Books are food for my soul! Pull up a beach chair and stick your toes in the sand as the Jersey surf rolls in and out, now open your book and let your imagination take you away.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Beauty And The Bridesmaid by Lisa Souza (Author Interview / Book Review / Contest Giveaway)

In association with Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for Beauty And The Bridesmaid by Author Lisa Souza!

Author Interview

Welcome to Jersey Girl Book Reviews, Lisa!

Before we get to the interview, can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself.

I’m Woody Allen caliber neurotic. I have two amazing daughters and a very tolerant husband. I carry a notebook and make lots of lists, living for that dopamine-rich moment when I get to cross something off of one.

How long have you been a writer?

I’ve been writing stories since age five. I keep a whiney diary. I send long winded letters to my mom. Writing with the intention to publish, though, finally bubbled to the surface a handful of years ago.

Do you have a day job, or is being an author your career?

I work part time at a fairgrounds. I think of myself as a writer-slash-part-time-carnie.

What inspired you to become a writer? Describe your journey as a writer.

I have incredible sense memories surrounding books. I love the churchy smell of paperbacks, the cloth feel of old hardbacks and my library card is still a most valued possession. There’s so much information and solace and comfort to be found in books. I wanted to join the club immediately.

Unfortunately if you take a quick listen in my head, you’ll hear Duelin’ Banjos playing. In one ear we have the guitar representing a powerful compulsion to write. But wait! The banjo twangs out a second, louder tune. That side sounds like every authority figure ever encountered questioning what I possibly have to share that’s of any relevance. So I type three words, delete two and a half. This makes me an incredibly slow writer.

It’s actually kind of impressive watching me dodge the responsibility to put words on the page.

Please give a brief description/storyline about Beauty and the Bridesmaid.

The elevator version: an ugly duckling perma-bridesmaid transforms into a physically beautiful woman – and things go wrong.

What was the inspiration for this story?

The germ of the idea grew out of attending my sister-in-law’s bachelorette party. She’s a strikingly lovely model with a passel of strikingly lovely friends. When they entered a place, they made an entrance. Every other woman in the place, including me, disappeared. They might as well have thrown a tarp over the rest of us. I wondered what it would be like to have my sister-in-law’s brand of power. When I combined that experience with some remembered high school bullying incidents, it began to gel.

How did it feel to have your first book published?

I was so relieved that it happened. It’s a lovely thing to hold your first paperback. That moment has a short shelf life, though, then you have write more words.

Do you write books for a specific genre?

I might be just the teensiest bit ADD. A sensible version of me would write true to genre. Instead, I’m working on a series of non-fiction essays. Then I have to choose between a YA concept involving a teen pregnancy and a women’s fiction story about how a marriage decays when the couple deals with their special needs child.

What genres are your favorite(s)? What are some of your favorite books that you have read and why?

I read across the spectrum: paranormal thrillers, women’s fiction, romance, criminal procedurals, self-help, programming manuals, Interior Design magazines, it’s all good. Dean Koontz (The Husband, One Door Away from Heaven) is a favorite - I root for his characters every single time. I reread Martha Beck books routinely. She provides incredibly useful information using compelling language. Maria Semple’s book Where’d You Go Bernadette? resonated with my working mom self. It read very truthful, very raw.

Do you have a special spot/area where you like to do your writing?

I’ll write in any location I can open a laptop and coax out a few words.

How do you come up with the ideas that become the storyline for your books?

Oh ideas come easily. That parts not a problem. You overhear a conversation, or someone cut you off in traffic, or see an interesting looking person at the mall and BAM! You’re off and running. What does not come easily at all is creating a clear, compelling narrative that can withstand a novel length telling. That’s just plain work for me. You record those interesting ideas, rough out an outline, start writing. Eventually something won’t work and you end up dropping entire subplots and rewriting. That’s why I haven’t cracked out seventeen bestsellers. At least not yet.

