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 Cover Reveal and Teaser

This is my never thought it would happen book. I never thought I’d write romance. (Actually, you could classify this as romance, chick lit, women’s fiction, or a romantic comedy – but I just call it a love story.) I mean, I’m a historical fiction writer. What do I want with the contemporary world? 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. Others actually aren’t too bad. 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. It came about because I wanted to write the happily ever after I haven’t yet experienced. It was also inspired by the Civil Wars songs “To Whom it May Concern” and “Dust to Dust.” 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.

Been Searching for You eBook Cover Large

Here’s the back cover copy:

Annabeth is a hopeless romantic who believes in soul mates. In fact, she’s been writing to hers each year on her birthday since she was 16.

Now, at 34, she’s still holding out hope of finding Mr. Right even though he’d be fighting an uphill battle to gain her trust, thanks to a traumatic experience years before that’s left her unable to commit.

When Annabeth meets a handsome literature professor named Alex on her 34th birthday, she thinks her quest may finally be at an end. Things don’t quite go as planned, so Annabeth resolves to do everything she can over the next year to find the unknown recipient of her letters.  But blind dates, Meetup events and online singles sites have nothing on what fate has in store for her when a co-worker unexpectedly quits and Annabeth finds herself working in close quarters with both Alex and her long ago ex, Nick. Fighting her attraction to one and loathing for the other, Annabeth is forced to face all of her old insecurities while keeping an eye on a scheming frienemy who may derail her hopes and dreams.

Written in the tradition of Bridget Jones’ Diary, Kim Gruenfelder’s A Total Waste of Makeup, and Melissa Pimental’s Love By The Book, it shows that love on the sweet side can exist for the modern girl, if only she’s willing to trust herself and search hard enough.

Been Searching for You was the winner of the 2015 Romance Writers of America Great Expectations and Golden Rose contests.

Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

February

To Whom It May Concern,

I think I wronged the love goddess in a previous life. How else do you explain that I’ve written you so many letters yet we’ve still not met? Everyone I know is either married or in a committed relationship, and here I am, pen in hand, writing to someone I can’t even prove exists.

There’s an old Chinese folktale that says soul mates are connected from birth by an invisible red thread and that they can feel one another’s emotions, no matter the distance. It is this connection that eventually enables them to find one another. I believe it too.

As I write, I find myself trying to imagine your face, grasping at flashes of memory from dreams, wondering what name to voice in my prayers that you will soon be by my side. The irony is that by the time you read this, the color of your eyes will be second nature to me and your name will roll off my tongue as easily as my sister’s.

So please, my unknown love, hold tight to your red cord and follow it like a lifeline into the safe harbor of my arms.

“Are you ready yet, birthday girl?” Mia’s impatient voice broke through my romantic reverie, scattering my lovelorn thoughts.

“Almost,” I yelled back as I scanned what I had written. I wanted to say so much more, but Mia wouldn’t wait. But there was one more thought I couldn’t let go unsaid.

I just want you to know that I haven’t given up on you. I don’t trust easily, but I trust in you. I’m still waiting, though not so patiently anymore.

All my love,

Annabeth

The note was short compared to other years’ notes, but it would be after midnight when we returned home, so this would have to be enough. My one rule in this long-standing tradition—I’d been writing these letters since I was sixteen—was that the letter to my soul mate had to be written on my actual birthday. I folded the paper, slipped it inside the matching envelope, and licked the flap, then I pressed down to seal it.

Mia stuck her head in the door just as I drew the big numeral on the front. It matched my age—thirty-four. She shook her head, making her flaming tresses bounce. “You and your letters. If you two don’t meet soon, he’s going to have to buy an extra plane ticket on your honeymoon just for that box.” She nodded toward the big square hatbox that functioned as a hope chest for my letters to my future husband.

I slipped the newest letter in front, envelope awaiting further decoration. “Yes, but it’s romantic, don’t you think?”

“For a young girl, maybe, but you’re well past that, hon.” Her tone softened when I made a face. “You’ve got plenty of declarations of love. Maybe this should be the last one. You know, new year, new traditions?” She held up a shot glass filled with golden liquid. “Come on. We need to get this party started.”

Still scowling, I took the glass and downed the tequila with a small shiver. “If you say so.”

As I locked up, I cast one last glance at the box on my desk. She had a point about growing up, but I had no intention of giving up my beloved letters. It was only one each year, and it meant something to me. Those weren’t just letters; together, they were my gift to my future husband. Old-fashioned? Maybe, but it was me. Anyone who wanted to marry me would appreciate that. I smiled with a sudden thought. It was good I didn’t want to marry Mia.

(I’d give you the second scene as well, but it’s REALLY long. It’s the meeting of our hero and heroine…)

Pre-Order and Audio Info

Ebook and paperback will be out May 10. You can pre-order the Kindle version on Amazon now or add it to your Goodreads list.

