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Interview with Author, Lauren Willig (part 2)

Future writer

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

LW. There’s something to be said for the famous Nora Roberts dictum: “butt in chair”. But I do believe there’s something to be said for productive procrastination. Are you procrastinating because you just don’t wanna? (Trust me, there are days when all of just don’t wanna.) Or are you procrastinating because there’s something wrong with the story and your subconscious mind needs some time to worry away at it? What I usually do is try to power through (aka butt in chair, coffee in hand), but if powering through doesn’t get me anywhere, then it probably means that there’s something fundamentally off and the best possible thing I can do is go browse through the clearance racks at T.J. Maxx, call my college roommate, or buy pumpkin themed goodies at Trader Joe’s. Giving yourself license to not think about the book and do something else entirely can give you the room to make sense of what’s not working. I’ll be on the Trader Joe’s checkout line or a in a dressing room and have that “aha!” moment when I’ll realize that the reason I’ve been stuck for a week is because I have the scene in the wrong viewpoint, or the scene doesn’t need to exist, or I’m trying to shoehorn my characters into doing something that works for the plot but isn’t true to their character. So… procrastination ain’t all bad. Just watch out for the just don’t wannas.

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

LW. Baroness Orczy, the writer of The Scarlet Pimpernel, said that Sir Percy Blakeney walked up to her one day at a London Tube stop. I’ve never had a character accost me on the subway, but they do tend to pop up in all sorts of strange places. Generally, mine jump out at me from whatever historical source I’m reading. For example, my upcoming book, Band of Sisters, came about because I was researching Christmas customs in Picardy during World War I (for a different book) and stumbled on a memoir by a Smith alum, talking about throwing Christmas parties for French villagers in the Somme in 1917. I thought “what on earth is a group of Smithies doing on the front lines in World War I?” And that was that.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

LW. I was six years old. As I saw it at the time, my choices were ballerina, princess, or novelist, but since I can’t dance to save my life and no-one was considerate enough to offer me a hereditary principality, I was really left with no other option but to focus on fiction. So I told my first grade classmates I was going to write books. And I did. I was rather disappointed when my first novel was rejected by Simon and Schuster when I was nine, but I stuck the manuscript in a drawer and kept on at it.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

LW. A little from Column A… a little from Column B…. It’s the old chicken and egg question. For me, the two tend to be bound up together. The characters are shaped by the situation and the situation is formed by the characters. I write historical fiction, so there’s the added layer of characters being shaped by their times.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

LW. I read recently about a state called “flow”, where there is nothing but you and the task. And that pretty much sums it up. On a good day, the world around me falls away and there’s nothing but me and the characters. I come to at some point to realize that hours have passed and my coffee’s all gone. Those are the best sort of writing days (aside from the whole disappearing coffee bit).

Q. Are you working on something now? If so tell us about it.

A. Right now I’m working on a prequel to my upcoming book, BAND OF SISTERS. (Release date in March; don’t miss my review of this fine book.) BAND OF SISTERS is about the Smith College Relief Unit, a group of Smith College alumnae who charged off to France at the height of World War I to bring humanitarian aid to French villagers on the front lines. While I was writing it, I became fascinated by the charismatic and eccentric founder of the Unit, a ground breaking archeologist who periodically dropped everything—her career, her children—to bring aid in war zones. The real life founder of the Smith Unit had gotten herself tangled, right out of Smith, in both the Greco-Turkish War and the Spanish American War and wound up being decorated by Queen Olga of Greece for her contributions war nursing. I wanted to know what she’d seen in Greece that made her plunge into the Spanish American War with the Red Cross—and what it was that turned her into a lifelong pacifist and humanitarian. I decided to go back and write her story, as a young woman just out of Smith, fighting to be allowed to excavate as an archaeologist with the boys and finding herself on the front lines of a war. That book doesn’t have a title yet (other than my working title, Smith II: The ReSmithening) but it’s slated to appear on shelves in spring of 2022, a year after BAND OF SISTERS.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

Next week will feature the conclusion to this wonderful interview. Don’t Miss It!
Did you miss Part I?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
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Book Review ~ The Revelators by Ace Atkins

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5 out of 5 quills            BOOK REVIEW

From the first sentence, in the first paragraph, on the first page The Revelators had this reviewer hooked!  As sheriff Quinn Colson lay face up, in a creek bed, shot four times, Boom’s face, like a black moon, hung over him, shouting into his best friend’s face, “Quinn, man. Stay with me brother… Can you hear me?”

