For this month’s Author Spotlight, MRN is doing something a little different. Instead of featuring one author for June, MRN is hosting 4Writers4Love and their just released anthology, today in fact, Because My Heart Said So – A Friend-to-Lovers Collection. If you don’t know who 4Writers4Love are yet, you will by the end of this month.
First, I’d like to say how honored I am that Nia Forrester, Jacinta Howard, Lily Java, and Rae Lamar aka 4Writers4Love took the time to play 20 questions with me — literally! When they agreed to participate, I walked on air for a few hours honestly. Then I just hoped I could do them and their anthology the justice it deserves, so here goes…
Acceptable Losses by Nia Forrester
Quentin is in the middle of a separation from his wife that seems to have no conclusive end in sight, while Lena is stuck in Single Girl Hell. The only respite either of them have is their regular coffee dates, while working on shared projects at a very demanding job. Sick of hearing about Lena’s semidisastrous attempts to couple-up, Quentin decides to fix her up. With his brother. Seems like a perfect solution; after all, his brother is a decent enough guy and Lena deserves that. Perfect … until it appears that the fix-up might actually work.
Blind Expectations by Jacinta Howard
Aristotle once said the only thing constant in life is change. Or was that Confucius? Whatever. People are fluid—they come into your life for a while, and when it’s time for them to float on, Leah has no qualms waving goodbye. The only exception is her neighbor and best friend, Trevor. When all else fails in her crazy world, Trevor is always there, reliable, steady… real. But then one night a heated argument leads to a revelation that shakes Leah to the core. Suddenly, Leah is forced to make a choice. But will her heart survive her decision?
Blackbirds by Lily Java
Once upon a time Sydney Tarr and Elliott Vance were friends: fast friends, ride or die, pledge of allegiance, take it to the mat, “friends”. And the fact that Sydney loved her friend more than she should didn’t matter until finally… one unusual and spectacular night, it did. It mattered very much. Still, not every story is a fairy tale is it? Friends do part — sometimes forever — but, not always.
Blur by Rae Lamar
Jade Warner is back home. The bad part? Starting over. The best part? Reconnecting with Kyle Malone. Picking up where they left off years ago, it feels just like old times…except for the mutual attraction and questionable feelings, which are all brand new. For Jade and Kyle, it’s unthinkable to hook up given the history of their fail-safe friendship, but anything can happen when you live under the same roof…
Sooo, what brought you all together to write ‘Because My Heart Said So’? Who came to whom and said, “let’s do this!”?
NIA: It started with a conversation in a Facebook group. And someone suggested that it might be cool for a few of us writers to collaborate on a collection. I love ‘writing experiments’ so I was excited about the idea. I think, though, that it’s fair to say that Lily Java is the one who followed up on the notion and helped make it a reality. Since then it’s been a partnership in the truest sense — everyone pulling their weight and equally invested in seeing this thing through to a successful end.
JACINTA: Eventually, Nia, Lily and I started discussing it seriously and wanted to pull Rae in after reading her outstanding Aris series. Or something like that.
LILY: Jacinta is right it started as a “what if” kind of question between her, Nia, and I then it basically steamrolled from there. We pulled Rae in ‘cause well, she’s wonderful and we ALL love her work.
RAE: I was the latecomer to this collaboration. Nia inboxed me with the details, and I jumped at the opportunity. I think most of it was mapped out before I joined them, so they caught me up and we took off from there.
What is the best/worst thing about working with your friends and fellow authors?
NIA: The camaraderie. Writing is an isolating and isolated experience. No one can be inside your head with you. So it’s cool when you can invite people into your ‘writing life’ who know– through their own writing lives– what it’s like. They share the same hopes, fears, challenges. So it was cool to find that you’re with someone who is from the same tribe in that sense — they get you, and you get them.
The worst part is losing the isolation! I actually like the solitary nature of writing and having my own voice be the only one in my head. This process exposed me to a truth I didn’t want to accept before — you can’t do that forever. To grow as a writer, at some point you have to expose yourself, and you can’t always do it just at the end of the process when you publish the book, sometimes you have to do it in order to produce a good book.
JACINTA: The best thing is having other writers to talk to who get what it is to write fiction. Most people don’t– so there’s a certain relief and even joy in that, particularly because we were working toward the same goal.
The worst thing is feeling like you’ve disappointed anyone for whatever reason. Or not holding up your end of the relationship properly. I actually learned a little bit about myself during this process, honestly. We faced a few unexpected challenges and it was interesting to see how those challenges played out and were ultimately addressed. I loved the process, even the bumpy times because it only solidified how damn super cool Nia, Rae and Lily are. I’m honored to have worked with them on this and I’m better for it.
LILY: Without a doubt the intimacy and companionship that develops from collaborating on the same goal and understanding deeply each other’s obstacles and joys in achieving the goal has got to be the very best thing.
I honestly have trouble deciding about the worst thing. The exhaustion? The tension of getting it right individually AND as a group? The attempts to communicate effectively without the benefit of seeing each other face to face? The long ass meetings with each other? 😉 I don’t know I kind of enjoyed all of that because I got to work with such a wonderful group of talented, kick ass women and produce something I really love. Makes me teary to think about it but I cry at everything.
RAE: The best thing is the camaraderie; going through the ups and down of the process with writers who ‘get’ you.
The worst thing was making sure I didn’t slip up in any way because I didn’t want to let them down. Overall, it’s been rewarding on every level for me. It was hard work to turn this around as quickly as we did, but it was also fun and fulfilling in a way that writing solo just isn’t. I’m grateful because I’m better in so many ways because of them and what we’ve accomplished together with this book.
What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and/or logistical) in bringing BMHSS to life?
