Author Interview: Kristan Higgins

Everyone, I am SO thrilled to have the one and only Kristan Higgins here on StephTheBookworm today. She is a ginormously popular and hugely successful New York Times bestselling author and I am delighted that she is gracing us with her presence here today! She writes fantastic, realistic romance novels AND loves dogs? Consider her my new best friend!

Without further ado, please welcome Kristan! I was able to ask her some questions that I was very curious about. You may also want to check out her latest novel, WAITING ON YOU, which has already hit some bestseller lists. ;)

higgins

So you’re a huge dog lover like myself which means I pretty much love you already. Can you tell me what role(s) dogs have played in your own life, and how you develop dogs as characters?

Dogs have always been the best of my friends. They’re happiness on four legs, you know? Always overjoyed to see you, always ready for some attention and snuggling. They give us a purpose and an outlet and a sympathetic ear (unlike my cat, who often feigns deafness when I try to unburden myself).

Because I’m a lifelong dog owner (and dog person, the kind who is more often than not covered in dog drool and hair), I can’t imagine my characters not having a dog in their lives, whether it’s their own pup or a dog they’re about to fall for. I generally ask myself what kind of dog this particular character would go for, and what that dog represents to him or her. It’s funny how the critters take on their own personalities… Rufus, who’s this gigantic Irish wolfhound, is also bit cowardly; Spike, a Yorkie, is completely fierce. Their personalities unfold as I write the first draft.

After having numerous bestselling novels released, how does it feel now to you when you release a book vs. how it felt when you had your first book released?waiting

When my first book came out, I pretended it wasn’t. It was utterly terrifying, in fact. Anyone who wanted to could read my book, and I had no control over what they would think! And you know what? It still feels the same way. I want so much for readers to love what I’ve done, to love the characters and story, and it’s really, really hard to just send that poor innocent book out there into the world and hope people like it. That being said, Waiting On You is my 12th book, so if nothing else, I guess I at least know what to expect, terror-wise.

What do you think it is about romance that makes it such a popular and beloved genre?

A romance novel is a story we all know. It captures the most universal and human experience there is—being loved, being with someone, taking care of someone and being taken care of. Whether we’ve lived it or not, whether or not we got the happy ending we were hoping for, we all understand exactly what those characters want. And if the author has done her job, we’re pulling for them the whole way.

I saw on your website that you and your husband had a bit of a whirlwind romance. I had one of those myself with my husband! What do you think is so magical about these kinds of “fast forward” type romances? People doubted us a lot at first, but I think we have proven them all wrong. Do you have a favorite romance novel with a similar, fast moving romance you can recommend? 

Steph, I think my mom is still reserving judgment on McIrish and me, and this after 22 years and a couple kids. : )  The thrill of the “we just knew” romance is the risk, isn’t it? The hope that what we hope and sense about the other person will turn out to be true, and that fresh, excited feeling of finding out (if you’re right. If you’re wrong, it’s pretty horrible, I’d guess). My favorite romance where the protagonists know instantly is Huntley Fitzpatrick’s MY LIFE NEXT DOOR. Such a beautifully written, compelling story!

What is the first reaction you usually get when you tell people that you’re a romance author? Do you think the reality of being an author is the same as what people perceive it to be?

I’m happy to say that they’re usually utterly delighted. “Really? Get out of here! How cool is that?” The biggest misperception is that writing romance is easy because we know how the book will end. In a way, it’s harder for that exact reason…we have to give these two people enough reasons to butt heads once in a while, but we have to give them a compelling reason to keep trying, too.

Thanks so much for having me today, Steph!

Thank YOU, Kristan!

My problem with food

Who here wants to admit when they have a problem? I definitely don’t, and yet… I know you can’t fix a problem when you aren’t even willing to acknowledge that it’s there. Me and food? We have a problem.

I know that people that DON’T have a problem with food are likely to laugh at those of us that do. Many people probably scoff at the fact that food problems are a very real reality for many of us.

You all know that my husband and I have been tremendously successful in our weight loss endeavors. Many have probably assumed that we’ve gotten our eating habits perfected and that we view food in a whole different light now. That’s not entirely true.

