AUTHOR WEDNESDAY – SIMI K. RAO

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Author Wednesday day once again, and I welcome Simi K. Rao, who writes novels about the cultural transitions and assimilation from her native India to the place she’s chosen as an adult in the United States. She’s just published her second novel, The Accidental WifeThe Accidental Wife book covera contemporary romance with a multicultural twist that provides an insight into the Indian society as it stands today.

From the author: Some accidents are meant to happen…
Dr. Rihaan Mehta is a brilliant young neurosurgeon who has no inclination for love or marriage. According to him, wives and girlfriends are annoying accessories that one can do without. But when his mother dangles the sword over his head in classic Bollywood style, he succumbs, and sets out in search of a bride who would fit his “requirements.” But can Rihaan deal with what he gets instead?

The premise of the book sounds very intriguing. I love the Bollywood style that you are perfecting. I know you have a whole other career in medicine, so tell me, when did you first discover your voice as a writer?

I think there’s been a writer concealed within me ever since I was little. I remember penning stories and essays in school with exceptional relish. Friends were drawn to my storytelling abilities, and I enjoyed improvising my lines in school plays. But unfortunately this part of me went into a state of suspended animation during medical school and subsequent years of building a career as a physician. It was only in the past few years that it resurfaced again, and I began to nurture it seriously.

I’m glad you recognized that instinct and followed it with such relish. One of my heroes, Rachel Carson (Silent Spring), said she never chose a subject because as a writer, the subject chose her. Has this ever happened to you?

Yes, this is true for most of my projects as well. The idea for my first novel Inconvenient Relations was born when I came across certain shocking incidences in my community, which young Indian women arriving in the United States as newlywed brides only to discover their husbands already married and with families. These women found themselves not only betrayed but also alone and helpless in a strange land and often without resources. I felt almost compelled to give this state of affairs a twist and write a story where the young woman takes matters into her own hands and redirects her destiny.

That’s the beauty of fiction. We can rewrite it so there’s a lesson and perhaps hope for deplorable situations. Are there any commonalities between your two novels, besides the cultural one?

My stories are generally woman-centric, and my heroines are usually strong, bold, and independent. Hence, you could say I aim to present positive role models to women.

Perfect. Do all your books have a common theme? 

So far, my work has the common theme of romance after marriage, arranged or accidental. But in the future, I plan to write on more varied themes including serious topics, such as drug addiction.

Good. That needs to be addressed in this country and elsewhere. You can present a strong voice on that topic. What made you choose your original theme of “romance after marriage,” which is an intriguing concept and seems quite upside down to traditional marriages in the United States?

I’ve chosen these particular themes because they interest me, and I believe I have some expertise in them. I also like to believe that my readers will relate with and take away something from my stories as the subjects I chose are very real and topical.

How does setting play a role in your books?

The setting is very important because it provides a background for my characters and affects the way they act and behave.

Are you planning to continue writing romances?

Maybe a couple of books, not more. I don’t want to get predictable and boring.

That’s important. I like to challenge myself in every book I write. If you had two seconds to describe The Accidental Wife, what you you say? 

Some accidents are meant to happen.

How did you choose the title for your latest work and was it your first choice? 

I chose the title The Accidental Wife because the premise of the story is based on accidents, therefore it seemed perfect to me. Yes, it has been the title from the very beginning.

What is the most important message conveyed in The Accidental Wife?

Sometimes certain things happen that have the power to profoundly influence the way we lead our lives. They can change our behavior, our outlook, our goals, often for the better. But many among us resist this change—we create a wall around us, we close our minds and are distrustful. All I want to convey through this book is no matter how much we think we have control over our lives, the truth is we really don’t.

Isn’t that the absolute truth! We’d save a lot of energy if we could just recognize that fact. I often paraphrase John Lennon, “Life is what happens when we’re busy making other plans.” So you have several threads, themes and messages running through the novel, but tell me how you conceived the idea.

It just happened. One day I was struck by the number of online marriage portals available for Indians and how they seemed to make the process of finding a life partner so easy. I thought that it’d make a great subject for a story, then one thing led to another.

That’s rather amazing–I have no idea. Who is the antagonist in your book? Did you enjoy creating this character?

One of my protagonist’s, Dr. Rihaan Mehta, is the antagonist of my book. The story is about how his character changes over time, and yes, I really enjoyed creating him.

That’s a very important distinction. Dr. Mehta was his own worst enemy. Powerful. Without giving us a spoiler, tell us a little bit about your favorite scene in this book.

