Hi Ava and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, Shattered!
Please summarize the book for the readers here:
For the first time in her life, Mia Horton isn’t afraid of the future. Equipped with a new major, a new internship, and a new life, she is finally able to put the past behind her—that is, until she meets Flynn McKenna. Flynn’s boyish charm and rugged good looks make her feel things she doesn’t want to feel, and shakes the foundations of her carefully constructed world. With Flynn, Mia craves things she knows she can never have, and wonders if she’ll ever be rid of the silent curse that seems to plague all of the women in her family.
Well on his way to being the youngest mixed martial arts champion in the world, Flynn uses fighting to provide for his impoverished family. Then, one day, an accident forces him to the sidelines. His failure to achieve success devastates his parents and starts a downward spiral of guilt and self-loathing that lands him at Newton Heights Mental Hospital. He has all but given up on life, until a gorgeous young intern makes him see that there is more to him than winning titles, and that love is the most valuable prize of all.
Please share the opening lines of this book:
I stared out the car window at the stately columns of Newton Heights Medical Institution and realized that my entire life had been building to this moment. There had been so many sleepless nights and extra-large lattes. So many exams and term papers. All I had to do was walk through the front door with my head held high and claim the reward for all of my hard work. It was such an easy thing to do, and yet my legs were rooted to the floor of my car.
Please share a few Random facts about this book…
The inspiration for this series came from the movie “Girl, Interrupted.” There were so many new adult romances taking place on college campuses at the time. I wanted a different setting. Something interesting.
Shattered, the second book in the Perfect Little Pieces series, seemed to write itself. I wrote the entire book – all 400 pages – in three weeks. (The first book is Hollow, but you don’t need to read Hollow to enjoy Shattered.)
I gave Flynn red hair because I think that there aren’t enough ginger heroes in romance novels – and ginger men are hot. I used the Dutch model Harm Verwegen for inspiration. (To see his picture, visit my Pinterest board on the series here: http://www.pinterest.com/suzannerock/perfect-little-pieces/)
Please tell us a little about the characters in your book. As you wrote your protagonist was there anything about them that surprised you?
HE HEROINE – MIA
At the beginning of Shattered, Mia comes across as naive and rather self-centered. Despite the fact that she’s a second year medical student, she believes that the best way to deal with the pain and difficulties in life is to bury them. By throwing herself into her work, she doesn’t have to deal with her dysfunctional family, Lucy’s horrible accident (and her part in it), and her PCOS. She compartmentalizes her life, categorizing events and people as either good or bad, worthy or not.
This categorizing and goal setting extends into her internship at Newton Heights Mental Institution. Here she sees the patients more or less as a school assignment, rather than human beings.
Her elitist behavior might initially put some people off, but there is a reason for it. She doesn’t want to get close to anyone, because letting people into her world would make things messy. In her family, Mia is the good, stable child, the one who will make something out of her life. That’s an enormous amount of pressure, don’t you think? If she let someone get close to her, then she’d be forced to admit that she wasn’t perfect. She’d also need to deal with problems she’d rather not confront, and make decisions she has put off for quite a long time.
You can probably guess what happens. If you keep reading past the first chapter or two, you will see that despite her best efforts, Mia becomes close to Flynn, a patient struggling with his own set of problems. Flynn shatters her black-and-white thinking and forces her to reevaluate her feelings about family, forgiveness, and love.
Think back to when you were just starting out in life. Was there a time when you thought everything was black and white? Did you ever try to bury a painful event and push through life because you had to remain strong for someone else? If you have answered yes to these questions, then perhaps you can understand a little bit of what Mia is going through. Her journey toward acceptance and forgiveness is at the heart of this story.
THE HERO – FLYNN
Flynn McKenna first appeared in Hollow, the first book in the Perfect Little Pieces series. Flynn was Jayden’s best friend and confidant. While Nesto was volatile, Flynn was sure and steady, providing Jayden with the emotional support he needed to come to grips with his past. Now it is Flynn’s turn, and we learn that he isn’t as stable as he appears in the first book.
