That's why I'm beyond excited to announce the publication of Best Day Ever, Une Journee Exceptionnelle, in France Tuesday, April 10th! My wonderful French foreign agent managed to sell the book at auction to Charleston Noir, a new imprint of Leduc. I couldn't be more excited to be leading another imprint - and to have my words translated into French. I spent more years than I'll admit trying to learn French myself, so I very much appreciate a French translation. Merci to all involved in making this sparkly dream come true!
We’re all unreliable narrators of our personal stories, to some degree, whether we’re comfortable admitting it or not. That may be why these fictional characters intrigue many of us on some visceral level. We recognize the impulse. Most of us are on social media these days where we share our filtered and carefully curated version of our lives. The perfect couple. The perfect day. A perfect illusion.
On a more basic level, we tell friends that “everything’s fine” when we’re hurting or soften the truth about real life for our children. We reserve, perhaps, the most undependable actions for the one we love the most. Romance, in its first blush, is far different than a relationship six months, a year or decades later.
Maybe domestic suspense novels featuring unreliable narrators are so popular because they shine a light on our society’s obsession with illusion. We recognize ourselves in the little lies, in the posturing. When we put our best foot forward to flirt with someone we’ve just met, how different those same words and actions can seem after we’ve been together for awhile.
Some of my favorite works of fiction feature these alluring unreliable narrators. Consider the book that started the latest phase, Gone Girlby Gillian Flynn. Probably the domestic suspense books like mine are enjoying some time in the sun. Gone Girlblew open the domestic suspense and unreliable narrator world with not one but two unreliable folks who happen to be married to each other. Nick and Amy were once in love, we think. This twisty tale is one of my favorites. Another current example is The Girl on the Trainby Paula Hawkins. Poor Rachel. Our guide in this brilliant story is an alcoholic, unemployed divorcee who commutes into London each day because she doesn’t want to admit she’s lost her job. That’s sad, of course, but what livens up this story is the writing, the descriptions of Rachel’s state of mind. We like Rachel, we root for her, even as we are sucked into the horror of what is actually happening.
Classics are filled with unreliable narrators, too, in books and in film. I loved Tell-Tale Heartby Edgar Allan Poe and The Lotteryby Shirley Jackson (And, I should add read A Good Man is Hardto Find by Flannery O’Conner.) In film, The Life of Piand Life is Beautifulboth use the unreliable narrator’s escapist visions to mask the reality of their tragic situations, perhaps the only way to survive. In The Great Gatsbyby F. Scott Fitzgerald, my all-time favorite, Nick Carroway tells the reader from page one that he’s an objective observer, meaning most likely he isn’t.
Characters with various degrees of unreliability make for wonderful stories. Another recent favorite of mine is The Dinnerby Herman Koch. I feel a kindred spirit with this book because Paul Lohman is unsettling and nasty. (I didn’t realize until writing this that our narrators share the same first name. Creepy.) You don’t like him, but that isn’t the point. The Dinner’sPaul is very flawed, and extremely unlikable. The story is built around secrets, and even as you turn the pages, you realize you may not want to know the truth but you just can’t stop reading.
I hope that’s what happens when people pick up Best Day Ever. Like in The Dinner, Paul Strom, the creepy protagonist of Best Day Ever, takes unreliable to the extreme. He wants you to believe he’s the perfect husband, a loving father, and a successful businessman. He promises his wife, Mia, the first day of their romantic weekend together will be the best day ever. They’ve been married for years, though. Does she still believe the illusion? I hope you’ll read Best Day Ever to find out.
This post originally appeared on Amazon.com.
“Domestic violence” is such a non-specific, dismissive phrase. It glosses over the atrocity of the action, the awful truth of the cycle of violence. The local news features stories of domestic violence almost every night. “The husband killed his wife and then turned the gun on himself,” the young reporter will say, staring into the camera. “A tragic case of domestic violence.” Well, yes, but it’s also murder. I wish we would call it that. Back in the early 1990s I was a contributing writer for Columbus, Ohio’s city magazine, and I was assigned a chilling story. I was asked to interview some of the 25 women Governor Richard Celeste had granted clemency to as his last act in office. These women were murderers, all convicted of killing or assaulting husbands or companions.
