Author Heather SunseriNews and Other Notes
Hi, everyone! Happy Saturday!
I returned last week from a crazy fast trip through France and England. Well, mostly, we went to Paris and London, but we did visit Versailles, and we took the Eurostar (aka the Chunnel) from Paris to London and back, so we saw a bit of the countryside before and after we traveled beneath the English Channel. (Yes, the Chunnel is as cool as it sounds. It took us a little over 2 hours to get from Paris to London. And it was so smooth!)
I plan to post the many pictures we took on our journeys in a portfolio on the website in the coming weeks in case you’re interested in those, and I hope to blog about a few of our experiences that I think you might find interesting. So, stay tuned…
But first, let’s talk about the latest news and goings on in the world of authordom.
First… Covered in Darkness is live on Barnes & Noble. The lovely people over at Barnes & Noble spoke with me about releasing Covered to Nook readers a couple of weeks early, and I jumped at the chance to maybe gain some exposure to Nook readers that I wouldn’t otherwise get. You don’t have to own a Nook to read Covered early. You can download the free Nook app on any smart device or computer.
For those of you who simply choose not to read on a Nook, that’s totally okay. Covered in Darkness is releasing in just over a week on all platforms! That’s not long at all!! I’m so excited!!
Second… Speaking of the Covered in Darkness launch… I’ve got some amazing surprises coming your way! How about a week (5 days) of giveaways? I’ve got some amazing prizes set aside for the Covered launch week. I’ve got a brand new Kindle Fire to give away, and I just might put my entire library of books on it before I send it to the winner. I’ve got some gift cards to hand out. And I’ve got signed paperbacks of any book you want. So, starting August 1, come back to the blog to look for details.
Third… You know how when you read a book, and even when it has a fabulous and satisfying ending, but you still want more? Well, you’re not going to have to wait long for the next book in the In Darkness series. Shot in Darkness (an action-packed novella) is complete and ready to release twenty-eight days after Covered in Darkness.
I think three things is enough for today. But how about a Q&A? If you have any questions — anything at all — about the books releasing, what’s coming next, what I had for breakfast… Ask away in the comments. I’ll check in throughout the day and later tonight to answer everything.
Hope you have an amazing Saturday!
I have a treat for readers today! I am so excited to have Lisa Manterfield on the blog today, answering some really fun questions. And now that I’ve read the answers to my interview questions, I’m convinced Lisa and I are destined to meet in real life and become best friends. We have so much in common. And though I haven’t read her latest book, The Smallest Thing, YET, I cannot wait to read this one. It reminds me a little of the Emerge series, but with a completely different take on the ebola-like subject matter. I just know you are going to love Lisa and her new book! Be sure to read the entire interview, because there is a giveaway at the end! And if you’d like to see all of the interviews along the blog tour CLICK HERE or on the graphic below.
Let’s get to the interview…
HEATHER: I read on your website that you’re originally from England, and that you love adventures and expeditions into the world. Tell me: What is your most favorite country in the world that you’ve visited? Favorite city? Favorite experience? (Yes, those can all be different.)
LISA: I was hoping you wouldn’t ask any difficult questions! I think my favorite country is Peru. It has everything I love: Mountains, coastline, history, incredible architecture, delicious food. It’s such a colorful, vibrant culture. Peru also gave me one of my most memorable experiences, which was the four-day hike along the Inka Trail, arriving at Machu Picchu at dawn, long before the tour buses arrived. Watching the sun rise over the ancient ruins was one of the most spiritual and moving experiences I’ve ever had. That place is truly magical.
As far as cities go, I think my favorite might be Rome. It’s insane. There are Vespas zipping around all over the place, stylishly dressed people drinking espresso in sidewalk cafes, and you can get a bowl of delicious pasta at more or less any time of night. What’s not to love about that? And you can gorge on your pasta against a backdrop of incredible ancient history and stunning architecture. The Forum, Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Vatican, and St. Peter’s are all there. It’s wonderful.
