Friday, July 17, 2020

Interview with debut contemporary romance novelist Jordan R. Samuel

My special author guest today is Jordan R. Samuel who is chatting with me about her debut contemporary romance novel, On the Eighteenth of May.

During her virtual book tour, Jordan will be awarding a $30 Amazon or Barnes and Noble (winner’s choice) gift card to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops and enter there, too!

Jordan R. Samuel is a former public school teacher and administrator who enjoys her current work as an Assistant Professor of Education. She spends her days with her husband and her three children as she teaches, studies and writes. She immensely enjoys travelling, and penned many parts of this particular story while relaxing in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina.

Welcome, Jordan. Please share a little bit about your current release.
I would love to! My latest book is On the Eighteenth of May, which is the story of a young woman, Cass, who walks into a small village in the Blue Ridge Mountains on the evening of May 18th. She shares that she intends on staying one year in this place, and then leaving the following year on the same date. Cass soon meets two precocious children, a caring and generous business owner, and the Chief of Police from the neighboring town. Family and loss are parts of many of their stories, but how these themes are approached or navigated are different for each.

While these people, as well as others, attempt to know and help her, the history and troubled memories of what led Cass to his place begin to gradually unfold. As the potential for love and the pathway for healing begin to become clearer, all will be forced to explore the depth to which loss and guilt may be felt by the human heart. As the date of departure approaches, Cass and those around her will be forced to decide how forcefully they are willing to hold on: to the past, to the pain, and to the person.

On the Eighteenth of May is the story of this single year spent in the small village of Chimney Rock, and of the people and events that interweave themselves into and throughout Cass’s journey and her life.  It is a story that examines the true definition of strength, and what it means to be strong in the face of adversity. It is a story that explores the depths of sorrow, as felt by the human heart, and the extent to which a person’s mind and soul can absorb or deflect the pain of that which is lost. It is a story that explores the perceived helplessness of those within the support structure, and the extent to which those we love can hinder or accelerate the healing process.  Finally, it is a story that reminds us of the overwhelming power of comforting influences in all of our lives, as our human souls struggle, against all odds, to survive.

While currently my plan is for this book to stand alone, I have had quite a few readers ask me for a sequel to the story. This may or may not happen, dependent on the sales for this one!

With this being my first novel, several ideas combined at once, from different personal experiences or interests. First, I was going through a particularly sad time in my life when this novel was first conceptualized, so that was one impetus for some of the particularly sad themes in the novel. While the story in the novel in no way reflects the actual situation I was experiencing with my family member, the mood of the novel certainly does. In addition, I have visited the Blue Ridge mountain region of North Carolina on many occasions, and have found that there are few places on earth quite as lovely as the Chimney Rock and Lake Lure areas, so the setting of the novel, for me, was an easy choice. Many of the ideas for the most stunning scenes of the novel (yes, for those of you who have read the novel, I’m talking about Chapters 27 and 30) were inspired by the beautiful history and stories of the Cherokee Nation. Their legacy and lore is a key part of the love story that unfolds On the Eighteenth of May.

I probably shouldn’t admit it, because I am sure it will come across as a little lazy, but I wrote my first novel to be exactly the kind of novel I would love to find on the bookstore shelves! A sad, sweet love story. Simple writing that keeps my interest but doesn’t make me think TOO hard (I do enough of that at work!) This is the genre I love to read myself! As I wrote the book, I kept thinking – “Wow, I can’t wait to finish so I can relax, lay on the couch, and read this book!” I love simple romances, with a little bit of mystery thrown in.

And as I started writing On the Eighteenth of May, I started picturing all the people in my mind who probably loved this type of book as well and were all just waiting for me to finish! I have already started writing my next novel, The Broken Bridge, and I am happy to share that, yes, it is the same general type of genre. A sad romance that will pull on your heartstrings and leave you cheering for characters even though you suspect, against all hope, that a rough road is ahead – just around the curve.

I belong to a book club and we met recently to discuss a historical fiction that we had just read. I was so relieved when everyone started sharing how hard it was for them to “get into it”. It was then that I knew, I’m not alone. Sometimes we all just need a sad love story to engross ourselves in, as we lay on the beach or sit on our couch or swing on our front porch.

I tried to write the two characters in the relationship with a little detail and a lot to be imagined. I tried to help the reader in getting to know them better and better as the story developed, but not giving away too much about how they might react to a particular situation. And, of course, since the novel tells the whole story through back and forth point of views (from each of them) we get to see a lot more of what each one is thinking than the actual love interest does. Hopefully, it makes for a captivating yet sad love story that will hold your attention throughout.

What inspired you to write this book?
I have never before, in my entire life, tried writing fiction. As a professional educator, and now a university professor, I have spent a great deal of my life writing academic pieces. I have published many peer-reviewed articles and chapters in various journals and books and have very recently published a handbook on research regarding effective online course design. I had always hoped to write a novel, but had never quite made or found the time.
In early 2019, I was busy working on two research articles for my university, which both happened to fall during a very sad time in my life. Not to go into too much detail, but one of my family members was very ill, and was lost and hurting and struggling. And I realized at that period just how sad I was, over the whole situation . . . over my lack of ability to help in some meaningful way and over my complete uselessness to make things better. And so, one day I opened my laptop, but instead of working on the research articles (like I was SUPPOSED to be doing), I started writing a story. A story filled with sadness. A story filled with love.

