in this industry, and there are so few parts anyway. But now I’m black and a woman and over 40, and there’s nothing here. And I was also really angry at the fact that women were being portrayed so two dimensionally. I felt like I was put in a box. And I did have a moment, that was a literal box. I was sitting in a casting directors office. When you’re there, their assistants are calling agents about using this person for this part. And you’re hearing all this, and you’re supposed to be focusing on your role and in tune with what you’re going to do in the room, but you’re hearing all these conversations. In the waiting room, they’ve got lines of boxes of how to place their actors; where they put their headshots.
Writer’s Block: Oh…
Robinne Lee: It was kind of like “Children under 18” in this one, and here’s an “Ingenue”. And then it said, “Leading lady”. (Laughs) And those are broken down: “Leading lady-white”, “Leading lady-ethnic” and “Non-ethnic” or whatever it was. And then it was “Over 40”.
Writer’s Block: Oh, goodness…
Robinne Lee: At home that day, I had this epiphany that I’m now in the same box as Cicely Tyson. I couldn’t stop thinking about that for the longest time. I had this idea when I was writing stuff. I was like, that’s it! Solene’s not living in a box. She’s not. She’s not just a divorced women of a 12 year old. She’s gonna do everything. She’s gonna be an incredible mom, as well as you can be. She’s got an incredible friend, she’s gonna run this business and she’s gonna have like, this incredible sex life and have the love affair to end a love affairs. She doesn’t want to be placed in a box like, “You’re just a mom now. And that’s all you can do.” Sorry, this is very long. So many things were spinning in me during that time.
Writer’s Block: No, no, I get it. And I think that that’s what resonated so much with me in your book. Yes. Hayes’s the swooniest guy, you know, he is, and Solene, at 40, is this artist, traveling the world, on the arm of her swoony boy-band pop star. And that’s awesome! But, I was in my upper 40s when I read this, and I thought, “You know what? I’m almost 50… I’m not dead! (laughs) I can still be awesome!” So, I was glad that you tackled that age dynamic in the story, because it mattered to me, you know, it just mattered to me to be able to see it, and feel it. It helped me to see that I am not defined by any one thing, no matter what age I am. It’s just great that you tackled that notion. Thank you.
Robinne Lee: I mean, (laughs) it was necessary to put all my my own baggage in there. If I’m going through this and other woman turning 40 are going through this, I don’t see our stories out there, in this way. When you have these hot and sexy love stories, it’s usually somewhere in the mid 20s, like discovering it for the first time.
Writer’s Block: My gosh, well, thank you. This has been a terrific conversation. I just have a couple other questions. Did I hear there’s going to be in a movie adaptation of The Idea Of You? And if so, are there any details to share?
Robinne Lee: I don’t have any real details to share other than what’s been put out there in the trades.
Writer’s Block: Okay. That’s alright. Question: Are you working on any new books at this time? Or do you have any new projects, acting or otherwise going on?
Robinne Lee: I am working on a new book, but this one is not a sequel. That’s not to say I might not do a sequel eventually down the line, but not right now. I wanted to do something else before I returned to Hayes and Solene, I still need space from them. And that is coming along. It’s taking longer than I’d like, but it’s coming. And, yes, I’ve been working as an actor. I’ve got a couple of projects in the works. I’ve got something right now on a streamer called All Black, which is part of AMC. And it’s titled A La Carte. That’s available now. And then, I’ve got a project coming on Netflix, the limited series called Jigsaw. I don’t know the details yet about the release. I saw a rumor that it was coming in the fall. I’ve also heard it might be up here into the winter. Jigsaw stars Giancarlo Esposito and Rufus Sewell, and I had an amazing time working on it. I’m looking forward to seeing it. It’s got a really, really great premise and structure. I can’t say anything about it, but I think people will really, really enjoy it. And I’m so excited about that.
Writer’s Block: Finally, if there were one takeaway you would like my readers to consider, what would it be?
Robinne Lee: I wish I could say there was one specific thing readers should take away from reading my book — but there isn’t. I filled it with messages about female empowerment and sexuality and agency and sexism and feminism and motherhood and happiness and celebrity and fandoms and the toxicity of social media and so much more. So, if you plow through it quickly just focusing on the love story — you might miss it. Take your time.
