An Interview with Aimee Brown, Author of Little Gray Dress

I’m so excited for all of you to meet author Aimee Brown, whom I’ve known online for a few years now. Yesterday, I reviewed her debut novel, Little Gray Dress, which is definitely a don’t miss! She gave me the opportunity to pick her brain so I asked her about her book, chick lit and what she sees in the future. Take it away, Aimee!

  1. What inspired you to write Little Gray Dress? I was actually participating in NaNoWriMo last November. I didn’t have an exact idea or inspiration I just knew it would be romantic comedy. I sat down and wrote out the rough draft in 12 days and that helped me piece together what was actually happening and draft two began shortly after. For me, the inspiration was more to finally complete a book, about anything really. What turned up on the page was a fun look at what’s been going on in my head for the last ten years.
  2. We’ve all heard of the little black dress. Why is yours gray? Gray is my favorite color and I didn’t want to do the same thing that’s already been overdone. I actually didn’t even intend to have a little gray dress it just kind of worked its way in. In the end, I was able to tie it all together with the dress in a way that just made sense.
  3. Your main character, Emi, is a normal woman in that she is a more full figured lady who has real problems, as opposed to the model thin vapid women who populate a lot of similar books. Why was it important to you to make Emi different, or should I say real? (And thank you for that. I love her!) I read somewhere a while back that the average American woman wears a size 14. I think that’s actually been upped to a 16 now. I wanted the main character to struggle with the same thing most women do. It seems self-esteem of our young girls has gone down the shitter because no one wants to admit that a size 2 isn’t normal. I’m not sure I’ve ever worn a size two? I’m not a tiny supermodel of a woman and I know the struggles that can go with it in our very visual world of social media. It’s important to me that women know they are beautiful no matter what size they are in comparison to what the world creates as an unrealistic normal.
  4. Portland, Oregon is a very important location in the book. What made you want to set your book there? I grew up in Oregon in a town about 1.5 hours south of Portland (all of my family are still there) and as an adult, my husband and I moved our family to Portland and lived there about 6 or 7 years. It’s a great city, as weird as they get but, also gorgeous and a lot of fun. I’ve always loved Portland and the essence that comes with it so it was just natural to use the place I know the best.
  5. The book takes place around a series of weddings, which are a common theme in chick lit fiction. What do you think draws readers to that theme? I think a lot of us chick lit authors grew up in the 80’s & 90’s when romantic comedies were Hollywoods best films. They were based on uniquely funny, yet not overdone, and sometimes innocent situations that we all have in life. You know I think over the years we’ve lost that in film and if I can help bring some of it back in my books, I’m more than happy to do so. What did you have to say that you think makes your version unique? My book is simple. There is conflict, romance and laugh out loud moments but there is nothing too out of the ordinary. I didn’t go extreme or use all the fancy big words available to man. It’s real and I feel like it’s a great representation of the classic rom/com films I so miss from my youth.
  6. What is it about chick-lit that makes you want to write in the genre? It’s just me. The first time I read Sophie Kinsella I knew it was my genre. In the same way that when I watched Sleepless in Seattle when I was 14, I knew I’d never love any other genre of film as much. When I write, chick-lit is what appears on the paper so I guess it’s just my ‘thing’.
  7. What are some of your favorite chick lit books and movies? Books, I loved the Shopaholic series by Kinsella and the chick-lit cozy mysteries by Evanovich (Stephanie Plum Series) and Cabot (Size 12 is not fat). For movies, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, Father of the Bride, It Could Happen to You, While you were Sleeping, the list seriously goes on and on. I wish they made those types of movies again.
  8. You’ve been a blog tour coordinator for other authors for many years now. (Including mine for Been Searching for You.) What did you learn from those authors that helped you in launching your own career? SO MUCH! Seriously, Y’all have taught me everything I know about marketing. I may appear to know a lot on the outside but I’m all about the researching, the listening to other authors and their stories. So many of you are knowledgeable in different areas that to be able to be involved in so many amazing authors releases (yours included!) has been quite an honor for me as well as a great learning experience.
  9. What’s next for you as an author? Right now I’m working on my next novel, a stand-alone that involves a character from Little Gray Dress. I’ve also got a novel in the works that takes place in a vintage Tiki Bar… I’ve got quite a few cool things happening behind the scenes that I can’t wait to tell you all about.
  10. What else would you like to add? Thank you so much for being such an amazing supporter of my debut novel. This whole process is really surreal. It’s an odd feeling to be on the other side of the publishing industry. But, I love it and it’s what I’ve worked so long for.

Thank you, Aimee! I hope everyone goes out and orders your book. I, for one, can’t wait to read those two books you teased above!

Questions or comments or Aimee? Leave them for her below.

Book Review: Little Gray Dress by Amiee Brown

I am so thrilled to be part of Aimee’s blog tour for her debut novel, Little Gray Dress! Full disclosure: I used Amy’s company Hello Chick Lit for the blog tour of Been Searching for You, but that in no way influenced my review.

