Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Rachel's Random Reads is going on holiday....

.... well at least the person behind the blog is jetting off in the morning. I'm flying into Rome to board the Norwegian Spirit for a 10 Night Greek Island & Med Cruise taking in Mykonos, Athens, Santorini, Rhodes, Crete, Valletta, Messina & Naples.

Currently my plans involve an excursion in Naples to take in the Amalfi Coast, including an hour of free times in Sorrento, Positano, Ravello and Amalfi, so hopefully will have some gorgeous pictures of that part of Italy.

I don't have any concrete plans for the other ports, although may stay onboard in Athens as I know how hot that city is at this time of year and would rather take advantage of a relatively quiet/empty ship. If anyone has been to any of the other places and has suggestions that don't involve history, religious buildings or ruins, then I'd love to hear them!

As a result of this trip have nothing scheduled for the blog while I'm away, sunning myself and generally pottering about the ports.

Then once I'm physically back in the UK, I will be moving house a few days later. As I mentioned in a post at the start of the month, it means that from tomorrow until probably end of August the amount of content on the blog is drastically reduced.

I do have some blog tours coming up, and I have got some reviews scheduled and dotted about, but need the break to give me a chance to get into new routines in the new place, and also to spare a bit more time to work on an exciting new project for me....all will be revealed hopefully in September!

I'm taking four paperbacks with me on the cruise but often find I run about the ship taking part in many activities, and then doing excursions or exploring ports that I don't have huge amounts of time to read. I hope to have some mini reviews for you as always once I'm back but it may not be possible just due to the above demands on my time.

Anyways, I'll miss all of you that read the blog while I'm away, and hope you will still want to see what my random thoughts on books are when I return!

Guest Post - Ann O'Loughlin's Writing Process - Blog Tour - #LudlowLadies

I am an early riser and usually you can hear me tapping away at my keyboard at 5am. There was a time in my house when the dogs would enthusiastically greet me when I sat down to write at such an early hour, but now with my third book The Ludlow Ladies' Society sent off in to the world, just two sleepy dogs snuggle further in to their baskets. There isn't even the wag of a tail.

The dogs know it is too early and they also know there is no time to give them attention as I sit in my big comfy chair in the kitchen wrestling with the words and the word count.
When I was writing The Ludlow Ladies' Society, I lived on toast and marmalade in those early hours.

But I never even have a sip of tea until the first 500 words are set down.

After the first 500 words, I reward myself with a big mug of tea and brown bread toasted with a nice fancy marmalade on top. That sets me up nicely for the next 500 words and hopefully even 1000 words as the characters fight it out inside my head vying with each other for space on the page.

That is the way it happens for me. Characters have a way of sneaking in to my head and setting up home.

First a germ of an idea takes root, constantly agitating, making me wonder ‘could I pull a story from here?’ But it is when the characters start talking that the fingers can do the walking across the keyboard.

Some writers use story boards, plaster walls with notes or fill notebooks full of interesting phrases and ideas to use at an appropriate time. Some writers sketch a picture of their characters with words. They even know before they write the first line of chapter one their main characters, the traits, foibles and eccentricities that will make them stand out. They also know the storyline and all the minor characters who weave their way through the pages of the book. Some writers are extra lucky; they even know the ending.

How I wish it was like that for me. But it is not. The story; the characters and the twists and turns; all of it rattles inside my head, competing for my attention, only revealing themselves as we move along, getting the first words down.

If the idea is going to work, the characters lead the way designing their own destinies, only giving me the satisfaction that when they are shouting the most and bossing me senseless, do I get my best writing done.

Maybe that is the reason I have to get up so early, there are too many voices in my head and characters waiting to jump on the page. My favourite parts of The Ludlow Ladies' Society were the scenes where the women are stitching memory quilts and chatting. As Eve, Connie and Hetty stitched, sewed and told each other stories, I have to say I did not feel so alone on my early morning writing shifts.

The Ludlow Ladies’ Society by Ann O’Loughlin is published 20th July, price £12.99

Connie Carter has lost everyone and everything dear to her. Leaving her home in New York, she moves to a run-down Irish mansion, hoping to heal her shattered heart and in search of answers: how could her husband do the terrible things he did? And why did he plough all their money into the dilapidated Ludlow Hall before he died, without ever telling her?