NIA: Oh, we relied on the internet so we were fine research-wise. Lol. No, the truth is, for some reason, we all have strengths that complemented each other, and personalities that meshed well. Despite having four people with other lives besides writing, families, different temperaments and ways of dealing with pressure, timelines and tasks, we managed to get through this with no tiffs, hurt feelings and falling-out. It was pretty freakin’ amazing. So the challenges were minimal. The biggest one for us all was this: I think is that with one possible exception, I think we’re all pretty introverted, so the constant (and I mean constant like daily, several times a day for over three weeks) engaging and connecting was new.
JACINTA: I think the main challenge was just basic logistical stuff. Handling the editing and formatting, designing of the cover…those kind of things. But again, everyone is so chill, getting those things done was really easy, considering that we had four individual voices and opinions chiming in. Thankfully, I think our vision was very similar, as well as our tastes, so that worked out well.
LILY: Writing the story and making it the best we possibly could in such a short time line was super difficult. And yeah, even the minor logistics of publishing a book were time consuming and challenging but they always are for a self-published author. In some ways having four of us who collaborated well together made the job much easier as well as MUCH harder. When you work by yourself, you work in a vacuum, making all the decisions for better or worse. Your vision, your mistakes, you are only accountable to you. Not so much in a group effort. The good thing is though I think the old adage that two heads are better than one isn’t wrong. Four heads can be even better if they mesh well and are patient and kind with each other.
RAE: For me, the challenge was in having to write my story while coordinating with Nia, Jacinta and Lily to handle the business end of publishing the book. Those two things are usually linear for me so, when it began to overlap, I was overwhelmed but I made it through. Communication was key—we were in touch with each other every day. Whether it was a scheduled meeting or just informal chats throughout the day, everyone had a voice and we respected each other’s opinions. It was great that we genuinely enjoyed working with each other; I think that made the whole process a lot less taxing as we tackled all those tasks while staying on point with our story drafts. It was a lot of work, but we always kept it light and made it fun.
Where did the inspiration for your novella’s title come from?
NIA: I don’t know! Someone threw out the title and we all loved it. Can’t recall who it was, though I’m sure it wasn’t me. My novella’s title, Acceptable Losses is a reference to choices we make that we sometimes know will result in the loss of something (like an opportunity that may not come again), or the loss of someone (like a relationship that may not be repaired). And sometimes, we anticipate the loss, or sense that it may come, but decide that it’s an acceptable loss. In my novella, the main characters both make choices that result in an ‘acceptable loss’.
JACINTA: We were struggling with coming up with a title and Rae suggested “Because My Heart Said So”—we all fell in love with it. As far as my individual title, Blind Expectations, I again, was struggling with it but after I got about three-fourths of the way through, thought that was the best summation of where my story was going. Expectations inevitably change and twist when relationships mature and progress. Leah and Trevor deal with that concept in the novella.
LILY: Definitely Rae came up with the title of the book. Inspired genius that title and we all really loved it immediately. The title of my story, Blackbirds, was inspired by many things. First and foremost the very first scene in the book with Sydney involves a black bird. Also the lyrics to Paul McCartney song were super appropriate to the themes in the story. There’s a lot of supposition that Paul’s song was about black women and the racial struggle of the sixties. I saw the song’s lyrics: ”take these broken wings and learn to fly… you were only waiting for this moment to arise” as a reflection of both Sydney and Elliott’s struggle to rise above any hurt in their relationship and to find love.
RAE: The title of my story came from a Raheem Devaughn song I was listening to while writing. The lyrics are about that moment when two people have to choose whether they are friends or lovers because love is closing in and you have to stop pretending that you don’t know things have changed, that the platonic line has blurred. And it just made sense to go with that – ‘Blur’. As far as the book title, we were all brainstorming ideas. I happened to come across a quote – “Sometimes your heart knows things that your mind can’t explain.” Or something like that. And then I started thinking about how some decisions we make are completely mental but there quite a few in life that we make because it just feels right. Because, like the quote says, your heart knows. And you end up taking the leap…because your heart said so.
Describe your novella in six words.
NIA (Acceptable Losses): Family. Friendship. Denial. Deceit. Acceptance. Love.
JACINTA (Blind Expectations): Soulful. Real. Sensual. Turbulent. Honest. Sexy.
LILY (Blackbirds): Loneliness. Connection. Love. Intensity. Fear. Redemption.
RAE (Blur): Oops. Playful. Crush. Flirty. Real. Love.
Future writing plans…separately and/or together?
NIA: Would love to work with these writers again. There’s a little magic in all of them separately and I think in the four of us together. We’re all writing novels based on the novellas in this collection, and beyond that, I have a couple more planned for this year (fingers crossed).
JACINTA: We all have plans for a full-length follow-up to our novella. I also have plans to release two more books in my Prototype series.
LILY: A follow up to Blackbirds is coming. A fantasy serial will appear on my blog this summer. Standalone sequels to two of my books are coming later this year. Would love to work on something else with the 4Writers4Love crew — learned so much.
RAE: The continuation of Blur and the continuation of a serial short I released on my website.
✦✦✦ Book Trailer✦✦✦
🎉🍾🎉🍾🎉🍾 HAPPY RELEASE DAY to 4Writers4Love!!! 🎉🍾🎉🍾🎉🍾
I’ve learned so much about this project that, for me, makes reading each novella that much richer. I’m eternally grateful to Nia, Jacinta, Lily and Rae for sharing with us and allowing me the opportunity to do something new here on MRN. You can connect with 4Writers4Love and enjoy Because My Heart Said So excerpts, inspirations, and updates on Facebook and Pinterest.
This is just the beginning…stay tuned for more from Nia, Jacinta, Lily and Rae for the rest of the month. Also, keep an eye peeled for my review of Because My Heart Said So.
I hope you’ve found your next favorite book!