Welcome to Jersey Girl Book Reviews, Sheila!
Before we get to the interview, can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself.
First, let me say thank you so much for having me. I'm delighted to be able to hang out with you and your friends. I've been writing forever and have had about thirty books in print over the years, both fiction and non-fiction, under various names. I love what I do. When I'm not writing stories, I'm busy writing songs. I'm a great baker and a not-so-good gardener (although I love to grow things I can eat!) I love to read. And, of course, I love to write.
How long have you been a writer?
You know, I've been writing since I was a child. In grade school I produced my own "hardback" novels using lined paper and tagboard (a cross between cardboard and paper) sheets. Of course, I did the cover art myself, which usually included a horse because I was horse crazy.
Do you have a day job, or is being an author your career?
Being an author is my day job and I love it. I love what I do, the commute is easy (down the hall to my office) and my work wardrobe is sweats.
What inspired you to become a writer? Describe your journey as a writer.
Like I said, I always wanted to write. I started out writing magazine articles. Then, once upon a time, I got an idea for a novel. And the writing got focused on fiction. So far my career has had many ups and downs but it's always been interesting.
Please give a brief description/storyline about Better Than Chocolate.
Better Than Chocolate is about Samantha Sterling, a woman determined to save her family company (Sweet Dream Chocolates) from going out of business. Times are tough for both her company and many of the businesses in her small town, so after some brainstorming with her mother and sisters Samantha hits on a brilliant idea: a chocolate festival. This will bring in tourist business and be good for both the town and Sweet Dreams Chocolates. Of course, nothing goes smoothly. And why should it? Our heroine should have to struggle. And our hero (who just happens to manage the bank that's about to close her company down), well, he has to prove himself heroic. And the town has to pull together. But let me tell you, I think they all do a great job. I wish there was an Icicle Falls because I'd like to go there and attend that chocolate festival!
What was the inspiration for this story?
The town of Leavenworth, Washington was actually my inspiration. I love this town. By the sixties they were on the verge of becoming a ghost town but they pulled together and reinvented themselves. Today, Leavenworth is a popular tourist destination spot. And when real estate values were sinking all over the country, theirs held strong. So I wanted to model a town on Leavenworth. I also wanted to write about a strong woman, saving her business. And when I got to thinking about what kind of business I'd want to save, well, chocolate came to mind.
How did it feel to have your first book published?
First books are like first loves. You never forget that feeling. It was a thrill.
Do you write books for a specific genre?
I write for the women's fiction - romance market.
What genres are your favorites? What are some of your favorite books that you have read and why?
I enjoy reading women's fiction, and I'm especially fond of books with humor. Favorite books? It's hard to narrow it down. Probably Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and The Masqueraders by Georgette Heyer top the list, right along with almost anything by Donald E. Westlake or Elizabeth Peters.
Do you have a special spot or area where you like to do your writing?
My spot is my office. No view, just my computer screen.
How do you come up with the ideas that become the storyline for your books?
Ideas can come from anywhere. My book On Strike for Christmas was inspired by my husband who was having a hard time finding his Christmas spirit one year. (In other words, he was being naughty.) I often find inspiration in what's going on around me or in something I read. Sometimes though, ideas just come to me out of nowhere.
When you write, do you adhere to a strict work schedule, or do you work whenever the inspiration strikes?
I have a pretty strict writing schedule. I log in time at the computer every day.
What aspects of storytelling do you like the best, and what aspects do you struggle with the most?
I love pulling together the basic story outline. Hmm, but I also like writing scenes. Sometimes I struggle with revisions. I do a lot of revising - revamping, deepening scenes, adding new scenes.
What are your favorite things to do when you are not writing?
That's a pretty long list. I love hanging out with my family and throwing parties. My hubby and I go out dancing once a week. I also play tennis and have recently taken up golf. Add to that songwriting, hanging with girlfriends, going to movies, and reading myself to sleep at night and every day gets pretty full.
What is/was the best piece of writing advice that you have received?
Never give up. This is a tough business and you have to be persistent.
What is the most gratifying thing you feel or get as a writer?
When a reader contacts me and tells me she enjoyed my book. That truly touches my heart.
How do you usually communicate with your readers/fans?
I hang out on Facebook. If you look for Sheila Roberts, author, you'll find me.
Is there anything in your book based on real life experiences or are they purely all from your imagination?
While I wouldn't mind owning a chocolate factory, this particular book is all imagination.
What authors have been your inspiration or influenced you to become a writer?
I wish I could point to one, but the road to becoming a writer was one I happened to find all on my own.
What is your definition of success as a writer?
Knowing that readers enjoy my books.
Are you currently writing a new book? If yes, would you care to share a bit of it with us?
I'm already two books down the road from this one. I will say, I'm very excited about the book I have coming out in November. Merry Ex-Mas is a holiday tale about wives and their exes, and it's great fun. We even made a music video and will have it up on Youtube as a bonus for readers. How fun is that?
Thank you Sheila for visiting Jersey Girl Book Reviews and sharing a bit about yourself and your writing career with us! I look forward to welcoming you back on Tuesday, November 13th, when I host your virtual book tour event for Merry Ex-Mas! Sheila will be providing us with an author guest post!
About The Author
Sheila Roberts lives in the Pacific Northwest. She’s happily married and has three children. Her books have been printed in several different languages and have been chosen for book clubs such as Doubleday as well as for Readers Digest Condensed books. Her best-selling novel On Strike for Christmas was made into a movie and appeared on the Lifetime Movie Network. Her novel Angel Lane was named one of Amazon’s Top Ten Romances for 2009.
