Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

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Creative Edge Author Interview – Sophie Mays is the pen name of author, Stephanie LaVigne

October 14, 2021
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  • What spurred you into writing stories in the first place?

I was always a big reader, which was red flag number one. Aside from reading though, I had always been writerly, I just didn’t know it would eventually manifest into fiction novels. I am one of those people with an overactive brain, plus I am a talker. So those two things combined are very conducive to be being a writer.

  • Can you tell us about the very first story you wrote?

When I think of my very first stories, I think back to things I wrote when I was in grade school and high school. I had an amazing honors English teacher in high school who was always challenging us in our creative writing. I wrote a lot of bad poems and decent short stories during that time. Then I wrote a lot of plays and screenplays in my twenties. However, my first proper novel was a quirky mystery book written when I went home for the holidays one year. I did a self-imposed NaNoWriMo, which meant sitting down on my parent’s back porch every day for a month and forcing out 50,000 words without going back to edit or second guess anything. I still haven’t published that book, but I think one day I will. Every few years I pull it out and work on it, then realize that I have other books that need to get done so it gets re-shelved for another day.

  • Why did you pick contemporary romance fiction as your genre?

It was originally because my mother-in-law was an avid romance reader. She tends to read a lot of authors like Debbie Macomber, so I set out to write books that she would enjoy. We’ve always had a lot of fun talking about plots and story ideas, and she has always been my go-to person when deciding on romance book covers. Along the way, I realized how much I enjoyed showing that even though life can have its ups and downs, “happily ever afters” are still possible.

  • Why you decide to write series rather than stand-a-lone novels?

Well, a lot of it has to do with the business end. It simply makes more sense to write in a series than unrelated stand-alones. Though I usually write standalone books within my series, meaning you don’t have to read them in order. However, as a reader myself, I am a total glutton for a series. I get roped in so easily, and once I get to know the characters or the town, I want to spend time there. I think a lot of other people feel the same way, so there is something natural about writing a series.

  • What in particular interests you about this genre?

I really like the reminder that ordinary people can have extraordinary lives, they can find love that lights them up, and can navigate through all the quirks and sometimes disasters of every day life. In spite of all the hurdles that life throws at us, we persevere, and eventually we prevail. I love that in the romance genre we strive to show the goodness in the world. We all need our hearts warmed a little more often, to laugh a lot more often, and to be shown that there are good and beautiful things for us out there in this big, old world.

  • What influences your choice of a location for each series?

I think I get my travel obsession catered to when I choose story locations. So far I have picked a lot of coastal locations, in addition to a number of locations that hold great appeal to me. Even though I usually create a fictional town, I try to set my books in places that I want to visit, or that I have spent time in and loved.

  • When writing a series – what comes first the characters, the location or an overall concept?

It is usually a combination. I usually start with a general story idea, which gives me the vague notion of the main character. Then I spent too much time thinking about the location and picking the perfect spot. Once I have the general premise of the location, then I go back in and really start fine-tuning the characters. Which in turn, changes the story in some ways. It’s a never-ending cycle!

  • Can you tell us a little about the Serenity Falls collection? Where did the idea of five siblings come from?

The first book in the series was actually part of a multi-author collaboration. Some other sweet romance writer friends and I wanted to do a Christmas collection together, however we were a slightly diverse group. Some wrote regency romance, some wrote mail order bride romance, and two of us wrote contemporary romance. So we did a lot of messages back-and-forth and several phone calls until we figured out a way to weave the story lines together where the first stories were set in Regency era England, and then those families came across to America. Then characters from that generation became mail order brides who made their way out west. Finally, the last books were there great-great-grandchildren of the mail order brides (I may be missing an extra great in there, but I can’t remember off the top of my head.) When it came time to come up with the story for my book, I knew that I wanted to write something on a ranch and I love the Rocky Mountains, plus I wanted the option to continue writing in the world if I was inspired to do so later on. That led to my creating my main character, Hannah Wyatt. I gave her a really sweet family with two loving parents and four other siblings, which became the Serenity Falls series. It’s ended up making for a really fun and lovable series with lots of unique love stories.

  • Who is your favorite author and why?

It’s terrible, but I don’t have favorites in general, and I definitely don’t have favorite authors. But for the sake of answering the question, I really love this author named A.J. Jacobs because I find his books hysterical. He has a book called The Know-It-All that I literally cried laughing while reading. It’s about the time he decided to read the Encyclopedia Britannica from A to Z. As you can imagine, this isn’t necessarily a book that would be universally considered high humor, but as a word person, I loved it. I’ve also always enjoyed Carl Hiaasen books. He was one of my first authors that inspired me to want to write novels. Plus, there are a ton of amazing female mystery authors that I’ve read and loved. I also read a lot of non-fiction reference books about any number of subjects that I’m interested in.

