Today it is my pleasure to welcome romance author Sheila Roberts to HJ!
Hi Sheila, welcome 🙂
Hi Sara! Thanks so much for having me.
What would you say is your motto or maxim as a writer?
If you were stranded on a deserted island…
I’d want to be stranded with Tom Hanks and Wilson the volleyball from the movie Castaway.
Let’s talk about your newest release: The Cottage on Juniper Ridge
If you had to summarize the book for the readers here…
I would say it has a theme of simplifying your life. And between stuff overload, overcrowded schedules and complicated love lives the friends in my book have a lot to work on!
Please tell us about the characters in your book
Well, we have Jen Heath, who tends to be a little impulsive. But she’s also open to change, and when she reads a book on how to simplify her life, she jumps right in, leaving her stressed life in Seattle and moving to Icicle Falls. Her sister Toni, who’s family is on techno-overload, gets inspired to make some changes, too. Then there’s Stacy Thomas who has too much stuff and Chita Arness, who is way too overextended. All these women are going to be brought together by one book and one big idea: its’ time for some important life changes!
As you wrote your protagonist was there anything about them that surprised you?
As I wrote about Stacy I realized there’s a lot of her in me. I have way too much stuff!
What scene did you most enjoy writing? Why?
And, speaking of Stacy, here’s one of her scenes (Oh, could I identify with that! I’ve gotten rid of things that were my husband’s before and he wasn’t very happy about it!)
Who would you cast in the role of your characters if your book were optioned for a movie?
I’d cast Chris Evans as my hunky fire fighter. For the women, I think I’d head my cast with Anne Hathaway and make Amy Adams her sister. As for Stacy Thomas, the woman with too much stuff. She has some pretty comic scenes and I could sure see Jenifer Aniston playing her. Hey, Jen, it could be the role of a lifetime!
If you could have given your characters one piece of advice before the opening pages of the book, what would it be and why?
Don’t give up. It will all work out!
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned for 2014?
I’m just about to start a brand new project. Still fleshing it out so I can’t say much about it except that I think it will be a fun read. 2014 I have lots of fun reads looming on the horizon: THE TEASHOP ON LAVENDER LANE will be available this summer. And then, for the holidays my novel THE LODGE ON HOLLY ROAD will be available. (Want to know what happens when Santa loses his Christmas spirit? You’ll have to read the book to find out!) Also, I’m honored to be in an anthology with my friend Debbie Macomber entitled STORIES WE TELL AT CHRISTMAS. Needless to say, you’ll be seeing a lot of me!
Where can readers get in touch with you?
You can find readers group questions, book excerpts and all kinds of stuff on my website (http://www.sheilasplace.com), and we have a lot of fun on the Facebook Like page. Look for me under Author Sheila Roberts
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
GIVEAWAY: a copy of THE COTTAGE ON JUNIPER RIDGE AND A NICE SUPPLY OF CHOCOLATE TO ENJOY WHILE READING IT!
To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and post a comment to this Q: This book is all simplifying your life. How would you uncomplicate your life?
Sometimes we get so used to the status quo that we forget we can change it.
Muriel Sterling, author of Simplicity
Jen Heath hurried along the downtown Seattle sidewalk, hunching her coat against a freezing rain, her holiday to-do list dogging her every step, breathing down her neck. Trees along the street twinkled with white lights and store windows boasted displays of Santas, presents, and happy elves. A steel drum band had set up in the Westlake Mall and was playing Jingle Bells. Bah, humbug, she thought grumpily as she strode past them.
Anyone peering inside her head would think she hated the holidays. She didn’t. She loved them. She just didn’t love being so darned busy.
How had she gotten stuck in charge of planning the office Christmas party? Oh, yeah, Patty Unger, her supervisor, had volunteered her. Thanks, Patty. Not that Jen minded planning a party. But having to plan one this year wasn’t fun. It was just one more thing to add to a very long to-do list.