When she’s not making public appearances or playing with her friends, she can be found writing about those things near and dear to women’s hearts: family, friends, and chocolate.
Her latest book is Better Than Chocolate.
Sheila Roberts' Better Than Chocolate Virtual Book Tour Page On Pump Up Your Book! Virtual Book Publicity Tours
Better Than Chocolate Book Trailer
Better Than Chocolate by Sheila Roberts
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Publication Date: September 25, 2012
Format: Paperback - 400 pages / Kindle - 501 KB / Nook - 421 KB
Genre: Chick Lit / Contemporary Romance / Women's Fiction
BUY THE BOOK: Better Than Chocolate
Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Pump Up Your Book! Virtual Book Publicity Tours.
After Samantha does some brainstorming with her mother and sisters, inspiration strikes. They’ll have a chocolate festival! Time’s running out, but the Sterling women are determined and the town’s behind them, so everything’s bound to go smoothly .
Or not. Events seem to be conspiring against Samantha, and her mother’s attempts to help aren’t helping. To make matters worse, the fate of her company is in the hands of her archenemy, Blake Preston, the bank manager with the football-hero good looks. It’s enough to drive her to chocolate. But Blake’s also enough to convince her that (believe it or not) there’s something even better than chocolate.
My Book Review:
Icicle Falls, Washington is the home of Sweet Dreams Chocolate Company, a family owned business run by the Sterling family, that began four generations ago with the recipes that came out of Great-Grandmother Rose's kitchen. Over the years the company flourished and grew until the death of its leader, Stephen Sterling, when it came to a grounding halt and the business begun running on autopilot under the guidance of heir apparent, Samantha Sterling, the eldest daughter. Before Samantha could get the business back on track, barely a year and a half after the death of her father, her mother Muriel married Waldo Wittman, and named him the new president of the company. Unfortunately, Waldo was a poor businessman, he proceeded to run the company into the ground by squandering the company's money, and his sudden death left the company deep in debt and on the verge of going under. Once again it is left to Samantha to save her family's beloved chocolate company any way that she can. But it won't be an easy feat to accomplish, the company has defaulted on it's loan installment payments to the bank, and has been extended a one month grace period to pay the loan off in full. When Samantha tries to get Cascade Mutual's new manager, Blake Preston, to give her six month extension while they restructure the company, he refuses to change bank policy for her, leaving her in a pickle! Samantha is determined to save the company from going out of business, and after brainstorming with her mother Muriel, and sisters Cecily and Bailey, they decide to host a chocolate festival that will save both their family business and the town. What could be better than chocolate when dealing with stress or when having to deal with a pesky banker who becomes smitten with Samantha? Hmmm ... maybe Blake has something sweeter to offer?
Better Than Chocolate is a lighthearted romance story that will captivate the reader's imagination. Author Sheila Roberts weaves a tantalizing tale of family, business and romance written in the third person narrative, she easily draws the reader into the lives of the Sterling family and the townsfolk of picturesque Icicle Falls, Washington. Rich in details and vivid descriptions of the scenic little mountain town in the Pacific Northwest, the reader is transported to Icicle Falls with its breathtaking mountain scenery, quaint shops, and of course the Sweet Dreams Chocolate Company ... close your eyes and imagine the scent and taste of sweet chocolate candies ... The story follows Samantha Sterling and her family as they strive to save their family owned chocolate company from going out of business, while also helping their little town's economy revive. The town has taken a hit when little snowfall and the recession keeps tourists away from the ski slopes. Samantha has one month to save her company ... with the help of her family and the support of the townspeople, they hold Icicle Falls First Annual Chocolate Festival ... only to have trial and tribulations along the way ... is it enough to save her beloved company ... or does the race against the clock push Samantha to reach out and ask for the assistance of her frenemy, Blake Preston?
While I am a sucker for romance, I rather enjoyed how this story's main plot revolved around the saving of the family company and the chocolate festival event, with the romance of Samantha and Blake as a subplot. I really enjoy the author's descriptive style of writing, she has a way of drawing the reader into the story, you feel like you have been transported into the lives of the townspeople of Icicle Falls. The story is engaging and fun, it has a lot of humorous scenes that will keep you entertained. It's a whimsical story about family and friends, of community spirit, and of course there is romance thrown into the mix. I loved how each chapter begins with a business/relationship quote from Muriel's publications, I think it was a great lead into each chapter.
The author has created a large cast of characters who are realistic and warmhearted people. I loved following the trials and tribulations of Samantha, mother Muriel, and sisters Cecily and Bailey. The family bond that they share comes shining through as they learn to deal with the changes that life has brought their way. I couldn't help but like Blake, he too has his struggles to overcome as he must decide whether to tow the company line or stand up and be his own man. I enjoyed the tension between Samantha and Blake, while their relationship was not the main focus of the story, I think it did satisfy the romance that I crave when I read romance stories. And I would be remiss if I didn't mention that the story had a quirky bunch of supporting cast of characters who added to the story's overall entertainment value with their humorous adventures.
With fun characters, humorous dialogues and interactions, rich descriptions and a storyline that will engage your senses with the addition of yummy chocolate recipes, Better Than Chocolate is a story that will tickle your fancy! Better Than Chocolate is a must read for the diehard Sheila Roberts fan, you won't be disappointed!
Better Than Chocolate is the first book in the Icicle Falls series.
RATING: 5 STARS *****