Author Interview - Laura McNeill

Posted on Tuesday, July 14, 2015 4:00 AM
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Hello Everyone!

Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing Laura McNeill author of Center of Gravity. Her suspense novel with Harper Collins / Thomas Nelson releases July 14th!

Hi Laura, thank you for agreeing to this interview.

1. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I was raised in a small town in Upstate New York where in the winter we skated on frozen ponds and in the summers, vacationed in the Finger Lakes. I enjoyed school, sports, and my friends. Growing up, my parents kept the TV off all summer, every summer. While I wasn’t thrilled at eight years old, at about age 28, I discovered it was the best gift they could have given me. I trekked to the library and back by myself almost every day of the summer and it grew my love of reading exponentially. As a mom, I’m not quite that strict, but we don’t subscribe to cable either. I’ve found that while my boys have permission to occasionally watch Netflix or YouTube, they rarely reach for the remote.

2. What were you like at school?
Over-achiever, Type-A personality, honor society, but also fun-loving. I was a soccer player, a cheerleader, and field hockey player.

3. Were you good at English?
Favorite subject hands-down. My high school English teachers have been so supportive of my writing career. I went on to study English literature in college and journalism in graduate school.

4. What was the hardest part about writing your book?
Center of Gravity is a very personal story for me. I began my career as an author writing Southern women’s fiction under the pen name “Lauren Clark.” I really enjoyed these fun, frothy tales, but halfway through the writing of my second novel, my marriage fell apart. Everything that I had built and trusted had come unglued. I wasn’t sleeping or eating; I was worried about my children, about my job, and about my future. I shelved the novel, moved into a new house in a new neighborhood, and restarted my life.

Months later, it hit me that I missed writing. But I couldn’t bring myself to write comedy and romance. This time, I tackled a serious storyline, a suspenseful story about a family in peril. I had spent the past year or more talking to other women and men about their stories of love and loss. It seemed that everyone I talked to had an aunt, a cousin, a best friend, or a sister who had been through a tragic, heart wrenching break up. Some involved children, some didn’t. Many included alienation from friends and family. Some involved violence. The majority involved a long, drawn out court battles. All of the stories left me feeling, somehow, that I was not quite alone. I began writing the novel which would become “Center of Gravity.”

5. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
It’s my hope that readers connect with Ava – a woman who finds strength deep within herself when almost everyone else has given up on her. Like so many of the women I’ve met over the years, Ava is tenacious, smart, sensitive, and, as it turns out, a bit naïve, when it comes to trusting and believing in the man she’s chosen to marry. She’d like to cling to the fairytale of having a perfect marriage, but eventually sees through her husband’s charming façade.
My message is that women are stronger than they believe, love can persevere, and there is life after betrayal and tragedy. 
6. Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
Ava Carson definitely reflects some of my personality traits. She is an optimist who fiercely loves her children. She’s also a people person, enjoys spending time with friends, and is involved in her children’s activities. Like me, she prefers a simple, no frills lifestyle, adores handmade cards from her children, and doesn’t mind driving a car that isn’t brand new. She enjoys cooking, but is better off baking cookies and preparing BLTs than attempting to prepare a gourmet, seven-course meal.

7. What are you working on at the minute?
My second HarperCollins/Thomas Nelson book will be released in April of 2016. Sister Dear is the story of a woman, Allie Marshall, who goes to prison for a crime she doesn’t commit, leaving behind a 5-year old daughter. When Allie is paroled 10 years later, she hopes to reclaim her quiet life and move on, but her daughter, now a teenager, soon challenges her innocence. In her quest to find justice, Allie discovers that the one person she trusts most committed the ultimate betrayal a decade earlier.

8. Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?
SO fun!  I love this!
Ava Carson - Emma Stone
Emma Stone is best known for her roles in The Amazing Spider-Man and Crazy, Stupid Love, and would play Ava in Center of Gravity.
Mitchell Carson - Christian Bale
Bale is best known for his role in the Dark Knight (Batman) trilogy. He would play Ava's husband in Center of Gravity.
 Graham Thomas - Chris Pratt
I see Chris Pratt play lawyer Graham Thomas in Center of Gravity. Pratt played major supporting roles in several television series, including Parks and Recreation, and film roles in Moneyball and Zero Dark Thirty. In 2014, he starred as Peter Quill in Guardians of the Galaxy.
Jack Carson - Jonathan Morgan Heit
Carson would play Mitchell and Ava's 8-year-old son in Center of Gravity. He is best known for Jake and the Never Land Pirates, Date Night, and Bedtime Stories. 
 Dr. Lucy Olsen - Carla Gugino
Carla, best known for her role as the mom in all of the Spy Kids films, also starred in Watchmen and Race to Witch Mountain.

9. Do you write full-time or part-time?
I hold down a full-time job and am the single mom of two boys. To keep things exciting, or because I have simply lost my mind, I added in another master’s degree last year (Hello, graduation July 31st!).

10. Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
I tend to do my best writing in the morning. I stay in my yoga pants and a t-shirt and type in my tiny office, sipping coffee that I made myself. I like to write from 6 am until 8 am, when I spring up from my chair and race to grab a shower, find decent clothes, and get to work. In the evenings, it’s Mommy-mode, and I help with homework, take my boys to activities, or do my own homework.

11. Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?
 I find that 1200 words is the sweet spot for me. Some days, it’s a struggle, and other days, I’m done in 90 minutes.

12. Where do your ideas come from?
I’m lucky, my ideas just come to me. I have more than I know what to do with, sometimes. When an idea sticks with me, when I am thinking about it when I’m at work, or driving home, it’s usually a sign that it’s a viable and that I can stick with it for 80,000 or 90,000 words.

I love what author, blogger, and story structure master Larry Brooks has to say about making sure your idea is “high-concept.” Brooks says, “High concept suggests a dramatic scenario or device—be it clever, unexpected, unseen, terrifying or just plain brilliant—that becomes the landscape upon which characters reveal themselves.”

13. Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
I am definitely a plotter. While many of my author friends prefer to work without an outline, I need a road map of some sort to guide the way. My outlines are detailed, several thousand words, but I keep the process fluid and don’t mind deviating from the path if a great twist or character idea pops into my head!

14. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Read a lot and write a lot. In addition, find a story you love and want to write about
This might sound obvious. Of course you are going to love the story you write about! Until, that is, you don't love it, and it isn't working. So, make sure you love Minnesota, or the Civil War, or the year 2050, or the character you're going to spend 85,000 words with. It's an investment.

15. How can readers discover more about you and you work?

Pre-Order On Amazon 
Website Blog |  Twitter |

Pinterest | Goodreads | Instagram Facebook |


Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.

 BIOGRAPHY


Laura adores hot coffee, good manners, the color pink, and novels that keep her reading past midnight. She believes in the beauty of words, paying it forward, and that nerds rule the world. Laura is a fan of balmy summer nights, fireflies, and pristine mountain lakes. She lives in Mobile, Alabama with her two sons.

You can find Laura Tweeting @Lauramcneillbks and blogging at lauramcneill.com. After July 14th, Laura’s suspense novel, Center of Gravity, can be found wherever fine books are sold. 
Loren Mathis

Review - Pie Girls by Lauren Clark

Posted on Sunday, October 26, 2014 11:47 PM
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Book Title: Pie Girls
Author: Lauren Clark
Series: N/A
Rating:  5 stars



Princess, Southern belle, and spoiled-rotten social climber Searcy Roberts swore on a stack of Bibles she’d never return home to Fairhope, Alabama. After marrying her high school sweetheart and moving to Atlanta, Searcy embraces big-city life—Carrie Bradshaw style.
But now, Searcy has a teeny, tiny problem. Her husband’s had a mid-life crisis. He’s quit his job, cancelled her credit cards, and left her for another man.

Searcy returns to Fairhope, ready to lick her wounds. But when her mother falls ill, she’s is thrust into managing the family business—only to discover the beloved bakery is in danger of closing its doors forever.