At first Connie tries to avoid the villagers, until she meets local women Eve and Hetty who introduce her to the Ludlow Ladies’ Society, a crafts group in need of a permanent home. Connie soon discovers Eve is also struggling with pain and the loss of having her beloved Ludlow Hall repossessed by the bank and sold off. Now, seeing the American Connie living there, the hurt of losing everything is renewed. Can these women ever be friends? Can they ever understand or forgive?

As the Ludlow Ladies create memory quilts to remember those they have loved and lost, the secrets of the past finally begin to surface. But can Connie, Eve and Hetty stitch their lives back together?

Purchase from Amazon UK

About Ann O’Loughlin

A leading journalist in Ireland for nearly thirty years, Ann O’Loughlin has covered all major news events of the last three decades. Ann spent most of her career with independent newspapers where she was Security Correspondent at the height of the Troubles, and was a senior journalist on the Irish Independent and the Evening Herald. She is currently a senior journalist with the Irish Examiner newspaper covering legal issues. Ann has also lived and worked in India. Originally from the west of Ireland she now lives on the east coast in Co. Wicklow with her husband and two children. Her debut novel The Ballroom CafĂ© was a bestseller, with over 250,000 copies sold in eBook alone. Her second novel The Judge’s Wife was an Irish bestseller for 5 weeks, and was shortlisted for a Romantic Novel Award in February 2017.

Follow Ann on twitter -

Book Review - Chasing The Sun by Katy Colins

Amazon UK
Title: Chasing The Sun
Author: Katy Colins
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: HQ
Publication Date: 27th July 2017
Rating: 5 Stars

Georgia Green is on the conveyor belt to happiness.
Live-in boyfriend, perfect career and great friends, it seems like Georgia is only a Tiffany box away from her happily ever after. But when she arrives in Australia for her best friend’s wedding and is faced with the bridezilla from hell, she starts to realise that she might not want the cookie-cutter ending she thought.

What was meant to be a trip full of sunny days at the beach and wedding planning over cocktails, has turned into another problem for her to fix – just like the ones she’d left behind. With hardly any time for her boyfriend, let alone herself, it feels like there is just too much to juggle. It might be time for Georgia to step off the conveyor belt to find the balance in life and see if she really can have it all…

Easily one of the most enjoyable books I have read for a while, it whizzed past as I was absorbed in the latest installment in Georgia's story. 

For although the name of the book doesn't feel the same, this is sort of the next in the Destination series that I was reading last year, but since the focus of the book is more to do with Georgia's friends and boyfriend than with the Lonely Hearts Travel Club, the book feels different, but still up to the usual quality. If you haven't read any of Katy Colin's previous books don't worry as this should work as a standalone, and most of the relevant snippets of back story are included. 

I don;t think I have stopped smiling from the second I finally started this book to the moment it ended. I was thoroughly enjoying Georgia's trip to Australia, her bridezilla of a best friend Shelley, the other bridesmaid Cara, the hen party road trip that has an ulterior motive and just everything little unexpected occurrence, or problem that needed to be solved. 

Even before Georgia flew Down Under there were laughs to be had, at her attempts to babysit for another of her best friends, and a rather familiar-ish scene on the plane, where you realise just who is sitting around you on a massively long haul flight. 

Although there wasn't too much sightseeing, I did like the small glimpses I got of Australia, and lets just say Adelaide has some absolutely mad brides to be, who really did get over excited at one little sale....well it was a sample wedding dress sale, but still camping overnight for a shop? As a glorified single person who has never been within sniffing distance of her own wedding dress, please forgive my amusement at the situations! 

Chasing The Sun is another excellent book by the talented Katy Colins and I adored this slight shift in direction for the book. I loved catching up with these fabulous characters and of course exploring a new destination with Georgia.  This is a fabulous summer read that I am sure people will love reading while relaxing in the sun themselves. 

Thank you to Netgalley and HQ for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Guest Post - Escapist settings by T.A. Williams - Blog Tour

I was going to write this about my new book, To Provence, with Love (and I will, a bit lower down, I promise), but first, I would just like to say a big thank you to Rachel and to all the other bloggers out there who read their way through millions of words every year and then write tens, if not hundreds of thousands of words in support of authors like me. And you all do it for the pure love of reading. I am ashamed to admit that I read very little. My excuse is that I spend all my time writing – and, in fairness, I do write a lot. But those of you whose appetite for the written word spurs you on to read and review book after book deserve a vote of thanks from all of us. So, thank you.

