In the first of a new series, exotic pet-sitter extraordinaire Belinda Blake moves into a carriage house in Greenwich, Connecticut, meets the owners’ charming son, and discovers a body in the garden. As she wrangles the python in her care, she cannot resist involving herself in the murder investigation, with revolving suspects and potential danger everywhere. Gilbert imbues humor throughout the tale as Belinda alternately falls for and suspects the charming son, cares for pets the way she takes care of herself—sufficiently to survive, with mishaps, and keeps falling into the middle of the police investigation. This looks like a fun series to begin! I was fortunate to receive this lovely story from Lyrical Underground through NetGalley.
Drue’s estranged father shows up at her lowest point, unemployed and unmoored, at her mother’s funeral. Married to her childhood frenemy, he offers her a job at his ambulance chasing law office, working with his wife. But with it comes her grandparent’s beach bungalow, replete with beloved memories. All she has to do it fix it up. She stumbles into investigating a mysterious death at a nearby resort, which may somehow be connected to her father’s business. MKA threads hints and doubts throughout, leading Drue and Dear Reader on a wild ride, always entertaining. I was fortunate to receive this fun mystery from the publisher St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley.
Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, strategies, inspirations, etc.
Calling what I do a process makes it sound far more organized than it actually is. What I really do that creates success for me is a two step process: I meditate, and I write a small amount every day. Reality means I’m usually writing a lot most days, but the trick is I promise myself I can quit any time after the first, say, five hundred words. I never want to quit after five hundred words.
As for environment, I used to be finicky and say it had to be a certain level of quiet or comfort, or there had to be this and that to write. Now I write wherever I am, so long as there’s no one talking to me. I can edit with a room full of children cavorting around me and begging for bananas on toast, but for the writing itself, I still need to be left alone.
Walk me through your publishing process, from final draft to final product, including who does what when and what marketing you do.
I don’t have a final draft. I have the best I can do in the time I have, and that is what goes to the publisher, and that is what they copyedit and proof and eventually print. But I am still editing in my mind for all eternity. When I read aloud from my work at events, I edit it as I go. So readers are hearing the best version of the book for that day in that moment. I guess I could never be my own audio narrator!
As for marketing, I try to be very flexible about this. My real job is writing and that’s how I prioritize, but I am proud of my work and want to share it. As such, I spend most of my “marketing” time chatting with excellent and active readers. I try to be open about my successes and my foibles in the world with anyone who asks, and I talk about my favorite books in the moment so that the readers who follow me never run out of good books.
Describe your support system—online and IRL; who are your biggest cheerleaders—and how did you become a Tall Poppy?
When I talk about authorial support (outside my immediate family and dear friends who support me because they love me, books or no,) I am talking almost exclusively about the Tall Poppies. This is a marketing collective in the main, but the side effect is a network of professional colleagues who believe in the same principles as I do. Namely, we all believe, with grace and gratitude, that there is room at the top, and we mean to get everyone there together. We only see each other in real life once a year, so the rest of the time, we are connecting virtually, and I think that is probably one of the only reasons I don’t throw my phone off a cliff.
How does your life influence your writing and vice versa?
They are inextricable. This is the difference between my job and most other professions. I cannot leave my writing behind when I “come home” from work, and I do not pretend that what is happening in my life doesn’t shape my writing. When I have a problem to work out, or a question about life, or a hearts desire, I write it into a book. That said, I don’t write about people I know. Even if I tried, my characters wouldn’t stand for it. They are utterly themselves.
What do you love most about your creativity?
While I’m very very grateful to be able to write books for a living, I do not quite understand how it came to pass that the creative life won out over my pragmatism. I did well in my physics and calc classes in college and probably would have been just as happy in any creative problem solving profession. The thought of a vested retirement plan makes my heart sing. Also, I always thought it would be great to be a mail carrier.
But here I am writing away, and my favorite thing about it is that even though I am a comic writer, according to my reviews, I have no concept of what it is that I write that is so funny. I just write the most emotionally honest stories I can manage, and then my editors come back to me with all these LOL comments and I think, oh, ok, great. In real life this is very weird because when I say something that comes out funny, I get really excited and say stuff like, “Oh! That was funny!” or laugh at my own jokes.
That anyone hangs out with me at all is the real comedy.
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Alexis goes on the biggest adventure of her life, and finds her true calling, right after she dies. She finds love, monsters, and opportunistic ghosts in her quest to save the world. This is a super silly story, but it’s Hart’s signature silly style reminding us to be ourselves no matter how different we might feel. The main character Alexis finds her tribe and fulfills her dream, albeit in an unorthodox way. Although explained by details in the story, the dialogue, with its repetitive references to bodily functions, reads more middle grade than YA, except for those swear words. The romance is credible, sweet, and written really well by an author who can never have that exact experience. Kudos, Marcus! And thanks for an early copy to review.
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Amber goes on a blind date. Her date is blind. Literally blind. This she knows. What she learns is that he’s in trouble, and she gets pulled into it, dragging her two friends along by texting. At first, she desires advice from two friends with wildly different personalities. As the evening takes her to shady places she’d never otherwise be, the story turns into a narration of unexpected events, including druggie roommates, pill parties, and police evasion—all through texts. It’s funnier still when the two friends argue via texts. This is a clever story portraying the ubiquitous nature of current technology use by those who grew up with it. It’s a fun read for a little respite from the tedium (or tragedy) of life.