HEATHER: I, too, loved Rome! I was there a long time ago (too long), but I still have vivid memories of the cars whipping around traffic circles at crazy speeds. How have your travels impacted your writing? Has a particular adventure impacted one of your stories in big ways?
LISA: I do believe that traveling and moving far away from the place you grew up changes your perspective. It introduces you to all different kinds of people from all walks of life, and I encourage everyone to take a risk and travel. Ironically, I keep writing stories set around the area where I grew up. But, I think I’m able to see things with an outsider’s eye, while still knowing all the details of a local.
I do have an idea brewing that is based on an opportunity I had to travel to South Africa a few years ago. The company I was working for at the time had supported an aid organization based there, and I was part of a delegation that got to visit the school we helped fund. We visited several AIDS orphanages and hospitals, and visited homes in the most impoverished parts of Soweto, definitely off the usual tourist route. It was a profound experience and I’ve wanted to find a way to write about it in a meaningful way. I think I have a fictional character emerging who might tell the story.
HEATHER: I completely agree with you about our need to travel in order to get different perspectives. Traveling and experiencing different cultures has opened my eyes in so many ways. What one country or place have you not visited, but hope to?
LISA: Egypt. I didn’t even have to think about this one. I’ve been fascinated with Ancient Egypt for as long as I can remember and have a long list of sites I want to visit. The political unrest over recent years has made me a little nervous, but at some point I need to just go.
HEATHER: In your newest book, The Smallest Thing, the main character is hoping to escape her dull English village for London. How much of your own childhood and life did you bring into this novel?
LISA: I grew up not far from Eyam, the real village where The Smallest Thing is set, so many of the details for the settings came from my experience. Em, the main character in the novel, feels trapped in her life. Her family has lived in the village for ten generations, her dad expects her to work in the family business, and all her neighbors know everything about her. It’s not until the quarantine is imposed that Em is truly, physically trapped.
I think feeling trapped is a universal experience. We get ourselves trapped in towns with no future, in jobs we don’t love, in relationships that don’t benefit us, and in situations brought about when we don’t make the best decisions. I can’t say I ever felt trapped in my hometown, but I always knew I wouldn’t stay. Even when I was just a toddler, my mum says she knew that, of the three of her children, I’d be the one to end up the farthest away. I think I have explorer genes somewhere in my mix.
HEATHER: I can completely relate to the trapped feeling. I still remember the day job. Tell us a little about your writing process? How long did it take to write The Smallest Thing? Did you have to do a lot of research? What was the most challenging aspect of writing this novel?
LISA: The book was inspired by the true story of the Plague Village of Eyam, a community that chose to quarantine itself to prevent the spread of the Plague back in the 1600s. I’ve always been fascinated with the story, and for years I’ve wanted to retell it, but that’s been done countless times. I finally decided to tell a contemporary version.
I started writing it in 2014, which is about the time that Ebola started finding its way into the news here. One particular photograph struck me. It was of a relief worker, fully covered in HAZMAT suit, bathing a young child. It captured such a tender moment and reminded me again that behind the news headlines are real people whose lives have been upended, and courageous workers putting their own lives at risk to help others. It really solidified my story. It also plopped valuable research material into my lap on an almost daily basis.
Perhaps the hardest part for me was taking the story to the dark places it needed to go. Perhaps because it’s based on a true story and founded in reality, I found it hard to be unkind to my characters. An early Beta reader was adamant that one of my favorite characters should not survive. I knew he was right and that it would add depth to the story, but I didn’t want to be the executioner. That said, I think those stories make the novel feel real. It’s not just a faceless body count, but real lives cut short. It would be a lot easier if I didn’t get so emotionally attached to my characters. I might need to write a romance novel next so I can give my characters’ stories a happy ending.
HEATHER: Ha!! I’m pretty sure you and I are destined to cross paths in real life, Lisa! We have so much in common. Everything from our love of travel to our stories about Ebola-like illnesses.
Learn more about Lisa and The Smallest Thing below. If you decide to pick up the book, be sure to let me know, and we can discuss our thoughts on it. I love discussing books!
