Married in the Nick of Nine by Alretha Thomas – Review, Interview & Giveaway
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Cassandra Whitmore is facing yet another Valentine’s Day alone. Her love life is as dry as the Sharpie pen she uses to mark an even more dreadful day on her calendar—her upcoming 30th birthday. Driven by the maddening ticking of her biological clock, Cassandra is determined to meet, fall in love with, and marry “The One” within nine months. When Cassandra accompanies her cousin to a night club, her Type-A quest to meet a man is quickly rewarded by a stranger’s velvety, baritone voice asking if he might occupy the seat next to her. He’s Nicolas Harte, whose good looks leave Cassandra speechless, but not for long. After mustering enough courage to strike up a conversation, she learns Nicolas is everything she wants in a man—smart, successful, and available. There’s only one catch: He’s “GU” (geographically undesirable). Nonetheless, Cassandra falls in love with Nicolas and makes the uncharacteristic decision to move from Los Angeles to New York to be with him. But Cassandra gets a rude awakening when she discovers there’s something rotten in the Big Apple.
Cassandra Whitmore is a successful woman with everything she could want, except for a husband. She has a great job, which she enjoys, and a loving family. She’s a member of a dating service and the book begins with her meeting one of her matches for dinner. He’s an attorney, successful in his own right, but to call him a mama’s boy is a huge understatement. When the date ends, not quickly enough, she ends up meeting her cousin at the club, even though that’s not really her scene. But, she is certainly glad she did. When she meets Nick, she is immediately smitten with him, and he with her. However, when she finds out that he’s from New York, her hopes dwindle. Nick is determined though to see her again, even though he’s only going to be in town a couple more days.
Things heat up pretty fast between the two, and after he leaves town, they embark on a long distance relationship. He tries to find a job in Los Angeles, but when things don’t pan out, they decide that she’ll move to New York. But, once she gets there, she can’t figure out why his family is less than welcoming. And what of the hang up phone calls and a mysterious car that always seems to be around wherever she goes? Let’s just say that things aren’t quite as they seem.
Married in the Nick of Nine is a nicely written story about two people who fall in love, only to realize that love doesn’t quite conquer all. All relationships require honesty on both sides, and when Cass finds out what Nick has been hiding (and boy, is it a doozy!!), things really get rolling. Cass is a wonderful character whose strength is truly tested and her faith plays a big part as she tries to navigate what’s happened. And when you find out what Nick has been hiding, you will want to kick his butt, but not for long. He has a big heart and truly does want to share it with Cass, but there’s a lot of work to do. Married in the Nick of Nine is ultimately a story of faith in one’s self and redemption that will have you in tears toward the end. And, it will leave you with a smile in your heart.
Reviewed by Vickie
Copy provided by Author
The Reading Café welcomes Alretha Thomas. Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions today. We are always looking forward to reading about the author behind the book. Please tell us about yourself
Alretha: I’d like to first thank you for giving me the opportunity to be featured in an interview on The Reading Café. It’s great to be here and many thanks to the readers! I was born in Oakland, California but raised in San Francisco until my mother passed away when I was fourteen. She was only thirty-six. After her death, my siblings and I moved to Compton, California to live with my maternal grandparents. It was a very difficult time in my life. However, due to my faith in God, I was able to overcome my obstacles. I went on to graduate second in my high school, and I received a scholarship to attend U.S.C. where I majored in journalism. Upon graduating I decided I wanted to write stories rather than report them and as a result I began writing plays for my church. They were so well received; my plays were produced outside the church. In 1999 I wrote my first novel and the rest as they say is history.
TRC: When and how did you first become interested in writing?
Alretha: My fifth grade teacher assigned a short story assignment. I was really excited about the project and ironically I had written a love story about a bag boy at a supermarket and a young girl who was a customer. The next day my teacher congratulated us for all our hard work and then she went onto say there was one story that stood out. That story was mine. I almost fell out of my chair. While she read my work I took in the faces of my classmates. They were hanging onto her every word and at that moment I knew storytelling was want I wanted to do for a living.
TRC: Married in the Nick of Nine is your new release. Can you please give us a brief description of this book? Also, is this a standalone or the start of a series?
Alretha: Married in the Nick of Nine is about Cassandra Whitmore, an upwardly mobile young woman who wants to meet, fall in love with, and marry “The One” within nine months. She meets Nick Harte and he’s more than she could hope for, but there’s one caveat—he lives in New York and she lives in Los Angeles. After a great deal of contemplation and handwringing, Cassandra decides to relocate. But to her chagrin she soon learns there may be something rotten in The Big Apple. Married in the Nick of Nine borders on romantic suspense because there are a lot of unexpected twists and turns and jaw-dropping moments. Married in the Nick of Nine is the first book in a four-book series, but it can be categorized as standalone. The subsequent books can also stand alone, but each subsequent book gives an overview of its predecessor, so it’s best to read the books in order.
TRC: You are also a playwright, how hard was it to change from writing plays in comparison to writing a novel?
Alretha: Writing a novel is more challenging because it’s longer and more in-depth. For the record, I love the challenge. Writing a novel for me is definitely a labor of love. When crafting a novel, you’re creating an entire world. God did it in seven days, but I’m a mere mortal! LOL! I can complete the first draft of a play in a few weeks, but it can take up to three months to complete the first draft of a novel. The average full length play is approximately 20k words, whereas the average full length novel can run as long as 80k words.
