Today I am thrilled to say that I am not only sharing my review of Monique McDonell’s latest novel Any Way You Dream It, but I will also be sharing an author interview, an excerpt of the novel and a guest post from the author herself. It’s a long post, but I promise it’s worth taking a few minutes to read through!
Guest Post: Finding my writer’s voice by Monique McDonell
When I first began to write I started writing rather dark, depressing stories of a far more literary nature. My characters were miserable and troubled. The problem with that was I could never finish the stories, half way through I’d become somewhat depressed and deflated myself.
At around the same time my husband began travelling a lot for work and I was home alone reading late into the night. I noticed I read cosy mysteries and happily-ever after stories, often with layers of humour or whimsy and it distracted me from all the bumps in the night.
I made a decision if I was going to write regularly and actually finish anything those were the sorts of books I should write which is how I came to write the way I do. My books are a mixture of chicklit and romantic comedy. Some have more romance than others and some deal more with issues of friendship and family but there is always a lightness and humour to them.
The problem I had once I started writing was that the style of book I enjoyed writing and reading was suddenly out of favour with publishers who advise you to not even utter the phrase chicklit these days. I’ve been lifted off the slush pile, placed in the competition and made it to the final stage of the process umpteen times and in the end every time I was told “we love your writing, but we can’t sell it in the current market.”
That was a problem. I had found my voice. All the advice says “write the story you want to write” but then no one was publishing those stories. I’ll confess that I had a year I didn’t write after one very drawn out rejection process.
Then lucky for me the whole indie publishing world was opening up and I had another avenue to stroll down, books under my arm, ready to sell.
Still, as I’ve continued to write my voice has changed as well, or maybe I just wanted to tell slightly different stories. The Upper Crust Series is more romantic comedy than chicklit and Any Way You Dream It touches on the darker themes of broken families and abandonment in a light-hearted accessible way. This is a story about finding your way back home and how sometimes even when you feel like you’re alone, you do have people in your corner quietly cheering you on.
I’ve loved creating my own cohesive set of covers that reflects my books and their content. I think that the indie process suits me and over time my voice has strengthened as a result .
I’m still writing stories about women finding their way through life with optimism, some good friends and a sense of humour.
Any Way You Dream It by Monique McDonell
Book Source: I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review from: CLP Blog Tours
Book Description: Sometimes when life throws you lemons, you create a fake fiancé. That’s exactly what Lucy does when her high school nemesis calls. She didn’t mean to lie. Really, she didn’t. But with nowhere to live and a car that has just decided to die on her, the thought of attending the reunion alone is one she can’t contemplate.
Cherie thinks arrogant, wealthy and way too handsome Chase is the answer to her friend’s dilemma and for reasons Lucy can’t fathom, Chase agrees. The man is too good to be true – he fixes her car, takes her to stay at his place – more castle than house – and seems to find her fascinating.
Life hasn’t been easy for Lucy and she has a hard time accepting anyone would believe Chase would be with her. Still, he turns out to be the perfect choice and in the month leading up to the reunion makeshimself an indispensable part of her life, which may be the biggest problem of all.
Lucy knows life is not a fairy tale – she’s living above her place of work, her sister has run off leaving her with three kids and, when the weekend reunion begins, she has to go back to a town where her greatest humiliations took place.
Will her ‘romance’ with Chase be turn out to be the answer to her dreams or will the whole sham turn into just another nightmare?
Any Way You Dream It is an entertaining novel about love, loss and learning to pull your life together after tragedy strikes. It’s filled with messy dysfunctional families and the responsibilities people can feel for their family, despite what they’ve put them through. Sometimes people are the victims of other people’s choices and bad behavior, but it doesn’t mean that they can’t get the most out of life and be happy despite their hardships.
Lucy’s life seems like it’s a complete mess from her personal life, to living out of her car and now the upcoming high-school reunion, but she’s managing through it all. Could hitting rock bottom be the starting point to turning her life around? At first glance, it seems as though Lucy would be the damsel in distress, but she’s not your typical heroine. She’s got a lot of spunk and confidence and she isn’t willing to be ignored. She’s not your average hopeless romantic and has a somewhat realistic point of view on love.
One of the biggest themes in this novel was the idea of Fate versus things being a result of opportunity, luck and hard work. Life doesn’t just magically get better; you have to work hard, have a positive attitude and be a good person. One of the most important things stressed in this novel is that you can’t connect with people if you don’t let them in and get to know the real you. On the same note, you can’t let the actions of your family hold you back in life or keep you from doing what you want.
My Rating: 5/5 Stars
Author Interview – Monique McDonell
1. Would you like to start by introducing yourself?
Hello to all your readers. I’m an Australian author who lives on Sydney’s Northern beaches. I’m a very lucky girl because I live within a few minutes drive from some of the world’s most beautiful beaches. In between writing I run a boutique public relations consultancy and hang out with my lovely husband and my teenage daughter.