At the time, it was the first mass release of “battered women” (the defense phrase used) inmates in this country. The move was praised by women’s rights advocates, but condemned by many judges and prosecutors. There was no question these women had killed, of course. And once I had a chance to interview several of them, there was no question in my mind as to why. These women’s stories stick with me even all these years later. As does the fact that they all were convinced, knew for a fact, that if they didn’t kill their abusers first, these men would have killed them, and if they were mothers, perhaps their children, too.
One of the most chilling stories was from a young mom who had been living through the cycle of violence with her husband, while trying to raise two young daughters. She’d had repeated hospitalizations, teeth knocked out, concussions, and more. When her husband lost his job, things got worse. He’d threatened to kill her before, of course. Choking her, strangling her until she passed out in front of her daughters. I remember her eyes as she told the story. Shiny with tears, quiet. She’d locked herself and her daughters in her bedroom. After pounding on the door for what seemed like hours, she thought he had given up. Instead, he broke in the window in a blind rage. She stabbed him in the neck as he climbed through. She saved herself, her young daughters. And then she went to prison for murder. Another one of the women released shot her husband as he slept. It had been the only option, she explained. I’d never met a murderer before I met these women. But I believed each one of them acted in self-defense, no matter how the story unfolded.
The fact is domestic violence often ends in murder, but most likely for the woman victim. Each day in the United States, three or more women are murdered by their boyfriends or husbands. The women I interviewed, like all victims of domestic abuse, were trapped emotionally and physically. They loved these men even though they beat them. They loved them still, even after they killed them. A stunning truth.
Each of the women I interviewed who ranged in age from mid-twenties to fifty had been vetted for years by the governor’s team, verifying her story, pulling medical records, documenting the cycle they were incapable of escaping. These were strong women driven to the worst possible choice. I still think of them often. Ohio had been one of the last states where women were barred from presenting expert witness about being physically abused barring them from bringing a compelling genuine defense. This clemency was a bold, wonderful move by the governor.
As I interviewed these newly freed women survivors, interviewed the women running shelters, and interviewed people who work with these male abusers I learned several things. It’s almost impossible to help these men, almost impossible for them to change. The programs designed to fix them rarely have success. I’ll never forget the male counselor who ran a program for violent criminals, men who were incarcerated for domestic abuse. His face fell as he admitted the failure rates. I remember him telling me that these men learn this behavior young, usually from an abusive father. They watch it in action, and then continue the cycle in their own lives.
Another truth was that while these women’s stories were all as different as they were, one thing was eerily the same. They all, each woman I interviewed, mentioned the eyes of their abuser. The eyes are the window to the soul. And each one of these women knew that at the moment she decided to save herself, it was her life or her abuser’s at stake. She saw it in his eyes.
So what do I take away from this unique and chilling experience I had so many years ago? Beyond supporting shelters for women who have fallen into this awful cycle, I try to work strong women into my stories. I had a long and winding career as a journalist, and many stories touched my heart. Not many scared me like this one did. To look in the face of a murderer, and want to give her a hug, well, that was something. Oh, and I did.
If you choose to read one of my novels, and I hope you do, you may discover my bad guys have evil eyes. As for Paul Strom, your unreliable narrator in Best Day Ever, I guess you’ll just need to read it and find out.
This post is a first in what a series. I will be sharing some of the many articles and blog posts I've created. This post originally appeared in Criminal Element.
I couldn't resist wishing you a BEST YEAR in 2018...I've been talking about BEST DAY EVER for, well, forever it seems and loving it. Last year was so filled with blessings and I just can't wait to see what 2018 has in store. I hope you feel the same. A new year offers so much promise, so many possibilities.