It will be made into an audio book as well. I’m not sure when that will be released. I’m in talks with an actress and studio now, so I’ll keep you updated.

So, what do you think? Are you interested in this book? Thoughts, comments, questions?

 

Book Review: A Man of Character by Margaret Locke

A-Man-of-Character-V7bI’m not a believer in coincidence. Even if I was, the story of how I ended up reading A Man of Character would have changed that.

I came across this book by accident when looking at a new site for romance authors and readers called Romance Debuts. I read the interview with author Margaret Locke and thought the premise  (below) sounded cute, so I downloaded it.

What would you do if you discovered the men you were dating were fictional characters you’d created long ago?

Thirty-five-year-old Catherine Schreiber has shelved love for good. Keeping her ailing bookstore afloat takes all her time, and she’s perfectly fine with that. So when several men ask her out in short order, she’s not sure what to do…especially since something about them seems eerily familiar.

A startling revelation – that these men are fictional characters she’d created and forgotten years ago – forces Cat to reevaluate her world and the people in it. Because these characters are alive. Here. Now. And most definitely in the flesh.

Her best friend, Eliza, a romance novel junkie craving her own Happily Ever After, is thrilled by the possibilities. The power to create Mr. Perfect – who could pass that up? But can a relationship be real if it’s fiction? Caught between fantasy and reality, Cat must decide which—or whom—she wants more.

Blending humor with unusual twists, including a magical manuscript, a computer scientist in shining armor, and even a Regency ball, A Man of Character tells a story not only of love, but also of the lengths we’ll go for friendship, self-discovery, and second chances.

It was only once I started reading that I realized the story sounded familiar. That’s because I had judged an early version as part of an RWA contest! (For those who don’t know, those contests are anonymous, meaning the judges don’t have the author’s name and the authors don’t know who their judges were.) I remember that I liked it, but thought it wasn’t quite ready at that point. It thrilled me to see the small changes and other improvements Margaret made in the book between when I saw it and when it was published. This is the first book I’ve judged where I’ve gotten to see the final product – a rare phenomenon.

Besides my personal connection, A Man of Character is such a fun book! It’s lighthearted (which is how I like my romance), sexy without being dirty, with just enough magic to make the never-grown-up believer in you happy, but enough reality to make your jaded adult self believe magic just could happen. There’s actually less about the big magic item than I would have expected (may I suggest a novella giving us the back story on that item and maybe even letting us read it, Ms. Locke?), but it leaves more room to focus on the romance, which is the heart of this story.

As the blurb above implies, Cat ends up with several suitors, each of whom I liked in a different way. (Okay, one of them was a jerk, but we’ve all known and wanted someone like that at some point in our past.) I found myself rooting for each one to end up with her at different points in the book. Now knowing the ending (which was A+), it’s interesting to sit back and analyze what it is that makes each man attractive and what part of me, and Cat, he was appealing to.

This book is the delicious kind of fantasy you never want to end. What girl doesn’t want to experience these dream dates Cat goes on? One made my toes curl it was so hot, and one was so perfect, I almost jumped up and down with glee. This is the kind of story you don’t want to put down and can’t wait to get back to because it touches an inner longing for that storybook story (to use a phrase associated with The Princess Bride) we’re trained as little girls to want. Actually, I think a modern-day fairy tale is the perfect way to describe it.

The supporting characters are well-rounded and relatable, especially Eliza, the romance-reading, Jane-Austen-obsessed best friend. She’s like your real friend, one who is genuinely warm, forgives you for not being able to look past your own nose, but isn’t afraid to tell it like it is when you need her to. She’s got a surprise twist in this story, one that I’m excited to learn from the excerpt at the end, we’ll get to read all about in the next book.

In short, A Man of Character is a fun read that will make you swoon, while leaving you clamoring for more. As a reader, it made me feel all the ways I hope my books will make others feel. (It reminds me a lot of my own book, Been Searching for You, but I’m biased.) I highly recommend it to fans of light contemporary romance. And Margaret, this is my second plea for you to enter it into the RITAs next year. It’s that good folks – it really could win romance writing’s highest honor. Five stars.

Have you read A Man of Character? If not, do you want to now? Are there any other books it reminds you of? I’m always looking for more books like this one and poor Margaret can only write so fast!

Final #4 for He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not!

FFL_WHO_FinalistYou guys may get tired of hearing this, but I never get tired of saying it: He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not has finaled in another contest! This one is the Fool For Love contest, sponsored by the Virginia Romance Writers. The category is long contemporary and the final results will be announced in mid-June. Wish me luck!

I’m sitting on one more piece of similar news…will reveal when I can.