Author Priscille Sibley Says To Write Your Heart Out

You won’t be surprised to learn that I met Priscille Sibley on Backspace. You might be surprised to learn I read her novel when it had a different title and before Priscille had her current agent! How exciting it was for me to read it again in its final form.  Another exciting thing is to introduce to you THE PROMISE OF STARDUST, which has a male protagonist (OH NO) but is clearly being marketed as women’s fiction (TRUE)!  It’s was a real treat for me to ask Priscille questions about her novel and her process and to learn new things after knowing this author for so long. Priscille is also one of my Book Pregnant friends!

Please welcome Priscille Sibley to Women’s Fiction Writers!

Amy xo

Author Priscille Sibley Says To Write Your Heart Out

Amy: What is the most important part of THE PROMISE OF STARDUST to you, as its author. Having nothing to do with its plot, what is the book about? Maybe some would refer to that as its theme.

Priscille: Although my story deals heavily with reactions to grief, I believe that ultimately the novel is about hope and resilience. Here is a line from the book: “There is uncertainty in hope, but even with its tenuous nature, it summons our strength and pulls us through fear and grief – and even death.”

Amy: Your novel holds a moral dilemma threaded together, and torn apart, by a love story.  What was your favorite part of the novel to write? And I know that doesn’t mean it was the easiest.

Priscille: The backstory was more fun to write, lighter, essential to leaven the main story. About a quarter of the book’s chapters occur in the past. Elle is alive and healthy in those chapters, and Matt is much happier. After her accident, he is grieving. It was painful to climb into his head some days.

Amy: Can you tell us a little about your journey to publication, and perhaps the most surprising part of that journey?

Priscille: I am an unlikely writer. I didn’t study literature in school. (I have a BSN in nursing.) I was very fortunate that once I did start writing, I quickly discovered a number of online writer communities. I found a nurturing critique group. That said, I made plenty of blunders, too. After a couple of years, I realized my first manuscript contained fatal flaws. I put it away and started fresh with a new idea.  A year or so later I found a literary agent to represent me. Alas, manuscript number two didn’t sell. My first agent and I parted ways, while I was polishing my third manuscript. By the time I was ready to query The Promise of Stardust, I had a much better idea of what I personally needed from a literary agent. Fortunately, I was really blessed when my manuscript resonated with an agent who fit my new description. With her insights, I dug in and made more revisions. When she sent it out to publishers, it luckily found several interested editors and a home at William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins.

Amy: Do you have a favorite character in the book? Or is that like asking you to pick a favorite child?

Priscille: Having spent an entire book inside Matt’s head, he should be the one I favor right? I love him. I admire his devotion to Elle. He is flawed and I don’t think he completely sees himself or the situation clearly, but I like the way he loves her. I also love Linney and Elle. I even liked Adam (hush, don’t tell Matt.)

Amy: Even though your protagonist is Matt, who is clearly not a woman, you’ve mentioned that it’s thought of as women’s fiction.  What is your definition of women’s fiction and how do you feel about your novel being considered part of that genre?

Priscille: Clearly. Matt is a Matthew and not a Matilda. I chose to write the novel from his point of view somewhat reluctantly, but Elle, his wife, has suffered a horrible brain injury. She is in a persistent vegetative state. So to tell their story, I climbed into his head, determined to make him authentically male. By most definitions, women’s fiction is about a woman’s journey. More and more I realized the story was about Matt, even though his focus is very much on her. I think the main reasons people describe TPOS as WF is that Elle is pregnant. Babies are still women’s turf. Moreover, The Promise of Stardust is an emotional story. (I keep hearing reports about tissues, and I’m never quite sure how to respond to that.) Author Keith Cronin, who has been here at Women Fiction Writers, said something women’s fiction being about the emotions conveyed in the story. I truly wish I had the quote because I think he nailed the definition.

Amy: What is your best advice to aspiring authors of women’s fiction?

Priscille: Write your heart out. Really, put your heart in there. Take something that troubles you or resonates and turn it into something someone else can feel.

Amy, thank you so much for having me. I love this blog!

A few people always know what they want to do when they grow up. Priscille Sibley knew early on she would become a nurse. And a poet. Later, her love of words developed into a passion for storytelling.

Born and raised in Maine, Priscille has paddled down a few wild rivers, done a little rock climbing, and jumped out of airplanes. She currently lives in New Jersey where she works as a neonatal intensive care nurse and shares her life with her wonderful husband, three tall teenaged sons, and a mischievous Wheaten terrier.

Please visit Priscille’s website or follow her on Twitter @PriscilleSibley.

Read Big Girls Don’t Cry by Priscille on The Book Pregnant Blog.

Guest Post by Author Nancy DiMauro: What Is Women’s Fiction? I Know It When I See It!

Dear Friends,

After three days of watching CNN, I decided it was time to shut off the TV and move forward with things that are normal, while not forgetting about the things that aren’t.  It would have been easy to abandon the blog for a week, but then, when is the right time to keep going? The right time is now. I don’t stand on any soap boxes because that’s not what I’m here for, nor what I’m about, but when I saw authors tweeting and FBing blatant self-promotion over the weekend, I all but went bonkers.  

I’m done with bonkers. 

To each his or her own. 

And my own is now to move forward with a normal post on our normal blog in a normal way.  So please welcome Nancy DiMauro to Women’s Fiction Writers as she discusses, once again, the meaning of women’s fiction—as she sees it.

Amy xo

I Know It When I See It—or—What Is Women’s Fiction?

by Nancy DiMauro

paths less travelled coverMore women buy books than men. Publishers look for “Women’s Fiction.” So, what the heck is women’s fiction?

The phrase “I know it when I see it” is a colloquial expression by which a speaker attempts to categorize an observable fact or event, although the category is subjective or lacks clearly defined parameters. (Here’s the link.)

Yes, I know I’m not supposed to quote Wikipedia, but the definition’s perfect for my purposes. Justice Potter Stewart’s famous quote from Jacobellis v. Ohio (1964) was his response to the question: “what is hard-core pornography?”  Because the phrase “hard-core pornography” is difficult to define in a manner to include all possibilities, Justice Stewart refused to provide an objective test  but instead articulated a subjective one.

Women’s Fiction is an umbrella term that encompasses any fiction whose audience is primarily females over the age of 25. So, how do you know it when you see it?

To me, stories in almost any genre comprise women’s fiction. I think J.D. Robb’s In Death series as well as Patricia Cromwell’s Scarpetta series are “women’s fiction” even though they are thrillers.  I also see Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells and The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks as women’s fiction.  Chick lit was women’s fiction  although we’re supposed to forget about that label now. And don’t get me started on “Hen Lit” which was Chick Lit aimed at the over 50 crowd. Women and men write Women’s Fiction.

