February 23, 2016

interview with andrea murray

Today I'm pleased to welcome Andrea Murray to the blog for an interview as part of her Chick Lit Plus blog tour for Contra. Be sure to enter to win one of two ecopies of book one in the series by checking out the details at the end. 

Change the Word: How did you develop the dystopian world in which this was created?
Andrea Murray: A student inspired this one, and I just couldn’t let it go. It began with a discussion of Greek/Latin root words. The root was “omni,” which basically means “all.” I’d just read an article about censorship, so the discussion branched to governmental control of citizens. I created the society, in part, from our own society, where entertainers like sports heroes and film stars make unfathomable amounts of money while many families can’t even pay their utilities. I created the world of Omni first then looked for a protagonist to drop inside it. My nephew inspired that part. When he was a seventh grader, he was my student, and he loved our study of Greek mythology. He happened to call and ask me a mythology-related question about a movie he was watching, and that led to my choosing the story of Paris and Helen. Those myths are tried and true, and unfortunately, I’ve seen a decline in the study of them. So, I decided to revamp that one, put it in an ultramodern society, and let it happen.

CTW: What was your greatest challenge writing this story and how did you overcome it?
AM: I did a considerable amount of research for Omni and Contra. I've read the The Illiad, of course, and the basic story comes from that text. The story is based on the love a Paris and Helen and the ensuing problems from that love, but it's set in an ultramodern society of the future where the government controls everything, from the birth of children to your career. My most difficult challenge came from taking and remodeling that ancient story. Collapsing that tremendous story into a manageable size induced some hair pulling and moments where I wondered why I was doing this to myself. I outlined, scrapped it, reoutlined, and rejected many avenues until I finally came upon something workable.

CTW: If you could spend the day with one of the characters in this book, who would you choose and what would you do?
AM: I would spend the day with Pierce; he’s just too yummy! I mean, what girl wouldn’t want to spend the day with a dark-haired, green-eyed Adonis!  We would hike around the colony then maybe sit by a campfire at night. Sigh . . .

CTW: What was your favorite part about working with these characters again?
AM: I always enjoy watching the evolution of a character, and Harmony’s evolution surprised me. I hadn’t intended to make her stronger in Contra, but it just sort of happened. She became more empowered as the novel progressed. I always thought of her parent-character (Helen of Troy) as a pawn, a toy traded between powerful men, but Harmony isn’t that way at all--at least not anymore.

CTW: Growing up, what were your favorite books?
AM: Honestly, I wasn’t much of a reader growing up. I do remember enjoying mysteries, like Encyclopedia Brown and even Nancy Drew. As much as I love sci-fi and paranormal, I’m shocked I wasn’t drawn to the genre early.

CTW: What is one piece of advice you would give to your teenage self?
AM: Stop worrying! I was such a worrier when I was that age. I worried about my grades, my friends’ opinions about me, my after-school job--you name it! I would tell myself to stop worrying and just have fun. I don’t remember a lot of “teenage antics” because I was so serious all of the time.

CTW: If you could travel anywhere in the world for one week--and money was no object--where would you go?
AM: That’s easy! I would go to the UK. I’ve always wanted to go there and visit all that history! Whenever I read historical novels, those are my favorites. I would explore London then travel to Edinburgh followed by pretty much anywhere in Ireland. I’d hit all the touristy spots and take in as many castles as possible.

CTW: What's next for you and your writing career?
AM: I'm taking a different route with my newest novel. I'm currently working on a ghost story! I'm excited about this one but nervous because I haven't written horror fiction before now. I've been watching a TON of scary movies and paranormal shows to try and "research". As crazy as it sounds, I think I might live in a "haunted" house. Lots of strange things go on in my home, and I've even drawn on a few of those for inspiration. Things get relocated with no explanation. We hear voices and even music sometimes. Our television will turn on in the middle of the night, and once I watched the toilet paper unroll by itself. When I tell people about it, I get to reactions: “You don’t seriously believe that” or “I would move.”  I’ve lived with it for twenty years, and I wanted to explore it through the eyes of someone who has never experienced the weird things I have.

About the Book
In the sequel to the young adult dystopian novel, Omni, one young couple will do anything to stay together, and one man will do anything to control them.

