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.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Love, Alabama by Susan Sands (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 Love, Alabama by author Susan Sands!

Author Interview

Welcome to Jersey Girl Book Reviews, Susan!

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

Thanks so much for hosting me today; I’m thrilled to be here! Where to begin…I grew up in in Negreet, Louisiana, a tiny town in the Northwest part of the state near the Texas border surrounded by family. We rode motorcycles (dirt bikes) through the woods to get to friends’ houses because the terrain was too rough for bicycles. There wasn’t much to do but read. So, comic books, Nancy Drew mysteries, and then Harlequin Romances were my main source of entertainment growing up.

Steel Magnolias was filmed in my college town of Natchitoches, Louisiana during my senior year and they took over the campus and our lives. It was such fun! So, I have small town Southern girl roots through and through. I’ve lived in the Atlanta suburbs for the past twenty or so years with my husband, furry friends and three nearly-grown kiddos. I’ve been civilized, I supposed, but every time I go home, my drawl comes back.

How long have you been a writer? 

I began on my 40th birthday. I’ll be 49 in May.

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

My early career was teaching, but I’ve been home with my kids since they were very young, so I write full time now.

What inspired you to become a writer? 

I read a string of not-great books and decided I could do better. Of course, I couldn’t at the time, but that was the catalyst.

Describe your journey as a writer. 

Do you have all day? Just kidding. I began by dragging my sister-in-law to a writer’s conference on the West coast (I live on the East coast) when I was 15,000 words (60 pages) into my first novel. It was a first novel small, but intensive “From the Heart, but Smart” conference that worked us ten hours a day on learning how to pitch our novels. They brought in agents and editors. Remember I had no idea what I was doing, and I was only 60 pages into my novel. An agent asked for my book when it was done. I probably would never have finished the entire thing if I hadn’t had an actual agent waiting for it. Even crazier, she wanted to represent me after she read it. Now, this is like winning all sorts of lotteries and jackpots, because the odds of getting an offer of representation on your first submission as a new writer is laughable. What I didn’t know is that my book wasn’t ready. So, my book went out to New York in a sad and sorry state. I don’t recommend this. No book deal. Wrote second book. No book deal. Lessons learned.

Fast forward. Broke-up with agent. Wrote a new book. Lots of craft classes, books, learning how to write. Rejection, rejection, and more rejection. Rewrites. Book nominated for awards, awards won. New agent. Book deal. Second book deal.

My journey is very similar to lots of other authors. You write, you learn, you get rejected, but you don’t give up.

Please give a brief description/storyline about Love, Alabama

Emma Laroux’s a fallen Southern beauty queen whose past is barely whispered about in her small town. But the secrets and lies surrounding her scandal still haunt her, and something about Matthew Pope may hold the answers...if only she could put her finger on it.

Matthew Pope wonders what awful karmic thing he’s done to land him in Podunk, Alabama. But when he sees Emma Laroux again after all this time, he knows he’s still the only one who holds the key to unlocking the truth of her past…

Will a shared moment in time ten years ago threaten the best thing that’s every happened to them – each other?

What was the inspiration for this story?

Well, I’d written her sister, Cammie’s story in Again, Alabama, and I’d gotten quite a bit of reader feedback about Emma and how much they wanted to know more about her tragic events that no one even whispered about. Her story was fun to write.

How did it feel to have your first book published? 

By the time I finally got a book deal, It was almost like a vindication. I wanted to climb up to the highest mountain and pound my chest. Finally! I had a strong desire to publish traditionally, and was determined to hone my skills until I broke through the rejection.

Do you write books for a specific genre?

I write what I best describe as Southern romantic women’s fiction. It really goes both ways. My books fall in with contemporary romance and with women’s fiction.

What genres are your favorite(s)? 

I love historical romance as a getaway. I read contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and some literary fiction.

What are some of your favorite books that you have read and why?