Having got that off my chest, let me tell you about my new book. Somebody on Facebook the other day pointed out a constant theme in my work: she remarked that I always write about nice places. And it’s true. So far I’ve written about Tuscany, Cornwall, rural Spain, Dartmoor, the high Alps, Venice and loads more. So why don’t I write about scruffier places, I hear you ask. The answer is twofold. First of all it’s selfish: I always research the settings for my books and I like going to nice places. So, on that basis, it’s very unlikely that I’m going to be writing a book set in a recycling centre any time soon. Not impossible, but unlikely. Second, it’s because I want my books to offer a bit of escapism. I want people to be able to lose themselves in descriptions of wonderful, romantic places, the food, the drink, the architecture, the people. If you don’t get to the end of the book wishing you, too, could have been there, then I haven’t been doing my job properly.

So, this book is To Provence, with Love. I studied French at university a long, long time ago and I love going back there. I have a very good friend who lives just an hour or so inland from the Riviera coast and it was while visiting him and his wife a couple of years ago that I realised that would make a terrific setting. Once you get away from the hustle and bustle and the unbelievable traffic(!) of the coast, it’s an area with a slower pace of life. Yes, there are loads of foreigners living there, but the French flavour remains. It’s a part of the world blessed by a mild climate, some spectacular scenery and some of the best food and drink anywhere in the world. For a visitor (not just an author on a research trip), it’s gorgeous. Fly to Nice, rent a little car and an hour or so later you’re among the vines, the umbrella pines and the lavender fields. 

As for the story of To Provence, with Love, it’s a nostalgic look back over her life by a grand old lady of 83, assisted by her Labrador, Marlon. Along with this comes the gradual realisation by Faye, the main character, that there’s more to life than her job in London.

I hope you enjoy the book.  

Thank you so much Trevor that that wonderful look of your locations. I love all of your settings and having read To Provence With Love, I can safely say I really enjoyed Provence too.  And thank you so much for your kind words about book bloggers. 

Purchase from Amazon UK

Escape to the south of France with this perfect feel-good summer romance!
Anything is possible…

Struggling writer Faye Carter just can’t believe her luck. She’s off to Provence to write the autobiography of a famous film star and she’ll be staying in the stunning chateau!

So when she meets charming (and completely gorgeous) lavender farmer, Gavin, she knows that she’s made the right choice – even if glamourous, elderly Anabelle seems to be hiding something…

But when the sun is shining, the food is delicious and the air smells of honey, anything seems possible. Will the magic of Provence help Faye finally find a happy-ever-after of her own?

Author Information

I write under the androgynous name T A Williams because 65% of books are read by women. In my first book, "Dirty Minds" one of the (female) characters suggests the imbalance is due to the fact that men spend too much time getting drunk and watching football. I couldn't possibly comment. Ask my wife...

I've written all sorts: thrillers, historical novels, short stories and now I'm enjoying myself hugely writing humour and romance. Romantic comedies are what we all need from time to time. Life isn’t always very fair. It isn’t always a lot of fun, but when it is, we need to embrace it. If my books can put a smile on your face and maybe give your heartstrings a tug, then I know I’ve done my job.

I‘ve lived all over Europe, but now I live in a little village in sleepy Devon, tucked away in south west England. I love the place. That’s why you’ll find leafy lanes and thatched cottages in most of my books. Oh, yes, and a black Labrador.

I've been writing since I was 14 and that is half a century ago. However, underneath this bald, wrinkly exterior, there beats the heart of a youngster. My wife is convinced I will never grow up. I hope she's right.


Tour Schedule

Tuesday 18th July

Wednesday 19th July

Thursday 20th July

Friday 21st July

Saturday 22nd July

Sunday 23rd July
Blooming Fiction

Monday 24th July

Tuesday 25th July

Wednesday 26th July

Thursday 27th July

Friday 28th July

Saturday 29th July

Sunday 30th July

Monday 31st July

Book Review - The Cotswolds Cookery Club: A Taste of Italy by Alice Ross

Amazon UK
Title: The Cotswolds Cookery Club: A Taste of Italy
Author: Alice Ross
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: HQ Digital 
Publication Date: 21st July 2017
Rating: 4 Stars

The perfect recipe for happiness?
Connie has had enough. Enough of the city, enough of her job – and most importantly, enough of her cheating boyfriend! So, when her best friend jets off to sunny Australia for six months and calls on Connie to house and dog-sit, the timing couldn’t be more perfect.

