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!
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