Interviewed at This Writer’s Life

Feels like so much time has passed since doing this interview for This Writer’s Life. Let’s see, that was like…two months ago? Since then, my city’s had a lockdown that it’s now coming out of 🍞 we’ve had six birthdays in the family 🎂 I’ve hit two PBs in my fitness and weight training 💪 three of my author besties have each released a book 🏅🏅🏅 and some shamefully unfair laws have been changed as a result of #BLM efforts ❤️💛🖤 —what a time to be alive!

Anyway, enough rambling. You can check out the interview here:

Thank you so much, Susan Palmquist, for interviewing me. Visit This Writer’s Life for more author interviews, motivation, and Susan’s writerly musings.

Fresh Find: Faker by Sarah Smith — interview & free stories

Sarah Smith is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet online. I reckon I’ve seen her get everyone’s back, unabashedly vocal and supportive whenever some 280-character ridiculousness takes aim at someone she cares about.

We started chatting a couple years ago, first one one social platform, then another, then another. A few chunky emails later, this disembodied source of text shaped like a half-Filipina has become someone I’m proud to call a friend (even though we haven’t met IRL yet and I’m still not sure where society stands on people being “internet friends”).

Anyway, I’m double proud today, because Sarah’s hot new interracial office romance, Faker, is finally out. While I await my paperback copy arriving in the mail, I thought I’d tell you all about it—or better yet, ask Ms. Smith herself, to do the talking.

Interview with Sarah Smith, author of Faker

Headshot: Sarah Smith, author of Faker

JL: Your debut novel, Faker, has just hit the shelves. Tell us a bit about it. 

SARAH SMITH: Thank you so much for having me! Faker is a multi-cultural romcom about a half-Filipino woman fighting to establish herself in the power tool industry all the while trying to fight her attraction to a coworker. It’s a hate-to-love romance with loads of banter, steam, and slowburn. And a happily ever after, of course. 

JL: Before Faker, you released quite a few titles on your blog and on other platforms. Tell us a bit about them too!

SARAH: I started my romance short story and flashfic blog sarahwritessmut.wordpress.com while I was trying to break into publishing. The stories are steamy romances that explore all those fun romance tropes: office romance, forced proximity, age gap, opposites attract, FWB-to-love. Writing these stories was a fun way to build a readership while developing my writing skills. And it’s also important to me to maintain a platform where I can share my writing for free. Buying books can be expensive and I know not everyone can afford it. Writing a short story or series or flashfic and positing it to my blog periodically is a way I can get my writing to as many people as possible without cost being an issue.

The short stories and flashfic I write are always steamy, there is always an endearing and relatable main character, and there is always a sweet and super hot love interest. And of course, there is always a happy ending.

JL: What themes would you say all your stories have in common? What’s the philosophy that drives what you write?

SARAH: One theme I like to put into my writing is the main character finding strength within herself, in addition to finding love. I think a lot of times people put down romance because they think it’s very one dimensional or sexist, but all of the romance that I love to read–and write–is full of depth and compelling character development. It’s important to me that the main character has built the confidence to stand on her own by the end of the book; she chooses to be with love interest because he’s made himself worthy of her, he’s recognized her as an independent person, and he brings something extra to her life–he doesn’t complete her. Consent and prioritizing female pleasure are also themes I try to drive home.

The philosophy that drives me to write is just that it’s my passion. I like writing more than I like doing just about anything else in the world. I’ll write as long as I’m happy doing it.

JL: What qualities do you like in a love interest, and which of your characters do you reckon comes the closest?

SARAH: Oh good question! First of all, loyalty. A guy who is loyal to you, who will stand up for you when everyone else is against you, be supportive of you, and never question his feelings for you is the absolute hottest thing in the world. Yes, muscles and a sexy smile and all that are fun, but if you don’t have that emotional loyalty, it’s not going to work for me. Also, I adore love interests who are kind. It sounds so simple, but it’s SO DAMN HOT. Like, a guy making you tea in the morning or remembering your favorite condiment when ordering takeout, that stuff. It’s the little things, but they matter so much because they show thoughtfulness.

