Today I am thrilled to share my review of a new release Searching For Steven written by Jessica Redland and a fun Q & A with the author!
Author: Jessica Redland
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Chick-Lit
Source: So Vain Books, NetGalley
Published: June 3, 2015 by So Vain Books
When Sarah Peterson accepts her Auntie Kay’s unexpected offer to take over her florist’s shop, she’s prepared for a change of job, home and lifestyle. What she isn’t prepared for is the discovery of a scarily accurate clairvoyant reading that’s been missing for twelve years. All her predictions have come true, except one: she’s about to meet the man of her dreams. Oh, and his name is Steven.
Suddenly Stevens are everywhere. Could it be the window cleaner, the rep, the manager of the coffee shop, or any of the men she’s met online?
On top of that, she finds herself quite attracted to a handsome web designer, but his name isn’t even Steven…
During this unusual search, will Sarah find her destiny?
I was recently introduced to Jessica Redland’s writing in her novella Raving About Rhys and absolutely loved it! Upon finishing, I immediately added her to my list of go-to authors. I hope you find yourself doing the same after reading Searching for Steven!
Searching for Steven was a fun and compelling read. In hopes of never ending up alone, Sarah goes through a series of relationships. She’s on the hunt to find and marry her true love and she’s already a few years behind schedule in her big Life Plan. Her search for a soulmate takes a life-altering turn when she comes across something she thought she lost ages ago. She doesn’t trust herself to make a decision without the use of post it notes and her two best friends Clare and Elise. After the help of her post-its and a few glasses of wine and conversation, Sarah finds herself on the hunt for love and searching for Steven.
Sarah’s search brings up the main theme of the novel; what true love means and how to know when you’ve found it. It introduces the idea that just because two people are compatible on paper, doesn’t mean that they’d make a good couple and be happy in a relationship. You have to have a spark and be attracted to that person, because without the attraction, they’re just another friend or brotherly type of guy in your life. When searching for true love, one must look inside themselves to know if it’s right or if it’s wrong.
You can’t force a relationship to happen just because you’re scared you’ll end up alone. That’s no way to live; you have to allow it to happen naturally. You have to be honest with yourself if you’re in it because you’re afraid of ending up alone, or if you’re in it because you can’t imagine your life without this other person. You need to be in a relationship with someone that makes you the best version of you and loves you for who you are, not who they want you to be. How do you know when someone is The One? When you can’t imagine your life without them and that even if you can’t be with them, then you’d rather not be in a relationship at all.
This book was filled with lessons of life, love and happiness, but also instances of tragedy and moving on after tough times. Another theme that presented itself in this story was the idea that things aren’t always as they seem and sometimes they’re exactly what we didn’t know we were looking for. There were a few major twists and turns that truly surprised me and the ending wasn’t at all what I was expecting, it was so much more. Thank you for penning a truly fabulous and compelling novel Jessica!
I knew honesty was the foundation of a good relationship, but these were only little white lies, weren’t they?
‘I know you won’t want to hear this, but you need to get over this ridiculous obsession with getting married; it’s not the answer to life, the universe and everything you know.’
‘This is you we’re talking about. The girl with the Life Plan. The girl who uses post-it notes to make the key decisions in her life.’
My Rating: 5/5 Stars
Author Q & A – Jessica Redland
Hi Jessica, a huge, warm welcome to Living Life With Joy! Thank you so much for participating in this interview.
Thank you so much for inviting me as a guest. I’m thrilled to be here.
1. Would you like to start by introducing yourself?
I’m Jessica and I’m 43. I live in a popular seaside town in North Yorkshire, England. I’ve lived here for ten years and it’s very beautiful with the sea, countryside and lots of pretty villages nearby. I’m married to Mark and we’ll be celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary in September. We have one daughter, Ashleigh Brooke, who’s eight, and a cat called Felix.
I adore teddy bears. In fact, I love them so much that I set up and ran a teddy bear shop for a couple of years. The biggest challenge for me was that I wanted to keep all of my stock!
I’m the Brown Owl for a pack of 25 x Brownie Guides (girls aged 7-10) and I rise at 5.20am three mornings a week to go down to the seafront for an army-style bootcamp which is pretty impressive considering I’m not really a morning person! There’s something pretty special about working out with the sea and Scarborough Castle as a backdrop, particularly when the sun is rising. It’s not quite as special in the height of winter when it’s dark, wet and freezing, but I somehow still manage to make myself go. I’ve been really proud of the improvement in my fitness levels, but I have an ongoing battle with my weight so keep hoping that I find the motivation one day to do something about it. If anyone finds my willpower, please smack its bum and send it home!