No wonder there’s no set definition in the publishing marketplace.

It’s the combination of strong female characters and stories that focus on the issues we wrestle with every day that makes Women’s Fiction. I want to identify with the protagonist’s character development arc; the story of who she was when the adventure started and who she becomes as a result. It may be, and often is, that the character development is the B or secondary plot, but it’s there.  Eve Dallas from the In Death series has changed dramatically. She’s become more as she has accepted the joys and hardships that come with being a woman, and having gal pals.

Think about it: Conan the Barbarian and James Bond don’t change.

I started writing fantasy because most fantasy protagonists are alpha males like Conan. Women were fought over, and protected. Sure there were a few exceptions.  And I wanted a main character I could identify with. Women role models in fantasy were few and far between.

So, I write stories about strange universes and kick-butt main characters. My fantasy protagonists find the idea of a metal bikini instead of plate armor ridiculous. After all, what warrior would go to battle so ill protected?  They are guardians, spies and psychic detectives.  They are women.  And to me, I write women’s fiction.

WEB_N Greene-1Nancy’s novel, Paths Less Traveled: Strange universes. Kick-butt heroines. Available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Musa Publishing.

You can find Nancy at her blog, web site, Facebook and Twitter.

Guest Post: Author Rita Plush Shares Her Twelve-Year Journey To Publication

Rita Plush is here with us on Women’s Fiction Writers today to share her story of writing, querying, and publication. You’re sure to be inspired by Rita and her determination to see LILY STEPS OUT in print. I know I am!

Please welcome Rita to Women’s Fiction Writers!

Amy xo

Lily Steps Out…Finally: My Journey To Publication

By Rita Plush

ImageBack in the 70’s and early 80’s, with college-aged children of my own, I was a student, plugging away over an eleven-year period to earn degrees in English Literature and Creative Writing. But it was only when I tried to get my first novel published, that I came to understand the true meaning of commitment and patience.

Originating as a short story, “Lily Steps Out,” is a middle-age coming-of-age novel about a married woman who ‘steps out’ of her domestic life into the business world after her husband retires. This is an interesting couple, I thought, and continued writing about them.

I brought my efforts to my writers’ group and listened to their input and critiques. I worked on the characters, dialogue and plot line. After a time, the pages became chapters. Eventually, I had the first draft of a book which I painstakingly edited and brought back to my group. More recommendations, more character development, till the moment came—five years from that first chapter—when I decided this is a book, and tried to find an agent.

The dozens query letters I sent out brought in almost as many rejections—some agents didn’t respond at all—and I began to realize that finding an agent might take almost as much time and effort as writing the book itself. I labored on, and then months later, voila!  An agent who liked what she saw—characters alive and vivid with real lives and real problems. Bidding wars and movie deals danced in my head, but alas, though publishers thought the writing “energetic and entertaining” and “were drawn to the characters,” they didn’t take my book.

My book. My book was about a woman with spirit and drive, a homemaker who’d spent her life caring for her family and then wanted more out of life than making beds and cooking dinners. Did Lily sit back because things didn’t go her way, or did she risk everything she had to get the life she wanted? And so I took a lesson from Lily. If my agent couldn’t find me a publisher, I’d find one on my own, and offered Lily to the handful of publishers who accepted non-agented fiction.

To my disappointment, my efforts fared no better than those of my agent, and something began to nag at me. Was I objective about the book? Or had I developed such a crush on Lily and my other characters that I couldn’t see what was right about them and what was not? Maybe I needed some of that proverbial space between me and them, and so I set the book aside and began another novel.

Years passed. Self-publishing had become the route for many authors who couldn’t otherwise get their books into print. Lily called to me.

But first, I dug deep, looking for the gold in Lily Gold. I tightened the prose, eliminated every non-essential scene and bit of dialogue that didn’t reveal a character’s personality or move the story forward, updating the social references along the way. I hired a professional editor to proof-read and fine-tune the whole business, and signed up a graphic artist to design the cover.

I was so close to self-publishing, I’d already chosen the company and sent them the cover on approval. Then one day I slipped my hand into a coat pocket and out came a scrap of paper with Penumbra Publishing written in my own handwriting. What’s this? I said to myself.

This, it turned out, was my prayed-for-dreamed-of-I-don’t-pay-to-get-published-publisher, who found my novel, “…engaging, with unique characters that gave the tale a certain refreshing charm.”

The rest, as they say is history, Lily’s history, and the twelve years from start to finish, when I began the book to the day it was accepted. Was it worth all the time and effort? Yes indeed! Keep at it, don’t give up.

Image 1Rita Plush is an author, teacher, interior designer, and Coordinator of the Interior Design & Decorating Certificate at Queensborough Community College; there she teaches several courses in the program. Rita has also lectured on the decorative arts at libraries throughout Long Island, and at Hofstra University and CW Post-Hutton House.

Her writing practice includes fiction and non-fiction and her stories and essays have appeared in many literary journals including The Alaska Quarterly Review, The Iconoclast, The MacGuffin, Passager, and most recently http://www.persimmontree.org.  “Lily Steps Out” is her first novel (Penumbra Publishing, May 2012), and she is at work on a second novel that follows some of the characters in “Lily.” She is also putting the finishing touches on a collection of short stories called “Step into My Heart, the Door is Round and Wide.” Rita is a member of LIAG, Long Island Authors’ Group.

Newsday’s Act II, July 19, 2012, featured Rita as “published and proud,and Times Ledger—August 23-29—headed their feature, “Rita Steps Out.”

  “Lily Steps Out” is available through www.amazon.comin both ebook and trade paperback, and from www.barnesandnoble.com in ebook format.

Visit her website www.ritaplush.com for more information about Rita and Lily.

Seré Prince Halverson Talks About Book Clubs, Book Covers, And Books That Make Her Feel Less Alone

I met Seré Prince Halverson almost a year ago because we are both members of the debut authors group, Book Pregnant.  Right away Seré captured my attention with her kindness and charm, and that was even before I knew much about her book, THE UNDERSIDE OF JOY.  

Today marks the paperback launch of “Joy.”  Same book, new cover, and hopefully many new, enthusiastic readers.  

When you’re finished reading the interview and getting to know Seré, treat yourself to excerpt of THE UNDERSIDE OF JOY (published by Dutton) by clicking here

But first, welcome Seré to Women’s Fiction Writers!

Amy xo

Seré Prince Halverson Talks About Book Clubs, Book Covers, And Books That Make Her Feel Less Alone

Amy: Seré, congratulations! Today is the paperback release of THE UNDERSIDE OF JOY!  What’s it like to be re-introducing your book to new readers?

