Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Interview with Author Gina Holmes

I'm very happy to help my friend Gina Holmes launch her new novel, Wings of Glass, today. Please join me in learning more about this amazing writer.

Gina Holmes is the founder of Novel Rocket and a PR professional. Her bestselling novels Crossing Oceans and Dry as Rain were both Christy finalists and won various literary awards. Her latest novel, Wings of Glass, released February 2013 and has earned a starred review from Library Journal, a Romantic Times Top Pick and a Southern Indie Bookseller's Okra Pick. She holds degrees in science and nursing and currently resides with her family in southern Virginia. She works too hard, laughs too loud, and longs to see others heal from their past.

Your 3rd novel, Wings of Glass, has just released. Tell us a little about it.

I think this is my favorite book so far. Wings of Glass tells the story of Penny Taylor, a young wife who feels trapped and alone in a physically and emotionally abusive marriage. Besides her low self-esteem, she feels her Christian faith doesn’t allow for divorce. It’s not until she meets two women—one a southern socialite and the other a Sudanese cleaning woman—that her eyes are opened to the truth of her situation and she begins her journey to healing and redemption.

What made you take on the tough subject of domestic abuse?

As a little girl, I watched my mother being physically abused by her husband and then later, two of my sisters enter abusive relationship after abusive relationship and I thought that would never be me. . . until the day my boyfriend hit me for the first time and I began to make excuses for him. I know the mindset of someone who gets into and stays in an abusive relationship, because I’ve been there myself. It’s taken me years, and
a lot of reading, praying, and talking to get to the heart of what brought me and kept me in toxic relationships and I want to pass on some of what I learned that helped me find boundaries and recovery from a codependent mindset and most of all healing.

What do you hope readers take away from this book?

It’s my hope and prayer that those who are in abusive relationships will begin to see that the problem lies with them as much as with the abuser. That’s something I railed against when friends suggested it. I wasn’t the one with the problem! I was no doormat who enabled abuse or addiction… or was I?

I also hope that those who have never understood the mindset of victims would better comprehend the intricacies of codependency and be better able to minister to these women and men. And of course I’d love it if young women would read this before they ever enter their first romantic relationship to have their eyes open to how abuse almost always progresses and be able to see the red flags early.

Which of the characters in the novel is most like you and why?

Each of the characters has a little of me in them or vice versa. I think years ago I was more like Penny, though tougher in many regards, at least I thought so. I’d like to think now I’m a little more Callie Mae.
Because I’ve lived through what I have and have found healing, I can see in others the path that will lead to healing and the one that will lead to destruction. The difficult part once you’ve found healing is remembering that you can’t do it for others. You can offer advice, but you can’t make anyone take it. Each person has to learn in their own time, in their own way.

Who is your favorite character?

I absolutely love Fatimah. She had such a great sense of humor and didn’t care what anyone thought except those who really mattered. She was really quite self-actualized. She was so much fun to write and I actually
find myself missing her presence.

What’s your favorite and least favorite part about being a writer?

Favorite: making my own schedule. I love when I’m feeling bad one day knowing that I don’t have
to punch a clock. I can just take the day off and then work harder the next. Of course, there’s a lot of other things I love about writing, like allowing others to consider another point of view that may be far different from their own.

Least favorite: There’s a joke that when you work for yourself you at least get to pick which eighteen hours of the day you want.

That’s true. Working from home means I’m always at work. I work from about 7:30 am until about eight at night most days. Under deadline, it’s worse. Truly understanding how much the success of a book rides on the shoulders of the author is a blessing and a curse. Because I get that no one is more invested in
the success of my books than me, I put in a LOT of time on the publicity/marketing end of things. It’s tiring but an investment that I think pays off in the long run.

You had written four novels before your debut, Crossing Oceans was published. Do you think those books will ever get dusted off and reworked?

Never say never, but I doubt it. I had considered reworking some but having gone back and re-read them, I realized they weren’t published for good reason. They just didn’t work. Now, there is one story I’m resurrecting characters from for a story I should be writing next, but the plot line is completely different. I started out writing suspense, but as my reading tastes changed, so did my writing tastes. I don’t see myself doing suspense again any time soon.

You’re known for your quirky characters, what inspires you to write these types into each book?

Honestly, I’m a pretty quirky person. The older I get, the more I embrace those quirks. I think everyone is quirky really. As a student of human nature, I pick up on those and like to exaggerate them in my fiction. I
also like to surround myself with quirky people. My husband is quirky, my kids are quirky and so are my friends. Often in life, especially when we’re young, we hate about ourselves what makes us different, when really those are the things we should be embracing. Different is interesting. Different is beautiful.

If you could write anything and genre, marketing and reader expectations didn’t matter, what would you write?

Speaking of quirky… I read a book a few years back that was so different that it made me want to try something like that. The book was a big-time bestseller, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. What turned me on about that book were the characters. They were quirky to an extreme. In contemporary women’s fiction, I can get away with a certain amount of quirk. but I’m always having to play it down because it’s
so over the top. In a fantasy, you can be as over the top as you dare. I’d love to play around with something like that one day and just let my freak flag fly! Will I? Probably not unless I use a pen name. I realize readers have certain expectations and I wouldn’t want anyone to feel mislead. We’ll see. There’s lots in life I want to do but since I only get a hundred or so years (if I’m lucky), time won’t allow for every rabbit hole.