I’ve told newbie writers and experienced writers that the first page, if not the first sentence, should grab your reader and not let go. They must feel compelled to read on and find out what happens next in your story. Ace Atkins personifies this rule in his writing.  If you are a fan of Quinn Colson and the goin’s-on in Tibbehah County, Mississippi you don’t need a reason to buy the latest in the series.  If you are aware or not, it’s the fine writing that brings you back again and again.  We love the grit, the gore, we even love the villains. At least, I do. 

The characters are drawn with the precision of a rapier. Caddy, Fannie Hathcock, Sam Frye, Donnie, Lillie, Quinn, Boom, the list goes on and on. And the graft portrayed just below the surface of the genteel south is real. When I lived in Harrison County (Gulfport, 1974) the elected Sheriff’s job was worth $1 million per year to that elected official. Nobody really blinked at the graft that took place every day. Just as long as crime was low and we were safe in our homes. 

I highly recommend this newest release in the Quinn Colson series. 

Did you miss my Interview with Ace Atkins?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY. July: Guest Blogger Desiree Villena, August: Carolyn Brown
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Interview with Author, Carolyn Brown

Carolyn and her husband live in the small town of Davis, Oklahoma, where everyone knows everyone else, as well as what they’re doing and when—and they read the local newspaper on Wednesday to see who got caught. They have three grown children and enough grandchildren to keep them young. When she’s not writing, Carolyn likes to plot new stories in her backyard with her tom cat, Boots Randolph Terminator Outlaw, who protects the yard from all kinds of wicked varmints like crickets, locusts, and spiders. Carolyn Brown is the author of more than 100 novels. She’s a recipient of the Bookseller’s Best Award, and the prestigious Montlake Diamond Award, and also a three-time recipient of the National Reader’s Choice Award. Brown has been published for more than 20 years, and her books have been translated into 19 foreign languages. Many are available in audio format. 

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing?  Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

CB. I have my own little office in my house. I only have to walk across the hallway from my bedroom to go to work each morning. My husband, Mr. B, built a wall hung desk for me to clutter up with notebooks, calendars, etc. I try to clean it off each time I finish a book. Note that I said, “I try”…most of the time I end one book, and the very next morning I open up a file for the next one.

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

CB. I do like my pajama pants, but I don’t have a favorite pair. Nothing special, really…just that I get something down on paper (computer) each day.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

CB. I didn’t get a toe in the door of a publishing company until I was forty nine years old. I’d been trying to get someone to look at my work for twenty five years before I finally got a break. Someone asked me about that time what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I simply asked them, “Do I have to decide today?” The next week I got the call from an editor who said she wanted to buy both the books I had sent to her.

Q. What tools do you begin with? Legal pad, spiral notebook, pencils, fountain pen, or do you go right to your keyboard?

CB. I use the computer to write. My thought process goes from brain to fingertips, but I use a notebook, spiral or composition either one, to make notes. I use one of those little inexpensive recipe boxes when I’m writing series. Each character, included dogs, horses and donkeys get their own index card, so I can keep up with age, eye color, height and all the information about that character for later books in the series.

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

CB. I usually write from eight to fourteen hours a day, beginning in the morning and keeping at it until I finish my daily word count.

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

CB. Write! Don’t Whine! Whining about my muse has left me, I have a block and I can’t write today so I’m going shopping or I’m going to lay out on the beach won’t work. If you want to be a writer, you have to be disciplined. Write something every day even if it’s crap. As Nora Roberts says, “You can fix crap. You can’t fix nothing.”

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

CB. Any and everywhere. Mr. B and I were in a little café having a burger when we were on a research trip. A lady came in with a bunch of kids. They were all from a group home for foster kids, and one little guy sat over by himself and didn’t talk with the others. That little fellow became an autistic child in one of my next books.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

Tune in next Friday for the conclusion to this charming interview.
You can visit Carolyn at www.carolynbrownbooks.com.
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY. July: Guest Blogger Desiree Villena, August: Carolyn Brown
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Book Review ~~ An Unfinished Story by Boo Walker

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing  reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing                5 out of 5 quills 

Die-hard fans of Boo Walker’s Red Mountain Chronicles really wondered what Boo would write about once he left the real red mountain wine country of Washington state. He transplanted himself to Florida, of all places. Boo knows so much about wine and growing grapes that it was hard to imagine what stories would be born out of the swampy, hot days in Florida. 

