Interview with author Jea Hawkins

Jea Hawkins-Lucy True headshot

Who or what inspired your latest novel As Long As Love Lasts?

My own home renovations! We were ripping out walls and I started muttering, “Wouldn’t it be so cool if something fell out of the walls, like old letters?” And it snowballed from there.

 

Who or what inspired you to start writing?

Definitely my love of Nancy Drew. I wanted to make people feel the same excitement I felt reading her adventures.

 

Who is your favorite character from your books and why?

Vera Morton from As Long As Love Lasts. She knows who she is and what she wants, and even though she presents a tough exterior, is vulnerable underneath it all.

 

How do you approach writing a new storyline?

With excitement, and I’m all about getting everything I can written down before the plot bunny hops away on me. That’s why my stories tend to be big on dialogue and action – that’s what I envision most clearly as it plays like a movie in my head.

 

Where do your inspirations for characters and their lives come from?

A variety of things. I’m an avid genealogist in my Very Responsible Non-Writing Life, so I find quite a bit of inspiration from ancestors! But friends and acquaintances, or characters on TV shows also give me plenty of ideas.

 

Where is your favorite place to write?

The small diner downtown. They have delicious food, a great atmosphere, and the waitress knows me well enough to always ask, “Is it a coffee or cappuccino day?” I just feel very welcomed and relaxed there. The library is my other favorite place.

 

What is your writing process?

I like to write down everything that comes to mind, first, even if it’s the end of the story. After that, I ask myself how I’ll get from point A to Z. For my romances, I create a linear outline of beats and chapters. For my urban fantasies, I plot backwards from the final scene until I get to a reasonable starting point that puts the reader in media res.

 

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

I used to discover write (aka pantsing) and maybe have a loose outline. The first several books I published under another name were okay, but over the years, I learned what I needed to make them better. When I decided to write romance about women who love women, I took everything I’d learned and found a way to blend my excitement about a story idea with plotting it out. Plotting wasn’t nearly as painful as I’d spent 20 years thinking it would be and, as a result, I think what I write now is stronger than my previous attempts when I was younger.

 

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Editing from Em Stevens Edits at https://howtonovel.wordpress.comfor As Long As Love Lasts.The story wouldn’t be half as good without her expertise!

 

What is something memorable you have heard from your readers/fans?

One of my wonderful fans (I’d like to think of her as much more than a fan, though!) told me her wife is dyslexic. Her wife likes to read books while listening to the audiobook version. It helps her enjoy the story. I’ll never forget that and ever since then, I’ve always made sure they get a free audiobook from me whenever I have a new one.

 

What book that you have read has most influenced your life?

Dragonsongby Anne McCaffrey. It’s the story of a girl, Menolly, who lives in a fishing community, but doesn’t fit in there. She dreams of being a Harper, something her parents discourage. They have very strict ideas about a woman’s “place.” Menolly is frustrated and finally runs away from home, which is when she accidentally impresses a clutch of fire lizards, tries to outrun Thread (never a good idea on the planet of Pern), is rescued, and then revealed to be an incredibly talented musician and composer. I love absolutely everything about this story and have since I was a teenager, also keenly aware that I didn’t fit in with my peers at the time.

 

Do you have any new books coming out? If so, what are they about?

At this time, I am working on the final book in my Burgundy Hart series. Burgundy is a small-town librarian and witch… until she discovers she’s actually a warlock. This isn’t considered a good thing in the supernatural community, thanks to all the fear-mongering from the Witches Council. In book 3, Burgundy stands up to the Council once and for all.

 

How do you take your coffee?

I use Dunkies lingo, since I’m from Massachusetts (but I live in the Midwest, so this confuses people!) – extra sweet, extra light aka two creams, two sugars. But watch out – coffee turns me into a motor-mouth all day long!

Zip Line Jea

Review of As Long As Love Lasts by Jea Hawkins

As Long As Love Lasts

As most of you know I love historical fiction novels. When I saw that As Long As Love Lasts by Jea Hawkins was a mixture of a contemporary and a historical romance I was intrigued and this book did not disappoint.

