Today I am thrilled to be a part of this blog tour and have author Amber Stokes stopping by to answer a few questions about her debut novel Bleeding Heart! Amber is a lovely blogging friend and I have been delighted to anticipate this moment with her. She deserves every bit of excitement she's feeling right now. Without further ado, let's get to the questions! :)
Hello Amber! Thank you for stopping by today. I'm so happy to chat about Bleeding Heart with you. :)
Amber: Thank you so much for having me, Kara! I’m happy to be here. :)
You stated in your Author's Note that your interest in Virginia City, NV got you started with your writing. What was one thing that you remember first noticing that intrigued you? As in, what specifically "kick-started your dreams"? A building? A person?
Amber: To be honest, it’s all kind of a blur! I remember sitting in a hotel room (I guess it was in Reno) and having these ideas rush through my mind. I wrote out a very basic synopsis for Forget Me Not (the prequel to Bleeding Heart) involving Virginia City (which I suppose we had just visited), a girl on a quest to find the brother she never knew, and a love that began in childhood with a handful of forget-me-nots. Looking back in my little notebook, I noted these things about Virginia City: the wooden sidewalks, the candy shops, the fact that there can still be snow in April, etc. And I guess this shows what little I knew back then about the town: I put a question mark after “silver mining,” LOL. (No question mark needed!)
The thing is, I remember writing a good bit of the story as a contemporary once upon a time. (Bad idea. Really.) So, I think what happened was that I planned on writing it as a historical, then changed my mind, then changed my mind again – or maybe it started as a contemporary, and then I had a revelation about the historical perspective? But I vividly recall the story idea beginning that day in the hotel room… See what I mean? It’s a blur! However it went down, though, Virginia City was a part of both versions. I guess it was just the atmosphere of the place and the fact that it was the first town of its kind I’d really visited that struck me. :)
Can you tell us which character from Bleeding Heart first took shape in your mind and what was it that struck you about them? Why did you feel a need to write about them?
Amber: Several of the characters in Bleeding Heart were first introduced in Forget Me Not – but I’d have to go with Joe, as I believe he came into Forget Me Not before either Sally, Myghal, or Seth (initially called John, but I have way too many J-names as it is, LOL). When I first started writing the sequel, I basically just wanted to write the story about the spurned suitor from book 1 (Joe) and go from there. It all started out as an often-told love triangle in book 1, and book 2 was a chance to explore the love story of the third of the triangle that was left behind. He was a sweet, rather naïve fellow in book 1, but there were undercurrents of hurt and emotional depth in his character begging to be explored. He proved to be so much more than just a spurned suitor, after all…
Joe started out sweet and naive? Now that intrigues me! His experience must have really changed him then. :)
I know you have a Pinterest Board featuring a "soundtrack" for the story. Which song from the list first stood out to you as the perfect sound for what you were writing? What was it about that song particularly? (You can talk about your favorite song, if that would be easier.)
Amber: I’d probably have to say the two songs by Huckleberry Flint (a band from my neck of the woods, actually!). Both “Dixie” and “Sally Ann” were songs that I initially incorporated into the story, in a sense… I generalized “Dixie,” of course, so that it could be in reference to whatever version of the song was around then – but the one I listened to and thought of was the version performed by Huckleberry Flint. As for “Sally Ann,” I think I discovered that it might not be as old a song as I thought, or something along those lines, so I took out the reference to the song, even though I don’t think I ever included the title… Anyway, I initially connected it to the scene after “Dixie” in chapter 5 (the song Myghal plays on his fiddle), but I ended up connecting it (via the “soundtrack”) to the feeling generated in the scene at the end of chapter 21.
I can feel that when I listen to it! I think it definitely fits that particular scene really well. The music and lyrics both. I love having a soundtrack to listen to! :)
Tea or coffee?
Amber: Tea, please. Fruit-flavored or peppermint preferred. :)
I love tea also, but would prefer citrus flavors over peppermint. ;)
Name five things you can't live without (the necessities are a given, these should be fun!)
Amber: (I’m assuming “things” like God and the abilities to speak, see, move, etc. are also a given!)
Nature (I love its beauty and the solitude and reflection it affords.)
Books (You know it! *wink*)
A Computer (OK, I hope I could live without this, but at this point in my life, it’s kind of useful!)
You assumed right. :) And of course books have to be on your list! Where would we be without them?! (Let's not even contemplate such a thing, yes? ;)
Do you have any more stories or sequels planned for the future?