These days, I CAN control myself, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I want to. I stay within my calorie limits on most days, and seem well adjusted when it comes to food. I don’t pig out (except for on our once weekly cheat day). I eat normal, healthier foods and in normal portion sizes. I’m doing good work when it comes to my eating, and I’m proud of that.

The truth is though, it’s still impossibly hard. Even after 2+ years of healthier living, I struggle on a daily basis with my eating. The mere fact that I CAN’T just eat whatever I want, however much I want, and whenever I want, has magnified my intense desire to eat in just that way. I shove those desires aside though, because I know it’s simply not worth it.

I will never give up on this battle with food. I have come way too far now to fall down the hole again and live an unhealthy, miserably obese life like I once did. I REFUSE to be that girl again. For these reasons, I keep myself in check. I control myself and my urges. I order grilled chicken sandwiches and soup now, when I’d rather have the chicken fingers and mozzarella sticks. I am incredibly proud of my strong will. I will not give up. But that doesn’t make it any less difficult.

Most people just eat and don’t even think about it and they are perfectly healthy and normal. To them, food is an energy source and not a source of happiness and joy. I envy those people so badly. I want to be like that. I don’t want to obsess and think about food all the time. I don’t want to stress and worry when making all of my food decisions. I just want to be NORMAL when it comes to food and I don’t think I ever will be. I have to hold myself accountable for every single meal, every single BITE. Why can’t I just eat like a normal person? It’s endlessly frustrating.

I LOVE food… that’s part of why I got so big in the first place… but I also hate it for the fact that it causes a constant internal struggle inside of me.When I make a bad decision, I feel so guilty. When I make a good decision, I’m sad that I’m missing the “yummier” foods that I had to turn down. Most people don’t have this struggle. They eat and they’re done with it. They don’t think about it after and obsess about their choices. They also don’t look forward to their future meals. They can control themselves. They can eat without guilt or regret. Not me.

So my problem is that I both love and hate food. This is a problem that will never truly go away. Sure, I’ve learned through my years of food logging what is an appropriate portion size and what isn’t. I’ve learned which choices are healthy and which choices are not. I’ve implemented this knowledge into my daily life and have remained healthy and slimmer because of it. I usually make these healthier choices and feel proud of that. It’s still a struggle though, and sometimes I falter. Sometimes I make the unhealthy decision. It would be so easy to just throw it all away and give in to these bad cravings all the time. That’s what I’d LIKE to do, but what I REFUSE to do. Yes, I love food, but I love being healthy and happy even more. I will continue to make better choices not necessarily because I want to but because I HAVE to. I wish so badly to have a normal relationship with food where I’m not craving it and thinking about my next meal all the time. I wish I could make normal food choices like most people can, WITHOUT having to log it. The fact is though, I do have to log it. I have to hold myself accountable. And that’s okay. That is MY normal. I chose to face my problem head on and I found a solution and a way to deal with it. That is food logging for me.

I’m not always perfect. I don’t always make the right choice. But I’m doing okay. I’m infinitely better than I used to be. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: this weight loss journey has taught me many things, one being that it’s always the hard things that are the most worthwhile. Confronting my problems with food has been ridiculously hard, but I’ve never been happier and healthier, so I will keep on keeping on.

Review: This Star Won’t Go Out by Esther Earl

Title: This Star Won’t Go Out17675031
Author: Esther Earl (& others)
Genre/Audience: Nonfiction, memoir, teen
Publication: Dutton Juvenile, 2014
Source: Library

This Star Won’t Go Out is a very interesting piece of nonfiction. It’s the story of Esther Earl, a girl who died in 2010 at age 16 from cancer. In most ways, she was your average teenage girl, but she was also very sick and had been for several years. She also experienced a bit of fame and notoriety when she befriended bestselling author, John Green, who met her several times and mentioned her in his vlogs. This memoir was published posthumously and tells the story of Esther’s life, illness, courageous battle, and online friendships she formed with fellow Harry Potter fans and “nerdfighters.” It contains a variety of things including photos, sketches, her journal entries and letters, updates from her family and friends, and more. It’s really a little bit of everything combined together to tell a complete story of her young life.

