Today, I have invited Karen Stivali to visit, and she has answered my questions without reservation. Her new book, Meant to Be, is a women's contemporary fiction book with strong romantic elements, and was available August 26, 2012. Karen will award the winner's choice of a backlist ebook to one commenter at every stop. A grand prize of a $20 Amazon GC will be awarded to one randomly drawn commenter at the end of the tour. But before the interview and book info, here's a bit about Karen.
Karen Stivali is a prolific writer, compulsive baker and chocoholic with a penchant for books, movies and fictional British men. When she’s not writing, she can be found cooking extravagant meals and serving them to family and friends. Prior to deciding to write full time Karen worked as a hand drawn animator, a clinical therapist, and held various food-related jobs ranging from waitress to specialty cake maker. Planning elaborate parties and fundraisers takes up what’s left of her time and sanity.
Karen has always been fascinated by the way people relate to one another so she favors books and movies that feature richly detailed characters and their relationships. In her own writing she likes to explore the dynamics between characters and has a tendency to craft romantic love stories filled with sarcasm and sexy details.
Karen has published three erotic romances with Ellora’s Cave: Marry Me (June 2012), Long-Distance Lovers (co-written with Karen Booth, March 2012) and Always You (Passionate Plume First Place Novella Winner, RWA 2012).
Karen’s first full-length novel, Meant To Be, will be published by Turquoise Morning Press on August 26, 2012. Its sequel, Holding On, will be released on November 26, 2012. A prequel to these novels, the short story All I Need, appears in the Foreign Affairs Anthology (Turquoise Morning Press, August 2012).
For more information about my current and upcoming projects please visit my website: http://karenstivali.com
I can also be found on:
What is the best thing about being a writer? The worst?
The best things about being a writer are getting to create characters and stories and make whatever you want happen…and having other people read what you’ve written and really enjoy what you’ve created.
The worst thing is all the waiting. Whether you’re waiting to hear back from someone reading your draft to critique it, or you’re waiting for an answer on a story you’ve submitted for publication, or you’re waiting for a contract, or your editor to get the next draft back to you, or a publishing date, or reviews, or the paper version of your book to release, as a writer you’re ALWAYS waiting for something. I’m not a big fan of waiting. But I do it, because that’s just how it works.
What inspired you to write your current release?
I was thinking about how people change over time and drift in and out of one another’s lives. I’d read the saying “people come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime” and I realized that you never really know who’s there for which of those purposes. People you think will be in your life forever can wind up actually being there for a very short time. Others who you think you’ll probably only know briefly--- a co-worker, a neighbor--- may end up being significant in your life forever. That’s the premise of Meant To Be--- you never know who your “lifetime” people will be.
How important is the setting/world in your books?
Minimally. My books are all contemporary (set in modern day) stories with normal human characters, so I don’t need to do much in the way of world-building. Setting and world are only important to my stories in terms of how they help define the character and their daily lives---whether they’re in a small town or a big city---a teeny apartment or a spacious house---simple, real life issues that tell the reader about the character’s everyday world.
What drives your books? Is it the hero, the heroine, the conflict?
That varies a little from book to book. Some are more hero-driven, some more heroine-driven, and there’s always a love story driving both of them. All of my books are very character heavy. In my opinion, books need to have a plot, because stuff has to happen but if you don’t know the characters well and adore them, then you don’t care what happens to them. I fall in love with my characters then tell their story.
What is the best advice you ever got as a writer? The worst? If you could go back in time and give your beginner-writer-self some advice, what would you say?
The best advice I ever got as a writer was being told “Whatever you do, don’t put this in a drawer.” I had been submitting Meant To Be for a while and had gotten discouraged---I’d had positive feedback but kept getting told it was too hard to place because it crosses genres between women’s fiction and romance. I won a critique session with Janelle Denison, a best selling author, and after she read the first 1/3 of my book we had an hour long phone chat. She encouraged me to keep submitting it because she’d enjoyed it so much. Without her advice I might have stopped sending it out and then I wouldn’t be working with my awesome publisher, Turquoise Morning Press.
