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Sara Tells us How

Woodhouse Hall Book Cover Woodhouse Hall
21st Century Austen Book 3
Sara Marks
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Illuminated Myth Publishing
Publication date: October 28th 2019

Woodhouse Hall
Sara Marks
Publication date: October 28th 2019
Genres: AdultContemporaryRomance

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Amelia is stuck in the worst dorm on campus for a whole year!  She’ll have to make the best of it in Woodhouse Hall and her roommate Jenna will be her new best friend, Amelia’s sure of that.  Jenna’s sweet personality and openness to new things incite the matchmaking-genius in Amelia to find the perfect boyfriend for her new bestie. She shoots high by attempting to entice Eric, the President of the Student Government, to fall for her roommate. Amelia’s past success makes her confident they will be a couple in no time. When that turns out to be a disaster, she is forced to face the lies she’s told herself about her strengths and her assumptions about the people she loves. Over the year, Amelia learns who she is, what she wants, and how to fight for what’s really important.

This novel, inspired by Jane Austen’s Emma, will have you laughing, crying, and finding a little of yourself in one or all of the characters.

Can you tell your readers something about why you chose this particular topic to write about? What appealed to you about it? Why do you think it is different and your approach is unique?

I work at a university so I see a lot of college students through my days, weeks, months, and years. I get to know some of them and what they’re struggling with. The 21st Century Austen series are modernizations of Jane Austen books and she wrote about people in this same age group. Modernizing it means considering college students and how different they are from other adults and people the same age who don’t go to college.

Emma, the book that inspired Woodhouse Hall, is about a woman of immense privilege. She has the life she wants without having had to compromise like others around her. She sees herself as skilled at something she has merely been lucky to get right. It’s something common for all of us to understand and happens often in our early twenties. I want readers to see that mistakes and failures aren’t the end of the world but lessons that can help us make better decisions. 

How long do you think about a topic before deciding to write about it? Do you have a set of notes or a note book where you write down topics that appeal before making a decision as to which topic this time?

Woodhouse Hall happened very quickly. I write my first draft during National Novel Writing Month events. There are three a year: the big one in November and then two smaller ones in April and July. I was going to write a different project in July 2018 but this idea suddenly came to me and I was able to write the whole thing in a few months. I did the research as I wrote and edited, talking to college students around me. From start to release day it took less than a year and a half to work on this book.

I do have a lot of journals and notebooks where I collect my notes, outlines, research, and character details. Each book will take at least one notebook.

How long does it take to research a topic before you write? And for this book?

Research is my bread and butter. I’m a research librarian so I can get lost in the research process because I enjoy it so much. How much time depends on the topic. If I know a lot about it, I don’t spend too much time. The research for Woodhouse Hall required a little research about how buildings are added to the national register of historical buildings and talking to college students about life in dorms. It didn’t take long at all. Another book is going to take place in a candy shop, which I know nothing about. It’s going to take extensive research that will involve eating candy!

What resources do you use? In general and for the last book that you wrote

The resources depend on each book. For Woodhouse Hall I was easily able to find a lot of resources online. The government puts up a ton of information about getting a building listed on the historical register. I also looked up blueprints of dorms and costs so I made sure plot points happened accurately. I like going to places and talking to people as part of the research process. It helps me understand context of things that happen and I get great stories to include. I can also see how people interact with each other in a setting.

Do you have any pets? Do they help you write?

I have a cat and a dog. Neither are helpful when writing. Sabine, the cat, wants to be left alone. Cedric, the dog, wants to be the center of my attention. He likes to sit in my lap, making it difficult to work. I have to leave the house everyday if I want to get anything done. It’s probably why I can write and publish books the way I do. When I go out to write, I can focus and just check items off my to-do list.

Do you have an unusual hobby?

It’s not unusual but I’m also a knitter. Before I decided to start self-publishing, I was doing so much knitting that I was creating my own patterns and still sell them online. I still knit, especially when I’m not writing. I try to make sure I knit at least one item for every story I write. I have so much yarn I just shop in my own house when I’m ready to knit something else.

