Interview with debut author Jenna Layne

Who or what inspired A Long Ride Home?

The inspiration for A Long Ride Home isn’t actually very exciting! I haven’t done any extensive bike riding myself, but it’s something I’ve been interested in attempting one day so I’ve read a lot online about other people’s experiences. Especially other women who ride alone. I actually had no intention of turning this bike ride idea into a story at all. But as I realized that writing is what I needed to do, that it was my true passion, the pieces sort of just fell together. The question of what storyline I wanted for this first novel hung out in the back of my mind for a several days once I decided that I wanted to write something. As I was browsing around online without much of an agenda, I came across a forum about cycling and then I realized that that would be kind of a cool topic to base a story around. Procrastination paid off this time! Once I knew that I wanted my main character to embark on this grand bicycle journey to discover herself, I just had to figure out what she needed to discover. A lot of Hannah’s mental and emotional journey has been inspired by my own journey. It took a long time for me to come to terms with my sexuality. Hannah stars off in a very similar place of knowing something isn’t right but not quite knowing how or why or how to fix it.

 

Who or what inspired you to start writing?

I’ve loved reading and writing since I was a kid. I dabbled here and there with writing in my childhood and teen years but never really took it seriously. I didn’t have a lot of confidence in my abilities. I had dreamed for so long of becoming on author, but I also didn’t have a lot of confidence that it could ever really become a career. As I got older, grown up life happened, and I went to college and got a job and pretty much gave up on any hopes of writing anything let alone trying to pursue a new career path.

 

My best friend is responsible for this book in a big way. I wrote it, but I don’t know if I would have had the courage to actually sit down at my laptop without his help. He knew how badly I wanted to write but he also knew how great I was at making up excuses to not do it. A little bit of tough love and a lot of heart-to-hearts and soul searching finally got my butt in the chair. And now after so many years of thinking I couldn’t do it, I did it!

 

Who is your favorite character from your books and why?

A Long Ride Home is my first and only book (so far!) so I don’t have a lot of characters competing for #1 in my heart yet. But even still, it’s hard to choose one! They all mean a lot to me, especially this particular cast because they’re my first ever characters to actually get a complete story so I get all sentimental about that. But if I had to pick one from A Long Ride Home, it would have to be Shannon. Hannah is pretty similar to me in a lot of ways, so I’m pretty sure I ended up writing my dream girl in Shannon! But I also had a lot of fun writing her because she isso different from me. If writing Hannah was my comfort zone, writing Shannon was like getting to know someone new and really figure out who they are.

 

How do you approach writing a new storyline?

Funnily enough, as I was writing my first novel, I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to think up another storyline! But as I got close to the end of the first draft, I’d started giving my next story more thought. And I realized that I wasable to come up with more ideas if I actually gave myself a chance. As with A Long Ride Home, the setting/situation took shape first. While Hannah and Shannon had almost a love at first sight type of situation (even though Hannah didn’t realize it right away), I’m a sucker for clashes of egos. I knew I wanted my next couple to be rivals of some sort and what inspires more competition than a sports team? So, like my first novel, once I knew what I wanted the situation to be, brainstorming ideas for how different people would react in that situation gave me a lot of ideas for my new couple.

 

I’m a planner by nature, so I did some general plotting with both books but gave myself enough wiggle room to allow the story to unfold organically. But of course, it’s pretty different than my first book so it’s been interesting to adjust to a new setting and thinking as new people. The first few thousand words felt like I was breaking in new shoes and finding my footing, if you will. But I found that once I stopped comparing my next book to my last book and how that process went and just letting it be its own unique experience, I really got into the groove of the new story. I think that’s definitely something I’ll keep in mind for all my future books!

 

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

This is honestly pretty difficult for me to pinpoint. For Hannah, some of her traits were definitely inspired by me. And for Shannon, I thought about what kind of person Hannah would be so drawn to that she’d be forced to confront her own inner confusion and work on her issues. But ultimately the most important thing to me when developing their personalities and their backstories was just trying to be as real as possible. What could have led these people to these paths, and how have their past experiences shaped how they see the world and see love? And while I do plot out the major points and the main details about my main characters, I found that a lot of the backstory came out as I went along. That happened with the minor characters as well. I start out with a basic understanding of who they are and what’s been going on in their lives, and the story builds on it from there.

