Category: Interview

A Conversation with Taryn Leigh

Taryn Leigh is from South Africa and her debut novel Perfect Imperfections was released earlier this year. It took me a while, but I finally got to it and wished I had been able to read it sooner! It *might* make my top 10 of 2017! We still have about  1.5 months to go, but so far it is in that list!  My 5 star review for Perfect Imperfections is here.

Book Description from Amazon:
291 Pages
Publication Date: March 29, 2017

Sarah Lewis desires nothing more than to begin again after a failed marriage and a tragedy so terrifying, it forces her to leave her life in London to stay with her best friend a world apart in South Africa.

Despite immediate success in her business, she struggles to understand who she really is and where she belongs in the world. So begins a journey of discovery as Sarah re-unites with Katy in the land where she was born, where the air is lavender scented, and weekends are spent cycling on the beach.

Until the day when she has to return to London to face the ghosts of her past and confront a situation that has grown more complicated in her absence.

Perfect Imperfections is an intriguing tale which hints at wrongdoings and deceit without giving too much away. The author cleverly weaves a tale around fragile yet strong Sarah as she tries to reconcile her past with her future, engaging the reader to the point where we simply want the best for her and for happiness finally to come her way.

Buy Perfect Imperfections NOW!
Amazon US
Amazon UK


JRR (Jessica’s Reading Room) Tell us a little about yourself.

I am born and raised in South Africa and currently live here with my husband, son and two cocker spaniels named Rocky and Cuddles. My book has been published in the UK and the plot is based in London and Durban, South Africa. Durban is the city I grew up in where my love for books began. I spent my school days with my nose buried in books in the library being transported to the magical places the Author took me to.

JRR: Did you always want to be an author?

The dream started when I was in school. I then tried to start writing my own books, but they never seemed to be going where I wanted them to. So I put away the idea of writing. It was only while chatting to someone about my struggles, and telling her my love for reading and writing, that she suggested I try to write as a creative way of expressing myself. It was then that I began dreaming again of writing and Perfect Imperfections came to me.

JRR:  Yay for that encouragement! I enjoyed Perfect Imperfections.  What was your publication journey like?

It was a long process. I initially sent books to South African publishers. One of them came back suggesting I try to publish in the UK, as they weren’t publishing much debut Fiction novels here in South Africa. I sent my book to a few agents and publishers in the UK, and two came back offering to publish. Sending books to publishers can be nerve wrecking, and you need to wait for 6 weeks to hear back on their review of your first 3 chapters only.

JRR:  I bet that was nerve wracking.  You send someone your ‘book baby’ that you put all your heart and soul into.  Then comes the wondering “Will they like it or not?” You have to be a strong person who can handle rejection to be an author.  So what inspires you to write? 

Mainly places I visit and people I meet. I love hearing people’s stories, and going to beautiful places. I also love having meaningful conversations with people. It inspires me to write stories that can be relatable and memorable to whoever reads it.

JRR:  Where did you come up with the idea for Perfect Imperfections?

The story came to me as I fell asleep one evening. I like dreaming up scenarios as I sleep and this was one of them. I fell in love with the story instantly and wanted to get up immediately and try write it down.

Initially I had only 9 chapters, but the characters sort of wrote themselves into the 33 chapters that the book ended on.

JRR:  Going from nine chapters to 33!  Wow!  I can imagine that ‘book baby’ growing into what it is now.  Now, what made you choose the giraffe to have the importance that it does in the novel?  It became special to me and I mention that in my review.

When the story came to me, the giraffe was part of the story. I think the story and the giraffe chose me in a way, more than me deciding to incorporate it. Knowing that it means so much to you makes me feel that it was mean to be, and that there was a purpose for it!

JRR: The giraffe does have importance for me and that made Perfect Imperfections so special for me. I was wondering about the cover then I reached that part in the novel and I loved it!  How did you decide on the wrapping for the gift? It is so significant.

Ooh I love presents, and I am married to a man who loves giving them to me. I’ve always loved to make presents looks beautiful and I love receiving beautiful gifts. So as I wrote and realised that the gifts would play a huge role in the storyline, I made sure to make the wrapping just as special!

JRR:  Can you do my holiday wrapping for me?  LOL. I hate wrapping gifts.  How long did it take you to write Perfect Imperfections?

It took about a year. I wrote off and on when I had a chance, but the characters have stayed with me ever since.