I’ll answer that with mostly authors. I love Eloisa James, Karen White, Kristan Higgins. I recently read The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and loved it. She really brought to a cold, hungry place.

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

I have a zero gravity chair set-up and sit there quite a lot. I also have an adjustable bed. I don’t like sitting at a desk or table. I use a laptop, so I’m pretty portable, but I normally write at home. Not a Starbucks gal. I get too distracted in public.

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

I think about the things we’ve all experienced or might have. The might-have-beens in our lives are what women dream about. What gives us butterflies? Those scenarios are great stories.

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

I try to work while the kids are at school. I do a lot of good thinking in the shower and when I first wake up in the morning. I make notes on my phone.

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

I struggle with timelines and transitions and keeping track of what day it is in the story. Getting my characters from one place to another and from one day to another drives me nuts. Moving them along, I guess. I like dialogue and action, and all the exciting parts.

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

I play tennis, I cook really fattening and delicious Cajun food (remember, I’m from Louisiana), and I like to paint.

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

That you can’t worry about everyone’s opinion. There is always someone who won’t like what you do. Writing is so subjective, and you have to stay true to your voice.

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

When a reader takes the time to send me a note or message letting me know that my writing has touched them in some unique way. It really surprised me the first time it happened. It has been an unexpected blessing in this journey.

How do you usually communicate with your readers/fans? 

Usually Facebook or my blog.

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

If I said I’ve never based anything on real life I’d be lying. One rule we’ve all been taught is write what you know. So, yes, some of the things I write have been pulled right from the life I’ve lived.

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

These writers have either given me a hand up or continue to give me advice when I need it. (Karen White, Eloisa James, Kimberly Brock, Tracy Solheim, Christy Hayes)

What is your definition of success as a writer? 

Continuing to move forward. Writing every day. Pursuing the next thing.

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

Remember that very first book? Well, I’ve completely re-written it, without using a word from the first manuscript. I’ve taken the setting, characters, and basic plot because they were all very good. The words, however, were not. I’m finishing that up right now…

Thank you for visiting Jersey Girl Book Reviews, Susan, and for sharing with us a bit about yourself and your writing career!

About The Author

Susan Sands grew up in a tiny Southern town in Northwest Louisiana near the Texas border. She graduated from Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana, during the filming of Steel Magnolias on her campus. There’s no more Southern, small town claim to fame than that.

Her characters and setting are pulled from those very Southern, small towns and open spaces, where the air is clean and the words are often spoken with more syllables than necessary, y’all.

Her lifelong love of reading and the realization that her children were growing up and would eventually move on spurred her to try her hand at writing. Susan’s two novels, Again, Alabama, and Love, Alabama, are currently available both in digital format and in print from all online retailers.

Susan lives with her dentist husband and three nearly grown children in Johns Creek, GA. She is a member of the Georgia Romance Writers and the Romance Writers of America.

She loves connecting with readers and can be found at all the fun places on social media!

Author Website
Instagram #2

Book Review

Love, Alabama by Susan Sands
Book 2: Alabama Series
Publisher: Tule Publishing 
Publication Date: Paperback - February 24, 2016 / eBook - April 13, 2016
Format: Paperback - 342 pages
               Kindle - 1050 KB
               Nook - 445 KB
ISBN: 978-1943963928
BNID: 2940152624069
Genre: Contemporary Romance / Southern Women's Fiction

Buy The Book:

Buy The Series: Alabama Series
Book 1: Always, Alabama
Book 2: Love, Alabama

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:

Emma Laroux’s a fallen Southern beauty queen whose past is barely whispered about in her small town. But the secrets and lies surrounding her scandal still haunt her, and something about Matthew Pope may hold the answers...if only she could put her finger on it.

Matthew Pope wonders what awful karmic thing he’s done to land him in Podunk, Alabama. But when he sees Emma Laroux again after all this time, he knows he’s still the only one who holds the key to unlocking the truth of her past…

Will a shared moment in time ten years ago threaten the best thing that’s ever happened to them – each other?

