Author Interview: A Solitary Romance by Violet Sparks

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Are you looking for the perfect summer contemporary? Something to read on holiday, on a sun lounger, cocktail in hand? Look no further.

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Violet Sparks has released her debut romance novel, A Solitary Romance, and the first book in the Only Love series, which follows Katrina Crimshaw and her double life. An auditor by day and jewelry blogger at night, she meets the man of her dreams and her life becomes even more complicated. Juggling success under a pen name with her day job and continued encounters with Robert, a man from her past that she adored from afar, proves complicated for the shy bean counter. When an attractive museum director enters her life, all bets are off as the day dreaming Katrina tries to make sense of her predicament.
When passion flares in this second chance romance, will she let love slip through her fingers again?

I was lucky enough to be able to interview Violet on the ins and outs of being an author.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I generally write in the third person limited or omniscient style.  I have to say, I begin by the seat of my pants and allow my characters full reign.  About one-third to half-way through the book, I’ll sit down and outline the rest of the novel to keep things on track.  At this point, I’ve got a good idea where all the personalities will end up.

How did you come up with the title?

The main character, Katrina Crimshaw, is a jewelry aficionado.  She runs into a man from her past, someone she found incredibly attractive but was too shy to pursue.  I combined the idea of a solitaire ring, representing her love of jewels, with the loneliness that sometimes accompanies someone who is fearful or shy, and came up with A Solitary Romance.

What books have most influenced your life most?

The Bible has had the biggest impact on my life.  The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, a Carmelite monk who lived in the 1600s, is an amazing book that I can read over and over.  Coming Out of the Ice by Victor Herman also affected me—it’s a wonderful tribute to the human spirit.  I can’t leave out the books by Dickens, Austen, and the Brontë sisters, which I read in my youth.  Their works definitely lent an idealism to my mindset (which does not seem to belong to this century!), and shaped my ideas of what romance and love should be. 

Do you have any advice for other writers?

My advice to other writers is to keep on writing!  Find a good editor you enjoy working with and don’t rush your writing process.  Read and write as much as possible and do not allow others to discourage you. 

What books/authors have influenced your writing?

I’ve always loved how Charles Dickens could weave a story together with unforgettable characters and intersecting plots.  I appreciate how he inserted humor in his books as well.  I admire the way William Faulkner packed a punch and how the Brontës created amazing atmospheres, including unexpected twists in their stories.  The contemporary author, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, is a master of characters, atmosphere, and storylines.   

What genre do you consider your book(s)?

A Solitary Romance is a sweet, or clean and wholesome, romance.  It is book one of the Only Love Series, which currently consists of three books.  I have also written mysteries under a pen name.

Do you ever experience writer’s block?

I haven’t yet had a serious writer’s block.  With every book, I do come to a place where I just have to grind out the story.  I don’t particularly enjoy this part of my writing process, but I’ve yet to escape this phase.  Luckily, it only lasts for a chapter or two, and then I’m over the hump.

Have you ever hated something you wrote?

I would not say that I’ve hated any of my work.  Anything can be polished, rewritten, examined with a fresh eye, or edited for improvement.  I do go through some fear each time I start a new book.  Will I be able to come up with anything funny?  Can I do the characters justice?  Will unnecessary details hinder the story?  In other words, how can I possibly pull this off?

What is your favorite theme/genre to write about?

I cannot pick a favorite a genre.  All of my books have at least a hint of romance, so maybe that’s my top choice.  The Only Love Series is straight-up romance, although the third book, A Calculated Romance, has a touch of suspense and mystery.  I like to incorporate a twist or even several unexpected events in my novels, so that’s a theme to look for.

Where did your love of writing come from?

I have always loved storytelling.  My mother used to catch me as a toddler making up stories for my own entertainment.  She fostered my love of writing by introducing me to classic literature in grade school, and I won writing awards as a teen.  Then, life and career got in the way.  I always hoped to return to writing, and the encouragement of a friend got the ball rolling for me. 

What was the hardest part of writing this book?