I have to admit that I wrote Tate, the love interest from Faker, with every intention of making him this fiercely loyal, protective, and kind love interest for the main character Emmie. I loaded up the book with instances of him doing sweet and kind gestures. A lot of them are quiet and unassuming (he’s not really a grand gesture kind of guy), but I hope it makes readers swoon. I don’t want to give anything away to people who haven’t read the book, but a lot of his gestures are food-related and that’s just downright swoonworthy to me!

https://www.instagram.com/p/ByuQLJnAgfY/

JL: What inspired the story in Faker? How did you go about researching some of Emmie’s experiences?

SARAH: A bunch of random stuff inspired Faker. I’m a hate-to-love romance super fan and was reading a ton of that genre at the time. I felt inspired to write my own take on that trope. Also, I worked at a power tool distributor for most of my twenties so it was easy to use that as a work setting. It was the least sexy place imaginable (gravel, dust, and cement everywhere…every male employee looked like my grandpa), but I thought it would be unique. I thought it would in a way serve as a fun juxtaposition to the steamy content. Like, “how can such a sexy romance spring from such an unsexy place? Well, read my book and I’ll show you how.” That sort of idea.

As far as Emmie’s experiences go, I took a lot of that from my own life. She’s half-Filipino and half-white, just like I am. She had moments where she struggled with finding her identity growing up, which I modeled after my own. There are a few hurtful memories from childhood that she talks about when she opens to up Tate, and a lot of that is based on what I went through as a kid. And there’s an instance of work place harassment too, and that was also something I took from my past work experiences as a woman in a male-dominated field.

JL: What did you do before choosing a career as an author? Have you ever had to “fake it” for work?

SARAH: Lots of random writing jobs! My longest job was that content writing job at the power tool distributor. Before that I worked in marketing and public relations, which I hated. I was a freelance copywriter for a while too. I also worked at a newspaper for a while. That also wasn’t my cup of tea.

I have absolutely had to “fake it” for work. You know when your boss asks you to take on extra work, and you have to just smile and nod okay? Or you have to work on a project with a coworker you don’t like? Or someone asks how your day is going and it’s a complete dumpster fire, but you can’t say that because professionalism, so you just say, “Oh you know, it’s going!” I have faked it through all of those scenarios and then some, as I’m sure everyone has!

https://www.instagram.com/p/B1zarhwA8WH

JL: What’s the best feedback you’ve had about your work, and what effect did it have on you?

SARAH: A few people have reached out to me after reading Faker to tell me how much it means to see the main character Emmie share their same racial background, and that they can relate to her experience growing up. Seeing minority main characters is a big deal when you’re a minority and you’ve spent your life reading books, but none of the characters look like you or grew up like you did. It means so much–like, so much that it’s hard to put into words right now–that people have told me they can see themselves in a character I’ve written. And it makes me want to keep writing characters that will make these readers feel seen and represented.

JL: Given what the world is like these days, has anything you’ve written given you pause? Why did you decide to write it anyway?

SARAH: A bit. I think when you’re writing minority characters, even from a minority POV, people can be really critical of how you represent that experience. Sometimes people don’t agree with the way you depict it or they think you could have done a better job of it. I’m Filipino and white, so I’m constantly second-guessing myself, always wondering if I’m being enough of both or too much of either. It can cause a lot of stress for me honestly.

But I’ve finally realized that my writing comes from my experience, and my experience–no matter what it is–is valid, just like everyone else’s. If people don’t like it or don’t enjoy reading about it, that’s okay. They don’t have to. But I decided a while ago that I’m going to write what’s true to me, and that’s the best I can do.

JL: Do you have any parting words for readers?

SARAH: Yes! If you feel so inclined, please read FakerIf free stories are more your thing, check out my blog sarahwritessmut.wordpress.com. Also, thank you! It means so much that anyone would even want to read my words!

Cover of Faker by Sarah Smith: Next to a yellow construction hat, a Filipina heroine sneaks a peek from under a blue blanket

Faker by Sarah Smith, published by Berkley, is available pretty much everywhere you can get a good book 🐛

You can also find this author at:

Fresh Find: Forgotten Storm by A.R. Vagnetti — interview & giveaway

My relationship with paranormal romance is long and strange. I think it’s because I liked it so much in my teens, that it feels like a chain that tethers me to a tumultuous time in my life.