One thing I don't do is resolutions. Instead, I like to dream. And dream big. Why not? My family and I spent the first moments of the New Year watching fireworks light up the sky, and the bridge, and the water, in Sydney, Australia. What a magical site and a beautiful bucket list trip. We felt blessed.
The next day, our family of six was scheduled to fly in a seaplane to a special lunch on an island. That morning, as we woke up we saw on the news that the same flight had crashed, killing all six on board, including the pilot and a family of five. We were all stunned, and so sorry for the British family, of course.
The tragedy was a reminder, of course. One day earlier, it could have been us. So this year, each day, I'm going to try to live life as if it could end at any moment. Because it could. It can. One day, it will. It's a wonderful life and we're all so lucky to be living here, now, together. I hope your New Year is off to a great start, that you remember to count your blessings and live each precious day to the fullest. I'm going to try to do the same. It is a wonderful life.
This year has been full of blessings, big and small. And of course, it has also been pierced by heartache, struggles, and loss. Because, that's life. Each day is a blessing and no holiday better signifies and reminds us of that than Thanksgiving. (Of course, I realize if we take into our hearts the horrible legacy of our treatment of Indigenous People then, I suppose, we have a whole other reality of life to discuss.)
But on the surface and as a holiday to treasure, I love Thanksgiving. I love the lack of gifts and the ability to slow down. To spend time with those you love, and make memories to last through the highs and lows of the coming year. It's truly the best embodiment, to me, of family above everything. I really cannot wait to be in the same place with all four of my kids.
And in this week of thanks, I can't thank all of you enough who have supported BEST DAY EVER and my writing career this year. All of you. If I wrote each of your names here, it wouldn't fit on this blog. And that, perhaps, is the most fabulous, overwhelming notion that I'm grateful for this year. Thank you.
I wish for you a Thanksgiving week of grace and peace, love and laughter, and memories enough to last you a lifetime. xo
The Strand Magazine asked me to write an article about my favorite unreliable narrators. I had fun writing about it, and thinking about all of these great characters.
After writing my unreliable narrator Paul Strom in my book Best Day Ever, I’m often asked to name my favorite unreliable narrators out there who inspired me, whether I realized it at the time or not. We’re all unreliable narrators of sorts in our own lives, of course. Especially with social media – we can filter our lives and shade them however we’d like. Here are my top ten top unreliable narrators. I’m sure you have your own. Any truth is, of course, a matter of perspective, right?
1. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Probably the reason I’m having the opportunity to write this list for you, Gone Girl blew open the domestic suspense and unreliable narrator world with not one but two unreliable folks who happen to be married to each other. Nick and Amy were once in love, we think. This twisty tale is one of my favorites, and I’m sure, not a surprise for this list.
2. The Dinner by Herman Koch
How do you read an entire book with an unlikeable narrator? What if he’s also unreliable? I feel a kindred spirit with this book because Paul Lohman is unsettling and nasty. You don’t like him, but that isn’t the point. For some reason in the states we’ve decided fictional characters can be flawed, but must be likable. This Paul is very flawed, and extremely unlikable. The story is built around secrets, and even as you read, you realize you may not want to know the truth.
3. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Poor Rachel. Our guide in this brilliant story is an alcoholic, unemployed divorcee who commutes into London each day because she doesn’t want to admit she’s lost her job. That’s sad, of course, but what livens up this story is the writing, the descriptions of Rachel’s state of mind. We like Rachel, we root for her, even as we are sucked into the horror of what is actually happening.
4. The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
What’s real and what is fantasy is the question in this beautiful tale. Unreliability could be the only way to survive reality in this gripping, beautiful movie.
5. Life is Beautiful by Roberto Benigni
I still get choked up, all these years later, thinking of the love in this story. Our unreliable narrator here is an open-minded, Jewish librarian who has become a victim of the Holocaust with his son. The father uses a perfect mixture of humor and imagination to protect his son from the truth of their situation.
6. Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe and The Lottery by Shirley Jackson (And, I should add read A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Conner)
It’s never a good idea to stick around the location of a murder. Especially if you’re the responsible party. In this short story, Poe demonstrates his mastery of suspense. And, because I only have ten, I’ve added another favorite short story to the mix. Have you read The Lottery? It’s one of the most brilliantly chilling short stories you’ll read. Promise. The brilliance is the calm telling of the tale, despite the terror.
7. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
Another scary example of an unpleasant, brutal narrator, like in The Dinner. Is he a successful investment banker or a psychopath? Did he kill and mutilate people, or not? An obvious satire about yuppie New York culture in the 1980s, this movie still has people guessing at the truth. In the end, the confession means nothing.
8. The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
When I read this book, I was on a long airplane flight. I was mesmerized. Yunior tells a fascinating story but does he know more about the story of Oscar Wao than he should?
9. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
After a wild summer with Tom, Daisy and Gatsby, Nick Carraway’s story of these people and their excesses is told with an exasperated and blurry eye. How else could the story be told? “I’m inclined to reserve all judgments, a habit that has opened up many curious natures to me . . .” Nick says. Anybody who tells you from page one that they are an objective observer most likely isn’t.
10. Big Fish
I loved this movie. I know it’s not a traditional, dark unreliable narrator but when the dying Edward Bloom tells a story, I want to believe every word is true. If only his son would believe, too. While Edward’s son tries to learn the truth, we are treated to surreal and fabulous flashbacks. Was his life story filled with exaggeration? Probably. But the kernel of truth found in each tale is enough to make you love this unreliable narrator.
It seems like I've been waiting for this book, BEST DAY EVER, to be out in the world FOR FOREVER! And now, the day is finally here. It's a dream come true. I hope you'll consider giving BEST DAY EVER a read.
I mean, BA Paris "loved" the book. This is what she said: "Had the best day ever reading Best Day Ever. Great narrator in Paul, LOVE his voice! Fabulous book." -B.A. Paris, New York Times bestselling author of Behind Closed Doors and The Breakdown
Who else liked it? Heather Gudenkauf said: "Best Day Ever could be the best thriller of the year." -Heather Gudenkauf, New York Times bestselling author of Not a Sound
PopSugar called it a must-read fall book, and Barnes & Noble lists it as a must-read. I'm thrilled by all of this support and cannot believe BEST DAY EVER was in Entertainment Weekly this week. Pinch me. If you find yourself in a bookstore, or perusing online, I hope you'll pick up a copy. It's a bright red cover wrapped around a labor of love. And hopefully, it will grab your attention for a day or two.
And to celebrate the September 19th release, this awesome trailer just premiered! Hope you enjoy it. #creepyPaul
Librarians are the best! I had the chance to attend the ALA 2017 conference this weekend, and wow, what a special time. First, my publisher, Graydon House | Harlequin surprised me with a huge poster in the lobby, and a special dinner for librarians Friday night at a hip Chicago restaurant. Saturday was a book signing and a chance to meet even more librarians, and some authors who I've been friends with online - but got to meet in real life. Like, Jamie Raintree, (Perfectly Undone) one of my fellow Graydon House launch authors, and Margaret Dilloway who was signing her children's book in the Disney booth! On Sunday, J.T. Ellison (Lie to Me), A.F. Brady (The Blind) and I were on a panel hosted by Publisher's Weekly where we spoke about unreliable narrators and discovered the three of us have a blast together! I really enjoyed every moment - and feel so lucky to have a publisher who is excited about my book. It's a dream come true!
Those of you in the know in the book world already know about Book Expo, aka BEA, the world's largest gathering of book people that takes place annually, usually in New York City at the Javit's Center. And of course, I've heard all about it every year since I began this fiction writing journey in 2011. I never dreamed I'd be invited to go by my publisher, Harlequin/Graydon House! When the invite came, I was thrilled. Imagine my complete surprise when I walked into the huge convention center and saw my book cover on a six-story high banner at the entrance lobby of the expo. It was one of the most exciting moments of my career. And then, once inside the Book Expo, the Harlequin booth showcased BEST DAY EVER in the most spectacular way. It was surreal, the entire weekend. It still is.