2. Can you give us a brief overview of your latest novel and the inspiration behind it?
Any Way You Dream It is book two in a series. The whole series came about because I read a book by a very popular author where the main character’s were marrying for convenience. They got something out of it but it seemed to me mostly it was to the advantage of the men. I wanted to write a series of books where the women were really doing okay on their own but they needed some short term help in the form or a date or fiancé. In this book Lucy, who grew up poor in a small town and has turned her life around gets bullied into attending her high school reunion by her old nemesis. She finds herself inventing a fiancé and then needs to fins someone to bring along. Chase , a guy she barely knows, volunteers for the job and the novel follows their journey to the reunion and beyond.
3. How long did it take you to write Any Way You Dream It? What is your writing process like?
I wrote the first draft of this novel last year as over a couple of months. I’d released the first book in the series and I wanted to continue the stories of the characters.
I’m doing a challenge in 2015 to write 1000 words a day. I’m really trying to make my writing a daily habit rather than a stop-start on-again-off-again affair. I’ve worked out I work best between 10 and 12 in the morning and 2-5 in the afternoon so I try and get an hour at least from either timeslot and then I reach my goals. I lie in bed at night and run through the scenes I plan to write the next day so I’m ready to go when I reach the keyboard.
4. Can you tell us a bit about what you’re working on at the moment?
I originally planned for this to be a series of three books, focussed around Lucy and her friends who are connected through their involvement with Pied Piper’s Pies, a food truck business that sells Australian meat pies in Boston. Then in Any Way You Dream It when Lucy got back to her home town I fell in love with a few characters there and so I’ve turned it into a six book series. I’m currently writing book 6 in the series.
5. What’s your favorite quality about your heroine Lucy?
What I love about Lucy is how much she cares about the people in her life and how she really strives to do the best for them. She ends up looking after her nieces and nephew in this book and how she deals with that shows you a lot about her character. She’s a good soul.
6. What is your favorite thing about writing romance novels?
I am a sucker for a happily ever after. When I started writing I wrote darker stories and they depressed me. I write happy books on purpose. There’s plenty of misery in the world. I choose not to add to it.
7. Who are the authors that inspire you and what genres do you enjoy reading?
I love to read most things that are not too dark. I’m a voracious reader and I’m fast. My book club friends always ask me “how long did it take you?” I love Meg Cabot, Liane Moriarty, Kristan Higgins. I just read The Girl on the Train which enjoyed. I love the writing of Kate Atkinson as well. I have adored every one of her books.
8. Do you have any writing superstitions or rituals?
I almost always write with a cup of coffee. It’s part of the ritual of getting ready. I make myself a nice cappuccino and write. I’m sure the caffeine helps as well.
9. What kind of environment do you write in?
I write on my dining room table normally. I dream of having an office all to myself. My husband shares our home office and I just can’t write in there for some reason. I write surrounded by noise and I guess that has taught me to be adaptable.
10. Is there one book that stands out in your mind that you wish you’d written?
I wish I’d written The Princess Diaries. It was a fun book to read and it made a great movie. It had some fun characters and it is the kind of book that makes you smile.
11. What are the things you can’t live without in your wardrobe?
I have a denim jacket I bought twelve years ago and it seems to go everywhere with me. I probably should upgrade but that jacket feels like an old friend and I can’t quite bring myself to replace it.
12. What would we find if we looked in your handbag right now?
I’m like Mary Poppins, my handbag is a treasure trove of things. Today you’d find – wallet, 4 lipsticks, 4 pens. chap stick, mascara, a notebook, phone, teabag, protein bar (It is for emergencies and has been there all year), a birthday candle, tissues, tic tacs…you get the idea.
13. Either or…
Dogs or cats? Cats
Red wine or white? Red
Coffee or tea? Coffee (Though I love both)
Summer or Winter? Summer for sure.
Sleep in or get up early? Sleep in – I am NOT a morning person
Apple or PC? PC
Excerpt – Any Way You Dream It
I couldn’t believe that my car had spluttered to a hot, steaming stop on Piper and Aaron’s street. At least I had made it for their engagement party and wasn’t stranded somewhere miles away, in a broken-down car loaded full of all my worldly possessions.
I got out of my car and Cherie, Piper, and my friend—who was also the woman responsible for setting up the happy couple—came strolling past.
“Lucy, your car is on fire.”
“I think that’s steam, not fire,” I replied. I sure hoped so.
“Is that any better?”
“It’s not worse,” I said, but really, I wasn’t certain that was true.
“Well, on the bright side, you made it and you look lovely.”