Finally free to chase her dreams, Connie sets up her very own Cotswolds Cookery Club – a place to share scrumptious recipes and, more importantly, a lot of wine! Cue Melody, Kate and Eleanor, three very different women who Connie realises are all in need of a recipe for happiness…

But with two gorgeous men turning up the heat, Connie may have just ended up with a recipe for disaster!

Relatively short novella, that takes in the feel of the picturesque Cotswolds, two gorgeous men, 3 new friends and a whole lot of Italian cookery. What more could you want from a book called The Cotswolds Cookery Club: A Taste of Italy! 

Connie isn't really sure what she is doing with her life, so when her friend offers to let her housesit for six months while she is off to Australia, Connie jumps at the chance. On settling into the lovely Cotswolds house, she reawakens her love of cookery and decides to start a cookery club, starting with an Italian theme. 

Well the food that is being created sounds delicious and I suspect by the time this series finishes that I will be hoping for a companion recipe book to try them all out for myself.  Connie clearly knows her food and it rubs off on the three ladies who join her club. 

They take it in turns to produce delicious Italian menus at each others houses, and we have Eleanor who runs the local newsagent, Kate who has three young children, and Melody who is need of a friend as she is also new to the area, 

Connie also needs to dog sit, for Eric, who is scared of his own shadow to start with, and a former rescue dog. Despite not being the most outgoing of canine companion his personality is really felt in each scene he is in. 

As the first book in a new series, it gives a great introduction to the various characters that I hope to see more of in the next two parts.

Thank you to Netgalley and HQ Digital for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Monday, 17 July 2017

Guest Post - What's In A Name? by Emma Burstall - Blog Tour

Choosing a name for a book character can be almost as hard as naming a baby. When I was deciding what to call my children, I ummed and ahhed for ages because I wanted to get it just right, and so it is with the men and women in my novels. Often I’ll spend hours writing out different combinations of first names and surnames until I’m completely satisfied. 

A name can convey so many things, from someone’s personality and age to their nationality and background. Plus, if my character is someone I like, then I have to find a name I like, too, and if it’s my hero or heroine, I have to love it.

There’s another issue as well. I try not to name my characters after family or friends, in case they think I’m writing about them when I’m not. This is especially important when it comes to villains, for obvious reasons. It can be extremely difficult, though, because I know a lot of people, and at times I’ll plump for something generic, like ‘Helen’, ‘Claire’ or ‘Ben’, and hope no one gets the wrong idea. 

My sister once pointed out that I’d used the name of one of my nieces for a minor character, and although it’s a very common girl’s name, I then worried that the other niece was feeling left out. So you see, it’s hard not to ruffle feathers however hard you try!

Here are some tips for choosing names for your own books:

1.   Think about the kind of person your character is and their defining features, physical, intellectual and emotional. Names have associations, although of course this will vary for different people. For me, ‘Summer’ and ‘Tansy’ suggest carefree, New Age types while ‘Susan’ and ‘Victoria’ are practical and sensible. Graveyards can be a good source of inspiration. I once found a headstone in a Cornish cemetery bearing the name ‘Mary Screech’. I thought it was so marvellous that I made a note and used it for a character, Shelley Screech, who was suffering from a particularly nervous disposition!

2. Make sure your name fits the person’s age. Patricia, Barbara and Sheila, for instance, were very popular in the Thirties and Forties, but they’ve gone out of fashion.  And how many eighty year old Kylies or Tegans do you know? Exactly. If you need ideas, there’s plenty of information online about top boys’ and girls’ names in a particular year of birth.

3.  Try not to have too many names beginning with the same letter, as this can become confusing for the reader. Also, read all your names out loud once you’ve picked them. I once had to change someone’s name at the last minute, because I realised that it sounded too similar to someone else’s. This is especially important if your novel is to be made into an audio book.

4. Try alliterative initials if you want a character to be really memorable. This works particularly well with children’s books, think Bilbo Baggins and Rowena Ravenclaw, but use sparingly in adult fiction or you’ll risk irritating your readers.

5. Try to avoid unpronounceable names, unless it’s intentional. I once called a female character ‘Persephone’ precisely because it’s so unusual. The other characters kept mispronouncing the name in different ways and winding her up, which provided lots of comic scope.  

Thank you so much Emma for this interesting post. I completely agree about not having too many names beginning with the same letter,  I've read some books where I've been very confused the whole time for just that reason.