Writer’s Block: That’s an awesome “Takeaway”: Take your time. It’s perfect. Robinne, I wish you all the success with everything. Thank you so much for your time. This interview has been probably one of the highlights of my life. When I get into a book as much as I did your book, it just feel this feels like a fantasy to me to actually get to speak to you, the author. And I just really appreciate your time. And I don’t even know what else to say, but thank you. I hope to have you on again when your new book is out.
Robinne Lee: Well, thank you. That’s so very kind of you. Thank you very much.
And that concludes my interview with Robinne Lee. Her book, The Idea Of You, is available in print, ebook, and audiobook. As a reminder, Robinne Lee, herself, narrates the audiobook, and it is FABULOUS!
Welcome readers! I’m so glad you stopped by! For this edition of my Fave Summer Reads blog series, I am featuring The Idea Of You, by Robinne Lee. Robinne Lee is an author, actor and producer, and has been gracious enough to chat with me about her swoon-worthy summer read. The details of our discussion will take place over two posts.
A little bit of background: Right before I turned 50, I was searching for a new book to read, when I saw the following: “What if your teenager’s fantasy was your reality?” That was the tagline on the cover of the paperback for Robinne Lee’s novel, The Idea Of You. Upon further research of the book, I learned that the main character, Solene Marchand is divorced, turning 40, an artist and gallery owner, and mom to a pre-teen, Isabelle. The incident: By a strange twist of circumstance, Solene finds herself backstage at an August Moon concert, face to face with the lead of the band, 20 year old Hayes Campbell, who is also her daughter Isabelle’s fantasy crush. My thought at that time? BRING. IT. ON…
As someone who was a teen in the 80’s, frequent concert-goer, British pop music enthusiast, and woman way closer in age to Solene than to Hayes, I could relate…So, I bought the book, and read it immediately. The result: The Idea Of You is beautiful, heartbreaking, glorious, and oh-so-steamy in every jet-setting chapter. If you have ever fantasized about traveling to luxurious locales, sunbathing on a yacht, taking a romantic getaway in a villa, and living life on the arm of the world’s hottest and most charming British pop star, this book is for you.
The Idea Of You resonates on so many levels: the age of the protagonist who is a career woman in the art world, the pop star fantasy, the mom of a pre-teen and everything that goes along with that. On top of that, the glittery, jet-setting travel in this book presented itself at a time when no one was going anywhere, due to Covid-19. This book did not disappoint. I have read and re-read this book. I have also listened to and re-listened to the audiobook.
**A note about the heat level: The love scenes in Idea Of You are steamy. Really steamy. Incredibly steamy.
**A note about the audiobook: It is not to be missed. Robinne Lee herself narrates this story to perfection. But, be forewarned: If you have kids that ride with you in the car, you will not want to play the audiobook over the speakers, due to the steam factor. *no comment*…Wait…maybe one comment, from my teen who was in the car when a steamier scene unexpectedly came on when I started the car (The longest 1.8 seconds, ever)…”Seriously, mom?” My response, as I frantically pressed the pause button on my Audible app: “It’s for work.”
Within the pages, Robinne Lee has created characters and a story arc which is so well written. Every character has depth, and the real-world implications of their choices, the good and the bad, are written with finesse. There is a glorious, glitzy side to this story, but there is a flip side to that glamorous life, which Robinne Lee relates to the reader as well. All that glitters isn’t gold, and there is a dark side to all of that beauty. The consequences of their relationship can be dire. Seriously, this book is so good.
So, getting back to this blog series about some of my favorite summer reads, I decided to reach out to author Robinne Lee, to ask if she might be interested in doing a little interview for the post. To my wonderful surprise, she said she would, and we had a wonderful chat together about all things The Idea Of You. In the end, I had so much material, so much I wanted to share, I realized that I will need to break up the interview into two parts. Part one will focus on her background, some of her insights into the travel depicted in the story, and the musical thread woven within the story.
Which brings us to part one of my interview with author Robinne Lee!
Writer’s Block: Thank you so much for speaking with me today! I wondered if you could just give us a really brief background on what brought you to become a writer. I know that you’re also an actor.