I’ve been very lucky during my writing journey and I’m not sure anyone’s ever given me horrible advice. If they did, I’ve effectively blocked it out or forgotten it.
The only thing I would tell my young writer self would be to go for it sooner. I’ve enjoyed writing since I first learned to form all the letters, but I was always hesitant (okay, terrified) to let people read what I’d written. I’d tell younger-me to get over myself, that it never stops being scary, but that’s okay---do it anyway.
Can you tell us a bit about what book(s) you have coming out next and what you’re working on now?
My next release is the novel Holding On. It’s the sequel to Meant To Be but it can be read as a standalone book. It takes place one year after Meant To Be ends.
I just signed a contract with Samhain Publishing on a new contemporary romance. That’s a second-chance-with-an-old-crush story and it will release in May 2013. I’m also currently writing two projects. Both are contemporary romances with variations on the friends-to-lovers theme.
I like books where you come away feeling like you know the characters personally. People fascinate me---fictional ones and real life ones---so I want to get to know them well and see how they interact. If there’s a love story involved, all the better. And if there’s witty dialogue, sexual tension and a happy ending, odds are I’m hooked.
What bores you as a reader?
I’m not a fan of long passages of description. I like to know what characters are thinking and feeling. Lengthy paragraphs about setting are things that tend to make me skip them, and if that happens too many times I’ll lose interest in the book altogether.
What is your favorite food and what is your guilty pleasure food?
Chocolate is hands down my favorite food, and I honestly never feel guilty about eating it. My guilty pleasure indulgence would have to be something totally sinful, like eating whipped cream, by the mouthful, sprayed right out of the can.
If you could go anywhere on a vacation where would you go?
If I had to pick someplace I’ve never been before, I’d pick Australia. I’ve always wanted to go there but have never had the opportunity. Plus I have some friends who live there who I’d love to see. For places I’ve already been, I’d choose Florence, my favorite city. I’ve vacationed there several times and adore everything about it---the architecture, the art, and oh my God, the food. That said, my favorite vacations can really be absolutely anywhere that I’m with people I love. Life is so hectic my ideal vacation is just relaxing with people whose company I enjoy and sharing great meals with them.
Do you have a secret talent?
Yes, several, and one of them is that I’m really good at keeping secrets, so unfortunately I can’t tell you the others.
What do you think is romantic? What does the word Romance mean to you?
A million things can be romantic. Bringing someone a candy bar because you know they had a bad day. A glance across a crowded room where your eyes lock with someone else’s. Listening when the other person talks. It all depends on the situation and the people involved. Romance, for me, means something that connects two people, allows them to share a moment or a secret or an emotion and makes them feel good/cared about/special.
Aliens have landed on the planet. What are the three things you would tell them that are great about this planet?
Books, movies and pizza.
You’ve been given the honor of naming a planet, what would you name it?
Edward. After my dad. Because he’d have thought that was goofy but really cool.
You’re having a dinner party, what five people would you invite?
I have friends who are scattered around the globe who I never get to see or share a meal with, so I’d invite five of them. They’re not famous (well, one is, but that’s not why that person would be invited), they’re just people I love and don’t get to spend enough face time with, so nothing would make me happier than to have them all at my house and cook them a fabulous meal.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to figure out a book?
In the sequel to Meant To Be I had to make sure that I had the ages of some characters correct, which included accounting for new births and the year of time that was skipped between the books. Since the two books together span about eight years, this was not an easy task. I had to recreate a timeline and go through it backwards and forward tracing the storyline and making sure I was getting it correct. My critique partner and I must have discussed it a dozen times and sometimes one of us would still say “Wait…if that was springtime then the following fall would be three years…” and I’d have to start counting all over again. Seems like it would be simple, but it wasn’t, at all. I had about 20 diagrams on my desk before I was sure it was right.
