2021 Debut Interview: Sam Taylor!

In 2019, we made it our goal is to work with as many debut authors as possible and to spread the word about their debut novels. It was such a success last year that we decided to continue the fun for years to come! Follow us this year as we pick the minds of the 2021 debuts and chat with them about their writing process and what it's like to be a new author. Also stay tuned for news of giveaways, Twitter chats, and more!
At the end of 2020, we Tweeted about wanting to discover more debut authors and their books. We ended up finding Sam Taylor and her novel WE ARE THE FIRE, and we have been interested in it ever since! We are so excited to have Sam on the blog today to answer some of our questions! 




Sam Taylor grew up in Arizona's deserts and now lives among Connecticut's trees. She spends her days writing, being mom to the world's cutest boys, whirling through dance workouts, and baking too many cakes.

Keep up with Sam: Website / Twitter / Instagram / Goodreads


The Book Bratz: First of all, congratulations! How does it feel to be a debut author?

Sam: I'm so happy this book is being published and that it's the one to launch my author career. We Are the Fire came out of some very difficult times in my life. Often it was grueling to write this story, but it's immensely important to me because it was an outlet for my feelings and questions. And for a while it looked like this book would only ever be a file on my computer, so knowing it's about to be out in the world--and with such a rad cover!!--is thrilling, and I'm very grateful.

The Book Bratz: In your opinion, what's the best part of the writing process? What's the hardest?

Sam: Drafting is the hardest part for me. It's so challenging to build a whole book from a blank page. I always outline thoroughly--it's what works best for me. But even with that, the murky middle is usually a struggle. My favorite parts are the brainstorming stage, where every new idea is full of so much potential, as well as revision, where I get to take the rough clay of the story and sculpt it into something I'm proud to share with others.


The Book Bratz: Where did you get the idea for WE ARE THE FIRE?

Sam: I was angry, and wanted to watch something burn! My day job at the time was run by some corrupt people. I felt powerless to fix the situation, and often wasn't even sure what were the right choices. I wanted a story with fire magic, to vent out my frustrations. I wanted a story where the right decisions weren't always clear, because sometimes they aren't. I wanted a story with unlikely allies coming together--something that got me through my own struggle. And I wanted a story that ended with hope. 

The Book Bratz: Who was your favorite character to write? Who was the most difficult?

Sam: Can't pick just one. Can't! I love my fierce girl Oksana who learns to view her world and herself with more complexity. I love bold Pran, who has to learn to let others help him, that being strong doesn't mean doing everything on his own. I love Sepp and how she went from being a very minor, almost throwaway character to becoming crucial to both Oksana's and Pran's stories. And yes, I love Rootare, the villainous alchemist. He's my favorite villain I've ever written because he's so creepy and layered--absolutely the protagonist of his own story, though he'll stomp on anyone to get what he wants. The most difficult characters were the Commanders, particularly Kraanvelt. I'm low-key horrified that such evil characters came out of my brain.


The Book Bratz: How did it feel to write a book that deals with so much rebellion in a time where we're living through so much of it? 

Sam: This book became considerably darker after the 2016 election! Between that and my day job, I vented so many of my frustrations and anger about people in power abusing their positions, and how hard it can be to rise up against those utterly without scruples or ethics. I wrote this story because I needed hope that we could create a more compassionate, inclusive, and humane world.


The Book Bratz: What do you hope that readers will take away from WE ARE THE FIRE?

Sam: I hope readers are encouraged by a story that explores how--even when the right choices aren't always clear and sometimes come with steep prices--through bonding with the right allies, it's possible to overcome the most difficult of circumstances.


The Book Bratz: Do you plan on returning to the world of WE ARE THE FIRE in the future, or do you have any other projects in mind? Can you tell us anything about them?