Enlisting the help of the adorable bike store owner next door, an array of well-heeled customers, and her soon-to-be ex-husband, Searcy hatches the plan of the century to save Pie Girls.
Review: 

Pie Girls is a captivating southern chick lit tale about new beginnings and homecomings. Searcy Roberts is your quintessential spoiled, materialistic socialiate whose world is turned on its axis when her husband goes missing on their wedding anniversary. Just when things couldn't get any worse, Searcy discovers a revelation about her husband that changes the course of her life forever. In an attempt to move past the unexpected news about her husband, Searcy returns to her small hometown with her tail tucked between her legs. Searcy moves in with her mother and begins to chart new territory in her much less glamorous life and starts working at her mother's bakery, Pie Girls.

Author Lauren Clark is a unique new voice in southern fiction and has a clear knack for descriptive prose, dialogue, and character development. Here's one example of the great prose throughout the novel:
I see a man in a worn navy t-shirt and a pair of Levi's, frayed at the heels. Though I'd rather not admit it, I can't help but notice that the jeans fit just right, and how his bicep and arm muscles contract when he reaches for a tool or tightens a bolt. Dry-mouthed, I observe the noise-maker for another minute or two. He's singing along to the lyrics, pausing only for a brief air guitar solo.
I also liked how Searcy grew throughout the story and was a stronger, more down to earth woman at the end of the novel than she was at the beginning. By the middle of the novel, I was firmly rooting for Searcy to overcome the obstacles in her life. I'm also a huge fan of anything involving romance, so I loved the relationship development between Searcy and the hunky bicycle shop owner, Luke Nolan.

I highly recommend this novel!



Loren Mathis

Review - Undone by Jessica Roe

Posted on Sunday, October 12, 2014 5:12 PM
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Book Title: Undone
Author: Jessica Roe
Series: The Guardians (Book 1)
Rating: 5 stars


Nicky is trying to be a good guy... All Gable wants is to be bad.

Fresh out of prison and down on his luck, Nicky is trying to be a good guy. With a past overrun by darkness and shadows, he's willing to do whatever it takes to change. He just never dreamed his road to redemption would open his eyes to a world full of magic and mystical beings.

All Gable wants is to be bad. Because only a bad person would do the things she's done and not even care. She's not looking to be saved, not from her world, not from herself. Not even by Nicky.

At sixteen, Nicky and Gable were in love, but eight years apart is a long time and people change. After the tragedy that once ripped Gable from Nicky's world, they never expected to see each other again, especially not on the opposing sides of a fight between good and evil.

They will rescue each other, they will betray each other, they will be undone.

Review: 

Undone
is a fast-paced, captivating, and innovative urban fantasy. From the awesome cover to the first few opening scenes, I was hooked. Nicolas (Nicky) Pierce is newly released from prison and is attempting to turn over a new leaf, trying to avoid falling back into the bad habits that got him thrown into jail in the first place. Simply put, he's trying to live a normal life. However, it soon becomes clear that Nicky's life will be anything but normal because he is painfully attuned into the presence of an alternate world that most people are unaware exists. Author Jessica Roe does a great job in developing Nicky's character and describing Nicky's life-long struggles to cope with his abilities. It is this gift (or curse) that puts him on the radar of a highly secretive government department that wants to employ him in order to utilize his talents. The level of tension in the story builds with new revelations about the "Outcasts" , "Shadows", and the importance of "Shadow Guides."

Intermingled in the danger and intrigue that is Nicky's new occupation, is his complicated relationship with his former flame, Gabrielle (Gable). Nicky has known Gable since they were teenagers and has been in love with her for almost as long. There's just one problem for this reunited couple: Gable is walking on the wrong side of the tracks... in fact, she's actively working against Nicky and his new employer. I absolutely love anything with romance and Jessica Roe does a great job developing believable romantic tension between Nicky & Gable.

This author did a wonderful job in creating a fresh new paranormal universe, constructing realistic and witty dialogue, and creating relatable characters whom readers can root for. Here's an example of some of the snappy writing that can be found throughout the novel:

"Why do we need to go down to the wine celler?" He folded his arms and glared.
"So we can murder you and bury your body there. Trust me, we'd be doing everyone a favour."

Overall, I thought the characters were well-drawn, particularly Gable's inner resistance against the person she'd become and her road to redemption. The captivating writing pulled me in and made me want to know why Gable had decided to work for the criminal elements in the story. I also loved how this author provided enough detail to fully pull me into the story and made this intriguing setting come alive. If you are a fan of Kim Harrison, Patricia Briggs, or Kat Richardson, you MUST read this book! Jessica Roe is definitely a talented new author to look out for. I look forward to reading more books in this series!

