Meet The Author

Meet the Author: Interview with Kenn Bivins

Stopping by Authors & Readers Book Corner today is author Kenn Bivins. He is the author of two novels, including the best seller, Pious. Bivins is an illustrator whose work has appeared in comic books, advertising and broadcast animation. Today he shares his publishing journey, new book and the challenges and rewards he has received as an author.

Q & A with Kenn Bivins

Tell us about your publishing journey.

What began as a NaNoWriMo curiosity with a friend, has matured into a fascination with writing and sharing those creations with a myriad of others. I have delved further into the publishing journey by taking on the task of also being a publisher because I want to expand my storytelling into other mediums while retaining creative control.

What genres do you write in? Is it your main genre? Are you open to writing in other genres?

My default genre of interest is suspense although my second novel falls under the women’s fiction category. I am expanding into the realm of paranormal thrillers, crime and children’s books with future projects.

What do you believe every writer should know when starting a writing career?

Every writer should know that this profession carries with it the burden of isolation during the process and the possibility of rejection once that project is consumed by others.

Do you believe every writer should be an avid reader?

I believe that every writer, who wants to mature in the craft and reach a larger audience, should be an avid and aware consumer of good storytelling. That’s not restricted to books. Yes, reading a lot can teach pacing, grammar, style among other things, but good writing can be gleaned from a great television series, audio book or movie as well.

What has been the most challenging and rewarding thing you’ve encountered as an writer?

My ongoing challenge is to make my readers feel something when they read or view my work. If I accomplish that, therein lies the greatest reward.

Tell us about The Wedding and Disaster of Felona Mabel.

the Wedding & Disaster of Felona Mabel is my second novel. This was my first attempt at publishing so it took me three and a half years longer to produce than it took me to write Pious, my first novel.  As a matter of fact, this novel required a ton of research and eleven drafts to complete due to the sensitive nature of some of the topics that I cover in the book. This became a labor of love and has afforded me the opportunity to really grow as a writer and illustrator.

Tell us about Felona Mabel.

Felona Mabel is a layered woman who is gorgeous and successful by many people’s standards, but deep down she is sad, sarcastic and suffering. An estranged relationship with a mother who never seemed to accept her has affected her deeply. There is an unapologetic honesty about her pain.

What was your motivation behind telling Felona’s story.

‘Intended Consequences,” documentary by Jonathan Torgovnick, inspired and motivated me to tell Felona’s story. This documentary focused on 30 women who’d survived the brutality and loss of the Rwandan massacre and the children who were the products of rape during that time. This triggered something within me when I considered that children are born of atrocities. How do they grow up? How do they feel about themselves? How do their parents view them? I wanted to tell my version of that story.

Tell us about Dianne and her importance to the story.

Dianne is the foundation of hurt in this story while healing is also only accessible through her. We often romanticize the matriarch role so much that we don’t consider that mom may be broken. All that she yields may have evidence of that.

What new projects are you working on?

I’m writing a sequel to the Wedding & Disaster of Felona Mabel that will be released the end of this year, God will. I am also as writing a stand-alone novel that will be a big release next year. It’s been brewing in my head for a long time and I can’t wait to share it. Additionally, I’m illustrating a children’s book that I’ve already written. This will tease the inevitable which is that I return to the medium of comic books in both writing and drawing soon.

How can readers connect with you?

Many of my readers are found on Facebook and Instagram although I’m accessible on most social platforms via the username of @kennbivins. I can also be reached directly via my own website at I love exchanging with my readers individually and in groups. PS – I love attending book clubs 🙂


Book Features, Giveaways

Sneak Peek of Malentendido by Mara White #giveaway




Belén: I’ve loved Luciano ever since I can remember, desired him before I even knew what it meant. He’s always been the only man in my life—my constant protector, and his rejection only intensifies my need.

Luciano: I’ve never known a love more fierce than the one I feel for Belén. But I force myself to deny her no matter how much it hurts.

Our love is a sickness and both of us are infected.