Well, now in my late thirties, I’ve decided to just embrace it. And Forgotten Storm, by fellow Kyanite author A.R. Vagnetti, seems like the right place to start.

JL: Tell us a bit about yourself and your latest book, Forgotten Storm.

A.R. VAGNETTI: I’ve always been an avid reader, especially in the romance genre. As a teenager, I devoured second, sometimes third hand, Harlequin romances from my family, and then when I started buying my own, I graduated to romantic suspense, loving the intensity. Until I found my passion; paranormal romance. I wrote my first novel in my twenties. It was a romantic suspense. It was so horrible. LOL I threw it in the back of the closet and walked away from writing for a very long time.

It wasn’t until about 3 years ago; I picked up the proverbial pen and wrote Forgotten Storm. The first book in the Storm Series, Forgotten Storm, is about Nicole Giordano. A young woman who struggles to overcome an abusive past until the exotic man from her dreams appears on her doorstep and forces her to battle her fears, accept a destiny foretold in an ancient prophesy, and trust him with her heart, but facing her malevolent father isn’t Nicole’s greatest challenge; suppressing her dark desires for Logan could shatter her one chance with the vampire who claimed her soul.

JL: Where did the idea for the story come from? What elements did you draw from real life?

A.R.: I wanted to write a story that had all the elements of a paranormal romance, but I also needed it to convey a deeper meaning. How to let go of whatever crap life has thrown at you and take a risk; to trust.

Trust is something I’ve struggled to deal with since I was 12 years old because it was stolen from me. Forgotten Storm is about a courages woman who never gave up, continued to fight and deal with her issues in whatever way she could; combat, pain, coffee. LOL. But most importantly, Nicole learns to take the leap of faith and trust a vampire with her battered and bruised heart. I relate to Nicole, and I’ve always maintained she is me times 10. She’s everything I’ve been and hope to become.

JL: What were the easiest and the hardest parts about writing Forgotten Storm?

A.R.: I guess I would have to say the easiest parts were the times I was “in the zone” and the words just flowed like a waterfall. A whole day would pass before I would finally come up for air. Those were the times I enjoyed the most. The hardest parts, besides the dreaded marketing, were capturing Nicole’s most vulnerable moments. The way she uses sarcasm to keep people at arms length, the paralyzing fear of emotions, hers and others.

But I think the most difficult scenes were when she remembered her past. Those were powerful and heartbreaking. I remember at one point, tears streaming down my checks as my fingers flew across the keyboard. After, I was so drained, I just sat there in my office staring at nothing for long moments.

JL: They say one of the great things about fiction is that it gives us a safe space to figure out how we might deal with the things we encounter in everyday life. What are your thoughts on the role of romance fiction in this context?

A.R.: The great thing about romance fiction is in every book you get a little education on what not to do in a relationship. *smirk* You learn that communication is key and burying your head in the sand, overreacting, or jumping to conclusions only escalates the problem. I think most romance novels touch on these elements. Relationships would probably run a lot smoother if more men read romance. Hahaha

JL: Is there much similarity between what you like to read and what you like to write? What are some of your favourite books that have influenced your style?

A.R.: Oh absolutely! Paranormal Romance is my go-to genre to read. The very first one I read was “Dark Lover” by J.R. Ward. It was the first book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood Series and I fell in love with vampires. After that is was Kresley Cole’s Immortal’s After Dark Series. I must confess, I did read the Twilight books and there were numerous things I loved about them and several things I hated. (No fangs and sparkles to name a couple), and last, but certainly not least, since it’s one of my favorite non-vampire paranormal romances is Darynda Jones’ Charley Davidson Series. (Little secret, I’ve read the series twice.)

JL: Finally, what’s your all-time favourite love story, and why?

A.R.: Funnily enough, my favorite love story isn’t even a paranormal romance. LOL Hands down, it’s The Stark Trilogy by J. Kenner. The intense passion between Damian and Nikki captivates you from the very beginning. The personal demons they must overcome reminds me of Nicole and Logan in Forgotten Storm.