If you could choose to live in another country/town – which would you choose? And why?

I love Paris and my plan is to retire there in thirty years. My plan is to continue writing full time while I’m there. I love Paris and have since before my first visit ten years ago. I love the food and history. Anytime I can manage a way to insert Paris into what I’m writing, I do. Phi Alpha Pi has a major scene happen there but not Woodhouse Hall.

Do you people watch to find characters for your books? How do you do this? What is the funniest thing you have seen that you have incorporated into a book? Or do you add some traits from your family and friends into your characters?

I do and it often shocks my friends how much I’m paying attention to everything. I was in Boston with some friends, walking to a chocolate shop for a tour. Behind us was a couple who had clearly been on a few dates but not that comfortable with each other. I walked between our two groups, listening to both my friends and the couple. Later, over lunch, we were talking about the couple and they were shocked at how much I had over heard.

Sometimes these things make it into books but usually I watch to see how people talk and what these things show me about them, even if its assumptions people will make. I often think about what people think about me when they see me in cafe’s working. These things work their way in to everything I write.

The funniest thing that ended up in Latkes of Love, specifically, was when a friend and I had lunch in Salem, MA during the Women’s Soccer championships this past summer. There was a guy at the bar there and he was far more enthusiastic than anyone else in the bar. I wrote the entire thing into a disastrous date for a character. I don’t want to spoil it but it was magnificent.

About the Author

Sara Marks is a librarian with two masters degrees and plans to never stop getting over educated.   She likes the idea of having all the academic regalia she can ever possess. She cries at nearly every movie she sees (ask her about when she cried at a horror movie), but it’s full-on weeping for Disney animated movies. She loves reading nearly every genre but likes to write women’s fiction, romance, and even horror. You have to balance out the reality of the world if you’re going to be a hopeless romantic! Her heroines are women who don’t want the expected life, rarely worrying about their age, weight, marriageability, or fertility. 

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You do know

The Things I Know Book Cover The Things I Know
Amanda Prowse
contemporary fiction, romance, women's literature
Lake Union Publishing
Pub Date 11 Jun 2019

From bestselling author Amanda Prowse comes a heartwarming tale of first impressions and lasting love. Thomasina ‘Hitch’ Waycott loves living and working on the remote family farm and B&B. But she also wants more. To see the world. To own her own home. To fall madly in love. But those are fairy tales, and if her life is a fairy tale, then she’s the ugly duckling. Her deformed lip, her crooked limbs and her weak heart have kept her from taking chances. But that’s about to change. When Grayson Potts comes to stay, he’s unlike anyone Thomasina has ever met. He’s aloof, eccentric and exceptionally kind. He’s also totally unconcerned with the physical flaws that have always defined Thomasina. The two form a bond that neither has had before. It’s possible that it could become something more, but Thomasina also wonders if it’s too good to be true. By putting her heart on the line, Thomasina may open herself to heartbreak. But she may also open herself to so much more.

This is the first book I’ve ever read where I cried at the first chapters.

Hitch – Thomasina – is such a sad character as the story opens, taking happiness in the very small things in her life.

Over-protected by her parents, her life is kept small as her health, as a baby, was precarious, and he rparents hadn’t realised how strong, physically and mentally, she had become.

The story is both sad and also uplifting. It reminds us that happiness is in own hands and can be created from small beginnings.

As we see Thomasina grow in self-belief, we are shown possibilities. There is a strong underlying philosophy apparent in this story that is developed empathetically and subtly with great style.

One of the best quotes from the book is:

‘I know that words are powerful things and have great weight’.