When you write, do you adhere to a strict work schedule, or do you work whenever the inspiration strikes?

Here’s what I think people who want to write need to know: you develop skills through deep practice and attention. The ugly truth about me is I procrastinate like a mad dog to avoid that empty page. My next book will be How to Avoid Finishing Your Novel. Productive writing happens after 10:00pm. By that time of night, my excuse quota has been met but Vince, my inner critic, remains on high alert. I open my laptop and plug away till midnight or so. When Vince lets me, that is.

What aspects of storytelling do you like the best, and what aspects do you struggle with the most?

Character development and dialog feel easy. Crafting that believable plot with neatly interwoven subplots that amps up to that unforeseen but completely believable twist? That part is hard.

What are your favorite things to do when you are not writing?

I sing in the garage with my husband. I design Access databases. Occasionally I get lost in Facebook-landia chatting with my daughter. Oh! And I am developing my own exercise program called “Walk/Reading.” It involves taking long walks while involved in a paperback. You have to maintain sufficient awareness of your surroundings to avoid wandering into traffic.

What is/was the best piece of writing advice that you have received?

From my older brother, a professional screenwriter/producer: “Shut up and write.” I’m sure he meant it with love.

What is the most gratifying thing you feel or get as a writer?

It’s tough to be a human being with our noisy, interfering brains. Writing feels like an acknowledging the shared human condition.

How do you usually communicate with your readers/fans?

My nomination for social media coward of the year should arrive any minute now. That said, I welcome email questions and comments: ( and I’m on facebook ( ). This is my first book and my first blog tour so I very much appreciate reader comments and feedback. I’m very grateful to you, Jersey Girl, for sharing your blogspot with me. It’s much appreciated.

Is there anything in your book based on real life experiences or are they purely all from your imagination?

There’s plenty of me in my writing. I’ve been bullied, sexually assaulted, seen a therapist. The emotional aspects of those experiences clearly influence both the subject matter and how I tell it. That said, this isn’t an autobiography. It’s story telling.

What authors have been your inspiration or influenced you to become a writer?

Madeline L’Engle fed my compulsion to write by crafting such a heroic young female character. What’s not to love?

What is your definition of success as a writer?

Readers getting cranky because they’re impatient for your next book.

Are you currently writing a new book? If yes, would you care to share a bit of it with us?

I’m writing a series of non-fiction essays. The tentative title is That’s Not Funny: Why I’m Worried and You Should Be Too. When you catch yourself popping Cymbalta like Pez, when you grow furious about issues far above my pay grade about which you can do nada? Ridiculous. Which struck me as pretty funny. For example, it’s funny that I grow enraged at my inability to meditate. I think that kind of silliness deserves a gentle, grandmotherly, “there, there pet, Have some tea. You have permission to laugh at the absurdity of it all.”

Thank you Lisa for visiting Jersey Girls Book Reviews and sharing a bit about yourself and your writing career!

About The Author

Lisa Souza was raised on the mean streets of Spokane, Washington, one of five siblings wrestling for attention and hot meals.

She has a degree in English because both her husband and parents insisted she buck up and finish something. Without outside pressure, she fizzled out on an interior design program, bailed on computer science after two years, but rallied to complete her certification in hypnosis in 2012.

Lisa lives in the Snohomish Valley with her first husband Mark, (author of Robyn's Egg), two stoic children, and Tater the rescue dog, whose ancestry is very much in question.


Book Review

Beauty And The Bridesmaid by Lisa Souza
Publisher: Wet Coast Media
Publication Date: May 30, 2014
Format: Paperback - 369 pages
              Kindle - 444 KB
ISBN:  978-0985677220
Genre: Chick Lit / Women's Fiction

Buy The Book: Beauty And The Bridesmaid

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 Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours.

Book Description:

Could love be a nip/tuck away?