Green eyes look through a storm, while a woman faces it, holding a gun and katana, on the cover of "Forgotten Storm" by A.R. Vagnetti

Enter the giveaway!

Two lucky winners will receive an ebook copy of Forgotten Storm by A.R. Vagnetti in the It Starts With A Kiss giveaway, along with Feathers and Fae by Crystal L. Kirkham,  Skye McDonald’s Not Suitable For Work, more fresh romance reads, handcrafted goodies from local Australian artists like Renée Botman and More Sundays Please, plus a signed paperback copy of my latest book, It Starts With A Kiss.

Check out the giveaway post for details on how to enter. This is an international giveaway, closing 29th September 2019.

Fresh Find: Renée Botman

Just five minutes chatting with Renée Botman reveals so much about her passion for a salt-of-the-earth way of life. She’s a seamstress by day, florist by other times of day, a fresh-baked mum, and some WA country town’s future treasure.

Her handmade homewares are darling, Nanna-inspired pieces that have evolved a lot over the years. I’ve had the pleasure of smelling almost every ream of fabric that’s entered her workshop, and I must say, they smell so wholesome. In the short time we were desk buddies in a shared office space, I got to watch her agonise over choosing supplies and suppliers that live up to the quality promise of her brand. And I just had to share this with you.

Let’s take five minutes with Renée…

A Renée Botman market stall in Perth, Western Australia

JL: Tell me a bit about your background and career, leading up to you creating the RB label.

RENÉE BOTMAN: I studied Interactive Multimedia and Film & TV at uni and started my career as a graphic designer, which I loved for years. After a while though, I found I was no longer in love with the client work aspect of the job and it was time for a change. I’ve always loved sewing and textiles and being able to use my graphics skills to make my own patterns & products felt like the natural next step.

JL: What inspired you to create RB and what’s it been like getting established in Perth?

RENÉE: The short answer is, my Nanna. I started sewing by hand when I was about 4 years old, taught by my mum’s mum who was a seamstress all her working life. The first things I ever made were simple clothes for my mum’s Barbies that Nanna kept at her place, made out of colourful scraps of material from Nanna’s fabric stash.

The market scene in Perth is great for getting established as a small maker, I think. It can be trial and error to find out if your right demographic are attending the markets you’re working, but persistence pays off and once you find the groove, it can work wonders!

https://www.instagram.com/p/BodDNzLDjul

JL: What’s been the most challenging hurdle you’ve had to overcome in getting RB off the ground?

RENÉE: Making my products completely natural and biodegradable and using top quality fabrics is the cornerstone of the RB brand, and something I’m very passionate about. Finding haberdashery items such as threads, elastics and zips and even batting that are not at least partly synthetic has been a challenge and has meant ordering my most basic of supplies in from other countries at times. In the last 18 months, however, I have been pleasantly surprised to find the products I was buying from overseas, and even better options, become available through my local suppliers.

JL: How have your RB skills translated to the challenges of motherhood so far?

RENÉE: Well, being able to make matching things for myself and my daughter Imogen brings me no end of joy, so there’s that, ha ha, More seriously, though, being used to searching high and low for the right materials to make my products made finding sustainable alternatives to more modern, plastic and synthetic based baby products a breeze, meaning I could help make my mothering journey as sustainable as possible.

Also patience and perseverance. Whether I’m trying out a new market or prototyping a new product I often have to try more than once before it worked out or felt right. Motherhood and babies can be very similar, sometimes you’ve just got to keep plugging, or change your approach a couple of times before it feels right or it sticks!

https://www.instagram.com/p/BzPE59Cg9Lr

JL: What advice would you give to young creatives starting on the journey towards their dreams?

RENÉE: Stick with it! Especially the vision you have for your products or art. Let me give you an example…

Using all natural materials and top quality fabrics mean that my products often fall into a higher price bracket, and at times I’ve questioned if it was necessary for me to lower my prices to what they were expecting. Thing is, what they were expecting when I said “handmade”, it means “designed here in Perth and handmade by someone who is likely being exploited”, not “handmade by me right here in WA”.