I had heard briefly of Esther Earl before this book came out, but knew just enough about her to be interested in wanting to know more. What I found in this book was the touching story of a young girl who was wise beyond her years after dealing with endless treatments and lonely days spent in bed, feeling awful as a result of her illness and its harsh treatments. I saw what she experienced and all that she endured, but I also saw the wittiness and humor that made so many people love and care for her. She was smart, sweet, funny, creative, and incredibly brave.

I also thought that the friendships she forged online were touching. She was a huge Harry Potter and John Green fan who considered herself a “nerdfighter,” a group started by John Green that has grown heavily throughout the years. Esther met a fellow group of nerdfighters online. The large group chatted frequently, and several members were even lucky enough to meet Esther in real life, along with John Green, who joined in the gathering that served as Esther’s “Make a Wish” wish. She connected to and touched many lives despite her debilitating illness.

All in all, this was a touching story and a real life glimpse inside a young person’s struggle with cancer. It was both heartbreaking and beautiful. I’m giving it three stars because it was good and I enjoyed getting to know more about the life and story of Esther Earl, but ultimately, it’s not a favorite or one that I will re-read.

My Rating: 3/5

Dear Fat Steph

Dear Fat Steph,

I know things kind of suck for you. Everyone says it’s the inside that matters, not the outside, but you know that isn’t true. People judge you because you’re fat. They don’t care that you’re smart, that you’re funny, that you’re compassionate and caring. They see you and they automatically count you out because of the way you look. I know you’re sick of it. I know you’ve cried about it. I know you’ve dieted and failed again and again. I know about how hard all of it’s been (I have, after all, been there!). I’ve seen you panting for breath just going up the stairs. I’ve heard you cry because you can’t fit into anything nice at the store. I know it hurts, but I promise you’ll get through it.

After five years of steady weight gain, you’ll start over again in January 2012. It’s for real this time, though. I know when you first started out, you could hardly ever imagine how it would all turn out. Know that it turns out well. Actually, better than well. It kind of turns out amazing. Like… you’ll meet your future husband because of it amazing.

I remember when you didn’t know if you could do it, but you were determined to try anyway. I remember when you felt so damn discouraged because you had so much to lose (and a whole life to gain). I remember you feeling like you weren’t really living, that life would finally start and you could finally be happy only after you dropped the weight. I remember you thinking that day would never come, but envisioning it all the same. I remember when you hit the ten pound mark; you were ecstatic. When the weight kept dropping, you finally started living.

I know you felt like no one really knew you back when you were fat. I know you felt like you would finally come into your own when you were no longer obese. But what you might not have realized until now is that you were always YOU. Even when you were fat, you were funny, smart, and hardworking. You made your friends laugh, and you danced in front of the camera with them as you made the world’s worst music videos. You were always the same you, but now you feel more free to be that person. You no longer feel ashamed just walking  around in the world in a body that is far too huge. You don’t feel the need to hide as much as you used to, but you’re still working on that one a bit. You are still, and always will be, a work in progress (but you are progressing quite nicely, I should say).

I want you to know that even now, in 2014, you will look in the mirror and see so many imperfections, 100+ pounds lost later. I know you will see the jiggly thighs, the rounded belly, the stretch marks. Consider these flaws your badges of honor. I know you envisioned one day you might actually wear a bikini when the truth of the matter is, you still don’t even want to wear shorts. I know you’re still not perfect and that your self-esteem could still use a heck of a lot of work. I think that’s okay though. You don’t have to be perfect; all you have to be is better, and that you are.

Love,

Present (and Much Skinnier) Steph

pizap.com13944903714021

Review: Ask the Passengers by A.S. King

Title: Ask the Passengersask
Author: A.S. King
Genre/Audience: Young adult
Publication: Little, Brown, 2012
Source: Library

Ask the Passengers was a book club pick and I’m glad that it was. I enjoyed this story quite a bit, though not everyone in my book club did.

Astrid Jones is falling in love with a girl but she doesn’t entirely know what that means for her. She feels like she can’t confide in anyone. Her mother seems to care only about her sister, her father is always stoned, and even though her best friend is a lesbian, she just doesn’t want anyone to know. Suffice it say, she feels disconnected from most everyone around her, so she spends hours outside, watching the planes fly overhead, and sending the passengers her love, and most personal of questions.