Having endured her mother's fourthwedding, hypnotized by makeover shows and tempted by a Zvengali-esque image consultant named Kennedy J, ├╝ber bridesmaid Dot Lindell launches into an odyssey of self improvement, plastic surgery and therapy.

Then new and improved Dot encounters former high school hottie John Miller. She begins a risky deception, convincing both John - and herself! - that she's a totally different person. Maybe she can pull it off: after all, she's unrecognizable.

But John introduces Dot to his best friend and that bully from her nightmares Jack Weston. Jack has changed since high school, too. He's grown more dangerous.

Beauty and the Bridesmaid is a darkly comic tale of transformation and choices, frenemies and friendships, the heroic saga of a nice woman who only wants to look in the mirror and feel beautiful, but may find the price higher than she bargained.

Book Excerpt:

Doctor Devers wiggles her pen back and forth against her clipboard. It looks like butterfly wings.

“You hired an image consultant?” Jasper’s eyebrows attempt to hide in his hairline.

“More of a prisoner exchange. I got his computer working and he waived his fee. Which is hardly fair to him. All he needed was Adobe Acrobat installed and bam, problem solved. It’s a free download for goodness sakes. Took maybe three minutes. It’ll take months to get me overhauled.”

Group stares.

“Yes. I hired him.”

“Isn’t that a little…you know... tragic? Having some stranger dude decide what you’re going to look like?” Elvira’s problem is not shyness.

I bite down hard on my lower lip to keep from spewing with laughter. “Possibly. But no one’s come begging for my style secrets. Whereas Kennedy win awards for his.” I shrug. “Seems like a sensible solution. Calling in the professionals. Like they do on TV.”

Anna shakes her head. “Unnatural. Having some man do dis to you.”

Jasper considers. “People wear braces to straighten their teeth. They take medicine for medical conditions.” He directs his gaze at Anna, “People kick nature in the ass plenty when it serves them.”

Dr. Devers swings toward me. “This isn’t TV, Dot. The money and the pain won’t be a thirty-minute blip with commercial breaks. They’ll be real. So my question is, where are your boundaries? Have you decided what’s sacred? What you’ll protect?”

“Nothing’s sacred, Doc. At this point, I intend to follow Kennedy’s suggestions to the letter and let the chips, the pounds, and the fashion faux pas fall where they may. I have little to lose.”

She frowns. Apparently that’s the wrong answer.

“Look, you might want to schedule some private sessions, Dot. Doesn’t have to be with me, I can recommend some people.”

“Sorry, Doc. My money is going to be tied up for some time. Oh, and that reminds me, I won’t be coming to group for the next few weeks.”

I’m flattered at the chorus of no’s from my fellow cast offs.

“Just for a few weeks. I have all these appointments that Kennedy set up and with all the bus trips –” I let myself trail off, stand up to leave.

Donald and Susan shake my hand. Elvira cracks an eerie black smile and wishes me luck. “Come back and show off the new look, right?” She shoves a card into my hand. Oh my heavens the girl has a business card! I push it into my pocket.

“Thanks, El.”

Anna clucks her tongue disapprovingly. “I vish you vould retink dis decision. But I hope all vill be vell wit you.” She surprises me by jumping up and giving me a quick peck on the cheek.

Mikey isn’t there (back in the pokey again), so that leaves just Jasper and the doc.

Jasper’s face is unreadable, which is frustrating. “I’m going to miss you, Dot. You’re coming back, though, right? After the ‘few weeks’ is up?”

My turn to feel pink hit my cheeks. “That’s the plan at the moment. Things are pretty up in the air at the moment, so I’m trying not to make too many promises.”

He looks thoughtful. “I see. Well, I wish you all the best.” His eyes lock on mine. He looks like he’s about to say something, then drops his eyes.

I walk out.

I wonder if he’s really a doctor. Or a plumber. Or a figment of my imagination.

