Next Up For Review

Next Up For Review
The Center Cannot Hold, Elyn Saks

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Scots Are Hot

Greetings Elsie Love fans. Happy Mother's Day to you all. Many of you love Mother's Day (live for it, really). I have no delusions of flowers and candy and spa days, not while I'm at home anyway. Because of the dark Mother's Days of the past decade, I bring you this post from a secret location where men and children aren't allowed.
Today I have my very first author interview to post. That's a Mother's Day gift in its own right. So without further adieu, I bring you.....drum roll please...  
Newly single Cassie Wrentham spends a long weekend in Scotland with frightening-looking cows, difficult cats and friendly, stubborn Scots. One attracts her immediately, and the feeling is mutual. But Cassie is ruled by her head, not her heart; she can't even read a fairy tale without rolling her eyes and picking the plot apart. She won't fall for the love-at-first-sight thing--or will she?
(which is the first book in the two book series. I know many of you love those series books) 

1. Where did you get the idea for your novel? How long did it take you to finish your first draft; and how long was it between writing ‘The End’ and seeing it in print?

I have no clue where the idea came from. ;-) I wanted to send a young woman on a journey of self discovery, see her through a quarter-life crisis of sorts. My plan was to send her overseas, to a new environment, and have that new environment contribute to her journey. I wasn't sure where she was going; I had a bit of writer's block. I was talking to my best friend about it and she brought up a decades-old inside joke about sheep. That made me think of Scotland, and because I'd visited there in my 20s I thought I could write about it with some degree of credibility. Once Cassie got to Scotland, the story started writing itself.

The first draft took a month: I wrote it in November of 2008. I was using National Novel Writing Month to force an external deadline on myself. I'm a science/medical writer by trade, so I work best on deadline! After that month, I spent several months editing it, and received the first proof in early June of 2009.

2. You self published. Was this your first choice on the path to publication? What have been the pros & cons of heading into the wide open world of self publishing?

Self publishing was my only choice. I know enough published writers to believe that when it comes to fiction, the publishing process has a huge element of chance built in. A publishing house has different considerations than I do -- what's the audience, how can they market it, are there other books it will conflict with in terms of marketing, is the topic considered "hot." I haven't ruled out traditional publishing, but I enjoy the autonomy of self publishing -- and I think the stigma of the "vanity press" is diminishing markedly. You no longer have to pay a couple of thousand dollars to see your book in print; the cost is minimal. And the eBook has been an unexpected blessing for me; I've sold many more Kindles and eBooks than paperbacks, reaching a much wider audience!

So, the pros: freedom to work on my own timeline, set my own prices, and have full editorial and design control. The cons: no marketing budget. And no five-figure advances, either. But money is not my objective; I don't know many novelists who are in it to make money.

3. What advice do you have for all the closet writers afraid to come into the light & proclaim their passion for the written word?

Go for it. It's easier than ever to get your words out there, and there's nothing like the feeling of holding your own book in your hands, or hearing that your efforts touched someone else's life. I was in a cafe recently talking about A Scottish Ferry Tale to a friend, and one of the cafe employees saw the book on the table and gasped. "I just finished that book!" she said. "I loved it. You *wrote* it?" And went on to talk to me about a certain scene in the novel that she'd been thinking about for days. You can imagine how that made me feel - I was definitely more thrilled than she was!

4. Who was your favorite character to write & why? Ditto for your least favorite.
Oh, they were all fun. I know that's a cop-out, but I do like them all. Aisling was great fun to write - she has wisdom beyond her years, as a lot of young kids do. Ralph was fun to write as well... who wouldn't want full control over a handsome Scotsman? ;-)

5. Who is your greatest inspiration?
The people who will read what I write and be moved by it.

6. What is your greatest indulgence? Any bad habits that you partake of when you are in the throes of creating?
I have a massive sweet tooth. I swear I burn more calories when I write. Of course I have no "bad" habits... how could chocolate and red wine be bad? :-)

Actually there is a "good" habit that helps me write -- I'm a runner (a slow-ish one). I didn't start running until I was over 30, and never in a million years did I expect to enjoy it, or discover that it could help the creative process! The title for Ferry Tale came to me on a run. I had been having a horrible time coming up with a title, so I was glad for that. There are some scenes in the sequel that I thought through =while running, too.

So, my thoughts on the book are as follows: 

 Cover: B-/C+ At the time I agreed to read and review this book, I didn't have my Kindle, so I got a print copy. The quality of the paper was great. Nice, heavy, glossy stock. If you are going to put a book in your hands, stuff like paper quality matters. My first two books lacked that in their first edition printing, so I've had first hand experience with poopy paper. The cover photo was just okay. It looked to be a personal photograph and came out a bit blurry around the edges. Not bad, but not great.The second book in the series has a better cover (in my humble opinion).
Story: B-/C+ Many readers have reported having trouble with the age difference between Ralph and Cassie. That wasn't the case for me. I guess I've known enough May/December romances to not even bat an eye. My issue came with the 'conflict' of the story. Cassie struggles with giving up her independence/future to go to Scotland to be with Ralph 100%. I would never have left in the first place! Hot guy, madly in love with me, wildly successful as an actor? Yeah, I'd never give that up. Probably would have married him after the first date. The torture of listening to her ramble on about what she'd be giving up, considering there wasn't anything to give or miss, drove me mad. But then again, I'm a go with your gut kinda gal.
The romance boils at a low simmer throughout the book. I wanted the big BANG!

Overall Grade: B-/C+ Here's the deal. If you want a spicy sizzler with loads of hot sex, this isn't the book for you. You will find yourself wanting to throttle Cassie while screaming, "WAKE UP YOU DOLT!"
If you love Scotland, dream about Gerard Butler, and want a sweet story, then this book will tickle your fancy. Plus, you'll have the added bonus of the sequel (which I haven't read) to follow their love story to the end, or beginning, or however it goes.
Right now both books are available on for your Kindle at $0.99. Steal of a deal and you don't have to taste a bit of haggis. 

A big thank you to Ms. Volkers for sending me a signed copy and giving a gracious interview. 



  1. Great review, Elsie! There is certainly a subset of people who think Cassie is being an overanalytical idiot. ;-) She improves in the sequel, though!

    And you were spot-on about the photo - somewhat embarrassingly, it is one of my own photos from a trip to Scotland years ago. I have a designer lined up to create my next book cover... so I won't be doing that again!

    Thanks again, and happy reading...

  2. Having Scottish heritage I loved the review and look forward to reading the book. I am hosting a give away on my blog of the book "Mistakes" and would love a visit. Thanks.

  3. Nancy...
    I would like to add:
    It takes a great bit of Moxie to tackle a book from cover to cover on your own. My hat is off to you for jumping in the ring & grabbing the bull by the horns. I do not quite have the same courage..I still need an editor & a cover designer. Can't wait for book II :)

  4. I didn't know that fact Nancy- how exciting to have something of your own on your book :) Thanks for the review Elsie!

  5. My whole paternal line is from Scotland, and I've just recently found my great-great-great-grandfather's grave here in GA (he was the first in our family to immigrate from Glasgow). I will have to visit Scotland soon to do some digging...and since, yes, I adore Gerard Butler, I will definitely have to read this book!