Little Gray Dress is a very cute romantic comedy/chick lit story about Emi Harrison, a 30 something Portland resident who is about to face her worst nightmare, seeing her ex-fiance, Jack Cabot, again after a disastrous breakup two years prior. Little does she know that this is just the beginning of her troubles, which will range from a little too much alcohol at an inopportune time to a run-in with her worst enemy that changes everything. Add into the mix the hot new bar owner she may or may not be falling for, one outrageously ugly bridesmaid dress, and the tension that goes along with being sister of the bride when you have to be escorted down the aisle by your ex, and you’ve got a recipe for…well, let’s hope not disaster!

Told in two timelines – the present and flashbacks that go in reverse order from when Jack and Aimee broke up to the day they met – this book is unique in structure. I mean, a lot of books employ flashbacks, but I’ve never seen an author do it backwards, or do it so well. The flashbacks are key to getting to know this couple, what made them tick, and what was the moment that finally stopped the clock for them. Aimee does a masterful job at making sure each flashback fits in its place and helps you learn something about both the past and the present, so that at first you don’t even notice her technique, and by the time you do, she’s proven it to be so helpful, you’re grateful for it.

The thing that draws me into any book are its characters, and this was no exception. I loved that Emi is a real woman, one with weight issues, lack of coordination and a tendency to say the wrong thing or curse. I could actually relate to her, unlike the skinny, cardboard idiots that populate a good portion of chick lit. Jack is definitely my type of hero: well-educated, good at his job, rich and with a penchant for grand romantic gestures. (Yes, he reminds me a little of my character, Alex. We need more men like this in romance!) Hell, I even loved to hate Greta, the conniving villain of the story who for some reason I pictured as Kristin Chenoweth. The secondary characters blurred together a little for me, but I really liked Liam. Poor Liam. I was torn about where I wanted his character/storyline to go. (Maybe he can star in the next book. Hint for Aimee.)

Overall, the plot was strong and well-paced. This being a chick lit/rom-com, not everything is believable or realistic, but I have to admit that when I get to those parts in these kinds of books I just grimace a little and then move on. They kind of get a pass from me as to be expected as part of the genre. There is one little twist toward the end that felt really over the top to me, but it also saved the story from being like 80 million other similar ones, so I’m on the fence. But if you expect moments like that here and there (and there really aren’t many), this is a very cute beach read (I read it in four days) that you won’t want to miss! And the ending will warm your heart – though I doubt you will see the details coming.

I do still want to know why the dress is gray instead of black!

5 stars. Aimee is now one of my auto-buy authors. I will be reading everything she publishes in the future! Be sure to stop by tomorrow when I have an interview with Aimee!

Been Searching for You – More Than Just a Love Story

Yay! It’s Been Searching for You‘s publication day! Here are the buy links:

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Been Searching for You eBook Cover LargeWhat follows was actually written as a guest post for another site, but I loved it so much I decided to use it here and over at Spellbound Scribes as well since I have limited time to write these things in between conferences. Some of it will be familiar because of things I’ve said here in the past, but I urge you to read it anyway, as I hope it will give you some insight into why I consider this book more than just a love story, though it is very much one of those, too.

I never thought I’d write a romance. I actually swore I’d never write romance because I really disliked romance books for a long time – until I realized what I really hated was certain types of romance, specifically the more traditional ones where the hero has a pronounced physical reaction every time he sees the heroine, if you get my drift. Those make me want to barf. Others are pretty darn good.

But I still had one pet peeve: most heroines, especially in romantic comedies, are under 30. If there’s a wedding involved, it’s “OMG, I’m going to be 30 and not married!” As a 36-year-old single girl, allow me to smack you. So, what did I do? I went and wrote my own love story, one for those of us who are over 30 *gasp*, still single and still romantics at heart. I wrote it because I wanted to write the happily ever after I haven’t yet experienced.

The book came to life because of the Civil Wars songs “To Whom it May Concern” and “Dust to Dust,” both of which my best friend introduced me to. They seem to be bookends to a love story to me, so I swore I’d write a book that began with the words “To Whom it May Concern” and ended with the words “Dust to Dust.” And I did.

But while Been Searching for You is a fun beach read that won’t set the world on fire, it’s also much more than “just a romance.” It’s about a woman’s struggle to overcome her past hurts, heal and learn to trust again. Even if the reader hasn’t been traumatized in the same way as Annabeth, chances are good there are a few scars he or she can’t let go of; such things are a consequence of dating.

It’s about the struggle to connect in a meaningful way in the modern world, which seems to value hookups more than relationships with actual lasting meaning. Throughout the book, Annabeth struggles with having old fashioned romantic tendencies in a society that wants her to be happy with getting laid. That dichotomy is part of the reason why I chose not to have graphic sex scenes in this book; I wanted to show that it’s possible to have romance while the sex takes place off the page.