Because there’s no cure for being from the same family.


Excerpt 1

Four garbage bags full of old clothes and books for the Goodwill. I promised Mami I’d clean out my room so she can use it as a real guest room. I leave the boxes under my bed for last; they’re filled with letters and pictures, yearbooks and school notes from when I was a kid.
Every letter from Lucky that I ever received lies under this bed. I’m afraid to even touch them. Irma says it brings bad luck to touch things that belonged to the dead. So all I really end up doing is shuffling the boxes around, dumping some half-filled ones into others to consolidate the mess. I’m emptying one when a letter floats to the floor. Lucky’s handwriting. His words. My heart and all of my skin immediately catch fire.
I stare at it without breathing for what seems like an eternity’s worth of cascading memories scrolling through my mind. I pick up Lucky’s words with a trembling hand and hold the yellowed paper to my heart first before raising it to my eyes.

You got me chewed up and spit out, girl. I can’t do this anymore. I’m twisted and fucked up, thinking about you more than is normal.
So what if I’m lit, who gives a fuck if I’m violent? Ese dolor is filling up inside me, sometimes spilling out and taking prisoners wherever it can find ’em. I’ve fucked people up for less than looking at you the wrong way. I can’t live my life like this. But I can’t stay away.
See, part of me wants to run and hide and take back everything we ever done, but there’s another side that won’t quit—that ain’t afraid of no shade they throw or no one.
Anybody would say that me and you ain’t right, that it’s evil—that we holding hands with the diablo mismo, going against God and what’s natural. I been around long enough to know that what I feel for you is real. People don’t get to feel that way, shit, sometimes never in their lives, so even if it’s wrong, I still want it—whatever it is that we got.
I know I’ll never give this to you. You got enough to deal with—y no quiero meterte en esa vaina. But still, for some reason, I need you to know how I feel about you.
Course we always been tight, you always been a mi lado far back as I can remember. Fuck. Then one day it changed and there was no going back from where my mind had taken me, from where my body was going. My feelings were moving forward no matter how much it cost me. Like the bridge done fell all the way down and there ain’t no going back across that water.
Sometimes I’m so lost, sometimes I get so fucking angry. And there’s nothing in this world that can soothe me ’cept the sound of your voice or the way that you touch me.
It’s like there’s a war taking place and the battleground is my life—there’s two sides to me, and all they ever do is fight.
Bey, I’m not a bad guy, it’s just that nobody gets me. I swear to fucking God. I’d do right by you if someday you’d let me.
No soy malo, sólo malentendido.
But you set that straight, Belén, you douse out the fire.
Ain’t shit in this world that can touch me when I know that you love me.


I don’t remember reading this note and I wonder if I was supposed to, or if it was left here by accident. Maybe Mami found it and put it with my things. Maybe it’s been waiting here this whole time for the exact moment when my eyes would finally be ready to see it.
The bowl of milky, honeyed water fits right next to his photo. I light the white candle and with its flame, burn the note. I want to break the tether and set Luciano’s spirit free. He shouldn’t be chained to my memories, my need to hold onto the pain. God gave me a son and Luke is more than enough; I’m grateful. I’ve got to let go.
Lucky and I ignite one another’s hearts and I’m the only one left to put out the fire.
The flames lick higher and graze my fingertips, sending sharp bites of heat and singing the baby hairs on my wrist. I plunge the flaming letter into the bowl of goat milk and honey.
Go free, Luciano. You don’t belong to me.
My Lucky, born with fire on his heart, gave me the most exhilarating love for the first twenty years of my life. But it’s not fair to him, my husband or my son, for me to keep holding on to this so fiercely, clutching what’s now and forever left me.
Goodbye, Luciano.
My love spells didn’t work.


