Literary Friday, ya’ll….

literary friday

Miss A is coming to the house this weekend- we have Gazillion bubbles, chalk and lots of sunscreen for our weekend together. I’m going to the grocery store tonight to get ice cream cones and Goldfish crackers for our snack after pool time 🙂

So, my weekend is booked- but hopefully, I’ll have a little time to spend with All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda (It’s a Katie at Doing Dewey’s June #FuturisticFriday selection and I’m pretty intrigued. It’s like a puzzle and I have a few pieces- but waiting on a few more to show up!) Nap time for Miss A will be reading time for T 🙂

On to Literary Friday…… Continue reading

Interview with Ashton Lee- author of The Cherry Cola Book Club

the cherry cola bk clubAshton Lee, author The Cherry Cola Book Club, stopped by for an interview! Ashton talked about Maura Beth, Cherico, MS, and his writing space. The Cherry Cola Book Club made Deep South Magazine’s Summer Reading List and it is also a Pulpwood Queen selection- I have to say, knowing those 2 things- this book has a lot going for it!


Interview with Ashton Lee

Ashton- thank you for the interview! And congratulations on The Cherry Cola Book Club being chosen as one of the books on Deep South Magazine Summer Reading List.   

My pleasure.  CCBC was also recently chosen as a July read for the 550 chapters nationwide of The Pulpwood Queens.  They are a delightful, book-sharing, tiara-wearing army of women who are voracious readers.


What was the inspiration for The Cherry Cola Book Club? 

Many writers have day jobs as well.  Mine has been as a publisher’s rep/book vendor to public libraries in six Southern states.  I’ve done it for decades and have learned just about everything about the inner workings of libraries.  One of the biggest problems they often have is underfunding and dealing with budget cuts.  Often, a library’s budget will be cut first, restored last.  An author should always write what he or she knows best.  So I decided to write an entertaining series about the problems libraries have, hoping to become a national advocate for them as necessary, educational community resources.


Maura Beth- what would be the type of words you would use to describe her character?

Maura Beth is at once idealistic, naïve and determined.   As the novel opens, we find her in shock and slightly intimidated by a trio of local politicians who regard her as little more than eye candy and her library as utterly dispensable.   As the novel progresses, she realizes that she needs to toughen up and find a way around these good ole boys.  Thus, she is also resourceful, growing up before the reader’s very eyes.


Is there a Cherico, MS? Or is it a fictional town? 

Cherico is fictional, but it does contain components of many small Southern towns.   I was also recently in Knoxville, Iowa, as part of my book tour and discovered that Midwestern small towns aren’t very different from Southern small towns.  There is that sense of community and charm, and that’s what I wanted to capture in Cherico.


You have lived in Natchez and now live in Oxford. I’ve never been to Natchez, but know it has a rich history. Oxford is definitely a literary town. How have the towns you have lived in shaped your writing?

Natchez is a writing laboratory.  It’s the oldest city on the Mississippi River—founded in 1716—and the social and cultural layers it has developed are noteworthy.   Growing up, I was immersed in the quirky, eccentric behavior of many members of my parents’ and grandparents’ generations.  I listened, observed and remembered.   Some of the craziest things that happened over the years, I could not use in my writing.  The truth really is stranger than fiction sometimes and has to be modified to be believable.  At any rate, I consider that growing up in Natchez has provided me with a tremendous advantage as a writer.  And then living in Oxford has only reinforced that.  It’s a charming university town that has preserved its architecture and offers many amenities to writers and non-writers alike.  Its nationally-famous book store, Square Books, received  the Outstanding Independent Book Store of 2012 Award from ‘Publishers’ Weekly.’  The literary profession is a vibrant part of the Oxford community.

How long did The Cherry Cola Book Club take to write? 

It took me about five months to write.  I had the outline fleshed out and knew where I was going.


If The Cherry Cola Book Club was made into a movie- do you have a dream cast?

Having CCBC and its sequels (this is a series—and the next novel will be released in April, 2014) made into a movie would be ‘dream come true’ enough.   I haven’t thought about casting too much.   Someone like Anne Hathaway might make an interesting Maura Beth Mayhew, the determined young librarian.   Shirley MacLaine might want to tackle Miss Voncille, the authoritative spinster genealogist with a tragic romantic past.  I could actually see Reba McEntire as Periwinkle Lattimore, the down-home, divorced owner of The Twinkle, Twinkle Café.   Councilman Sparks needs to be charming and have that dark side as well—maybe Dennis Quaid, now that’s he’s a little older?


Do you, Ashton, have a writing space? A writing routine?   

I usually write in my office which is just off the master bedroom in my home.  Occasionally, I will take my computer with me on a road trip if I have a deadline and write in my hotel room.   When I’m in the zone, I can write any time of day, but I prefer writing at night for some reason.   I can do a one-hour session or take as long as four or five hours.  I’m fond of revisiting what I’ve written not too long after, doing self-editing while the work is relatively fresh in my mind.