Bramble Challoner has had a very normal upbringing. She lives in a semi in the suburbs of London with her parents and works at the call centre down the road. She still goes out with the boy she met at school. At weekends they stay in and watch films on the telly and sometimes hold hands. Bramble is dying for an adventure.
So when her very grand grandfather, Lord Penrose, dies, leaving his huge, rambling house in Cornwall to her, Bramble packs her bags immediately, dragging along her best friend Katie. The sleepy village of Tremarnock had better be ready for its newest residents...

About Emma

Emma Burstall was a newspaper journalist in Devon and Cornwall before becoming a full time author. Tremarnock, the first novel in her series set in a delightful Cornish village, was published in 2015 and became a top-10 bestseller.

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Please do follow along with the rest of the blog tour:

Book Review - Killer Affair by Rebecca Chance

Amazon UK
Title: Killer Affair
Author: Rebecca chance
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Pan 
Publication Date: 27th July 2017
Rating: 5 Stars

A shocking betrayal deserves a wicked revenge . . .

Stunning, charismatic Lexy O’Brien is the reigning queen of British reality TV. Her life in front of the camera is planned and manipulated as successfully as any military assault.

But success breeds jealousy. When you’re on top, the only way is down and there’s always someone standing by to give you a shove . . .

Dowdy Caroline Evans, a part-time blogger and writer of erotic fiction, is brought in to chronicle Lexy’s life. Being taken under Lexy’s wing is a dream come true for Caroline. But sampling the star’s lifestyle is like tasting the most addictive of drugs, and it’s not long before she is craving what she can’t possibly have – or can she?

And as Caroline and Lexy’s lives and loves become increasingly entwined, it’s only a matter of time before the hidden rivalry becomes a powder keg waiting to explode . . 

I really don't know what to think, that was a huge story of envy, jealousy, sex, great one liners, with an incredibly twisty finale that left me very impressed.  

A yet it started with me thinking that Caroline was easily one of the most relatable to characters I have read in a while to the extent I thought she could have been me! We both have the same facial skin condition,  both are bloggers, have had the same thoughts about sex and she lives one stop away from where I used to work, so I even recognised the pain of the tube/train journey she  had! 

Not only that as it becomes apparent that Caroline was going to become a ghostwriter for a famous reality tv star, there is a lot of talk about ghost writers in general, how much they make, the public's perception or lack of, with regards to ghostwriters and celebrity biographies. I recall seeing discussions earlier this year on those exact topics, after a specific article was published, which to my eyes added an extra layer to the book that I could relate to. 

However characters like people can change, and  as the story progressed I am glad to say that I am actually nothing like Caroline! In fact as the book progressed I couldn't work out if I had more empathy with Lexy or Caroline.  Lexy is one kick-ass woman, she has masterminded her reality tv career and knows exactly what she wants, and also appears to have the perfect life. 

On a moral level neither woman is up to much really given one is determined to wreck a marriage and the other is determined to do anything for publicity and assumes her devoted husband will forgive her!  On the other hand I loved Caroline's determination to change herself, to become more confident and follow her dreams at whatever expense. 

While Caroline was ghosting Lexy's book we would occasionally see snippets written in Lexy's voice by Caroline which were really amusing. We also saw some rather erotic historical romance writing by Caroline too. Not to mention how much I enjoyed Caroline's sexual awakening and some of the incredibly hot scenes that followed. 

I'm a huge fan of Rebecca Chance, and her quick wit, and open mindedness with regards anything sexual are clear once again in this book. Not all the scenes will appeal to everyone but they are incredibly well written and I thoroughly enjoyed every last word! 

Killer Affair to me is a perfect example of a holiday read, I would have loved to have read this pure escapism while lying by a pool, sipping cocktails and absorbing the sun, as if you can 't read, relax and thoroughly the many naughty books while on holiday surrounded by strangers, then when can you!! 

Thank you to Pan and Netgalley for this copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Book Review - Friend Request by Laura Marshall - Fab Firsts

Fab Firsts is my new regular Sunday feature, that is going to be highlighting books that are firsts. When interviewing authors, it will be about their first book, as well as other firsts in their lives. When reviewing books for this feature, there will be a mix of debuts, first books in a series, the first time I read an author, and possibly other firsts depending on what I can think of!

If you are an author wanting to take part in Fab Firsts then please do email on gilbster at gmail dot com and I'll whizz the questions over to you.