Excerpt 2

She corners me in the stairwell as I’m escaping to the park. Backpack on her shoulder, hair pulled up in a messy bun, a pencil shoved in, barely holding it all together.
“Lucky, get this, we share anywhere from seven to almost thirteen percent identical DNA. I’m actually surprised because I thought it would be higher than that.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” I say, then look over my shoulder to hide my anxiety and the automatic smile that pops up on my face whenever I hear her voice. “Why’d you think it would be more?”
“I don’t know. ’Cause siblings are fifty percent and – don’t you remember the unit? It was only last year. Double cousins are higher and –”
“Wait, hold up. What the fuck are double cousins? What are you talking about, Belén?”
I’m automatically worried she knows something. Somebody has been talking to her and she just figured it out about her mom and her uncle?
“Double cousins. Like if our moms had married siblings, but they didn’t so we’re not.”
“If they married their siblings? Who the fuck does that?”
“Not their own, like if they’d married brothers. Forget it, Lucky. You obviously don’t remember. Go hang in the park with your friends.”
My heart is thumping because I thought she was onto something. But Bey is just rambling about science class and I’m already expecting the worst that could happen from her knowing how related we are.
“Shit, Bey. You crazy. You know that?”
“I obviously got the genes for brains and you got the looks.”
She smiles at me like she’s making a joke but I don’t laugh or think it’s funny. How come she doesn’t ever see how pretty she is? She has no idea how hard I can get from just staring at her lips.
“What do you mean, Bey? You’re beautiful.”
I can’t believe I said it. Our eyes connect for a second and so much moves between us that words aren’t necessary. A flash in her eye shows fear, but there’s more emotion there than that. I get the urge to grab her, slam her up against the wall and kiss the living fuck out of her. Oh God, Len, what you do to me with a look. Eye contact and I’m gone on fantasies of what I could do to her. She’s delicate and so young and better than my dirty thoughts.
And sometimes I swear she’s the only person who really sees me. I can hide shit from everyone, my own mother included. But Bey’s got this crazy way of looking right through me. She can see the good parts and the bad parts, read my feelings like a fortune teller and recognize my bullshit from a mile away before I even try to cover it up. She can hear the truth in my lies like nobody else.
“Go study, little girl. I got stuff to do.”
My feet start to jog away down the steps with a mind of their own. I can’t stick around or I will pull her into my arms. I only want to kiss her sweet little nose—but it would lead to something bigger, I’m definitely capable of worse. I don’t know what I’d do to her if we were alone and left to our own devices. But I got an idea and it makes me get the hell out of the situation.
“Where are you going, Lucky?” she yells as she leans over the railing. I’m running away from her, I’m always fucking running away from her.
“Out, Bey! Go finish your homework.” I stop and look up at her. My heart’s pounding, I feel dizzy. I don’t need drugs with Bey around, I get a high from just talking to her. She’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. Flushed cheeks, need in her eyes and a body that is never far from my mind.
“We’re thirteen percent the same, that leaves eighty-seven percent that we’re different,” she says and smiles down at me. Her smile is the key to unlock all that’s good in the universe. I grin back like a fool as happiness flows through me from basking in it. I’m love-drunk on Bey and stand and stare like an idiot. If anything ever happened to her, I think I’d die of loneliness. No way I couldn’t handle it. I want to protect her from corruption and at the same time, unleash my worst on her. It’s a fucked-up feeling and it’s got me tripping in circles. If I can’t have her, sure as hell I won’t ever let anyone else touch her.
“You know what, Lucky? You’re weird,” she says and opens her notebook. She tears out a piece of paper and folds it up in front of me.
“You know what, Bey?” I ask. I’m about to say something dumb. Something that will play over and over in my head and I’ll regret the moment it comes out my mouth.
“What?” she says and drops the paper; the folds give it weight and it lands at my feet.
I lean down to pick it up and I hold it in my hand. I can’t tell her how I feel. What if she’s over it? I gave her her first kiss—maybe I was a just a person she could trust, someone to practice on.
But Christ, that kiss in front of the fridge was like no other kiss. I think about it every time I see her, every time I look at her lips. I’ve kissed a whole hell of a lot of chicks and never felt anything like it. A shot of heroin straight to my heart and a bolt of lightning to my dick.
Maybe she’s moved on to other guys? Even the thought makes me want to punch something, or better yet, someone. I’d pound his fucking face in, whoever thinks he can touch Belén and dirty up her innocence. My anger and frustration are always two steps ahead of me.
“What were you going to say, Lucky?”
I shove the note in my back pocket and start walking down the stairs.
“Naw, Bey. I’m not gonna tell you. I don’t want you to get a big head.”
“Like you? Luciano, you are impossible,” she huffs, and I can hear her feet march up the stairs. I chuckle at her attitude, but at the same time my eyes are watering and I wipe them with the back of my hand. I’m such a fucking pussy. I got to get myself under control.
I unfold the note and read it, her doodling in pink pen.
“Lucky is thirteen percent of me and I am thirteen percent of him.”
Thirteen is an unlucky number, I think as I crumple the piece of paper and toss it out an open window in the stairwell.


