Friday, February 25, 2011

Interview & Giveaway: Carolyn Moncel

Today it's my pleasure to welcome author Carolyn Moncel! Carolyn is an entrepreneur and the author of Encounters in Paris. I met her through Goodreads and she was nice enough to stop by and tell us about her book. Carolyn has also graciously agreed to give away an eBook of Encounters in Paris to one lucky commenter!

About Encounters in Paris

Life is filled with random encounters and Ellery Roulet, a 35-year-old American PR executive living and working in Paris, has experienced enough of them to last five lifetimes. When betrayal, loss, mistakes, regrets and even acceptance enter Ellery's life at different times, she learns it is not what one experiences, but how one chooses to deal with those experiences that shapes the soul within. This bittersweet collection of tales shows just how messy and complicated life can be, and that sometimes there just aren't any neat and easy solutions at all.

Welcome, Carolyn! Tell us a little about yourself.

At night I write but during the day, I own two companies, MotionTemps, LLC, a digital project management company; and also MondavĂ© Communications, a media relations training company. I’ve been living in Lausanne, Switzerland since 2007 with my husband Philippe, two daughters Chloe and Jillian and a very, very old cat called Poeme.

Describe Encounters in Paris and what inspired you to write it.

Encounters in Paris is a collection of short stories. Since all of the stories are connected, it almost reads like a novella instead of a collection of short stories and that was a deliberate decision.

The inspiration came from observing life in general while living and working in Paris. Expatriate life is hard, and I wanted to address some of the more common scenarios but through the eyes of this one character. There are five stories that all center around Ellery Roulet, a 35-year-old African-American who lives and works in Paris. Ellery thinks she has everything. She is married to handsome French guy, Julien, has twin daughters and runs a successful bilingual PR firm in one of Paris’ trendiest parts of the city. Unfortunately, Ellery soon realizes that life isn’t always so perfect. In one story she loses her job, in another she finds out her husband is having an affair, and yet in another she deals with the death of her mother. She realizes that life can be quite messy; some problems can be solved while others can’t and that’s okay.

You once lived in Paris. What was that like?

My family and I lived in Paris for exactly five years, from 2002 until 2007. In the beginning, I did not enjoy living there. We moved there very suddenly due to my husband`s job. When we arrived I had two small daughters (five and two weeks old) and everything (language, culture, city, country) was completely new. Gradually I found my footing. I learned the city, made friend and my business took off. After about two years everything was fine. There were plenty of days when I was ready to leave, but I would wake up and see a beautiful sunrise or sunset and think to myself, “Well, I think I can stay just one more day!”

How much of Encounters in Paris is based on your own experiences?

I would say that these stories are about 25 percent real and 75 percent imagination. I take my inspiration from everywhere. For example, there are some aspects of my own life represented here, but only a tiny bit. I spend a great deal of time watching other people and observing how they behave or react in different situations. I also get ideas from watching television programs or reading books and magazines. My family and friends tell me some outrageous stories at times as well.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Most of the time I am a pantser to be sure. I tried to be a plotter and all I got out of it was procrastination. I really try to follow George Orwell`s advice “…Write from the heart and then edit with your head.”

What is your writing schedule like?

I write every night from 9 pm until 11 pm. I write a bit more on the weekends. On the weekends I write between 6 am and 9 am. By then my children are up and about and the real day begins.

Can you tell us what you're working on now?

I just finished my next book called 5 Reasons to Leave a Lover. It will be released in September 2011. One day recently, I was walking down the street and heard Paul Simon’s song, “50 Ways to Leave a Lover.” I thought, well that song is only half right. The ways in which to leave a lover are infinite, but the reasons are pretty finite. At the end of the day, it usually boils down to death, divorce, cheating, deception, and ambivalence. So I decided to write a fresh batch of stories surrounding these themes and Ellery and Julien Roulet from Encounters in Paris return in this series, providing further explanation into their story, but there are new characters as well.

Do you have a website or blog?

Yes, I do. My website is:

What good books have you read recently that you'd like to recommend?

Currently, I seem to be spending a lot of time on the African continent! I am reading some really good books right now. I just finished Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gail Parkin. I am also really enjoying The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna and Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

I know it sounds like a clichĂ© but aspiring writers should persevere and never give up. All of us have experienced rejection but you just have to keep going. Over time, you learn to distinguish between bad luck or timing, cruelty and constructive criticism. Take the positive and negative feedback and use it to become a better writer, and keep reading! 

Thanks for stopping by, Carolyn! 

You have until Tuesday March 1st to comment for your chance to win the Encounters in Paris eBook!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day Interview & Giveaway: Rae Renzi

Happy Valentine's Day! It's my pleasure to welcome fellow Carina author Rae Renzi! Rae's debut romance, RiverTime, releases today and she's been gracious enough to stop by and answer my nosy questions. She'll also be giving away a copy of RiverTime to one lucky commenter!