 

Where is your favorite place to write?

While I would one day love to have a home office, my “writing corner” of the living room does the trick for now! I’ll occasionally write from the couch if I’m feeling particularly unmotivated and need to ease myself into writing. But my favorite place to write is definitely my desk in the corner of the living room. I have lots of pictures of my family and friends on the wall above my desk so being able to see those front and center when I write warms my heart and can give me a little boost when I feel stuck or when I doubt myself. And now when I sit at my desk, I know it’s time to get down to business and write. It used to be intimidating when I first started writing and even sitting down at my desk felt like such a roadblock. But as I got more comfortable with the process and realized that I was really enjoying it, my desk became my best friend. While at my work desk, I dreamed of coming home to my writing desk and making more progress on my story. I’ve yet to try writing in a coffee shop or library but I plan on giving it a shot soon! Even still, I don’t think anything will beat my good old desk at home.

 

What is your writing process?

My writing process really transformed over the course of my first book. When I started, I worked full time in an office in a non-writing related job. Once I really committed to the idea of writing a book, it still took a while for me to develop good writing habits. At first, I would come home from work and write a few hundred words. But as with anything, I built up stamina and started writing a few thousand words when I got home from work. Then I started writing on the weekends. And then I started writing on my lunch breaks. Once I got past my mental blocks about writing, the words started flowing. But it did take time to get into a good rhythm. Also, throughout the course of writing this book, I started transitioning back into freelance work (what I’d been doing before I took the office job). It was pretty hectic for a while but even on days when I didn’t want to write or I felt like I was too tired or stressed, I always made myself sit down at my desk and open up my document and write even just a couple sentences. If that was all I could manage I’d leave it at that and promise to try again tomorrow. But a lot of the time I ended up writing far more than I expected. I’ve now gone back to freelancing from home, so my schedule is more flexible for my writing. Now, I sit down at my desk first thing in the morning and write in sprints of about 30-50 minutes and then take a short break.

 

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

I’ve learned a lot in the process of writing and publishing this first book so there’s definitely been some adjustments to my process and my outlook. As far as my process of writing itself, publishing this book gave me so much more confidence as a writer. Now that I’ve seen the finished product, I know I’m capable of doing it again. Writing doesn’t feel so scary and intimidating anymore so I’ve been approaching my writing process with a lot more zeal lately and really enjoying it.

 

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

I would say that the best money I ever spent as a writer actually went to my editor! I’m lucky to have a good friend who is an editor and her advice really helped me take my book and my writing in general to the next level. She caught a lot of things that totally slipped my mind or made sense to me but might not make as much sense to readers, both in terms of plot and characters as well as writing style. She helped me polish my book, but the best part of all was that a lot of the tips she gave me can be carried into the future. I’m being extra mindful of them as I write my next book so I can make it even better and keep growing as a writer. Absolutely worth every penny!

 

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

I don’t have many readers or fans yet, but the ones I do have are so lovely! One of my favorite comments came from a reviewer that said she had tears in her eyes towards the end of the book. When I read that Ihad tears inmy eyes! I never expected that I would be able to reach someone to that extent and move them so much with my writing, so it was a very touching experience for me as well.

 

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

Oh man, this is a tough one for me. I think I’ll have to go with The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. I first read this in middle school and I’ve read it every year since. I’ve loved reading since I was a young child, but this was the first book I read that really got me to think about the bigger picture of life and society. It impacted me a lot during a formative time in my life and I realized for the first time that even though people might seem very different, we might have more in common with each other than we think. And the characters felt so real to me that I still cry every time I read it. I think that book taught me a lot about some important life lessons as well as the power really great writing can have.