What are you working on next?  More stories about Maura Beth and Cherico, MS?  

I have already written ‘The Reader’s Circle: A Cherry Cola Book Club Novel,’ which is the follow-up to CCBC.  I am now awaiting word from Kensington on extending the series with Books Three and Four.  Both have been plotted and tentatively titled.  If that new contract is approved, I will immediately start writing on Book Three.


*Thanks to Ashton Lee for agreeing to be interviewed!


Ashton LeeAshton Lee, author of The Cherry Cola Book Club, can be found on Facebook. He enjoys hearing from fans- so definitely give Ashton a “Like” and connect to hear the latest about The Cherry Cola Book Club and the possibility of future books. If you are near the Natchez,MS area (or would like a signed copy)- Ashton will be at Turning Pages and More Books on August 26th.


Want to know more about Ashton Lee? Read HERE to see my post about Meeting Ashton Lee at Lemuria Books in Jackson, MS (and his theatrical ways!)




Author Spotlight: Beth Hoffman

looking for meBeth Hoffman, author of Looking for Me, was here on Monday for an interview. Today, she is back for an author spotlight!

Congratulations to Beth- Looking for Me (along with 20 other books!) was chosen to be part of Deep South Magazine’s Summer Reading List.


Author Spotlight: Beth Hoffman

What are some of your favorite books, Beth?

There are far too many to list, but among my all-time favorites are: Roxanna Slade by Reynolds Price, A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote, Mama Makes Up Her Mind by Bailey White, and A Gracious Plenty by Sheri Reynolds.


If you could choose to be a character in a book- who would you choose?

I’d be Thelma Rae Goodpepper in Saving CeeCee Honeycutt. I’m already a lot like her. Just give me a few years and an outdoor bathtub, and I’ll probably turn into her twin!


If you were not an author, what would you like to be?

At this stage in my life, I can’t imagine doing anything else. Though I loved interior design and spent twenty years in that industry building a clientele and opening my own shop, I have no desire to return. If I had to choose something other than writing, then I’d open an animal rescue and rehabilitation facility.


Do you have any #literaryconfessions?

The only literary confession I can think of is that I’ve not read Jane Eyre.


Do you have a #literarycrush?

I’ve never had a literary crush. But if I had to pick one, it would probably be Tom Wingo from The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy. He is whip-smart, vulnerable, flawed, incredibly human, and so damn funny.


What is your favorite song?

As odd as my answer is, it’s the truth. My favorite song is birdsong—especially red-winged blackbirds. It makes me happy to hear them sing outside my windows.


Do you have any guilty pleasures?

I’m a quiet and simple person. What gives me pleasure is peace and solitude. But I will confess that I have a thing for quality sheets. I change my bed every single day (yes, you read that right…LOL), and I triple sheet like they do in fine European hotels. The sheets must be white and I prefer them to have some sort of lace or cutwork on the hems of the pillowcases. I love to take a hot bath at the end of the day and slip into crisp and cool sheets with a good book. To me, that’s bliss.


Beth- are you a hardback, paperback, or e-book kind of reader?

I like all three for different reasons. While I prefer hardback books, I do love to read on my iPad, especially when traveling.


What are some of the books in your TBR (To Be Read) list?

Thanks to all you bloggers, I have a huge TBR list! But a few titles on that list are: Benediction by Kent Haruf, Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall, and Elegies for the Brokenhearted by Christie Hodgen.


*Special thanks to Beth Hoffman for this author spotlight!


Beth Hoffman- when not writing, reading, or changing her sheets- can be found on Twitter, Facebook, or her website.

Be sure and check out the Interview with Beth Hoffman and Traveling With T’s  review of Looking for Me.




Interview with Beth Hoffman, author of Looking for Me

looking for meBeth Hoffman, author of Looking for Me, stopped by the blog to talk about antiques, how she creates characters, and the setting for Looking for Me.

She will be back on Wednesday to reveal her #literarycrush, #literaryconfessions, and the books that are on her TBR list (plus where she gets many of her book recommendations!)

*Need more Beth in your life? Twitter chat with Beth Hoffman Friday, July 26th from 2-3pmEST- thanks to Deep South Magazine! Use hashtag #southernlit to join in!


Interview with Beth Hoffman

Beth- thank you for agreeing to be interviewed!

I’m happy to be here, Tamara. Thanks so much for inviting me to your blog.

Beth, what was the inspiration for Looking for Me?

After I returned home from touring with CeeCee, I didn’t know what I’d write next, and quite honestly, I was too exhausted to think about it. One day I was cleaning my writing library and began to organize old photographs. I came across an envelope containing photos of my grandparents’ farm—some dating as far back as 1883.