It’s also about friendship and the ways we support or harm one another through our interactions, ulterior motives and positive and negative reactions to life. I have had a few frienemies in my life (friends whom you are aware are likely to stab you in the back when it is convenient) and I wanted to explore that odd dynamic, one that I’m finding from contest feedback is much more common among younger readers than older. It didn’t begin with Mean Girls but that movie certainly brought it to the fore of societal consciousness.

Finally, the book also has strong themes of the power of education (especially in literature and writing) to affect students and positively change the world. This is a topic I’m personally passionate about and I’m sure it shows in the novel. In a world fixated on wealth (the quicker the buck, the better) I wanted to show how less flashy, sexy career paths can have meaning. Chalk this one up to the book lover in me!

One element Been Searching for You lacks that most traditional romantic comedies employ is a deception of some sort. You know the storyline: the fake boyfriend/fiancée, the woman pretending to be rich when she’s not, the person with a lie that will have to come out in the end. I think reason for this is twofold: 1) I hate deception, especially when it is contrived, and when it’s obviously contrived its like nails on a chalkboard and 2) I never sat down with the intention of writing a romantic comedy. I was writing a love story, plain and simple. When it ended up being laugh-out-loud funny, I dubbed it a rom-com.

Whether you like it, love it or hate it, I hope Been Searching for You is a worthy contribution to the annals of contemporary romance, albeit on the sweet side (but it’s not totally sweet due to references to sex and a bit of adult language). It was intended to be a standalone novel, but my beta readers are begging for more, so if you want me to extend this into a series, I need you to let me know. Either way, I wish you happy reading and hope that Annabeth, Alex, Mia and Miles are good company into the summer vacation season for all of you.

Giving Away 35 Books for My 35th Birthday

I realized a few days ago that there are more books in my house than I have room for, thanks to my own book addiction and also to the advanced reading copies (ARCs) I get for reviewing for the Historical Novel Society.

In honor of my 35th birthday today, I’m giving away 35 books. I tried to group them into logical categories, so that means seven people will win packs of five books. Here’s what you could win:

Fantasy pack

Fantasy pack

Group 1: Fantasy

  1. The Falconer by Elizabeth May
  2. Dreams of Gods and Monsters (Book 3 of a trilogy) by Laini Taylor (personalized to me, but autographed)
  3. Netherworld by Lisa Morton
  4. The Water Witch (Fairwick Chronicles #2) by Juliet Dark
  5. Longinus by Steven Maines (personalized to a stranger, but autographed)
Mystery pack

Mystery pack

Group 2: Mystery

  1. Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas by Stephanie Barron (A Jane Austin mystery) (ARC)
  2. Murder and Mendelssohn by Kerry Greenwood (A Phryne Fisher mystery)
  3. The Prioress’ Tale by Margaret Frazer
  4. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishigurd
  5. Heat Wave by Richard Castle (audio book)
Chick lit/romance pack

Chick lit/romance pack

Group 3: Chick Lit/Romance

  1. Living Single by Holly Chamberlin
  2. Once Upon a Kiss by Jayne Fresina (ARC)
  3. How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days by Laura Lee Guhrke
  4. The Quilted Hearts Omnibus by Mona Hodgson
  5. Cocktails for Three by Madeleine Wickham
Historical Fiction Pack 1

Historical Fiction Pack 1

Group 4: Historical Fiction (Group 1)

  1. Boudicca: Dreaming the Eagle by Manda Scott
  2. The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell
  3. Perfiditas by Allison Morton
  4. The Amber Treasure by Richard Denning
  5. The Secret History by Stephanie Thornton
Historical Fiction Pack 2

Historical Fiction Pack 2

Group 5: Historical Fiction (Group 2)

  1. Mary Called Magdalene by Margaret George
  2. The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George
  3. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
  4. Lionheart by Sharon Kay Penman
  5. The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier
Historical Fiction Pack 3

Historical Fiction Pack 3

Group 6: Historical Fiction (Group 3)

  1. The Virgin’s Lover by Phillippa Gregory
  2. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  3. The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant
  4. The King’s Daughter by Barbra Kyle
  5. Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir
Non-fiction Pack

Non-fiction Pack

Group 7: Non-Fiction

  1. The Druids by Ronald Hutton
  2. The Mysteries of Avalon by August Hunt
  3. The Celts by Jean Markale
  4. Christianity and Paganism in the 4th – 8th Centuries by Ramsey MacMullen
  5. The Rise of Western Christendom by Peter Brown

Some of these books are brand new, some are gently used only by me, and some came from book fairs but are in good condition. All you have to do to win one group is complete the Rafflecopter link. (You’ll tell me your order of preference of the groups in the comments below, but you have to use the Rafflecopter for your entry to count.) There are more ways to get additional entries there, too. I’m keeping the contest open for a week, so you have plenty of time to enter. I’ll announce winners here sometime after September 3. Good luck!

PS – My goal is to be able to give away my own books next year!

Click here to enter Rafflecopter giveaway