Note: I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. 



Loren Mathis

Author Interview - Lauren Clark

Posted on Friday, October 3, 2014 12:14 AM
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Hello Everyone! Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing Lauren Clark author of Pie Girls.

Hi Lauren, thank you for agreeing to this interview.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background? I grew up in Upstate New York (near Niagara Falls, land of ice and snow! As a child, I spent many of our winters skating, sledding, and playing in the snow, even when it was well below zero!

What were you like at school? I would consider myself a good student in school, though I wish I had pushed myself a little harder. I was a multi-tasker back then, too—always involved in cheerleading, field hockey, soccer, and social activities, as well as my school work.

Were you good at English? It was definitely my best subject and my favorite classes. It was never a chore to write papers, I love reading books, and I adore talking about theme, storyline, characters, and plot. I went on to be an English major in college and a Journalism major during graduate school, so writing it certainly in my blood!

What are your ambitions for your writing career? I’d love to hit the New York Times Bestseller List. That would be surreal.

So, what have you written?
Stay Tuned (2011) – set in Macon, Ga
Dancing Naked in Dixie (2012) – set in Eufaula, Ala
Stardust Summer (2013) – set in Ocean Springs, Miss & Penn Yan, NY
A Very Dixie Christmas (2013) – short story set in Eufaula, Ala. (Part of Merry & Bright ebook)
Pie Girls (August, 2014) – set in Fairhope, Ala.

Why prompted you to write your first book?
I was a television news anchor for six years in New York and Alabama. Before I began working at the first station, there was major personnel upheaval. It seems that the two main anchors, who were embroiled in an on-again, off-again relationship, had a knock-down drag-out fight in the television station parking lot. The police were called, they both lost their jobs, and the story made the local newspaper for weeks. That incident always stuck with me—and I thought it would be even more compelling if it happened on air during a news broadcast. That little nugget became the basis for my first novel, Stay Tuned.

How did you come up with the title for Pie Girls?
I like short, snappy titles – ones that tell the reader something about the story – and a title that a fun, bright cover can be designed around. For me, the novel is about the pie shop, owned by Searcy’s mother, who secretly has always wanted her daughter to come home to Fairhope, Alabama and run the business with her (thus the Pie Girls).

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
The message is about really knowing yourself and what makes you happy. Searcy has spent her whole life running after a dream—one that she thinks looks perfect to her friends and family. Unfortunately, she’s desperately unhappy and is clinging to the belief that she can just ignore the loneliness she experiences and the problems in her marriage. The message is also about the strength women have when their entire world falls apart. Searcy chooses—after some initial moping—that she will fix her life and make it better. Even when faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles, Searcy learns that she is smart and can persevere.

Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
When we first meet Searcy, she is a very spoiled Southern belle who’s been pampered and polished to shine in Atlanta’s hottest social scenes. She has a personal shopper, a group of wealthy girlfriends, and a credit card with no limit. She spends her days shopping, going out to lunch, planning parties, and socializing.

What makes her so special is that even in the first chapter, we glimpse the real Searcy. She knows, deep down, that something is wrong, but can’t bring herself to admit it. She projects a positive, upbeat attitude and tries to keep things status quo, because she doesn’t believe she can live without her husband Alton.

Alton’s leaving upends Searcy’s life. At first, it appears that the impending divorce is the end of the world, but Searcy’s journey makes her into an entirely different person—someone caring, giving, empathetic, and truly loving. Best of all, she learns to rely on herself, forgives Alton, and finds true love.

What genre are your books?  I guess you could consider them Southern Women’s fiction, although I definitely would also consider them a hybrid ChickLit category. My wonderful readers have mentioned that if you like Sophie Kinsella and Mary Kay Andrews, you’ll like my books.

What draws you to this genre?  I like strong, smart, but flawed female characters. Romance is a secondary part of the storyline. First and foremost, my novels are about the personal growth of a character—usually by undergoing some personal tragedy or seemingly insurmountable odds. I love the fact that my characters can work through their initial fears or worries and become strong, independent women with bright futures.

