Literary Friday ya’ll……

Can you believe that next week is Labor Day Weekend? Where, oh where did my summer go?!

1. Deep South Magazine and their #literaryfriday is hot, hot, hot: Giveaway of Lookaway, Lookaway By Wilton Barnhardt, Decatur Book Festival news, Southern Festival of Books, and much more!

PS: Plus a mention of an interview I did with Katherine Center, author of The Lost Husband, that just happened to make Deep South Mag’s Summer Reading List 2013!

2. Several #giveaways to list this week:

Linus’s Blanket is giving away a copy of The Girl You Left Behind by JoJo Moyes! (this giveaway ends TODAY!)

Always With A Book is giving away Three Little Words by Susan Mallery!

Traveling With T is giving away The Outcast by Jolina Petersheim!

Traveling With T is giving away The Lost Husband by Katherine Center!

**Just added: The Book Wheel is giving away Etched in Sand by Regina Calcaterra.  This giveaway ends in 2 days!

3. Another Blogger Made Of AWESOME was featured this week on Traveling With TKatherine @ Story Matters has quite a story and a nostalgic #literaryconfession!

4. #ctbs is still going on- so far, I’ve read 4 books from my shelf (a far less admirable goal than I’d hoped- but this last week of August might turn things around!)

5. My #fridayreads Beautiful Day by Elin Hilderbrand- what are you reading for #fridayreads?

6. Author Spotlights this week on Traveling With T: Jolina Petersheim, Katherine Center, and Shannon Polson (plus a Shannon Polson Interview!)

7. I reviewed Whistling Past The Graveyard by Susan Crandall this week on Traveling With T!

Happy Reading!

Interview with Katherine Center, author of The Lost Husband

the lost husband amaxonToday Katherine Center, author of The Lost Husband, stops by to talk about her new book (which made Deep South Magazine’s Summer Reading List 2013!)

Katherine will be back on Thursday to discuss #literarycrush and #literaryconfessions- among other things!

Interview with Katherine Center

What was the inspiration for The Lost Husband?

I have a childhood friend who lives on a goat farm.  He and his wife actually quit their city jobs and moved out to the country to raise goats, make cheese, and live the good life.  Several years ago, we took our kids out to visit them and see the farm, and I was totally amazed at how charming it was.  By the end of the weekend, I knew I wanted to try to set a book on a goat farm.

Are any of the characters in The Lost Husband based on people in real life? Or are they just characters you imagined?

The people in The Lost Husband are all fictional.  Writing stories is kind of like making a collage.  You take bits and pieces from everywhere—something you dreamed, a story your mom told you, something your son said, a haircut you saw on somebody in the grocery store—and you mix them all together in the service of your story.

That said, some of my characters do have traits of people I know.  The way that Aunt Jean is such a great listener and can find a way to care about whatever Libby’s talking about?  That’s my awesome mom, right there.   My husband is a volunteer firefighter, so I snagged that piece of O’Connor’s character from him.  And Libby reminds me of me in certain ways—especially when she’s worrying too much.  Need to work on that.

Can you describe The Lost Husband in 10 words or less?

A woman finds a new life after losing her husband.

(Exactly ten!  Whew!)

Will you be going on a book signing tour?

PEOPLE Magazine invited me to a book party they had up in New York (and gave The Lost Husband a great review) right after the book came out, so I went up to NYC for that.  And I’ve done lots of events around Texas.  Luckily, I’m able to do a lot online (YES—I will Skype with your book club!!), which is great for me, since I’m a mom, and it’s always so hard to leave my little ones!

Do you have a writing space? A writing routine?

If I could conjure a perfect writing routine, I would wake up, make coffee, and sit right down to write (preferably in a gorgeous historic estate with a sunroom overlooking a river).  As it is, I get up and scramble around in the mornings, getting everybody off to school.  Once that’s done, I take a deep breath and, on a good day, sit down to write.  (On a not-so-great day, I wind up doing laundry or dealing with a broken dishwasher or driving to drop off a forgotten lunch box).  I have a laptop, so I work at the kitchen table a lot, or in a big comfy chair on our sun porch. And then I just write like crazy until it’s time for afternoon carpool.

Would you want The Lost Husband to be made into a movie? If so, do you have a cast in mind?

I’d love to see it as a movie!!  I’d especially love to see the scene where Libby gives O’Connor a haircut and shaves off his beard.  It would be fun to see that transformation on the screen.  As for who to cast, it’s a fun game to play!  It’s always kind of hard for me, for some reason.  But I’ve heard some great suggestions from readers: Ryan Gosling for O’Connor. Amy Adams for Libby. Kathy Bates for Aunt Jean.

Katherine- what are you working on next? Can you give us any hints?

