for CHILD OF MINE, a nostalgic romantic comedy So many wildly varied events and people and pets from my life found their way into Child of Mine that I couldn’t fit them all into the Acknowledgements page! First off, I have to credit one of my dearest friends from grad school. She played a villain on a soap that may have a similar name to the one in which Bella appeared but I won’t say more to protect her privacy. I heard lots of stories back when she when she was working on the show but she also patiently answered my endless questions when I was researching this book. As for Bella’s struggle with addiction while working as a professional actor at a very young age, a soap actor on my friend’s show did end up going to rehab, but unlike Bella, his character did too. Articles and books written by and about Amber Tamblyn, Drew Barrymore, Melanie Griffith and others also informed Bella’s journey. Moving on to the TV show I made up for the book: was anyone a fan of Zoom as a kid? I loved the show back when I was a kid! While I took many details from the original as well as the 90’s reboot, I also borrowed from a program from the 00’s that my kids loved: Fetch with Ruff Ruffman. However, as producer James points out (he’s based on the lovely James “Don’t call me Jim” Fields, a complete stranger who generously shared his experiences working on Zoom, as well as his early career in Raleigh), animation technology in 1989 wasn’t fast or cheap enough to do a create like Ruff, so I came up with the computer B.E.T.T.E. as a substitute for Ruff. First Story Books isn’t based on a real shop in Boston; sadly, when I lived in Boston in the late 80’s and early 90’s, indie bookstores were already few and far between. These days we credit Amazon for the loss of local shops of all kinds, but in the late 20th century large chain bookstores were responsible for wiping out so many smaller bookstores. Ironically, Amazon was initially welcomed by publishers as a counterbalance to the power that giants like Waldenbooks, Crown Books, B. Dalton, Borders, Barnes & Noble, and Books-a-Million (the latter two the only ones surviving today) held. Doris’s shop would’ve been one of the last holdouts of that era. I’m happy to say that we’ve seen a resurgence in such shops more recently, and I hope that trend continues. As for the books that Lilah shares with Henry in the bookstore, all of the new releases really did come out in 1989: Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, . . .
The seeds of the first three novels in the Boston Classics series were stories from my own past working as an actor in Boston in the late 80’s and early 90’s, but this one was different in that I pulled threads from all over the place – my experience as well as others’ and just the well of my imagination. Bella just kind of showed up in WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR as this mysterious character, someone who’d been on a soap but left it and was now auditioning for this little Shakespeare company (based very loosely on a friend’s experience working in daytime TV). Then in FORGET ABOUT ME she played the role of a boy servant onstage (I also played Speed in Two Gents) and Ben’s goofy pal offstage. Her secrets started to build in my mind and as I was writing YOU SPIN ME, her past got clearer to me, and I figured out how she ended up a single mom. I couldn’t wait to write her story, but that of her hero, Henry was a bit more elusive. Thankfully, I’m stubborn and I have good author pals, a great editor, and friends and family in my life who will listen to me yammer on about plot and character things I’m trying to figure out, so this book will finally be in reader’s hands December 1**… I actually just remembered this long, awkward but very useful conversation I had with my eldest daughter and her boyfriend about the various ways Bella and Henry’s “encounter” might’ve happened, and whether or not alcohol should be involved… Anyhoo… back to the cover design. I jumped the gun and spilled in an earlier blog about the visual inspiration for Bella and Henry, and you can see that here. Like Puck in FORGET ABOUT ME, I knew that Bella’s daughter Lilah needed to be on this cover. The question was – what grouping of the three would communicate the layers of conflict between Bella and Henry regarding this little girl? I found a lot of nice photos (some of which you’ll see in promo graphics for the book) but none that showed exactly what I was looking for. I sent them all to Lana, with the input that: The little girl is a magnet that draws them together despite other tensions between them – they put her welfare first. I’m thinking that the couple might be walking away, looking over their shoulders like in the photo of the couple with the picnic basket, but perhaps with a bit more distance between them. We can see them in profile, her expression a little more wary, his can be more joyous. Instead of the basket, . . .