  1. How do you juggle life and writing?

Haha, poorly! Just kidding. Though, also not kidding. It is incredibly difficult to balance work and life, and I think that goes for almost everyone, not only authors. There is so much that goes into the business end of being a full-time writer. I am constantly doing my best to triage everything in my day-to-day life. I try to stay organized, but even that comes in bursts. Most days, I have about five hours to work before I leave to get my kids. It is somehow the shortest five hours known to man.

  1. Does traveling prompt your story ideas?

I haven’t done much traveling lately, but yes, traveling is always inspiring to me! Even when I’m not physically traveling, a lot of my story work is me tapping into locations I’ve spent time in, or places that I want to go. One of the great things about being a writer is that I get the excuse of looking up cool places that I want to visit for story “research”.

  1. Where can readers find you and your books?

You can sign up for my newsletter at www.SophieMays.com to keep up with me, and hear about my new releases and deals. Plus, I am on all the usual social platforms, like Amazon, Instagram, Facebook, Bookbub, and Goodreads. I’d love if you come and follow me so I can say hello to you wherever you like to hangout online!

  1. What are you currently writing?

I am working on the spin-off series to Serenity Falls, which follows their Wyatt cousins in the Riverside Ranch series. I am also working on two Romantic Comedy series which I am super excited about!

  1. Do you have a message for your readers?

If you’ve read my books before, thank you! You have made it possible for me to take this improbable dream and make it into my everyday life. For anyone out there reading this who has something in their heart that they wish they were brave enough to do or try, my encouragement is for you to take in a big breath and take the first step toward whatever that goal or intimidating thing is. It is never not worth trying. And I completely, boldly, lovingly support you and believe in you!

The Serenity Falls Complete Series: Sweet Romance at Wyatt Ranch

BIO:

From her home in Florida, she offsets sandy toes and ocean views with trips to her favorite
regions in quaint New England, cozy coastal Maine, the majestic Rocky Mountains, the dramatic
Pacific Northwest, the glimmering Caribbean, and the ever-charming South. Sometimes she does
this in real life, but she can always steal away to somewhere beautiful in her books.

When she’s not writing, she’s wrangling kids, spending time with her husband, doing laundry,
baking cookies, planning dream trips, or attempting to fine-tune her questionable gardening
skills. More information can be found at SophieMays.com

• Five unique siblings, five unexpected life changes •
Set against a gorgeous small-town mountain backdrop in Colorado, we follow five siblings as they each return home to help start a new family business.

From cowboys to unexpected newcomers, from weddings to high-stakes adventures, you will fall in love with this cozy small town in the Rocky Mountains and become friends with the Wyatt family. Meet Emma, Hannah, Anna-Jane, Carson, and Jake! Five very different personalities, each deserving of their own happily ever after…

Read all the books in the Serenity Falls series together! This Collection includes:

🤍 Wishes from the Heart (Hannah & Rafferty’s Story) 🤍 Art of the Heart (Anna-Jane & Cody’s Story) 🤍 Baking from the Heart (Emma & Gavin’s Story) 🤍 Call of the Wild Heart (Carson & Bella’s Story) 🤍 Detours of the Heart (Jake & Mackenzie’s Story)
Brisk mountain air and romance abound at the Wyatt Ranch! From bestselling author Sophie Mays comes this delightfully heartwarming sweet ranch romance series.

Whether you are falling in love alongside a baker, an artist, an ex-Navy Seal, or a world traveler – there’s something for everyone in Serenity Falls.

If you love uplifting, feel-good romance stories with irresistible characters, prepare to get roped into Sophie Mays’ Serenity Falls series!

Bibliophile’s Collective Tuesday – Road Trip Thoughts

October 12, 2021
mandyevebarnett


Apologies for my tardiness, as it was Thanksgiving weekend in Canada, I enjoyed a weekend away and just relaxed. This is not a bad thing, we all need to decompress regularly. Hence, I did not draft a blog post for today – so I am late.

The trip was to Lloydminster, which is unique in the fact that it spans the Alberta and Saskatchewan border. This may seem unusual, but when you add in the fact that Saskatchewan has an extra sales tax, you can imagine how residents and commercial businesses have to juggle what is paid where! We discovered a wonderful park with the city and enjoyed a leisurely walk with the dogs.

A super chance encounter happened on the way home, when we spied a herd of small ponies. They were curious and met us at the fence. This is why we travel the back roads

I wrote this poem to reflect my road trip experiences.

ROAD TRIP THOUGHTS

Road trips are a joy, incorporating

New places explored

Frequent wildlife encounters

Cherished memories to share

***

Increased expectation and excitement

A check list of essentials made

Local sights and attractions investigated

Reservations confirmed and paid

***

Double checked suitcase contents

Cooler bag filled with bottled water

Snacks bought to dispense

Extra footwear, jackets and sunglasses

***

Early morning start, packing the trunk

A double check before we drive away

Puppies walked, fed, then harnessed in

Breakfast our first stop along the way

***

Routes taken – off highway & gravel

Multiple stops for photo opportunities

This is the only way to travel

Wildlife and scenery abound

***

Arrival at our lodgings, truck unpacked

Dogs walked, fed then settled

Organizing of our spaces, preferences known

Comfortable companionship not meddled

***

Evening meal eaten, then to relax

Tomorrow’s adventure discussed

Reading and writing commence

Time is not rushed

***

An easy morning routine

New adventures and sights shown

Snacks gathered and packed

Our destination known

Do you have road trip memories you would like to share?

Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – A Podcast Interview, Itching to Edit & A Writing Retreat

October 7, 2021
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I hope you will be able to enjoy my latest podcast interview with Randy Lacy at Between The Lines. Here: I had a fun time talking story inspiration, books, hobbies, reincarnation and writing. As always I am open to questions, just drop me a line.

Once again thanks to Creative Edge Publicity for arranging this opportunity.

I have been avoiding another edit of book one of my detective trilogy, An Elusive Trail, for a month now. This is not because I have lost interest in it, but so I can ‘distance’ myself from the story a little. This will enable me to process the next editing/revision task better, allowing me to ‘see’ the narrative with fresh eyes. I have been through the draft three times already, but as we all know, there are always some things that are missed. This weekend I will use these ‘fresh eyes’ to do a thorough read through, while on a writing retreat. Unfortunately, this may be one the last retreats of the year – BOO! It all depends on the Albertan weather. So, I will take advantage of the time to write, edit, read and explore new places with Sammie.

I have upcoming Interview dates of 18th October and 6th November – so watch this space!

What are you working on? What is the genre?

Do you have a book launch you would like to share?

Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – Utilizing The Seasons Transition in our Writing

September 23, 2021
mandyevebarnett


As we welcome autumn/fall with its brilliant colour metamorphosis across the landscape, we begin to think of cooler weather and a new space to write. We transition from writing on the deck, in a beach house, or a lakeside cabin to a cozier study or quiet room with a view or flickering fireplace. The seasons affect our mood and in turn our writing. These seasonal changes can also add to our content.

If we are on the cusp of a new project, we can use the crisp mornings and evenings to walk in nature and percolate ideas. We can watch the flames dance in a fire-pit or the leaves dancing on the wind or crunching beneath our feet. Why not take day trips to a wine festival, a corn maze, a pumpkin farm, immerse yourself in the season and its special harvest of smells and sights.

Let your imagination experience this new season and bring your idea to life. Ask yourself what your new project’s genre might be.

  • Is it an autumnal romance?
  • A spooky horror?
  • A ghost story?
  • A contemporary ‘change’ of scene narrative?

If you are in the midst of a project use nature as an example and lose any extraneous content, edit with the thought that the project will be renewed, fresh and improved. It is a reorganization, much like changing your clothing to suit the cooler weather. The autumn/fall scenery can inspire more descriptive language – colour, scents, mood and more.

With the change to autumn/fall, we can utilize the season to promote a book that reflects it. For me, I begin to think about my little monster, Rumble, and his Halloween adventure. I will be looking at a specific promotion for this children’s picture book.

Link:

Do you have a novel that is set in autumn/fall?

Did you write the idea in the autumn/fall season?

What inspired you the most?

Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – Creating Plot Twists

September 16, 2021
mandyevebarnett


When we write a story, as the author, we are within the narrative – it’s characters, setting, backstory and genre format. We can become too close to the action and reveal our plot too early or make it too obvious. Here are a few tips to help entice your reader and keep them guessing, because if you can foresee a plot twist so can the reader. We have to think up options and/or steer the event in another direction to avoid being obvious. 

  1. One way is to use subtle misdirection, such as:
  • Red herrings – false clues or misleading information to steer readers in the wrong direction.
  • Dead ends – not writing the obvious outcome your readers thought was coming.
  • Misguided attention – Bury hints or clues where the reader is redirected to another scene, or dialogue and misses a cleverly dropped hint.

2. Foreshadowing is an excellent vehicle for adding subtle hints for a twist to come. These can be as part of a characters actions, or non-action, a secondary character’s dialogue or even disguising a plot twist within a plot twist. The twist, however, must be believable and necessary and also makes sense within the narrative.

3. Use a subplot that misdirects your reader.

  • It can feed into the plot line, or not – that is your choice.
  • Interact or intertwine your subplot in an unexpected or unusual way.
  • You can make the subplot more important to the overall story, than initially appears.
  • It can also distract from the main plot.
  • Depending on your genre you can use the ‘no-one is safe’ mentality to add tension and ‘what if’s’.

Other misdirection techniques include:

  1. Killing off an important character.
  2. A character discovers a plot twist organically.
  3. Elevate a minor character.
  4. Your big reveal instigates a twist ending.

Remember to keep up the momentum after the big reveal so that the reader will continue reading to find out the ultimate conclusion of your narrative. If you are struggling there are plot twist generators on the internet, you can use them or manufacture your own from the ideas.

How have you kept a reader guessing? Care to share?

Which book plot twist surprised you the most?

Here is a list of the more famous literary plot twists.

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