Since we’re all busy this holiday season, I’m going to pair up the 3QQs with the six authors who are signing at Saturday’s Turn the Page Bookstore event from noon – 2 pm.
Susan Donovan is another seasoned Turn the Page signing vet, but this is her first return since spring 2011. Christi Barth is another TTP rookie who’s thrilled to be part of the Holiday In Boonsboro event. Let’s meet Susan first.
Susan Donovan studied journalism in college and worked as a newspaper reporter for years, always certain she would write her first book by the time she turned 40. Before she knew it, that deadlines was a year away so she figured she’d better get started. A year later she’d written nearly three books and had a book deal soon after that milestone.
1. You introduce readers to Bayberry Island in your novella “A Seaside Christmas” in the book Christmas on Main Street. What — besides a mermaid legend — are the other attributes of this small island?
Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard may be about regattas and cocktails, but nearby Bayberry Island is more the fishing-boat-and-cold-beer kind of crowd. The locals don’t fit the Yankee Puritan stereotype. Bayberry is home to a nudist colony, a weeklong festival that is known as the Mardi Gras of New England, and a history rich in eccentric souls who see the magic in everyday living. But when the book begins, Bayberry is at a crossroads: Will they agree to commercial development plans that would rescue their economy yet destroy much of what makes their island unique? I have to admit that while writing this book I was struck with a sad realization – Bayberry Island exists only in my imagination. I really wanted to vacation there.
2. Sea of Love is the first full-length book set on Bayberry Island. Could you tell us about the book? What do you find appealing about a “coming home” sort of story?
I am drawn to “coming home” stories because they explore the concepts of unresolved emotions, personal growth, and forgiveness. Fortunately, I’ve always found comic gold in those serious issues. When a character comes home after a long absence, they suddenly see their once-familiar world with the eyes of an “outsider.” When I send a hero or heroine home again, I make sure they have to summon the courage to clear the air with loved ones, seek a richer understanding of their own journey, and choose to move forward with love and forgiveness. In SEA OF LOVE, the heroine, Rowan Flynn, has spent her adulthood distancing herself from Bayberry Island, its fixation on the mermaid legend, and the Flynn clan, which she calls the “island’s first family of cray-cray.” When circumstances force Rowan to return and manage the family’s rundown Bed & Breakfast, she must face her demons before she can open herself to happiness again.
3. What’s your favorite part of the holiday season?
When my kids were little, I treasured all the little rituals that brought them joy, including tending to the Advent calendar every day, writing letters to Santa, leaving carrots for the reindeer on Christmas Eve, and watching NORAD’s real-time radar tracking of Santa moving through the sky. Seeing excitement and joy in their faces is still my favorite part of the holidays, even though my kids are now “adults” attending college. But no eggnog. Please, God, don’t make me drink eggnog.
4 . “A Seaside Christmas” and Sea of Love are your first stories in two years as your writing career was put on hold two years ago when you in your own words were ” bitch-slapped by a rare infection that should have killed you.” You’re blogging about the illness and the long, slow road of recovery on Unbalanced: Diary of a One-Legged Romance Writer. It’s a different kind of writing, but it’s compelling reading. How do you find the experience of blogging so honestly about yourself, your family and your new normal?
I had no choice but to write about my illness. In fact, as soon as my brain started to function again, I began writing journal entries, just for myself. I found that all the trauma and shock had clogged my psyche, much like a cork in a champagne bottle. I had to clear my mind of some of the pain before I could start to write the “funny, sexy contemporary romance” that had become my brand. So within eight months after my return home from the hospital, I had completed a 120-page proposal for a memoir. It sat in a file on my laptop. I shared it with a few people, but that was it. I never really tried to get it published.
But about a month ago, I realized that my healing process was stuck. I was still carrying around a lot of anger and shame about what had happened to me, though I desperately wanted to move on. So I decided to share my story on blogspot.com. I write two or three short essays a week. I find it ironic that the blog has attracted thousands of readers though I’ve never once promoted it. From the comments I’ve received on the blog and in private, I can see that my story resonates with a lot of people who are struggling with some kind of life challenge – physical, emotional, or mental. Hey, and since that’s every single one of us here on earth I can expect my readership to increase, right?
I still hope to publish a memoir one day. And, just for the record, “new normal” is one of the many disability-related expressions that makes me cringe. Yes, I ’ll be writing a blog entry about it.
Chrisit’s turn! Christi Barth is the current president of Maryland Romance Writers. After she earned a Masters in vocal performance and a career on the stage, her love of romance drew her to wedding planning. Ultimately she succumbed to her lifelong love of books and now writes contemporary romance.
1. You’ve been a real-life wedding planner. How did that translate to your Aisle Bound series? Did you find truth really can be stranger than anything you can imagine?
Except, in my experience, 90% of weddings are wonderful. They are a celebration of friends and family and enduring love. Most people do pull it together and behave like grown-ups. So I didn’t want to write a scathing tell-all. But a series that focused on the wedding industry, showcasing people who spend every day creating the perfect happily ever after? That felt like a good place to start. And maybe a few crazy hijinks did slip into my book. It is a comedy, after all! You’ll have to guess which ones are real and which ones are just figments of my imagination….. I like to say all names were changed to protect the happily married.
2. Can you describe — in three sentences — your path from aspiring to published author? And would you change anything?
Wasted too many years toying with a manuscript whenever the mood struck before getting the courage to just freaking finish it. Started writing as though contracted before I was, to treat it as a business. And now I’ve found my voice, I have an agent who believes in me, a wonderful editor, a great publisher, and I just finished my eleventh book.
3. What’s your favorite part of the holiday season?
The music. I spent years performing in Christmas choirs, and as a professional singer, in holiday shows. I love the magical way it infuses people with the spirit of the season.
Even if you can’t make it to the signing, you can take advantage of Turn the Page’s Virtual Signing feature by ordering a book and having your favorite author personalize it for you before the event is finished.