Robinne Lee: I have always, I would say, acted, wrote or written for my enjoyment since I was little, since I was very young. Those two things were most interesting to me, and I guess they were hobbies, as I would describe them. And I always just kind of wrote for myself. I wrote my first book when I was 14 years old by hand, it was like 884 pages, and it was for myself. Then I started another book, when I was 16, and it went on for a few years. When it got to 1200 pages, and I had no real end goal in sight, I stopped writing. And then I worked on a book for about six years, and I thought I was definitely going to publish it, but I could not sell it. After that I kind of shut down for two years, until I got the idea for The Idea Of You. That was kind of like the wake up call. But I kind of thought, “You know what, I like this idea, I’m going to write it.” But because I’d had the experience of the last book, I was not going to give up seven years of my life to sell it. So I decided I was going to write it as quickly as possible, which is kind of in real time. I knew this story was going to take place over the course of the year. And so I gave myself about a year to write it. And I was never more than three months behind. It took me 15 months to write the first draft. I edit as I go along, so I end up with a very, very polished first draft. I spent another two months doing notes and then sent it out to an agent. The first agent I sent it to loved it, and he spent about three months doing notes, and then I spent three months on his notes. We sold it within like two weeks of putting it out there.
Writer’s Block: Well, I just love the story. Obviously. I have read it and reread it. I also have the audio book. And I love the audio book. I think you are masterful at the voicings and everything else. It’s a pleasure to listen to. It’s a pleasure to read. I thank you for writing it.
Robinne Lee: Thank you so much.
Writer’s Block: So this blog series is about some of my favorite summer reads. And of course, The Idea Of You I definitely put into that category. A lot of that has to do with the different locales that you take Solene and Hayes to. Summer means ‘travel’ to me and I was curious, did you have a favorite place that you took those characters? Have you been to all those places? I just think that for someone like me, getting to live vicariously through these characters was amazing.
Robinne Lee: It’s hard for me to separate the location from the actions or what happens in those chapters. Right? I love them each for different reasons. I can’t see them apart.
Writer’s Block: While the locales that Solene and Hayes visit, as well as the events and activities they experience may seem glamorous and fantastical to us, as readers, there is also another side to those experiences. Tell us about that. Were they all places you had been to visit first-hand?
Robinne Lee: Yes, most of them I’ve already been to. Maybe there’s one or two that I haven’t been to but I researched it well enough that you wouldn’t be able to tell.
Writer’s Block: No, I couldn’t tell!
Robinne Lee: Most of the locations I had been to over the course of my life and then I’d go back and visit either while I was writing or shortly after I was writing to fact check. I had the idea of the place already in my head and kind of knew what would work and what wouldn’t. It’s kind of escapist in that way, I suppose. For Solene I wanted it to feel a little escapist. But for Hayes, it should feel a little bit like the drudgery of being on tour and what it’s like to be a celebrity in a band that’s that famous and that much in demand and that you’re never home. I very specifically never show you Hayes’s home. We’ve never seen where he lives because the idea is that he’s living out of a suitcase. He’s doesn’t have time to himself, and he doesn’t have time to get his grounding anywhere. And so, well, people will read it and be like, “Oh, it’s so incredible.” But I want you to also think of it from his point of view as, not being this wonderful, escapist, but kind of just a necessity.
Writer’s Block: Yes, yes. That’s actually a very fascinating take. I wear many hats, just as many people do. But one of my hats is that I’m a music educator. And so, I love music. I’m a frequent concert goer. And you know, I grew up in the 80’s and was a big Duran Duran fan. And during those times, let me tell you, being able to go to those concerts and just kind of fantasize about what it would have been like to actually be on tour with these people… It’s fascinating to me, and you rarely think about the drudgery of it, like you said.
Robinne Lee: What that does to you psychologically, not even the packing and unpacking of some suitcases, which I really hate to do. I love to travel. I hate packing. It’s exhausting! As I’ve gotten older, I’ve tried narrowing things down. But traveling nonstop is just, you know, it can take its toll on you. I also wanted to show what else travel does, not just physically but psychologically for someone.
Writer’s Block: In The Idea Of You, Hayes Campbell is one of the swooniest characters I have ever had the pleasure of reading, and part of the reason for that is that he’s the lead singer for the sensational posh British boy band, August Moon (if only it was real!). Can you tell us about your inspiration for Hayes Campbell, and for August Moon?