The best part of BEA? Meeting, in person, the team working so hard to publish and promote my book. Meeting, in person, some of the book bloggers and reviewers who have supported me over the years. And meeting, in person, some of my favorite authors. There really wasn't a moment of the experience that wasn't special. I hope if you're an author, and you dream of going to BEA, you have the chance someday. I will hold the memories of this experience in my heart, forever.
Exciting times over here, especially when I had the chance to hold the ARE of BEST DAY EVER in my hands! My biggest, and perhaps best, book baby ever. Even though the title doesn't publish until September 19th, my awesome publisher Graydon House, a new imprint coming this fall from Harper Collins/Harlequin, printed these gorgeous reader editions. I'm telling you, they're gorgeous, complete with French flaps, deckled edges, a textured cover and more. I'll be hosting a couple giveaways through my eNewsletter and Facebook page, so perhaps you will have the chance to hold one!
BEST DAY EVER is available for request on NetGalley and will be a Goodreads Giveaway during #mysteryweek, May 1-8!
It's of course available for Pre-Order from all your favorite online retailers, and you'll be able to hold it, in hardcover, September 19th! Pinch me. This is all a dream come true!
It's a big day - and lucky for me - I didn't know it was even being read. Ha! After writing a dozen books, this is the first time I've had a PW review. So when I started reading the review, and realized it was positive, well, it was close to the BEST DAY EVER!
My favorite line: "A tensely written, shocking book that will hold readers on the edge of their seats to the very last page."
I just returned from an amazing trip to Paris with my daughter. To say we had a magnificent time does not sum it up, but suffice it to say we both felt like we were living inside a dream the entire time we were there. We soaked up the beauty - the food, the art, the culture - and never ceased to glow along with the city of lights. Spectacular. I also had the chance to meet my French literary agent who is based in Paris. Her office overlooks the Garden du Luxembourg, one of the most beautiful parks - and former palaces - in the city. Created beginning in 1612 by Marie de 'Medici, the widow of King Henry IV of France, this was her personal palace and gardens. And now, it just brings wonder to the world. My other favorite place to spend time on Paris' Left Bank is at the Shakespeare & Co. bookstore, just across the Seine from Notre Dame. I love to imagine Hemingway and Fitzgerald wandering through the small store, imagining their books on the shelves there, knowing the original owner, an American named Sylvia Beach, had the power to make or break a writer's career. And she did. While in the store I bought a copy of HEMINGWAY IN LOVE a great book about Hemingway and his one true love, his first wife, Hadley.
I hope your spring is off to a fabulous beginning - and that the best is yet to come. Here's a photo of me, and my French Literary Agent Victoria Villemur of the Anna Jarota Agency in Paris. THIS is all such a dream come true for me . . .
Graydon House Books!! I'm beyond thrilled to be a part of Harlequin's newest, coolest imprint and to share my fellow "launch" authors' covers with you, too! I can’t believe I finally get to share my new, amazing cover for BEST DAY EVER bursting into a bookstore near you on September 19th!
Here’s THE story of THE story:
Paul Strom, the book’s first person, male narrator appeared and told his story last winter. (I know, that sounds weird, but it’s true) By spring, my agent had read it – after some gentle prodding due to the male narrator – and by the summer, she’d sold it to Harlequin/HarperCollins’ new imprint, Graydon House Books. In July, I had the chance to meet my editor at Graydon House and some of the team supporting the book. Sometime about two months ago, I discovered BEST DAY EVER would be released as a HARDCOVER FICTION! Sorry for the exuberant caps, but truly, this is a dream come true for me and I just still cannot believe it. #bestdayever
Here’s THE story:
Paul Strom has the perfect life: a glittering career as an advertising executive, a beautiful wife, two healthy boys and a big house in a wealthy suburb. And he's the perfect husband: breadwinner, protector, provider. That's why he's planned a romantic weekend for his wife, Mia, at their lake house, just the two of them. And he's promised today will be the best day ever.