I just got a three-book deal with St. Martin’s Press, and I’m working to finish the first of those three this summer.  It’s about a woman who goes on a wilderness survival course with her little brother’s irritating best friend.  I am 2/3 of the way through the first draft, and I’m having a great time with it.

*Special thanks to Katherine Center for agreeing to be interviewed!

katherine c

Katherine Center is enjoying life (as you can tell in this pic (taken at the People magazine party!)- she’s got a big smile on her face!) Not only is The Lost Husband a Deep South Magazine Summer Reading List selection– she’s recently signed a three book deal with St.Martin’s Press. When not writing, Katherine can be found on her website, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook.


*Giveaway: Comment for a chance to win The Lost Husband! Be sure and include your email (you may use the AT and DOT). Giveaway is open to US only (sorry!) Giveaway is open from August 20- Aug 27th at 11:59pmEST. Winner announced Aug 28th.

Interview with Lucy Burdette, author of Key West Food Critic Mystery series

Topped Chef - Cover

Lucy Burdette writes the Key West Food Critic mystery series- featuring Hayley- a food critic who is fun and quirky- plus likes to have her cards read by a Tarot reader when life is confusing.

Topped Chef is the 3rd in the series (and it made Deep South Magazine’s Summer Reading List!)


Lucy agreed to be interviewed for my blog (and I’m SUPER excited- because, I’m a total Hayley fan!)

Interview with Lucy Burdette

1. Topped Chef was recently chosen to be on Deep South Magazine’s Summer Reading List. How did you feel, as the author, seeing 1 of your books on the list?

I was thrilled! One of the challenges of writing is figuring out how to let the world know about the books–and showing up on a summer reading list is a dream. So thank you Tamara!!

2. Hayley likes to cook. And eat. Could a cookbook deal be in Hayley’s future?

Interesting question. I’m not sure there’s a cookbook deal in *my* future, but I love the idea of Hayley landing one. Imagine the complications that could cause…You may know that I blog with a small group of culinary mystery writers–the website is called Mystery Lovers Kitchen. We would love to write a cookbook together one day–between us we have a lot of wonderful recipes and fun characters.

3. The Key West Food Critic Mysteries have such bright, colorful and interesting covers. Do you have a vision for the covers or does the art department at Signet come up with the fabulous covers?

I feel so lucky to have these artists for my covers. And my editor is very good about asking for suggestions. I have started keeping a Pinterest board for each of the books as I write, adding photos that remind me of the characters and the story. When the folks at the publisher are ready to brainstorm with the artists about the cover, I send the link to them. The results have been wonderful! I’ll add the links to boards for TOPPED CHEF and the February 2014 release, MURDER WITH GANACHE, so you can see what I mean:

4. Denise Swanson recently started a street team to help spread the word about her Scumble River book series? Do you, Lucy, have plans to start a street team for the Lucy Burdette series?

Funny you should ask…I enlisted a street team to help me launch TOPPED CHEF this spring. The team consisted of folks who had written to me about how much they loved the Key West series. Some took bookmarks to libraries and bookstores near them, some helped me set up radio interviews, some shared posts on Facebook and Twitter. I know I will gear up again for MURDER WITH GANACHE early next year and welcome any and all prospective team members.


*Special thanks to Lucy Burdette for agreeing to be interviewed!


lucy burdetteWhen Lucy is not dreaming new adventures for Hayley- she can be found at Mystery Lovers Kitchen contributing to the delicious recipes. Look for Murder With Ganache Feb 2014 (the 4th mystery in the Key West Food Critic series!) Need more Lucy? Check out Deep South Magazine’s Literary Friday for a recipe for Lime Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting.  Lucy is also a Jungle Red Writer member!


* To read my review of Topped Chef and an earlier interview with Lucy Burdette, visit here.

Interview with Beth Albright author of The Sassy Belles

Beth Albright, author of The Sassy Belles, found time in her busy  schedule to stop by and answer some questions. Interviewing Beth was a fun experience- and if her book, The Sassy Belles, is half as fun as finding our her answers- then we are in for a delight! The Sassy Belles is part of Deep South Magazine’s Summer Reading List– a list that has quite a few good books- whether you are from the South or just long to read about Southern life and Southern belles.


Interview with Beth Albright:

What was the inspiration for The Sassy Belles?

Literally, I was homesick. I had had many careers from being an actress on Days of Our Lives, to being a long-time radio talk show host all over the country. After my son was born, I opened an acting school for kids and after nearly 7 years, the Enron scandal happened in Houston, TX, and my school was collateral damage. I sat in a rainy parking lot waiting for my husband to run into a grocery store, when I pulled my directors notebook from my purse and scribbled out the very first words of what would become The Sassy Belles. “My name is Blake O’Hara Heart and boy do I have a story to tell. It wouldn’t be such a story if Vivi hadn’t done what she did.” I was homesick and needed my mom and sassy girlfriends around me—with some salty margaritas!