And when I say that my fabrics are top quality and include linens and other quality fibres such as hemp and organic cotton, what I mean is that all my fabrics are fair trade or made in countries with fair work conditions. But this, again, isn’t necessarily what the customer is expecting.

So by refining how I package, advertise and talk about my brand and my products I can let my customers know that what they are buying is something unique, considered and made, in a sense, the old fashioned way, to last a lifetime! Now sure this won’t be for everyone, but it is for my demographic. I stuck with my vision, and refining my message and how I talk about my brand helps me find them and them find me!

JL: What’s your all-time favourite romance?

RENÉE: I’m going to be a sap here and say the relationship my husband Chris and I have is my favourite romance! He’s my best friend, we share the same sense of humour and the same whimsy about the world. It also helps that we’re both nature loving homebodies, so even a trip to our favourite park with a flask of tea can feel like an adventure.

Other than that, I’m a total sucker for a Rom Com, any of them, really, but if it’s British so much the better!

https://www.instagram.com/p/B2pny_4jFuS

Enter the giveaway!

Two lucky giveaway winners will receive a Renée Botman handmade cup cosy, designed, made and tested by Renée herself. They’ll also receive a pair of earrings by More Sundays Please, fresh romance reads sponsored by Kyanite PublishingSkye McDonald’s new book, plus a signed paperback copy of my latest romance, It Starts With A Kiss.

Check out the giveaway post for details on how to enter. This is an international giveaway. Entries close 29th September 2019.

Giveaway for "It Starts With A Kiss"

Fresh Find: Feathers and Fae by Crystal Kirkham — interview & giveaway

When I realised fellow Kyanite author Crystal L. Kirkham had a semi-romantic book coming out soon after this giveaway closes, I had to add it to the prize pack. Her book, Feathers and Fae, comes out 11th October and, knowing what the publisher looks for when signing authors, I’m looking forward to an exciting read.

Crystal did me the honour of an interview. Here’s a bit about her, her book, and what reading and writing look like for her today…

Author Crystal Kirkham, outdoors on a sunny day

JL: Tell us a bit about yourself.

CRYSTAL L. KIRKHAM: There isn’t too much to know about me. I’ve lived in western Canada my entire life and have travelled extensively throughout North America. I’m a big outdoors person, I love cooking (and eating!)—which are things that often show through in my writing. I also breed standard poodles and I compete with my dogs in show and obedience rings. Since I work full time on top of my hobbies and writing, I tend to be a little on the busy side.

JL: Tell us a bit about your upcoming book, Feathers and Fae. What inspired it?

CRYSTAL: Feathers and Fae was a story I didn’t know I was going to write. I have a whole blog post about this, but it started as a challenge. I was given three random, unrelated prompts 12 hrs before we had to start writing and I had to incorporate all three things into my story. After that, the story developed on its own with no idea what I was writing most of the time until it was written.

What I ended up writing was a story I didn’t know I needed to read. One that was not only a fantastic adventure through a beautiful world, but a story about loyalty, friendship, and sacrifice—and what that means to each of the characters involved.

JL: Tell us a bit about the friendship vs romantic chemistry between the main characters, Emmett and Kami.

CRYSTAL: These are two people who have a long, complicated history which really colours everything in their relationship—whether interpreted as friendship or romance. It’s hard to get in-depth on this topic without giving spoilers, but this is one of those things in that the chemistry between them sits at a very delicate balance throughout the entire book. Something that is only slowly revealed as you read.

This is also a relationship that I leave up to the interpretation of the reader for many reasons. One of the reasons is that not every intimate relationship is romantic in the traditional sense. So, I think it would be safe to say, that in this case there is no way to define the difference between romantic chemistry and friendship as I kept the lines intentionally blurry.

JL: Obviously, the friendship dynamic plays a big part in this story. How big a role do you feel friendships play in romantic relationships? (or any relationship for that matter)

CRYSTAL: For me, friendship is a huge part of almost any type of relationship. I think it’s important to not only love but to like the person you’re with because at the end of the day, sometimes what you need the most is a good friend who loves and respects you as much as you love and respect them.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BsTKo83D3nu

JL: You’ve been putting work out in the wild for a long time. What are your other books like? Are there certain themes or topics you particularly enjoy writing about?