Sam: This book is a standalone... though I wouldn't be sad to write more about Oksana and Pran! (Good sales and buzz could help that along... just saying.) In the meantime, I do have a historical YA fantasy on submission to editors right now. Think Inception in 1904 Iceland, with witches and Viking-age magic, and an ace/aro MC. This book is super important to me, because it helped me understand my own ace identity. Really hope this one finds a home! And I'm currently revising a middle grade full of baking magic and shenanigans. It's been the perfect project to keep me going during all the chaos of 2020.


Title: We Are the Fire
Author: Sam Taylor
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Publication Date: February 16th, 2021 

Summary: In the cold, treacherous land of Vesimaa, children are stolen from their families by a cruel emperor, forced to undergo a horrific transformative procedure, and serve in the army as magical fire-wielding soldiers. Pran and Oksana―both taken from their homeland at a young age―only have each other to hold onto in this heartless place. Pran dreams of one day rebelling against their oppressors and destroying the empire; Oksana only dreams of returning home and creating a peaceful life for them both. When they discover the emperor has a new, more terrible mission than ever for their kind, Pran and Oksana vow to escape his tyranny once and for all. But their methods and ideals differ drastically, driving a wedge between them. Worse still, they both soon find that the only way to defeat the monsters that subjugated them may be to become monsters themselves. 


Thank you so much to Sam for stopping by and answering our questions! We are super excited about WE ARE THE FIRE and can't wait for it to be out in the world on February 16th!

Want a copy for yourself? We're giving away an eARC on our Twitter account -- pinned to the top of our page!



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Book Blitz & Giveaway: Simply You by Maggie Wild

Simply You
Maggie Wild
Publication date: January 12th 2021
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

She needs someone she can count on. He’s gun-shy after being hurt. Can a brush with fate in a rained-out English village turn into enduring love?

Sarah Tildon thinks she’s found the perfect man. But after her overbearing future mother-in-law insists her quiet country wedding become a high-society shindig, she sets out on a two-week ride to rethink her plans. Stranded when her bicycle is stolen in a picturesque hamlet, she’s touched by the kindness of a handsome young farmer who comes to her rescue.

The big city failed Michael Marsden’s ample ambitions. After his fiancée cheats on him, he turns his back on the hustle and bustle and takes on a farm to prove he can lead a self-sufficient life. And taken by surprise when a charming outsider helps sing his hens into laying, he realizes his newfound Eden is missing its Eve.

Unexpectedly falling for the sweet homesteader, Sarah is torn between the security of a gilded cage and the precarious freedom of raising chickens. And when her fiancé arrives to bring her back to London, Michael fears she’ll leave him with yet another shattered heart.

Will this unlikely couple throw caution to the wind and embrace a destined second chance?

Simply You is the first book in the heartwarming Hope Valley Romance series. If you like fun heroines, pastoral backdrops, and endearing courtships, then you’ll adore Maggie Wild’s sweet tale.

Read Simply You to start fresh today!

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo / Google Play

EXCERPT:

Six eggs. Six measly eggs.

“Ladies,” Michael said to the cluster of chickens scratching around at his feet. “I could use some help, if you don’t mind. What will it take to get a few more eggs, eh?” By way of response, a fat black-and-white speckled hen clucked, fluffed her feathers, and pecked at the toe of Michael’s work boot. “Watch it, Beatrice,” he said, “or I’ll put you in the pot.”

The chicken looked at him, cocked her head, and pecked his boot again. Michael sighed as he gathered the basket of eggs to his chest and closed the door of the chicken coop behind him. His chickens knew he was a soft touch. Even if he hadn’t gone against the advice of everyone he knew and given his girls names, they’d never see the inside of a stew pot, and they knew it.

Trouble was, this self-sufficient lifestyle relied on trading what he needed for what he produced, and six little eggs didn’t give him much to barter with. An image popped into his mind of Caroline’s face, that pitying look she’d give him when he failed at his dream of a simpler life. Perhaps he could hire her to give that same look to his chickens, guilt them into laying. But Caroline wouldn’t settle for being paid in eggs. Especially not now she was marrying an accountant. How would “Mr. Dotted I’s and Crossed T’s” classify eggs on his profit and loss spreadsheet?