 

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

Yes, I have a new book in the works! It’s about two women on a college soccer team who are both very competitive and want to be the star of the team so of course they end up butting heads. They’re both driven by deeply rooted family expectations so neither of them feels like they can back down to the other. But over time they discover that they work really well together for the betterment of the whole team, and naturally they fall in love! There will be ups and downs and a lot of growth but ultimately they will get their happy ending.

 

How do you take your coffee?

I love coffee in many different ways! I usually like it with cream and sugar or a nice, flavorful creamer. But I have been experimenting with black coffee lately. I was convinced I would hate it but it’s actually growing on me!

Review of A Long Ride Home by Jenna Layne

Long Ride Hime

I’m a huge fan of books about finding yourself in nature. For me there nothing quite like roughing it in the woods and enjoying all of the beauty that nature provides. In the debut novel, A Long Ride Home by Jenna Layne a young woman comes to terms with who she is as she meets a beautiful stranger on her bike ride down the coast.

 

Here is a short blurb about the book:

After breaking up with her long-term boyfriend back in Seattle, Hannah Evanston embarks on the journey of a lifetime. With only her bicycle for company, her goal is to pedal 1,300 miles down the east coast and discover herself along the way.

 

A pit stop in the small southern California town of Wellington Cliff may hold the answers Hannah seeks. Bumping into the beautiful, charismatic Shannon Caruso outside a convenience store is just the tip of the iceberg for Hannah. When Shannon, a fellow cyclist from Chicago, invites Hannah to camp with her, Hannah begins to realize that her interest in Shannon may be developing into something more than friendly admiration.

 

But Shannon is riding away from her own scars too, scars that may be impossible for Hannah’s fledgling feelings to overcome. Can Hannah allow herself to follow her heart and win Shannon’s in the process? Or will their choices take them down different roads?

 

I really liked the chance meeting of Hannah and Shannon. Neither of them was looking for someone but once they found each other they were drawn in. Overall, I thought that the romance was really well crafted. The cave scene really hooked me I enjoyed seeing them work out their feelings. The angst was just right and kept me guessing as to how things would work out.

 

Overall my favorite part about the book was the nature aspects. Camping and hiking are two of my all-time favorite activities. It was nice to see it represented so well in the book. There are some beautiful descriptions of the surrounding area that really sucked me into the setting of the book.

 

A Long Ride home has amazingly written side characters. My favorite being Macy. She was such a ball of energy I enjoyed every scene she was in. Diego was a close second for favorite side character. I liked how he helped Hannah to realized that while everything may seem perfect in someone life it doesn’t mean they don’t have their own problems.

 

My one problem with the book was the sex scenes. For me, they were a little too intense for my liking. While I like a little light bondage, it didn’t seem to fit in with the way I viewed the characters. This might not be the case for everyone though.

 

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a cute outdoorsy read.

 

A Long Ride Home is available on Kindle Unlimited by clicking here.

Interview with debut author Tammy Bird

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Who or what inspired Sandman?

Sandman was inspired by a trip to the outer banks (OBX) in October. The majority of tourists were gone, and we had much of the beach and sound to ourselves. One afternoon, my wife and I stepped into one of the few local businesses that were still open: an ice cream shop. The owner was playing on his phone. I think we startled him when we entered. As we ate our ice cream cones (sprinkles for me, chocolate and peanut butter for my wife) we chatted with the owner about the end of tourist season and the quiet that settles over the sand.

He said, “Yep. Quiet enough around here in the off-season to bury a body in the dunes and never get caught.”

Just like that, Sandman was born.

Who or what inspired you to start writing?

As a kid, I worshipped my dad. He loved words. He often challenged me to look things up in the encyclopedias that were housed on my shelf in my room. Then we would talk about it over dinner. He would ask me questions like, “What do you think the children in Chile are having for dinner? Are they quiet or loud? What are their parents like?” We would build an entire story around their meal. I suspect this was the catalyst.

I also am a high school dropout who fell in love with a local community college instructor who used to come into my restaurant and ask me to read and discuss things to keep her company. At first it was weird, but I found myself looking forward to being challenged in that way. She eventually talked me into getting my GED and going back to school to earn an English degree. So, she took up the challenge where my dad left off, and I am forever thankful.