CRYSTAL: My other work is generally darker than Feathers and Fae. In my Saints and Sinners series, none of the current or planned stories have a ‘happy ever after’ or even a ‘happy for now’ ending. While the endings aren’t tragedies, they do not always end happily for the characters involved. Hints of this style do come through on Feathers and Fae, but I tried to keep it a little lighter.

One thing that I do love exploring—whether friendship, love or reluctant allies—is the relationship dynamic between people. I love exploring the different ways that people can relate to each other. I also tend to explore the consequences of the decisions and choices that people make in their lives.

JL: Do you feel bound to any particular responsibilities as a writer in this age of chaotic media?

CRYSTAL: It’s a fine line to walk being a writer in modern times. As an author, I am officially a public figure. People can look me up, see the things that I’ve been saying—things for years ago can suddenly become an issue. I feel a strong responsibility to set a good example, not only of how to be professional but of how to be a decent and kind person.

I also feel as though I need to be accessible to my readers. I’m not the kind of person who wants to be put on a pedestal of any sort. I try really hard to be not only real with those that I have interactions with, but to be encouraging and supportive of others as well. Not sure I always get that right, but I try.

JL: What sort of stuff do you like to read?

CRYSTAL: My bookshelf is extremely eclectic. What I enjoy the most is a strong, character-driven plotline. I have a lot of contemporary and historical fiction that I absolutely adore. Science fiction has long been a favourite, but I am a little pickier about my fantasy. There are not many genres that I give an absolute hard pass on. Good writing, strong plot, great characters? Yeah, I’ll read that.

JL: What are you currently reading?

CRYSTAL: Next on my reading list is Forgotten Storm by A.R. Vagnetti. Followed by several advanced reading copies that I have to review. I seriously wish I had more time for reading than I do.

JL: Any parting words for readers?

CRYSTAL: I really do love connecting with readers, so don’t hesitate to say hello to me or ask me questions about my books through any of my social media accounts. I promise I don’t usually bite.

A woman peers out from behind a cracked blue screen on the cover of "Feathers and Fae" by Crystal L. Kirkham

Enter the giveaway!

Two lucky winners will receive an ebook copy of Feathers and Fae by Crystal L. Kirkham in the ISWAK giveaway, along with handcrafted goodies (like a pair of More Sundays Please earrings), Skye McDonald’s Not Suitable For Work, more fresh romance reads courtesy of Kyanite Publishing, plus a signed paperback copy of my latest book, It Starts With A Kiss.

Check out the giveaway post for details on how to enter. This is an international giveaway, closing 29th September 2019.

Fresh Find: More Sundays Please — handcrafted polymer clay jewellery

More Sundays Please is the brainchild of local Perth artist, Katie, someone whose creative journey I’ve had the good fortune of witnessing from the very start. She’s horse-mad, formidable at Kingdomino, has a magical womance her bestie of the same name, and always seems to have her hair on point.

And her quirky, colourful polymer clay earrings were a must-have for the giveaway prize bundle.

Want to know more about this jewellery-crafting diva? Read on…

JL: Tell me a bit about yourself and what led up to the creation of More Sundays Please.

KATIE: I’m a high school teacher, animal and nature lover who’s always had a passion for crafting. My best friend KP introduced me to polymerclay and after playing with it for a bit, I developed MSP.

JL: What inspired the name, “More Sundays Please”, and what inspires your designs?

KATIE: The name comes from just the way I always feel at the end of the weekend — more needed! My designs are inspired by loads of things, but primarily nature or great colour combos I might see on fabrics.

JL: What’s it been like starting and running a business alongside your best friend at Blue Pincushion?

KATIE: Blue Pincushion and I have been best friends for 11 years. We both love to do craft courses together and used to live together and have craftanoons.