Amber: Well, I hope to edit and publish Forget Me Not next. I also hope to write a companion short story and another sequel. We shall see! And that’s just the immediate future – who knows what stories might capture my imagination after that, Lord willing? :)
I will absolutely look forward to Forget Me Not someday. Will be interesting to see Joe as sweet. Provided you don't completely change him from your original plan, of course. And I'd love more of Myghal's story! (hint hint)
Thank you so much for answering these questions, Amber! This was fun! :)
My pleasure! Thank you for letting me chat with you about my book!
About the Author
freelance editing and self-publishing her debut novel, Bleeding Heart.
About the Book
Five bleeding hearts. One profound journey.
Sally Clay’s livelihood has been snatched away, but in its place arises an opportunity to escape from her sordid past and an unrelenting, unwanted suitor. Boarding a train with a heartsick rancher and an enigmatic miner, she leaves Virginia City behind and heads to Northern California, waiting for the chance to make right what went wrong three long years before.
But the road to revenge is far from smooth. Sally soon learns that the jagged pieces of a broken heart can far too easily wound the hearts of others – and hers isn’t the only heart that’s broken. Tragedy and fear dog her steps as she flees from the redwood forests to the high desert and back again. Will her bleeding heart ever find a way and a place to heal?
A desperate soiled dove. Three men who come to care for her. One man determined to claim her.
All on a journey that will show them what true love really involves.
I was quite impressed with Ms. Stokes' writing. Especially for a first novel! :) The descriptions of the way people lived during the late 1800s drew me in and felt well researched. I could easily picture what was going on and where people were. Life was hard back then. It hasn't been kind to most of these characters really. And their individual and collective journey's will take them all to places they had never imagined.
With heartbreak and pain, this is not a happy, sunshiney story. These characters have to endure a great deal to reach any semblance of a happy ending. And even then, I'm not sure I would call it a typical "happy ending" because while there's certainly happiness there (yay!), there is still heartache to get beyond. I had the sense that these characters had lots more hard work ahead, but it would be worth it for them. And those two lovebirds were awful cute with one another! At least once they got their act together and realized how they felt. But I should note it doesn't truly develop until close to the end. And much of the development is left up to your imagination.
I also thought the point of view changes worked pretty well. The reader gets just enough perspective to make them understand why this or that character is acting this way. As for the characters themselves....
Joe and Sally circle one another, by turns tender and harsh. Sally has become pretty bitter and skittish; she longs to be loved, yet doesn't really know what to do with it when it shows up. Joe is confused and raw, yet desires love deep inside even while he refuses to admit to it. Myghal steals your heart with his gentleness and sweetness, yet hides a hurt within. Zachary uses gruffness to try and hide his kind and gentle ways. Seth's grief almost drags him down until he gets a wake up call that shakes him out of his stupor. As for the main antagonist, he doesn't deserve to be talked about! At all. In short, the characters are where Ms. Stokes' writing shines! They feel real and leap off the page, drawing you into caring about them.
I do have to admit that portions of the story moved a little fast for me. The characters travel around quite a bit, and just when I'd get settled into where they were now, they up and left again. This caused me to be unable to stay emotionally involved the whole time. One particular plotline ended so quickly, then we get a time jump immediately after. I wished that character had gotten a little better closure than they ended up with. For the amount of time spent with them prior to that scene, it felt cut short a little too abruptly for me. (I was reading an ARC, so maybe this has been changed in the final edits.) The other thing I wanted more of was Myghal! I loved him immediately and want more details about him! I'm hoping we'll get more of his story some day in the future. He so deserves more page time. He was definitely my favorite character. Well, maybe that title should be split between him and Zachary. I liked Zachary a lot too! ;)
So. While there were a few rough parts, overall the writing shines and made me fall in love with it! It convinced me to look forward to what she may write in the future. I've a very good feeling she'll only get better with time! :D I definitely recommend this book. It deserves to be read and enjoyed!
**I received a complimentary e-ARC from the author in exchange for my honest review. (Thanks Amber! :)
But whatever the man's motives, he held out hope in all its shining glory, and Joe lacked the heart to resist.
It was as if he was now a warm, fresh loaf of bread, instead of the nebulous, sad mass of dough he had been.
The door to his heart stood wide open, and Sally was dancing him out of the shadows.
As he drew out a high note, he thought of how they both were healing, blossomin' like two stems of a lupine plant reaching their petals out to each other and up to the sunny sky.
"You misjudge me, Miss Clay. I'm a cook. I don't break things; I make things for people to enjoy."
“Journey to the West” Giveaway! One U.S. resident (randomly drawn) will receive a signed copy of Bleeding Heart and a collection of items from the story’s settings, handpicked by the author.
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