Flynn is special because there is a little of him in all of us. When things get tough, a lot of people bury their emotions and try to carry on. In fact, this has become so popular that there are tons of signs and memes about how people can “carry on.” Sometimes these methods are successful. Other times, like in the case with Flynn, they are not.
That’s not to say that Flynn didn’t bury his pain successfully in the beginning. He found other outlets for his frustration and anger, like boxing and protecting his siblings from the neighborhood bullies. He was so successful in fact, that for a long time, no one knew he had a problem, including him. By burying his burden and refusing to deal with the root cause of his pain, Flynn allowed his troubles to fester and grow. Soon boxing was not enough to help him overcome his anger and feelings of betrayal. When an unfortunate incident ended his boxing career, his safety net was pulled away from him, and his troubles escalated. His behavior became out of control because he wasn’t used to facing his fears, only burying them.
In SHATTERED, Flynn meets a cute hospital intern who challenges him to face his fears and why he is so over-protective. He learns that sometimes we can’t handle everything on our own—and that’s okay. No one is strong 100% of the time. We need that safe place where we can face our fears and start to heal. Mia becomes Flynn’s “safe place” and shows him that it’s always easier to shoulder a burden when you share it with someone who cares.
What, in your mind, distinguishes this book from other books out there in the same genre?
As I mentioned before, this entire series takes place in a mental institution. While the romance is central to the story, each of the main characters are struggling with a lot of baggage and issues. Shattered is as much about emotional and mental healing as it is about finding love.
The First kiss…
In general, the first kiss in a romance novel is special. For many pages, the two main characters have been building tension between them. There has been flirting, perhaps a casual touch. There has been an increased awareness and the building of anticipation. The kiss is the release of some of that tension, and can often take characters to the next level of intimacy in the relationship.
In Shattered, there is an added element of the forbidden. Romantic relationships between staff and patients at the mental hospital is not allowed under any circumstances. The blossoming affection between Mia and Flynn has been kept hidden. While the stolen kiss is brief, it intensifies the feelings between them. They can no longer ignore the fact that they want to be together and will need to rationalize their feelings with the strict rules of the institution.
Did any scene have you crying or laughing (or blushing) while writing it?
The scene between Flynn and Mia in the library portion of the common room was the most fun to write. Not only does the reader get to see them flirting, but Flynn’s true intelligence comes through. He’s a perceptive guy, and after their conversation Mia makes a lot of connections between herself and Flynn, which in turn changes how she views the patients at Newton Heights and in the world around her.
“What are you reading?” I finally asked.
Flynn looked up and raised his brows at me. “I thought we weren’t supposed to be speaking to each other.”
I shrugged. “This is different, Mia.”
He put down his book. “How is it different?”
I want to know what happened to you and why you ended up here. I waved my hand around the room. “There are people here.”
“There were people in the hall outside your office this morning.”
“Yes, but . . .” But this time I was talking to him under Dr. Polanski’s orders. This time it was okay. “This is different.”
He returned his attention to his book. “I’m not interested on being friends on your terms, Mia.”
“On my terms?”
He glanced up. “When it’s convenient.” He returned his gaze to his book. “You either want to be my friend or you don’t. There’s no in between.”
The problem was that I didn’t want to be his friend. I wanted to get inside his head and understand the man who had everything going for him and threw it all away. I wanted to know the man who could be so chivalrous and caring one minute, then so violent the next. Perhaps he sensed these feelings and that was why he was trying to pull away from me. I sighed and put my notebook on a side table. “I’m sorry I was so hard this morning.”
“That’s a start.”
I leaned forward and put my finger in the spine of the book. Slowly I lowered it and waited until he met my gaze. “Truce?” “
Maybe.” He twisted his lips into a half smile, creating that gorgeous dimple.
If your book was optioned for a movie, what scene would you use for the audition of the main characters?
I would use the first group therapy session in the book as the scene for the audition. There is a lot of action going on in this scene. The personality of Mia, the heroine, really comes to life, and the sexual tension between Mia and Flynn comes to the forefront of the story.
“I wouldn’t have been late,” Flynn said as he pushed off the wall and took the empty seat next to me. “But one of the orderlies had asked me to help him.”
