Fly Away with Me (Blue Moon Harbor #1) by Susan Fox-Review, Interview and Giveaway
FLY WAY WITH ME
Blue Moon Harbor #1
by Susan Fox
Release Date:July 25, 2017
Genre: adult, contemporary, romance
ABOUT THE BOOK: Release Dat July 25, 2017
Known for its rugged beauty and eccentric residents, tiny Blue Moon Harbor is big on love . . .
For busy lawyer Eden Blaine, a trip to a Pacific Northwest island she’s never even heard of is far from a vacation. Eden’s ailing mother has tasked her with finding her long-lost aunt, who once had ties to a commune on the island. Still reeling from a breakup with her longtime boyfriend, romance is the last thing Eden is looking for. But her gorgeous seaplane pilot has her wondering if a carefree rebound fling is exactly what she needs. . .
Aaron Gabriel has no illusions about happily ever after. His troubled childhood made sure of that. But he does appreciate a pretty woman’s company, and Eden is the exact combination of smart and sexy that turns him on. Still, as he helps her search for her missing aunt, the casual relationship he imagined quickly becomes something much more passionate–and much harder to give up. Can two people determined to ignore romance recognize that their heated connection is the kind of love destined to last?
REVIEW: Fly Away with Me begins with Eden Blaine embarking on a trip to try and find her mother’s long,-lost sister. Through a series of very unfortunate events, Eden’s mother has no idea if her sister is dead or alive. The only piece of information they have as to her whereabouts is the name of an island, Destiny, where the aunt headed to long years ago. Eden is bound and determined to find what happened to her aunt, even though she really has no idea where to start. Two things she does know: a little time away may do her some good and failure is not an option. Eden’s mother has been battling cancer, so, Eden being Eden, sets out to make everything okay.
Aaron Gabriel meets his passengers at the port where he will pick them up and fly them to various spots, including his home base of Destiny. Once he’s dropped off everyone except for Eden, he strikes up a conversation with her and offers his help in finding her aunt. The one thing Eden has to promise for his help? Have a little fun while she’s here.
As Eden and Aaron get to know each other a little, Eden immediately realizes that she will indeed need his help. Seems folks on the island have a little bit of a hard time warming up to outsiders. While they set out to question long-time residents of the island, they do start to have a little fun. Their attraction to each other grows and they both find themselves thinking things that they never thought they would. However, as the mystery deepens surrounding Eden’s aunt, neither know what is in store for their very near future.
Fly Away with Me is a nicely written story, and a first for me from author Susan Fox. I loved the character development of the main characters, as well as the eclectic secondary characters. This is not a story with an immediate HEA. They both have to work on themselves individually, as well as trying to be a couple and what comes with that. Fly Away with Me is ultimately a story that teaches you nothing is written in stone, and with hard work, you might carve out a whole lot of happiness for yourself. The first half was a bit slow, but the last half was worth the wait. This one touched me in ways that a romance hasn’t in a very long time. Like I said, this was my first story by Susan Fox, but it definitely won’t be my last. If you’re a romance fan that loves stories with a slow simmer and a real life storyline, you won’t go wrong with Fly Away with Me. Well done, Susan Fox!
Copy supplied for review
Reviewed by Vickie M
TRC:Hi Susan and welcome to The Reading Café.
Susan: Thank you so much for having me here!
TRC: Congratulations on the recent release of FLY AWAY WITH ME
Susan: Thanks again! I’m thrilled to be launching a new series (Blue Moon Harbor) set in my own part of the world.
TRC: We would like to start with some background information. Would you please tell us something about yourself?
Susan: I’ve lived in Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia, all my life, and I love the great outdoors as well as great restaurants and theatre. I have degrees in psychology and law, but rather than choose a sensible profession with a secure income, I drifted from job to job, looking for the right fit. I found it, with writing.
I’m fascinated by people, personality, character growth, relationships – and writing romance and women’s fiction is the perfect place to indulge that fascination. My world is a diverse, multicultural one, and that’s the kind of world I write about. I believe a writer has a responsibility, and so my stories always have messages, sometimes pretty blatant and sometimes more subtle. Equality and appreciation of differences are strong values for me. You’ll find some issues in my books, such as dealing with major illnesses or injuries (e.g., Eden’s mother’s cancer in Fly Away With Me) and dysfunctional families (such as Aaron’s), and so on. The stories aren’t heavy, dark ones, but they do involve some emotional stuff. As well as love and laughter, good friends, and some steamy sex. I love romance because the reader (and author!) always knows that no matter how much angst the characters go through, they will emerge stronger, and they’ll find love.
