Thursday, November 18, 2010

Book Review & Author Interview - Life, Liberty & Pursuit

Once again, blogging wins! Today I'm reviewing a book and interviewing the author, both of which I discovered through blogging. Life, Liberty & Pursuit is a young adult romance by Susan Kaye Quinn who runs the blog Inkspells.

I first "met" Susan over the summer as I read her posts about working with the independent publisher Omnific. She's delightful.

Then a month ago I won a contest over on Sheri's blog (Writer's Ally) and got my very own copy of her book! I literally finished it in three days. It's that engaging.

So without further ado, here's my review:

Eliza's headed to Princeton for college. David's headed to Chicago for Navy boot camp. Both are trying to be good sports on a farewell cruise with their families until Eliza falls in a pool and is rescued by David.

Mutual sparks fly, and they spend the rest of the voyage together, having dinner, visiting ports of call, wandering around the decks holding hands. It's all wonderful and romantic. But the reality is they'll say goodbye in three days and head to opposite sides of the country.

So the cruise ends, and true confession: I wasn't sure how Susan was going to keep the momentum going with more than half the story left. But she does a wonderful job building tension into the romance through David & Eliza's thoughts, fears, and long-distance communications.

I was so excited when Eliza got her first letter from David (he has restricted communication at basic training and they actually have to write letters--gasp!), I had to read what he wrote twice. Just like Eliza.

And I gotta hand it to Susan. She writes a fantastic love letter.

Seriously, Susan does a super job establishing the relationship between these characters and then seeing it through their initial separation and to their ultimate outcome.

The outcome is tricky as well because as Eliza prepares for Princeton, her best friend gets ready to leave for college in the same city where David is assigned (Monterrey Bay, Cal.). Eliza begins to doubt her lifelong dream of getting an Ivy League education in favor of switching schools to be with her new love.

So realistic. So emotional. I couldn't decided what I wanted Eliza to do.

Susan handles this challenge masterfully in the book, and ultimately, I found the resolution of the story very satisfying. The secondary characters are a lot of fun, too, and exploring the tidbits of David's Polish background, Navy basic training, even the different ports of call are great enhancements to the story.

I give Life, Liberty & Pursuit a very happy A, and I recommend you all rush out and buy it now. Here's the link to the cool book website.

Now for my interview with Dr. Quinn!

1-The story is about a couple who fall in love almost at first sight and then their later separation and attempts to stay together. Later in the book another couple fall in love at first sight. So confess: are you a hopeless romantic? Do you believe in love at first sight?

I am a hopeless romantic, apparently, although I discovered this as part of writing a love story! Actually, two secondary characters are modeled after my best friend in high school, who went on a vacation with my family and promptly fell in love with my “cousin” (we weren’t actually cousins, just friends of the family). They, too, fell in love in a mere four days. Then she moved to another state and they were separated for years. It took eight years before I was able to stand up at their wedding, and they now have two beautiful girls. When she read the novel, she said, “This is all about me!”

2-I read you wrote Life, Liberty & Pursuit for your niece Jenny. Why? Are there similarities between the story and her life or experiences? (I also enjoyed Jenny's 5-second review--here's the link.)

My niece was enamored with Twilight, and it was something we could bond over (living 1,000 miles apart). I was inspired to write a true-life love story (with no magical creatures) for her to see that epic love can happen, even when there are no vampires involved.

She was only thirteen when I started writing the novel (she’s fifteen now), so I sincerely hope she wasn’t planning on running off with a sailor at that point! But she did have a chance to take a cruise in the Bahamas shortly before Life, Liberty, and Pursuit came out this summer, so it was cool for her to visit the setting of part of the book.

3-The book had several unique and interesting details, from the sites they visited on the cruise, the Polish words sprinkled throughout, the emotional separation of Eliza and David, David's Navy training, his linguistic studies. How much was based on your own knowledge and how much did you have to research?