2. Can you give us a brief overview of your latest novel and the inspiration behind it?
My novel is called Searching for Steven and it was inspired by a real-life event. Thirteen years ago, I’d split up with my partner and our house was on the market. I was also at career crossroads. A friend gave me a gift voucher for a telephone clairvoyant. It wasn’t something I’d thought about doing before, but I decided to call her one evening. She predicted that I’d move back home and set up my own business (the teddy bear shop), that I’d meet the man of my dreams, and that he’d be called Steven. I moved back home and searching for Steven commenced!
I’d toyed with the idea of writing a book for a couple of years but had never written anything down as I’d had no ideas for a story. With that one phone call, I’d found my premise, I’d found my title, and I’d found my a real-life research source through my own search for Steven.
In the book, Sarah Peterson changes her life when she hits thirty by ending her relationship, and moving back to her home-town to take over her auntie’s florist shop. When she’s packing to move, she finds a missing tape of a clairvoyant reading from twelve years previously. Everything on the tape has come true with one exception: she’s about to meet Steven. Stevens appear to be everywhere and she becomes a little obsessed with searching for hers. The problem is, none of them seem to be right, and she can’t shake the growing attraction to a handsome web designer called Nick. Should she ignore the clairvoyant’s prediction and give him a chance, or is the real Steven just around the corner?
3. How long did it take you to write Searching for Steven? What’s your writing process like?
Steven took a ridiculously long time to write. A whole decade. Oops! I had the idea in 2002, opened my teddy bear shop in April 2003 and started writing at the same time in between serving customers and cuddling the bears. In September 2013, I felt he was ready to go out into the world and seek publication. A year later, I was thrilled to receive two publishing deals and face the happy dilemma of the best fit for myself and Steven. I will clarify that I wasn’t writing constantly during that decade! I made lots of mistakes, learned my craft, closed my shop (a few of the teddy bears had to come home with me!), got married, had Ashleigh, moved house twice, and changed job several times so there were huge gaps when I didn’t write anything.
My writing process with Steven wasn’t much of a process. I knew my premise, I knew my main character, I knew how I wanted the story to end, but I hadn’t a clue how I was going to tie it all together. So I just wrote it. The start of the novel changed about forty or fifty times and I’m not exaggerating by this! Subsequent work has been much more structured with a plan for what should happen in each chapter and a clearly outlined character arc.
4. Can you tell us a bit about what you’re working on at the moment?
Steven was originally planned as a stand-alone novel featuring heroine Sarah and her two best friends, Elise and Clare. As I developed the characters of the two friends, I realised that they both had their own stories to tell and, before I knew it, a trilogy was born with a different woman at the centre of each.
Elise’s story is next. It’s called Getting Over Gary and picks up where Steven ends, although Steven doesn’t end on a cliff-hanger; all the ends are neatly tied up. This is currently with my publisher, So Vain Books, for editing and I’m expecting my structural edits to come back any time now. I’m also working on Clare’s story although it’s as yet unnamed. I’m probably about a third of the way through it.
5. What is your favorite thing about writing romance novels?
The warm and fuzzy moments. I love that point in the book when the hero and heroine get together and it’s hopefully a real awwwww moment. I’ve seen so many reviews for romance writers that site romance novels as being predictable. Of course they are because we know (or hope) that the hero and heroine are going to end up together, but what isn’t predictable is how they do this and it’s creating that journey that I also love. It’s so much fun creating the obstacles that get in the way and finding a way for true love to win at the end of the day.
6. Did you always want to be a writer?
I’ve always loved writing. English and any essay-based subjects at school were my preferred subjects, but I’d never considered writing a book. Bizarrely enough, it never entered my head as a possible career, despite being an avid reader. I used to have a manager at work who said I should write a book because my business reports read more like stories. I didn’t know what to write about until the day I called the clairvoyant and got my premise. From that point, I knew it was what I wanted to do and I hope one day to be fortunate enough to write full-time.
7. What would you be doing if you weren’t an author?
I still have a day job at the moment. I’m a Learning & Development Specialist for a frozen food company. I coach managers, run workshops, and recruit and develop apprentices. I’ve worked in HR roles in training and development and/or recruitment since graduating university, with the exception of the two years running my teddy bear shop. My dream is to write full-time, but my day job does occasionally give me the opportunity to be creative and write, for example when I’m designing a training programme, a case study, or even interview questions. It’s not romance, but it’s still writing!