Seré: Thank you, Amy! It feels different than when the hardcover came out because it’s not quite such a huge unknown. I’m excited, but I’m happy to say that I’m also sleeping at night, which was something I could not say when the hardcover came out. I had serious Debut Author Insomnia.

I’ve discovered that I really enjoy talking to book clubs and have been blown away by their insightful discussions. A lot of those I’ve visited have had a picnic theme to tie in with the Life’s a Picnic store in the book. So, to celebrate the paperback release, I’m having a Win a Picnic Basket for your Book Club drawing. I thought it would be fun to deliver Sonoma County goodies and wine right to their doorstep! And planning a picnic is much more pleasant than Debut Author Insomnia. Details are here.

Amy: Without giving anything away, can you tell us a little bit about the story and how you came up with the idea?

Seré: A woman walks into a market…That woman was me. I walked out with a bag of groceries, and a vision of an Italian American family. That vision collided with some other visions I’d been having of a young woman, curled up in bed in despair. She had once everything she ever wanted and now had lost it all. But I didn’t know her story yet. And those visions collided with my fear of sleeper waves, my love for Sonoma County, my contemplations of mother/stepmother relationships and how harshly society judges mothers who leave their children, without knowing the circumstances behind that decision. (Yes, it was a rather big collision of visions.)

Amy: Oftentimes paperback editions have a brand new book cover — and that’s the case for TUOJ.  How was the process of having a new “look” for your book?

Seré: First, let me say that I was very attached to the first cover. I loved the beautiful simplicity of it. My paperback publisher, Plume, always creates a new cover, but I was a bit skeptical. Until I laid eyes on it. Very different from the first, but I fell in love all over again, this time with the vertical treatment of the horizontal photograph, the water reflection, the little girl—together, they capture important elements of the story.

Amy: Do you have something you’d like readers to take away from your book? 

Seré: My favorite books pull me in and make me feel like I’ve walked in someone else’s shoes, whether they’re Birkenstocks or Manolo Blahniks or old holey Keds with a flappy right sole. The best books also make me feel less alone–even if the characters’ lives are completely different from mine. And I love books that challenge and move me. Those are the kinds of things I hope readers feel when they read The Underside of Joy.

Amy: What is your definition of women’s fiction?

Seré: Such a hot topic these days. Definitions are sometimes necessary, especially for marketing, but they’re also limiting. I like to think the definitions are evolving. The Underside of Joy is a story about motherhood but also about family, war, food, love, death, grief, joy, resilience—lots of things that involve women and men. The book had a pink flower on the cover and now the paperback has a little girl on the beach—clearly marketed as women’s fiction, right? Right. And yet, I’ve received such thoughtful e-mails from a number of male readers, ranging in ages from 25 to 89.

So I’m going to say I see women’s fiction as an extremely broad category of fiction, which is marketed toward women but can usually be read and enjoyed by both women and men. (Men who aren’t scared off by feminine-looking covers, that is.)

Amy: What’s your best advice for aspiring authors of women’s fiction?

Seré: My advice for aspiring authors of women’s fiction is the same as my advice for aspiring authors of any fiction, in fact it’s the same for aspiring anyones—anyone who is working at something they’re passionate about. Writers love this one because we need it in the face of all that rejection: It’s the Winston Churchill quote—a favorite of my dear friend and writing sister, Elle Newmark: “Never, never, never, never give up.” Just don’t. Keep going. That doesn’t mean you can’t break away for periods of time if you need to, but keep rolling your work-in-progress around in your head, and always come back to it.

It took me hundreds of rejections and three completed novels before The Underside of Joy was published. Even if it hadn’t been published, I wouldn’t regret the years I’ve spent writing and learning my craft. Passion is a good thing. Elle also said, “Passion is our consolation for mortality.” She died last year, after a life of writing and living passionately—a life very well-lived. I learned a lot from her and am learning from her still.

Thanks so much for these great questions, Amy! I’m looking so forward to reading The Glass Wives!

Oh, thank you, Seré, all of that means so much to me!

Seré Prince Halverson worked as a freelance copywriter and creative director for twenty years while she wrote fiction. She and her husband live in Northern California and have four (almost) grown children. The Underside of Joy is her debut novel. Published by Dutton in January 2012, it will be translated into 18 languages.

You can find Seré on her website, blog, and on Facebook.

Don’t forget to read the excerpt of THE UNDERSIDE OF JOY by clicking here

A Book Cover Is Worth A Thousand Words…And A Sneak Peek Inside!

Okay, it’s more like this cover is worth 84,000 words.

My words.

I’m beyond thrilled to officially share the cover for The Glass Wives. Can’t wait to hold this baby in my hands. Okay, yes, I did print a copy and wrap it around another book, you know, just for kicks, but you know what I mean.

Big hugs and thanks to an amazing cover designer and my editor Brenda Copeland, and the team at St. Martin’s, who have always had the perfect vision for The Glass Wives.

And this is proof.

Take a look. Don’t you just want to reach out and sip from one of those cups? What does this cover say to you?

To me it says: OHMYGODI’MGOINGTOBEAPUBLISHEDAUTHOR!

And a special thank you to Randy Susan Meyers, a wonderful author and mentor, for her kind words which my publisher deemed just right for the front cover. It feels like a hug from a friend to see her name there with mine!

I hope you like it as much as I do!

Amy xo

And there’s more!!

Wouldn’t you know it? Just as I was wrapping up my Debutante Ball post for today, I received an email from my editor with sample pages of my book. And she said I could share them here with you! Truly? This is like Christmas! Or it would be if I celebrated Christmas.

If you click below, you can get a sneak peek of the INSIDE of THE GLASS WIVES! I love the fonts, the design. Heck, I love the page numbers. It’s not the final-final-final version, which means if you catch a mistake, it won’t be there in May. It also means you get to read the first three pages!

The Glass Wives-1  <— click here

Can’t wait to hear what you think!

Amy xo

Author Katherine Scott Crawford Says “Women’s Fiction Is, Simply, Darn Good Fiction”

Dear WFW Friends,

I’ve interviewed quite a few Bell Bridge Books authors and it’s always a treat!

Katherine Scott Crawford’s historical novel, KEOWEE VALLEY, is steeped in Katherine’s personal history. She took a setting, an idea, a notion, a feeling, a passion — mixed it with research — and wrote a novel. What a wonderful reminder that everything around us can be fodder for our stories, if we remember to pay attention (and take notes)!

Please welcome Katherine Scott Crawford to Women’s Fiction Writers.