When starting separate businesses, this was only due to us having different styles and ideas. But we always support each other’s ventures and also are having our first of many to come markets together this month. It’s really fun having your best friend be in the same business and we bounce ideas off each other all the time. KP is going so well with BPC and I’m really proud of her.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B10nQsEn0HC

JL: What advice would you give to young creatives starting on their journey to achieving their dreams?

KATIE: The advice I would give to young creatives is to just enjoy the play. That’s what I do it for. It’s not for money or notoriety. It’s for the relaxation and mindfulness behind the craft and the peace that gives you. So the number one thing is to enjoy what you are doing.

JL: What’s your all-time favourite romance? (Yeah, you can pick more than one!)

KATIE: Ooo my all time favourite romance would have to be The Notebook (I know, cliche!)  or Crazy Beautiful. But I also love the love between Izzy and Tom in The Light Between Oceans and also the boy and the horse in Black Stallion haha does that count !? Not technically classified as romance though.

(You know what? Black Stallion totally counts.)

Enter the giveaway!

Two lucky winners will receive a pair of earrings by More Sundays Please in the ISWAK giveaway, along with other handcrafted goodies, fresh romance reads including Skye McDonald’s Not Suitable For Work, plus a signed paperback copy of my latest book, It Starts With A Kiss.

Check out the giveaway post for details on how to enter.

Giveaway for "It Starts With A Kiss"

Hey, Perthlings…

Shoutout to my Perth peeps: More Sundays Please and Blue Pincushion will both be at the Perth Makers Market in Applecross on 22 Sep 2019.

Fresh Find: Not Suitable For Work by Skye McDonald — cover reveal, interview & giveaway

So, this Skye McDonald person—I’ve been following her on twitter for ages. When I found out we were releasing books within days of each other, and that her heroine is also named Celeste, I totally took it as a sign that she was a certifiably Cool Person™.

Hah, jokes, she was already cool when she tweeted about a Talisker single malt.

Her book, Not Suitable for Work, comes out 24th September. While we were chatting about giveaway particulars, she did me the honour of answering a couple of questions about her hot new web designer romance. Check it out…

JL: What inspired your latest book, Not Suitable for Work?

SKYE MCDONALD: First and mostly, Nashville inspired me! Growing up, Nashville was quiet. I longed to get away to a big city, and now that I have, Nashville has exploded into a hip, vibrant place to be. On top of that, I had a vision of an empty office with two desks facing each other and thought, who would be there and why? From there, Celeste and Ben became clear to me.

JL: How much of your own life did you draw upon for your Anti-Belle series?

SKYE: Oooh, tough question. When I read over the books, I see very clearly certain aspects of my personality that shine in my heroines. However, their journeys are very much their own. Some of my most fun side characters to write take inspiration from people I’ve known, and of course my hometown (Nashville) sits center-stage in the series. But the relationships and the romances are pure inspiration, and not at all based on my own love story/stories.

JL: Who would be your movie star picks to play Celeste and Ben?

SKYE: Haha, I don’t often model my characters on people, but if I got to choose I’d say Jennifer Lawrence and Channing Tatum. 

(Bloody good choices too!)

An illustrated cityscape on the cover of "Not Suitable For Work" by Skye McDonald

Not Suitable For Work (Anti-Belle, #1) by Skye McDonald

Available: September 24th 2019 
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

The competition is stiff. The stakes are high. And what happens on Halloween night is definitely not suitable for work.

Celeste Greene and Ben Addison didn’t realize the internship-to-hire opportunity was actually a contest, but neither of these talented web designers can afford to walk away. After betrayal destroyed her fabulous life in New York City, Celeste moved home to Nashville, Tennessee broke and broken. Restarting her career is her only goal. An ice queen who drove her partner to cheat can’t even think about friends or fun. Celeste’s talent and desperation should make the competition an easy win—if only she could stop gawking at her rival long enough to concentrate.

Ben Addison doesn’t want to be a corporate climber or live in a high-rise downtown. He just needs a steady paycheck after foolishly investing everything in a pretty face and a shot at a music career. He has no business fantasizing about his competitor, even if she is the most stunning—and guarded—woman he’s ever met. 

This contest can’t rival the chemistry between these two, but is the risk worth the reward? With a haunting past and her future on the line, Celeste must decide what she wants, what she needs, and what her heart is really worth.