Oh, and one last thing. Lisa is giving away a paperback copy of The Smallest Thing along with some swag. Be sure to enter to win!
About the book:
But when the unexplained deaths of her neighbors force the government to quarantine the village, Em learns what it truly means to be trapped. Now, she must choose. Will she pursue her desire for freedom, at all costs, or do what’s best for the people she loves: her dad, her best friend Deb, and, to her surprise, the mysterious man in the HAZMAT suit?
Inspired by the historical story of the plague village of Eyam, this contemporary tale of friendship, community, and impossible love weaves the horrors of recent news headlines with the intimate details of how it feels to become an adult—and fall in love—in the midst of tragedy.
About the author:
Happy Wednesday, Friends!
I wanted to tell you about a new book club that is taking place inside Sunserious Readers, the very fun Facebook Group intended for readers of my books. If you are on this blog because you have read and enjoyed one of my books, then I have no doubt that Sunserious Readers is also a place for you. We like to hang out, talk about books and other fun stuff, and I’ve been told that readers like to hear from me what’s coming next in my own book world.
But it’s definitely not all about me, because that feels extremely weird. So, since we are all lovers of books, I decided to start a book club inside the group (and no, you don’t have to participate in book club to be a part of the group!!!).
Last month, at the inaugural meeting of the Sunserious Readers Book Club, we read and discussed A Merciful Death by Kendra Elliot. This month, we’re reading and discussing Say You’re Sorry by Melinda Leigh. I met both of these lovely women last year at Writers Police Academy and realized immediately how much we had in common, so it seemed fitting to start the book club with their latest books. Mainly because I wanted to read both books, and it’s so fun to discuss books after you read them, so… I started the Sunserious Readers Book Club. (Thanks to Melissa for coming up with the brilliant name!!)
So… Who’s in? Like I said above: you do not have to participate in book club to be a part of Sunserious Readers. Feel free to drop by and check out the group. If it’s not for you, you can leave the group just as easily. (Also, I reserve the right to remove anyone from the group who does not follow the rules.)
More about the book club:
When: July 19, 2017, 8 pm (but you can drop by anytime in the 24-hour period after to post comments)
Hope to see you there!
Darkness. Far more often than I cared to admit, it enveloped me, swallowed me whole until I could scarcely breathe.
Sometimes the thoughts of my past—the slaying of my husband, the murder of my unborn child—threatened to turn me inside out until I couldn’t even consider what the next minute or hour, let alone day, would hold.
But sometimes, the smallest ray of light changed everything.
From the front porch of the Julep Hill Inn, I watched the leading edge of nature’s early September light show in the distance. Lightning flashed. Storms threatened the quiet and stillness of the night. The wind blew just enough at times to turn the leaves inside out, which, according to my grandmother and Farmers’ Almanac, meant rain was imminent. And when the rain came and the wind picked up, the guests at tonight’s celebration would scatter and try to make it home before the worst of the thunderstorms hit.
The live radar app on my phone told me we had about forty-five minutes—an hour, tops—before the main force of it arrived.
Declan O’Roark, local billionaire, and the man who had shaken up my life since I’d come to Kentucky, stepped up behind me and slid his arms around my waist. He leaned his face into my neck. “What are you doing out here all alone?”
“I love thunderstorms,” I said, biting back the dark thoughts of my past while allowing my excitement at the impending weather to creep into my voice. “I don’t love their destructive force, of course, but I love the energy that comes with the flashes of lightning, and the drama of the booming thunder.”
Declan turned me around to face him. His face held a sly grin. “If I didn’t know better, Miss Fairfax, I’d say you’re turned on by our approaching storm.”
I tilted my head side to side. “I don’t know if it’s the heat wave we’re experiencing, the utter joy on Carrie Anne’s face tonight, the storms, or a certain Irishman who can’t keep his hands off of me, but I could certainly embrace being ‘turned on.’”
“In that case, let’s say our goodbyes and get you home.” He grabbed my hand and started to tug me forward.
My phone chimed. I pulled it from the pocket of my sundress and frowned.