JRR:  They are characters that will stay with you.  Who was the most influential author you read when you were growing up?  Did his/her writings influence you to want to become an author?

I loved Enid Blyton. Anything she wrote that I could get my hands on I did. Malory Towers and The Faraway Tree were my favourite reads of hers.

JRR:  Who is your favorite author as an adult? Who inspires you?

I’ve loved Emily Bronte, Karen Swan and Sidney Sheldon. Each have their own unique writing styles that make reading their books so inspirational in their own way.

JRR:  If you could have dinner with three people(living or dead) who would they be and why?

  1. I would love to have met Nelson Mandela, for his willingness to forgive.
  2. Enid Blyton, because she wrote around 762 books. She also wrote under the name Mary Pollock.
  3. Oprah Winfrey. She seems to have succeeded despite her circumstances and is a major success.

JRR:  Good choices!  And that is a lot of books to have written!  Which book have you always meant to get around to reading, but still not read?

Anything by Nicholas Sparks. His books sound good, but I’ve never read any.

JRR:  I have a couple of his that I have not read.  I have seen several of the movies.  Of course the one that sticks out for me is The Notebook.  Now, what’s the best advice you have ever received?

To “run my own race.” So not to worry about what the person next to me is doing in life, but rather to focus on my own goals.

JRR:  Great answer! You can’t compare your life to another’s as you never know what is going on in their life.  You may think someone has a perfect life from what they share when in actuality they are falling apart! 

Are you working on your next novel? If so, can you share anything with us?

I’m definitely working on my next one. Closer to it being published, I will definitely share it !

JRR: Such a tease! Thank you for your time with this interview Taryn. I look forward to seeing what your upcoming novel is about! 

Contact Taryn:

Facebook: tarynleighauthor
Twitter: tarynleighbook
Instagram: @tarynleighbooks

Blog Tour: The Stories She Tells


Today I am the stop on the blog tour for The Stories She Tells by LK Chapman! Today I am going to be having a conversation and learning some about her!

Book Description:

When Michael decides to track down ex-girlfriend Rae who disappeared ten years ago while pregnant with his baby, he knows it could change his life forever. His search for her takes unexpected turns as he unearths multiple changes of identity and a childhood she tried to pretend never happened, but nothing could prepare him for what awaits when he finally finds her.

Appearing to be happily married with a brand-new baby daughter, Rae is cagey about what happened to Michael’s child and starts to say alarming things- that her husband is trying to force her to give up her new baby for adoption, that he’s attempting to undermine the bond between her and her child, and deliberately making her doubt her own sanity.

As Michael is drawn in deeper to her disturbing claims he begins to doubt the truth of what she is saying. But is she really making it all up, or is there a shocking and heartbreaking secret at the root of the stories she tells?

Buy The Stories She Tells Now!
Amazon US
Amazon UK

 

JRR (Jessica’s Reading Room): How important are the names in your book? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you can recommend?

Sometimes as soon as I think of a character their name just arrives with them and fits them well, without me really knowing where it came from, other times it takes a bit longer. A name will usually pop into my head sooner or later, but if I get really stuck I use either a baby names book or website, or I look at historical baby names data if I need a name that sounds typical of a certain decade. You can download a spreadsheet of top 100 boys and girls names in England and Wales between 1904-1994 from the Office for National Statistics.

JRR: Are you a ‘plotter‘ or ‘pantser’?

I don’t really plan my books out at all, I let them evolve. Unfortunately, this means I end up pretty much rewriting the book a few times before I get the story how I want it which feels really labour intensive! I’m thinking I might try to plan out my next novel, but I have a feeling I’ll end up straying from the plan almost straight away that I start writing!

JRR: If I wrote books, I would most likely be a planner.  But sometimes the story can take a life of its own and deviate from the plan!  So as a writer you might have to adapt…. Do you prefer writing characters that are similar or very different to yourself?

I probably find it most fun to write a character that is different to me, because it gives me a sort of risk-free opportunity to be somebody else and do and say things I wouldn’t normally dare to! I have to be able to relate to or at least understand a character on some level though, otherwise I wouldn’t know where to start writing them!

JRR: Kind of like with actors and playing the villain- the villain is always more fun than the hero to play!  lol  Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them if they are particularly good or bad? How do you deal with the bad?