Michael pushed the image of his smug ex-fiancée and her pompous husband-to-be from his mind. He’d been in a grumpy mood all week, ever since she’d called with the news of her impending nuptials. She was history and he didn’t need her—or anyone else—to live the life he’d always dreamed of. He transferred the six eggs to an egg box designed for a dozen. The six empty cardboard cups glared up at him like round laughing mouths. He sucked up his pride and pushed open the garden gate.

He cut down a narrow cobbled alley that led to the back of his sister Nicki’s B&B, and smelled sizzling bacon before his hand even touched the gate. He followed the scent through the neat back garden, his deprived senses picking up freshly baked muffins, toasted bread, and dark French-pressed coffee. His stomach growled, but he shook off the feeling and fixed a cheery grin on his face.

“Morning!” he said, as he pushed open the back door. The kitchen was a whirl of people, sounds, and smells, but as always, under Nicki’s management, it looked like a perfectly coordinated ballet. Jennie, the student Nicki had taken on for the busy summer months, was juggling pans of eggs made to order—fried, poached, scrambled, and hard-boiled. She looked up as Michael came in and grinned wickedly. “Hello, gorgeous.”


Author Bio:

Maggie Wild lives in California Wine Country with her own Mr. Right and a small collection of furry friends. A native of Yorkshire, England, she returns “home” every day through her fictional worlds. When not writing her fun, contemporary romance stories, she loves to watch the birds in her garden and hike through the local redwoods.

Website / Facebook / Instagram


GIVEAWAY!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

We'd like to thank the amazing team over at Xpresso for allowing us to be a part of this book blitz! If SIMPLY YOU sounds like the type of book you'd be interested in, don't forget to add it to your TBR!



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Blog Tour: Align Ourselves by Adriana Schuh

Hi everyone! We have something exciting for you here on the blog today -- we were lucky enough to be invited to the blog tour for ALIGN OURSELVES, hosted by Skye Book Tours, so we're here today sharing an excerpt for you all. So without further ado, let's get into it!

ABOUT THE BOOK


Title: Align Ourselves
Authors: Adrianna Schuh
Genre: New Adult Fantasy Romance
Publication Date: January 14th, 2021 (Out now!)

 Summary: Lex wants an alliance for his kingdom. Aria wants a safe place for her people to call home. Neither one wants to be married. But when Aria's own people threaten the kingdom, she realizes that Lex is the man she's always wanted. And she'll do anything to save him.


EXCERPT

Aria blinked into the bright light of day and stared into the face of a man she assumed was the leader of these people. His face was harsh, his eyes dark and cold. She knew she would find no sympathy with him. 

“Are you the leader?" he asked. His face had a hard look to it. Like he had seen one too many difficult things in life. 

Aria nodded, almost afraid to admit it. At only 18 years old, so much responsibility had been placed on her shoulders.
 
Twenty-five of them came up together. Up from their home underground, where their people had lived for 100 years. War, devastation, and radiation. This is why they’d fled. This is what they had prepared for, a safe home underground. With all the technology, they could manage to save. But now, they were running out of food, no longer able to sustain their life underground. So her people sent them. A group of young adults, kids really Because they were “non-essential.” 

In an area of what used to be the Midwestern United States, they ventured out to see what was left of the Earth. And they found people. They found people that had somehow survived and were not receptive to strangers showing up on their land.

The Terra they called themselves, people of the Earth. And they did not want to listen. They didn’t let Aria explain the history of her people, that they had survived below the ground, and that she and the 24 others were forced to go up, explore, and report back. There was little time to marvel over being above the ground for the first time. Little time to admire the clear blue sky and the beautiful trees. Little time to relish the sun on their faces and the wind in their hair. 