Excerpt from On the Eighteenth of May:
Lucas reached the competition area and put on a cheerful grin, giving every outward appearance that he had waited all day just for this opportunity. Farley was already at the starting line with a Velcro leg wrap in hand, ready for his partner to join him and sporting a silly smile across his face.

As the other racers gathered around their respective lanes, Farley and Lucas sized up the competition. Most were teens and children, but there were also a few serious-looking adult pairs, all of whom appeared to be sizing up the two police officers as the team to beat.

If only they knew, thought Lucas with a muted chuckle. He and his deputy had come in last place last year as they had attempted this endeavor. Apparently they both had two left feet and a general lack of coordination to boot.

Farley secured the Velcro strap tightly around their lower legs, Lucas’s right and Farley’s left. The two stood side by side at the start line, waiting for the other teams to ready themselves in the same fashion. It appeared the race may be starting in a minute or two.

Lucas heard Farley’s phone ding with a text alert, then watched as his friend read it. Farley’s smile disappeared, replaced by a look of concern. Suddenly, Farley was crouched, unlatching the Velcro strap and readying to depart.

“Sorry, Luke, Kaley just called. Austin fell coming off the bouncy slide and busted his lip. He’s pitchin’ a fit and she needs my help.” Farley finished disconnecting his leg from Lucas’s leg, dropped the Velcro to the ground, and anxiously jogged away towards the children’s play area.

The megaphone announcer was readying the competitors now. “All teams to the line, please. I’ll count down from three to one, then listen for the horn as your start signal.”
Lucas watched as the other pairs approached the line where he now stood alone. He looked down at his right leg where the Velcro strap lay. He started to bend down to retrieve it so he could move aside and out of the way, when suddenly he saw another leg appear beside his. A person was crouched down, securing a left leg to his right one, pulling the Velcro tight and fastening the hooks.

The megaphone announcer shouted, “Three!”

The person was standing upright now, looking straight ahead towards the finish line. Lucas, however, was looking at the side of her face. He felt her left arm reach around his waist, felt her hand as it clasped onto his shirt.

“Two…,” the announcer called. The spectators appeared fully enthralled with the drama of the countdown.

She was silent, looking straight ahead, and now, he too, looked straight ahead and readied himself for the race. Without thinking, his right arm reached up and over her shoulders, found her waist, and settled there in a loose embrace of her shirt and skin underneath.

The announcer yelled, “One!”

Cass turned her face slightly upward and towards his and whispered softly, “Outside legs first.”

What exciting story are you working on next?
I had such an amazing experience writing On the Eighteenth of May, that, yes, indeed, I have started on my next novel, which will most likely remain titled as The Broken Bridge. It, too, will be set in the Blue Ridge mountain area of North Carolina and will focus on a displaced child, her life and upbringing as she grows up, and her journey as she lives in wealth and luxury, surrounded by loathing and bitterness.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I have been writing, on the academic level, for eleven years. Starting with my dissertation, and then followed by numerous published academic journal articles, chapters in books, and even published books on research (one that was just published in January!), I have been writing for quite a while. However, I believe your question may have been “when did you first consider yourself a fiction writer?” On the Eighteenth of May was my first novel ever, and it was published in March of 2020, so I have been “writing” fiction for a little over a year!

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I prefer to write in the early mornings and the evenings. I head to my local McDonald’s with laptop in hand, order a large coffee and write for about an hour. Then, in the evening, I repeat the process on my back deck overlooking a lake (although I do substitute wine for the coffee in that case). I try to limit my writing sessions to about an hour at a time. And then I take walks afterwards to process and reflect on how my writing could be better.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I really have to have people around me, noise and activity and life. It is very hard for me to write in a silent environment, or even one that seems “out of the norm”, like with music playing in the background. That’s just not me. I love looking up from my laptop and seeing real people, most or all of them strangers, as they carry on with their lives.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. I was probably quite influenced by all the crime and courtroom dramas I watched on TV! I came from a family of educators, so I soon became drawn to that profession and so glad I did! I have enjoyed a wonderful, long career as a public school educator and now as a university professor!

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Even though I am 55 years old, I like to challenge myself both mentally and physically. Just last week I did a virtual half-marathon. I am trying to teach myself Spanish using a virtual language program. I asked a neighbor to borrow her keyboard and I am trying to learn how to play the piano. I am constantly looking for things to do that will stretch my mind and my body in ways they haven’t been stretched before! I never thought the day would come that I would write and actually hold my own novel in my hand – but it happened!

Thank you so much for hosting On the Eighteenth of May on your blog and thank you and your readers for any feedback or discussion regarding On the Eighteenth of May! I hope you will try it out and let me know what you think!


Thank you for being a guest on my blog!

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Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thanks for hosting!

Mya Goss said...

I love love love sunsets!! This is an absolute stunning cover!!

Jordan R. Samuel said...

Thank you, Lisa, for hosting the post today! JRS

Jordan R. Samuel said...

Hi Mya,

Thank you! In my opinion, the cover perfectly captures the essence of the book! Hope you will give On the Eighteenth of May a try! - Jordan R. Samuel

Bernie Wallace said...

How did you come up with the title of the book?

James Robert said...

Thanks much for sharing your book and a giveaway. Sounds great!

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