But as Paul and Mia drive out of the city and toward the countryside, a spike of tension begins to wedge itself between them and doubts start to arise. How perfect is their marriage, or any marriage, really? How much do they trust each other? Is Paul the person he seems to be? And what are his secret plans for their weekend at the cottage?
Forcing us to ask ourselves just how well we know those who are closest to us, Best Day Ever crackles with dark energy, spinning ever tighter toward its shocking conclusion. In the bestselling, page-turning vein of The Couple Next Door and The Dinner, Kaira Rouda weaves a gripping, tautly suspenseful tale of deception and betrayal dark enough to destroy a marriage…or a life.
(By the way, if you’re a blogger, on Eidelweiss or NetGalley, you’ll have a chance to read and review the novel. That’s cool, right? There already are several reviews on Goodreads….mostly good, which is a relief! Tough crowd over there ;-)
Here’s MY story:
For the rest of the spring, summer and fall, I’ll be focused on telling you about the journey of BEST DAY EVER. I’ll try to avoid hitting you over the head with reminders to PRE-ORDER TODAY because that would be really great if you would, but I know it’s early. (You won’t be sorry if you PRE-ORDER TODAY as price matches are guaranteed, just saying.)
Here’s a COOL HOLLYWOOD story:
I’ve never had a book to film agent – and now I do!! Michelle Kroes and Dilan Swain of CAA (yes, CAA!!!) are representing BEST DAY EVER!! I just really can't say anything more except - fingers crossed.
Oh, and here’s a COOL INTERNATIONAL story:
For the first time ever, for me, BEST DAY EVER will be published in hardback in Canada/US/UK/Australia – can you believe that??? I couldn’t. I’m so used to being an indie author that I never dreamed of an international print release. Wow!
More soon! Happy cover reveal to all of my Graydon House family!! #bestdayever
Today’s a bittersweet book launch day for me! It’s sweet, because my latest contemporary romance novel, LAGUNA DREAMS, arrives in the world today. Bitter-ish, because, due to my new publisher and my pivot to writing domestic suspense, this will be my last romance novel for the year!
But that’s the thrill of the publishing world, really. I feel truly blessed to be working in the field of my dreams these past six years since my debut novel, HERE, HOME, HOPE came into the world. I’ve had the chance to meet amazing readers, fantastic writers and build a “second-act” career of my dreams. I was well on my path of releasing a women’s fiction novel once a year when I met Jane Porter, a fabulous author who publishes in both the women’s fiction and romance world. She convinced a somewhat reluctant me to give romance a try, and the result was WEEKEND WITH THE TYCOON published in July of 2014. I’ve been writing romance, some say frenetically, ever since and loving every minute of it. Who doesn’t love happily ever after? Following the Indigo Island four-book series, I launched the Laguna Beach series set in my beautiful hometown. Today’s launch, LAGUNA DREAMS, is the culmination of both the series, and of my romance career. For now. Because who knows what the future holds. That’s the fun of the writer’s life.
LAGUNA DREAMS is the culmination of my Laguna Beach series, and of my romance-writing journey. It’s a happily ever after for my favorite characters, with a few bumps along the way. Amanda Crown is a reluctant Hollywood star looking for her future. Phillip Kensington’s wine business is booming, but his love life is a mess. These two meet by accident and sparks fly, but will he be able to take the steps necessary to make their dreams come true? I hope readers will enjoy LAGUNA DREAMS, available today in both eBook and audio book.
I’m so thankful for this chance to work in the publishing industry, for my friends in the romance world and women’s fiction world, including my Tall Poppy Writer team. And I’m so excited about the future thanks to my agent, Katie Shea Boutillier, and my publisher, Graydon House Books, a new imprint from Harlequin launching this fall. After today I’ll shift focus to my first Graydon House release, BEST DAY EVER, coming September 19th. As with all of my stories, romance and women’s fiction, BEST DAY EVER takes a look at what goes on behind closed doors of seemingly perfect lives. In this case, a domestic suspense tale where the perfect husband may not be what he seems.