Oh ye of little faith (reviewer)!  An Unfinished Story is superb!  A bitter ‘has been’ writer and a grieving widow meet by chance and form an unlikely bond. The arc of the story is unexpected and fresh.  I loved the conflict,  the set-backs, the temporary truces, the tension, and the surprises.

Of course Boo couldn’t ignore the wine running through his veins totally so his protagonist, in this story, is a wine aficionado.  I loved the ‘nod’ to the Red Mountain Chronicles! Which is a series not to be missed. 

I highly recommend this wonderful story! 

Release date August 4th. Pre-order Now!

Did you miss my Interview with Boo Walker?

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY. July: Guest Blogger Desiree Villena, August: Carolyn Brown
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Interview with Author, Dan Sofer (part 2)

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

DS. Fifteen years ago, I decided to take my writing hobby more seriously. I bought books on writing craft, followed blogs of authors and literary agents, and devoted more time to writing.

Q. How long after that were you published?

DS. About four years later, I sold a short story to a print journal in the US. That gave me the confidence to work on my first novel, which took another seven years.

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

DS. I don’t think paper books will disappear in the foreseeable future, but the bulk of readers might move to digital formats. Audiobooks are on the rise, and so I’ve produced an audiobook for my new novel, Revenge of the Elders of Zion, read by the insanely talented Audi Award-winning narrator, Tim Campbell.

Q. What makes a writer great?

DS. Writers can be great in many ways. I find the authors I love have emotional intelligence and a subtle sense of humor.

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

DS. First, I write the novel concept, or “premise”, as a single sentence. I list the ideas, memorable scenes, and themes I’d like to include. After some years of writing, I discovered that this is a good time to write the book description or back-cover blurb. This helps make sure the concept will grab readers.
Then, I plan the structure of the main story arc. At the same time, I sketch out the motivation of the characters, their flaws, and arcs. I flesh the story out into a list of scenes and a two-page synopsis. By the time I start writing, I have a good idea of the story content. The writing flows faster, but there’s still room for characters and events to surprise me. Once I’ve raced through the first draft, I take a break, put the manuscript aside for a few weeks, and then return to the “real” writing, the editing.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

DS. Life experiences have deeply influenced my writing, from generating story ideas, to identifying with character motivations and relationships.

Q. What’s your down time look like?

DS. When I’m not writing and working (still have the day job), I spend time with my family, exercise at the gym, and of course, read a lot!

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre`?

DS. My earlier novels are comedy thrillers with some magical realism: A Love and Beyond and the Dry Bones Society series (“An Unexpected Afterlife,” “An Accidental Messiah,” and “A Premature Apocalypse”).
My new novel is a comedy thriller without fantasy elements, Revenge of the Elders of Zion.
But I’m working on a psychological thriller and have story ideas for a bunch of other genres. So many genres, so little time…

Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

DS. Focus. Don’t spread your time and energy too thin. We don’t live forever.

Did you miss part I of this interview?
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer, May:  Joram Piatigorsky
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Books by Trisha Sugarek

 

Interview with South African Author, Dan Sofer

TS. Born and raised in South Africa, Dan moved to Israel in 2001. Most of his novels to date take place in Jerusalem, where he lived for seven years. Dan now lives near Tel Aviv with his wife and two daughters. “Currently, we’re all isolated in our apartment as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Wish us luck!”

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing?  Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

DS. The short answer: wherever and whenever possible. I write at my laptop either in our computer room (otherwise known as our “mess” room) or at the dining room table. I’ve been known to jot down story ideas on my phone too. One day I hope to graduate to a coffee shop with good Wi-Fi and great coffee.

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat workspace, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

DS. I start with a cup of coffee. On good writing days, the coffee is cold by the time I look up from my manuscript.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

DS. I went scuba diving with Tiger sharks in Mozambique. (Unintentionally!)

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

DS. I’m a morning person. I get up early to write before life gets in the way.

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

DS. Write first, do the rest later.