So, I really liked this book and thought Astrid was an awesome character. Even though she was struggling a lot with her identity, particularly her sexual identity, she was very levelheaded, intelligent, and witty. Even though she often felt insecure about who she was as a person, she seemed confident and sure in other aspects of her life. I just thought that she was very strong and wise for her age, albeit a bit confused.

Her family and friends were very interesting, and the family dynamics were unusual and oftentimes heartbreaking. Her mother absolutely adored the younger sister, but never seemed to have any time for or interest in Astrid. Her father, though they had a decent relationship, was very distant and always high. It seemed like Astrid didn’t even fit in with her own family, and perhaps that was why she struggled so much with her identity.

All in all, this was a great story about identity with excellent writing. I will definitely be reading more of King’s work, and am looking forward to seeing her at our local Teen Book Festival this year, of which I am a committee member. I’d recommend this one to fans of contemporary YA fiction that’s a bit out of the box.

My Rating: 4/5

Half a year.

Jerry and I celebrated our six month wedding anniversary this past Saturday, April 5th. I can hardly believe half a year has already gone by since we got married! In these past six months, so many wonderful and exciting things have happened for us, including purchasing our house and Jerry landing a great new job. Life is good.

We celebrated by going to Tillman’s, a restaurant/inn about 40 minutes away in the countryside. We stayed overnight Saturday, and while we didn’t go far, it was amazing to just get away for a bit. We booked a special “escape” package that includes an overnight stay in one of their eight rooms, dinner for two in the restaurant, plus wine and chocolates in your room. We also decided to turn off our cell phones for the night and just enjoy and focus on each other. This was a nice change of pace and something we should really do more often.

IMG_0519We arrived Saturday afternoon and were surprised to find two full beds in our room. We’re accustomed to our king size bed, so we found this to be pretty funny. Our room was also behind a set of double doors. After walking into the first set of doors, there is a set of stairs to the left that go to a basement, and then another door straight ahead, which was our room. Well, we were surprised to realize that the employees used the basement and were alarmed the first time we heard the first set of doors unlock. We just laughed about it afterwards because this place really just has this old fashioned, country charm about it. It is by no means fancy, but it has a lot of character and is a really sweet place. At any rate, we took a nap shortly after arriving then got ready for dinner. The restaurant is quite nice and the food was amazing. We got spinach artichoke dip to start and Italian wedding soup. Jerry got the prime rib for dinner and I got the chicken scampi – yum! We also enjoyed some delicious desserts.

Dinner time!

Dinner time!

After dinner, we decided to head into town, just up the road. This is a VERY small town, and there was not much to see. We swung through the Tim Horton’s drive thru to grab a diet coke then headed back to our room where we watched “Delivery Man,” with Vince Vaughn, and really enjoyed it.

The next morning we headed back to the restaurant for a brunch buffet which was outstanding! We really enjoyed the huge variety of foods. We are total foodies. Oh well. After brunch, it was time to leave, but not before first stopping at a craft/antique co-op right up the road where I picked up a couple of primitive decorations.

Brunch + our room.

Brunch + our room.

All in all, it was a memorable weekend and we are already looking forward to going back there for future celebrations or just to get away for a bit. Here’s to the first six months – and many more.

Review: Limoncello Yellow by Traci Andrighetti

Title: Limoncello YellowPageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00001]
Author: Traci Andrighetti
Genre/Audience: Cozy mystery, adult
Publication: Gemma Halliday Publishing, 2014
Source: For review, CLP Tours

Review by Kim

This is the first in a new series (I hope!) about Franki Amato. She was a rookie cop in Austin, Texas, until she finds her boyfriend cheating on her with a German female wrestler. She decides to make a clean break and join her friend, Veronica, in New Orleans, where she becomes a private detective. She gets put on a case to help a man accused of his girlfriend’s murder clear his name. To say he is not a pleasant man is putting it mildly. Along the way, she tries to avoid her meddling grandmother’s horrible matchmaking attempts and escape a curse put on her by the local voodoo priestess, all the while trying to get a date with the handsome bank manager.

