Behind the Pages Q&A with Samantha Downing @smariedowning

Samantha Downing joined us in our Behind the Pages Goodreads group to discuss My Lovely Wife with us and we are very excited to share some the Q & A with you all here today.

The paperback version of My Lovely Wife is now available!!! Amazon Studios and Nicole Kidman’s Blossom Films have partnered to produce a feature film based on the novel.

Brenda Welcome, Samantha! Thank you so much for joining us! I loved My Lovely Wife and I am excited about the paperback release because I think it is one everyone needs to read. We read My Lovely Wife in two different reading groups and we all loved it! It made for an exciting discussion. Tell us a little bit about how this journey has been like for you

Samantha Hello everyone! Thank you for having me!

This journey has been really exciting. I can’t explain how thrilling it is to have people read something that you’ve been working on for so long! Publishing is a long process, but to be able to see your book on the shelves makes it all worth it. I’m grateful to be a published author!

Norma Hi Samantha and welcome! Thank you so much for joining us! I absolutely LOVED My Lovely Wife! It was a favourite and I always recommend it first to anyone who asks me what my favourite thriller is. How much time do you spend promoting? It must be fun seeing all the positive feedback. Tell us how that feels.

Samantha I try to spend as much time as I can promoting my book! I’m on social media every day, interacting with people as much as possible. And I have signings whenever I can. I also go to writer’s conferences, which are really fun.

The positive feedback is really incredible, especially for this book. It’s dark, so I didn’t know how many people would really enjoy it. I’ve been both surprised and happy that so many people like it!

Lindsay Hi Samantha! Thank you for being here with us! I LOVED My Lovely Wife! Such a brilliant and unique storyline! How did you come up with that storyline? Did something spark your initial idea for the storyline?

Samantha Thank you so much for having me! The original idea for My Lovely Wife came from a documentary about a couple who kidnapped a woman. In that case, the man was the instigator and he pretty much forced his wife to go along with it. I started wondering about it the other way around. What if the woman was the instigator? What would she look like?

So I answered my own question and came up with Millicent.

Mary Beth Yay, For Q&A with one of my favorite authors! Welcome Samantha! I loved My Lovely Wife and He Started It. I would like to know where is your favorite writing place?

Samantha Thank you so much! Oddly, I love to write in airports and on airplanes. First, because the noise is like white noise…I just filter it out. Also because I never connect to the internet in airports so it’s easy to keep focus!

Paulette Samantha welcome! My Lovely Wife what a stunning debut, it lived up to the hype hands down…. congratulations on your success. I would love to know where the inspiration for this book came from? did you find any of these characters personally relatable to you

Samantha Thank you! The original inspiration was a documentary…and then it took on a life of it’s own! I think there’s a bit of me in every character, that’s unavoidable. For example, Millicent is a control freak and so am I! Rory is very sarcastic, and I am the same way.

Also, I come from the California suburbs so that suburban life is something I know a lot about.

Terry Hi Samantha, I just wanted to tell you I loved what a smart and twisted book that was! No spoilers, but I totally was fooled and yelled “What?!?” at the ending – very entertaining!
Did you actually figure out the ending, then write the rest of the book to lead into it? It makes me want to read it over again to find clues….

Samantha I did not know that would be the ending! Because I don’t plot my books, I don’t know how they are going to turn out at first. Usually by the middle, I figure out where I want to go…but sometimes I change my mind :)Then I have to go through edits and revisions, of course!

Brenda I loved that My Lovely Wife was narrated from the husband’s perspective, rather than the wife. Why did you decide to his POV over Millicent’s?

Samantha This was very deliberate. I wanted Millicent to be seen only through her husband’s eyes, so we only see what he sees and hear what he hears. After all, this is how we know people in real life. We make judgments based on our interactions with them…we can’t ever know what is in their heads. That’s how I wanted to present Millicent, through the eyes of someone who loved her.