Research, research, research. I love it, and it’s one of the best parts of writing. However, much of the book was based on life experiences as well. My father worked for the Navy his entire career (as a civilian), and his father emigrated from Poland when he was six. However, I didn’t consult with him until the final editorial stages of the novel, when we had to discern the difference between a “mess hall” and a “chow deck.” One of my crit partners speaks Polish, so her help was crucial. Even when you think you know something, it’s always good to do your research.

4-I absolutely adored your theme: "Love brings you up, it makes you a better person." What was your inspiration for that?

My belief that it is true, and an amazing husband who has made me a better person every step of the way. One of my early readers was in love with that theme too – and she urged me to publish the story because of it. She believed young people needed to hear the message that love should make you stronger, not weaker.

5-I think this book perfectly targets older high school girls (YA). But it's been described as a "New Adult" book. If you would, please explain this new category and tell us how you'd categorize LL&P.

I think the “New Adult” category targets young people ages 18-22, who are having lots of life experiences in that age range: college, dating, marriage. Life, Liberty, and Pursuit will easily appeal to that age range, given that the characters are 18 and 20, but I also think it is great for girls who are in high school and contemplating big changes in their lives: where to go to college, how to deal with overwhelming feelings of love, how to know what to do with your life? These are questions that teens are asking before they graduate.

6-You used a small, independent publisher for your book and I remember reading it was a very positive experience for you. How'd you find Omnific? If you would, please briefly tell us the highlights of that experience. (and/or link to the blog post where you describe)

One of my friends, who beta read Life, Liberty, and Pursuit, joined Omnific when they opened their doors January 2010. When Omnific sent me an invitation to submit, I was surprised, but delighted. The full story is here (link).

My friend wasn’t involved in acquisitions, but once I had a contract with Omnific, she became my editor – which was outstanding! Having someone who knows their stuff and loves your story? It’s the perfect author-editor match. Publishing with a small press was an amazing experience, and helped me to understand the industry better, having gone through the entire process.

7-How much changed from your MS to published book? Did your title change? Did the story change any?

There were substantial changes from the rough draft to the submitted MS (David wasn’t even Polish to begin with), but less so between the submitted MS and the published book. Although with three editors and many rounds of editing, the book was in much better shape thanks to the editorial team at Omnific.

The story did not substantially change, although I remember arguing with my editor about whether the cars should be foreign or domestic (we compromised)! The title was the one thing that never varied from the very first draft. The Navy motto just fit: “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of those that threaten it.”

8-What's next for Dr. Quinn? What WIPs are in the works?

I’m querying my middle grade science fiction novel right now, and working on Draft 3 of my young adult paranormal novel, which I am head over heels in love with. Isn’t there some saying that your favorite novel is always your current work? I definitely plan to keep writing books for kids and teens. I enjoy it too much to stop!

Where to buy it: (names are links)
Barnes & Noble
Book Website


Talli Roland said...

What a great interview - and a fascinating genesis for the book! Always nice to hear about positive experiences with smaller publishers, as well.

PK HREZO said...

This book is definitely on my TBR list for after NaNo. It sounds so good. And Susan is such a lovely person, I won a critique from her on Sheri's blog and she had my first chapter crit back within the same day. Super helpful!
I love the research part of writing too. I've been knee-deep in it for my WIP and it really helps put you into the story.
The New Adult category is so important and very under appreciated right now. It's such an important time in a teen's life, but so few agents accept it as a salable ms. I know because my last ms had an 18yo protag having just graduated and it's been hard sparking interest with an 18yo protag as YA.
But anyway, great interview, great review of the book. I'm looking forward to reading it!

Cheers to Leigh and Susan--2 ladies who are rays of light in the blogosphere! :)

Melissa said...

This book sounds really good and this interview was seriously engaging! You two played well off of each other.

Your review of this book was fantastic. I loved the details you gave - enough to have me going I WANT MORE but not enough to be spoilery. Thanks. More people should do reviews like this!

Matthew MacNish said...

Susan rules, and her son, Dark Omen, is my idol.

DEZMOND said...

the author looks lovely in that picture ;)

Unknown said...