The hardest part of penning A Solitary Romance was just taking the plunge.  I experienced a personal loss around the time that the idea started to sprout.  I think this book provided a much needed distraction during those first, early stages of grief.  With its overall light tone, the writing allowed me a welcome reprieve from reality.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

A Solitary Romance is ever so slightly autobiographical.  I enjoyed reliving my early career days and the fun I had with one of my girl pals.  Also, because everything in the book felt familiar, it required little research.  I appreciated how my writing could flow without stopping to investigate other subjects.  Because I love the arts, I savored drawing on my experiences at a major auction house.  There’s a scene in the book where a character helps her friend squeeze into a gown in a dressing room by very creative means.  This actually happened, and my friend managed to fit me in that tight, red dress by the same method!  Just thinking about that little episode brings a smile to my face!

Do you write every single day?

I find I produce my best work when I am writing every day.  I aim to write six days a week, although I’ve slipped off a little this summer since my children are out of school.

Which writers inspire you?

So many authors inspire me.  At the top of the list are Charles Dickens, William Faulkner, Jane Austen, the Brontës, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, and Irène Némirovsky for her spectacular, unfinished, Suite Française.  I went through a stage where I only read history or biographies, and I greatly admire the work of David McCullough.  His books read like novels and bring the people of the past alive.  I always appreciate any writer who can surprise me with a plot twist or unexpected outcome.

What are you working on at the minute?

I am beginning the research for a novel set in the medieval period.

What is your latest book about?

My latest book is third in the Only Love Series, A Calculated Romance.  This is the story of Katrina’s assistant, a young rock hound named Landi, and what happens when her path crosses with that of James Crimshaw.  James is featured in the first three books of the series.  He is Kate’s brother and a naval intelligence officer.  Both he and Landi have murky pasts and a strong attraction to each other.

A Solitary Romance is available to buy from Amazon

Find out more about Violet’s books at: https://violetsparksauthor.com

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Author Interview: The Last Roadshow by John Czarnota

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Joe Knocker’s lucrative career as a rogue art thief who trailed the Antiques Roadshow for over a decade is interrupted by a life-changing encounter with his past. The result, a cross-country trek to make right one of the nation’s wrongs by retrieving a national treasure, leads to a heart attack, a missing body, a kidnapping, a promising romance, a showdown, and a shocking reunion. Interweaving historical fact with psychological insight and colorful characters, The Last Roadshow takes us on an unforgettable redemptive journey.

In Czarnota’s debut mystery novel, we catch a glimpse at the life of Joe Knocker. ‘Everything about him was plain and boring. In a few minutes you would have forgotten you ever saw him. That’s what he counted on.’ Mr Czarnota was kind enough to sit down with us and talk through why Joe Knocker’s ordinary life was so compelling to write about.

What was the hardest part of writing this book?  – The middle. Filling it in.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?The dialogue. For me, it’s the biggest challenge. Also the most enjoyable. 
Do you write every single day? No. But I think about what I’m going to write every day. I’m always blocking scenes in, like a screenplay.
Which writers inspire you?Right now, I would have to say B.A. Shapiro. Her last two books, The Art Forger and The Muralist,  leave me wanting more. 
What are you working on at the minute?If you must know, a bottle of my Son-in-laws hand-crafted home-brew. 
What’s is your latest book about?  – A sequel to The Last Roadshow. 
 
What inspired you to write your book?At first this was going to be a screen play. I’ve written 2 in the past. But the bad taste of dealing with L.A. agents and the like came right back. So the thought of writing a book that I could have total control over if I so chose to was a no-brainer. On the business side, millions watch the Antiques Roadshow here, in Europe, and Australia. So there was a strong probability of a built in audience.
Do you have a specific writing style?Not yet.
How did you come up with the title?Most everything in the book happens after the Antiques Roadshow in Palm Springs, so it was an easy choice. The same for my design of the book jacket. 

Follow the virtual tour for The Last Roadshow via Book Bear’s Twitter to find out more.