What advice would you have for writers hoping to follow in your footsteps?

My advice would be not to follow too closely in anyone’s footsteps. Yes, there is a certain path all writers find themselves on. There are certain things that we must all do like learning to write well, figuring out platform, going to writers conferences to meet the gatekeepers and figure out the way things have to be formatted and submitted and all that sort of thing. But it’s okay to veer off the path too and forge your own. There are those who have self-published who have found great success.

There are those who have written about subjects that they were told no one wanted to read about and found success. It’s smart to figure out what others have done before you to make them successful, but alter the
formula to suit your needs and passions. It’s okay to be different, in fact, I think great success and maybe even happiness depends upon it. And by all means, read Novel and leave comments. It helps not only encourage those authors who have taken the time out of their day to teach us, but it also
connects you to the writing community. Community is important. 

Thank you, Gina. Good luck with the book launch. Gina's books are available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Good Book Review for Mad Max

Sally Roseveare, author of the Smith Mountain Lake Mystery series, posted a review for Mad Max Unintended Consequences. I'm blushing.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Book Review: Goodbye Emily by Michael Murphy

With Baby Boomers reading and writing more books than ever, I wonder why Boomer Literature isn't a genre of its own. I've read many different books that call themselves Boomer Lit. Too many are nostalgic memories of youth. Some are just badly written. Others, like the book reviewed here, surprise the reader. It's well written. It treats themes that are recognizable and timely. While it is a trip down the Woodstock memory lane, Woodstock serves as a backdrop for greater themes: friendship and keeping promises.

Michael Murphy's Goodbye Emily is an homage to friendship and the Woodstock Nation. Part road trip, part buddy book, all interesting, Goodbye Emily takes the reader back in time when Sparky, the main character, decides to fulfill a promise he made to his wife and two male friends to return to Max Yasgur's farm outside Bethel, NY, where the Woodstock concert took place.

Emily was Sparky's wife, once a carefree young girl he met at Woodstock. Dead two years from cancer when the book opens, Sparky has yet to deal with his grief. He suffers from broken heart syndrome, a real problem. His doctor tells him to make a list of all the things he has to address in order to return to his normal life and leave grief and drink behind. The top item on the list is Emily, whose ashes remain in an urn on the coffee table.

Sparky realizes he has more than Emily's loss to deal with. He wonders why his former best friend Buck, another of the Woodstock boys, skipped his wife's funeral. After confronting his friend, he learns that the third member of the trio, Josh, suffers from Alzheimer's and lives in assisted living. They visit Josh. Sparky and Buck sing some songs the trio sang when they were a garage band, the Buck Naked Band. Josh, who is non-verbal, begins singing along with them. Sparky thinks that if he can reach Josh through music he can bring a semblance of quality of life back to his friend.

One thing leads to another. Before Sparky realizes what he is doing, Buck has repainted Emily's van as a peace mobile, Sparky and Buck have kidnapped Josh from his residence, and the trio is on the run from the law. All they want to do is return to Woodstock and scatter Emily's ashes.

Secondary characters, like Sparky's daughter Cloe and her boyfriend who happens to be Sparky's doctor, add color to the story. All are well drawn and jump off the page. Minor characters arrive and leave with a trail of interesting color. The plot is tight. The road trip provides a strong narrative device to bring an odd cast of characters together.

A quick, rewarding Baby Boomer novel, I encourage you to pick up the book on Amazon, where it's available as a trade paperback or on Kindle.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Book Review: Jump at the Sun by Kim McLarin

Bold writers tackle difficult topics; brave writers tackle taboo topics. Kim McLarin is a brave writer.

Too many writers today delve into the darker sides of human nature, fascinated by what goes on in the mind of a serial killer, a run-of-the-mill murderer, a pedophile, without giving the reader a sense that the writer actually has been there. In Jump at the Sun, McLarin gives the impression that she, her close family and friends have been where she is.

A black female author, who writes in this book about black women who break one of the most enduring stereotypes, that of mother, challenges readers to rethink those same stereotypes.

Grace Jefferson is the latest in a family of black women who go back to slavery. She struggles with a lack of motherly feelings about her children. In searching to understand why she is not fulfilled with motherhood, she revisits other women in her family. Her grandmother left the share cropper farm where they lived after the end of the Civil War, left her daughter, followed a local man to the big city where life was supposed to be better. The man returned to the country; the woman stayed. Years later, the woman sends for her oldest daughter to help with new babies she's had since leaving.

In a near rebellion against her own mother, the daughter sacrifices everything, including her dreams and her sense of self, when her own children come along. And Grace, with her PhD and an upwardly middle class lifestyle, isn't satisfied with being a stay-at-home mother. She seeks answers from her mother and grandmother, only to realize she is the only one who can resolve her feeling about her children.

Powerful, rich in language, dangerous in daring to challenge stereotypes, this literary novel begs to be enjoyed slowly, savoring each page, each paragraph. You won't be disappointed.

For those of us women who consciously chose not to have children, this book helps validate our decision. Too many times well-meaning snoops have asked me why I never had my own children. Other than I don't relate to babies and young children, it's none of their business. I answer gently that I am pro-choice is a way they might understand. No, I didn't have an abortion. I just made sure I never needed one by not getting pregnant. For McLarin to write so powerfully about choices women make resonated deeply inside me.