Who is your favorite character from your books and why?

This is a tough one. I am going to go with Paige. She trains cadaver dogs and gives them names like Derrida and Nietzsche. It is her and one of her “little nose artists,” as she calls them, that uncovers the secret burial ground of Buxton. If that isn’t cool enough, she is the character who tells the main character, Katia, like it is. No BS. Throughout the novel we witness a growing respect and friendship between the two women.

How do you approach writing a new storyline?

I am somewhere between a planner and a pantser. I like to have a rough outline of where a storyline is going, and I typically have the ending in mind when I start, but I also allow the characters to take me on a new journey if what I have planned doesn’t suit them. At the end of the process, I always compare what I intended to what happened. In the editing process I often have to rein a character or two in a little.

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

Everywhere. I am sure you hear this a lot from writers. I can be sitting in a meeting at my day job, and someone will say something in a particular way, and I think, “Oh man. That is the voice of a character.” Or, I will see a mom in a bookstore trying to read, and a small child crawling all over her. The mom keeps reading like the child isn’t even there. I think, “What if the child really wasn’t there? What is she is a child lost to another world who wants to be seen. What if whoever actually feels the child will be deemed the mother?” It goes on and on. LOL

Where is your favorite place to write?

A coffee shop. I don’t listen to music. I know, weird. I prefer words whistling by, settling on my table, rattling in the air. I don’t want to interact with them. I just want to know they are there. The people are just the vehicle for the words. It is this introverts way of being with others.

And there is coffee. Lots of coffee.

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What is your writing process?

I have a calendar reminder set for everyday at the same time. When it reminds me, I treat it like any other meeting. Sometimes I write new words. Sometimes I edit words that are already there. Sometimes I journal new ideas or write character sketches. The idea is to treat writing like a job. To be successful, you have to show up. If my boss puts something over the time-slot, I honor that, of course, and sometimes a grandkid wants to play, and I honor that, too. Otherwise, I show up and I write.

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

I don’t know that it changed my process. I taught me a ton. That’s for sure. Writing the first draft of a book, writing “THE END,” for the first time, is an amazing experience. It is also where the real work begins. I had no idea the work that goes into editing, negotiations, marketing, readings, etc. Going into book two I am better equipped to know what works and what doesn’t. I know the word “had” is a word I overuse and I need to search for it in my document and revise. I know that adverbs are often a weak tool and that I use them too often in my first draft. Stuff like that.

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

Two things come to mind. (1) Money spent on other books. Stephen King said something to the effect of, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the tools to write.” I totally agree. Not only do I read, but I study books by the masters. (2) The GCLS writing academy. I’m not sure if you want to include plugs for awesome writing academies, but this one was phenomenal. It is a year-long program where new writers learn the trade from well-established writers in the lesbian community. I actually finished the first draft of Sandman in this program.

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

I am dedicated to inclusion in my writing. As such, when someone writes a review like the one below, I am blown away:

“One of my favorite things about the characters is how three-dimensional they are. Even fairly minor characters are so realistic and believable. The amount of detail used in descriptions of the Katia’s brother, who is on the autism spectrum, is incredible. It is clear that the author is either familiar with autistic children or did a great deal of research on the subject.”

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

I was a literature major in college, so I am in love with American literature. It influenced me as a whole. Words have to taste good on my tongue for me to turn the page. Reading and dissecting the works of greats, including, but not limited to, Burroughs, Faulkner, Perkins-Gilman, Morrison, Walker, Hawthorne, Hurston, and Frost taught me that there is always a message. Regardless of what I write, I want a well-crafted message.

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

I am nearing completion on my second novel, tentatively titled, “Book of Promises.” It is a coming out story with a twist. Best friends, Katie and Tess, held hands in fourth grade and promised one another that they would never be apart. Now in high school, one of them will stop at nothing to make sure this promise is kept.

I also have an outline for the sequel to Sandman. Stay tuned for more on that.

How do you take your coffee?

Sweet and light. Iced or hot.