All of this is my happily ever after. Thanks for sharing in it!
Travel broadens your perspective and opens your heart. It's almost like reading a novel - you step into a new world and by the end, you've learned about yourself, about others and hopefully, you're grown. Our recent trip to Cuba was no different. My family and I arrived on Christmas Day, not sure exactly what to expect. We'd visited the Carribean before, but never a place like this one with a grand past and a very hopeful future. Cuba is so much more than the fabulous 1950s American cars you ride in as you visit Havana. Start with Havana: it is historic, with an immense Spanish and European influence, like a street in any European city, just crumbling a bit. Music follows you everywhere in Havana and beyond and so does a bourgeoning sense of possibility. New restaurants - called paladars - are the most tangible, and gourmet, examples of the bubbling entrepreneurial spirit you feel everywhere. While people had warned us the food would be only rice and beans, we found the food in these family-run places to be fabulous.
We had a chance to ride alongside the Cuban National Cycling team, exploring beautiful countryside filled with fields of tobacco and dotted with limestone mountains. (The painting below is by a local artist who lives in this majestic scenery.) My kids took a turn at bat at the world's oldest baseball stadium in the city of Matanzas, and surprised the Cuban team with a few impressive hits. We met farmers, tour guides, athletes, artists, musicians, shop owners, hotel clerks and chefs and without exception, they were welcoming to us Americans and hopeful relationships continue to thaw. I hope so, too.
I'll always remember the colors of Cuba and the people who live there. The chance to see a country stuck in time - but hoping for a bright future - is strangely apropos to the time we find ourselves in at the moment, this in-between president time. Like the Cubans, I will hope to be pleasantly surprised by 2017.
The interesting thing about having a background in branding is that it's fairly easy for me to see other people's brands, and help them bring them to life. In fact, I wrote a whole book - REAL YOU INCORPORATED - about the process. But, just like the cobbler's children, when it came time for me to take a look at my brand, I froze. I mean, my stories have been "Sparkling with humor and heart" since 2011. I loved that tagline, and my happy Gerbera daisy, too.
But, change can be good, too! I'm beyond excited for next September when my second domestic suspense novel, BEST DAY EVER, arrives in the world. I say second because it is. ALL THE DIFFERENCE was my first domestic suspense novel, but I've been forcing it under the "sparkling" branding all this time. (Sorry, ALL THE DIFFERENCE characters.)
But now, it's time for a change, a darker change. After consulting with my awesome agent, Katie, and my fabulous editor, Margo, I've figured out my shift and the stories I love to write. I am fascinated by what goes on behind closed doors in seemingly perfect lives. And truly, I've been writing about this all along: entitlement, narcissism, the push to overachievement, the destructive power of affluence and keeping up appearances. In HERE, HOME, HOPE, Kelly faces a midlife crisis and the novel also deals with eating disorders, adultery, suicide and ultimately, self empowerment. The young mother in IN THE MIRROR has her perfect life put on pause by a deadly disease. Themes include mental illness, the power of celebrity, divorce, adultery and attempted rape. As for THE GOODBYE YEAR, the question is about what it means to be a couple once your last child goes to college. Darker issues include divorce, bullying, drugs in school and the empty nest syndrome. The black widow in ALL THE DIFFERENCE is, obviously, a dark character. Even my short story, A MOTHER'S DAY, deals with one tragic event that changes the lives of three mothers forever. When I think about the story lines of my romance novels, of course there is darkness. How else can we appreciate the light, the happily ever after?
So, I guess, I've been sparkling and looking at the dark side of people all along. Suburban people, with strong women protagonists who overcome a lot to find real, true purpose. These places, these lives of luxury, can make you lose your anchor, your moral center. And that's where good stories begin.