There were probably close to a hundred photos in all, and I spent a good while reliving my childhood and yearning for those simple days on the farm. I missed the smell of freshly tilled earth and the taste of sweet corn grown on the land that had been in my family for generations. Just as I picked up a photo of my younger brother, something flashed in my periphery. I looked up as a red-tailed hawk landed in the tree outside my window. He settled on a branch and then turned his head and looked in the window. For a long moment we considered each other, and then—wham—I knew I had the soul of my story.


Teddi is a complex character, a very real character. How did you create Teddi?

Like all of my characters, Teddi came to me fully realized. Though I gave her my love of antiques, animals, and nature, she took off with her own persona and quirks. One of the things I’ve learned while crafting a novel is to get out of the way and give my characters freedom to live and speak and think without too much interference from me. Many times they’ve brought me major storyline revelations that I hadn’t even considered. It’s a fascinating process.

Part of the book is set in Charleston and part in Kentucky. What about those two settings made it right for Looking for Me?

The atmosphere of the story I want to create will determine the setting. I need to feel connected to a location’s history and culture. One of my favorite things to do while crafting a novel is to explore opposites. The juxtaposition of Charleston’s refinement to Slade, Kentucky’s rugged wilderness intrigued me. Red River Gorge is wonderfully wild and mysterious while Charleston is known for its gorgeous architecture and gentility. The downtown area of Charleston was the perfect place for Teddi to reach for her dream while Kentucky was ideal to hold her family’s roots.


Antiques are a huge part of Looking for Me. Were you using antiques as a metaphor- even when things look bleak, some tender loving care can make things better?

To be honest, I never thought of antiques as a metaphor while crafting the story, but you have an interesting point. I’ve always had a tender spot for people, animals, and objects that have suffered neglect and need care. Many years ago I drove by a trashcan that had an old teddy bear sticking out. It made me sad to think that he’d once been loved and yet soon would be left to disintegrate in a dump. So I stopped and went back to get him. He was so old that he was stuffed with excelsior. I cleaned him up, stitched one his paws, and made sure he was sanitized. He’s now happily sitting on one of my bookshelves.


Beth- how do you create characters? Are the characters based on people you know?

I don’t mean to sound evasive, but my characters just seem to show up. Long before I begin a manuscript they begin to chatter in my head. I don’t so much create them as acknowledge them. More often than not they’ll appear out of nowhere and surprise me. Certainly some characters will have traits of people I’ve known, heard about, or interacted with, but they always end up being unique unto themselves.


When writing Looking for Me– did you know how it would end? Or did the ending reveal itself as you were writing?

I was well into writing the manuscript before I knew how it would end. The ending came to me late one night, and when I saw it play out in my head, I knew it was absolutely right.


Any ideas as to what the next book will be about, Beth?  

I have no clue! Some characters have started to “talk” to me, but I really don’t know what, if anything, will come of what they’re saying. I’m the kind of writer who needs to put some time and distance between novels so I can fully immerse myself in a new story and keep it fresh and separate from those that came before it.


*Special thanks to Beth Hoffman for agreeing to be interviewed!


beth hoffman

Beth Hoffman, author of Looking for Me and Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, has the honor of being chosen for Deep South Magazine’s 2013 Summer Reading List! When she is not writing, you can find Beth on Twitter– sending encouraging tweets to her writer friends (and fans!) Beth also has a website and a Facebook page.


Interview with Claire Cook, author of Time Flies

time fliesClaire Cook has just had her 10th book published! She stopped by to talk about Time Flies (which is on Deep South Magazine’s Summer Reading List 2013) and many, many other things!

Claire will be back on Friday- to reveal her #literaryconfessions, #literarycrush and some of her favorite authors!

My review of Time Flies will be posted on Thursday- so stay tuned for that as well!

Interview with Claire Cook

Claire, thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed!

Thanks so much for interviewing me, Tamara!

Time Flies is your 10th novel. How has the writing process changed from your first novel to the 10th? Has the writing process gotten any easier?

Wouldn’t you think by the tenth novel it would get easier? Sadly, it’s not, except for the fact that since I survived the first nine, I knew I was probably going to live through the tenth one, too! Writing a novel is a leap of faith, and it’s still a mystery to me how it all comes together. I think my inner reader saves me every time. I don’t think you can be a writer unless you’re an avid, joyful reader, and I believe that as you read and read, a template forms somewhere in your brain that somehow helps you write your own books.

Must Love Dogs was made into a movie. After writing the book, and then having the movie made- would you like any more of your books to be made into a movie?

Of course! I’d like all of them to be made into movies – it was a totally awesome experience! And every time the Must Love Dogs movie plays on TV, which is a lot, new readers discover my novels, which is the biggest gift of all. I’ve had other books optioned for film since, but it’s rare that they make it through all the Hollywood hoops and onto the big screen. My fingers are crossed that lightning will strike twice though!