I love the concept of this story! My little brother just finished Navy boot camp a month or so ago... He'd probably enjoy it too. Thanks for posting this interview! Great job :)

LTM said...

Hooray for Susan! I was able to email most of you back~
-It's true, PK. Susan's a sunny lady and breaking new ground w/this book. :o) <3
-Thanks, Mel, I literally finished the book in three days and *had* to review it. I really enjoyed it, and it was too cool to know the author and be able to email all my Qs like that. Naturally, I had to share! ;p

Matt's right about Dark Omen--he rulz. And he would *not* approve of this book. WAY too much kissing. LOL! :D

Jessica Bell said...

Thanks Leigh and Susan! Great interview. Glad to hear you had a good experience with a small press. I'm really looking forward to working with mine! :o)

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

@Talli Publishing is a crazy business, and I think sometimes we "forget" about small publishers - but they really can be a fantastic way to get started. I'm so glad Omnific took on LLP, and gave me a chance! :)

@PK Thanks for all your sweet words! And I would love to see more New Adult books out there! Hopefully publishers will start to come around - I think segmenting out the market is one way they're trying to broaden the appeal, and get more people to buy books! :)

@Melissa Leigh is awesome, isn't she? :) Thanks for all the sweet words!

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

@Matt Dark Omen is going to get a swelled head with all this attention. :)

@Desmond *blushes*

@Anne I would love to have your brother read LLP - I've been told by other service personnel that the boot camp parts really took them back (hopefully in a good way!). If you decide you want to get a copy for him, please email me and I will send it directly to him (I would like to sign it and write a note of thanks for his service)!

@Jessica Good luck with your publishing adventure!! :)

Carolyn Abiad said...

Great interview! Sounds like LL&P has a lot of things up my alley - my brother did navy bootcamp, Polish is one of my languages and I prefer older YA love stories!

Vicki Rocho said...

Fabulous review/interview. This one is on my TBR list...I like that the MC's are a little older and have real life issues to deal with.

Will have to put this on my Christmas list, see if hubbers can come through. LOL.

LTM said...

Yay, Susan! It's a great book, and I hope it does very well. All the best to you~ :o) <3

Julie Musil said...

Oh the conflict! I like the premise of her story. I've heard about this book before, and I plan on reading it. Great interview, too. I've never heard of "new adult" so that was interesting!

Unknown said...

Cool interview and review. I have seen the book before but had no idea what the book was about. I'm so glad to know. I'll put it on my wish list.

Old Kitty said...

Awww I love that you wrote this book for your neice, Dr Quinn to show that true epic love exists without vampires!! :-)

Thank you Leigh for hosting and thank you Dr Quinn for the fun interview. I liket this new genre "new adult"!!

Take care

Lydia Kang said...

Oh this sounds like such a good read! Thanks for the review and the interview!

LTM said...

It's truly a fun book! For those I couldn't email back~
@Julie--I think you'll enjoy it. It's very much a romance if you like that. And Dr. L--you bet! I'm looking forward to having the rest of our newly minted authors up here soon! I guess Talli's next~ :o)

RaShelle Workman said...

Hi Leigh - This sounds like a wonderful novel. And, what a great interview. Lovely, lovely. ;D

Mason Canyon said...

Great review and informative interview. I hadn't heard of this book before, but now I'm adding it to my wish list. Thanks.

Thoughts in Progress

Theresa Milstein said...

Thanks for the description and the interview. I've had my eye on this book for sometime. I should just go and get it already!

Happy weekend.

Ella said...

Great interview Leigh and Susan! I did run off with a sailor ;-D! I look forward to adding this to my Wish list~ Thank you!

Have something for you; Come visit me!

Stina said...

I have the book, but haven't had a chance to read it yet. My physical TBR pile is still quite tall. Soon, though. :D

Portia said...

Great interview--and completely uplifting! Thanks for the boost :-)


Jennifer Lane said...

Leigh and Sue, loved the interview! I loved Life, Liberty, and Pursuit too--gave it a 4 star review on goodreads. Eliza and David are so sweet together.