Instead, the Terra captured them, holding them prisoner for what seemed like an endless amount of time. All 25 of them were forced into a small dirty room. They were given only bread and water to subsist on while the Terra decided what to do with them. Aria tried to keep track of the days by marking the walls; by the time the Terra had decided, 14 days had come and gone. 

She wasn’t sure how it happened, but over time the other 24 people began looking to her when trying to figure out what to do. Maybe because she was always trying to make sure everyone else was OK. Perhaps it was because of who she used to be below the ground. She’d been a teacher’s assistant, so many people knew her face. They trusted her. 

"And what is your name,” the man asked, sounding bored.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR



Adriana Schuh is a 28-year-old wife and stay-at-home mom to her 1-year-old baby boy. She comes from a large Mexican American and was born with Cerebral Palsy. She also holds an MLIS degree and greatly enjoys getting to tell people she's a librarian. 
Keep up with Adrianna: Goodreads / Twitter / WebsiteFacebook

We'd like to thank Skye Book Tours for having us on the tour today -- if you're interested in ALIGN OURSELVES, don't forget to add it to your TBR!



 

Book Blitz: The Winter Heals by Marie McGrath (+ Giveaway!)


The Winter Heals (Honey Cove, #2)
by Marie McGrath

Publication date: January 12th 2021
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult

Summary: It was almost impossible to heal when everyone was out to get you. Shelby Rowe was stuck between two worlds—the one she wanted and the one everyone else wanted for her. As the daughter of a prominent family in Honey Cove, Shelby’s life was out of her control. Her friends, interests, and even her love life was controlled by others. When a new girl moves to town, Shelby’s life was turned upside down as she gets a glimpse of what life could be like—no obligations, no pressure. As the Christmas break begins, Shelby is left stuck between what is expected and what she feels is right. Split in half, Shelby has to make decisions to correct her life and heal her spirit. Will she allow others to control who she is? Or will she finally go out on her own?

Goodreads / Amazon


EXCERPT:

Luke watched me as I eyed Priscilla and Tabitha from across the room. “Don’t panic, Shelby. You’re by far the most beautiful one in this ballroom tonight.”
“Thanks, Luke, but I’m not worried about what anyone else looks like.”

He nodded and smiled, but it didn’t quite make it to his eyes.

I probably wouldn’t have believed me either. I wasn’t fully lying, just wasn’t the entire truth. Priscilla had a chance to outdo me; it was just her insecurities that came back for her. If she had more confidence, people wouldn’t hate her as much for the nasty things she always inflicted on others. Although, I supposed someone else could say similar things to me. I certainly hadn’t always been the nicest one around. I had done plenty of cruel things, things I still was ashamed of, but I tried to change. That had to account for something, right?

Priscilla and Tabitha spotted me and strutted my way.

Luke tightened his grip around my arm and into his chest. Did he think I needed protecting?

Tabitha leaned forward to air-kiss my cheek. “Shelby, darling. You look fabulous.”

I reciprocated the gesture. “As do you. This color is stunning on you.”

She smiled and swished her dress against her ankles.

Priscilla’s eyebrow arched as she came closer for a hug. “Beautiful accessories, Shelby. It all really makes your eyes pop.”

I strained to smile, knowing anything they uttered about my appearance was merely a nod to social etiquette. It wasn’t genuine, at least not in the way I longed for a true compliment.

“Your mother outdid herself this year, Shelby,” Tabitha said.

“I’ll let her know you think so.”

Luke cleared his throat and nudged my side with his elbow.

“Sorry, ladies, how rude of me. You know Luke, obviously, but he’s my date.”

Luke grinned from ear to ear. “Ladies, you both look radiant this evening.”

They both curtsied.

“Well, we would love to stay and chat all night, but we must socialize with the guests. I’ll see you two later.”

I pulled Luke to stand at the second Christmas tree halfway between both exits.

Luke’s eyebrow rose. “Why did we walk away from them? We should be mingling with everyone.”