BEST DAY EVER's arrival next year will signify an even darker shift, but hopefully, the light will sparkle through the story, too. My new tagline: Behind closed doors of seemingly perfect lives. My new imagery is a closed door. I like it. I hope you do, too.
When Andrea Katz asked me if I’d write a gratitude post for Great Thoughts, Great Readers I was honored. Especially in these tumultuous times, it’s important to focus on what is right in the world, what blessings we can count with glee. So in that spirit, here’s a round up of sorts of what I am thankful for this year. Hopefully, some of these are things blessing your life, too.
- My family comes first. I’m blessed to have four amazing, creative, world-changing kids and a supportive, golf-obsessed husband who gave us a scare this summer with a health crisis. All’s good now, but it was a great reminder of the love that flows through our family, that we are a great team, and that good health is a blessing we too often take for granted.
- I’m thankful for the ability to realize success is a continuum of highs and lows, and to act accordingly. It might just be maturity, although I hope I’ve always possessed the grace to celebrate other’s triumphs, because I know other authors’ successes don’t diminish my own. And I’m thankful for the ability to celebrate with joy when the publishing stars do happen to line up. Because again, overnight success is a misnomer and perseverance is the key to the writing life.
- A renewed awakening of the women’s movement is an unexpected blessing this fall. Women’s rights are human rights. We’re galvanized as never before. I see it in my daughter’s eyes. The fire has been lit.
- I’m thankful for the support of friends in my life. Life would be empty without them. In particular this year, my friend (and yours) Andrea who read a manuscript I was excited about, but that my literary agent wouldn’t read. Her positive push forced me to beg my agent to read the book, and a deal with Graydon House for BEST DAY EVER ensued. Of course, a note of thanks to my literary agent. I’m grateful to Katie, who stayed awake all night once she agreed to read the book, and submitted the next day.
- Friends rock. And they are the foundation, to me, of blessings. Especially in hard times – empty nest, elections, you name it – I’d be lost without my girlfriends.
- What can I say? Without you, this career wouldn’t exist. Your positive feedback, your support on social media, and your kind critiques make this writing life grand.
- Writing THE GOODBYE YEAR helped me through my first empty nest year, and I’m so grateful for that. The publication of the novel in May provided me with the ability to focus on a book tour. An added blessing was focusing on the characters’ crazy messed up lives helped me talk less frequently to my dogs. I’m not saying I talk to my dogs during the day now that the four kids are off in the world. Well, maybe I am saying that. So I’m very thankful for my dogs, too. #emptynest
- As I write this I’m at Miraval, a spectacular spa in Tucson, Arizona. In front of me, the Santa Catalina Mountains rise up to the sky, cacti of all types cover the grounds and a fountain gurgles in the courtyard. The entire focus of the place is life in balance. I believe balance is something you swing through on the way to something else, but stepping into a world devoted to peace, reflection and personal growth is perhaps one of life’s biggest blessings. The gift of time and reflection is something we, as women, don’t give to ourselves. Especially during the busy holiday season, take some time for you. You are your own biggest blessing. Treasure yourself.
- I’m blessed to be a part of the amazing community of authors. It’s without a doubt the most incredible network of people I’ve had the opportunity to get to know ever. I’m astounded by your intelligence, creative insights, collaboration and support. Whether it’s the Tall Poppies, WFWA, or any number of social media groups I’m a part of, wow. It’s spectacular and I’m honored to consider you friends. Keep shining, even in the face of this new reality. We are stronger together, and we’ll prove it now more than ever.
Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you count your blessings this holiday season and that you have a chance to celebrate with those you love. Life, my friends, is a miracle.
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” ~ Albert Einstein.
I'm so excited to welcome another group of authors who are writing books set in beautiful Laguna Beach! Each of these stories share one thing in common: setting. They also will relate to the original Laguna Beach series so you'll find your favorite characters making new friends! If you're looking for a great beach read, well, look no further than below! Enjoy!