I do read my reviews and I really appreciate them, though I wouldn’t usually respond to them. I used to get very upset by bad reviews but now I’ve got better at brushing them off and not taking them to heart. When I read reviews, I look out for if there are any patterns of what people particularly do or don’t like and take this forward into writing my next book – I do see my books as a product and I always seek to improve what I’m offering to readers in terms of how a story is told. Sometimes reviews completely contradict each other though and something one person likes another hates, so I don’t think you can ever please everybody!

JRR: You can’t as everyone has different life experiences which affects how someone feels about a book. Myself, I love to see others opinions of books, especially when they are different from my thoughts!   Now, what is your least favorite part of the writing/publishing process?

I don’t like the way that it takes me so long to get my story to where I want it to be and that I have to do so much re-writing. I think I end up writing a book almost three times over before I even get to editing it, and it can start to feel a bit gruelling and demoralising. It’s a great feeling though when I finally get something down that I can say, “Yes, this is actually what I wanted to write!”

JRR: Then it becomes your ‘book baby’ and something to be very proud about!  What are your favorite and least favorite types of scenes to write?

That’s difficult to answer! I get absorbed in writing all different types of scenes, but I often feel great trepidation when I’m about to write a big emotional, powerful scene where there is a lot that needs to be said and done. Once I get started I’m usually OK and get into it quite quickly but it can feel very daunting.

JRR: What extreme sport would you love to do if you weren’t too scared?

I always think caving sounds really exciting and interesting – I enjoy visiting caves because it’s such an unusual, mysterious environment. Although there seems something romantic about going off and exploring cave systems I’m sure in reality I wouldn’t like it at all, I’d probably just get scared, cold, and grumpy!

JRR: I did some caving when I was a teenager in girl scouts! It was nothing too dangerous or that took a great deal of effort to do. One time my troop spent the night in a cave called The Lost Sea in Tennessee.  It was a great experience and I’d love to do it again sometime.

Thank you for your time with this interview LK!

About the Author:

Louise Katherine Chapman was born in Somerset, UK, in 1986. She studied psychology at the University of Southampton and has worked as a psychologist creating personality questionnaires for a consultancy company. She has also spent some time volunteering for mental health charity Mind.

Chapman loves to write because she loves learning about people and she loves stories. A major turning point in her life was the day she realised that no matter how strange, cruel or unfathomable the actions of other people can sometimes be, there is always a reason for it, some sequence of events to be unravelled. Since then she is always asking “why” and “what if” and she is fascinated by real life stories capturing the strength, peculiarities or extremes of human nature.

LK Chapman’s first novel, Networked, was a sci-fi thriller but now she’s turned her attention to writing psychological suspense. She lives in Hampshire with her husband and young family, and enjoys walks in the woods, video games, and spending time with family and friends.

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A Conversation with Wendy Brant

Courtesy of Wendy Brant

She has wanted to become an author since the fifth grade and finally has a published book with her debut YA novel Zenn Diagram, which is one of my top reads so far for the year. I had a fun interview with Wendy Brant and enjoyed getting to know her. My review for Zenn Diagram is here.

Buy Zenn Diagram Now!
Amazon US
Amazon UK

JRR (Jessica’s Reading Room): Tell us a little about yourself.

Well, I’ve lived in Illinois my whole life, in various northwest suburbs outside of Chicago. I was a pretty typical introverted book nerd as a kid, and then I somehow became a nerdy cheerleader with a bunch of extroverted friends in high school, so I’ve sort of surfed between the introverts and extroverts ever since (though the introverts are my true people). I’ve been married for 23 years and have two great teenage kids (one who is about to go off to college). I like candy, time by myself, glass bottles (especially ones with corks), street tacos, good indie rock/coffee house music. I don’t especially like rude people, any kind of olive (except in oil form), most jazz or country music, or (surprisingly) … COFFEE. The only way I can drink it is with a lot of chocolate, just like Eva.

JRR:  I’m an introvert myself. I think we would get along great!  Did you always want to become an author?

Pretty much. When I was in 5th grade, I entered and won the young authors contest at my school, and it gave me my first taste of writing success. From that point on, this has been my dream.

JRR: That’s great that you finally reached your dream with Zenn Diagram.  I really enjoyed reading it!  Now, what inspires you to write?

Great question. I really don’t know. I like making up stories. I like the creative process. I like to connect with people over shared experiences. Basically, it’s fun for me and that is my inspiration.