In addition to her full time job, she sold Soft Glow Candles on the party plan – all so she could whittle down what she owed on her credit cards, keep up her car payments, and make the mortgage on her First Hill condo that she could barely afford. The car she’d needed, but the condo? What had she been thinking when she bought it? Oh, yeah. She hadn’t been thinking. She’d taken one look at the granite countertops, the hardwood floors, and the view of the Seattle skyline out the window and condo lust had come over her like a fever. By the time the fever broke she was a homeowner. (Thanks to the bank and her parents.) And her charge cards were maxed out. (Because, of course, she had to furnish the new condo.) Now she was a stressed homeowner.
Who was never home. She had three candle parties booked this week and two more on the weekend. The following weekend she had another candle party on Saturday, and then on Sunday a cookie exchange at her sister’s followed by the church choir concert. Oh, she would be home later that evening, right along with the eighteen other people she’d invited to her place for the post-concert party. (This was the symptom of yet another fever – – new owner pride. She’d been dying to show off the condo, and hosting a party had seemed like the perfect way.) The day before she’d gone to see the gingerbread house display at the Sheraton Hotel with her mother, her sister, and her niece Jordan. She’d been pooped, but when she tried to wiggle out of going Toni had reminded her that this was a tradition and, anyway, she needed to spend time with her family. Guilt, it was the gift that kept giving. After that she’d visited her grandma, who was complaining that she’d almost forgotten what her granddaughter looked like. It seemed everyone in her family was giving guilt for Christmas this year.
Tonight she absolutely had to do laundry. But what she really wanted was to flop on the couch and watch It’s a Wonderful Life. None of her friends understood what she saw in that old movie but she’d been watching it with her family every year at Christmas since she was a kid. Well, except for the last couple of years. Between having her marriage fall apart and getting a divorce she’d been too busy for a wonderful life.
Those days were over now. No more fights about money. No more fights about how she mismanaged her time or how impetuous and irresponsible she was. No more fights about, well, you name it.
When they’d first married Serge had loved her spontaneity, her joie de vivre. After a year he developed a vision problem and saw only her flaws. They fought about everything from money to the amount of time she spent with her friends. “I don’t know what we’re doing together,” Serge had finally stormed one night, throwing up his hands.
Neither did she. So Serge had moved out and moved on. She’d run into him at The Last Supper Club six months after the divorce was final when she was trying to enjoy a night out with the girls. He’d been with a skinny tattoo queen with maroon hair and ear gauges. And he’d complained about how impulsive Jen was?
She’d wanted to hit him and his new woman, too. Instead, she’d buried herself in the crowd and danced until both her feet and her heart were numb. Good riddance, she’d told herself, but later that night she’d cried herself to sleep.
Now it had been a year since the big D and she was so over him and so moving on.
Now she was in charge of her own destiny, her own life, and that was fine with her.
Except so far this new life wasn’t exactly playing out as she’d envisioned it would. When a girl barely had time to wash her bra she was in trouble. When was she supposed to squeeze in things like dating? And if she didn’t even have time to date, well, what was that going to do to her sex life?
She scowled. Many of her friends were now having babies and she’d love to have one of her own. She sure didn’t see a bassinette on her horizon though. At thirty-two were her eggs giving up all hope of ever meeting a sperm?
Well, girls, I don’t know what to tell you. You’re just going to have to hang in there because right now I don’t have time to find a new man. Now, there was a depressing thought.
Jen caught her bus on Marion Street. It was crowded as usual with tired workers, students, street people, and shoppers laden with bags crammed with merchandise. Standing room only. That made her grumpier.
Oh, heck, everything made her grumpy these days. Maybe it was living in the city, crammed in with so many people. What would it be like to have a cute little house in a small town or a cottage in a mountain meadow? What would it be like to hark back to a simpler time, a simpler lifestyle?
She thought of the book her sister had given her for her birthday the month before – – Simplicity. She’d been trying to read a little of it every night before she went to bed, but she couldn’t seem to get past page one. She’d wake up halfway through the night with the book on her face.