I snorted. “Please, Luke. I will mingle with the people who matter. Those two don’t matter. They will just gossip about anything they hear anyway, not worth our time.”

“Then who should we talk to, in your opinion? I think they matter to everyone else. If you aren’t flaunting me to your friends, what will people say?”

“They will have plenty to say, and we can discuss things with them when we are stuck at a table for dinner.”

“I suppose.” Luke moved his arm around me and hovered his right hand on the small of my back.

I bit the corner of my lip to avoid from shivering—or worse, cringing at his touch. It wasn’t awful, but it was more than I wish I had to endure.

“You know, you never told me if I looked dashing or not,” Luke said with a devilish grin.

I smiled. “You and I both know you do, especially with all of your matchy-matchy to my dress color.”

Luke feigned shock. “Is that a compliment from Shelby Rowe. Oh man. Alert Santa we’ll have a blizzard.”

I rolled my eyes. “Dramatic much?”

“Not at all. I only seem to get snarkiness from you.”

I shrugged. “Not always.”

“I apologize. You’re correct. I get snarky Shelby unless we’re pretending to be together. In which case, I get hushed-tone snarky Shelby.”

I giggled. “Is that so? How does one emanate snark in a hushed-tone kind of way?”

“I think you know how.”

I smiled and looked into his hazel eyes. Okay, so he could be charming when he wanted to.

“There it is.”

“There’s what?”

“A genuine smile.”

My father, with my mother in tow, strutted toward us. “Shelby and Luke, how splendid. You both look exquisite,” my father said. “Are you ready to meet a few people, Shelby?”

I followed my parents as Luke accompanied me. I straightened my frame and plastered a smile on my face. It was showtime.

An older couple stood to the side of the ballroom.

My father shook the older man’s hand and clapped his back. “Mr. Wyatt, this is my daughter Shelby and her date, Luke Warrington. Shelby, Mr. Wyatt is the head of sales at Rowe Industries.”

I curtsied as Luke shook the man’s hand.

“It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Wyatt,” I said.

“Hello again, sir,” Luke added.

My mother looked between us all but stayed silent. Her voice echoed in my head, “A true Rowe woman is seen but not heard. She makes her presence known but never overshadows the man she is with.”


Author Bio: 
Marie McGrath lives in a small rural town in Maryland. She hopes to inspire others with her stories. Her favorite genres to read are YA Romance and Contemporary Fiction. She loves the color turquoise, tigers, and listening to music.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Newsletter






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Waiting on Wednesday: Meet Cute Diary by Emery Lee

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking The Spine where we highlight some of the upcoming books we can't wait to read!  

 

Title: Meet Cute Diary

Author: Emery Lee
Publisher: Quill Tree Books
Hardcover, 400 Pages
Publication Date: May 4th, 2021

Summary: Noah Ramirez thinks he’s an expert on romance. He has to be for his popular blog, the Meet Cute Diary, a collection of trans happily ever afters. There’s just one problem—all the stories are fake. What started as the fantasies of a trans boy afraid to step out of the closet has grown into a beacon of hope for trans readers across the globe. When a troll exposes the blog as fiction, Noah’s world unravels. The only way to save the Diary is to convince everyone that the stories are true, but he doesn’t have any proof. Then Drew walks into Noah’s life, and the pieces fall into place: Drew is willing to fake-date Noah to save the Diary. But when Noah’s feelings grow beyond their staged romance, he realizes that dating in real life isn’t quite the same as finding love on the page.

 

I first found out about this book when another blogger friend Tweeted about it, and once I looked it up, I was super interested and immediately added the book to my TBR. I'm always down for a fake dating trope, and this one sounds right up my alley! I'm really intrigued to see how the diary gets exposed as fake, and how Noah and Drew try to save it. So if you need me, I'll be eagerly awaiting this book's release in May! 

What are you waiting on this week? Leave your links so I can stop back!