Okay, I must include this disclaimer regarding the first book in the Cass & Nick series, Married in the Nick of Nine. I completed the first draft of this full length novel in four days! I had gotten laid off my corporate job in 2011 and that same week I was somehow compelled to query the novel. One caveat—it wasn’t complete—a definite no-no in the literary world. Never query an incomplete manuscript. I only had thirty-two pages. I queried one agent and, of course, the agent asked for the entire manuscript. This had never happened before. Usually I had to query over 300 agents to get a few responses. Crazy! So I got busy. I stayed up for four days and four nights writing. I was like Bradley Cooper in the movie Limitless, but instead of the fictional drug NZT, I was riding on faith and prayer. I submitted the novel, but needless to say the agent passed! I got great feedback, but no cigar. I eventually got the novel in tiptop shape and it’s since been published.
TRC: What are the challenges or difficulties that you found in your writing career?
Alretha: The most difficult time was when I first made my foray into the publishing world in 1999. I had just written my debut novel, Daughter Denied, about a precocious seven-year-old girl who grows up to be successful in spite of being raised in a dysfunctional home. It was loosely based on my childhood. I had a very difficult time trying to find literary representation or a publisher. I was told the market was too competitive for a first-time author and then there were people who just weren’t interested. That year I received over a hundred rejection letters. I have since grown a tough skin, but it was painful to open letter after letter of ‘thank yous but no thank yous.’ I ended up self-publishing that book in 2008, inspired by Barack Obama’s decision to run for president. In 2011 I wrote Dancing Her Dreams Away, hoping it would be easier, but once again, doors were slammed in my face. It wasn’t until 2012 that things started to look up. That’s when I received an email from my present agent, Stacey Donaghy, wherein she told me she had read Married in the Nick of Nine in one sitting and it had brought her to tears. A year later she brokered my four-book deal with Soul Mate Publishing. It has been a long journey filled with tears, ups, downs, and heartache. But just like a mother who screams and writhes in pain during child birth, now that I’ve gone through the most difficult time, I relish and celebrate where I am today and the fruits of my labor.
TRC: You write women’s fiction and contemporary romance. Do you have a preference as to which genre you enjoy writing the most? Have you ever thought about writing another genre?
Alretha: I love writing women’s fiction and contemporary romance because I’m the poster child for women’s issues. As a child I was abused and battered. In college, I suffered from anorexia and bulimia. In my early twenties I struggled with alcohol and drug abuse. I have experienced the pain of unrequited love, more times than I care to admit. I’ve battled infertility. I’ve dealt with disillusionment and unrealized dreams. I’ve had so much drama in my life; I’ll never run out of material. Lol! I don’t regret my life experiences, because they allow me to write with depth and feeling. Moreover, knowing that I survived my past with God’s grace, and that I’m a survivor, not a victim, enables me to give other women hope. I’ve never thought about writing another genre because I have so many stories to tell within my genre of choice.
TRC: What are you currently working on?
Alretha: I am currently in the throes of promoting Married in the Nick of Nine and my third indie novel Four Ladies Only. I have three other novels in the Cass & Nick series that are complete and being edited, so I’ve put writing on the back burner for now. Once the third book in the series hits, I’ll probably begin writing the sequel to my indie novel, Four Ladies Only.” In the interim, I blog to keep my writing skills fresh.
TRC: What is your writing process? Do you have a favorite place or time you like to write?
Alretha: Once I get a story idea, I come up with the title. It seems as if I have to have a title to start my process. Once that’s in place, I do a skeleton outline of the story and what the protagonist is after. Then I do extensive character development. After that, I create a detailed outline that includes plot points and twists. I always know my ending. Then I begin writing. I stop and edit along the way. By the time I have the first completed draft; it’s in pretty good shape. Then I continue reading and editing. I put the manuscript away for three to five days and come back to it with fresh eyes. When I finally have a decent draft I let my beta readers spend some time with the manuscript. I meet with them, listen to them, and make changes if I deem their suggestions are right for the story. It usually takes me an average of six months to complete an eighty-thousand-word novel. I can write anytime and anywhere, but usually you can find me at the desktop computer in our den. My husband calls it my second home!
TRC: Is there a book or author that gave you the inspiration to write?
Alretha: Growing up, I loved to read. It was not only fun, but it allowed me to escape my dysfunctional childhood. While other kids in the projects were running after the ice cream truck, I was running after the Bookmobile! Growing up, Alice Walker, Tony Morrison, Lorraine Hansberry, Maya Angelou, and Zora Neal Hurston, wowed me, but it wasn’t until later in life that I began to develop my own voice, and I have to say the work of Terry McMillan and the late Bebe Moore Campbell influenced me greatly.
TRC: Would you like to add anything else?
Alretha: I want to thank each and every person who takes the time to read this interview and who purchases a copy of Married in the Nick of Nine and my other books. Your support of me in greatly appreciated!
FAVORITE FOOD: Chicken, mash potatoes with gravy and corn. Trail Mix from Whole Foods #6819.
FAVORITE DESSERT: Haagen dazs ice cream.
MILK OR DARK CHOCOLATE: Milk chocolate.
FAVORITE LITERARY CHARACTER (not your own): Kimberla Roby Lawson’s Reverend Curtis Black.
FAVORITE TV SHOW: Scandal.
LAST MOVIE YOU SAW: Dawn of the Planet Apes.
DOG OR CAT: I don’t have either, but if I were to get a pet, it would be a dog. I’m allergic to cats.
Thank you, Alretha for answering our questions. The Reading Café wishes you the best of luck with Married in the Nick of Nine
Alretha is offering an e-copy (Amazon) of MARRIED IN THE NICK OF NINE to ONE (1) lucky commenter at The Reading Cafe.
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6. Giveaway is open Internationally (Amazon Kindle only)
7. Giveaway runs from September 6-10, 2014