I hope you enjoy this look at a variety of hopefully fabulous firsts, while making some sort of dent in my review and paperback TBRs which are my current main focus!

After seeing a lot of bloggers raving about this months ago when they read it, I couldn't resist trying to get a copy myself and giving it a go. Really glad I did as they are right, its fab! 

Amazon UK
Title: Friend Request
Author: Laura Marshall
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Sphere
Publication Date:  27th July 2017
Rating: 4.5 Stars

Maria wants to be friends.
But Maria is dead.
Isn't she?

When Louise Williams receives a message from someone left long in the past, her heart nearly stops.

Maria Weston wants to be friends on Facebook.

Maria Weston has been missing for over twenty-five years. She was last seen the night of a school leavers' party, and the world believes her to be dead. Particularly Louise, who has lived her adult life with a terrible secret.

As Maria's messages start to escalate, Louise forces herself to reconnect with the old friends she once tried so hard to impress. Trying to piece together exactly what happened that night, she soon discovers there's much she didn't know. The only certainty is that Maria Weston disappeared that night, never to be heard from again - until now. . .

Bewildering set of circumstances that kept me guessing right until the end.  It seemed to me that I believed every last lead or piece of information as it came up, potentially making me even more gullible than Louise, the main character. 

But the question is, would you accept a friend request from an old school acquaintance who has been presumed dead for 25 years? After all anyone can pretend to be anyone online. Well Louise did accept a request in those circumstances, made all the more chilling by the secret Louise has held about the girl for her whole life. 

The tension really starts to ramp up as the story progresses and I loved the sense of danger, as though you knew something big was going to happen but you just weren't sure what or possibly why. There is also a school reunion coincidentally that has been organised for Louise's year group, and it leads to her rethinking about her last year of school, how she was a teenager, and a whole host of other emotions. 

This is the sort of book that almost everyone can relate to in some way, from a bad childhood, fear over losing your own child if a secret gets revealed, ex husbands, walls protecting your innermost feelings, or just receiving friend requests from unknown or unexpected sources. 

Friend Request is a gripping story that once I got into it properly, I found quite hard to put down.  It's a great debut novel, and I would definitely look at reading more by the author in the future. 

Thank you to Netgalley and Sphere for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily.

Fab Firsts - Q&A with Sarah K. Stephens

Fab Firsts is my new regular Sunday feature, that is going to be highlighting books that are firsts. When interviewing authors, it will be about their first book, as well as other firsts in their lives. When reviewing books for this feature, there will be a mix of debuts, first books in a series, the first time I read an author, and possibly other firsts depending on what I can think of!

If you are an author wanting to take part in Fab Firsts then please do email on gilbster at gmail dot com and I'll whizz the questions over to you.

I hope you enjoy this look at a variety of hopefully fabulous firsts, while making some sort of dent in my review and paperback TBRs which are my current main focus!

Sarah K. Stephens is a developmental psychologist and the debut author of A Flash of Red, a psychological thriller released by Pandamoon Publishing in December 2016. When she’s not teaching at Penn State University, she can be found writing, baking, running, walking her lovable pitbull, Jasper, and spending time with her family, most likely playing Scrabble.

1)    Can you tell us a bit about your first book?

A Flash of Red details the chaos that ensues when mental illness invades our most intimate relationships. Professor Anna Klein and her husband, Sean, are a young couple each struggling with their own misperceptions of reality.  While Anna’s daily anxieties turn on the axis of her mother’s path into psychosis, Sean escapes to the alternate reality of love and sex offered online. When Bard, a student of Anna’s, develops his own obsession with the couple, their already unsteady world collapses with irrevocable consequences. A Flash of Red ultimately asks the question: What happens when we can no longer tell the difference between what we want and what is real?         

2)    What was your original inspiration to become a writer, and to write your debut?

In elementary school I worked with an incredible teacher, Mrs. Lippiatt, in an advanced English and Writing program that continued into Middle School. She pushed her students to continuously improve themselves as writers and communicators, but always with constructive feedback and empathy. As I found myself in adulthood with children heading into their more independent teenage years, I couldn’t help but think of Mrs. Lippiatt and her urge to always challenge yourself. It was then that I began A Flash of Red.

3)    How long did it take you to write your first book?

It took about 1 year to write the first draft, and another year to edit it myself before submitting it to agents and publishers.

4)    If you could do anything differently in retrospect, what would you change about your debut, or how you went about writing it?