From the beginning to end, how long did The Sassy Belles take to write?

It took many years because I wasn’t serious about it. I wrote most of it after my acting school closed and we were living in Nashville. Then we moved to LA for the third time, and my son became a competitive pairs figure skater and I put it away for three years. But my mom kept pushing me to finish, telling me I really had something, so I finished, went to the San Francisco Writers Conference, met my agent and she sold a three-book deal to Harlequin/MIRA!


Do you have a writing space? A writing routine?

I have a favorite chair, with my cat nicely sprawled behind my head on the back of the chair. Also, I love my desk and my writing space on the fourth floor of my SF townhome, but the chair in the bedroom seems to be where I land. My routine is hard…I had only about 5 weeks each to write the last 2 books in the trilogy. We wanted to keep a tight production schedule and I wanted to get the books out, so I wrote from about 9am till about 2-3am, taking breaks of course. With the next trilogy, I will be taking more time, but I am pretty diligent and focused when I write. I get inside the story and sometimes it’s hard to get me out!


Are any of the characters based on people in real life? Or just figments of your imagination?

All of the characters are good amalgamations of many of the people I know. I like to take traits of different people and put together new people. The character of Meridee is very much like my late maternal grandmother. She is closest to her actual character.


Will you be going on a book signing tour? If so, what are you looking forward to the most about the tour?

We just did a huge launch and book party at the Barnes and Noble in Tuscaloosa Alabama, where the books are based. We sold 200 books in four hours!! It was crazy. I definitely want to go on a huge book tour and I am hoping to put one together this fall when all 3 books are out! What I look most forward to is meeting my readers! I love people and love shaking hands, and talking with them!


Do you want The Sassy Belles to be made into a movie one day? If so, who are the actors that would comprise your dream cast?

Actually, the book is currently being packaged for a pitch for an hour long TV series!!! Vivi was written for Jessica Chastain!! I love Allison Brie as she appeared in Five Year Engagement as  Blake! Betty White as Meridee for sure, Delta Burke for Kitty, Jessica Simpson (not pregnant) as Dallas. The men, oooh I love so many of them! Maybe Jon Hamm as Harry, Blake Shelton as Sonny, and Vince Vaughn as Lewis. Bonita would be played by Octavia Spencer and Arthur would be played by Denzel Washington! His character becomes huge in later books! I think that would be awesome!


The Sassy Belles is the first in the series. Can you tell us anything about the next two books, Wedding Belles and Sleigh Belles?

Wedding Belles, out July 30th, to me, is the funniest of the three books. Here is the quote from the back of the book:

Seven months pregnant and head over heels in love, Vivi Ann McFadden is busy pulling together the final details for her wedding to Lewis Heart, famous play-by-play announcer for the Crimson Tide. But with two wedding-planners-gone-wild and a psychic giving her advice, a missing wedding ring and the ceremony happening on the same day as the wildly popular Crimson Tide kickoff game, chaos reigns supreme. Luckily, maid of honor Blake O’Hara Heart is on the job. She’ll tackle this wedding if it’s the last thing she does!

Sleigh Belles is much more poignant. While there are funny scenes, the story is a tale of tying to put pieces of a fragmented family back together for Christmas. You’ll need your hankies for sure. It is the most deep and emotional of the three books. Here is the back cover:

With her hair perfectly coiffed, nails freshly manicured and a heavy trail of perfume wafting behind her, local news reporter Dallas Dubois is sure she’s about to kick her career—and maybe her love life—into high gear. The director of the Tuscaloosa children’s Christmas play has fallen ill, and Dallas is ordered by her station manager to take the reins. Everyone is shocked—especially Cal Hollingsworth, who still remembers her as the Ice Queen from high school.

If nothing else, Dallas has never met a challenge that a little lip gloss and a Chanel knockoff couldn’t fix. But she has no idea how to relate to these kids, and their brutal honesty is giving her pause. Things are made even more complicated by the butterflies she gets whenever Cal is near….

But when long-lost family members reenter her life, Dallas’s icy veneer begins to melt. And with Cal by her side, she soon realizes that it’s what’s under all the hair spray that counts.


Now that you’ve read the interview- is your inner “sassy belle” just having a fit to read The Sassy Belles? If so, you are in luck! Come back on Friday- Beth will be revealing her #literarycrush, some Southern writers that she just LOVES, and more. There will also be a #giveaway of The Sassy Belles!



Beth Albright, author of The Sassy Belles, loves her sassy girlfriends and some salty margaritas ( Beth sounds like a very good person to be friends with!) For more information about Beth, please visit her website, The Sassy Belles Facebook page, or Twitter.



*Special shout-out goes to Beth for agreeing to this interview. Long live The Sassy Belles!