Amy xo

Author Katherine Scott Crawford Says “Women’s Fiction Is, Simply, Darn Good Fiction”

Amy: Congratulations on the publication of Keowee Valley! Your website says your novel is an historical adventure and romance set in the Revolutionary-era Carolinas and in the Cherokee country. Can you tell us how you got the idea for your story?

Katherine: Thank you, Amy. And thanks so much for having me–I’m delighted to be here!

The idea behind Keowee Valley had been percolating in my mind for years, but it really began when I was a kid. I grew up in the South Carolina Upcountry, and I’m lucky that my parents have a lake house in the South Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains. The lake sits right at the foot of those mountains, in the middle of the countryside, and it’s bordered by national forest. It’s a gorgeous place, my favorite in the world. All throughout my childhood and into my teens (I went to college nearby) we explored the whole area, camping, hiking, river paddling. It was heaven.

In the S.C. Blue Ridge (all all across the Southern Appalachians, really), every mountaintop, creek or river, just about every road—really any pretty spot—has a Cherokee Indian name. So as a kid I became obsessed with Cherokee history. I couldn’t believe that an entire people had lived in this place I loved, and were gone.

Well, there’s this spot near my parents’ lake house. It’s really just a pasture (usually filled with cows), and at the crest of the pasture near the tree line, there’s an old stone chimney. The house must’ve burned down around it years ago. Whenever I’d pass that spot, I couldn’t shake the image of a woman standing there. She had long hair, wore an 18th century dress—and it seemed like she belonged, but didn’t at the same time. I just couldn’t shake that dream woman. I felt like she loved the land as much as I did. I had to write about her.

Amy: Will you tell us about your journey to publication? It can be such a long and winding road for some! Was it like that for you?

Katherine: Absolutely! People have been asking me this a lot lately, and every time I say it I shake my head in wonder: From starting to write the novel until the day my publisher made an offer, the whole thing took about six years. Add another year plus if you consider the time from the day of the offer until it was released! So it was definitely a long and winding road, and there were times when I thought I’d have to scrap the whole thing, that no one would ever read what I’d written. Thank goodness, that didn’t happen.

I went about the publication process in the traditional way: wrote my novel first (took me about two years, total, to research and write it), then queried literary agents. I queried LOTS of agents—around 200—and still have all the rejection letters. But I was lucky: after about three months of querying, I ended up with four offers of representation. I did some research, then went with my gut and chose one.

Because the agent thing happened so fast, I thought, “Man, I’m on a roll! My novel will sell quickly.” Ha. It took my agent three years to find a publisher. He’s a pretty reputable guy, has been in the business a long time, so I trusted his process. We started with the “Big 6” publishers, and actually got pretty far into the process with one of them, but it fell through. I was devastated, of course. All of them seemed confounded by the genre-bending Keowee Valley does: it’s certainly got romantic elements, but it isn’t totally a romance, and it’s a Cherokee-Indian-frontier-story of the Revolution, sometimes literary, sometimes commercial. Several editors said they just didn’t know where Barnes and Noble would put it on the shelves. One even said, “If she writes about the queens of Europe, let us know!”

I suggested to my agent that we seek out smaller publishers, and I knew about the one that would eventually be mine (Bell Bridge Books) because Deborah Smith—the VP—is one of my favorite Southern authors. So my agent submitted, and they bit. And they’ve been wonderful to work with.

Amy: I always assume the writers of historical fiction are plotters — do you fall into that category or do you do any writing by the seat of your pants?

Katherine: How I wish I was a plotter! I am so envious of those writers who can map out a novel and then make it happen. I think it’s a special talent, but it’s one I don’t have. I’m definitely a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants type of person, in life and in my writing. Usually my stories begin with an image or a scene—something I dream up or just see in my mind, usually when I’m traveling—and then I go from there. My research and the story itself seem to build organically around each other. Though I am a history nut, so I guess I do already have a store of knowledge about certain periods, and that definitely helps.

With Keowee Valley, it all started with that dream woman who eventually became my protagonist, Quinn. I knew I wanted to write about the 18th century in the South Carolina backcountry, because it was a wild and dangerous place, and the Cherokee were at their most powerful. I thought, why not take Quinn from a sheltered life and drop her into all that danger and mystery, and see who she meets?

But I’d still love to be able to plot. It’s something with which I really struggle. But I couldn’t do it in 9th grade English class, and I can’t seem to do it now.

Amy: Are you working on something new? Can you share anything about it?

Katherine: Well, I have big plans for a sequel to Keowee Valley. When I wrote it, I actually dreamed the story in a series of three novels, culminating with the American Revolution. And I still plan to do this. But because there was such a long stretch of time between when I began writing Keowee Valley and when it was actually published—and I thought no one would ever read it—I began work on something new.

It’s another historical novel, set in Charleston, South Carolina, in the year leading up to the Civil War. And it’s based on the descendants of Quinn and Jack, my heroine and hero from Keowee Valley—really, on their great granddaughter. She’s a lot like Quinn: independent, smart, stubborn, adventurous. And she lives in a gilded world she’s always questioned—a world that’s literally about to explode with the opening shots of the Civil War.

Amy: What is your definition of women’s fiction?

Katherine: That’s a tough question, because I’ve always found “definitions” in general to be sticky and often limiting. And, like a lot of women writers, I get frustrated by the publishing industry’s definitions of what we write—or can write. But I think, maybe, that women’s fiction is fiction centered on women: on our lives, our wants, our many paths, our dreams. And, since as my husband says, “Women are the center of everything,” those paths inevitably spider out, touching everyone.

I read stories with male protagonists all the time, but no one’s calling them “men’s fiction.” (The history dork in me could hop up on my soapbox right now, get rolling on history and politics and gender roles and all that good stuff. But I won’t do that to your readers!) I will say, though, that I think the times are changing, and readers are changing along with them. And don’t we all want a rousing story, something that transports us, that moves us, that stays with us? With a character at the center of it all who we can love?

One of my husband’s friends, who happens to be a man, told me he’s reading a chapter of Keowee Valley every night in the bathtub. I think this is hilarious and wonderful. So, I guess, to me, women’s fiction is, simply, darn good fiction.

Amy: Can you share with us your best advice for aspiring authors of women’s fiction?

Katherine: I know it’s been said a thousand times, but PERSISTANCE. Unwavering persistence toward your goal of writing is imperative. There’s no way it’ll happen otherwise. And maybe persistence partnered with patience (that and humility). It’s okay if it takes you a decade, if you’re sidetracked by work, school, kids, grandkids, illness, change—all the tough and wonderful things that make a great life. Just keep at it. These are the things I continue to tell myself.

Oh, and find yourself a partner-in-crime. Someone—a buddy or a lover—who believes in you and what you’re doing. Who won’t let you back down, no matter what. Those folks are priceless.