Time Flies has earned spots on several summer reading lists. One of the lists is Deep South Magazine’s Summer Reading List. How did it feel seeing Time Flies on a list with Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman, The Time Between by Karen White and Ladies’ Night by Mary Kay Andrews?

It was such thrill to make Deep South Magazine’s Summer Reading list! As a recently transplanted Northerner, I’ve been shouting it out at all my book events and saying, “Wow, they let me in – I finally feel like a Southerner!” Beth and Karen and Mary Kay are all writer pals, so I’m as happy for them as I am for me, and truly honored to be included on the list with so many talented authors.

How long did Time Flies take to write?

When I’m writing a first draft, I write two pages a day, seven days a week. So, essentially, I’m living in the book, thinking about it all day long. I’ve noticed my best ideas come in the shower, on the elliptical machine at the gym, at red lights when I’m driving, and when I wake up in the middle of the night. I jot things down all day long – on notecards, in notebooks, on the backs of receipts.

I don’t outline, because it would make it feel like a term paper. I try not to think too much or try too hard, because when I do, my writing goes flat. I have a sense of who my main character is, and because my books are written in the first person, my entry point tends to be capturing my protagonist’s voice. Then, because I’m essentially writing slice-of-life novels, I think about what makes the book begin today instead of another day. Once I find that little explosion, then I have my jumping off point. The characters react to that and there’s a ripple effect. I just keep following those ripples and in about six months or so, I have a first draft. And then the real work begins since the truth is it’s the rewriting – again and again – that makes your novel truly come alive. I delivered my first draft of Time Flies just before Wallflower in Bloom came out last June, so the whole process takes me about a year – and lots of hard work!

Do you have a favorite character in Time Flies?

I have to be able to love all my characters, even the unlovable ones, or I wouldn’t be able to write them convincingly. And I never pick favorites – I wouldn’t want to hurt the other characters’ feelings!

Claire, you are very active on social media and often ask your fans questions as you are writing your books. How much does talking to fans help in your writing?

I think social media is a great way to help new readers find my books, and I’m lucky that I really enjoy it. The challenge is not getting so sucked in that it encroaches on my writing time.

I love asking my readers questions to help me with my books, and I know they enjoy being a part of the process. While writing Time Flies, I asked everybody to share their favorite songs from high school, as well as old clothing and makeup memories. It was fun for all of us and also gave me some great authentic details for the novel.

I also love hearing what resonates for readers in my books, and I think it’s helped me become a better writer. So if you’re reading this right now, I hope you’ll connect with me on Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and Goodreads and at, where you can sign up for my e-newsletter, Must Love Readers.

The cover of Time Flies is beautiful. It makes me think of carefree days and leaving worries behind. How do you decide on a cover?

Thank you! I think I’ve been really lucky in getting great covers, though I can’t take any credit for it. They’ve all been designed by talented cover designers hired by my publishers. If I don’t think early cover concepts would resonate for my readers, I speak up, but other than that I stay out of it and leave it to the professionals!

Claire- what are some words you would use to describe Time Flies?

I hope it’s fun and funny and poignant and real and ultimately uplifting.

Are you working on a new novel? Taking a well-deserved break before you write again?

Ha! A break – what’s that?!? I delivered a draft of my next novel to my literary agent the week before Time Flies came out, and I’ll jump into my first set of revisions moments after I finish this interview. Stay tuned…it’ll be out sometime next year!

*Special thanks to Claire Cook for agreeing to be interviewed!

claire cookClaire Cook has just published her 10th novel, Time Flies. She’s having too much writing to take a break! When Claire is not hard at work on her next book (and even when she is!) she can be found on social media sites interacting with fans. To find out more about Claire, visit her website, Facebook and Twitter.

Literary Friday ya’ll….

It’s Friday- and I’m so ready for a weekend of fun. Spending time with my family and some reading. YAY!


1. Deep South Mag and their #literaryfriday has been posted! Susan Rebecca White’s  A Place at the Table event, Zoey Deschanel as Amelia Bedelia, and more!

Deep South Mag also revealed their complete Summer Reading List! 21 books just waiting to read!

Out of the 21, I’ve read 5- A Place at the Table, Looking for Me, Topped Chef, The Guest House, And Then I Found You

2. Book Lovers Unite Online Book Club is in Week 2 of discussion of Reconstructing Amelia. Plenty of time to join in!

3. Looking for #giveaways? My Thursday Mashup is filled with the best info!

4. I reviewed The Roots of the Olive Tree by Courtney Santo.

5. A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams is divine. And totally 5 star worthy. My review to be posted next week.

6. My #fridayreads Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight and The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan.

7. Look next week for my interview with Erika Marks and a giveaway of The Guest House. Come find out what her #literaryconfessions are!

Happy Reading!