After barely escaping death in Omni, eighteen-year-old Pierce has left behind his place in the Artist stratum in exchange for sanctuary with his family. However, when Harmony goes missing, he can’t help but think it’s just another ploy of the Omni government to force him to return.

With Harmony on her own, the two must find a way back to each other while battling against the full might of the government, but one powerful official is determined to keep them apart. Bent on revenge, Pelagic will stop at nothing to expose the secret of Pierce’s parentage.

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About the Author
Andrea Murray has been teaching English for longer than most of her students have been alive. She has taught everything from elementary reading groups to concurrent credit classes. She is currently teaching junior high language arts. She has a BSE and an MA in English. She lives in a very small town in Arkansas with her husband of nineteen years and their two children. In addition to teaching, she also blogs on Chick Lit Plus, writes young adult fiction, and recently completed her fourth novel, Omni, a YA dystopian based on the story of Paris and Helen. Andrea has also written The Vivid Trilogy, a YA paranormal romance. When she isn’t doing that, she’s probably reading or watching bad B movies.

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February 16, 2016

interview with phil fragasso

Today I'm pleased to welcome Phil Fragasso, author of Still Counting, as part of his Chick Lit Plus blog tour. Today we're talking about his new release, his favorite reads, what inspires him to write and more.

Change the Word: What was your inspiration for Still Counting
Phil Fragasso: I’d always wanted to write a classic romantic page-turner like Erich Segal’s Love Story, but I wanted the story to revolve around contemporary issues (in this case sexual identity). My goal was to create a character-driven story that would make readers laugh and cry and provide some insight in the process.

CTW: What was the greatest challenge you faced while writing it, and how did you overcome it?
PF: I’ve often said that my tragic flaw is having too many interests. I’ve written in a wide variety of genres and my most recent work has been nonfiction. I have a literary agent who has sold my nonfiction books, but he handles very little fiction and declined to represent Still Counting. I tried to find another agent who specialized in fiction but couldn’t find any takers. Many of them said how much they liked the writing, but they declined primarily because I was an unknown in genre fiction. I loved the book and had decided to self-publish – but first tried some small independent publishers. That’s when Wild Rose Press and I discovered each other – and I couldn’t be happier.

CTW: If you could spend a day hanging out with one character from Still Counting, who would you choose and what would you do?
PF: It would have to be Nina. She’s a remarkable young woman. Strongly independent beyond her years (she’s only 22). She’s a beautiful and sassy artist who knows exactly who she is and makes no apologies to anyone. I love people like that. I’d want to spend the day walking around Boston and Cambridge with her talking about whatever popped into our heads and eating at some of the cool restaurants and bars mentioned in the book.

CTW: What are three things you need when you sit down to write?
PF: First off, gotta have my MacBook Air. It’s weird how my writing process has changed over the years. When I started writing, I wrote on a manual typewriter. When I upgraded to an electric typewriter, I found I could no longer write with my fingers on the keyboard. Maybe it was the impatient hum of the motor, but I had to write longhand and then type it. When I moved to computers I was again able to sit at the keyboard and create. Now I have a hard time writing longhand – probably because I edit extensively as I write. Second thing would be a beverage. Usually coffee in the morning, diet Coke and iced tea in the afternoon, and whiskey in the evening (though not always in that order). Something about writing makes me thirsty. Why? Can’t say. The third thing would be a comfortable place to sit. That may sound strange, but I’m big on comfort. I can write most anywhere regardless of noise levels or lighting, inside or outside, just as long as I’m sitting comfortably. (And yes that means I can’t write while standing up. Tried but can’t do it.)

CTW: Where do you draw inspiration from as a writer?
PF: Everywhere. I have way more storylines, situations, characters, and plot twists than I could ever use. I can’t point to how or why, but the inspiration just pops into my head. Part of it is that I’m always open to new ideas and keep my eyes and ears wide open.

CTW: What are your three all-time favorite reads?
PF: “All-time favorite” is tough and limiting it to three is impossible. I’ve always had a soft spot for what I would call “mainstream/commercial literary fiction” – books like The World According to Garp, The Art of Racing in the Rain, The Help, and The Invention of Wings. They’re all funny, sad, and universally relatable. Also loved Still Alice and The Notebook – both of which combined stories of true love with the inevitability of aging and death.