Katherine Scott Crawford was born and raised in the blue hills of the South Carolina Upcountry, the history and setting of which inspired Keowee Valley. Winner of a North Carolina Arts Award, she is a former newspaper reporter and outdoor educator, a college English teacher, and an avid hiker. She lives with her family in the mountains of Western North Carolina, where she tries to resist the siren call of her passport as she works on her next novel. Visit her website at www.katherinescottcrawford.com for more information, or to connect with her via Facebook and at her blog, The Writing Scott.

Author Sharla Lovelace Rides The Fence Between Romance And Women’s Fiction

Dear WFW friends,

It’s both tragedy and joy that bring people together. A week ago we were all waiting to see what Hurricane Sandy would do to the East Coast. Beaches, homes, businesses, and lives have been ravaged. Then, and even now, we’re focusing much needed time and attention where it should be. On the victims. 

But for some, things are getting back to a new normal. And that includes the world of publishing.  And celebrating with a friend, or discovering a new author, doesn’t mean we are not fully aware of what’s going on on Staten Island, Long Island, and Lower Manhattan, not to mention parts of New Jersey and the Jersey Shore. It doesn’t mean we won’t do our part or that we don’t know what’s important. 

The truth is, many things are important. So, if you are fortunate enough to have power and heat and your life on-track, celebrate with us here for a little while today. It’s the joyful book birthday for Sharla Lovelace’s second novel, BEFORE AND EVER SINCE!

Sharla and I have internet trails that criss-cross around cyberspace. It’s these kinds of online connections that make me forget — I’ve never actually MET this person. And haven’t we come a long way that it’s not embarrassing to admit that? 

Please welcome Sharla to Women’s Fiction Writers!

Amy xo

Author Sharla Lovelace Rides The Fence Between Romance And Women’s Fiction

Amy: Congratulations on the publication of your second novel, Sharla! Can you tell us how launching BEFORE AND EVER SINCE differed from launching your THE REASON IS YOU?

Sharla: Well, really, the biggest differences were in time and promo. First one, I wasn’t writing anything else when it came out, so I sat all happy in my published glow, and watched the little birds fly around my head. :) I didn’t know much about promoting, so I wasn’t doing all that I should have been doing. Now, as my second book comes out, I’m promoting it, my first, my novella, doing launch parties and all-weekend events, all while trying to keep writing on my new series and another book idea my agent came up with. Which, while that is all insane, it’s necessary to succeed as a new author. So, maybe there won’t be birds, but hopefully there will be sales. LOL.

Amy: If you could launch your first book all over again, is there anything you’d do differently?

Sharla: Everything I just mentioned above. :)

Amy: We’re both members (and on the board) of the RWA-WF Chapter. Tell us what women’s fiction means to you — and how that might differ from romance in your opinion. Where do your books fall? Under one category or both? (I think that’s possible, and I bet you do too!)

Sharla: Most definitely! In my opinion, there are many different levels of women’s fiction. There’s what I call “purist” which is strictly and only about the woman’s journey, no romance or even a hint of it involved. Then there are the “hybrids”. *laughing* I write Romantic Women’s Fiction, which borders on Contemporary Romance at times. I ride the fence. Because I love romance and tension and chemistry in a story, my stories always have them, but the difference is that the plot isn’t about the relationship. It may be about family, or issues, or something going on that the main character has to face and deal with, while this chemistry is pulling at her from the side. It’s a big part of the story, but not the central plot. I do have HEA’s though, so when push comes to shove, I qualify for romance too. Some stores put me in Mainstream, some in Romance. Which isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Amy: Amidst all the changes in publishing, how do you keep a positive attitude? So many people get discouraged!

Sharla: I just keep plugging along. I’m a believer that rejections make you stronger and make you do better work. The publishing industry may have to be really really choosy right now in what they can afford to take on, and that just makes me want to write better so they will.

Amy: Do you have a writing schedule or any rituals you want to share with us that really help your process?

Sharla: I have a full time day job, so my writing schedule consists of what I can do after 4pm, around dinner and errands and laundry and my daughter’s schedule. She’s a senior this year so lots of crazy things. And she’s preparing to go into the Navy this summer, so additional crazies. I long for the day when I can be a grownup author and write full time in my pj’s. :)

Amy: What’s your best advice for aspiring authors?

Sharla: I know it’s a cliche but never give up. Don’t sell your dream short. If you want self publishing, do it because you want that, because it’s your first choice, not because you can’t get in a different door. If you want traditional, then keep improving and working your craft. Rejections mean it’s not there yet. You want your book one day to be out there looking flawless and worthy next to the big names. Take the criticism and keep on keeping on. You will get there if you have the drive and stamina. It took me years. Never give up.

Thanks so much for having me over to chat, Amy!

Sharla Lovelace is the National Bestselling Author of THE REASON IS YOU, BEFORE AND EVER SINCE, and the e-novella JUST ONE DAY. Being a Texas girl through and through, she is proud to say that she lives in Southeast Texas with her family, an old lady dog, and an aviary full of cockatiels.

Sharla is available by Skype for book club meetings and chats, and loves connecting with her readers! See her website http://www.sharlalovelace.com for book discussion questions, events, and to sign up for her monthly newsletter.

You can follow her as @sharlalovelace on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

Author Juliette Fay Says Worry Less And Write More

I hope all of you in the path of Superstorm Sandy are safe — and that you have power, internet, chocolate, some of your favorite people around you — and I hope you have books!  It might be a perilous day on the East Coast, but for author Juliette Fay, it’s also an important day — the publication of her third novel, THE SHORTEST WAY HOME. Juliette shares with us what she thinks of the fact that her book is labeled women’s fiction even though it’s about a man, how she allows her ideas to simmer for a year before she writes them, and what it’s like to revisit characters from her first novel, SHELTER ME, in THE SHORTEST WAY HOME. 

Please welcome Juliette Fay to Women’s Fiction Writers!

And of course, stay safe, my friends.  

Amy xo 

Author Juliette Fay Says Worry Less And Write More

Amy: Congratulations! Today is the release of your third novel, THE SHORTEST WAY HOME. Would you tell us a little bit about it? I know the story revisits the setting from your first novel, SHELTER ME, but isn’t exactly a sequel.  Can you explain?  And what is it about the setting and characters that drew you back? 

Juliette: The Shortest Way Home is about Sean Doran, a nurse who’s worked in devastatingly poor areas around the world. He’s at risk for Huntington’s Disease—his mother died of it when he was young—but like many who are at risk, he has never wanted to be tested to find out if he has it, too. To avoid the possibility of passing it on, he’s never married or had children.