“One of the orderlies?” Dr. Polanski asked. “Is everything all right?”
“Of course. He needed help moving something.” Flynn seemed much too big for the folding chair, and was forced to recline and stretch his feet out into the circle. He smelled like soap and radiated testosterone. Up close, I could better see the auburn stubble along his angular jaw and chin, and the strands of auburn hair peeking out from under his bandanna. Everything about him was hard and unyielding. As I tried hard not to stare, I became hyperaware of how small I was next to him. He was intimidating, but there was also something shifting in that blue gaze. Outwardly, Flynn appeared confident and in control, but it seemed as if he was hiding something. I wanted to know what it was.
He glanced over at me and I closed my notebook, not wanting him to see what I had been writing.
“The orderlies know better than to keep patients from therapy sessions. Do you know the name of the one who asked for help?” Dr. Polanski asked.
“New guy. I didn’t look at his badge.” Flynn crossed his arms. It annoyed me at how relaxed he seemed under Dr. Polanski’s scrutiny. It made me wonder if this guy took anything seriously.
“If you don’t tell me his name, I’ll have to mark you as late,” Dr. Polanski said. “That’s the third time this week.”
Flynn didn’t seem to care about his tardiness. Instead he leaned in close and whispered in my ear. “Nice badge.”
I cleared my throat and toyed with the identification on my chest. Flynn smiled to himself and inched away from my ear.
“Flynn, that’s quite enough,” Dr. Polanski said…
What do you hope readers will take away from reading this book?
The message of Shattered is the same as the entire series: never give up. There is so much sadness in the world, and many feel their lives are stuck in a rut. No matter how bad things get, or how bleak the future looks, there is always hope. You are never too old to take control of your life and make changes for the better.
What are you currently working on? What other releases so you have planned for 2015?
I just submitted a book proposal to my editor for the third book in this series. Called Damaged, this story will focus on another Newton Heights Mental Institution patient, Nesto. I am also planning a novella series this spring called “Little Black Playbook.” It is centered on a college football team.
I also write erotic romances under the pen name Suzanne Rock. I have a brand new erotic serial coming out in February that is an erotic, modern-day Downton Abbey. To read more about this series, please visit here: http://amzn.to/1AgvAfL
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: 2 ebooks of SHATTERED by Ava Conway
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“Can I ask you a question?” Flynn asked as we approached the reception desk.
“Sure.” I stopped and turned to face him. Big mistake. While not classically handsome, there was something about his rugged features that was alluring. He was a fighter, if his crooked nose was any indication. His face was thin, his muscles lean. There wasn’t an ounce of fat on him, I realized.
While all of this was intriguing, it was his eyes that most attracted me. They were constantly changing, from the clear sky-blue when he first walked into my office, to the stormy gray they were now.
“Why are you here?” he asked.
“For an internship, like Dr. Polanski said. I’m working toward my doctorate in clinical psychology.”
“Yeah, that’s not what I mean.” He scratched his head, shaking loose some auburn strands from his bandanna. My fingers itched to tug that ridiculous piece of fabric away and let his locks tumble into place. I bet the man would be stunning if he just cleaned up a little bit.
“What do you mean?” I asked as I tore my gaze away from his hair and back down to his face.
“I mean, why mental patients?”
I chuckled and shook my head. “You know, you’re the second person who asked me that.”
“Dr. Polanski wanted to know why I wanted this internship, too.”
“So,” he asked. “Why us?”
I considered him for a moment before responding. “Why not you?”
He grinned, which softened his hard features. “I’m serious.”
“I am, too.” I shifted my briefcase from one hand to the other and adjusted the heavy tote on my shoulder. “Why do you think I wouldn’t want to be here?”
He shrugged and shoved his hands in his pockets. “We’re all lost causes.” He averted his gaze, but not before I saw the hurt in his eyes. I wondered who had called him a lost cause, and why. Part of me wanted to find that person and shake some sense into him.
“You’re not a lost cause.” I touched his arm, drawing his gaze back to me.
He glanced down to where I touched him and eased back. “No, I’m the biggest lost cause of them all.”