What book was the most fun to write? Which was the hardest to write?
I have to say I’ve had an inordinate amount of fun writing all of my books. If a story stops being fun for me to write, I know it’s not working and I’ll set it aside. That’s only happened once. Everything I’ve finished has been a blast.
eBooks or print forever?
I was slow to accept the e-book craze, but I have to say I love the convenience of being able to just click a button and have the book right that second. It’s also a heck of a lot easier to carry 100 e-books. That said, I adore paper books. I love browsing in brick and mortar bookstores, turning the physical pages---and I love having bookcases full of books in my house. Three of my titles will be out in paper in the next week or so and as happy as I am that they’ve been available digitally and that readers have been able to download them at a moment’s notice, I can’t wait to actually hold the paper copies in my hands.
You are offered your final meal. You can have anything you want. What would it be?
I’m a total foodie (even though I’m not a big fan of the term “foodie”), so that’s a tough question. I love all sorts of foods but have unfortunately become allergic to some of my favorites over the years. If I were offered a last meal of anything I wanted, I’d probably pick some of the things I love but haven’t been able to eat for years. A seafood buffet filled with lobster, crab and shrimp followed by a sinfully decadent ooey-gooey chocolate and peanut butter dessert.
Flash round (don’t think, just answer)
Ice cream, vanilla or chocolate? Twist, please.
George Clooney or Brad Pitt? Yum!
Angelina Jolie or Jennifer Aniston? Jennifer Aniston
Steak or salmon? Steak- grilled. Salmon- smoked.
Heels or sandals? Heels.
Harry Potter or Twilight? Yes.
Dogs or cats? Have cats, love both.
Snakes or Spiders? Snakes. But still, ewww.
Beer or girly drink with umbrella? Beer with pizza, girly drink with party snacks.
Boxers, briefs or commando? Boxer briefs.
Vampire, demon or shifter? Vampire.
Mountains or seashore? Mountains to live, seashore for vacation.
Hmmmmm...I sense some indecision or just plain waffling here, but that's okay with me, I couldn't choose between George and Brad, either!!
Sometimes you’re already committed to the wrong person when fate finally brings you the right one.
When NYU professor Daniel Gardner’s career-obsessed wife convinces him to move to the suburbs, he hopes it’s a first step toward starting the family he longs to have. Instead of domestic bliss he finds his neighbor, Marienne Valeti. She loves her freelance design job, but must contend with a growing sense of isolation created by her husband’s indifference. A penchant for good books, bad movies, and Marienne’s to-die-for brownies sparks a powerful bond between them. Passion simmers, but they resist its lure, surrendering only in the seclusion of their minds. Their friendship helps them weather every hardship, from divorce to widowhood, leaving them both secretly wondering if it can survive a first kiss.
Daniel stopped and stared at the chocolate as it cascaded into the red enameled pot. He hadn’t realized quite how much he missed having dessert. Justine never kept sweets in the house, saying they were too much of a temptation. Other than the occasional candy bar he grabbed between classes or on his ride home Daniel almost never ate anything sugary anymore. The sight of the chocolate, creamy and inviting, made his mouth water.
“I forgot the marshmallows,” Marienne said, as she placed the spoon back into the bowl.
“I’ll get them,” Daniel said, hands extended, offering to take the bowl back into the kitchen for her.
“Thanks.” She handed it over. “And yes, you can lick the bowl.”
He laughed. It was like she’d read his mind.
He headed into the kitchen and was standing at the counter, licking the chocolate-covered spoon, when he heard someone behind him. He turned to see Marienne smirking at him.
“You look very at home licking a big spoonful of chocolate. I take it this is not your first time.”
“Hardly. My mum baked all the time and I was the official spoon and bowl licker. Good work if you can get it.”
“I know. Frank’s not big on desserts, so I’m usually the one left to clean out the bowls.”
“Well, I live right there.” He pointed toward his house with the now clean spoon. “And I’m available for all sorts of baking bowl emergencies.”