I was wearing tight black jeans and a loose, lacy red top. My blonde hair, which spent most of its life under a hairnet in the work kitchen or in a ponytail, was loose and flowing down my back. I had a leather jacket over my arm and stiletto black boots on my feet, a change from my regular sneakers. I didn’t look like a supermodel, but I also didn’t look like I was going to sleep in my car, so that was a win.
Cherie had on a skin-tight color-blocked dress in many shades of neon. Her hair was Jersey-Shore big, and her heels put mine to shame. She linked her arm through mine and gave me a grin.
“You know I’m the matchmaking genius behind this, right?”
“You’ve told me several times, Cherie.” I shook my head.
“All I’m saying is, I’ve got my eye on you, Lucy. You’re my next project.”
“Fine.” I unlinked my arm and faced her. “First of all, I’m not sure you possess the matchmaking gift you think you do, but ifyou do, please keep your evil eye off me.”
“It’s not an evil eye. It’s a cupid’s arrow.”
“Well, aim that sucker elsewhere. I’m not in any way, shape or form in the market for a boyfriend.”
“A fling?” she asked, hopefully.
“Not even a fling.”
“You do know what they say: when you’re not looking….”
It was at that moment that my phone rang. I should have checked caller I.D but I didn’t. “Hello?”
“Hello, Lucy. It’s Patty Lewis.”
Great. On the list of people I least liked in the world, Patty would be on top. Patty was my high school nemesis and now she was married to my hometown sweetheart, Jacob.
“What can I do for you? But more to the point, how did you get my number?”
“Your mom gave it to me, of course,” she said in her saccharine voice. “And I’m calling because the high school reunion is in two weeks and I haven’t got your RSVP. I assume you’re coming because your mom says you’re doing really well in Boston, and only people with something to hide stay away from reunions.”
“I don’t have anything to hide,” I snapped. Well, apart from the fact that I was living in my car, not talking to my sister, and terminally single. “I’m just not sure with my work schedule that I can make it up to New Hampshire.”
“You can bring a date if that makes it less awkward for you. Even a girlfriend.”
I read between her lines: If you’re desperate and dateless and too scared to come back to town without a friend, then bring one, chicken.
That’s when I said it. The words were out of my mouth before I even thought about what I was saying. “Can I bring my fiancé?” I didn’t add my imaginary fiancé, of course.
“Your mother didn’t say anything about you being engaged.” Her voice held a very suspicious tone. I couldn’t blame her—considering that I was lying—and my mother would not be able to keep that secret. If I had a fiancé that my mother knew about, my entire home state would know it, too.
“I haven’t told her yet. It’s a secret. Naturally, I want to tell her in person. Don’t spill the beans yet, please?” I tried to sound all perky and conspiratorial.
“Well then, you’ll absolutely have to come, so you can introduce your fiancé to your mother and the whole town. I, for one, can’t wait to see you. I’ll put you down for two tickets.”
The phone went dead and I wanted to die. Cherie was eyeing me suspiciously.
“Wow. I had no idea you were engaged, Lucy. No wonder you don’t want me to set you up. Have you been holding out on me?” She knew darn well I was a big fat liar.
“Shut up. Let me get inside and get a drink, and then I’ll tell you the whole, woeful tale.”
All of a sudden, sleeping in my broken-down car wasn’t the worst part of my day.
About the author – Monique McDonell
I am an Australian author who writes contemporary women’s fiction including chick lit and romance. I live on Sydney’s Northern Beaches with my husband and daughter, and despite my dog phobia, with a dog called Skip.
I have written all my life especially as a child when I loved to write short stories and poetry. At University I studied Creative Writing as part of my Communication degree. Afterwards I was busy working in public relations I didn’t write for pleasure for quite a few years although I wrote many media releases, brochures and newsletters. (And I still do in my day-job!)
When I began to write again I noticed a trend – writing dark unhappy stories made me unhappy. So I made a decision to write a novel with a happy ending and I have been writing happy stories ever since.
I have been a member of the writing group The Writer’s Dozen for eight years. Our anthology Better Than Chocolate raised over $10,000 for the charity Room to Read and helped build a library in South East Asia. I am also a member of the Romance Writers of Australia.
I have written five stand-alone romantic comedies and Any Way You Slice It, the first book in her new Upper Crust series.
To learn more about Monique McDonell and her upcoming books please visit her at www.moniquemcdonellauthor.com
Enter the Giveaway for a chance to win 5 ebook novels from Monique McDonell!
Check out the other stops on the blog tour!
June 29 – Sinfully Good Reads – Excerpt
June 29 – Chick Lit Plus – Review
June 30 – Caroline Fardig – Guest Post
June 30 – Celia Kennedy – Review, Q&A & Excerpt
July 1 – Jersey Girl Book Reviews – Review, Guest Post & Excerpt
July 1 – Polished and Bubbly – Review
July 2 – Living Life With Joy – Review & Q&A