Book Excerpt:

Emma pulled up behind Matthew’s car and frowned, noticing that his taillight was busted. She got out and pulled the bag of items from the back seat, not giving his car much more thought.

Knocking gently on the door, she figured she would leave the bag on the front step if he didn’t answer. He might be sleeping. But what if he’d gotten light-headed, fallen, and hit his head on the bathtub and was knocked-out cold, lying in a pool of his own blood? The thought, while mildly ridiculous, gave her just enough pause to knock again, this time more loudly.

No answer.
She rang the bell.
No answer.
Now she was concerned. His car was in the drive. He was definitely home. Her heart began to beat in her ears.
 She tried the door.
 Locked. She looked through the leaded glass front door. No movement. Nice house.
She knocked again.
Emma still had the bag in her arm. So, she carried it with her around the back of the house to the screened in porch. The screen door was open, so she stepped up onto the pretty porch with the comfy furniture. It appeared that Matthew spent time out here. There were pillows, a rug, a throw, a couple books, and a lamp. Nice.

She knocked on the back door. No answer. She didn’t see anyone inside.
She bit her lip and tried the door. It opened. “Hello? Matthew?”
No answer. She moved inside and let her gaze wander around the room. It was cozy and well decorated for a guy’s place. She noticed the kitchen to the right and headed in that direction. She put her bag on the kitchen counter then headed toward what she knew must be the master bedroom. This house was similar in style to hers.

She called out to him again. Emma was getting worried now. Why didn’t he answer?

As she entered the bedroom, she noticed it the blinds were closed and it was rather dark, but she could see no one was in the bed. Then, she realized the shower was running. Against any kind of decent judgment, she moved toward the bathroom door. She couldn’t help herself; she peeked inside. He wasn’t standing in the shower; he was sitting on the floor. She panicked and rushed towards him before her brain informed her to actually speak his name.

She pulled open the door, certain he was dead before she shrieked, “Matthew, open your damned eyes!” He did. Open his damned eyes. Opened them really wide. “Emma? Why are you in my shower stall?”

She really didn’t have a great answer to that. “Oh, Lord. I thought you were dead.” It was the best she could do.

He did look nearly dead. He smiled weakly. “I’ve been really sick, so I thought I’d sit here for a little while. But I’m not dead. So, um, could you hand me a towel? Unless, of course, you prefer a shower?”

Emma then became acutely aware of her position. And his. He was naked. Oh, Lord, was he naked. The most delicious naked she’d ever seen. And now she couldn’t stop staring at his naked. And apparently his naked knew it now. Because it was staring straight up at her, too.

“Emma—a towel? Because I’m a little more inclined to invite you into my shower now.”

She raised her eyes beyond his naked to his eyes, horrified. “Uh, a towel. Sure.” Looking around, she grabbed the closest towel she could find, the one hanging on a hook beside the shower. “I thought you were dead,” she said again, as an explanation.

She was a complete idiot. And now she wanted to jump his sick bones.

Just as quickly as she heard him turn the water off, he all but shoved her out of his way to get to the toilet and throw up. That was enough motivation for Emma to snap out of it and get the hell out of sick, naked Matthew’s bathroom.

While he was getting his clothes on, she did the same things she’d done for Cammie. After everything had been sanitized, she brought in a tray with saltines and ginger ale. She found him lying weakly in his bed wishing for death to take him.

“I’m sorry I invaded your privacy. Cammie asked me to come check on you. She’s sick and wondered if you’d come down with the virus, too. When you didn’t answer, I thought maybe you’d had an accident.”

He opened one eye. “That’s a bit of a stretch, don’t you think?”

She grinned. “Probably. But I’m known for my dramatic flair on occasion. I’m artistic, in case you haven’t heard.” She straightened his bed like she’d done for her sister.