CTW: What is the most important lesson you have learned so far as an author? 
PF: Discipline is king. If you wait for inspiration, you’ll wait a long time and end up with nothing. I’ve learned to be very disciplined. When I wrote Still Counting I had an objective of at least 500 words a day, seven days a week. I wrote the first draft in about three months, and then edited and re-edited for another year.

CTW: What's up next for you and your writing career? 
PF: I have another book, Going Both Ways, coming out on March 18 from Wild Rose Press. It’s a funny, gender-shifting paranormal romance. I’m currently writing two novels – a black-comedy and a road-tripper.

About the Book
Adam Donatello and Nina Morales share an immediate and powerful attraction, and their future together seems assured. But love is difficult enough without adding complications—real or imagined—to the mix. Nina sees life as a thousand shades of gray, while Adam tends toward black-and-white. He wants to move fast; she needs time. Nina sees her past liaisons with women as immaterial to their relationship, while her disclosure drives Adam to a state of irrational jealousy. He doesn't know how he could compete with a woman, and his suspicions—which Nina views as hypocritical—lead them both to make decisions they may live to regret.

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About the Author
I sold my first article at the age of 16. Since then I’ve written and published a wide variety of books, articles and essays. After many years as a corporate marketer,  I left to pursue endeavors that were more fulfilling personally and more contributory on a societal level. Today I focus my time on writing and teaching. I’ve often said “I live the American dream” and that is indeed how I feel. With a wonderful wife, two grown children, great friends and a couple of rambunctious Labrador retrievers, I can’t complain about a damn thing.

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February 9, 2016

interview with phoebe fox, author of 'heart conditions'

Today I'm delighted to welcome Phoebe Fox to the blog today to talk about her latest novel, Heart Conditions. I hope you'll enjoy getting to know her better in this interview.

Change the Word: Where do you draw your inspiration for writing? 
Phoebe Fox: Life is a fertile ground from which I harvest. And not just mine, people, but yours. If you have ever been my family, friend, casual acquaintance, or someone I bumped into on the subway, there’s every chance that somewhere along the line you have sparked something in one of my books. I don’t lift directly from life, but I certainly shoplift the hell out of it for inspiration. 

CTW: What are three things you always need when you sit down to write? 
PF: I’m going to bet you get pretty much the same answer from everyone: my computer, coffee, and a decent night’s sleep.

CTW: Are you a plotter or a pantser? 
PF: Total pantser. If I know how the story’s going to go, I lose interest in writing it. I have a general idea, and I pretty much know the arc, but the rest grows as I write. I have to “tell myself the story” to want to write it.

CTW: With Valentine's Day just around the corner, what's the most romantic gesture someone has ever made for you? 
PF: My husband is a genuine introvert (you may have figured out that I am not), so crowds are so not his thing, and neither are parties, planning, lots of detailed organizing, etc. But when I told him that I’d never had an actual birthday party outside of my immediate family because my birthday is near Christmas, he organized a surprise party for me, secretly contacting every one of my family and friends all over the country, enlisting local friends to get me out of the house, hiring a caterer, helping people with travel arrangements, etc.—and he did it in June, nowhere near my birthday, calling it my “500th month birthday.” I think we’re all very lucky I didn’t wet myself when I walked into the house and dozens of people I knew from every aspect of my life and everywhere I’d lived screamed surprise at me out of nowhere in the middle of summer. The fact that he did all that when he’s such a total introvert…it still makes me feel a little squishy when I think of it.

CTW: What do you most hope readers will take away from the experience of reading Heart Conditions and the rest of the Breakup Doctor series? 
PF: I’ve had several readers write or tell me that the books helped them through heartbreak or a tough breakup. That’s everything I hoped for when I wrote them. Just to help share and lessen the pain a little, hopefully with a lot of humor and heart.

CTW: If you could have dinner with any character in this series, who would you pick, where would you go, what would you order, and what would you spend most of your time talking about? 
PF: I think I have to say Sasha, because she is the least like me. She’s like a human dog, just letting out everything she thinks and feels, and totally owning it. We would most likely sneak into a VIP party somewhere we weren’t supposed to be, and we’d drink illicit champagne that we plucked off the trays of passing servers, and we would talk about men and breakups. Of course. 