 

Here is a short blurb about the book:

2018 – She doesn’t know if a marriage is worth fighting for.

 

Peyton Kennedy quantifies everything in terms of numbers and risk. She looks at a problem and solves it, leaving no piece of the puzzle out. When her young, too-whimsical wife inherits a derelict farmhouse from a distant aunt, Peyton can only see the bottom line. Too much work. Too much money. Time. Energy. Definitely not worth saving.

 

But her wife knows how to get her way and Peyton finds herself roped into renovations. This… this may be the straw that breaks her marriage’s back, and Peyton’s worried about how not worried that makes her.

 

That is, until a seventy-year-old bundle of letters and a time-worn diary fall on her head.

 

Before she knows it, Peyton is drawn into the story of her wife’s great aunt, Marty, a woman who dared defy social conventions for the love of another woman.

 

1939 – She doesn’t know what love is.

 

Marty Bell thinks life will fall neatly into place. Her mother has expectations: A husband, wealthy enough to give Marty security for the rest of her days. When she meets a beautiful circus worker who shovels dung and pounds stakes for a living, it’s the first time Marty sees that she can stray from the path.

 

Soon, her life is dictated by not just her mother, but the upheaval of war and the one thing she never expected to find: love.

 

And Marty will risk anything and everything to hold onto it.

 

This is the bittersweet tale of a diary, an elephant, and four women who know that few things matter more than finding someone who loves them just the way they are.

 

I really enjoyed the concept of the contemporary characters, Payton and Brooke, learning about their Aunt Marty’s life through the diary and letters they found. It really helped to develop their relationship to something that was falling apart, just like Marty’s old house, to something with a solid foundation. While their relationship was sweet, Marty and Vera’s relationship sucked me in and wouldn’t let go.

 

The sections of the book focusing on Marty and Vera’s relationship were my favorite parts. There was something about their chemistry that was deeply intoxicating, and I wanted to know more. In a time where their love wasn’t accepted, they found a way to be together until war pulled them apart. Vera was my favorite character even though you never hear things through her point of view. She was just so interesting. You could tell there was so much more to her story than was told in the book. Her secrets kept me wanting more. Also, who wouldn’t love a woman who comes with her own elephant.

 

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes historical fiction.

 

As Long As Love Lasts is available on Kindle Unlimited by clicking here.

 

 

 

Interview with author M.J. Duncan

Who or what inspired your latest novel Heist?

 

A tumblr post, actually. There was an article in Smithsonian Magazineabout a wealthy collector known as “The Astronomer” who hired thieves to break into a London warehouse to steal rare books for them. My Muse took that idea and added, “Let’s add lesbians!” so yeah. That was how it all started.

 

Who or what inspired you to start writing?

 

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. Mostly short stories, like most kids who dabble with words, but I wrote my first novel when I was still in high school. It was a totally cringe-worthy attempt at becoming the next Patricia Cornwell—whose stuff I was obsessedwith at the time—but it was words on the screen of a brick of a laptop and I was quite proud of it at the time. I then went on to become a Creative Writing major in college, which meant I got to write a lot of words and learn a lot of B.S. theories about what makes “good” writing that I completely ignored. Then life happened and writing kind of took a back seat for a while, and I eventually fell back into it with fanfiction. That was great because I was playing in someone else’s sandbox and could just refocus on finding my voice again, and then I eventually thought “why not?” and started working on Second Chances.

 

Who is your favorite character from your books and why?

 

God, that’s like asking me which child I love the most! I love all of my characters for different reasons, but I’m definitely the most attached to Bryn Nakamura from Spectrum.Her whole path-to-self-acceptance/awareness very much mirrors my own, so I feel very protective of her in a way that I don’t with my other characters who all start their stories knowing that very important part of themselves.

 

How do you approach writing a new storyline?