I would encourage myself to adopt the practice I used for my second novel, Dear Heart, which will be released by Pandamoon in 2017: Get the words out and then judge their quality in a brief editing session the next day before you write your next passage. Writers can be so judgmental of their own work that it paralyzes us. With practice, I’ve learned to be more forgiving of myself in the first draft, and then to turn more critical in the editing process. I’ve found this allows my ideas and plot to emerge fluidly without any reduction in the quality of the writing itself.

5)    Was your first book self or traditionally published, and how did you go about making that decision?

My first novel was traditionally published by Pandamoon Publishing, although they are not a ‘traditional’ publisher. At Pandamoon, authors have an active role in the marketing and publicity of their book. It is truly a collaborative process throughout the entire journey of acquisition, editing, and publication. As an author, I enjoyed the support and structure provided by Pandamoon, especially in working with their excellent editors, while also having freedom as the author to contribute my ideas for the cover, marketing, and publicity ventures.

 6)    Do you have any tips for other first time authors?

Be brave and be patient. Putting your work on the page, and even more so sending it out to agents and publishers, is an act of courage. Writing is such a personal and solitary experience that fear can often inhibit writers from sharing their work with others. Trust in your work. It might take time for others to notice, but ultimately high quality writing speaks for itself. 

Tell us about your first…

7)    Book you bought

I’m not sure which one, but it was most likely one of Ann M. Martin’s The Baby-Sitters Club series. Claudia was my favorite babysitter.

8)    Person you fell in love with

My husband--we fell in love when we were just teenagers, and never looked back.

9)     Holiday you went on

Disneyland in Orlando, Florida. I was 4 years old and the giant squid on the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride scared me terribly!

10)  Prize you won

A Power of the Pen prize for short story in 8th grade

 11)  Album you purchased

Smashing Pumpkins, Siamese Dream. I still love that album.

 12)  Time you were in trouble

I was definitely a rule-follower as a child, but one time I was in the school’s bathroom and decided to play a prank on my friend, who I thought had come into the stall next to me. I tried to hold the stall door so she couldn’t open it--I thought this was funny for about a minute, until I realized it was a teacher in the stall and not my friend!

 13)  ..choice of alternative career if you weren’t an author

Does developmental psychologist count? :) If I had to trade in my other day job, I’d say Anthropologist. I just find people way too fascinating!

14)  … time you felt like an adult

Having my own (full) refrigerator in my apartment as a graduate student.

15)  Dish you cooked

Linguine with white clam sauce--I was trying to impress my boyfriend (now husband). I still make that dish quite often for my family.

Thank you so much Sarah for taking the time to answer my questions. 

What happens when you can’t tell the difference between desire, obsession, and reality? Thanks to her husband, Anna is about to find out.

Psychology professor Anna Kline and her architect husband, Sean, are a young couple in a fractured marriage, each struggling with their own misperceptions of reality. Sean seeks solace from his perfect wife in the cold intimacy of love and sex offered online, while Anna copes by offering her own oppressive version of devotion. Becoming an ever more tangible presence in their weakening marriage is the question of Anna’s mental state and whether she will follow the same path as her now institutionalized mother. When Bard, a student of Anna’s with a family history of schizophrenia, discovers Sean’s addiction, Bard’s admiration for Anna morphs into a delusion of special intimacy. Guilt-ridden with his own past failure to protect his older sister, Bard’s skewed mind begins to see Anna as another woman in need of rescue.  As Sean and Anna’s marriage becomes a battleground of manipulation, Bard privately crafts a strategy to save Anna from her husband, sending their three worlds spinning out of control with irrevocable and deadly consequences. A Flash of Red's driving plot and multi-faceted characters detail the destruction that ensues when mental illness attacks our most intimate relationships.

Publisher: Pandamoon Publishing ( 
Publication Date: December 8, 2016
eBook: ASIN: B01N5DR40X
Print Book: ISBN-13: 978-1-945502-14-9
Pages: 234

Bio: Sarah K. Stephens is a developmental psychologist and a senior lecturer at Penn State University. Although Fall and Spring find her in the classroom, she remains a writer year-round. Her short stories and essays have appeared in LitHub, National Book Critics Circle: Critical Mass, Five on the Fifth, The Indianola Review, and (parenthetical). Her debut novel, A Flash of Red, was released in December 2016 by Pandamoon Publishing.

My novel is currently available on Amazon and
Facebook Page: Sarah K. Stephens

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