There are a couple of scenes that take place in the hospital setting and are very real and emotional. They are my favorite scenes because I’ve lived them myself.

That makes for a very vivid portrait for you novel. I’m looking forward to reading The Accidental WifeThank you for stopping by today, Simi. I wish you the very best success with both of your challenging careers.

P1020168 (3)About Simi: Simi K. Rao was born and grew up in India before relocating to the U.S., where she has lived for several years. The inspiration for her books, and other projects, comes from her own experience with cross-cultural traditions, lifestyles and familial relationships, as well as stories and anecdotes collected from friends, family, and acquaintances.

Simi enjoys exploring the dynamics of contemporary American culture blended with Indian customs and heritage to reflect the challenges and opportunities many Indian-American women face in real life. Much of Simi’s down time is devoted to creative pursuits, including writing fiction, poetry, and photography. She is an avid traveler and has visited many locations around the world. A practicing physician, Rao lives in Denver with her family.

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Author Wednesday – Staci Troilo

cropped-cropped-typewriter.jpgIt’s Author Wednesday time, and with great pleasure I welcome back Staci Troilo to talk about her latest release Type and Cross, women’s mainstream fiction. Type & Cross E-Book Cover

Staci, it’s great to have you back. Your last book, Mystery, Ink: Mystery Heir was obviously a mystery, and now you’ve written a book in a different genre. Tell us about the new book.
Type and Cross is a mainstream novel about a dysfunctional family and the trials they undergo when a tragedy reveals secrets and unleashes turmoil that threatens to destroy a career, a marriage, and a family.

That’s my favorite type of book to both read and write. The title is unique. I can’t wait to find out how it relates to the story. How did you choose the title? 

For a while, the working title for the novel was Blood Ties. Blood is an important theme in the book, and “Ties” worked in the family relationships nicely. But a little research revealed that title had already been used. And while I know titles aren’t copyrighted, I didn’t want to take an already existing title. After thinking for a long time and running ideas by friends, I chose Type and Cross. It still worked with the blood theme, and if people really want to read into things, “type” can refer to the type of people involved and “cross” can refer to people crossing each other. Those symbols aren’t really important, weren’t even intentional, but they’re a happy accident. Now that the book is out, I’m really happy with the title.

That’s interesting how it evolved. I agree that I want my titles to be unique–to stand out. I think Type and Cross certainly does that. Everyone always wants to know about the writer’s process. How long do you estimate it took you to take the book from an idea to a finished, published novel? 

That’s kind of a trick question. This idea came to me more than ten years ago, but I never worked on it. About one year ago, my (then) agent asked me if I wrote in any genre other than romance. I thought of this one and got to work. The first chapter came slowly (I later cut it entirely—it was basically all backstory), but then the words flowed. The rest of the book only took a few months to write. Editing, however, took at least that long. At first, I wondered if my editor was just being picky, but when I read my final draft, I knew she had been spot-on with her advice to me.

It’s sometimes hard to see the progress and the process when you’re in the middle of it. It sounds as if you have a fantastic editor. Is the book traditionally or self-published? Why did you choose one over the other?

Type and Cross is published by Foyle Press, an imprint of Oghma Creative Media. Oghma offers strong editing (see above), fabulous design, and marketing support. It was a no-brainer for me. Had I done the work myself, my cover wouldn’t be this good, the layout inside would be dull, the writing wouldn’t be quite as polished, and I wouldn’t have marketing help. I mean, I could have paid a premium for all these things, but that would defeat the purpose of self-publishing. And, because I went with a traditional publisher, my book is available to a broader spectrum of purchasers. I’m in the publisher’s catalogue, so my novel is shown to prospective booksellers across the country.

That’s wonderful, Staci. You’ve found a good way to do it. Editing, design, and marketing are difficult for many Indie Authors. Tell us about the message you want to convey through this novel.

Type and Cross delves into what makes a family—blood or bonds. It’s the classic “nature versus nurture” debate, just explored in a different way.

What is the best thing someone could say about Type and Cross?

That it will stick with them for a while.

How did you come up with the idea for the book?

My husband once got results from a blood test that we didn’t expect. It turned out that the lab sent him erroneous information, but by then I had already started researching blood. The idea was born. And then it took on a life of its own.

The research started for completely different reasons, but then your curiosity took over! That’s great. Besides that initial research, what else did you need to learn about the subject matter? 