About the Author

Mara White is a contemporary romance and erotica writer who laces forbidden love stories with hard issues, such as race, gender and inequality. She holds an Ivy League degree but has also worked in more strip clubs than even she can remember. She is not a former Mexican telenovela star contrary to what the tabloids might say, but she is a former ballerina and will always remain one in her heart. She lives in NYC with her husband and two children and yes, when she’s not writing you can find her on the playground.


Book Features

Spotlight Wednesday: The Mentor by Lee Matthew Goldberg

Lee Matthew Goldberg’s novel THE MENTOR is forthcoming from Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press in June 2017 and has been acquired by Macmillan Entertainment. The French edition will be published by Editions Hugo. His debut novel SLOW DOWN is out now. His pilot JOIN US was a finalist in Script Pipeline’s TV Writing Competition. After graduating with an MFA from the New School, his fiction has also appeared in The Montreal Review, The Adirondack Review, Essays & Fictions, The New Plains Review, Verdad Magazine, BlazeVOX, and others. He is the co-curator of The Guerrilla Lit Reading Series. He lives in New York City.


About the Book

Author: Lee Matthew Goldberg
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books / St. Martin’s Press
Pages: 336
Genre: Thriller / Suspense / Mystery

Kyle Broder has achieved his lifelong dream and is an editor at a major publishing house.
When Kyle is contacted by his favorite college professor, William Lansing, Kyle couldn’t be happier. Kyle has his mentor over for dinner to catch up and introduce him to his girlfriend, Jamie, and the three have a great time. When William mentions that he’s been writing a novel, Kyle is overjoyed. He would love to read the opus his mentor has toiled over.

Until the novel turns out to be not only horribly written, but the most depraved story Kyle has read.

After Kyle politely rejects the novel, William becomes obsessed, causing trouble between Kyle and Jamie, threatening Kyle’s career, and even his life. As Kyle delves into more of this psychopath’s work, it begins to resemble a cold case from his college town, when a girl went missing. William’s work is looking increasingly like a true crime confession.

Lee Matthew Goldberg’s The Mentor is a twisty, nail-biting thriller that explores how the love of words can lead to a deadly obsession with the fate of all those connected and hanging in the balance.


From Booklist – A junior editor at a Manhattan publisher reunites with his college mentor with disastrous results in Goldberg’s second thriller (after Slow Down, 2015). Kyle Broder has just acquired a probable best-seller for Burke & Burke publishing when he hears from his former literature professor, William Lansing, who pitches the still-unfinished opus he’s been working on for 10 years. Lansing’s book is not only badly written, it’s also disturbing, featuring a narrator literally eating the heart of the woman he loves. Lansing turns vengeful when his “masterpiece” is rejected, but Broder’s concerns about his mentor are dismissed both at home and at work: Broder’s girlfriend considers Lansing charming, and a rival editor feigns interest in Lansing’s book. Broder revisits his college and delves more deeply into the cold case of a missing ex-girlfriend, and as the plot darkens and spirals downward, it’s unclear who will be left standing. The compelling plot is likely to carry readers with a high enough tolerance for gore to the final twist at the end.