This was a really fun, laugh out loud book. It was also a great mystery, as it had me guessing the whole time and I had a hard time cracking the mystery. I loved the fun setting and the fast pace of the story. If you enjoy the Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich, this would be right up your alley! I highly recommend it, and I am really hoping this will be a continued series. I will anxiously await the next book in this fun new series!

My Rating: 4/5

Review: Death on Eat Street by J.J. Cook

Title: Death on Eat Streetdeath
Author: J.J. Cook
Genre/Audience: Cozy mystery, adult
Publication: Berkley, 2014
Source: For review

Man oh man, do I love cozy mysteries. It’s one of my favorite genres that I don’t get to read often enough, so I was thrilled to read Death on Eat Street, the first in the new “Biscuit Bowl Food Truck” mystery series.

The story centers around Zoe Chase, an Alabama girl and former banker turned diner owner. When she buys an old run down diner in the sketchier side of town, she starts a food truck company to try and make some money while renovating the diner and trying to get it open. She serves her own special deep fried biscuit bowls from her truck, along with her friend Ollie, from the homeless shelter down the street. Business finally starts picking up and things are going great until a competing food truck driver (from Tacky Tacos) winds up dead in HER food truck. Now there are all sorts of people after Zoe, accusing her of stealing something very valuable, and starting to turn violent. Already battling with her snobby family who are disapproving of her new business endeavor, Zoe must rely on her new friends and cute lawyer to help her track down the real killer before she gets hurt.

This was a really fun and fast paced mystery centering on two of my favorite things: food and the South! I love all cozy mysteries, but as a foodie, I was particularly drawn to this one for its story line and Southern setting. The cast is unique and varied, from Zoe’s swamp-living Uncle Saul, to her down on his luck but intriguing (not to mention CUTE) lawyer, to her conniving, snobby ex-boyfriend Tommy Lee; this book has quite a colorful cast! I grew to really like the characters and was really rooting Zoe on, hoping her new business would flourish, despite the protestations from her family. I liked that she stuck to her guns and followed her dreams, even when they didn’t align with her family’s vision and dreams for her.

This story also had so many twists and turns, with nearly every single chapter ending on a cliffhanger, which really kept me turning the pages. I was constantly racing to find out what drama would happen next.

I have a couple of minor complaints, one being the constant cliffhangers, even though I enjoyed them a lot too. I felt like there was just SO much action that I didn’t see quite as much character development in Zoe that I would have liked. I really liked her as a character, but would have really enjoyed getting an even better glimpse of who she really was. Maybe this will happen in subsequent books? One other little thing was that I would have liked to see was a bit more Southern-ness, if that makes any sense. I knew it was set in the South, but aside from the Southern cooking and some elaborate homes, I didn’t get quite the Southern feel I was hoping for… y’all.

All in all though, I thought this book was a lot of fun. I am really looking forward to future books in this fresh new series!

My Rating: 3.5/5

My March in Review

March ended up being pretty darn good to me. It was also quite a busy month again. I feel like I am always busy lately and would love to have some more down time. Ah, well.

We had a huge blizzard in the middle of the month in which pretty much everything was shut down including my work and Jerry’s. We stayed in the whole day. Dakota, my sweet pup, seemed to keep forgetting that there were mountains of snow. Each time he begged to go out, he would instantly turn right back around. I’m certainly over this winter weather, but I have to admit, it ended up being a nice surprise day off, and quite relaxing!

My Facebook on the day of the blizzard. Bahaha!

My Facebook on the day of the blizzard. Bahaha!

On the AMAZING front in March, we closed on our home, I got my new Jeep, and I got hired by Booktrope Publishing as a book manager! It’ll be a nice sidegig for me that I’m anticipating will be both fun and rewarding. I’m so lucky to be able to say that I am a librarian, and that I now also have a small job in publishing, too! It’s all about the books in this home… although Jerry might disagree…

Some smaller things of note this month… my parents went to visit my grandma in Florida for a week and I had to petsit all their crazy animals. This is not one of my favorite jobs, but whatevs. Jerry and I are hoping to go in January and I’m sure my mom will return the favor, though I will say that my little King Dakota is very well behaved and easy, except for his separation anxiety.While they were away, my brother, sister in law, and nephew came over one night for pizza and a movie. It was a lot of fun, though the movie, Killer Joe, was basically awful.

dakota

The King and I! LOL

What else… my aunt and I have season tickets to the local theater and see several musicals a year. We saw ONCE, and it was phenomenal. It quickly made its way onto my favorites list and I am loving the soundtrack, particularly “Falling Slowly.” I would definitely like to see that again in the future.