Brenda What I loved about My Lovely Wife is how you created a multi-dimensional couple and family. I found it fascinating to see the different sides to them as a couple, parents and the disturbing couple they were. The children brought some fascinating dynamics to the story as well.

How did you go about creating this? Did you start with the idea of them and the different sides to them, mapping it out or did they come together as you were writing?

Samantha I didn’t really map it out, because I don’t plot my books. But what I wanted to show was a very normal couple with a normal life. Because if they didn’t have a normal “front” they would get caught very quickly. People had to believe they would never do such a thing in order for them to get away with murder.

And they are very normal…until they aren’t!

Brenda I recently finished He Start It and loved it!! Can you give us a sneak-peek into it?

Samantha Thank you very much, I’m so glad you enjoyed it! He Started It is about three siblings (and two spouses) who have to go a on a road trip in order to get their grandfather’s inheritance. Along the way they have to deal with family secrets, old grudges, and a lot of scores to settle.

I loved writing this book, it was so much fun, and I hope you all enjoy it as well!

Brenda I found both Millicent and Beth snarky fun and entertaining. In their voice can you tell us a little bit about each?

Samantha This is such a great question! I will give it a shot in their voices:

Millicent: I don’t know what you want me to say. I’m a wife, a career woman, and above all else, I’m a mother. That’s all you need to know. Thank you.

Beth: Look, I’m not saying I’m a bad person, per say, I’m just saying I’m not perfect. Really, who is? I don’t know. Never met anyone perfect, so don’t expect me to be

Brenda What would you like readers to get from your books?

Samantha My goal is to write the kind of book you can’t put down. I’m a reader, like everyone here, and to me there’s nothing more enjoyable than a book you can’t stand to put down. The kind of book you think about until you can pick it up again.

For me, that kind of book is usually a thriller, as that’s my favorite genre. And that’s the kind of book I hope to write. A page-turner, so to speak!

For more of our Q & A with Samantha Downing can be found here

Our Traveling Sisters reviews can be found here

Blackwood by Michael Farris Smith @HBGCanada

Sweet goodness, gracious!! Blackwood is one remarkable story that surprised me!

What a unique talent Michael Farris Smith has here with setting the powerful and distinctive tone and mood to Blackwood. I have not experienced anything like it before. It provoked a quiet feeling of bleakness, darkness and hope that whispered to me through the imagery used to the story.

The bleak, dark and sinister evil that hovers over the edges of Red Bluff, Mississippi and the story quietly started to consume me when the man, the women and the boy drift into town and awaken the evil lurking in the Kudzu. There are some dark secrets buried under a blanket of leaves that create a landscape of fear and regret that consumes these characters.

The words are written with grace and are haunting beautifully quiet. As I was reading, all I could hear was the creepy vines whispering the secrets of the past, keeping the darkness alive. There is some hope that creeps in the end, leaving me with some quiet thoughts after reading this one. I highly recommend!

Thank you to HBG Canada for my copy on NetGalley

Sneak Peek into The Unwilling by John Hart

Piping Hot Diggity Dang with a side of flaming hot peppers right off the fire!! John Hart is my hero for taking this stressed out with life reader and drawing me right into this story, allowing me to forget everything around me but these characters. I became utterly lost in this story. Sometimes that’s all you need!  

I wanted to dive into The Unwilling right away but tried to hold off a bit because you know so many books need my attention.   I picked it up just to look at it and soon found myself ignoring life and everything around me till I finished. The Unwilling is one exciting story that I think every thriller lover needs to read!!   It is not out till June 23, 2020, so put it on your TBR, pre-order it or try to get your hands on an ARC.

The Unwilling is a raw yet exciting heart-pounding, emotionally deep and entertaining crime story that explores the dynamics between a family shattered by the past, war, prison, loss and the scars left behind.