Book Excerpt

FROM FAR AWAY the trees at Bentley College appeared as if on fire, crowns of nuclear leaves dotting the skyline. Professor William Lansing knew it meant that fall had firmly arrived. Once October hit, the Connecticut campus became festooned with brilliant yellows, deep reds, and Sunkist orange nature. People traveled for miles to witness the foliage, rubbernecking up I-95 and flocking to nearby Devil’s Hopyard, a giant park where the students might perform Shakespeare, or enter its forest gates at nighttime to get high and wild. William had taken a meandering hike through its labyrinthine trails that morning before his seminar on Existential Ethics in Literature. It had been over a decade since he’d entered its tree-lined arms, but today, the very day he was reaching the part in his long-gestating novel that took place in Devil’s Hopyard, seemed like a fitting time to return.
His wife Laura hadn’t stirred when he left at dawn. He slipped out of bed and closed the mystery novel propped open on her snoring chest. He often wrote early in the mornings. Before the world awoke, he’d arm himself with a steaming coffee and a buzzing laptop, the wind from off the Connecticut River pinching his cheeks. His chirping backyard would become a den of inspiration, or he’d luxuriate in the silence of Bentley at six a.m. when the only sound might be a student or two trundling down the Green to sleep off a fueled night of debauchery.
He’d been at Bentley for over twenty years, tenured and always next in line to be department chair. He refused even the notion of the position for fear it might eat into time spent writing his opus. His colleagues understood this mad devotion. They too had their sights set on publications, most of them well regarded in journals, only a few of them renowned beyond Bentley’s walls like William dreamed to be. Notoriety had dazzled him since he was a child—a time when his world seemed small and lifeless and dreams of fame were his only escape.
His colleagues often questioned him about this elusive manuscript he’d been toiling on for years, but he found it best to remain tight-lipped, to entice mystery. It was how he ran his classroom as well, letting only a few chosen students get close, keeping the rest at enough of a distance to regard him as tough and impenetrable but fair. Maybe he’d made a few students cry when a paper they stayed up all night to finish received a failing grade, or when his slashes of red pen seemed to consume one of their essays on Sartre’s Nausea, which he found trite and pedestrian; but that only made them want to do better the next time. They understood that he wanted his kingdom to be based on fear, for creativity soared in times of distress.
William’s legs were sore after his hike that morning through Devil’s Hopyard. The terrain was hilly and its jagged trails would challenge even a younger man, but he kept fit, wearing his fifty-five year old frame well. He was an athlete back in school, a runner and a boxer who still kept a punching bag in the basement and ended his day with a brisk run through his town of Killingworth, a blue-collar suburban enclave surrounding Bentley’s college-on-a-hill. He had all his hair, which was more than he could say for most of his peers, even though silver streaks now cut through the brown. He secretly believed this made him more dashing than during his youth. Women twenty years younger still gave him a second glance, and he often found Laura taking his hand at department functions and squeezing it tight, as if to indicate that she fully claimed him and there’d be no chance for even the most innocent of flirtations. He had a closet full of blazers with elbow patches and never wore ties so he could keep his collar open and expose his chest hair, which hadn’t turned white yet. He had a handsome and regal face, well proportioned, and while his eyes drooped some due to a lifetime of battling insomnia, it gave him the well-worn look of being entirely too busy to sleep. People often spoke of him as a soul who never enjoyed being idle, someone who was always moving, expounding, and expanding.