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Review of The Sound of Silence by Lou J. Bard

the sound of scilence

I was intrigued by the blurb for The Sound of Silence by Lou J. Bard. Reading the first few pages sucked me in.  I couldn’t put it down until I found out the mystery of the beautiful Alice Jameson’s horrific past and what caused her to become mute. While I would not consider this book a true mystery there are mystery elements incorporated in this happily ever after romance novel.

 

Here is a short blurb about the book:

Indiana Reynolds is the newest Intern Social Worker at Plantation House for the Disabled. Among her charges is the young and elusive Alice Jameson.

Alice Jameson has been silent for the last fifteen years of her life and doesn’t have any plans to open up about her past or her traumatic life anytime soon, especially not to someone as beautiful and perfect as Indiana Reynolds who manages to get the shy Alice to start experiencing what life could be like outside of the sound of silence.

 

I have a bit of a trigger warning for this book. If power dynamics make you uncomfortable this book might not be for you. Indianan works as a social worker in the mental hospital that Alice lives at. While I personally don’t think she crosses the line I could see how someone else could view their relationship as crossing the line. That being said I really enjoyed this book. I liked the mystery surrounding Alice’s past. It really kept me turning pages in the beginning. I also liked Alice’s road to recovery and how her relationship with Indiana gave her the push she needed to help herself get better.

 

Indiana wanted what was best for Alice throughout the book. She even learned American Sign Language in order to communicate with her. Indiana never crossed the line in her interactions with Alice. When the line was finally crossed, she took the blame even though Alice was the one crossed the line. She was willing to risk her career to protect Alice.

 

The second part of the book when the women visit Cave Creek, Arizona is my absolute favorite. But I might be a little biased on that because it is where I live. It is nice to see the desert beauty of Arizona appreciated a book. The author was pretty accurate in their descriptions of the area.

 

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a happily ever after. Also, to anyone who likes mystery elements in their books.

 

The Sound of Silence is available on Kindle Unlimited by clicking here.

 

Review of The Chosen One by T.B. Markinson

The Chosen One

I started reading The Chosen One by T.B. Markinson for a buddy read on Lesfic Readers and Writers Slack channel. Unfortunately, I was unable to finish the book in time for the buddy read but once I finally got to it I couldn’t put it down.

 

Here is a short blurb about the book:

Girls are a risk college freshman Ainsley Carmichael can’t take. Her powerful political family sees her as the Chosen One who will someday be president. Upholding a carefully crafted veneer is second nature until the first day of class when Maya’s mysterious gray eyes hold her in thrall.

 

Ainsley may be out publicly regarding her sexual orientation, but she lives under the shadow of the Carmichael’s ancient but shrewd matriarch in this contemporary lesbian romance. The girls pair up for a history project, and it soon becomes clear Maya is hiding something when she cuts their first kiss short by pointing out they come from different worlds.

 

The privileged world of the Carmichael clan stands in stark contrast to Maya’s limited means. Ainsley’s sexually fluid, quirky, and carefree cousin helps her investigate, only to discover details of Maya’s past are sketchy at best as the suspense builds in this work of LGBT fiction.

 

Family scandal erupts, making the inevitable truth come out about Maya the Gray. Will Ainsley’s love for the enigmatic girl enable her to break her Carmichael shackles?
I wasn’t sure how I would like this book with everything political that is going on in the world today. But I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Ainsley’s story. I really liked the mystery surrounding the quotes Ainsley kept receiving. I was intrigued by her relationship with Suzy Q. It was heartbreaking finding out everything that Suzy Q has done to her in the past. It makes it easy to see why Ainsley has trouble letting people in. She doesn’t know who to trust because the people she has trust in the past have turned on her.

 

Maya’s story is what really sold me on this book. She was so intriguing I wanted to know what she had to hide. I was also really intrigued by how Maya’s past is connected to Ainsley’s family. It seemed like there would be much more to this part of the story. I’m hoping to read more about Maya in the second book in the series The Hidden One.

 

I would recommend this book to anyone who like new adult romances as well as political romances.