Robinne Lee: I don’t want to say it’s my dream group, but if I was a 16 year old girl, I think that August Moon would be my dream group. When I was younger, I wrote fan fiction about Duran Duran. At the time, I would just write short stories about what I thought their lives were like, based on what I could tell from reading interviews and watching documentaries or whatever. So I had an idea. It’s not like I just made things up some things I made up out of the blue, but a lot of it I was trying to stick with what I what I saw in videos and documentaries and so forth, and what I knew of what their schedules were like, the kind of craziness of travel etc. So, I’ve always been a bit of an anglophile and I love a British accent. I particularly love a posh British accent. But you know, I’ve never seen a band of posh guys. Most bands, when they’re together, to make it in the music industry, it’s just grueling. It’s not something that comes easy. And so most people are willing to kind of really go after it. They can’t rest on their laurels and just do something else if they fail. For them, it’s got to be something passionate, like, they’ve got to make this work. In August Moon, they have a posh upbringing, and still have a successful group. In the 90s, I managed a singing group with a friend of mine, a girls singing group, and one of the producers was one of the guys who was in the New Kids on the Block. I got to know them at the height of their fame, so I got to see that up close. And I got to see all the parts of it that I didn’t like. And so, I wanted to shed a light onto the industry that was, for me, kind of dark, you know, not all happy go lucky. But I also realized how, what a gift it was to be able to see what they were experiencing and how rare that was. And, and in ways it was magical, and in ways it was painful, and I wanted to try to capture all that, but also mix in the British charm bit. I had to make them contemporary, I wanted to make it current, because I also wanted to factor in fandoms today with the introduction of social media.
Writer’s Block: Yes. With Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc., fans can connect with their idols, which the outcomes can be good, bad, or even terrible.
Robinne Lee: Yes. Just click a button, and they can tear apart your new album, your girlfriend, or whatever. I really wanted to show what that might be like.
For now, we’ll take a pause from our interview with Robinne Lee, but I’ll be back soon with part two, where Robinne will talk to us more about the writing of the story, and her relationship and connection to her characters. As someone who had the pleasure of talking to her first-hand about it, you will not want to miss it.
In the meantime, check out Robinne Lee’s novel, The Idea Of You, here.
Last week, I featured author Jenn McKinlay, and her book, Paris Is Always A Good Idea. The post can be found here.
Today’s Summer Fave is by New York Times bestselling author, Abby Jimenez, whose RomCom, Part Of Your World, has stolen my heart!
This book features two characters, Alexis and Daniel, and their worlds couldn’t be more different. “Big City” Alexis comes from money…LOTS of money. She is a physician among physicians in her family, and reluctant heir to the head of the Hospital Board; a familial career path which dates back generations.
Daniel is the Mayor of Wakan, MN, a seasonal, small, one-horse town, where he is a jack of all trades, artisan carpenter, bed and breakfast owner, and baby goat fosterer. He and his country cousins are a big part of each other’s lives, in the most close-knit and charming way.
When Alexis’ car breaks down in Wakan, Daniel rescues her. Of course, there is lots of chemistry early on, but how can they make it work when they are from completely different worlds?
I adore this book. I feel so much for Alexis and Daniel. Scratch that…I LOVE THEM! And if you fancy yourself a read that will take you through a “colliding worlds” type of romance, with all the charm of a small town and baby goats in pajamas, this book is for you. Additionally, Abby has created wonderfully fleshed out side characters and subplots that will bring on all the feels.
Get this book!
Alright. Let’s commence with the interview!
Writer’s Block:Would you mind telling my readers a little bit about yourself? Can you describe your background, and how it has brought you to become an author?
Abby Jimenez: My background has nothing to do with writing, interestingly enough. I took a few creative writing classes in high school, but went straight into the workforce when I graduated and never even went to college. In 2007 I lost my job and founded a cake business out of my house. I ended up opening a retail bakery in 2009. I went on TLCs show Fabulous Cakes for two seasons, then I got an invite from Food Network and won Cupcake Wars. In 2011 I moved to Minnesota and opened up two more locations, one in Minneapolis and one in St. Paul. It wasn’t until 2017 that the bakeries were stable and staffed well enough for me to take a step back and start writing. I started writing as a hobby and it turns out I was somewhat good at it. I spent a year on Critique Circle honing my craft and I came out of it with The Happy Ever After Playlist. I got an agent with that book and while we were in submissions I decided to write the prequel, The Friend Zone. The rest is history!
Writer’s Block:I have read two of your books, The Happy Ever After Playlist, and Part Of Your World…Both fantastic! For this post, I will focus on Part Of Your World, since it’s your latest release, but after reading both, I noticed something really charming: Minnesota! Do you have a personal connection to Minnesota?