About Skye McDonald

Author Skye McDonald says hello

Skye spent a lot of her adolescence dreaming about living in a hip, urban town full of adventures that occurred outside of the local mall. (Hers was Rivergate, in case you know Nashville well!) Now that she’s been living away from Nashville for years, the once sleepy Southern city has become just that place, and she returns to visit whenever she can. Her seven-novel-and-growing Anti-Belle series is centered in her hometown, partly as a homage and partly because these days Nashville is too hip to ignore.

In the real world, Skye is an English teacher in Brooklyn, New York, and has lived there long enough to consider herself a true New Yorker—even though she proudly cheers for the Tennessee Vols (her alma mater) and loves being a GRITS (Girl Raised in the South).

Skye’s philosophy is to live with your heart and mind open. She believes in the beauty of this world and seeks adventure and joy as a daily practice. If “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans,” as John Lennon said, then she’d rather leave the schedule open and let life happen.

Enter the giveaway!

Two lucky winners will receive a digital copy of Skye McDonald’s new book, Not Suitable For Work, in the ISWAK giveaway, along with a bundle of handcrafted goodies, more fresh romance reads and a signed paperback copy of It Starts With A Kiss.

Check out the giveaway post for details on how to enter.

Fresh Find: Interview with Sophia LeRoux — designer, author, Kyaniter

Sophia LeRoux is the maestro behind the book covers at Kyanite Publishing. She had me by the heart when she sent me the cover for It Starts With A Kiss. The colours and style totally capture the essence of the story—it’s in space, it’s dreamy, and it expresses the simplicity of a friendship as it blossoms into love.

Here’s a little interview, in case you’re as curious as I was about the creative behind the covers. Kyanite has just launched Sophia’s own Ashes of the Fae. You’ll find the link and another one of her stunning designs at the end of this post.

Sophia’s cover design for It Starts With A Kiss.

JL: Tell me a bit about the style you chose. What inspired you? What do you love about the approach you took?

SOPHIA LEROUX: What’s not to love? For starters I’m super partial to anything purple and cosmic, and the figures on the front, although kind of cheeseball, captures the subtle romance that I was going for. The cover really does set a great starting point and feel for the book.

Absolutely. You express the mood so fluently. What got you into design?

SOPHIA: My love for art in general. I’ve got a vivid imagination and art was the only outlet I had to really start getting it out there. I think my life would be slightly emptier without it.

You’ve designed heaps of covers for Kyanite already—which one is your favourite?

SOPHIA: That’s a hard one. Honestly, I couldn’t pick a favorite even if i tried because I love them all for different reasons. 

Good point! And I guess how we perceive a cover can totally change once we’ve read the story too. Where does your perspective come from? Any hobbies or interests that feed your creativity?

SOPHIA: Photography is a huge one. So is traveling. Drawing as well. Music, movies, and concept art are also huge driving forces for my creativity.

How about books—what do you like to read?

SOPHIA: Funny you ask, because I actually don’t read much. But when I do, it’s usually old books (early 1900s) or history books on things that are macabre, occult, or mythological. Oddly enough, the reason I don’t read much (at least of my own genre) is because I don’t want someone else influencing my voice or style.

Tell me a bit about your writing.

SOPHIA: Well, I’ve got tons of ideas, even a few under pen names that are a bit too raunchy or taboo even for me to put out there as me (LGBT or more demonic/cult-type stories). Typically though I write mythologically inspired dark romances with some thriller aspects thrown in. I love writing about love–and sex on a primal level–and enjoy bringing a whole new psychological feel to them that really makes your body ache.

I can totally see how the language in old books would lend to that too. So, what are you working on at the moment?

SOPHIA: Lately I’ve been working on some shorts under my pen name, but haven’t got a definitive timeline on them yet. Ashes of the Fae: Book One came out in June and was actually a re-release through Kyanite Publishing of the first book I ever published. Aside from Beyond the Spectra, also book one, anything else I’ve got lined up will be coming out next year and the years to follow.

Check out Sophia’s book, Ashes of the Fae.