My old trainer came over for dinner with his new girlfriend and that was really fun! I hadn’t seen him since the wedding, so it was great catching up with him and his girlfriend is great as well; she even brought me a beautiful bouquet of spring flowers! Jerry made his famous Mexican food which was enjoyed by all… yum!

Book club was great as always. We read Ask the Passengers by A.S. King which I enjoyed. I also went to a Stampin’ Up workshop with some of the book club girls and had a great time! My cards came out surprisingly well, and I won a gift basket filled with handmade cards (and candy) made by my much more talented pal, Patti, who hosted the party. I’ve made some great new friends from book club and even received a handmade congratulatory card by another new book club friend, Christine, in the mail!

In terms of reading and blogging, March was a good month! I read about four books, and while it’s still not exactly where I’d like to be, it’s certainly better than the 2.5 books I read in January and February. I’d like to read at least five in April. I blogged eight times in March, so I’m right on track there. I posted four personal posts and four book reviews, and I’m shooting for my blog to be about half and half, so that was perfect this month and I’m happy about that.

Looking forward to April and hopefully the end of this never ending Rochester winter! If the snow finally melts, I’m looking forward to running again. Happy April, everyone!

Big News: My Super Exciting Weekend!

This past weekend was pretty epic and I am excited to share some awesome news!

Friday afternoon, after MONTHS of back and forth with the bank, we FINALLY closed on our home! It has been a long time coming and these past few months have been filled with stress, stress, stress. I cannot even begin to describe all the troubles we had in trying to close, but I am so relieved to be done with the endless phone calls and emails with the bank and attorney, and the constant migraine I had after enduring all of it. We are so thrilled to finally be homeowners!

our house

Our humble abode. Note to self: take a better photo that doesn’t cut off one side of the house!

Luckily, our house is a family home. My great-grandparents built it in the 60′s, then left it to my grandfather. He was not living in it any longer, so we were able to move into the house in late November, so we’ve been in there for a bit of time, but now we officially own it. What a thrill! We were also lucky that we were able to buy it for what we would consider “starter home” price even though it’s not a starter home. We have four bedrooms and two full baths. The bedroom on the first floor is, of course, being made into my library. It’s a giant work in progress, but it IS in fact in progress. I will definitely do a full home tour with photos soon! Since we’ve been in it for a few months, it already feels like home and I’ve been busy decorating away (I’m into country / primitive style). Eventually, we’d love to update the kitchen and bathrooms, but for now we’ll probably just do some painting in those rooms to freshen them up. Prior to moving, we did a lot of painting (dining room, living room, bedroom), and that really made a world of difference.

My other excitement is that I also got a new car! My lease was ending in April, so I started looking at a car to purchase this weekend and I found “the one.” It’s a 2010 Jeep Liberty Sport with only 25,000 miles. I have always wanted a Jeep and I am so dang excited to finally own one! The car I was in was a tiny Nissan Sentra. While it was a nice car, it was HORRIBLE for our Rochester winters. I cannot tell you the number of times I got stuck in various parking lots as well as our own driveway. It is too small and low to the ground. Before the Sentra, I had an SUV and knew that I waned to go back to an SUV again, this time with 4WD so I would stop getting stuck in the snow. When I saw this car online, I immediately wanted to go in to see it. The second I got in to test drive it, I had a huge smile on my face. The day before, I test drove another vehicle and didn’t get that feeling so I knew I made the right choice in getting this Jeep. I just picked it up tonight!

my jeep

My Jeep! Love it. Ain’t she a beaut’?

Thanks for sharing in all my excitement. Great things are happening and hard work is paying off for my hubby and I. ;)