Child of Mine I *finally* turned in a draft of book 4 in the Boston Classics series to my editor last night, so I celebrated this morning by organizing my character inspiration images on Pinterest. If you’ve been following the series, you might already have an image for Bella in your head, but this is the one that I’ve been working with. Her love interest, Henry Smith (yes, I know, boring name but there’s a reason why) was all new to me, so I went back to this photo again and again. I just LOVED this guys hair and eye color, his hair and beard but most off all his super intense gaze. Which I sometimes got lost in. Bella’s daughter, Delilah, or Lilah as she likes to be called (all the MC’s in this book have multiple nicknames…) is featured heavily in this (psst. Secret Baby trope) book, and of course there are multiple pets as well! As a side note, if you’d like to name this bookstore cat (and get credit for it in the Acknowledgements) I’ve donated that honor to the fundraiser Romancelandia for Lousiana, where all proceeds go directly to organizations providing Hurricane Ida relief. Check it out here: https://www.32auctions.com/organizations/88400/auctions/109722/auction_items/3168582 You can also bid on an audiobook-themed tee shirt I designed here: https://www.32auctions.com/organizations/88400/auctions/109722/auction_items/3168580 Stay tuned for more on this book, including the release date & cover reveal!
I hadn’t planned to write a holiday novella but Hot Steve unexpectedly turned into such a compelling character that I decided he needed a story. An idea for a New Year’s Eve themed story spanning the final decade of the 20th century planted itself in my head, and Like It’s 1999 snuck it’s way onto my writing schedule for 2020 (I mean, what else did I have to do with my time…?) Luckily I was able to talk my intrepid (and busy) cover designer Lana into fitting me into her schedule. This time when I gave her the basics, she started the process by sending me a sketch she found to get the ball rolling. I loved the idea and shared my Pinterest boards for both characters to give her specific faces to work from. Steve had been tougher for me to pin down than I’d expected since he loomed so large in my imagination. He wasn’t visually specific for me until I started looking at hot 80’s icons (and their preppy sweaters). Alice is based in part on one of my college roommates, who also emigrated to the U.S. in elementary school. Visually, one Korean actress in particular (Han Ye Seul) really caught my eye. It’s as much about the sparkle in her eye as her beauty. When Lana sent her initial sketch of Alice and Steve, the characters’ body language just wasn’t communicating what it needed to. That is: “I’m interested, but I shouldn’t be.” The grumpy poses said “why do I have to deal with this person?” (Alice’s boots and pony tail were perfect, however!) So I sent her back to the drawing board with some other ideas, especially with regards to Steve’s posture and Alice’s shirt (cold weather and more 80’s). That was the ticket because the next sketch delivered. A few tweaks to the placement of title, sub-title and tag line and we were done! Like It’s 1999 releases in ebook only on December 9, 2020. Pre-order now and it’ll arrive in your inbox on release day!