 

Most start with an idea for a particular scene. For Heist, it was that first robbery in Paris. Characters are next, because my stories are all very character-driven. I’m not a fan of drama, I avoid confrontation like the plague in real life, and to me the “real” story is the two characters falling in love—everything else is just shit that happens to them in the course of that journey. Anyway, once I have the characters, I come up with a very, very rough idea for the arc of a story that feeds into/incorporates that scene I mentioned above, and then I start researching the shit out of everything about the world/careers/lives of my characters that I don’t know. Honestly, this is my favorite part of the process. I love learning new things and putting them to use to make my stories (hopefully) more believable, but then when the story is done I can move onto something new. Once I feel like I have a working-knowledge of everything important, I cobble together something that looks like at least the skeleton of actual story arc in Scrivener and start hacking away at it all.

 

 

Where do your inspirations for characters and their lives come from?

 

I know I said my characters drive my stories, but the story also dictates what I will need from each character to make the whole thing work. In Heist, for example, I needed Parker to have a reason to know the less-than-honorable skills that she knows, as well as a reason to have to use them. The key points in Sheridan’s personality were born of the same need—she had to have a reason to resist falling for Parker. Everything else, all the little details and quirks that make them real, flow from there as the story progresses.

 

Where is your favorite place to write?

 

I have a great little office in the basement, but I do pretty much all my writing at the kitchen island because my dog Hunter doesn’t like going downstairs (he’s a big dude, 140 pounds, so he’s not exactly built to manage stairs). Every time I do try to go downstairs to work, he’ll grudgingly follow me down there, rest his head on the desk so he’s staring at me, and cry until I give up and go back to the kitchen. At this point, I’ve basically given up on using the office, but maybe someday I’ll get back to it. Or maybe not. It really is convenient working right next to the kettle and snacks.

 

What is your writing process?

 

Besides what I said already? It’s pretty much: open Scrivener, look at where I left off the day before, and try like hell to hit my word count goal for the day. Oh!, and try to not get distracted with shiny new ideas. Some people can have multiple projects working, but I’ve found that I work best focusing on one story at a time.

 

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

 

I’m definitely getting better at plotting chapters for the story. I went at Second Chanceswithout any kind of a plan besides getting Mac and Charlie together and pretty much just winged the whole thing, but I’ve learned to see the helpfulness of actually planning further ahead. Switching from Word to Scrivener helped with this, too.

 

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

 

Definitely Scrivener. It’s seriously the best large-project writing program I’ve ever come across.

 

What is something memorable you have heard from your readers/fans?

 

I honestly treasure every nice comment anyone has ever said about my work. But the messages I treasure the most are the ones where people reach out to tell me that a particular character touched them in some way. Writing is a very solitary process for the most part, so whenever I get a message like that it’s like, “Okay, I’ve done something good.”

 

What book that you have read has most influenced your life?

 

I don’t know if there is one book that has really influenced my life. Or, at least, there isn’t one that immediately comes to mind that I can point to and say, “Yes, that one.”

 

Do you have any new books coming out? If so, what are they about?

 

Eventually, yes. I am still working on finishing up my latest story, Pas de Deux, but my goal is to have it out in March. It’s another LONG one, though, so we’ll see if I can swing it. *sighs* I really need to learn how to write shorter stories. Anyway, it’s a kinda-sorta-not-really sequel to Symphony in Blue.Kinda-sorta in that it’s in the same universe, but not-really because this time the story is about Mallory moving past everything that went down in Symphonyand finding her happily ever after. There are two people in every failed relationship and two different stories about how the relationship got to that point, and while she was painted as the necessary villain in Gwen’s story, she wasn’t in her own and I hated leaving her where I did.

 

How do you take your coffee?

 

Like Maeve Dylan, I prefer my coffee to not taste anything like coffee. Usually a splash of flavored creamer (it’s peppermint mocha season!) and milk is enough, but I’ve also done the hot chocolate mix thing that I gave to Maeve.