Abby Jimenez:I live in Minnesota! I lived in California for most of my life, which is why the first two books start there. As of right now all my future books will be based in beautiful MN.
Writer’s Block:You write “Minnesota” so well, Abby, I feel the need to see it in person! *Bucket list!* Here’s another charming aspect that I noticed in your books: recurring characters! I love when character “cameos” can be found across an author’s work! How do you decide which characters make an appearance in subsequent books?
Abby Jimenez:Sometimes it’s obvious to me that the next character needs to be someone we’ve met in a previous book–but sometimes it’s the readers who make me reintroduce someone. Everyone loved Doug so much, there was no way I couldn’t include his cameo in Yours Truly (Bri’s book!).
Writer’s Block:Doug is awesome! And I am so excited to read Bri’s book! A third commonality between your books I have read: Dogs! Tell us about that connection. Do dogs play a special role in your life, as they do for your characters?
Abby Jimenez:I absolutely looove dogs. I think dogs are so telling. The kind of dog a character owns and the way the dog responds to that person says a lot about them. A great way to build on a character’s world and personality is by giving them a dog. There will always be a dog in my books!
Writer’s Block:I love dogs, too! I always thought my Sahara, a Brittany Spaniel, should be featured in one of my own books. She is such a goofball! Maybe I’ll do that. A comment: I ended up adding Part Of Your World to my list of fave summer reads for a number of reasons. One reason is because of your settings. Your Minnesota locales feature lakefront homes, people who genuinely care for one another, and oodles of charm, which make me want to take a roadtrip! Thank you for that summertime inspiration!
Abby Jimenez:Shameless Minnesota plug here, but I adore my state.
Writer’s Block:One thing that I admire about your books is the masterful way you impart the “meet-cute”. I can’t think of another author who does them better! In your latest release, your meet-cute is a car breakdown and rescue. How do you come up with these delightful scenarios?
Abby Jimenez:Each meet-cute has its own inception point. Here’s a fun one: In The Happy Ever After Playlist Sloan meets Jason when his runaway dog dives through her sunroof. I’d seen this cute video of a guy who was dog sitting for a friend. He made an adorable compilation video of all the fun stuff he was doing with the dog; playing in the hose, watching TV, going on walks. I thought, wouldn’t it be so cute if a woman found a man’s lost dog and she made him a video like that? What if this is how they meet? And so the sunroof scene was born!
Writer’s Block:I have read Playlist, and that is one of the all-time best meet-cute scenes I have ever read. You also have a knack for writing swoon-y leading men. In Part Of Your World, Daniel is a small-town jack of all trades. He’s also the town’s mayor, and a baby goat fosterer. He is as charming as they come…My heart! What is your process for creating these characters?
Abby Jimenez:When I write my men, I start by knowing the woman they’re going to love. Then I write the man she needs. That’s how I do it every time. And I love cinnamon rolls. I love writing men who are emotionally intelligent and vulnerable, who aren’t afraid to show their feelings and be head over heels for the woman they love.
Writer’s Block:That’s fantastic. I also love that your men have creative sides. At least that has been true with the two books I have read. Jason, in The Happy Ever After Playlist, is a rock star/songwriter (near and dear to my heart!) Now, a serious note: As delightful as this colliding-worlds story is, there is a thread running through it which highlights domestic abuse, and its various forms. You handled that thread with finesse, and took a stance of empowering women in that situation. I imagine that would be a difficult layer to work into Alexis and Daniel’s story. Can you talk about that aspect of the story?
Abby Jimenez:My best friend is a domestic abuse survivor. Before I knew her, I remember thinking that I couldn’t understand how a woman could stay in a situation like that. And then I met Lindsay and she was this strong, independent woman–who had barely left her first marriage with her life. Hearing her story was very eye opening to me. It was the moment I realized that DV can happen to anyone–young, old, poor, wealthy–and I learned that abuse can be subtle and isolating and it doesn’t always mean bruises and broken bones. I wanted to tell a story about the different kinds of abuse. I wanted to create a roadmap for those in that situation so they could start to see a way out, and I wanted to educate those witnessing it so they could recognize it for what it is.
Writer’s Block:That is brilliant. I hope your work can help others in that situation. Final question: I can’t wait to read your backlist, but before we end today, tell us: Are there any new projects you are working on? *fingers crossed!*
Abby Jimenez:Yes! My next book comes out in spring of 2023. It’s called Yours Truly and it’s Bri’s book! We get lots of cameos from the characters from Part of Your World and we even get to spend some time in Wakan.I can’t wait!