About RiverTime:

Casey Lord needs a break. Her great-on-paper boyfriend, Reed, is pressuring her to marry him—but she's not sure if he sees her merely as an asset to help his political career. A river-rafting trip in the remote wilderness provides the perfect opportunity to clear her head. Until a flash flood sweeps Casey away from her group—and straight into the arms of Jack, a mysterious man also stranded by the flooding river.

Jack won't tell Casey his last name, and her innocent questions about his life are met with evasive answers. Yet they have to trust each other to survive, and as the pair await rescue, their uneasy truce slowly blossoms into friendship—and love. They agree to keep secret whatever differences may separate them in the real world.

When rescue finally arrives, will it spell an end to their budding relationship or can they find a way to stay in RiverTime?

Welcome, Rae! Tell us a little about yourself.

Talking about myself doesn't come easy, but the basics are that I (mostly) grew up in a tiny town in Oklahoma, although my parents were quasi jet-setters (literally-- my father was an experimental test pilot for McDonnell-Douglas), which made for a two-sided childhood: we were familiar with the cosmopolitan, but intimate with rural small town. I now live in Texas, where I'm an associate professor of cognitive neuroscience. I have written science for years ("publish or perish" is not a myth!), but only recently decided to delve into writing fiction.

Describe Casey Lord and Jack Raines the hero and heroine of RiverTime, and what inspired you to create them.

RiverTime is my debut novel, and also the first novel I penned (not always the same thing). To create the heroine, Casey Lord, I confess that I took the easy route: she is more-or-less autobiographical. Jack Raines, though, was wholly imagined. He was assembled from bits and pieces of various people I've known, and tweaked towards an ideal. His family background was inspired by the (real) stories I heard from friends who work with children and youth raised in acute-risk circumstances. I loved bringing to life someone who had surmounted significant obstacles, but was not untouched by them.

How much research was involved in writing RiverTime?

Most of the research I did related to getting the physical details right for the river and the canyon scenes. A six-day river-rafting trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon provided me with a multitude of experiences and sensory impressions to translate to the page, including nearly capsizing in whitewater rapids, brushes with snakes, scorpions and hypothermia, and breathtaking views from the bottom of the mile-high Canyon.

What appeals to you about writing romance?

Everything! Writing (and doing) science is about breaking things down, tearing them apart to gain understanding. Writing romance is about creation, about building a relationship that ends in love. In my case, there is usually some adventure thrown in for fun. It's fantastically uplifting. In fact, after a really hard day at work, I can't wait to get home and create something on the page. It's like going to a super-duper spa.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I think that most of these categorical designations are probably better described as a continuous line. In this case, if dedicated plotters are at 1, and complete pantsers are at 10, I would be around a 6.

What is your writing schedule like?

Every morning—and I do mean every--I wake up, get a cup of hot chocolate and crawl back into bed with my laptop. Weekdays, I usually stay there for a couple of hours before heading for the halls of academia, and I write again in the evening if I can. On weekends (bliss!) I write as long as I like, or until the mundane world intervenes.

Can you tell us what you're working on now?

I'm currently working on an adventure story with dogs, in which the romance between two of the secondary characters from RiverTime (Ditsy and Nocona) is developed. I've also just about wrapped up a very different kind of story—a love story with ghosts staffing a dating service.

Do you have a website or blog?

Yes! My website is I'm also on Twitter: @RaeRenzi.

What good books have you read recently that you'd like to recommend?

I just finished The 
Time Weaver by Shana Abe´, which is a wonderfully romantic fantasy, and The Vet's Daughter by Barbara Comyns, which is a powerful literary novel. Along the lines of fun non-fiction, I'm reading Bats Sing, Mice Giggle, which reveals some of the extrasensory (extra to humans, that is) abilities of animals and plants, by Drs. Shanor and Kanwal. It's loaded with surprises and delights, and a few kind of scary facts.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

There is some research out there that suggests that people who get pleasure from engaging in a process are happier than those who get pleasure from achieving a goal. This makes a lot of sense: you can wallow in goal success only so long, but the writing process never stops. My advice is to write for the pleasure of writing. If it isn't fun for you, think again.

Thanks for stopping by, Rae. And don't forget to comment by midnight 2/19  for your chance to win a copy of RiverTime!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

QR Code Scavenger Hunt Winner!

A big thank you to everyone who entered The Paris Secret QR Code Scavenger Hunt! I wish I could give you all a Nook! But there can only be one winner. And the winner is...

H. James of Lake Charles, Louisiana!