Review of Heist by M. J. Duncan

Heist

When I saw that M. J. Duncan had a new book out, I was ecstatic. She’s one of my all-time favorite authors. Heist was a little different from her other books. It kept me on the edge of my seat wanting to know how the book would play out.

 

Here is a short blurb about the book:

Life is full of choices. Some are easy, others are more difficult, and then there are the ones that aren’t really choices at all. For Parker Ravenscroft, helping her brother always fell into that last category—risks be damned. All that changes when Sheridan Sloan re-enters her life. As their relationship grows from friendship to something more she’s forced to choose between her brother and her own happiness. Picking one over the other isn’t the end of things, however, because the ghosts of her past choices have the very real power to destroy the future she so badly wants.

 

I was sucked into this book from the beginning. It reminded me a bit of a mystery novel in some respects. The way that Sheridan was looking for the thief while Parker was trying to hide her involvement in the heists. I also liked Parker’s motivation for stealing the books. She wasn’t doing it for the thrill or the money like a lot of thieves. Parker was doing it to help her brother. When he got too greedy, she knew when to step away.

 

The romance aspect of the book was phenomenal. I’m a sucker for a slow burn and this book delivered. The chemistry between Parker and Sheridan was electric. Even though Sheridan was an FBI agent and Parker was a criminal they fit together perfectly.

 

Kelly was one of my favorite characters. The way he gently teased Sheridan about her relationship with Parker really made the book for me. Also, the way he constantly was getting bested by the women in the FBI.

 

The one problem that I had with the book was the way that the conflict ended. It was kind of swept under the rug. Never really brought up again. I wish it had played out more and they were forced to deal with the consequences.

 

I would recommend this book for anyone who loves a slow burn romance.

 

Heist is available on Kindle Unlimited by clicking here.

Review of Seeing Red by Cara Malone

Seeing Red

I have always loved a good fairy tale. Seeing Red: A Sapphic Fairy Tale by Cara Malone hit the right spot with its modern-day retelling of Little Red Riding Hood by The Brothers Grimm.

 

Here is a short blurb about the book:

Hunter has spent the last two years running in place.

 

Trying to get ahead of the bills.

Trying to provide for her sister, Piper, and her nephews.

Trying to finish her nursing education.

Trying to keep Piper out of her criminal husband’s claws.

 

Big, bad Jed Wolfe is a con artist, a manipulator, and he’s currently doing ten years for counterfeiting. Now is Hunter’s best chance to convince Piper that he’s bad news and they can survive without him.

 

Except the mortgage is overdue again, there’s an eviction notice stapled to the front door, and Hunter can see it in Piper’s eyes. She wants to crawl back to Jed and ask him how to dig out of this mess.

 

They’re getting desperate and Hunter begs Piper not to be like him.

 

Then along comes a beautiful girl in a red cap. Her grandmother is sick, she needs Hunter’s nursing help, and the pay is great. It’s just what they need and soon Hunter is able to catch her breath. Stop running in place. Start to feel something that she hasn’t had time for in years.

 

Happiness. Desire. Love.

 

Until one day an old, familiar feeling returns.

 

Suspicion.

 

I thought the book started off kind of slow. It took me a little while to get into but once I got into it I was hooked. Hunter was a great character. She would do anything to keep her family safe. She didn’t want her nephews to have a hard life like she and her sister had. While Hunter worked hard to take care of her family. Piper pulled cons trying to provide. I loved how Piper’s character ended up.

 

I really liked Kiera’s grandmother. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Alzheimer’s patients. Even though it wasn’t Kiera’s main reason for moving in with her grandma I think it became important for her as her grandmother’s disease progressed.

 

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes fairy tale retellings.

 

Thanks to the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this book.

 

You can purchase a copy of Seeing Red by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

Review of Dangerous Waters by Radclyffe

Dangerous Waters

So, everyone, I have a shameful secret. I have never read one of Radclyffe’s books. When I saw Dangerous Waters listed on NetGalley I thought I should take the opportunity to see if her books were as good as everyone says they are. I was not disappointed.