Writer’s Block:I can’t wait, either, Abby! Thank you so much for your time! Your books have been a joy to read. To close us out, I’d love to share a couple of quotes from Part Of Your World:
Welcome! Today, I’m kicking off my summer blog series, all about some of my Fave Summer Reads! Summertime is prime reading time for me, and I am here for it. Throughout the month of July, I’ll be sharing three reads which I consider to be absolutely perfect for the season.
For my first Summer Reads post, I’m featuring the book, Paris Is Always A Good Idea, by New York Times Bestselling Author, Jenn McKinlay. This book, to me, straddles a line between RomCom and Women’s Fiction, and it works, really well. Witty dialogue, personal struggles to overcome, a wonderful cast…it’s all there.
A little bit of background about this story: This book features Chelsea, who has suffered the loss of her mom to cancer, and can’t seem to recall when the last time she felt happy was. Her job focuses on cancer research, which is as noble as it gets, however, the emptiness she feels with the loss of her mom is overwhelming.
It’s not until her sister helps her realize that the last time she seemed happy was when she was on a visit to Europe years earlier, that Chelsea makes a plan to retrace the steps of that trip, and in the process, reconnect with the three men who made her feel alive. But, what if her happiness is too far gone?
This book is a summer fave of mine, largely because of the “escapist” quality to it. I discovered this book during a period of time when travel was not an option, and as a writerly person, I turned to books for escape. In addition to that, the locales mentioned in this book (France, Italy, Ireland) are places I dream about often. I have been fortunate to travel to France and Italy during a time when I was close to Chelsea in age, and I can remember the feeling of seeing parts of the world I hadn’t before. There is a sense of romance about it all, and I appreciated this book for the re-visit, if only in my mind.
Jenn McKinlay does a wonderful job with the humor in this book, as well. As an agent, I feel that I need to connect with the voice delivery and humor in books that are pitched to me. It’s really important for me to feel like a part of the story, and that’s where this one really shines.
Additionally, the plot line of the love interest in Paris Is Always A Good Idea, Jason Knightley, is equally as strong as Chelsea’s. He and Chelsea have a tumultuous work relationship, and Chelsea is all too glad to be rid of him as she heads off to Europe to find her happiness. But Jason has his own reasons for being the way he is, and author Jenn McKinlay makes the reader empathize with every single one.
The question remains: Can you ever really go back again? I don’t know the answer to that, but going through the experience through Chelsea’s eyes was charming and beautifully flawed, and I adored every single minute of the trip. I hope you’ll grab your Reader’s Passport, and check this book out. It’s a gem!
Knowing how much I love this story, I was prompted to reach out to Jenn McKinlay in the hopes that she might be interested in answering a few questions for this blog series. Imagine how tickled I was when she agreed to chat with me over Zoom! Below, you’ll find my interview with her, where we discuss her background, her characters, the travel that inspired this book, among lots of other things. I am so grateful to Jenn for the time she spent with me! She is just as bubbly as the banter between the characters in her books. I hope you enjoy our discussion!
And now for my interview with author Jenn McKinlay!
Readers, after I concluded this interview on Zoom, I reached out to Jenn with one final question: Is there one takeaway you would like your readers to grab after reading your books. Her response was beautiful, and encapsulates my own feelings about Paris Is Always A Good Idea:
“If there is a takeaway for my readers, I hope it’s that they see themselves in the characters and know that on this journey we call life, they’re never alone. I see you, I like you, and I believe in you.” ~Jenn McKinlay
I do hope you’ll check out Jenn McKinlay’s book! It’s romantic, breezy, escapist and fun. And if you read it, please let me know!
Where I live, the summer months take their sweet time to arrive, and once they do, it’s fleeting. I wait all year for these few glorious months, and I relish them. Throughout the year, I read a LOT. Sometimes my reading list is client-based, as I prep manuscripts, submissions and proposals with clients. And sometimes my reading time allows for me to read the books of published authors. My tastes in reading for pleasure is varied, but I will say, that since Covid, I have been craving books that allow me to escape these crazy times. And for that, I found myself drawn to what I call “Summer Reads.”