 

The Chosen One  is available on Kindle Unlimited by clicking here.

 

Review of Forbidden Melody by Magnolia Robbins

Forbidden Melody

 

Honestly, I wasn’t sure how I would like Forbidden Melody by Magnolia Robbins. I am not a huge fan of teacher-student relationships. I always found the power dynamic a little creepy. But this book made change my mind.

 

Here is a short blurb about the book:

Emma Harvey is a brilliant and gifted young pianist, accepted into one of the most prestigious music conservatories in the country and prepared to do whatever it takes to accomplish her dreams of playing professionally. With a renowned jazz musician for a father and a world-famous mentor growing up, she is convinced her path is easy. Until her world is suddenly silenced when she loses her hearing.

 

Juliet Hamilton is a prodigy violinist. First chair for nearly fifteen years in the New York Philharmonic and a professor at the conservatory, she is engulfed in her career with no time for distractions. Especially not a beautiful young graduate student with a spirited personality that challenges her every step.

 

When Emma and Juliet’s paths cross in the classroom, their connection is undeniable. When their music comes together, it is unstoppable. The bond they begin to form threatens to challenge more than just their opinions of music. Friendships, ethics, and careers are tested as Emma and Juliet find themselves lost in a concerto of fiery passion and heartbreak.

 

I enjoyed the book from the beginning. The opening scene pulled me in and made the mystery surrounding the women appealing. Juliet was a bit of a trip at the beginning of the book. She was very unlikable. She was full of herself and thought that she could do no wrong. It really turned me off.  But all of that changed when she met Emma she brought the good out of her. It also allowed the reader to see the more sensitive side of her that she hid from the world. Juliet’s relationship with Kira was touching.

 

Emma was my favorite character. I loved her view on life. Even though she was handed a shitty hand she made the best of it. Her loss of hearing never slowed her down she was still able to achieve all of her music-related dreams. She also was able to share her love of music with Kira who was also deaf.

 

The woman’s struggle to be together was very interesting. Between the struggles with the teacher-student relationship, there was also family drama. Juliet’s father was a piece of work. It seemed like he would do anything to ruin any chance of happiness for Juliet. I don’t know if it was because of her being gay or just because he liked to be in control.

 

The sex scenes in this book were amazingly done. The chemistry between Emma and Juliet was hot. I would consider it to be a slow burn.

 

My one fault with this book was the editing. Towards the end of the book, the editing quality seemed to slip. Normally something like this wouldn’t bother me but it happened on quite a few occasions.

 

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a slow burn romance. Or anyone who loves forbidden love romances.

 

Forbidden Melody  is available on Kindle Unlimited by clicking here.

Review of There’s A Possibility by Lou J Bard

There's A Possibility

I’m a sucker for friends to lovers romance novels. There is just something so sweet about two women who are already best friends realizing how much they truly love each other. There’s A Possibility by debut author Lou J Bard shines.

 

Here is a short blurb about the book:

My name is Diana Sheridan and I think you’re my soulmate!”

Diana Sheridan has been in love with Penelope Bennett since the fateful day that they met in their grade school library. The only problem?

Penelope is straight.

Penelope Bennett has been picking up the pieces of Diana’s failed and flawed flings since high school and wants for her best friend to find happiness; but is certain that it is not with her.

A two-month long overseas work excursion puts twenty-four years of friendship to the test when Diana returns home with more than just a new cultural experience and Penelope must decide once and for all if there’s a possibility for more between them.

 

I really liked the relationship between Diana and Penelope. They pushed each other’s buttons in a playful and silly manner. The way that only best friends can. From the very beginning, you could see how much Diana loved and cared for Penelope. The opening scene was my favorite it truly showed Diana’s character. Penelope was my favorite character I loved how instead of saying God she would call out the names of other Gods such as Athena.

 

I thought overall the book was well written. The sex scenes in this book are super steamy be prepared to blush in public. Overall, I really enjoyed reading this novel and look forward to reading more from them in the future.

 

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves friends to lovers romances.

 

There’s A Possibility  is available on Kindle Unlimited by clicking here.