JRR:  What does your writing process consist of?  Do you research, do you handwrite or type, do you listen to music or prefer silence?

I generally don’t like doing a ton of research unless it is absolutely necessary – research is really my more my mom’s thing (she LOVES it!). I do what I need to do for the story, but major research (and then trying to figure out how to seamlessly tie it in) is a challenge for me. I write on a computer, though occasionally I’ve been known to scribble pages in a notebook if I’m in a pinch (always with a nice pen – I like good pens). I generally like it relatively quiet when I write because I get easily distracted, but I do often pick certain songs that go with my story and make a playlist to inspire me. (I just don’t listen to it while I’m writing.) I don’t currently write on any kind of schedule though that is my dream: to have a regular writing schedule.

JRR: What kind of advice can you give to aspiring authors?  I know the journey to become published and can be long and hard.  What made you go the ‘traditional route’ versus indie/self-publishing?

Twenty-five years ago, when I started writing and trying to get published, self-publishing is not what it is today. It really wasn’t even an option for me at that time. It has definitely come a long way, but I don’t have the platform or social media following or marketing chops to try to sell my book on my own. I knew I had to pursue a traditional path or my book would never find an audience. I always had confidence that someday I would be published. I practiced – a LOT – and kept doing research and never stopped believing it would happen. And here we are!

JRR: And yay for that! It was a long process, but you did it! Who was your favorite author as a child and now as an adult?

As a child I loved Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume. I read paranormal/fantasy books by Ruth Chew and suspense novels by Lois Duncan. I remember really liking the “Great Brain” series by John D. Fitzgerald.

As an adult, I enjoy reading YA authors like Suzanne Collins, John Green and Rainbow Rowell. I also like adult novelists like Liane Moriarty, Jojo Moyes and Elizabeth Berg.

JRR:  We have some similarities with the books we read.  Which book have you always meant to get around to reading, but still not read?

There are so many classics I have never read! Honestly, I’m not sure how I made it through all my years of school without reading The Grapes of Wrath or On the Road or any Jane Austen or Mark Twain. I’m actually not very well read by usual standards. There are just so many books!

JRR: I also have not read many classics other than what I had to read in school and college(which has been a long time).  Can you tell me what’s the best advice you have ever received?

Hmmmmm. Maybe “Life is hard, but we can do hard things”? My life has not been especially hard, but I like the idea that worthwhile things are not always easy, but they are not impossible.

Also, I don’t know if it’s advice, but it’s something to always remember these days, when people (especially people on the internet) can be so harsh and angry: “Just a reminder. There’s not two of you – Internet you and real you. There is just one real you. Which means if you’re not kind on the internet, you’re not kind.” –Glennon Doyle Melton

JRR:  I like that quote and that is true.  It’s something to remember.  Where did the idea for Zenn Diagram come from? 

I’m not 100% sure. With everything else I’ve written, I could tell you exactly where the idea was born. But with Zenn Diagram, I literally went to the park one day and brainstormed ideas, and one was: A girl who can see the future meets a boy who can’t escape the past. And that morphed into Zenn Diagram. I will say this: at the time that I started writing Zenn Diagram, my daughter was a freshman in high school and I watched kids her age struggle with allowing themselves to be vulnerable. God forbid teens show weakness, right? And I think that the idea of a girl who longs for connection, but is bombarded by peoples’ struggles came from that.

JRR:  I love that Math and Art is so prominent in Zenn Diagram. What made you chose those subjects or was it always going to be them based on the direction the story takes?

I’m not totally sure (I’m saying that a lot, aren’t I?). I know that STEM fields are still dominated by men, so I liked the idea of featuring a girl who is into math/science and a boy who is into art – seemed to be a refreshing change. I also liked the thought that Eva being a black & white, analytical person makes it even more difficult for her to deal with emotions and feelings all the time.

JRR:  I was never good at Math or Science. It seems many girls have problems with those subjects, so I agree that having Eva’s strengths in Math could help girls. Some girls who are good in those areas could ‘look up’ to Eva as well as they realize that it’s ok to be good at Science or Math after all.

I really liked Eva. She was a perfect protagonist for Zenn Diagram. Did you base her off anyone or is she several people combined? As for her ‘special gift’ (or is it a curse?) where did that idea come from?