I had to understand blood types, how they combined, how transfusions worked. I looked into medical oddities. And, most importantly, I had some people in the medical field review the details, one of whom is a doctor (thank you, Dr. Aaron Lane), who gave me invaluable information about procedures and dialogue.

Who or what is the antagonist? Did you enjoy creating this character?

The protagonists don’t even realize there’s an antagonist until near the end. This character is fully developed in my mind, and I’ll explore more facets of this person’s personality in book two. Instead, the protagonists spend most of the novel battling their situations, and sometimes even each other. This interplay between the two was so much fun to write. These people were so dysfunctional, and my relationship with my husband couldn’t be more different from theirs.

That’s good. Without giving us a spoiler, tell us a little bit about your favorite scene in this book.

It made me cry when I wrote it. It still makes me cry when I read it. And my editor told me she needed many tissues when she got to that point. It’s already a moving scene, and its power is compounded by the implications for the family. Sorry to be so cryptic, but I can’t say much without giving it away.

I understand. I’ll let you know when I come to that part! What else do you want readers to know about your book?

I just hope every reader comes away from reading this thinking about their own relationships—and what they can do to improve them. These people start out in what they’d both define as a comfortable marriage. It’s anything but, and the issues that crop up expose their lie. They have monumental problems to overcome. Most of us will never go through similar experiences, so we have far less work to do to make our relationships stronger. Put I hope we’re all willing to put in the work. We all deserve to be happy.

Thanks for stopping by today, Staci. Type and Cross is next up in my reading queue, and my review will follow shortly. It sounds just like the type of book I love to read.

gmpubAbout Staci: Staci Troilo grew up knowing family is paramount. She spent time with extended family daily, not just on holidays or weekends. Because of those close knit familial bonds, every day was full of love and laughter, food and fun. Life has taken her one thousand miles away from that extended family, but those ties remain. And so do the traditions, which she now shares with her husband, son, and daughter… even her two dogs. And through her fiction, she shares the importance of relationships with you. Mystery or suspense, romance or mainstream—in her stories, family is paramount.

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Author Wednesday – Courtney Giardina

???????????????????????????????Welcome to Author Wednesday. Courtney Giardina stops by today to discuss her novel Tear Stained Beaches. The novel explores what happens when a marriage the ideal marriage suddenly isn’t. Courtney says that “Tear Stained Beaches, is the story of one woman’s strength to stand up for what she believes is best for her despite the thoughts and words of others. This novel gives women hope and courage to live the life they see fit for themselves.” cover for web final

I’m so happy to welcome you today, Courtney. Your novel sounds fascinating. Let’s start with your writing life before we talk about your book. Do you have any writing rituals?

I always write at night. For some reason my creativity just doesn’t start flowing until 9pm or later. When that time comes I turn my music on to almost a whisper, open up my manuscript and begin to write.

That sounds like a very good ritual. Since I’m a writer myself, I’m always fascinated by other writers’ lives. What is your vision of yourself as a writer?

I love writing and always have. If I could continue to do so and keep gathering inspiration for many more books to come, I would be happy. I’ve met so many great authors and readers with just this one book, I’m excited to keep building relationships with people I wouldn’t have known otherwise. I’d also love to delve a little more into blogging as well to keep my writing up to speed.

I agree that the bonus of writing are the relationships formed with readers and writer. Tear Stained Beaches is your first novel, but you’re working on your second one. Are there common themes between the two books?

I’m just finishing up my second novel now–Holding on to Georgia. The official book trailer (click here to view) has been released and I’m gearing up for the cover reveal! I like to think that both of them have an overall message that readers can get out of it. It wouldn’t necessarily be the same for everyone, but I do want them to finish the book and be inspired by it. Carry it over to their everyday lives.

You’ve received a lot of reviews so far for Tear Stained Beaches, so what’s the best thing said about one of your books by a reviewer?

One of the greatest sentiments I’ve received from reviewers is how much they could feel the emotions of Haylie throughout the novel. The fact that my writing could really pull them in like that it such a sweet compliment.

I know how gratifying that is when you know a reader has really connected with something you’ve put on the page. We all receive them, so let’s talk about the bad review. What advice can you give to other writers about receiving one?

Learn from it, but don’t let it get you down. Not everyone is going to like your writing style or your story. You don’t write for them, you write because you love to write and your audience appreciates it.

Excellent advice, Courtney.  I love the title of this book. How did you choose Tear Stained Beaches for the title? Has it been the title from the very beginning?