Do you write full-time or part-time?  At the present time, I am a part-time writer!  I have a full-time job as a web content manager and social media manager for Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala. I’m also in graduate school at the University of Alabama (Roll Tide!) for a master’s degree in Interactive Technology.

Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?  Because of my crazy schedule, which also includes my two young sons, I write from 5:30 am – 7:30 am Monday through Friday if possible. I also spend Saturday and Sunday mornings writing, if at all possible.

Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day? When I’m in the midst of writing a first draft, I feel satisfied if I can get down 1,500 – 2,000 words a day.  For me, that’s usually one chapter. I like starting and finishing a chapter in one sitting. It gives me a real sense of completion and gives me something fresh to start with the next day!

Where do your ideas come from? Anywhere and everywhere!  For Stay Tuned, it was the fistfight in the parking lot of the TV station. For Dixie, it was based on my own move from New York to Alabama and everything I experienced along the way. For Stardust Summer, I wanted to showcase the glorious lake area near where I grew up and look at an estranged family and how they are able to come together in the face of tragedy, For Pie Girls, it was coming across a fun, funky, community-oriented pie shop in the small town of Greensboro, Alabama, and thinking that I’d love to set something similar in Fairhope, Alabama.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you? I am definitely a plotter and an outliner. I work from a one or two line “What if?” idea and work out the plot from there. I end up with at least a few sentences about each chapter before I begin writing. I have the major plot points and twists, as well as the ending, mostly worked out before I begin the manuscript.

What are your thoughts on writing a book series?  I would love to! In fact, I am debating about writing Book #2 in my Dixie series right now. The people in Eufaula have been asking what’s next for Shug and Julia!

Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors? I read all of the time. I listen to audio books all of the time!  My favorite authors include Jodi Picoult, Chris Bohjalian, Emily Giffin, Sophie Kinsella, and Jennifer Weiner. I also adore Rainbow Rowell, Veronica Roth, and John Green. Really, there are so many awesome authors! I could be here for hours listing them all!

In what formats is your book available? Ebook and paperback. All are available on Audible as well. The Pie Girls audiobook is in production now!

How can readers discover more about you and you work?  I welcome emails from readers! You can write to me at laurenclarkbooks@gmail.com.


Book Purchase Links:

Amazon (US)




Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.




Loren Mathis

Blog Tour: Author L.A. Rose

Posted on Monday, September 15, 2014 12:01 AM
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GIVEAWAY ALERT!



Excerpt from ADRIAN LESSONS:

“Christ,” Adrian finally mutters after a good half minute of staring at my body. He runs his hand through his hair.
I’m not saying my grand plan is to make him so worked up he’ll have to satisfy me. And then I can move on with my life.
I’m not saying that’s my plan, but if it were, I’d be an evil genius.
“You too,” I smirk, trailing my fingers down my bare waist. “That shirt looks expensive. Wouldn’t want to mess it up.”
Not taking his eyes from me, he pulls his shirt off, back over front in that casual way boys have. I gasp. Doves zoom overhead, sprinkling golden confetti. A chorus of angels sing. Okay, not all that actually happens, but it’s the first time I’ve seen him shirtless.
And that chest deserves some fanfare.
His torso is tan, lithe and strong, the hard contours of a six-pack-verging-on-eight-pack begging to be licked. Every ounce of him is sculpted, refined. Just looking at him floods my abdomen with tension. There’s a swirling tattoo on the left side of his ribs, but I’m too busy thinking about how I want to mount his torso on my mantelpiece like a serial killer to dwell on it.
My roommate looks between us, her eyes narrowed. “You two seem to be getting along much better today.”
If by ‘getting along’ she means ‘staring at each other with enough sexual tension to hoist the Titanic from the bottom of the sea’ then yes.
“Remember, guys,” she says. “Last time was more about the romance between the characters. Their first kiss. This is purely sexual.”
At the words ‘purely sexual’, a shiver grips my spine. I think Adrian might be similarly affected, because he hardens all over. And I mean all over.
“Come on, then,” I muster up the courage to say, fingering the lacy edge of my panties. “Inspire me.” 

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Loren Mathis
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