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Holy Love is needed

Love You Holy: Wild Child Book Cover Love You Holy: Wild Child
Fran Steinberg
contemporary fiction, romance, Women's Fiction
BooksGoSocial
Pub Date 25 Apr 2019

A screaming newborn is thrown from a speeding car onto a dusty Texas road. Immediately, swarms of vultures descend on her to feast. A vicious kick from a crippled old man scatters the vultures and gives his wife time to pick the baby up."What is it Ma?" the old man asks his wife. "A sickly bear cub?" he ventures."No, Pa. It’s a newborn baby. See,” she says, pulling the blanket down. “Two arms and two legs. No fur. And look at this, Pa,” she says shaking her head with tears in her eyes, "her umbilical cord still attached." And so begins the life of Max Arrins, an abandoned orphan whose extraordinary character eventually makes her a legend in Texas. She’s a modern-day hero, who defends the weak, takes care of her people and doesn’t take any shit! Determined to join the Storm Kings, an elite group of linemen who put the lights back on after hurricanes and cyclones, she struggles fearlessly with man and nature to achieve her goal. But when her ambitions are blocked, the "Wild Child" in her emerges, with disastrous results for her opponent.If Wild Child Arrins loves you holy, you're safe. Be kind to her and she'll be kind to you. But hurt her or prevent her from getting what she wants… watch out. The Wild Child unleashed is a force to be reckoned with; a force not bears, wildcats or even an entire crew of Storm Kings can handle.

This is a very different story. It is written as an autobiography by the Wild child herself, telling her story from the age of 14 to 17 in great depth. Max also explains her origins, as she knows them, and some details of her life after 17, but the bulk of the story covers the period of her adoption to her marriage.

Her origins and early life are heart-rending and sad beyond belief, and yet you believe the story as it is so well told. The desperate poverty of small land holders with debts and mortgages reliant on their crops to provide their income.

The characterisations of this strange breed of humanity – Texans – are excellent, as is the use of colloquial language and idioms. I thought that the character of the Judge was lovely, and Ben was believable as someone who could ‘tame’ the Wild Child.

This novel kept me turning the pages and wanting to know more about the Storm Kings and yes, the song – The Witchita Linesman’ kept running through my head!

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Go where the sun is..

From Antigua with Love
asstd
contemporary fiction, romance,
Mills and Boon
2019

Assorted Romance. Not for Sale. Sponsored by Tourist Authority.

A set of 5 short stories given me by Mills and Boon with the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority.

All set in the islands and intended to make you want to visit and celebrate romance of course. As such they certainly give you the tourist highlights and beauty of the scenery and for their genre, are nicely written. But I am not personally all that fond of short stories as I like a more developed storyline.

Still nice for their type.

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#Momspringa: Yes please!

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler Book Cover The Overdue Life of Amy Byler
Kelly Harms
Romantic Comedy, Love, Sex & Marriage Humour, Humorous Fiction
Lake Union Publishing
(1 May 2019)

Overworked and underappreciated, single mom Amy Byler needs a break. So when the guilt-ridden husband who abandoned her shows up and offers to take care of their kids for the summer, she accepts his offer and escapes rural Pennsylvania for New York City.

Usually grounded and mild mannered, Amy finally lets her hair down in the city that never sleeps. She discovers a life filled with culture, sophistication, and—with a little encouragement from her friends—a few blind dates. When one man in particular makes quick work of Amy’s heart, she risks losing herself completely in the unexpected escape, and as the summer comes to an end, Amy realizes too late that she must make an impossible decision: stay in this exciting new chapter of her life, or return to the life she left behind.

But before she can choose, a crisis forces the two worlds together, and Amy must stare down a future where she could lose both sides of herself, and every dream she’s ever nurtured, in the beat of a heart.

So after being a frazzled and broke single mum for years Amy Byler is  given the gift of a momspringa – in the way that the US … sect give their children a ..srpinga when they reach adulthood. A year off to discover who they are and what they want to do with their lives.

This year of Amy’s is detailed by the magazine that is sponsoring her – she is photographed and everything she does is told in detail on social media. And it sets a trend amongst tired mums who also want a #momspringa even if only for a few days!

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