“What is it?”
“The governor is worried. He’s getting alerts from the National Weather Center out of Louisville. A series of severe storms are lined up one after the other, with dangerous lightning, potential golf ball-sized hail, wind gusts up to seventy miles an hour, and the potential for tornados. The storms are expected to get stronger throughout the night. They’re going to pummel the state for hours.”
“He said all that in a text?”
I laughed. “Lily and the kids are out of town. I’m guessing he’s texting from a computer in his office.”
Ever since I’d been named director of Homeland Security in Kentucky, I had been the first person Governor Mac Kale contacted whenever the safety of the people of his state was threatened. He had been texting me all evening.
“Any chance the meteorologists are exaggerating?” Declan asked.
“I’ve seen the radar; it looks bad.”
“How long do we have? I’d like to be home before it reaches us.”
“I’d say at the rate the storms are moving east, less than an hour.”
“Let’s make the rounds, then.” Declan leaned in and pressed his lips to mine. “I want us home, safe and sound, and in bed before these storms hit.” He waggled his eyebrows.
“You just want us in bed.” I laughed.
As I let him kiss me again, the front door of the inn opened. Out walked Aidan Gallagher, the thoroughbred horse trainer for Declan’s entire stable of racehorses. His thick, bronze-colored hair and those hazel eyes made most women swoon. I wasn’t easily impressed, however.
He had just flown in from Saratoga, New York, where he’d been for the late summer race meet. Marti said he’d moved up his flight especially for Carrie Anne’s reopening of the inn, and my hunch was that his real reason for coming was to see Marti—Carrie Anne’s daughter and my friend. But neither Aidan nor Marti was about to admit their relationship to me just yet, which I supposed was understandable, seeing as Aidan and I still butted heads from time to time.
“I just got off the phone with our night watchman at Kensington,” Aidan said without so much as a hello or nod in my direction.
Declan cleared his throat and lifted his head in my direction with little subtlety.
“Oh, sorry. Hello, Brooke,” he said in his lovely Irish accent. “How are ya tonight?”
“I’m fine, Aidan,” I said blandly, then leaned into Declan and kissed his cheek. “I’ll let you two talk horses. I’m going to start saying goodbye.”
“You were saying?” Declan said to Aidan as I started for the front door.
I walked slowly so that I would hear Aidan’s report.
“Everything is quiet at the track barns for now. I called in a few of the hot walkers and another night watchman to make sure the horses don’t get too excited and harm themselves during the storms.”
Declan had more than twenty horses stabled at Kensington Race Track for the September horse sales and the upcoming race meet. Barns, dry straw and hay, and million-dollar horses didn’t always fare well during cascading electrical storms, so it was good that they had extra help in case there was trouble.
As I entered the inn, I immediately spotted Marti talking with Ty. I made my way toward them, politely declining the offer of champagne from a server along the way.
Though I had already spoken with Marti several times this evening, she threw her arms around my neck. “Did you see the cottage?” she asked with a hiccup.
“Marti, have you already forgotten you and your mom gave me the grand tour yesterday?”
“Oh yeah.” She giggled, cupping a hand over her mouth.
I laughed when she nearly knocked me over. “How many of those cosmopolitans have you had?” I widened my eyes in Ty’s direction.
Ty only shrugged and tipped back his own glass of bourbon. “The cottage is gorgeous. And you know what’s interesting? Marti was just telling me that an anonymous donor donated a substantial sum of money to the Historical Society, earmarking it for the ‘Julep Hill Inn, Cottage, and Café.’ That was how Carrie Anne and Marti were able to both rebuild the cottage after the fire and renovate parts of the main inn.” Ty arched a brow at me. “You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that, would you?”
I furrowed my brow in warning and refused to confirm that Declan had been the one to make sure Carrie Anne had the money to rebuild my former home—though I was sure Ty didn’t really need my confirmation. I felt indirectly responsible for the damage to the cottage—since, after all, it only occurred because a member of a local outlaw motorcycle gang wanted to burn me alive—and Declan hadn’t wanted that on my conscience.