“Hi, Professor Lansing,” said Nathaniel, a tall and gangly freshman, who after three weeks into the semester had yet to look William in the eye. Nathaniel’s legs twisted over one another with each step. William guessed that the boy had recently grown into his pole-like body and his brain now struggled with how to move it properly.
“Nathaniel,” William said, wiping the sweat mustache from his top lip. He could smell his own lemony perspiration from the intense jaunt through Devil’s Hopyard. “How did your paper on The Stranger turn out?”
Nathaniel’s eyes seemed to avoid him even more. They became intent on taking in the colorful foliage, as if it had sprouted overnight.
“Well…” the boy began, still a hair away from puberty, his voice hitting a high octave, “I’m not totally sure what you meant about Meursault meeting his end because he didn’t ‘play the game’.”
William responded with a throaty laugh and a shake of his head. He placed a palm on Nathaniel’s shoulder.
“Society’s game, Nathaniel, the dos and don’ts we all must ascribe to. How, even if we slip on occasion, we’re not supposed to admit what we did for fear of being condemned. Right?”
Nathaniel nodded, his rather large Adam’s apple bobbing up and down in agreement too. He stuffed a bitten-down nail between his chapped lips and chewed away like a rat, leaving William to wonder if the boy was on some new-fangled type of speed. He liked Nathaniel, who barely spoke in class, but once in a while would give a nervous peep filled with promise. The students he paid the most attention to weren’t the heads of the lacrosse team or the stars of the theater productions, those students would have a million other mentors fawning over them. He looked for the hidden jewels, the ones who were waiting for that extra push, who’d been passed over their whole lives but would someday excel past their peers. Then they would thank him wholeheartedly for igniting a spark.
“Is that why Camus didn’t personalize the victim that Meursault killed?” Nathaniel asked, wary at first, as the two entered the doors of Fanning Hall past a swirl of other students. “So we sympathize with him despite his crime?”
William stopped in front of his classroom, its cloudy window offering a haze of students settling into their desks. He stood blocking the door so Nathaniel had no choice but to look in his eyes.
“Did you sympathize with him?”
“Yes…umm, it’s hard to penalize someone for one mistake,” Nathaniel said. “I know he shot the Arab guy, but…I don’t know, sometimes things just happen. I guess that makes me callous.”
“Or human.”
William stared at Nathaniel for an uncomfortable extra few seconds before Kelsey, a pretty sorority girl with canary yellow hair, fluttered past them.
“Hey, Professor,” Kelsey said, without looking Nathaniel’s way. William could feel the boy’s sigh crowding the hallway.
“Come, Nathaniel, we’ll continue this debate in class.”
William led the boy into the room. The students immediately became hushed and rigid as he entered.
Nathaniel slumped into a chair in the back while Kelsey cut off another girl to get a prime seat up front.
William placed his leather satchel on the table, took out a red marker, and scribbled on the board, I didn’t know what a sin was. The handwriting looked like chicken scratch and the students had to squint a bit to decipher it; but eventually the entire class of twenty managed to correctly jot down the quote. They had gotten used to his idiosyncrasies.
“At the end of the novel, Meursault ponders that he didn’t know what a sin was,” William said. “What does that mean?”
A quarter of the class raised their hands, each one eager to be noticed. Kelsey clicked her tongue for attention, as if her desperation wasn’t obvious enough. She looked like she had to pee. In the back, Nathaniel was fully absorbed in a doodle that resembled Piglet from Winnie the Pooh.
“Nathaniel,” William barked, sending the pen flying out of the boy’s hand. Nathaniel weaved his long arms around the desk to pick up the pen and then gave a slack-jawed expression as a response.
“Why does Meursault insist to the chaplain that he didn’t know what a sin was?” William continued.