Sean makes what he thinks will be a quick trip to his hometown of Belham, Mass, also the setting for Shelter Me. There he finds that his elderly aunt who raised him, his sister, and his nephew are having a crisis of their own. Sean is drawn progressively deeper into the family drama, and finds it harder and harder to leave.

The reason I set it in the town from Shelter Me is that people often ask for a sequel to that novel. Unfortunately, I just don’t have an entirely new story with those same characters to offer. And I didn’t want to trump one up, because a bad sequel is more than just a bad book—it also has a way of ruining your memory of the first book.

I decided to set The Shortest Way Home in Belham, and used some of the characters from Shelter Me, so the reader would know, peripherally, how things worked out for them. As a result, Cormac the bakery owner, who was the cousin of Janie, the main character from Shelter Me, is the best friend from high school of Sean, the main character from The Shortest Way Home. Cormac was one of my favorites, so it was really fun to write about him again. The two stories are connected but stand alone, too.

Amy: Has your process for writing a novel changed since SHELTER ME and your second novel, DEEP DOWN TRUE? What have you learned between book one and book three? (and yes, we have all day!) 

Juliette: I wrote Shelter Me without any idea if it would ever end up on a bookstore shelf. There’s a certain amount of freedom in that. You just write want you want to write with no sense of an agent, editor or readership looking over your shoulder.

With Deep Down True, I felt the pressure—it was internal more than anything else. I had to work hard to shut it out. Also, I was promoting Shelter Me, so it was like having two jobs, and a bit distracting. My editor for Deep Down True did a lot of trimming, and at first I was resistant. But she was (mostly) right, and it was a crash course in getting rid of anything extraneous. I learned to write cleaner and clearer. In the end I was very grateful.

When I turned in The Shortest Way Home, my editor joked that I had learned the lesson so well, she had almost nothing to do! A little clarifying here and there, a little buttressing this theme, trimming down that one, but generally her edits were fairly minor. It was so satisfying.

Right now, I’m almost done with book four, and I hope she’ll find that I’ve continued to hone the skills she’s taught me.

Amy: How did the idea for your novels strike you? What was the inspiration?

Juliette: A writer has to live with a story for a long time—for me, a year or more. So while none of my books are autobiographical, they’re all about things that intrigue or worry me: the sudden death of a spouse and learning how to be a single mother; how female friendships can get stuck in a middle school cycle of trust and betrayal, and how we always have that insecure middle schooler inside us; living with the threat of an incurable terminal disease.

My inspiration for The Shortest Way Home was a friend whose mother had Huntington’s. This was before the test was available and I watched my friend live with the terrible uncertainty of not knowing if she might have it, too. When she found out she didn’t, her life changed. She started looking at things with a sense of permanence. I was fascinated by this, and wanted to explore it through a story—not about her, but about a character dealing with a similar experience.

Amy: We’ve talked about this a few times on WFW, but how do you think books with male main characters fit under the women’s fiction umbrella?

Juliette: I think they fit fine. It’s not like readers of women’s fiction don’t want to read about men.

But maybe there’s a different question you’re asking: how does the gender of the writer affect the way a book is labeled, regardless of the gender of the main character. If that’s what your wondering, and if I’m being completely honest … I think that if someone in possession of a set of testicles had written this book, it would be called general fiction. After all, it’s not just about a man—it’s about a single man with no children. But since it’s ultimately a family drama, and I have ovaries, it’s called women’s fiction.

Amy: And this leads us to…what is your definition of women’s fiction? And does the hullaballoo surrounding “the label” bother you? 

Juliette: I think of women’s fiction as family drama, and I wish they’d use that label instead. But the women’s fiction label doesn’t really bother me, because a rose is a rose. Happily, there are a lot of people who want to read family drama/women’s fiction—and, hey, I’m here to help.

What bothers me is that sometimes it’s assumed that women’s fiction isn’t as well written or serious as other categories, despite the fact that there can be gorgeous prose and weighty subject matter found in women’s fiction, just as there can be some bad verbiage and fluffiness elsewhere. Every genre has a wide range of both writing style and “seriousness.”

All this is to say, the label itself isn’t so bad; it’s the assumptions that aren’t always helpful.

Amy: What is your best advice for aspiring authors of women’s fiction?

Juliette: My best advice is to be a really good friend to yourself. A really good friend would be encouraging yet honest, would kick you in the butt when you’re getting lazy or being a fuss pot, and would make you take yourself seriously, but not too seriously.

Let that really good friend be the voice in your head. Let her drown out the voices that sound like critics or the growing laundry pile or that one mean English teacher you had high school.

That really good friend (who is you) would say: Worry less and write more … so stop talking to yourself and get going!

Juliette’s latest novel, The Shortest Way Home, is due in bookstores on October 30th. Her first novel, Shelter Me, was chosen as a 2009 “Book of the Year,” by the Massachusetts Center for the Book, an affiliate of the Library of Congress (which makes it government-related, right?) Her second, Deep Down True, was short-listed for the Women’s Fiction award by the American Library Association. She lives in Wayland, Massachusetts with her husband and four children.

You can find out more about Juliette and her books on her website, on Facebook, and by following her on Twitter @juliettefay.

Debut Women’s Fiction Author, Shelle Sumners, Shares Her Unexpected Path To Publication

Just when I think I’ve asked all the questions and heard all the answers — enter my editor-and-publisher-sister, author Shelle Sumners.  She’s full of wonderful advice, interesting stories, and a few surprises.  Shelle’s novel, GRACE GROWS, is like that as well. While her main character, Grace, has expectations of herself, works hard at her job, and is in a relationship, Grace’s journey in the novel is how the expectations, needs, and wants for oneself can change…and how it’s never to late to follow a new path in life, work, and love. 

Please welcome Shelle Sumners to Women’s Fiction Writers!

Amy xo

Debut Women’s Fiction Author, Shelle Sumners, Shares Her Unexpected Path To Publication

Amy: Shelle, congratulations on the upcoming release of your novel GRACE GROWS on October 30th!  What are you most excited about with the release of your debut novel?   

Shelle: Thank you, Amy!

First of all, there’s the daily, thrilling realization that I wrote a book and it’s being published! And also, I’m excited because Grace Grows is very unusual—it’s a novel with an accompanying soundtrack of songs that are part of the story. My husband Lee Morgan wrote the songs, and truly, they are amazing. In the book they read as lyric poetry that Tyler Wilkie has written for Grace Barnum, but they are also actual, recorded songs, that readers can download and listen to. My publishers have been excited about this, too–the Random House audio book has portions of the songs woven throughout the spoken narrative, and both the audio book and the St. Martin’s Press enhanced e-book will feature an MP3 of the song “Her” (my favorite!). So, Lee and I are both looking forward to readers experiencing this multidimensional, multimedia creation of ours.