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Praise for The Last Roadshow

It’s the Antiques Roadshow’s thirteenth season, and Raoul “Knocker” Reuin is sizing up his mark in Palm Springs — a well-dressed Native American man in a bolo tie, who has just had his 1920s-era John Sloan painting appraised at over $1 million. Knocker’s eyes light up with the expectation of a calculated theft later in the day and a fast $100,000 payday from fencing the purloined painting.

But things go awry for Knocker in this cleverly conceived novel by John Czarnota.

A former mark named Andy Wells tracks Knocker down in a hotel bar and confronts him about the theft two years earlier of his historic — and priceless — Lewis and Clark flag. In exchange for its safe return, however, he says he won’t press charges against Knocker.

The conversation leads to the disclosure of clues about who may now have the flag. All Knocker has to do is find him.

The trail leads back to the East Coast, where Knocker discovers that the art dealer — who has been financing his Alzheimer’s-stricken wife’s rest home care with money from fencing Knocker’s thefts over the years — is missing and presumed dead.

Knocker, however, traces the missing heirloom to the rest home’s chief executive, and he makes ingenious plans to get it back. Along the way, we meet a colorful ensemble cast of characters and learn a great deal about his other Road Show heists.

Does Knocker indeed retrieve the flag and return it to its rightful owner? You’ll just have to read this meticulously researched and well-written book to find out.

Five stars to this first-time novelist. It’s a rare read.

Don Sloan. Author, The Dark Forces series.

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You can find out more about John Czarnota and his upcoming publications here

The Last Roadshow is available at: Barnes and Noble or Amazon

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The Children of Darkness by David Litwack – Review

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The Children of Darkness by David Litwack is the first book in a brand new dystopian series titled The Seekers, and having been given the Seal of Excellence by Awesome Indies and winning the Pinnacle Book Achievement Award for Best Science Fiction, this book already sits apart from others in it’s genre.

The novel poses the weighty question: “But what are we without dreams?”, which is true enough. Everybody has dreams, whether they remember them or not, and there has been many debates whether what you dream about reflects your wants and desires, hopes and fears, or what kind of person you are subconsciously.

Litwack’s novel tells the story of the Darkness. A thousand years ago the Darkness came–a time of violence and social collapse when technology ran rampant. But the vicars of the Temple of Light brought peace, ushering in an era of blessed simplicity. For ten centuries they kept the madness at bay with “temple magic,” eliminating the rush of progress that nearly caused the destruction of everything.

Orah and Nathaniel, grew up in a tiny village, longing for more from life but unwilling to challenge the status quo. When Orah is summoned for a “teaching”—the brutal coming-of-age ritual that binds the young to the Light—Nathaniel follows in a foolhardy attempt to save her. In the prisons of Temple City, they discover a secret that launches them on a journey to find the forbidden keep, where a truth from the past might unleash the potential of their people, but may also cost them their lives.

When I first began reading this book, I was pleasantly surprised. The opening section of the novel has such a haunting feel to the writing, similar, I felt, to The Crucible by Arthur Miller. Also, the dynamic between Orah, Nathaniel and Thomas gives a sense of deja vu, as we as young readers, are also trying to find our place in the world. This made me immediately connect with the characters, and identify myself within them. Having said that, Thomas’s tricky character post-teachings made the perfect mystery subplot. The beginning sections that describe Little Pond sounded idyllic, and secluded, perfect for a creeping, haunting read such as this. Although I found it difficult to get hooked initially, there were so many layers to this book, waiting to be stripped back.

You can purchase the book on Amazon here.

Praise for David Litwack.

“A tightly executed first fantasy installment that champions the exploratory spirit.”Kirkus Reviews

“The plot unfolds easily, swiftly, and never lets the readers’ attention wane… After reading this one, it will be a real hardship to have to wait to see what happens next.”Feathered Quill Book Reviews

“… a fantastic tale of a world that seeks a utopian existence, well ordered, safe and fair for everyone… also an adventure, a coming-of-age story of three young people as they become the seekers, travelers in search of a hidden treasure – in this case, a treasure of knowledge and answers… a tale of futuristic probabilities… on a par with Huxley’s Brave New World.”Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers’ Favorite

“The quality of its intelligence, imagination, and prose raises The Children of Darkness to the level of literature.”Awesome Indies

“…a solid fantasy-dystopian offering, one that is not merely written by some author looking for a middling entry to the genre, but excellently crafted by an artist looking to make his mark… A timely novel beautiful in the simplicity of its writing and elegant in its underlying complexity.” — Eduardo Aduna for Readers’ Favorite

“I found the world-building surrounding the people of the Ponds so descriptive that I was transported to their homes and way of life, and when the trio embarked on their journey, I could clearly picture them every step of the way. If you’re looking for a classic fantasy quest wrapped in a fascinating, dark archaic world, then this novel will not disappoint you.”K.C. Finn for Readers’ Favorite

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Show Time by Phil Harvey – Review

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Harvey’s Show Time, a grotesque social commentary bridges the gap between The Hunger Games and Stephen King. It examines human nature, our morbid curiosity and our ever declining sensitivity towards violence. With the rise of social media, reality TV (sometimes “reality” TV), violent video games and the YouTube generation, our access to potentially harmful content is at it’s peak. Popular dystopian futures, like The Hunger Games and Divergent, often provide similar commentaries, but Harvey’s Show Time gives us a raw, gritty, darker side to these worlds, and shows an inevitable step up from the previous YA bestsellers.

Phil Harvey’s recent work is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Although Suzanne Collins opened the door to this genre of YA, readers are now thirsting for something deeper, and arguably more violent, which is exactly what Harvey provides, both in the novel’s synopsis and reveals some truth in the underlying message about human nature. Show Time tells the story of a world where future viewing audiences have become totally desensitized to violence and are eager to escape their boring workaday lives. This addiction is nurtured by the media with graphic portrayals of war and crime and with so-called reality programming. Now, TV execs have created the ultimate reality show: Seven people, each bearing the scars of his or her past, are deposited on an island in the middle of Lake Superior. Given some bare necessities and the promise of $400,000 each if they can endure it. The three women and four men risk death by starvation or freezing as the Great Lakes winter approaches. The island is wired for sound, and flying drones provide the video feed, so everything the contestants do and say is broadcast worldwide. Their seven-month ordeal is entirely unscripted, they can’t ask for help or they forfeit the prize, and as far as the network is concerned—the fewer survivors the better.

The opening prologue to Show Time does not disappoint, delivering a grisly gut wrenching moment that aims to set the whole tone of the book. Although the rest of the novel fell a little flat for me, the true horror was that Show Time depicts a world that one day could be our future.

From 28th October till 3rd November, Show Time by Phil Harvey will be 0.99 FOR THIS LIMITED TIME ONLY. Get your copy at:

Amazon – iBooks Barnes and Noble

Additionally, Gumroad are selling electronic copies of Show Time and an exclusive short story Across the Water: Tales of the Human Heart for only $1.99. Get your copy here: https://gumroad.com/l/ShowTime

Phil Harvey is an award-winning author, philanthropist and libertarian whose stories won a prize from Antietam Review and were nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Find out more about Phil Harvey and his upcoming releases at: http://philharveylit.org/ 

Praise for Show Time

“Show Time is erotic and chilling in its portrayal of human survival. Entertainment serves government by dishing up the ultimate reality program to sate a nation of voyeurs and ensure the continuance of our most civilized of societies. Check your calendar—the future is already here.”Sal Glynn, scriptwriter, and author of The Dog Walked Down the Street

“Show Time is a gripping page-turner. Reality TV has never been more frighteningly real.”John Fremont, author, Sins of the Fathers

“A vision of the future that is laugh-out-loud, until we realize how much it looks like the world we live in now.”Frank S. Joseph, award-winning author of To Love Mercy

“A thrilling immersion in the emotional, physical, and sexual reality of characters who thought they were playing a game but find they must fight to survive.”Linda Morefield, senior review editor, The Washington Independent Review of Books

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