TRC: Who or what influenced your career in writing?
Susan: It took me forever to figure out that I didn’t just love reading fiction, I wanted to write it. That happened when a friend gave me Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. When I started to write my first book (which will never be published), I knew I’d found my passion.
TRC: What challenges or difficulties have you encountered writing and publishing your stories?
Susan: The biggest challenge was in getting my work published. I’m smart, organized and efficient, and I’m a good writer. And yet it took me 10 years to sell my first book. That was back in the days when self-publishing wasn’t an option. What I learned is that it’s easier to be a lawyer than to sell a book to a publisher. Becoming a lawyer is mostly within your own control: work hard and get good marks, work hard and finance your education, work hard and learn the law, hang out your shingle, and work hard to bring in clients then devote your best efforts to serving them well. But all the hard work and best efforts can’t make a publisher buy your work. I came close, so many times. When I did sell that first book to Kensington in 2005, it wasn’t that that particular book (Champagne Rules) was any better than the previous ones, it was a matter of luck and timing. I’d written a book that happened to fit with the new Aphrodisia line that Kensington planned to launch.
Trying to make decent money as an author is an ongoing challenge. I’ve written for Berkley and Harlequin as well as Kensington, and I’ve also done some self-publishing. Right now, Kensington is the best home for me. I’m certainly not getting rich, but I’m writing the kind of stories I want to write, with a supportive editor and publishing team.
TRC: Would you please tell us something about the premise of FLY AWAY WITH ME and the Blue Moon Harbor series?
Susan: The idea for the series setting came from my boating in the Gulf Islands near Victoria, British Columbia (something my partner and I do every summer). I love the ocean and the islands, which have a diverse and quirky population. So I’m writing about a small community setting, as with my Caribou Crossing books which are set in ranching country in B.C.’s interior. But an island has the added quality of only being accessible by water or air – it’s isolated and weather-dependent.
I created a fictional island and named it Destiny, because I thought that would lead to some interesting book titles. I named the village Blue Moon Harbor because who doesn’t love the romantic notion of a blue moon? My publisher, Kensington, decided to use Blue Moon Harbor as the series name.
I love seaplanes, and they’re an intrinsic part of island life, so making my first hero a seaplane pilot was a “well, duh!” kind of thing. To make for contrast and conflict, I thought Aaron needed an off-island heroine, and who could be more different from him than a big city lawyer? Eden’s not there on holiday, but on a mission for her ailing mom, to find her mother’s long-lost sister who ran away from home in 1969. A newly-discovered letter indicates she joined the island commune way back then.
Eden is responsible and driven. Aaron is easygoing (at least that’s the image he presents to the world) and he’s determined to teach Eden how to have fun.
Coming off a breakup, Eden’s not interested in a serious relationship, but a rebound fling sounds good to her. And Aaron, whose dysfunctional childhood made him cynical about finding love, only ever seeks casual relationships. So they’re on the same page – at least until their heartstrings start getting tugged!
But how could long-term be possible for them? She’s devoted to her family and career in Ottawa. He’s equally devoted to his career on Destiny, and to his single-parent younger sister and her little girl.
All the same, when you find your love on Destiny, life will never be the same!
I had originally titled the book Destiny Calls, but my publisher wasn’t keen on using “destiny” because they thought it might have religious connotations for some people. Fly Away With Me was my agent’s suggestion. It’s perfect, because of course Aaron flies away with Eden’s heart. ☺
TRC: What kind of research/plotting do you do, and how long do you spend researching /plotting before beginning a book?
Susan: I’m not a big plotter, but I do need to feel fairly confident that I have enough of a story to make a 100,000 word book. I don’t need to know many plot details, but I need to know that I have characters who can carry a romance story. They need to be interesting, complex, relatable, and they need to have issues.
I don’t tend to do a lot of research ahead of time, just enough to get me into the story. For Fly Away With Me, for example, I already knew the setting because I’ve visited the Gulf Islands all my life, and as I said earlier, I go boating there a lot. (We have a 1960s vintage old wooden boat, a 36’ Shepherd.) I did do a bit of historical and factual research on the islands, to draw on in creating my fictional Destiny Island. I wanted to use a fictional island rather than a real one so I’d have more creative freedom.
The hero Aaron is a seaplane pilot. I’ve flown in seaplanes – and even flown one – so I didn’t have to do initial research on that. I did some as I was writing, to fine-tune the details. Eden’s a lawyer with a foundation that funds charities, and I had a pretty good idea of her job. But with some books, if I don’t know much about the heroine’s or hero’s occupations, I may need to do up-front research.
Or if a heroine or hero has an illness or injury (e.g., my hero’s leg amputation and PTSD in Ring of Fire), I’ll need to research that in order to get a clear idea of the issues that character deals with on a practical and emotional level. Those things are key to the character’s personality – and personality is key to how the story will develop.
So, basically, I do enough research up front to understand my setting and my two main characters, and then I let the story develop as I write, and do additional research as needed. I’ll often skip some of the nitpicky details while I’m writing and then fill them in later.
TRC: How did publishing your first book change your writing process?
Susan: It made me write faster and be more focused. I no longer had the luxury of messing around with a manuscript for as long as I wanted. I also felt the pressure to make each book the absolute best I could, because real people would be reading it. But I’m a disciplined, organized person, so it wasn’t too much of a stretch. And I was so thrilled to finally have publishing contracts and to know that my characters and stories would be reaching readers, I was happy to put in the extra hours and effort.
TRC: What was your hardest scene –ever-to write?
Susan: The hardest were probably a couple of sex scenes in Bound to be Dirty, one of my Dirty Girls Book Club erotic romances for Berkley Heat. The premise of the series was that each time the book club read a “dirty book,” one of the members would have a sexy romance that in some ways paralleled that story. In Bound to be Dirty (which came out after Fifty Shades of Grey), the club decided they had to read a BDSM book, since everyone else was doing it. Book club member Lily (a family practice doctor) was married to Dax (a helicopter bush pilot), their marriage was in serious trouble, and they started trying out some very mild BDSM stuff. It was more about exploring their relationship and developing communication, trust, and intimacy than about actual BDSM sex, but I did have to figure out how to write all aspects of the sex scenes.
And there lay my problem, because I personally can’t relate to BDSM. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with it, for two equal partners who both want it and consent and have a safe word, but for me the concept of one person being dominant and the other submissive makes me squirmy – and not in a nice way! But it was good for me to have to push myself – and of course the story wasn’t about me, it was about Lily and Dax and how they felt about themselves and each other. I also had an interesting time with the book club as they discussed the novel they were reading. Four young, intelligent, self-sufficient women, sharing their viewpoints!
TRC: There is a fine line between romance, erotic, and erotica in many of today’s popular contemporary fiction. Many authors are re-issuing their previously erotic story lines with ‘cleaner’ versions without the use of over the top, sexually graphic language and text. What do you believe has precipitated this move or change in direction?
Susan: The publishing world goes through phases. My first book (Champagne Rules) came out in February 2006, and all the traditional publishers were jumping on the erotic romance bandwagon, after seeing how successful e-publishers had been with those books. My Awesome Foursome series with Kensington Aphrodisia and my destination wedding series with Berkley Heat were branded as erotic romance. They were spicier than the books I’m writing now, but not hot or kinky enough for a lot of erotic romance readers, so they didn’t do terribly well.
The next trend was for many contemporary romances to become steamier, and at that point many of the erotic romance lines faded away. But then came Fifty Shades of Grey and the world “discovered” erotic romance. LOL. That seemed ridiculous to the authors who’d already been writing erotic romance for many years, but what that one book did was break through to the truly mainstream audience. It also spearheaded another surge in the popularity of erotic romance – especially the kind that featured BDSM.
But now that trend seems to have faded again, and we’re back to just having a nice range of romance. Everything from super-hot and kinky through to barely even a hint of sexual tension. It’s terrific that readers can find just the level of heat that works for them.
Why are authors turning their previously issued erotic stories into cleaner ones for reissue? For many, I’d guess that they figured those books had their opportunity to reach erotic romance readers. Now the authors have their rights back and are self-publishing the books, and they hope to reach a different audience.
Also, authors get tired of writing the same thing. Writing hot sex that’s believable, original, and steamy is really difficult. And you can, if you’ll pardon the pun, burn out on it. So if an author who once wrote erotic romance has turned to writing less erotic, as I have, then she may want all her current releases to appeal to her current readers rather than shocking or disgusting them with too much or too explicit or too kinky sex.
It’ll be interesting to see how some of those reissues work. With erotic romance, I always figured the premise of the story needed to be a sexy one. You had to find some reason for the characters to have sex early in the story. And then you needed not just a lot of sexual tension but also a fair number of sex scenes, because that’s something the readers were looking for. So, how do you take a book that’s as “erotic” as it is “romantic,” and take out the eroticism? Seems to me it would be like trying to take the suspense out of a romantic suspense novel, or taking the religious aspect out of an inspirational romance. But if authors can do it, and readers enjoy the result, then more power to all of them!
TRC: Do you believe the cover image plays a deciding factor for many readers in the process of selecting a book or new series to read?
Susan: It sure does for me, and I know I’m not the only one. The cover conveys so much about the book. For example, I usually won’t choose a book with a “hot, semi-naked guy” cover, because to me that suggests the book’s going to be more about the sexuality of the relationship than the emotionality. Nothing against sex – I write explicit sex scenes myself – but I want the emotions to be the most important part of the book. If I’ve read a blurb or review that really appeals to me, I won’t let the cover put me off getting the book, but if I’m just scanning a page full of covers, I pretty quickly narrow my focus to the books I’m most likely to be interested in.
Kensington asked me for cover ideas for Fly Away With Me and I said I wanted to convey the setting, and the fact that the story is a romance. I thought the seaplane aspect of the book was interesting, so suggested a couple on a dock with a seaplane. Kensington did a cover shoot and gave me everything I asked for! My only complaint is that the male model isn’t as rugged and masculine as Aaron.
TRC: When writing a story line, do the characters direct the writing or do you direct the characters?
Susan: A bit of both. It’s a joint effort, and we kind of trade off. In the beginning, I put a fair bit of thought into figuring out who they are. My goal is to create characters who are so multi-dimensional and genuine that they can then more or less take over and I just transcribe as they direct me. But usually I’ll stall at one or more points as I’m writing, which basically means they’ve stopped telling me what to type. Then I have to step away from the keyboard and do some more reflecting. I need to talk to the characters in my head, do more analysis, get to know them even better. And then they pretty much decide what they’re going to do next, and I get back to taking direction from them.
TRC: How do you select the names of your characters?
Susan: In all sorts of ways. Sometimes names just pop into my mind or I see interesting names in TV credits or magazines. I have lists of names that interest me and I review them when I’m naming new characters. I’ll check popular baby names for the year the character was born. Ethnic background is a factor. I’ve also asked for suggestions on my Facebook page.
Here’s how I came up with the names in Fly Away With Me. Eden: A friend gave her baby that name, and I loved it. Blaine: I wanted a simple surname, one syllable after the two-syllable first name, something that sounded good with Eden, so I just hunted through names until one felt right. Aaron: He was originally Adam, a name I like and have never used for a hero, but someone pointed out that Adam and Eden was too Biblical – something I’d never actually realized myself, even though it seems obvious – so I looked for something similar and hit on Aaron. Gabriel: It’s a name I just love, one I’ve used as a hero’s first name (in Finding Isadora), so I indulged and let myself use it again, this time as a surname. I also loved naming Di and Seal SkySong, but if I told you any more about that, it would be a spoiler!
TRC: The mark of a good writer is to pull the reader into the story line so that they experience the emotions along with the characters. What do you believe a writer must do to make this happen? Where do you believe writers fail in this endeavor?
Susan: I totally agree with you. For me, reading is all about the emotions. That’s why I write stories that are character-driven more than plot-driven. I think the key, for the author, is to “go deep.” Deep into who the character is, how her (or his) life up to now has shaped her, what she hopes for and fears, what she cares about and values, all of that stuff. Who she is when the story starts, and how she reacts emotionally to everything that happens during the story. How she makes decisions (e.g., mostly with her heart or with her mind?) and how she evaluates those decisions. And so on, and so on. I have a psychology degree and I’m fascinated by everything that goes into making us who we are and shaping our behavior and emotions. So, for me, I spend a lot of time getting to know my characters and then I try to put myself into their shoes. I talk to them in my head, like I’m having a conversation with someone I care about, whom I want to know even better.
As for other writers, well, I hate to judge. And reading is so subjective. Different things appeal to each of us. But if a reader is looking to be pulled into the emotional journey and finds that isn’t happening, then maybe the author didn’t actually want it to happen. Maybe the author wanted a story that was more plot-driven – perhaps thrilling or humorous – so that the reader cares more about events and actions than emotions. I find that some mysteries and police procedurals are like this.
In other cases, I think authors just don’t take the time to “sit with” their characters and stories for very long. They may be driven to turn out X number of books per year, and while some authors are capable of producing brilliant and emotional stories in a short time-frame, others just aren’t.
Or, of course, some authors simply don’t want to “go deep” on some emotional issues. For example, it was hard for me to write about Eden’s mom’s cancer, because my mother had cancer too. Ovarian cancer, in her case, and she did survive. But it was of course very hard on her, and on my stepdad and me. I used lessons from that time in writing Fly Away With Me, and I shed some tears. If an issue hits particularly close to home, an author just may not want to “go there” on a deep emotional level. And so they don’t take the reader there.
TRC: Do you listen to music while writing? If so, does the style of music influence the story line direction? Characters?
Susan: I don’t listen when I’m actually writing. I find music too distracting. But occasionally, if a certain song is relevant to a story I’m working on, I’ll listen to it before I start writing, or during a writing break. With the Caribou Crossing Romances, I listened to a lot of country music and developed a real appreciation for it. It was fun finding songs to match the stories, and then seeing that those songs influenced the direction of the story.
For the book I’m writing now (Sail Away With Me), one of the songs I’ve listened to is Ricky Nelson’s “I Will Follow You.” My heroine’s grandmother said it was the story of her romance with her hubby – and let’s just say, the song plays a role in my heroine’s love story, too!
TRC: What do you believe is the biggest misconception people have about authors?
Susan: That we’re rich! Or that we write just because we love it, not as an actual job. They therefore think it’s okay to download free books that have been pirated (i.e., stolen) from us. I don’t expect my doctor or car mechanic or hairdresser to work for free, so why should some readers think they shouldn’t have to pay for books? For most authors, if we can’t earn an income from our writing, then we have to do it from some other job – which means we have less, or even no, writing time. Which means fewer books out there for readers.
TRC: What is something that few, if anybody, knows about you?
Susan: My parents split up when I was in my early teens and didn’t tell me. Supposedly, my father was away on a business trip. How did I find out? When someone phoned for him, I said he was out of town, and they said they’d seen him in town the previous day. This was at Christmas. Let’s just say, it wasn’t the happiest Christmas of my life. Within a few months, they were divorced.
TRC: On what are you currently working?
Susan: I’m continuing the Blue Moon Harbor series. The next story is “Blue Moon Harbor Christmas” in Winter Wishes, a holiday anthology (October 2017) that also contains novellas by Fern Michaels, Jules Bennett, and Leah Marie Brown. Then Come Home With Me will be out in late December, and Sail Away With Me in the fall of 2018. I’m just finishing the manuscript of Sail Away with Me now. And pitching another book in the series: Come Dance With Me.
TRC: Would you like to add anything else?
Susan: I’d love to hear readers’ thoughts on my new series, my writing process, and my new release. I’m also happy to answer any questions.
I hope readers will visit my Website (where they can subscribe to my newsletter, find all sorts of info about all my books, and get in touch with me) and my Facebook page. I’m also on Amazon , Pinterest, Goodreads and BookBub.
Favorite Food: Depends totally on my mood.
Favorite Dessert: The Grand Marnier soufflé I was served at a French restaurant on the island of St. Martin. Other than that, I’d go with a rich dark chocolate cupcake with almond icing.
Favorite TV Show: Heartland. It’s a Canadian production, set on the prairies, about family, relationships, and horses.
Last Movie You Saw: Dirty Dancing. I watched the TV version and was so disappointed, I had to go back and watch the original Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey original. Which I just happen to own. ☺
Dark or Milk Chocolate: Dark. Only ever dark.
Secret Celebrity Crush: Richard Gere, at any age. Love, love, love his eyes and expressive face.
Last Vacation Destination: That’s actually a tough question! Boating in the Gulf Islands – does that count? Last winter’s motor home trip to southern California. Or, if you mean an actual real big trip, then St. Martin, a few years ago.
Do you have any pets?: No. Our lifestyle doesn’t really allow for it. I just enjoy the wildlife around me.
Last book you read: Sycamore by Bryn Chancellor.
TRC: Thank you Susan for taking the time to answer our questions. Congratulations on your new release.
Susan: Thanks again for this opportunity!
Susan Fox is graciously offering a signed, paper copy of FLY AWAY WITH ME to ONE (1) commenter at The Reading Cafe. Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY
1. If you have not previously registered at The Reading Cafe, please register by using the log-in at the top of the page (side bar) or by using one of the social log-ins.
NOTE: If you are having difficulty commenting after logging onto the site, please refresh the page (at the top of your computer).
2. If you are using a social log-in, please post your email address with your comment.
3. Follow Susan Lyons Fox on Facebook.
4. LIKE us on FACEBOOK and then click GET NOTIFICATION under ‘liked’ for an additional entry.
5. LIKE us on Twitter for an additional entry.
6. Please FOLLOW us on GOODREADS for an additional entry.
7. Please follow The Reading Cafe on Tumblr
8. Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY
9. Giveaway runs from July 26-30, 2017