Nathaniel silently pleaded for William to call on someone else. He let out an “uuuhhhhhhh” that lasted through endless awkward seconds.
Kelsey took it upon herself to chime in.
“Professor, while Meursault understands he’s been found guilty for his crime, he doesn’t truly see that what he did was wrong.”

William turned toward Kelsey to admonish her for speaking without being called on, a nasty habit that happened more and more with this ADD-addled generation than the prior one, but a red-leaf tree outside the window captured his attention instead, its color so unreal, so absorbing. The red so vibrant like its leaves had been painted with blood.

The sound came from far away, as if hidden under the earth, screaming to be acknowledged.
“Professor Lansing?”
Kelsey waved her arm in his direction, grounding him. She gave a pout.

“Like, am I right, or what, Professor? He doesn’t truly see that what he did was wrong.”
William cleared his throat, maintaining control over the room. He smiled at them the same way he would for a photograph.

“Yes, that’s true, Kelsey. Expressing remorse would constitute his actions as wrong. He knows his views make him a stranger to society, and he is content with this judgment. He accepts death and looks forward to it with peace. The crowds will cheer hatefully at his beheading, but they will be cheering. This is what captivates the readers almost seventy years after the book’s publication. What keeps it and Camus eternal, immortal.”
Kelsey beamed at the class, her grin smug as ever.

William went to the board, erased the quote, and replaced it with the word IMMORTAL in big block letters, this time written with the utmost perfect penmanship.



Meet The Author

Meet the Author: Interview with Jamie Beck

Stopping by A&RBC today is author Jamie Beck. She is a former attorney with a passion for inventing realistic and heartwarming stories about love and redemption, including her bestselling St. James and Sterling Canyon series. When she is not writing, Beck enjoys dancing around the kitchen while cooking, and hitting the slopes in Vermont and Utah. Above all, she is a grateful wife and mother to her supportive family and today she stopped by to give us the scoop on her new book, and some advice for aspiring writers.

Q& A with Jamie Beck

As a former attorney with business and real estate experience, why did you transition into a writing career?

I’d watched female lawyers try to work part-time once they had kids. They’d take a pay cut, but they ended up working nearly full-time hours (faxes, emails, etc.). That didn’t seem like a situation I could accept easily. I was lucky to have the option to stop working when my first child was born. Once my kids were in elementary school and I had free time, I finally decided to try my hand at my lifelong dream of writing.

Tell us about your journey to becoming a published author.

Writing love stories had been a long-held dream, but not something that had been encouraged by anyone. When I decided to try to write my first manuscript, I didn’t tell a soul. I’d type while my kids were at school, then put it away until the next day. It wasn’t until I had written about three-quarters of that book that I finally told my husband and mother what I was doing. It took two more manuscripts before I got my agent, and another nine months before I had a publishing contract.

Where does the inspiration for your stories come from?

Lots of places! Song lyrics, photographs, inspirational quotes, and headlines, to name a few. Sometimes even a dream. My stories tend to feature realistic struggles and people, so often just keen observation of the people around me will supply plenty of ideas.

Tell us about your favorite place to write your books?

I have a home office with two things I love. One is a handmade live-edge mahogany desk I had made as a treat to myself when I hit a certain sales milestone. I’d met a furniture maker (Tom Throop of Black Creek Designs) when I interviewed him as part of my research for the character of Hank Mitchell (Worth the Trouble). I loved his work and told him I’d be back as a customer some day. It made me happy to be able to keep that promise.

The other is a wonderful, overstuffed leather recliner that I’ve placed by a large window. It’s a comfortable spot for me to write and edit.

When I need a change of scenery, I might go to my family room (when the house is empty). I can’t work in public spaces because I get too distracted by the people, songs, and other noises.

Do you believe every writer should be a reader?

Eventually, yes. Some people are natural-born storytellers. If they have studied television and/or movies, they probably have a good sense of story structure, tension, and dialogue. However, reading widely teaches you things that are necessary to becoming a strong writer. This is especially true if you want to sell within a certain genre. There’s no substitute for reading within a genre when you want to learn the conventions (via its most popular authors and books).

Tell us two tips you have used in helping your publisher market and promote your books.

I honestly don’t know that anything I’ve tried to do has been very effective, but I try lots of things. Prior to getting my agent, I started a blog and Facebook page. I’ve participated in Facebook release parties, done multi-author giveaways and blog tours. I’ve spoken at libraries and taught workshops. I’ve created a small street team to help me with pre-release buzz. But ultimately, I know that my publisher is doing most of the work, and for that, I’m eternally grateful!

Tell us the story behind the making of Before I Knew.