At the bus stop, I strain to read "The Race for Love," by the poor light of a streetlamp which would be book number ninety-two on the Barbara Cartland countdown to romance. Fortunately for me there's no rain (yahoo), but it's nippy and dim and the sounds of voices approaching makes it difficult to concentrate.

The voices grow more agitated and soon the unmistakable surfer-Goth cadence of Elvira cuts through. The other voice isn't familiar, just the grunts of some young Neanderthal. I duck into the shadows of the overhang, fading into the darkness, and dog-ear the page of my book.

" - waste of fuckin' time," grunts a guy about my height. He seems beefy and squat next to the lean line of Elvira. His clothes are all dark, but the streetlight occasionally winks off one of the piercings, marking his proximity.

She crosses her arms over her nonexistent bosom. "No one holding a gun to your head, dude."

I do like that girl. "Hey, Elvira."

She starts a bit. "Oh, how-dee, Dot. You shaved a few years off me."

"Sorry about that. Didn't want to intrude."

The troglodyte wheels on me, a cold look in his eyes. "Yet ya did." He rams his shoulder into Elvira's stiff form as he turns on his heels, the force of it causing her to take a step back into the bus stop. I catch her before she falls over. "Fuckin' outta here. I'm heading to Burger King."

He huffs off in the darkness, leaving Elvira and I holding our breaths at the bus stop.

"That one's a keeper."

She shakes her head, her enormous eyes shimmer with unshed tears. "He's not usually such a dick." She sniffs and digs into a big bag for a tissue. "He can be really nice. Sweet, ya know?"

What kind of a monster would start a fight with those eyes? "Sure. Everyone has their bad days. Was he your ride?"

She nods.

"Not to worry. The bus will be here soon."

Her mouth twists sideways. "Not sure it's even my bus, dude."

She has a point. "True. But it'll get us out of here."

My Book Review:

In her debut novel, Beauty and the Bridesmaid, author Lisa Souza weaves an entertaining tale that follows Dot Lindell's transformational journey from an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan.

Dot's story is written in a dramatic style with a touch of dark humor. The reader follows Dot as she takes extreme measures to transform her external features, and become a new woman through surgery, diet, exercise, and a wardrobe makeover. But alas ... Dot's journey has its trials and tribulations, and along the way she discovers that external appearances are only superficial and can be changed, but it doesn't change the person inside, or the important relationships that she has with others, and it won't help achieve the acceptance and love that she so desperately seeks.

Beauty and the Bridesmaid is a story that delves into self image and societal perceptions. I loved that the author weaves a tale that intertwines humor with a serious women's issue that every woman can relate to. While I found myself laughing and cringing as I followed Dot's journey, I couldn't help but also ponder the underlying message of the issue of self image and societal perceptions. What woman hasn't been in Dot's shoes at sometime in her life? But would you go the lengths that Dot did to transform herself, when all that really counts is the quality of your inner person?

Beauty and the Bridesmaid is a thought provoking and humorous story about one woman who faces her insecurities, and along the way finds and accepts her true self.


Contest Giveaway

Win A Copy Of Beauty And The Bridesmaid

Anyone who leaves a comment on the Beauty And The Bridesmaid tour page will be entered to win a copy of Beauty and the Bridesmaid. Print copies will be available for US winners and eBook for international. Please leave your email in your comment!

Virtual Book Tour Event Page

Tour Schedule:

March 2- ChicksThat Read – Review
March 3 - TheLovely Books – Novel Spotlight
March 4 - BookSuburbia – Excerpt
March 4 - Book Mama Blog – Excerpt
March 5 - BenishKhan – Review
March 9 - GirlLoves Pink Books – Review & Excerpt 
March 9 - Storm Goddess BookReviews - Q&A& Excerpt 
March 10 - Chick Lit Plus – Review
March 13 - ReecasPieces – Review
March 13 - Novel Escapes – Q&A 
March 13 - Jersey Girl Book Reviews – Review, Q&A & Excerpt
March 16 - Polished & Bubbly – Review & Excerpt