Amy: Is there anything you’re nervous about? 

Shelle: I am surprisingly calm, perhaps because I’m doing a lot of knitting.

Amy: Obviously you were doing many things (like most of us) while writing, submitting, editing and publicizing your novel. How did you organize and balance your time and commitments?

Shelle: While I was writing the first drafts of Grace Grows, I was working full time as a program coordinator at a church in Princeton, NJ. I’d come home at night and write for two or three hours (my husband made dinner a lot), and I spent chunks of weekend time writing, when I could squeeze it in. I have a wonderful daughter who always, always came first, but who was also very patient when mom was writing. By the time the book was being published and I was revising it with my editor, I was recovering from a health crisis and had to give up my job (more about this later in the interview), so I was able to make editing the novel my main focus.

Amy: We are all so glad you’ve recovered, Shelle — and that writing and editing was your safe place through the bad times.  Can you share with us what you learned about writing through the good and not-so-good times?   

Shelle: When you’re writing your first draft, just do the work and don’t worry about whether or not you’re being brilliant. Just write. It will turn out that some of what you create will be very useful, and some you will discard. I think of the first draft as the time when you are making the raw material, the “clay” that you will sculpt and refine in the second draft and then polish in subsequent drafts (and there may be many). Fun fact: The final, published version of Grace Grows was my eleventh draft.

I used to subscribe to a daily email of Buddhist wisdom, and one day I received this scripture in my inbox:

Soundtrack cover for GRACE GROWS

Having applied himself

to what was not his own task,

and not having applied himself

to what was,

having disregarded the goal

to grasp at what he held dear,

he now envies those

who kept after themselves,

took themselves

to task.

–Dhammapada, 16, translated by Thanissaro Bhikku

I printed this out and pinned it to the bulletin board over my computer. I reread it constantly while I was writing, and it helped me keep going. Writing is my task. My bliss. I did not want to come to the end of my life and know that I had not at least tried to grasp at what I held dear.

Amy: We share the same St. Martin’s editor, Brenda Copeland, but everyone’s writing, editing, and publishing experience is different. Can you share a bit of your journey to publication and some of the most surprising events or realizations? 

Shelle: Surprise number one: I used to think I was an actor, but it turned out I was a writer! I had been a theater major in college and spent my twenties in New York and Los Angeles pursuing an acting career, but by the time I was thirty this was no longer creatively satisfying. I needed to try something else. I had always been a good writer in school, so I wrote a short, experimental, not very good play. Then I became obsessed with an idea I had for a movie. I bought Syd Field’s screenwriting workbook and taught myself how to write a screenplay. With that first script I got a literary agent, and it was optioned by a Sundance Film Festival–winning producer, but it was never made into a movie.

I wrote two more screenplays. Then, in a writing class, I met a very talented writer who happened to be a former book scout for movies. She read one of my scripts and told me that I really should try writing a novel. I’d been putting it off, but I worked up the courage and spent a year novelizing one of my screenplays. Not long after I finished the first draft of that novel, I had a dream about this young man and woman who, for some reason, were together at a waterfall. They were so in love, but there were obstacles. It was very early morning, still dark out, but I sat up in bed and wrote many pages of notes. Their story just flowed out of me.

About 18 months later, I gave the Grace Grows manuscript to my friend from writing class. She read it and asked if she could send it to a close friend in New York who is very connected in publishing and film. That wonderful woman read the manuscript and offered to take it to literary agents, and that is how I got my fantastic agent, Laurie Liss.

Laurie and I worked on the manuscript for several months, and then she took it to publishers and within about a week sold it to Brenda Copeland at St. Martin’s Press.

I’ll briefly mention here that the sale of my book closely followed another life-changing event: The day after Christmas, 2010, I had a stroke. A stroke. Yes, I am too young, and this was completely unexpected. What happened was I accidentally tore the lining of my left vertebral artery, and a blood clot went to my brain. So, during the months that I worked with Brenda on my Grace Grows edits, I was in physical therapy for muscle and balance problems caused by the stroke. What a blessing it was to have something so wonderful, so dreamed of, happening alongside something so difficult. It helped me stay hopeful and positive.

Amy: What is your definition of women’s fiction?

Shelle: Stories that affirm women and invisibly connect us when we collectively read/experience them.

Amy: What is your best advice for aspiring authors of women’s fiction?

Shelle: Just try to tell a good story.

Shelle Sumners lives and writes in Bucks County, PA. Her debut novel Grace Grows is a Featured Alternate selection for Doubleday, Literary Guild and Rhapsody Book Clubs and is being published internationally. It has a companion soundtrack of phenomenal original songs that appear in the story, written and performed by her husband, singer-songwriter and Broadway actor Lee Morgan.

www.ShelleSumners.com

http://www.facebook.com/ShelleSumners

Twitter: @ShelleSumners

You can pre-order GRACE GROWS! Click here!

Author Karen Stivali Tells Us Why Women’s Fiction With A Love Story Is Not A Romance Novel

As a rule, I don’t like rules. But, when I read Karen Stivali’s post that explained her perception of the rules of romance novels, and why her books did not fit that mold — I was smitten. I don’t write romance — and I know that. What I wasn’t sure of was what constitutes that line between some women’s fiction and some romance novels.  Let us know what you think in the comments.

And please welcome Karen Stivali to Women’s Fiction Writers!

Amy xo

Author Karen Stivali Tells Us Why Women’s Fiction With A Love Story Is Not A Romance Novel

When my debut full-length novel, Meant To Be, released a few weeks ago I got a lot of questions from curious friends. There’s one conversation that I’ve been having over and over. It goes something like this…

Friend: What kind of book is it?

Me: It’s a love story.

Friend: Oh, it’s a romance novel?

Me: No, it’s women’s fiction with strong romantic elements.

Friend: So, it’s a romance novel.

Me: No, it breaks too many romance rules.

Friend: But you said it’s a love story.

Me: It is. And it’s romantic as hell, but it’s not a romance novel in the traditional sense.

Most readers, and even many writers, are not aware of how strict the rules are where romance novels are concerned. I’ll admit, as a reader and a writer I always thought the rules were a bad thing, but now that I’ve written both romances and women’s fiction I can see why the rules are in place. And why I sometimes break them or cross genres.

Back when I first started writing I remember reading an interview with Nicholas Sparks where he vehemently denied writing romances. That floored me. Has he ever written a story that wasn’t romantic? Not to my knowledge. But technically the vast majority of his books can’t be considered romances. Why not? The most common reason is the lack of a happily ever after ending. He writes love stories. His fiction focuses on love and romance but is classified as either mainstream fiction or, as women make up the vast majority of his readers, women’s fiction.