Interview with Erika Marks

Erika Marks, author of Little Gale Gumbo, The Mermaid Collector, and her newest novel- The Guest House, found time in her busy writing and book touring schedule to answer a few questions for me at Traveling With T.

I’ve had such a “fan girl” feeling about Erika since I read Little Gale Gumbo around 2 years ago. Then last October, my IRL book club picked Little Gale Gumbo for their read- and I was able to talk to Erika on the phone- I don’t think I quit grinning about that for some time!

So, my readers, knowing that backstory- you can understand exactly why I’m so excited to have Erika here for an interview!


Interview with Erika Marks:

What was the inspiration for THE GUEST HOUSE?  

Tamara, let me first say thank you so much for hosting me and all these wonderful questions! Most of my novels come out of an idea for a character or a relationship, but in the case of THE GUEST HOUSE the inspiration was place. At eighteen, I was fortunate to spend a summer on the property of a massive shingle-style cottage like the one in the book and the experience never left me. It was a deeply romantic place and I always imagined fantastic stories in its walls, all the summers it had been filled with guests and parties and, of course, all the drama that must have gone on.

The characters in each of your books (LITTLE GALE GUMBO, THE MERMAID COLLECTOR, and THE GUEST HOUSE) are beautifully written, yet flawed and very human. How long does it to take you to create the characters?

Thank you for saying so! It really depends. Some characters come to me fully-realized right away. Camille Bergeron and Ben Haskell from LITTLE GALE GUMBO were like that. Writing them was like recalling friends I had known for a long, long time. Others, such as Tess from THE MERMAID COLLECTOR, eluded me for a while as I wrote, hiding themselves from me. I think I know how I want them to be, but often their personalities evolve through contact with other characters—and they surprise me.

Each of the past books have been set in the New England area- does that area’s rich history enable a better creative experience for you as a writer? Do you have plans to change your setting one day?

New England is where I grew up and certainly a setting I feel so comfortable writing about and one that is so much a part of me. That said, now that I live in North Carolina and am getting to experience and fall in love with the Carolina coast, I look forward to setting future stories along these beaches.

As a writer, do you ever hope that any of your books will be made into a movie? And if so, do you have any idea about actors and actresses you would like to see play the characters in your books?

Oh, of course! I am such a movie buff and frankly, I usually “cast” my novels as I am writing them—I can’t help it! I think of all my novels, THE MERMAID COLLECTOR seems the most naturally suited to be made into a movie, but I would certainly be thrilled to have any of my novels made into a film!

How long does it take to complete a novel from beginning to end?

That depends. Usually I write a first draft in a few months, and then the revisions go pretty quickly after that. With my debut, LITTLE GALE GUMBO, the revision period was longer simply because my agent and I weren’t really under a deadline—but then once it sold, my editor and I worked on revisions within a time frame, of course, to meet established deadlines. I like to believe, too, that the more I write, the more efficient my writing gets—that I can troubleshoot issues along the way, see area that will need work, plotting concerns, etc. As writers, I think we are all working to strengthen our craft with every book, always. There is always a way to make my writing stronger, and I value that tremendously.

Erika, do you have a writing routine? Or a writing space?

While my children are in school, I keep to a fixed writing work day. Mornings start with checking in with social media and then I get right to it. But of course, when deadlines get fast and furious—and summer schedules change our routines—I may write at odd hours, and much more at night. When my girls were little, I would soak up any available moments to write so I’m very much a believer in being flexible too. If you have ten minutes free, write for ten minutes. Don’t wait for “the perfect” block. It rarely comes—and I also think it sets up an expectation for performance that can be daunting and ultimately unproductive. That said, I can’t write in a coffee shop or any kind of public place, and I have to have music on—but always instrumental.

Are there plans for a 4th novel?

Yes, I’m writing it now—and I’m really excited about it. Not to give too much away—since I’m terribly superstitious—but it’s set in Folly Beach, South Carolina, and centers around a woman who revisits her past as a champion surfer—and the life and loves she left behind when heartbreak caused her to give it all up.


Liked the interview? Want to know more about Erika Marks? Check back Thursday at Traveling With T for an Author Spotlight with Erika Marks- find out her favorite books, #literayconfessions and #literarycrush. Plus- a GIVEAWAY- one lucky commenter on Thursday’s Author Spotlight will win a copy of The Guest House! Want to read a review of The Guest House? Here is my review of The Guest House by Erika Marks.


erika marksTo find out more about Erika Marks– her past books, book events, and more- please visit Erika’s website. It’s filled with tons of good information! Also, The Guest House, Erika’s latest book made not 1, but 2 Summer Reading Lists this year- so yay for Erika! Here’s the links for She Reads The Books of Summer and Deep South Magazine’s Summer Reading List.


** Special thanks to Erika Marks for taking time to answer questions. Thank you, thank you, thank you.