CTW: What's one piece of relationship advice you think every young woman (or man) should keep in mind before they jump into a relationship? 
PF: You will never be happy with someone else until you learn to be happy with yourself. Trite but one of the truest things I’ve learned about love.

CTW: What is the biggest lesson you've learned as a writer since publishing your first book? 
PF: This answer comes up in every single interview I’ve given in some form or other. Years ago, long before I was published, my friend Sarah Bird, a multipublished, megatalented author, told me that the only thing separating her from all her unpublished friends was persistence. Nothing has impacted me more in my career, and I’ve never received better advice. It applies to your writing itself, to querying, to shopping a manuscript to publishers, to marketing, everything—persist. You must be the person who always believes in you, who never gives up faith. Keep moving forward. Persist.

CTW: What is one of your favorite recent reads? 
PF: I read Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Maybe in Another Life recently and just Hoovered it up. I love her voice, her style, and the story—a woman makes one seemingly minor decision and then lives the two very different lives that result from each one in parallel story lines. It’s so genius I wish I had done it--kind of like Sliding Doors, but her twist is that whatever choice you make could be the right one. That there is no one correct path—which I love.

CTW: What's up next for you and your writing career? 
PF: I’m almost finished writing book 4 in the Breakup Doctor series, Out of Practice. That will be the last in the series, which is a bit sad, but I think Brook’s story is told (for now!). After that I have a new series I’m working on for my publisher, about a very nontraditional matchmaker and dating guru, plus a single-title women’s fiction that has been awaiting a final edit for a while now while I scrambled to finish all the Breakup Doc books, and I’m eager to get back to it and get it out there.
Laura, thanks for such specific and well thought out questions. I loved answering these, and I’m so happy to be here on your blog!

About the Book
Running a massively successful relationship counseling practice should guarantee smooth sailing in a girl’s own love life. But Breakup Doctor Brook Ogden has spent the last year sifting through the fallout from the disastrous decision that led to her unconscious uncoupling with boyfriend Ben Garrett.

Despite advising her clients you can’t be friends with an ex, she and Ben have somehow begun to stitch together a friendship—one Brook hopes is slowly turning into more. That is, until Ben introduces his new girlfriend, Perfect Pamela, a paragon of womanly virtues who is everything Brook is not.

While Brook navigates her newly volatile emotional life, an unwelcome surprise shows up on her doorstep: the ex-fiancĂ© who broke her heart two years ago—one month before their wedding. Between her ex’s desire to rekindle their attachment, her best friend Sasha’s unexpected crisis, and her own unsquelchable feelings for Ben, Brook finds herself questioning the personal progress she’s made in the last two years—and threatened with the highest-stakes Breakup Doctor failures she’s ever faced.

Buy the Book

Bedside Manners, book two in the series, is on sale for 99 cents Feb 8-14!
About the Author
Phoebe Fox is the author of the Breakup Doctor series—The Breakup Doctor, Bedside Manners, Heart Conditions, and Out of Practice, coming fall 2016—and has been a contributor and regular columnist for a number of national, regional, and local publications (she currently writes about relationships for the Huffington Post, Elite Daily, and She Knows). She has been a movie, theater, and book reviewer; a screenwriter; and is a close observer of relationships in the wild.

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February 2, 2016

fun facts about 'going for two'

In case you missed any of the stops on my Going for Two launch blitz, I wanted to give you a chance to play catch-up and see the various fun facts I shared about the book along the way. Thank you to all of the bloggers who helped me share these during the past week. And happy (almost) one week birthday to Going for Two!

About the Book
Harper Duquaine is back for another season of fantasy football! This time she’s a year wiser and prepared to dominate the league. But while she finally seems to have her fantasy life in order, reality proves more challenging.

Her plans to peacefully play house with her boyfriend come to a halt when the high school suddenly names Brook its head football coach. The promotion comes with more responsibility on the field and less time at home. It also unexpectedly means more work for Harper, who already has her hands full helping a friend pull off the perfect proposal (while dodging questions about when she and Brook are going to get hitched already). Plus, a new development at work could leave her—and half of the fantasy league—jobless.

With the complications of her career and being “Mrs. Coach” adding up, Harper wonders if she’s committed to the life she’s already building or if there is something else out there.

Find the Book
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Goodreads

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