In fact, he’d donated enough money so that Carrie Anne could do more than just restore everything the way it was. With the addition of a second level, the cottage was now twice its original size, and Carrie Anne and Marti no longer had to live inside the inn. They could escape to their own brand new home behind the main building.
“No,” I said to Ty, but then turned to Marti, “but I think that is amazing. Whoever did such a thing must love the historic buildings of Midland, and must respect you guys enough to know how much tourism you bring to the area.” It sounded rehearsed, but it was true.
“Damn straight,” Marti said. “My mother and I work hard to bring visitors to the area.” She slurred the last few words, and Ty and I laughed. I was thankful Marti didn’t have far to go tonight. She was certainly in no condition to drive. I just hoped she wasn’t too hung over in the morning to come to work.
Marti was my latest hire at Kentucky’s Office of Homeland Security. She had been ready for a change, and I was looking for someone who was organized and good at handling the public. Governor Kale had given me free rein to build my team, so I made Marti an administrative assistant to Ty and me.
My phone buzzed again, and I checked the text. Another storm is hitting Western Kentucky. F2 tornado touched down just outside of Paducah.
Ty lifted a brow. “The governor?”
“Yeah. The storms are getting worse. I think it’s time to get Carrie Anne to start steering the conversations toward final goodbyes. A tornado just touched down. It was more than two hundred miles from here, but they’re heading our way. Let’s get everyone headed home before the worst of the storms get closer.”
“Oh, no!” Marti said. “You can’t leave yet. The party’s just gettin’ started.” The more Marti drank, the more her southern drawl came out.
“I know, honey, but the storms are going to be bad. And I think it’s time you turned in.”
“Party pooper,” she laughed.
“I’ve got her.” Aidan sidled up beside Marti and put an arm around her to steady her.
There was something about the way he handled her so gently that had me doubting my instinctive dislike for him. I also wondered if maybe their relationship was becoming less of a secret.
Carrie Anne approached us. “Oh, dear. Looks like my sweet daughter has had a bit of fun this evening.”
I smiled. “It was a lovely party, Carrie Anne.” I draped an arm around her in a side hug. “The inn looks beautiful. And the cottage is amazing.”
“As much as I love the new cottage, I would give it all back to know you didn’t have to suffer in the old one’s destruction.”
“I know, but I’m fine.” I smiled. “And now you have a retreat to call your own. You deserve it.”
“Thank you, honey. And I expect you here for breakfast Saturday when we reopen the café.”
“Declan and I wouldn’t miss it.”
A low rumble of thunder made the glasses vibrate on the food table in the dining room.
“I think that’s my cue,” I said. “Carrie Anne, you should encourage your guests to start making their way home—or you’ll be making room for them all in your basement. These storms are packing quite the punch already.”
“Well, it’s a good thing I know how to use my southern charm to end a party.” She winked at me. “Now you and Declan be safe gettin’ home, ya hear?”
After she left us, I turned to Ty. “All these texts from the governor are probably because he’s bored without his family at home. But I also think these storms are going to wreak havoc across the state. Keep your phone close.”
“I will. James is back in DC, so I’m available for whatever you need.”
“Hopefully, I’ll just see you for work tomorrow.”
* * *
Declan had just opened the passenger door to the SUV for me when I heard someone call my name from behind.
“I’m sorry to stop you, Miss Fairfax.”
Kentucky Senator Thad Reiner approached Declan and me. He wore khaki dress pants, a crisp white button-down oxford, and a traditional navy blazer. A little formal for tonight’s affair, but I’m sure he saw any public event as an opportunity to schmooze with his constituents. He was new to the Kentucky Senate, after all.
“Hi, Senator,” I said. “I saw you across the room tonight. I apologize that I never got a chance to say hello.”
“Quite all right.”
I touched a hand to his arm. “Let me introduce you to Declan O’Roark.”
The senator shook Declan’s hand. “Nice to finally meet you, Declan. I’ve heard great things about your work in eco-friendly fertilizers, and, of course, your success on the Kentucky race tracks has been incredible.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Senator.”