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

DS. My characters develop along with the plot. I take my time getting to know them. Only rarely have I based a character on a person I know.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

DS. Imagination. My first novel, A Love and Beyond, developed from a first date in Jerusalem. The restaurant in a renovated Ottoman-era building had an almost mystical atmosphere at night, and I wondered whether a place could make people fall in love.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

DS. The situation comes first, the characters develop from the needs of the story.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

DS. Definitely! When writing, I shut out everything around me and often daydream about story situations and issues.

Q. Are you working on something now? If so tell us about it.

Available May 12th. Preorder Now!

DS. My new novel, Revenge of the Elders of Zion, is releasing on May 12, 2020.

Synopsis: In Manhattan, David Zelig decides to create a Jewish secret society based on the Elders of Zion myth. The Gentiles already think the Jews run the world; at least now a Jewish cabal might prevent the next synagogue shooting. When older and wiser community figures reject his proposal, the restless young heir of Zelig Pictures moves forward on his own. Along with two of his childhood friends—a high-strung hi-tech entrepreneur and a self-centered playboy—David establishes The Trio. But running a clandestine organization is harder than David had expected. And far more dangerous. Soon, the fledgling covert group falls into the cross hairs of some very real and very ruthless secret societies. And when law enforcement gets involved David’s well-meaning plan quickly spirals out of control. Struggling to stay alive and out of prison, the friends debunk The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, chase a priceless collection of Fabergé eggs, expose the dark secrets of Imperial Russia, and acquire a very embarrassing relic from the dawn of Christianity. Along the way, David will fall in love and uncover a complex web of conspiracy. He will discover the devastating cost of hatred and confess the true reason he created his secret society. To overcome painful injustices and prevent the most devastating anti-Semitic attack ever plotted on American soil, David will risk everything.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

Come back and join us with Part 2 on April 24th

To learn more about Revenge of the Elders of Zion, visit:
http://dansofer.com/revenge-of-the-elders-of-zion/?tag=pr

Special Offer:   Dan’ll be giving away over $500 in Amazon gift cards and merchandise for the launch. For details on how to enter, visit:
http://dansofer.com/giveaway-revenge-of-the-elders-of-zion/?tag=pr
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer, May:  Joram Piatigorsky
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Books by Trisha Sugarek

Book Review ~~ One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow

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5 out of 5 quills           ~~  A Book Review 

Look up ‘beautiful prose’ in the dictionary and you’ll find a picture of this book cover.  Every word is a musical note in the English language.  The book is a lyrical and yet powerful saga about homesteading on the high prairies of Wyoming in the 1800’s. But don’t let my praise about the ‘prose’ make you hesitate. This is a page-turning story with rich characters that you will come to love. 

Tragedy brings two families together for simple survival. A pasture, and an ocean of pain, divides the two homesteads. Two women battle it out so that their children might endure. 

As a reviewer, I love it when I can read for the pure pleasure of reading a good book. This book delivered in spades. The plot kept me engaged from page to page. The characters were well drawn. 

I highly recommend this book to my readers. 
And I look forward to my interview with this author in March. If you sign up for my blog, you will be reminded of the interview when it posts. 

Check out my Interview with Olivia.

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    December: Dervla McTiernan – January: David Poyer, March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer 
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Interview with Naval Captain, turned Author, David Poyer

Naval Captain DAVID POYER grew up in Pennsylvania and attended the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. His naval service included duty in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Arctic, Caribbean, and ports around the world. His nearly fifty published books include THE DEAD OF WINTER, WINTER IN THE HEART, AS THE WOLF LOVES WINTER, and THUNDER ON THE MOUNTAIN. His latest is OVERTHROW . His work has been translated into Japanese, Dutch, Hungarian, and Serbo-Croatian.

Poyer holds a master’s degree from George Washington University and has taught or lectured at Annapolis, Flagler College, and other institutions around the country. He has been a visiting writer/writer in residence at Flagler and Annapolis. His fiction has been required reading in the U.S. Naval Academy.

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing? Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

DP. I’ve written just about everywhere . . . aboard ship, in bars, in offices, on residencies abroad . . . anywhere with a pen or a keyboard. These days I usually write in my custom-built office, which has large windows with a view out over the Chesapeake Bay. And lots of reference books!

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

DP. Uh, not really . . . not superstitious about that, no. I check the email, look over the news, and set to work!