If you haven’t read a book by John Hart, I highly recommend giving one a try. If you have you know what I am talking about when I say he is one master story writer who delivers a vividly beautiful written story, creates suspense to drive the story forward well drawing you into the depth of the souls and minds of his characters. Don’t miss out on the experience of reading his books. 

Oh and that cover!!!!  It says so much!! 

Thank you to St Martin’s Press for my copy!!

Taken from John Hart’s website

He’d fought the war as few men could. THE REAL TERROR WAITED AT HOME.

Taken from Goodreads

Set in the South at the height of the Vietnam War, The Unwilling combines crime, suspense and searing glimpses into the human mind and soul in New York Times bestselling author John Hart’s singular style.

Gibby’s older brothers have already been to war. One died there. The other came back misunderstood and hard, a decorated killer now freshly released from a three-year stint in prison.

Jason won’t speak of the war or of his time behind bars, but he wants a relationship with the younger brother he hasn’t known for years. Determined to make that connection, he coaxes Gibby into a day at the lake: long hours of sunshine and whisky and older women.

But the day turns ugly when the four encounter a prison transfer bus on a stretch of empty road. Beautiful but drunk, one of the women taunts the prisoners, leading to a riot on the bus. The woman finds it funny in the moment, but is savagely murdered soon after.

Given his violent history, suspicion turns first to Jason; but when the second woman is kidnapped, the police suspect Gibby, too. Determined to prove Jason innocent, Gibby must avoid the cops and dive deep into his brother’s hidden life, a dark world of heroin, guns and outlaw motorcycle gangs.

What he discovers there is a truth more bleak than he could have imagined: not just the identity of the killer and the reasons for Tyra’s murder, but the forces that shaped his brother in Vietnam, the reason he was framed, and why the most dangerous man alive wants him back in prison.

This is crime fiction at its most raw, an exploration of family and the past, of prison and war and the indelible marks they leave. 

Little Lovely Things by Maureen Joyce Connolly @MConnollyAuthor

Norma’s review

Heart-wrenching, authentic, & compelling!

LITTLE LOVELY THINGS by MAUREEN JOYCE CONNOLLY is a steadily-paced, gripping, dramatic, raw, enigmatic, and dark suspenseful psychological thriller that deeply affected me. This heartbreaking story totally consumed my thoughts and my heart. I was fully engaged right from the very start and my mind didn’t even waver once while I was reading this book.

MAUREEN JOYCE CONNOLLY delivers an intense, well-crafted, believable, and beautifully written story here with absolutely fascinating, complex, and well-portrayed characters. I am not normally a fan of an overly descriptive writing style but I thought the descriptions here were absolutely beautiful and something to savour. Initially though I’d say that I did need to get into the flow of the narrative though and once I did it totally settled down for me and I was able to be fully absorbed in this story.

I absolutely loved Jay’s character and thought that the addition of his Native American folklore was fascinating and added in this extra layer of intrigue and mystery to the storyline.

Brenda’s review

Sometimes we make choices, and sometimes life chooses for us, and we are left to pick up the pieces. Little Lovely Things explores a bit of both here while exploring grief, loss and guilt after a devastation twist of fate shatter a family. It is a beautiful and insightful story that is devasting yet hopeful. Claire’s chance decision that left her family shattered had me thinking about how sometimes life throws us the unthinkable and what we do with that creates the story we must live.

As lovely and lyrical the writing it, I did find it distracting from connecting to the story on more of the emotional level I wanted. However, this is a personal thing as a reader and I still highly recommend this one.

Norma’s Stats:
Cover: A relevant, fitting, effective, palpable, and intriguingly obscure representation to storyline.
Title: Intriguing, palpable, worrisome, obscure, and a fantastic representation to storyline.
Writing/Prose: Well-written, gripping, descriptive, beautiful, and suspenseful.
Plot: Tragic, mysterious, suspenseful, believable, obscure, entertaining, captivating, intense, dark, distressing, emotional, and steadily-paced.
Ending: An unforgettable, hopeful, moving, emotional, and satisfying end that absolutely wrecked me and left me in a blubbering mess!
Overall: Such a tragic but yet hopeful story! I highly recommend it!