While she is not based on my kids exactly, there is some of them in her. My kids are smart and interesting, but they haven’t always felt like they fit in in high school. I think that is normal. What’s baffling to me is that some of the more negative feedback I’ve gotten about the book is that there’s this whole “not like other girls” idea. That Eva thinks of herself as “different” and sort of judges other girls. And … that is true. She does feel different, and she doesn’t always understand her peers. While not ideal – it would be nice if everyone respected and understood each other – I think this is definitely real. Everyone feels different. Everyone occasionally makes themselves feel better or worse about it by comparing themselves to others. We are still works in progress. Eva feels different, feels excluded, and definitely judges others in her weak moments. But I think you’ll find by the end of the story, she learns that people are not always the stereotypes that they seem to be. (Also, she has a gift/curse that makes her LITERALLY different from other people. So the “not like other girls” thing … it’s kind of true for her.)

As for where that idea came from … again, I’m not 100% sure. As I mentioned above, I’ve watched how teenagers try to hide their secrets and insecurities from others. Adults do the same thing, but with teenagers it can feel like a matter of survival. I thought it would be fun to explore what would happen if they couldn’t hide.

JRR:  Same question about Zenn.  I loved him!  Was he based off anyone in particular or not? Or was he the ‘perfect guy’ for Eva that you just knew how his character should be?

No, he wasn’t based on anyone in particular. I just know that one of my pet peeves in love stories is when guys are TOO gushy about their feelings. I’m all for sharing and being open, but when a guy spouts these over-the-top romantic lines, I gag a little. So I wanted Zenn to play it a little more cool. Like, it’s obvious that he cares about Eva, but I didn’t want him to be the kind of guy who constantly tells her how beautiful she is, or get overly jealous or weird or stalkerish. I also loved the idea of a guy who has had a hard life, but isn’t overly bitter about it. A guy who puts his head down and works to try to do the right thing. What’s not sexy about that?

JRR:  I love their romance and the fact that it was not a love triangle. I am so glad you did not go that route! Although, there really wouldn’t have been room for a love triangle with the direction the novel went.  Did you know that Zenn Diagram was always going to go in the direction that it did, or did it take on a life of its own?

My stories always take on a life of their own a little bit, but I generally knew where it was heading. When I write, I sort of know the beginning and the end, and then the middle is just a fun, winding ride.

JRR:  The ending was perfect in my opinion although I still wanted more when it was over. Do you think you may continue Eva’s story or will Zenn Diagram be a standalone novel?

That’s probably more up to my publisher and “fans” than it is up to me. I wrote it as a stand alone novel, but I could see how it could be turned into a series, if there were interest.

JRR:  We will see what happens! Have you begun to think about your next novel?  Or are you just enjoying Zenn Diagram being out there for everyone to enjoy?

Yes! I actually have another completed YA novel that I wrote before Zenn Diagram that I would love to resurrect. It’s a dystopian story and whenever I tell people about it, they always get really excited. I feel like it might be able to find a place in the market, now. And I’m also working on a traditional contemporary YA story of a tech savvy girl and a tech challenged guy, both with some baggage, and how they get stranded together during an ice storm and have to learn to appreciate someone who sees the world differently.

JRR:  Dystopian novels are definitely popular now.  I look forward to your next novel whatever it may end up being, whether either novel that you just mentioned or something else entirely.

If you could have dinner with three people (living or dead) who would they be and why?

Patti Ford (she’s a blogger who I find absolutely hilarious), Glennon Doyle Melton (another blogger who inspires me daily), and maybe J.K. Rowling. Or Ellen DeGeneres. Or Barack and Michelle Obama. Too many choices!

My answer is not very deep, I know. But … it is what it is.

JRR: It doesn’t have to be deep. It’s your dinner and your selection of people (if you can narrow it down 😉 ) Do you have anything else you would like to share with us?

I just want to thank you everyone who has read Zenn Diagram. To those that like it: I’m so glad! That is definitely my goal. I hope I get the chance to write more for you!

**Thank you so much for your time with this interview Wendy!  It was a pleasure to read your book and to get to know you!

                                                                                        Courtesy of Wendy Brant

Wendy and her fellow debut KCP Loft authors having fun in LA! They look like such a fun bunch!  They are:
Lindsey Summers- Textrovert
Wendy- Zenn Diagram
Jeff Norton- Keeping the Beat
Kim Turrisi- Just a Normal Tuesday

What is STEM?

Contact Wendy:
Website
Facebook
Twitter @WendyJoBrant
Instagram  @wendyjobrant

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