Honestly, I don’t remember why or when I decided that Ben Porter needed to be an underwear model a la Marky Mark in the 80’s Calvin Klein ads. Maybe it was just so I could do the research. Very arduous research, as you can imagine. But, to the cover. This time around I knew my genre–Romantic Comedy– and I didn’t have to find a designer because Lana at Bookcoverology did such an amazing job with the cover for WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR. And I had a slightly better idea of how the process should go. For instance, I now know how useful a Pinterest board can be. For book one, I emailed her folders of images. This time I could just collect them on boards. (I know people have been doing this for years but I’m not a particularly visual person so I never got the Pinterest thing. Now, I get it.) In addition to the actor/model Ben Porter, FORGET ABOUT ME is about Lucy Minola: an Italian-American vet tech with a gorgeous full figure. She wears scrubs at work, of course but her curves come out of hiding when a co-worker helps her find a vintage red dress to wear to an opening night party. Then there’s the dog that brings them together. If you’re not an animal person, you’ll probably hate this book. Between the dog training and the veterinary hospital scenes, animals are all over it. Puck–the stray that shows up on page one–is especially important, so of course he needed his own board. Benji from the movies series of the characters’ childhoods was an inspiration, then I just went nuts pinning expressive terrier mix faces. Another important element is the mixtape. When Lucy was a carefree teen, she was obsessed with mixtapes and making them for Ben was a key feature in her seduction of him back when he was just her big brother’s best friend. (You can get that story in the FREE ebook SIGNED, SEALED & DELIVERED by subscribing to my news or joining my FB group Wicked Smaht Retro Romcom Readers). Finally, for some reason the image of the Coppertone ad where a dog is pulling on a girl’s bathing suit would not leave my mind, so that went in an inspiration board, too. Then I sent that all to Lana and came up with this first sketch. I loved a lot about this. Probably top of the list was how Lana incorporated the Coppertone image idea by having Puck tug on Lucy’s sexy dress. There were a few small adjustments like making Lucy’s hair curly and switching locations of the tag line and sub-title. My PR advisor suggested a more intense yellow . . .
Romance Fans! For a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card in addition to ten signed paperback plus assorted author swag, all you have to do is fill out the form in this link, which will sign you up for the participating authors’ newsletters. (You can unsubscribe at any time, of course.) Entries close September 23rd and the winner will be announced September 25th, so enter now! Just click this link to enter: http://bit.ly/LENB082020
WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR by Karen Grey What reviewers are saying: “This is my first book by Karen Grey and I’m hooked.” —Rellim Reads “This story was bodacious! Totally Tubular!” —Live, Laugh, Love and Books “I felt like I was in a time warp and I loved it.” —Betty Loves Love “Ah, the 80’s…pagers, answering machines and waiting days for a call, oh my!” —Kathryn, Goodreads “Will and Kate are a wonderful pair. Ms. Grey shares allows both their fears and affection to shine across the pages, giving What I’m Looking For a strong story and satisfying conclusion.” —Jen, That’s What I’m Talking About “Set in the 1980s, this funny yet warmhearted character-driven tale checks all the boxes for classy contemporary romance while providing the longed-for “something different” readers seek out. It’s smart. It’s sexy. It’s sophisticated romance at its best.” —Lea Hensley, Audiogals WHERE TO FIND IT AUDIO Libro.fm (use the code KARENWHITE for a 3 for 1 book deal), Downpour or Audible PRINT The Ripped Bodice (click below) or any indie bookstore via Indiebound or Bookshop.org (or just ask your local bookstore to order it) and Amazon. EBOOK Kobo, Apple, , Barnes & Noble, Google RELEASE DAY GIVEAWAY THIS GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED, BUT STAY TUNED AND/OR FOLLOW ME ON SOCIAL MEDIA TO HEAR ABOUT OTHER GIVEAWAYS OR OTHER NEWS! Cathy, Karen and Bloom are the winners and I’ve contacted them via email.
I received the first hard copies of my very first novel in the mail this week. To celebrate, I’m giving away one paperback and one audiobook (CDs). I can sign them if you’d like, too. THIS GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED. Aimee and Shonte are the winners but there will be more giveaways to come! To enter, just comment below telling us where you were in 1988. Deadline Monday, 6/15 at 5 p.m. EST. For extra chances, you can follow Karen Grey on Facebook @KarenGreywriter, Goodreads or Bookbub. (Just tell me in your comment if you’ve done it, I’ll believe you.) I’ll pick the winners at random. Entrants must be 18 and in the continental U.S. only. (Psst. There’s also a giveaway of the Kindle version on the book’s Goodreads page, so you have lots of chances to win! And this one is open to readers anywhere in the world.) But if you want to just go ahead and buy a copy, you can see all the current options on my website (which includes the option to buy directly from me). Alternatively, you can order from your local bookstore!