Thank you so much to Maureen Joyce Connolly for our gifted copies!

From Goodreads

A mother’s chance decision leads to a twist of fate that is every parent’s worst nightmare.

Claire Rawlings, mother of two and medical resident, will not let the troubling signs of an allergic reaction prevent her from making it in for rounds. But when Claire’s symptoms overpower her while she’s driving into work, her two children in tow, she must pull over. Moments later she wakes up on the floor of a gas station bathroom-her car, and her precious girls have vanished.

The police have no leads and the weight of guilt presses down on Claire as each hour passes with no trace of her girls. All she has to hold on to are her strained marriage, a potentially unreliable witness who emerges days later, and the desperate but unquenchable belief that her daughters are out there somewhere.

Little Lovely Things is the story of a family shattered by an unthinkable tragedy. Played out in multiple narrative voices, the novel explores how the lives of those affected fatefully intersect, and highlights the potential catastrophe of the small decisions we make every day. 

Not To Be Missed Monday: Death in the Family (Shana Merchant, #1) by Tessa Wegert @tessawegert @BerkleyPub

Hot Golden Diggity Dang! Death in the Family (Shana Merchant, #1)
by Tessa Wegert is one well written, exciting modern-day take to a locked room /impossible crime mystery. If you are looking for something a little different from those dark and twisted thrillers that is well-plotted and draws you into an interesting puzzle to solve, this is one not to be missed.

Norma’s review

Atmospheric, compelling, & characteristic!

DEATH IN THE FAMILY (Shana Merchant #1) by TESSA WEGERT is a gripping, thrilling, dark, twisty, and entertaining whodunit locked-room mystery that was an absolute pleasure to read. Right from the get go I knew that I was going to thoroughly enjoy this one. It has this classic whodunit vibe going on here that I find so appealing and absolutely love.

The mystery takes us to a remote private island and has this absolutely perfect story setting. I loved the dark, dreary, and rainy atmosphere.

TESSA WEGERT delivers a slow burn, classic, well-crafted, and well-written read here that builds suspense and intrigue slowly as the story progresses. It was quite an effective way to envelop me fully into this mystery and I absolutely loved the unsettling feeling that this produced. Even though the story has a large cast of characters I didn’t find myself confused once at keeping them all straight. Our main character here, detective Shana Merchant is a strong flawed female lead, and she has her own story to tell here. This leaves us with unanswered questions but definitely entices us and leads us into the forthcoming books in this series.

Brenda’s review

This was another pleasant surprise for us from the stack of not our normal books Elisha from Berkely sends our way. When that happens, I am like this excited kid running around with a big bag of candy, wanting to share it with everyone who will come and chat about all the different flavours in the bag with me.

The story has the elements of an impossible crime mystery here and is not your typical twisty read. There are no shocking reveals or turns that will come out of nowhere to surprise you. It follows the classic detective fiction with a locked room crime. Author masterfully presents us with a puzzle and clues to solve a mystery before the dramatic solution is revealed in the end by our Senior Investigator Shana Merchant.

You can’t spell family without lies and secrets and Shana needs to level up to figure out who is hiding what dirty and messy secrets in what laundry basket that are hidden away in the closets of these eccentric characters. The members of this family are not the only monsters here that are trapped in this moody, stormy private island. Shana has an inner monster from her past that adds some tension and suspense to the story.

I missed some clues along the way and didn’t solve all the pieces to this puzzle and need Shana to pull it all together for me in the end. I thought the mystery came together so fun and exciting but what I loved the most is how I am left wanting to know so much more about Shana and her past. I can’t wait for the next one in this series.