I wish I knew how it came to me! I really wanted something different, something that would catch a reader’s attention immediately and still convey the meaning of the book. Since most of my main character’s soul searching is on the beach, I began focusing on that and then Tear Stained Beaches just popped into my head.

You mentioned you have a similar theme in both your novels. What is the specific message you’ve conveyed?

The overall message in this book is to always be true to yourself. We all have the strength and courage to do what it best for us, sometimes it just takes a little digging to find it.

You are right about that. Thank you for writing a novel that also provides inspiration. Without giving us a spoiler, tell us a little bit about your favorite scene in this book.

This book is quite emotional, but there is one scene in the book that made me laugh out loud while I was writing it. It’s when Haylie first meets Chase. Let’s just say, she didn’t quite make the best impression, but it was a head banging one.

That’s a good teaser. Tell us about your life away from the keyboard. What do you do during your down time?

I love to workout and find new ways to challenge myself. I’ve taken up many fitness classes here in Charlotte such as Pure Barre, bootcamp and dance classes. Right now I am a member of a boxing club, and I love to sign up for 5k races. My next challenge is going to be a Wipeout inspired 5k called Roc Race. I’m very excited!

Not only do you write inspirational novels, but you’re an inspiration in your personal life. If a movie was made about your success as a writer, who would play you?

Ironically enough it would be the same person who I would pick to play Haylie if Tear Stained Beaches was a movie. That would be Sophia Bush. I really adore not only her acting skills, but who she is as a person.

Thank you for stopping by today, Courtney. It’s been a real pleasure to get to know you, and I look forward to reading Tear Stained Beaches. Please stop back when the new novel is finished.

cgiardinaAbout Courtney Giardina: Courtney is a Rochester, New York, native who currently resides in Charlotte, North Carolina. After nine months of wearing out the delete button on the keyboard, Tear Stained Beaches was completed. She is currently working on her second novel. When she’s not writing, Courtney is an avid health and fitness lover who has currently taken up a love of boxing as a member of Title Boxing Club and loves trying out new healthy recipes from Pinterest.

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Book Review Friday – A Fitting Place

A Fitting PlaceMary Gottschalk’s first novel A Fitting Place wraps the reader in a familiar blanket in the opening pages. A lovely surprise awaited me as I began reading a story told a hundred different ways of a marriage breaking up when a husband falls for someone younger. Lindsey Chandler and her story of growth leaves the typical and takes the reader on her journey to find out just what her “fitting place” is in the world.

Lindsey’s world crumbles and her teenage daughter Zoey crumbles right along with her. Gottschalk doesn’t shy away from the issues as Zoey crashes into a full-blown case of bulimia, and Lindsey realizes the perfect world of her marriage and family never really existed except in the pages of a fantasy created after her own troubled childhood. As a result, Lindsey explores different avenues on her journey, including an affair with another woman.

I loved the juxtaposition of Lindsey’s two female friends in the book. Dee is the friend we all have, born from their husbands’ friendship. But the friendship with Dee is based on certain presumptions, one of which is that Lindsey and Ted are happily married. When it becomes evident that isn’t true, neither Dee nor Lindsey know exactly what to do, but they keep trying. Lindsey realizes she’s never been honest with Dee about her feelings, while at the same time realizing she’s never been truthful to herself. Joan represents the “friend” whose friendship is based on something other than mutual respect. Soon enough Lindsey realizes that Joan needs Lindsey to be a certain way, just as Ted did during their marriage. Lindsey explores a sexual relationship with Joan and enjoys the results; however, she also realizes that she prefers the intimacy of men.

While it may seem this book is an examination of sexual preferences, I didn’t feel that was the main theme. It’s just an interesting side plot.

This book is about love–all kinds of love. There is the love we have for a partner; there is the love we have for our children; there is the love we have for our dearest friends; and there is the love we develop over time with people who are thrust into our lives without having chosen them. That type of love is portrayed by Gottschalk in the guise of Lindsey’s mother-in-law. Through this relationship, the reader sees how we can often misinterpret others and make judgements without taking the time to talk to another person.

A Fitting Place works on many levels. I found myself pushing for certain outcomes of the book (no spoilers here), but then sat back and enjoyed the writing of Gottschalk. She’s just as meticulous in her prose in this book as she was in her memoir Sailing Down the Moonbeam.

I recommend A Fitting Place if you love to enter vicariously into the world of a character as she searches for a better self, which includes love in all its choices and incarnations.

Disclosure: I received an Advanced Review Copy A Fitting Place in exchange for an honest review.