To me, a “Summer Read” often has some or all of the following qualities:
Locales which take me away to someplace different
A breezy vibe, letting me escape and relax for a bit
A love story
Beginning on July 3, 2022 and continuing through the entire month, I will be launching my next blog series: Fave Summer Reads. I am super excited about this series. During the series, I’ll be featuring three “Summer Reads” books, and interviews with the authors who wrote them. I’m so fortunate that I was able to connect with the authors of these books which meant a lot to me, especially during these uncertain times.
Special thanks to the authors who’ll be featured:
I hope you’ll join me for this very special blog series!
Drop a comment below…I love to connect with my readers!
Welcome back to my Novel Noshing series! Today, for the third and final post of the event, I am featuring Jen Gilroy, author of The Sweetheart Locket, dual timeline historical women’s fiction.
Jen Gilroy writes sweet contemporary romance and dual timeline historical women’s fiction—warm, feel-good stories to bring readers’ hearts home.
A Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® finalist and shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Joan Hessayon award, Amazon named her third book, ‘Back Home at Firefly Lake,’ a ‘Best Book of the Month: Romance’ in December 2017.
A dual British-Canadian citizen, Jen lived in England for many years and earned a doctorate (with a focus on British cultural studies and social history) from University College London.
Returning to where her Irish family roots run deep, she now lives with her husband, teenage daughter and floppy-eared rescue hound in small-town Eastern Ontario, Canada.
When not writing, she enjoys reading, ice cream, ballet and paddling her purple kayak.
About the Book/Inspiration–Jen’s own words!
What if the key to your present lies in the past?
From England and France in the Second World War to San Francisco 2019, “The Sweetheart Locket,” is a dual timeline historical women’s fiction story of love, loss & family secrets, intertwined with courage & hope. The family heirloom locket at the centre of the story is inspired by the “sweetheart jewellery” men serving in the armed forces during the war gave to loved ones at home.
Filled with heart, heroism and humanity, reviewers have called the book “a beautiful tale…[of] friendship, love and loss…[and] how three generations of women come full circle and find happiness.”
The Victoria Sponge or Sandwich Cake is a popular and traditional British cake. It’s also my own favourite which I have fond memories of sharing with English family and friends. As part of a book that’s my love letter to Britain, I included references to this cake in “The Sweetheart Locket,” my first primarily British-set story.
When Willow, the American heroine of the contemporary storyline arrives in England for a work trip, she’s also determined to find out about her British grandmother, Maggie’s life, including what she did in the war.
When Willow meets an historian at London’s National Portrait Gallery they have afternoon tea, a special British ritual.
“Willow took a forkful of cake, white with a jam and cream filling…called a Victoria Sponge.”
And as Willow discovers Maggie’s past, including her work as an undercover secret agent in 1940s France, Willow’s life also changes.
As expressed via my fictional Maggie and Willow, one of the book’s core messages is this one:
“Even if it wasn’t in a war, everyone had to fight some kind of battle what mattered is that you came out the other side.”
Victoria Sponge/Sandwich Cake (Traditional British recipe)*
170g (6 oz) butter or margarine
170g (6 oz) caster sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
170g (6oz) self-raising flour, sieved
Jam and sieved icing sugar to fill and decorate
Base line and grease two 19cm (7 1/2 inch) sandwich tins
Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius / 350 degrees Fahrenheit / Gas mark 4
Beat together the margarine and sugar until the mixture is light in colour and fluffy in texture.
Add the eggs to the creamed mixture a little at a time beating thoroughly after each addition.
Add the flour and fold in carefully with a metal spoon.
Divide the mixture equally between the prepared tins. Smooth the top so that the mixture is fairly level.
Bake for 25-35 minutes (or until well risen, golden brown and firm).
Leave in the tins for two to three minutes to cool.
Turn out onto a wire rack.
When cold, sandwich the two cakes together with jam and dust the top with sieved icing sugar.
*This recipe comes from ‘Church House Recipe Book: Love and Charity: Cake Recipes from Hughenden Parish Church, Church House Teas.’ High Wycombe, England: Fairprint, 2004, p.37 (Christine Rose).
Thank you so much for stopping by my writer’s block! I had a blast meeting these three authors, and learning about their latest releases. I can’t wait to try all these recipes!
Next month, July, 2022, I will be featuring a series on some of my favorite summer reads, including interviews with amazing authors who wrote the books. I hope you will join me here on my Writer’s Block for that!