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

DP. One wall of my office is covered with typewriters. Manual typewriters, from all countries, that I’ve collected over the years. I came back from a research trip to Europe last year with five typewriters in a duffel bag…which interested the customs officials no end when they saw them on the X-rays!

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

DP. First thing in the morning works for me, when it’s quiet and not too much else has impinged on my day. I try to get at least a thousand words down, and then the rest of the day is mine to answer email, do research, or have fun!

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

DP. Here’s what I emphasize to my creative writing students: I think procrastination or “block” is usually just the result of a failure to properly prepare. I go through a long process of imagining my characters, daydreaming about their scenes. Eventually, I generate a detailed chapter outline that extends all the way to the end of the novel. (Things change, natch, and the outline is fluid to accommodate gifts; but having the outline there in the morning in place of a blank page removes all my stress.) When I know what will probably happen next, there’s no reason at all not to be able to do my thousand words that day. And usually more!

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

DP. They stem from various sources . . . some from people I knew . .. others are patterned after earlier fictional characters, especially in WHITENESS OF THE WHALE . . . and some spring fully born onto the page, like W. T. Halvorsen, who was a walk-on in DEAD OF WINTER but who took me through the next three books in the Hemlock County series. My wife says she’s often puzzled when I talk about my characters as if they’re people she should know! But then, she’s a novelist too, so she understands….

Q. What first inspired you to write?

DP. I tell my students at Wilkes, “One becomes a writer, not because one can, but because one must.” I realized very early, around age four, that writing was what I was sent here to do. And no matter what I did in between childhood and becoming a fulltime writer, that was preparation, rather than the main event.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

DP. Well, sometimes one, at other times the other. My continuing characters, such as Halvorsen, Dan Lenson, Tiller Galloway, usually find themselves confronted by ‘The Situation’, as you put it. Then they are called upon to react. Typically, things then get very dark. I mope around, trying to think of a way they can possibly escape. Eventually, I (or really, they) figure it out! Then all I have to do is craft the prose. Which is absorbing, too, in its way. The style of each of these series seems to differ. That, I think, is half organic and half from what my mentor Frank Green called a “felt knowledge.”

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

Join us for Part 2 of this griping interview next week
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    December: Dervla McTiernan – January: David Poyer 
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The Lost are the Last to Die ~~ Book Review

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing4 out of 5 quills ~~ Book Review

The Lost are the Last to Die by Larry D. Sweazy is a new, old west tale. 
Fans of westerns are going to love this story.  Set in the early 1900’s, the horse is being replaced by the automobile, the Great War has just ended and the lawlessness of the ‘old west’ is being rooted out.

Ranging from 1911 (flashbacks) to 1934 (present time for this story) Sweazy’s hero, Sonny Burton has enjoyed a stellar career in law enforcement. Surviving fighting in the Great War, he comes home and joins the Texas Rangers.  But life has served up a couple of career changing setbacks and Sonny must find new meaning in what seems like a meaningless life. 

The writing is superb. Larry leads the reader on an exciting chase with many twists and turns in the plot. Sonny Burton gives the reader someone worthy of rooting for. We want him to win even when it seems most unlikely.  

My Review of other Sweazy books.
Did you miss my interview with Larry Sweazy?
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    December: Dervla McTiernan – January: David Poyer 
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Book Review ~~ The Summer of Sunshine & Margot

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing           4 out of 5 quills   Book  Review

 

Susan Mallery always delivers a solid story. The Summer of Sunshine and Margot was no exception.  I found the main characters (Sunshine & Declan, Margot and Alec) empathetic and charming. I had a little trouble with Margot’s career and the services her company offered. Was she a life coach? A therapist? A baby sitter for adults? It was never made clear. 

And that leads me to write about one character, in her story. Bianca. She was an aging film star who evidently had been indulged her entire life. The result was an implausible, spoiled brat. Immature, thoughtless, reckless and a bully. I worked in Hollywood many years ago and her antics would have led her to be, at the worst, blackballed. Or at best, she would have been considered a ‘difficult’ actress when casting a film and to be avoided. Difficult actors cost money.  I found her outrageous behavior tiresome and unbelievable. 

The character of Bianca was the reason I couldn’t give this book my highest rating. 
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December: Dervla McTiernan ~~ January: David Poyer  
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