8. Who are the authors that inspire you and what genres do you enjoy reading?
As a child, I was a huge fan of Enid Blyton and I still love her work. I’m trying to get my daughter as passionate about Enid Blyton as I am, but she’s finding some of the language and phraseology slightly dated.
The first ‘adult’ book I read at the age of fourteen was Virginia Andrews’s Flowers in the Attic and I became hooked on her work. I also loved anything by Catherine Cookson, a prolific writer of historical romances and sagas set in north east England. In my early twenties, I discovered romantic comedy through the work of Jill Mansell and I immediately knew that this was the genre for me as a reader, then later as a writer.
As a reader, I enjoy thrillers too. I’ve read many novels by Mary Higgins Clark and Stephen King. I’m part of a group of writers called The Write Romantics and one of the group, Helen Phifer, writes fabulous crime/horror stories which have me gripped … although it’s best to read them in broad daylight if I want to sleep well!
9. Being a writer is a great job but what’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
When I was seventeen, I secured a Christmas season as a waitress in a local restaurant and it was awful. Not because being a waitress is a bad job by any means, but because the team I worked with were so incredibly unfriendly. I asked someone on my first shift what I needed to do. She looked at me, rolled her eyes and said, ‘You’re a waitress so what do you think you need to do?’ Then she walked off. Eek! That was just the start of it. Everyone was snappy and unhelpful and I hated feeling I wasn’t giving the best service to the customers because of the attitude of the other staff. As you can probably imagine, I was very relieved when the season was over.
10. What is the best advice anyone has ever given you?
When it comes to writing, being part of a ten-strong group of writers is invaluable. We share experiences and advice, celebrate the highs and support the lows. A fellow Write Romantic, Jo, often reminds us that becoming a successful author is long-haul and that it can take many books before our writing careers progress. This is great advice because building a readership will definitely take time and patience. It’s easy to get concerned about chart positions and reviews and this advice helps me understand that success isn’t going to happen overnight; it’s a steady build and I’m excited about watching it happen. From small acorns, large trees grow!
11. Is there one book that stands out in your mind that you wish you’d written?
It would have to be Flowers in the Attic by Virginia Andrews. As I mentioned earlier, this was the first ‘adult’ book I read and it blew me away. It was also the first really thick book I’d read and I’ll admit that I felt some trepidation about tackling something of that size for the first time. A friend had loaned me it and I’m so glad she did. From the first chapter, I was hooked on the story of that poor family, stunned that it was based on a true story. I read the book so many times that it fell apart! I’d love to have written such a moving page-turner. Maybe one day I will …
12. What would we find if we looked in your handbag right now?
I have a fairly large bag that I use for work and I make it ridiculously heavy. I’ve got the obvious items like a purse, house keys, and mobile phone. I have a small make-up bag, but there’s only one item of make-up in there – a pressed powder compact. The other items are a lipsalve, a miniature deodorant, a bottle of hand sanitiser, a small brush, some hair grips, a bobble, and a packet of tissues. I have an umbrella in my bag (well, I do live in England!), a pencil case, a notepad and my Kindle. No wonder it’s so heavy!
13. What is your favorite place in the world?
I love where I live. I adore the sea and the countryside. I’m definitely drawn to stunning scenery rather than cities. There are many places in the UK that I love, and there are incredible places overseas. I spent my honeymoon in Canada, exploring parts of British Columbia. What an amazing place! I’d go back in a shot. I’ve also been fortunate enough to visit New Zealand. I absolutely loved it there too. What all these places have in common is the scenery so there’s definitely a theme there!
14. A few of your favourites …
Favorite scent: Bread baking or freshly-cut grass
Favorite color: Purple
Favorite food: American-style baked cheesecake. Nom nom!
Favorite word: There are so many! Undulating, scrumple, sumptuous …
Favorite song: I adore music so couldn’t possibly pick one favourite song, although I would say the 1980s if I needed to pinpoint a specific era
Favorite book: Flowers in the Attic by Virginia Andrews
Favorite/dream vacation spot: Canada although I’d love to tour the USA too
Favorite time period in history: I’m drawn to the WWII era and have a couple of ideas for novels set in the 1940s if I ever fancied a change of genre
Favorite article of clothing: My fleecy onesie. So comfortable
Favorite choice of drink: Water. I know it’s really boring, but it’s just so refreshing!
Favorite celebrity crush: Simon Baker or Paul Rudd
I’ve really enjoyed answering these questions. Thank you so much again for having me as a guest 🙂
A bit more about the Author – Jessica Redland