Senator Reiner turned back to me. “I was wondering if you’d be willing to meet me over at the capitol one morning next week.”
“Of course. Call me Monday and we’ll schedule something.”
“I’ll do that.”
“You mind telling me what we’re meeting about, so I can be prepared?”
“I’d like to bend your ear about the danger our electric grid is in. Maybe discuss some legislation I’d like to propose during the upcoming session.”
“Oh. Okay.” I had heard whispers of the crazy senator from Gable County—one county over from ours—who thought our power grid was vulnerable to terrorist attacks. He had claimed in a recent speech that with just a few keystrokes our country could be taken back to the Ice Age. “I look forward to the conversation,” I said.
The western sky lit up in multiple flashes of light. “Well,” said the senator, “I’ll let the two of you get on the road before these storms hit. Careful gettin’ home, now.” He nodded to us both, then turned and left.
When Declan and I were inside his SUV and on the road, he cast a sideways glance my way. “You be careful meeting with the good senator.”
“Why? What do you know about him?”
“I know he likes his young ladies.”
I smiled. “Are you serious? You’re actually concerned about that fifty-something-year-old man with a protruding beer gut hitting on me? He’s old enough to be my father.”
“Let me ask you this: How did you meet Senator Reiner?”
“I met him when he recommended Alli to me.” Alli Krueger was my amazing intern, who had been working for me since May.
“And who is Alli to him?”
I thought back to my conversation with Senator Reiner at the time. “They met when they were both stranded at Reagan National. He’d been in DC on business, and she was on her way back to take a summer class at the Sanderson School. She was looking for a summer internship that would give her experience in her field. She’s incredibly talented. I’m lucky to have her.” I sounded more defensive than I’d meant to.
“That doesn’t change the fact—”
“That she’s a beautiful young twenty-something woman who Senator Reiner just happened to meet in the airport and connect with.”
“You said it, not me.”
I smiled. “You’re crazy. That was just an incident of a smart woman being in the right place at the right time.”
“Don’t be naïve, my dear Brooke.”
“He is good-looking. Sort of. If I liked older men.” I grinned at Declan.
My phone chimed again. Another text from the governor. “Mac’s blood pressure must be sky high right now,” I said. “Maybe I better call him and talk him down.” I dialed the governor’s number.
“Are you watching this?” Mac said in answer.
“I’m watching the lighting approach. Is that what you’re talking about?”
“No. Have you seen the radar?”
“Not in the last twenty minutes, but I’m on my way home, and I’ll pull up the radar when I get there. Kentuckians know how to prepare for thunderstorms, Mac. The meteorologists, the news reporters, and my team at Homeland Security made sure everyone was aware of the potential seriousness of these particular storms. All of our first responders are on standby. Now get some sleep. You’ll receive a call if we need to take action on anything before morning.”
He sighed. “You’re right. I think I will get some sleep.”
“Good. I’ll speak to you soon, Governor.”
I started to hang up, but then heard Mac again. “Brooke?”
“I’m glad you decided to head up Homeland Security. I feel safer with you there.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“And stop calling me sir or Governor in private.”
I laughed. “Goodnight, Mac.”
When I hung up, Declan smiled at me. “He’s going to have a long night.”
Declan drove us along the bucolic back roads of prime Kentucky horse country on our way to Shaughnessy Farm. A streak of lightning zigzagged in front of us, followed instantaneously by a piercing clap of thunder. Sparks and splinters flew from a tree that had been struck less than a quarter mile away.
“I’m afraid we all might,” I said.
You’ve reached the end of Chapter One. Keep reading Covered in Darkness by clicking on the links below to read a longer excerpt, or go ahead and preorder/purchase your copy of Covered in Darkness. Covered in Darkness will be available on all retailers on August 1, 2017.
Preorder/Order Covered in Darkness on the following retailers:
iBOOKS ◊ AMAZON US ◊ NOOK ◊ KOBO ◊ GOOGLE PLAY
Want to read a longer excerpt?
Or on Heather’s Store: