Friday, December 5, 2014

Tess in Boots by Courtney Rice Gager {Book Review, Book Trailer, Giveaway & Author Interview}

Genre:Contemporary Fiction, New Adult
December 2nd 2014
Published By:  Anaiah Press
WebsiteCourtney Rice Gager

Tess In Boots Goodreads

I was given this book for review by the author in exchange for an honest review. 

Tess Dougherty plans every aspect of her life right down to the last detail. But she doesn’t plan on running her boyfriend off by bringing up the topic of marriage before he’s ready. And she doesn’t plan to lose her job on the day she’s set to receive a huge promotion. So when her perfect world unravels, Tess makes a new plan: disappear. 

Tess packs her bags and leaves her city apartment for a remote vineyard in North Carolina. At first, she’s put off by the slow pace of small-town life in the South. She’s especially irritated by Thatcher, the vineyard’s smart-mouth, dimple-faced farmhand. But she soon begins to appreciate the area’s charm, and Thatcher’s charm, too. She even swaps her trademark heels for a pair of cowboy boots. As Tess spends more time getting to know Thatcher, she finds herself loosening her grip on her old life little by little. Unfortunately, things on the vineyard aren’t as simple as they seem. There’s a secret here, and when the truth comes to light, Tess is forced to reconsider every plan she’s ever made

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Sometimes I find it challenging to be genuine to the story. Do you ever have one of those days where you're not in the mood to dance? Maybe you're at a wedding, and you know you're supposed to be busting a move to The B-52's, but you're just not feeling the music. Then two weeks later, you're at another wedding and suddenly you're an out-of-control dancing machine. It's complicated to explain, but sometimes I feel the same way about my writing. There are times when I'm engaging in the written equivalent of awkward wedding dancing. When my writing feels too forced, I know I need to take a break and come back to it later.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Like most writers, I love books in general so it's very difficult for me to pinpoint a single author as my favorite. I will say that this summer, I read my first Catherine Ryan Hyde book, When You Were Older. I was instantly drawn to the way she connects readers with her characters, so I went on a two-week Catherine Ryan Hyde binge after I finished the book.

Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
No, but maybe I'm just not successful enough yet!

Who designed the covers?
Kayelle Allen was my cover artist, and a lot of the team members at Anaiah Press had a hand in bringing my vision to life on the cover. At one point, Executive Editor Eden Plantz even got involved. I really appreciated that. Contractually, the publisher could have dismissed my countless ideas, but they didn't. In the end, I was in love with the cover. It's very intense receiving your final proof for the cover. You're like, "Please don't let me hate this!" It was such a relief when I saw the finished product and thought it was perfect.

Favorite food?
Pizza. Sorry to sound like a fourteen-year-old boy, but... pizza.

Did you use a playlist with this novel and if so what genre did you prefer?
I need silence when I write, so I never write to music. However, after the book was contracted and I was facing a slew of editing deadlines, I did make a playlist to listen to before I would sit down to work. I figured it would help me get in the zone and as an added bonus, I'd be prepared with soundtrack suggestions when they sell the movie rights. (What can I say? Dream big.) It was mostly country music, of course.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Writing the opening. Tess in Boots had about four completely different iterations of the first chapter. At one point, I even began the story in the middle of the story, if that makes sense. Beginnings can be so stressful! There's a lot riding on a reader's first impression of the book.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned that it's incredibly important to trust your editor. This was my first professional book publishing experience, and it was surprising to me how much my editor was involved in shaping and developing the story. I'm not sure what I thought editors did before, but hats off to them because they are some hard-working people. From the very first contact I had with my editor, Kara Leigh Miller, I was confident that she was as excited about my book as I was. (A lot of times, even more so.) Because I knew she cared so deeply for the story and the characters, I was able to trust her when she approached me with her editing notes.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
I used to think being a successful writer depended on writing this one amazing first piece and then getting lucky (and rich!) with a big break. There are times when that’s the case, sure, but those cases are the exception, not the rule. Now I know it’s about not giving up. If you truly love to write, just write. If you’re writing with hopes of having immediate success, I can almost guarantee you will get frustrated and give up too soon. Write because you love to write. Then just keep doing it. Don’t give up, don’t be afraid of rejection, and don’t dismiss constructive criticism, either! If you keep at it, you’ll get better. And if you keep getting better, you’ll have success.

What was your life like before becoming an author?
Very similar to what it is today, because I've always taken time to write. Now, I just have a lot more deadlines!

What sparked the idea for your novel?
Some ideas come to me out of nowhere, but Tess in Boots was different. When I set out to write this story, I wanted to be intentional about creating a high-stakes love story that would keep readers turning the pages to find out what happens next. I knew I wanted to bring my main character to an uncomfortable place, because I believe people are given the opportunity for maximum growth when they step out of their comfort zone. Plucking my character out of what she knew allowed her to take a hard look at herself and her priorities, which makes for good internal conflict. And lastly, I knew I wanted to set the story on a vineyard. I grew up with grapevines in my backyard, and my family went through a homemade winemaking phase at one point. So I wanted to incorporate this part of my background into the book. And besides, a vineyard makes for a beautiful setting! Perfect for a love story.

How personal is your writing?
For the most part, Tess in Boots is 100% fictional, but it's virtually impossible for me not to incorporate at least some of my own experiences and memories into a fictional story. Thatcher's camouflage hat is one example. My husband has this camouflage ball cap he wears on the weekends. I hated this hat at first (mainly because it seems like a strange thing for an Italian guy walking around in New Jersey to wear) but over time I've grown to love that hat. There's something comforting about it. The cow in the road is another example. I once came dangerously close to broadsiding a cow while driving on a country road near my parents' house in Virginia. It's more common than you'd think!

Do you outline?
Yes and no. If by outlining you mean scribbling notes on napkins or old receipts, then yes, I outline. But if you're talking about an organized chart that I could hand in to my eleventh-grade English teacher... then I'm not your girl. One thing I can't live without during my initial writing process is a calendar. I love having an empty paper calendar on hand, so I can write out plot points as if I were scheduling my dentist appointments or something. Using a calendar to plot my story helps me get a feel for the way things are paced. It's messy and a bit haphazard at times, but that suits my writing style well.

What is your writing routine?
Survival mode! I stay home to care for my two-year-old (with another little one to be joining us in January), so I mostly write during stolen moments in the early morning hours or during nap time. On a typical day when I'm heavily into a project, I'll set my alarm for around four in the morning so I can get two or three hours of writing in. (I like writing more than sleeping.) Then I'll also write during afternoon nap time, which is usually from about one until three. That's a typical day, but of course, moms of little kids rarely have typical days. So it varies depending on what we have going on (or how much peanut butter I need to scrape out of my hair). It's virtually impossible for me to write at night, because my brain stops working around eight o'clock.

Which comes first? The character's story or the idea for the novel?
It's impossible for me to separate the two. From the initial idea phase through the editing process, my plot and my characters grow together. The plot shapes the characters, and the characters shape the plot. There are times when I'm writing and a character does something that surprises me. This happened a few times while writing Tess in Boots. Those are the coolest moments, when one of my characters takes over and develops a mind of their own.

Favorite life quote?
"Do everything without complaining or arguing" - Phillipians 2:14. I mean, easier said than done, but this is something I strive to live by each day.

Best advice you've ever received?

In college, I was mulling over whether to add Creative Writing as a minor. I already had two majors, so there wasn't much room in my schedule, but if I went to summer school and worked my credit hours just right, it was possible. One of my instructors, who was sort of like a mentor to me, told me to go for it. "If you love it, you should study it," he said. "Study what you love and you'll never have regrets." I'm glad I started taking writing seriously enough to study it, and I don't think I'd be here today if I didn't.

A fun, low maintenance, sweet romance. That are the words I'd use to describe this gem of a book. The book starts off immediately with a story and does a great job at making the reader smile, laugh, and even sigh a little too. Anyone of us can probably relate in some way to Tess. She's not looking for everything, just something and someone she can call her own. She wants what every girl wants, the dream. It's not much to ask, right? Well, apparently it is. 

Our story starts with Tess and her boyfriend, Logan having dinner. It's not just any dinner because Logan makes sure Tess knows he has a BIG surprise for her. Tess jumps to the conclusion that she is FINALLY going to be a Mrs instead of the dreaded Ms her whole life through. She gets all excited and makes sure she dresses just right. When the BIG moment comes, Logan has the waiter bring out a cake that says "Congratulations" on it. Tess is a bit confused, because after all she hasn't said yes yet. She finally realizes that Logan had no intention of proposing and instead wanted to congratulate her on her new promotion at her job. Tess is frustrated and tries hard to hide her anger but winds up asking that inevitable question girls like to ask "Where is this going?" Logan doesn't take this well and leaves Tess at her front door perplexed as to when she will see him again. If that isn't enough, Tess arrives at work the next day only to find out that her company is closing and everyone is fired. Now tell me that isn't a very bad day! 

This story captured my heart from the get go. The writing style and instant love of Tess was a true seller for me. I loved the way the author made Tess strong willed but also a bit insecure on the inside. She seems to be a free spirit that is really good at finding herself in funny and precarious situations. I loved the humor involved in this story and the way the author was able to switch the tone of the story seamlessly. 

After the bad day that Tess has, she decides to join her twin brother Jake and her sister in law with their new business venture. She knows she could use a vacation and Jake is so convincing that she agrees. The dynamics between Jake and Tess only adds more to the story. Although very different, Jake and Tess have a great relationship with each other and I loved seeing these two interact. It was so much fun to see Tess out of her element and able to be more carefree than she is used to. 

The best thing about this book....... THE SURPRISE ENDING! 

Honestly, I am a very careful reader and can usually see things coming but I never guessed on this one. To me that is what makes a great novel. Hands down, a great read for romance lovers like me! 

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About the Author
Courtney Rice Gager graduated from Virginia Tech with a bachelor’s degree in communication and a minor in creative writing. Courtney is also the author of The Buggy List. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and daughter.

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