Norma’s Stats:
Cover: An intriguing, eye-catching, bleak, claustrophobic, revelant, and fitting representation to storyline.
Title: Intriguing, foreboding, worrisome, straightforward, and a fitting representation to storyline.
Writing/Prose: Well-written, gripping, engaging, readable, and suspenseful. I absolutely loved the writing style!
Plot: Intriguing, mysterious, suspenseful, slow burn, unsettling, atmospheric, entertaining, captivating, intense, dark, and steadily-paced.
Ending: A surprising, exciting, pleasing, and satisfying conclusion.
Overall: I pretty much found myself suspicious of almost every character and honestly when we got to the reveal I was totally taken by surprise. Well played! I highly recommend it!

Behind the Pages Q & A with Tosca Lee Author of The Line Between & A Single @ToscaLee

Tosca Lee joined us in our Behind The Pages Goodreads group and shared some insight into her writing process and her The Line Between Series The Line Between & A Single Light. I am excited to share some of Q & A here today on our blog.

Brenda: Thank you, Tosca for joining us!

Tosca: Hello, Traveling Sisters!! Thank you for inviting me to join you this evening!! It’s been such a pleasure to get to interact with you this last year as these books have come out, and I so appreciate your readership, reviews, and the way you advocate for books, readers and authors!

Brenda: How did you choose the names for your characters? I personally love the name Chase. It’s my son’s name.

Tosca: I’m starting with the question of how I come up with character names, and the answer is that some of my choices are very deliberate, and some just happen. On the deliberate side, there’s Wynter, who is named after my step-daughter, who was the same age when I began writing The Line Between. Chase (love this name!) was a name that came along as I was looking for something that would go with his rugged but restless spirit.

Then there is the Reverend–a minor character who was named Carolyn Richtel after the real Carolyn–a hospice worker in AZ–bought the spot in a charity auction. I haven’t always gotten to do this, having written books that were biblical or historical in nature in the past, so it was really fun for me to be able to offer a spot up in this way.

One of my favorite names was for Piper’s husband, Jax–nicknamed Jax Daniels. Btw, Piper was original Carolyne before the charity auction happened.

Brenda: How did you go about creating your characters? Were any of the characters harder for you to write than others? Do you have a favourite character that you liked writing more than any others?

Tosca: In the sequel, my new favorite character, Otto, was named after one of my longtime fans’ last name. I really love incorporating the first and/or last names of fans and sometimes post while I’m writing asking for volunteers–with the caveat that I reserve the right to make them jerks or kill them. ;D

I really like the idea of slipping into another character’s shoes and skin. Generally, writing characters is one of my favorite parts of creating stories because it seems like you can never make them too complex or multi-faceted–because real people are like that. Every now and then I have to revisit a character because I just know there’s more to them–and I need to dig that out a bit more. This was the case with my initial pass with Wynter. I had to find where she was walking that line between knowing something was off in the cult, but also trying to adhere to the only world system she knew. It took a few tries, and ultimately I had to rely on my own very strict and sometimes difficult religious upbringing for reference. It was hard to go there, but once I did… things made more sense. That’s the common ground I met Wynter on.

As for favorites… Otto in A Single Light has become my new favorite. I knew there would be someone to come along in that story–I just didn’t know who or what he’d be like until I got there. And then there Otto was. I don’t think I’ve giggled quite as much as I did writing his scenes

Brenda: What does your writing day look like to you? What is the one thing you struggle with the most in your writing process?

Tosca: I don’t have much of a typical writing day–every day can be different depending on what stage of writing I’m in: brainstorming, outlining, drafting, rewriting, editing… And often in between books, I don’t write–mostly because I’m playing catch up with everything else and trying to pick up all the balls I dropped while working. That’s the hard part for me: I seem to only be able to focus well on one thing at a time!