Romance novels are popular. There’s no denying that.  For decades they’ve had a huge, always-growing audience of devoted readers. Part of the reason for that is those readers want to know what they can expect from the stories. That doesn’t mean they want the same story churned out over and over again, but it does mean they want certain elements to be guaranteed. Romances guarantee the reader that they’ll find a story where the hero and heroine only have eyes for each other and where, no matter what obstacles they face in the course of the book, they’ll wind up with a happily ever after ( or at least happy for now) ending. They’re also guaranteed that the romance will drive the plot. Sure, there may be sub plots or side characters that aren’t romantic, but the focus of the story will be on the path the hero and heroine take to becoming a couple.

Women’s fiction is far harder to define. Some define it simply as books that will appeal to a primarily female audience. Others say it’s fiction written by women, for women, with a female main character (which would mean Nicholas Sparks doesn’t actually write women’s fiction either, as he’s clearly not a woman). Women’s fiction can have a romantic plot, but it certainly doesn’t have to. It can be a story of sisters, of friends, of mothers and children, husbands and wives, careers, losses, achievements, or any combination of those. Sometimes, however, women’s fiction does focus on a man and woman falling in love, or on the trials of male/female relationships. That’s the kind of women’s fiction I write.

Wait, you ask, then why don’t you write romances instead? The answer is sometimes I do. I have published several erotic romances that are all sweet, sexy love stories involving a man and woman falling in love and having great sex as they work toward their happily ever after ending. I just signed a contract with a new publisher on a (non-erotic) contemporary romance that’s a friends-to-lovers/second-chance-with-an-old-crush story in which the heroine has to decide if she can juggle having a career and the man of her dreams. I loved writing those stories. I love those characters. But sometimes the stories I have in mind don’t fit the romance mold. That’s the case with my women’s fiction, like Meant To Be (and its sequel, Holding On).

As a writer I stay very true to my characters and insist on telling their story. I don’t worry about rules or genres while I write, I write the story I have in my head. Period. Meant To Be is a friends to lovers tale with a an unusual twist. My main characters, Daniel and Marienne, are both married to other people when they become neighbors in a small New Jersey town. (Romance rule breaker number one—hero and heroine MUST be single at the beginning of the story.) The two couples become friends, sharing meals at each other’s houses, commuting to work together—normal things neighbors do. (Romance rule breaker number two—story must focus on the romance between the hero and heroine, not on other relationships.) Daniel and Marienne discover they have a lot in common. Similar likes. Similar histories. As their marriages begin to unravel they rely on their friendship.

Although it becomes clear to the reader that they’re beginning to fall for each other, there is never even a hint of cheating. In fact, they both stay loyal to their spouses, trying to make their respective marriages work way past the point where they’re truly viable relationships. Even when they both wind up single and available they struggle with the decision to risk their friendship to see if the romantic feelings are returned.

Since I write books that focus on relationships and since, in my opinion, sex is an important facet of most adult relationships, I write open door sex scenes. Sex is not just a physical act, it’s an emotional one. The interaction between characters during a sexual encounter can be far more telling about the relationship than a conversation or even an argument. For that reason, both main characters are shown having sex with their spouses. It’s very telling about the state of their marriages. It’s also romance rule breaker number three—the hero and heroine cannot be shown having sexual relations with anyone other than the hero/heroine (except in the case of consensual ménages, which I don’t write in any genre).

Romance rules aren’t the only ones I break with this story. By some definitions of women’s fiction I break a major rule of women’s fiction writing. Meant To Be is a story about Daniel and Marienne. As individuals, as friends, as two people falling in love. It’s about the journey they both take. They are each point of view characters and are equally important to the story. Although they both grow, mature and change throughout the course of the book, in many ways this is more Daniel’s story. In other word’s it’s by a woman, for women, but not just about a woman.

I often say this story is one long prelude to a kiss. Readers have told me they waited, breathlessly turning pages, dying to see if Daniel and Marienne would eventually find their way to each other at the end of this story. As I said, it’s a love story. It’s romantic as hell. But it’s not a traditional romance novel. It’s women’s fiction, with strong romantic elements. And a happily ever after ending. An ending that told me I wasn’t done with these characters and their journey yet, which is why there’s a sequel releasing at the end of November.

The sequel, Holding On, explores how even when you marry the person of your dreams, and have everything you ever wanted, relationships still aren’t easy. When you have everything you ever wanted the hard part is holding on. Is it a romantic story? You bet. Is it a romance? Nope. (Romance rule breaker—the hero and heroine cannot already be married to one another as the plot must focus on them falling in love and a married couple is, in theory, already in love.) It’s women’s fiction with strong romantic elements, because I like my women’s fiction with a lot of love and a lot of heat…and a happy ending…but not the traditional romance novel path.

So, it’s your turn to tell me. Do you like your women’s fiction with hearty doses of romance? Do you enjoy having dual point of view from the hero and heroine in your women’s fiction? Or do you prefer if romantic plot lines are left in romance novels and women’s fiction focuses on the woman’s journey?

Karen Stivali is a prolific writer, compulsive baker and chocoholic with a penchant for books, movies and fictional British men. When she’s not writing, she can be found cooking extravagant meals and serving them to family and friends. Prior to deciding to write full time Karen worked as a hand drawn animator, a clinical therapist, and held various food-related jobs ranging from waitress to specialty cake maker. Planning elaborate parties and fundraisers takes up what’s left of her time and sanity.

Karen has always been fascinated by the way people relate to one another so she favors books and movies that feature richly detailed characters and their relationships. In her own writing she likes to explore the dynamics between characters and has a tendency to craft romantic love stories filled with sarcasm and sexy details.

You can find MEANT TO BE on AmazonAllRomanceEbooks,Barnes & Noble,and Turquoise Morning Press.

You can find Karen on her website, on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Amazon.

In case you’re curious about Meant To Be, here’s the blurb:

Sometimes you’re already committed to the wrong person when fate finally brings you the right one.

When NYU professor Daniel Gardner’s career-obsessed wife convinces him to move to the suburbs, he hopes it’s a first step toward starting the family he longs to have. Instead of domestic bliss he finds his neighbor, Marienne Valeti. She loves her freelance design job, but must contend with a growing sense of isolation created by her husband’s indifference. A penchant for good books, bad movies, and Marienne’s to-die-for brownies sparks a powerful bond between them. Passion simmers, but they resist its lure, surrendering only in the seclusion of their minds. Their friendship helps them weather every hardship, from divorce to widowhood, leaving them both secretly wondering if it can survive a first kiss.