“Are you mothering me?” he asked.

“My mother always said you feel better when your bed isn’t a mess.”

“She’s right. Thanks. Sorry you had to—see that.”

“That’s okay. It’s nothing I haven’t seen before.” She swished her hand as if waving his words away.

“Not that. I meant, the throwing up part. I don’t think anyone has seen me bare-assed, hanging over a toilet before. It’s not very manly.”

“I have an aversion to vomit, so I excused myself from the room as soon as I knew what was happening.

Don’t worry, still manly.” She envisioned the other manly part and kept her opinion of that to herself. Holy moly, every bit of him was manly. It was all burned into her brain permanently.

“I’ve brought saltines, Gatorade, chicken broth, and ginger ale. Call me if you need anything. If it’s a twenty-four hour bug, you should be fine in the morning.”

“Emma, thanks again. I appreciate your looking out for me.”

“We really need to find you some friends in town.” She smiled and left the room.
Her legs were shaky. She could never look at him the same way again—not without mentally undressing him, knowing what lay beneath. She drew another unsteady breath.

My Book Review:

Love, Alabama is a wonderful Southern Women's Fiction story of letting go of the past, moving forward, and second chances.

Emma Laroux is a former beauty queen from Ministry, Alabama, who has a pageant coach business. Even after ten years, the secrets and lies surrounding a college incident in her past still haunts her.

Matthew Pope is a television director from New York, who comes to Ministry to direct Emma's sister Cammie's Southern cooking show. Matthew recognizes Emma as the girl that he rescued from a situation at a college frat party ten years ago, but she doesn't remember him.

Only Matthew holds the key that can unlock the truth of Emma's past and help her move forward.

Readers were first introduced to Emma Laroux in the first book of the series, Always, Alabama, which was Emma's sister Cammie's story. Now in Love, Always, author Susan Sands transports the reader back to Ministry, Alabama, with a delightful Southern tale that follows Emma's story.

Set in the small town of Ministry, Alabama, the reader follows Emma and Matthew's story as their shared past filled with hidden secrets, omissions, and internal struggles resurface with their unexpected reunion. The chemistry between Emma and Matthew is undeniable, and as their friendship develops into a budding romance, can they overcome the manipulation and lies from Emma's ex-boyfriend, Ministry Mayor Tad Beaumont, and the resurfacing of the hidden secrets from the past in order to get a chance at love?

As a fan of Southern Women's Fiction, Love, Alabama is a beautifully written story that is filled with an abundance of Southern charm, hospitality, wit, drama, humor, romance, and delicious sweet tea, that left me smiling and pleasantly satisfied. I really enjoyed following Emma and Matthew's story. I was intrigued by the mystery behind the incident from ten years ago that initially brought them together, and when you add in a sweet budding romance, emotional baggage, and an ex-boyfriend's manipulative actions into the mix, there was no denying that this story easily kept me engaged and turning the pages. I loved the connection and witty banter between Emma and Matthew; the rich description that captured the essence of the small southern town setting and its citizens; a host of engaging secondary characters; and all the drama, intrigue, and romance that easily made Love, Alabama an enjoyable story that left me wanting more.


Contest Giveaway

Win A $20 Amazon Gift Card

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Virtual Book Tour

Tour Schedule:

April 13 – Change theWord – Q&A
April 14 – Aroundthe World in Books – Excerpt
April 15 – Queenof All She Reads – Excerpt
April 20 – Chick LitGoddess – Excerpt
April 21 – A Page To Turn – Review
April 25 – Jersey Girl Book Reviews – Review, Q&A, & Excerpt
April 25 – Granny Loves to Read – Review
April 26 – Chick Lit Plus – Review
April 26 – Curling Up With a Good Book – Review
April 27 – Love For Books and Java – Review, Q&A & Excerpt
April 27 – The Phantom Paragrapher – Review
April 27 – Novel Escapes – Q&A

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