There has been a lot of talk in recent years about mental illness and stigma, and how that stigma prevents people from receiving proper treatment and support. Because I have some personal experience with this topic, it is very relevant to me. I’ve seen that struggle, and how it affects others who are close to the afflicted. That gave me the seed of an idea, but I did not want to write a story featuring someone with the illness. I worried that I couldn’t do that justice, so I focused on the one left behind, and how the mistakes they made together (largely because of the fear of stigma) lingered long after he was gone.

Tell us about Colby Cabot-Baxter.

Colby is a compassionate, bright woman and child of divorce. She is the peacekeeper in her family, and the middle child (she has an older brother, Hunter, and a younger half-sister, Gentry). She grew up next door to the Morgan family, and was very dear friends with Joe (her age), and friendly with Alec (her older brother’s BFF). Following law school, she impulsively married Mark, a man she hadn’t known long but had fallen hard for. During their first year of marriage he had his first manic episode. Once he was diagnosed, he wanted to keep it a secret because of the stigma. He didn’t want her family or his coworkers looking at him differently or with fear and anxiety. Without adequate support, Colby had a hard time keeping Mark in treatment (meds and therapy).

Her marriage was crumbling at the time when Mark and Joe went hiking, and Mark’s dare cost Joe his life. Mark’s depression over that led to suicide. The story opens two years later, when Colby has left the practice of law to start a new career as the owner of a restaurant on the shores of her hometown, Lake Sandy, Oregon. She hopes that this place, where people will come to celebrate life, will help her finally move on from the grief and remorse she has for her role in her friend’s and husband’s deaths.

Tell us about Alec Morgan.

Alec grew up harboring a crush on Colby. He was always passionate about cooking, which troubled his cop father to no end. His younger brother, Joe, was macho like their dad, and Alec endured relentless mocking from them. He left after high school, studied in New York and France, and returned home to open what would become a renowned, award-winning restaurant in Portland.

However, Alec’s poor relationship with his father and brother led to a misunderstanding he refused to clear up. That happened the eve before Joe took off on the hike that ended his life. His argument with his brother coupled with another secret between him and Mark crippled him with guilt, causing him to lose his restaurant and reputation. He went away to recover and is back. When he’s hired to help Colby with her restaurant, he’s hopeful that, in some way, he can help restore her happiness, which he feels he’s stolen. I can’t say why because I don’t want to spoil some of the story for the reader.

What message do you want readers to take away from Before I Knew?

I suppose there are several themes. One is, of course, that mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of anymore than diabetes and cancer are. People need to be open and accepting, and to offer support not only to those struggling with the affliction, but also to those who are closest to them. Otherwise, everyone suffers. Another theme has to do with mistakes and regrets. We all have them, and some might be truly daunting. But we must learn to forgive ourselves and move on. To know that part of being human is making mistakes, and that we all deserve second chances. And finally, sometimes what seems like the end is actually just a new beginning. I think if you look at things that way, you can embrace change better and find happiness more quickly.

What should readers expect from Jamie Beck in the next five years?

I’m really enjoying writing the Cabot novels, and am planning another series that will be similar in tone (but probably revolve around three friends instead of a family). I like romantic women’s fiction because it allows me to explore all kinds of relationships within a single story (familial, friendship, and love). I also have a straight women’s fiction idea that I’ve outlined. It keeps talking to me, but my current schedule doesn’t allow the time to pursue it. Someday, though…

Tell readers how they can connect with you.

My website has a fun extras page where I post Pinterest boards related to my books, playlists of songs related to each story, videos, and other fun stuff. I have a newsletter, too, and offer giveaways within that realm.

In terms of social media, I’m most active on my Facebook page (, but I’m also on Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram at “writerjamiebeck.” I’m also on Goodreads, where I love to leave reviews of books I’m reading (and my blog feeds to that page, so you can read it there). Finally, I encourage people to follow my Amazon author page because it’s an easy way to get updates on new releases.

Thanks so much for hosting me today!