She had managed to get through the blurb on the back of the book though, and it sounded impressive. The author insisted that anyone, no matter how busy, could simplify her life. It was a matter of prioritizing and letting your days slow down and fall into a natural rhythm in sync with nature.
What would her life be like if she lived it at slower pace? What if she took time to sit by her condo window and watch the snow fall (not that much snow ever fell in Seattle), instead of running around like a gerbil on a wheel, dashing from event to event, working at a fever pace so she could live the good life? When it came right down to it, was her life that good? She was so busy racing through it she had no time to savor any of it. It would be nice to learn how to bake bread, to grow a garden, knit. Date! Heck, it would be nice to have time to breathe.
The bus lurched to a stop and a forty-something woman got on, balancing a huge armful of purchases, shopping bags dangling from her fingers. She squeezed in between Jen and an older man in an overcoat that smelled of damp wool. The newcomer smelled like perfume overload and Jen sneezed.
“Bless you,” said an older woman who was occupying a seat in back of where Jen stood.
“Thank you,” Jen murmured.
The newcomer grabbed for a hand rail and bumped Jen with one of her bags. That plus the sudden forward motion of the bus nearly sent her toppling into the lap of the older woman. “Sorry,” she muttered.
Meanwhile, Suzy Shopper was still wrestling with her bags. One got away and landed on Jen’s foot, nearly crushing her toes and making her yelp. What the heck did she have in there, weights?
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” said the woman, picking it up and managing to whack Jen with another bag in the process. “My daughter’s Christmas present.”
Jen’s eyes were watering. Was her foot broken? She caught her breath and managed a polite smile. “Looks like you got a lot done.” Which was more than she could say. She hadn’t started her shopping yet.
“This is the last of it,” the woman said. “I found these dumbbells on sale at Penney’s.”
“Dumbbells.” Jen nodded. “You had weights in that bag.”
The woman blushed.
“Umm-hmm.” May the next toes you drop them on be yours.
The bus driver called Jen’s street and she hobbled toward the back exit, trying to make her way through the crowd. “S’cuse me, s’cuse me. Sorry.”
One passenger was too engrossed in what was on her e-reader to even know she was on a bus. She stood in the path of the exit like a boulder in a red coat. An inconsiderate boulder.
“Excuse me,” Jen said, trying to slip past. The boulder didn’t budge.
The bus doors heaved open.
Jen tried again. “Excuse me,” she said a little louder. Still nothing. She said it a third time and gave the boulder a nudge. It was just a nudge, really.
The red boulder lost her balance and grabbed for the nearest bit of stability – – a tall, skinny woman in sweats and a Santa hat bearing a pink bakery box. The tall, skinny woman lost her hold on the box and down it went, spilling cupcakes with green frosting everywhere. She gave a gasp and the woman next to her who now had green frosting skidding down the arm of her coat let out a groan.
A nearby man wearing a dirty pea coat and a scruffy beard picked up a cupcake that had landed on the floor frosting side first and began to eat it.
All three women glared at Jen. The skinny one with the Santa hat bent to pick up her ruined goods. “You should watch what you’re doing.”
“Sorry,” Jen said. Willing the bus doors not to close, she fumbled in her purse and pulled out her wallet. “Let me pay you for those.” The minute she opened her wallet and found nothing there she remembered that she’d impulsively put her last three dollars in a Salvation Army bucket the day before. “I guess I don’t have any cash on me.”
The skinny woman scowled at her.
“If you’re gonna get off the bus, get off,” the bus driver called. “We have other stops to make.”
“I’m really sorry,” Jen said again. “Um, merry Christmas,” she added as she hobbled down the steps onto the curb.
Neither woman wished her a merry Christmas in return. In fact, the skinny one wished her something about as far from it as a girl could get. The doors shut and the bus lumbered off, shooting up a rooster tail of icy water and splashing her.