 

Here is a short blurb about the book:

Army National Guard Colonel Sawyer Kincaid has served her time dueling with death in the deserts of Africa. Now that she’s home, the only sand she wants to see is on the beach in South Florida. Too bad Tropical Storm Leo, swiftly gaining strength out over the Atlantic, is about to draw her in to another life or death war, this time on home soil.

 

Dr. Dara Sims has too many critical patients in the intensive care units at Miami Memorial to consider evacuation, no matter how determined the battle-hardened colonel is to make her. As far as Dara is concerned, evacuate is just another word for abandon. When a state of emergency becomes a state of siege waged by Leo, all she can do is hope the rising waters relent before she loses everyone, herself included.

 

I thought that the book started off kind of slow but once it picked up I couldn’t put it down. The book is action-packed. With a hurricane barreling towards Florida there is everything keeping Sawyer and Dara apart. Yet, they are drawn to each other. I liked how both women were strong and independent. They both respected each other’s authority in their given fields.

 

Sawyers backstory was amazing. I thought it brought so much to her character. It also gave great insight into why she does the thing she does. She has great respect for the damage a hurricane can cause.

 

I found the section at the nursing home after the storm particularly hard to read. It reminded me of what happened at the nursing home after hurricane Irma. It broke my heart. I have a soft spot for older people with dementia because of my grandmother who passed away last year.

 

If you enjoy action-packed romance, you will love this book.

 

You can purchase a copy of Dangerous Waters by clicking here.

Review of When the Stars Sang by Caren Werlinger

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I have been wanting to read a book by Caren Werlinger since I first saw an interview with her on the Lesbian Book Readers Club on Facebook. I thought she was very charismatic and her books sounded amazing. When I saw her latest book When the Stars Sang listed on NetGalley I jumped at the chance to read it. Let me just say that I wasn’t disappointed.

Here is a short blurb about the book:

Nearly twenty-five years ago, Kathleen Halloran’s brother drowned during the last summer they ever spent with their grandmother on a remote island off Maine’s coast. Like a siren’s call she can’t resist, Kathleen is pulled back to Little Sister Island. She leaves her job and her girlfriend, packs up her few belongings, and moves into her grandmother’s cottage.

Molly Cooper loves life on Little Sister, where the islanders take care of their own. Kathleen Halloran doesn’t belong here, and her arrival stirs up unwelcome memories for the islanders—including Molly’s brother. Molly is certain Kathleen will pack up at the first big blow. When she doesn’t, Molly begins to see maybe there’s more to Kathleen than she thought.

Sometimes, before you can move forward, you have to look back.

This book hooked me in from the beginning. I couldn’t put it down. I really enjoyed how the characters had so much personality even the side characters. I liked how the island town kept to the old ways of their ancestors. It really drew me into the story. The book is so well written.  This book made me feel so many emotions and I enjoyed every minute of my reading.

The romance between Molly and Kathleen was so believable. Both women had so much to overcome in order to be together. They both needed to get over the past in order to commit to their relationship. I really liked how when Kathleen first came to the island Molly was hesitant about her. It made their relationship seem more real.

As everyone knows I am a sucker for a pet in books. This book delivered. Blossom, they stray dog Kathleen takes in, was amazingly written. He is so cute and derpy. I liked that he followed Kathleen everywhere she went. He also alerted Molly when Kathleen was in danger and helped to locate her. I also really enjoyed Miss Louisa and Miss. Oliva. I think they were my favorite characters in the whole story. The way they mothered and cared for Kathleen was amazing.

The only con for this book is that it has cut to black sex scenes. I didn’t find this to be a problem, but some readers might not like that.

I would recommend this book to everyone. It is one of the best books I have read this year. I cannot speak enough praise for it.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.

You can purchase a copy of  When the Stars Sang by clicking here.