“Why do you say that?”
He looked up and met my eyes. “Look at you.” He waved his hand in front of me.
“I can’t—there’s no mirror.”
He snorted, then his features turned serious. He brushed back a stray hair that had fallen from my bun. “You have the perfect hair.” He slid his finger over my temple and cheek. “The perfect pink cheeks.”
I started to protest, but then he focused on my lips and the hunger I saw there caused heat to burn in my lower abdomen.
Slowly, he slid his finger over my lips. “The perfect mouth,” he murmured.
My breath hitched. Was he going to kiss me? He looked like he wanted to, and heaven help me, I wanted that, too, but I could never become involved with a patient. Not here. Not anywhere, really. There were rules and boundaries. I was here to fix his life, not make mine more complicated.
He must have seen the panic in my eyes because he cleared his throat and backed away. It was a good thing he did. Despite my convictions, it had been a hell of a long time since I had been with anyone romantically. I wasn’t entirely sure I would have had the strength to stop him.
He stuffed his hands back into his pockets and glanced down at my clothes. “You have the perfect outfit—well, except the coffee stains. You might want to try to get those out.” I grimaced. “You belong out there, with the other perfect people.” He waved his hand at the elevators. “Not with the misfits and losers like us.”
“And which are you, Flynn?” I stepped closer. “Are you a misfit, or a loser?”
“Both.” He took a step away. “You should go home, Mia. Go back to your ivory tower and your perfect life. You don’t belong here.”
“You don’t belong here, either.”
He let out a short, quick exhale. “You’re wrong. I belong here more than anyone.”
“You wouldn’t understand.” He shoved his hands deeper into his pockets and shuffled his feet.
“Make me understand, Flynn.” I took a step closer as I thought of the long list of mood-altering medications I had seen in his file. Mood swings, seizures. I wanted to know how he got to this point in his life. What happened to him to make him realize that he needed help and couldn’t continue to do things by himself? “I want to help you.”
“You just can’t.” He took another couple of steps away from me, but not before I noticed the light dusting of freckles on his skin, faded from the lack of sunlight. It made him more boyish and vulnerable in my eyes, which only strengthened my decision to help.
“Why not?” I closed the distance until only a sliver of air was between us.
Pain flashed through his features. “You are so damn innocent, Mia.” He cupped my face with his large palm and touched his forehead to mine. “You have no idea what you’re getting yourself into.”
In this thrilling and sexy new novel following Hollow, a psychiatric intern starts to question her values and training when she falls in forbidden love with one of her patients.
For the first time in her life, Mia Horton isn’t afraid of the future. Equipped with a new major, a new internship, and a new life, she is finally able to put the past behind her—that is, until she meets Flynn McKenna. Flynn’s boyish charm and rugged good looks make her feel things she doesn’t want to feel, shaking the foundations of her carefully constructed world. With Flynn, Mia craves things she knows she can never have and wonders if she’ll ever be rid of the silent curse that seems to plague all of the women in her family.
Well on his way to being the youngest mixed martial arts champion in the world, Flynn uses fighting to provide for his impoverished family. Then one day an accident forces him to the sidelines. His failure to achieve success devastates his parents and starts a downward spiral of guilt and self-loathing that lands him at Newton Heights Mental Hospital. He has given up on all hope, when a gorgeous young intern helps him see that there’s more to life than winning, and that love is the most valuable prize of all.
Meet the Author:
At fourteen, Ava snuck her first romance novel into bed and read it by flashlight. There she met her first “book boyfriend” and has been hooked on reading ever since. She often prefers book-boyfriends to the real thing, and believes that a gooey, fudge brownie is a little piece of heaven on earth. When she’s not writing, she’s stumbling through her Zumba class (have to work off those brownies somehow), obsessing over the latest PINK song, or feeding her addiction for reality television.
To learn more about her and her releases, please visit http://www.AvaConway.com
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Simon and Schuster author page: http://authors.simonandschuster.com/Ava-Conway/448326145
Note: Ava also writes erotic romances for her over-eighteen fans as Suzanne Rock. See her kinkier side by checking out her website http://www.SuzanneRock.com