The other thing that makes my schedule unpredictable is that when I married my single father husband (you can learn more about him at @TheFarmerBryan on Instagram), I became an insta-mom to four. So this-single-city-girl-turned-farmer’s-wife-and-mom-of-four has had some steep learning curve lessons in country life, kids, and trying to find time for everything! 😀 But I’ve loved every minute of it

I can tell you that drafting is probably my least favorite part of writing. I know that’s where the magic happens–and fun, unexpected things do occur! But it’s also a very messy process and is the least contained part of it. I really love rewriting because finally those sentences start to sound smoother and things make more sense. 🙂

As for “typical,” though, don’t be fooled by images from awards banquets and trips to NYC–98% of this job involves sweatpants with dog goobers on them and ponytails with dirty hair. 😉

Brenda: How did you come up with the idea for this series?

Tosca: I was on my way to meet with my publisher about what my next two books should be and I had just seen a headline a few nights before about a reindeer in Siberia that melted in the permafrost. The carcass turned out to be filled with anthrax and a nearby village got sick and a young boy died. I remember thinking this was fascinating and terrifying, and added the idea of a disease coming out of the permafrost to my list of idea scenarios–which also included a story about a young woman leaving a cult and starting over in the outside world, among others.

My publisher, when we met, said, “I like these two. I think you should put them together!” I thought he was crazy at first. But then I went home and started putting it together, and really enjoyed the story!

Brenda: Did you plot out the stories or did it come together as you were writing? Did you have The Line Between completed and then wrote A Single Light or did you mapped out them together?

Tosca: Hahaha, I ought to let my editor friend who goes through all my manuscripts before I turn them in to my publisher answer this.

The short answer is that I normally plot a little more than I did on my initial draft of The Line Between. There are two genera camps in the novel-writing community–the plotters and panthers (who write by the seat of their pants). I am a plotter with some pantsing tendencies. But I still have to plot. So the initial draft of The Line Between did not come together. It was a mess. I had to rewrite it from the ground up a couple times before it finally worked.

My editor friend said, “Um, we need to talk before you start the sequel.” And we did, and I laid that baby out in enough detail that I knew what was going on and the writing flew by and was SO much easier. You’d think after a dozen books (I’ve got a couple that haven’t sold yet) I’d know better, but we all keep learning along the way.

To the other part of your question: the smart thing to do would probably be to plot the second book before writing or at least finishing the first one. But in both my duologies, I did not do this. So by the time I finished the first one, I knew I had written myself into a challenging corner, and that my job in the second book was to write myself out of it–preferably at a faster pace with higher stakes than the first book, if possible. 🙂 And I think that was kind of the fun of it–that I was in the same situation as my characters. But I have to admit that it has made for sleepless nights. I remember gearing up to write Firstborn (the sequel to The Progeny) and thinking, “How does one take down an entire European cabal???” 😀

Brenda: Things get pretty intense in A Single Light and became quite the action-packed race against time. How were you able to maintain that tension? Was that something you mapped out or did the story guide you?

Tosca: So this time I mapped it–mostly. I always leave some wiggle room and I didn’t realize that there’d be as much to the drama underground at the beginning of the book. But when I got in there, I really loved exploring it and the claustrophobic feeling of the situation. So there’s always a little discovery along the way, but in order to make up for the time I spent rewriting the first book so many times and to maintain the relentless pace of the action, I had to be very cognizent about events and the passage of time vs. the stakes Wynter and Chase were up against. It was a very intense three months of writing for me with a lot of all-nighters or 4am bedtimes.

Brenda: Is there anything you hope readers will get from your books?

Tosca: The first thing is entertainment. I really hope readers who come to my stories get the escape that we look for in fiction. Beyond that, I hope they get a few heart palpitations (:D), or that they sigh or laugh or are just so in the moment that time slips by and suddenly it’s well past bedtime. I hope they’re inspired and learn or think about something new, too. But above all, I hope they enjoy themselves.

To read more of our Q & A with Tosca Lee you can find here

Thank you so much Tosca for our copies of both books!