Today we sit down with Carol Balawyder. She is an author of contemporary women’s fiction and a blogger. She is going to share her work, her influences, and a little bit about her. Please enjoy.
DM: What is the title and genre of the book you want to tell us about?
CB: The title is Not By Design and its category is contemporary women’s fiction. The book is the fourth title in a series called Getting To Mr.Right.
DM: Can you summarize your book in one sentence?
CB: As Felicity Starr confronts the on-going challenges presented by the discovery of having developed Multiple Sclerosis, she gains the strength to let go of old beliefs and face her inner truths.
DM: Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?
CB: Anyone interested in romantic relationships, fashion design, dogs, finding one’s path, Rome. I guess people could read my book for entertainment and lightness and to learn a bit more about Multiple Sclerosis.
DM: How did you come up with the title?
CB: My editor came up with it. She thought that because Felicity works as a fashion designer and is struggling to be her own person Not By Design suited the book and I thought so as well.
DM: Tell me about your cover art. Who designed it? Why did you go with that particular image?
CB: First I had a cover which I’d posted on my blog and got a lot of great comments. DG Kaye, one of the bloggers, pointed out that the cover didn’t go with my brand. It got me thinking a lot about branding and to reconsider my cover, which I wrote about on my blog.
The first cover was one which I drew from Kindle’s suggestion of covers. The second cover I used CANVA, an interesting and fun site to play in. If anybody is interested in designing their own covers I recommend having a look at CANVA.
DM: What are your biggest writing influences (another author, another book, a movie, etc.)
CB: I always have my nose stuck in a book. Some of the books are just to consult or to study the writers’ styles or how they handle a particular subject. For example, Not By Design deals, in part with Multiple Sclerosis, so I read books and blogs on the subject. When writing women’s contemporary fiction I tend to read a lot of books in the genre. Some of my favorite authors in this genre are JoJo Moyes, Amy Lynch and Jennifer Weiner.
Not By Design is partly set in Rome. I have been to Rome and have a global notion of the city but I certainly don’t know its nooks and crannies as I might know the city I live in. Reading travel books was extremely helpful as was re-reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love.
I also like to read books on writing. In general all writing influences me whether bestsellers, Nobel Prize winners, books written by fellow bloggers. There’s always something to learn.
DM: Who is your favorite character from your book and why?
CB: The main character, Felicity. She’s the kind of woman I would like to have as a friend. She’s honest, sincere and in spite of the hurdles she encounters, tries to do the right thing.
DM: How about your least favorite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
CB: Marco. He’s much too macho, full of himself and shallow. So, I wouldn’t like to have him as either friend or boyfriend but he works as a character in the novel.
DM: If you could change ONE thing about your novel, what would it be?
CB: To reach a wider audience.
DM: Can you give us a fun fact about your series?
CB: When I wrote Getting To Mr. Right I never intended it to be a series. In the novel, Missi Morgan writes about her dating adventures. I had a whole lot of material on the subject that I hadn’t used in Getting To Mr. Right so I thought it would be fun to put that together and titled it Missi’s Dating Adventures. Once that was done, I thought why not also write about what happened to the other characters post Getting To Mr. Right. So I wrote another book on Suzy Paradise and one on Felicity Starr. I still have one more to go to complete the series.
DM: What other books are similar to your own? What makes them alike?
CB: Although the subject matter is different, I think Jojo Moyes’s Me Before You is similar to Not By Design in that both are about one woman’s efforts to redirect her life once its been shattered off track. We both write about man-woman relationships, life changing events and disabilities.
DM: Do you have any unique talents or hobbies?
CB: None. That’s why I write. Seriously, most of my free time revolves around sports such as golf, hiking, practicing yoga and Pilates.
DM: How can we find out more about you and your books?
CB: On my author page and my blog.
DM: What can we expect from you in the future?
CB: I’m in the final editing stages of a crime novel. Right, final editing…how often have I said this? Whereas my women’s fiction deals with the father/daughter relationship, this novel is, in part, about the mother/daughter relationship. I find this relationship a lot more difficult to write about simply because mother/daughter relationships are really complex, especially this one where the roles are reversed. The novel is basically a love story but also is concerned with issues of betrayal, secrets, addiction and moral dilemmas.
DM: What can readers who enjoy your book do to help make it successful?
CB: Right now, I am trying to get my name known and so I would be very grateful to have anyone leave a few nice words on Amazon or any other social media.
DM: Do you have any advice for other writers trying to get published?
CB: Belong to a writer’s group. It’s great to get feedback and also gives you deadlines.
No matter how wonderful a book you write it won’t get any attention if nobody reads it. Marketing is very important. One way that I have done is create a blog where I advertise my novels and go on other blogs such as this one to increase visibility. There are lots of great bloggers out there who are generously willing to share their marketing tips and so probably the best advice I can give is to go one their blogs, study their advice and apply it to your own marketing strategy. Something I should be doing more of.
Also, don’t be stingy about leaving comments on social media regarding books or blogs you’ve read. It’s a terrific way to let others know that you exist.
DM: Can you give us an excerpt from your book?
CB: Sure. Here’s the opening:
I couldn’t have asked for a more romantic setting for a marriage proposal. Nothing could surpass the timeless splendor of Rome. Marco and I were having Campari cocktails at Caffe della Pace behind the famous Piazza Navona when he extracted a small green velvet box from his pocket and slid it across the table towards me.
“What’s this?” I said, feigning innocence. Of course I knew what it was. For the past few weeks, Marco had been hinting about getting married and I’d responded lightly, as if we were sharing an inside joke. I’d say something like, You know we’re not the marrying kind or It takes a long time to get to know somebody. A year from now, you’ll discover you can’t stand living with my annoying tics. To which he always answered, I already know all your annoying tics.
I toyed with the lid as if the box might contain an explosive gas.
“Open it,” he said, sliding the box closer to me.
I did as I was told. A diamond ring dazzled me with its elegance before I glanced up at Marco’s smiling face. His eyes sparkled as much as the diamond in the box.
“It’s beautiful,” I said. The round cut diamond was set on white gold and intricate hand engravings graced the band.
“This belonged to my paternal grandmother.” He lifted the ring from the box and started to slip it on my finger. Since it was a bit snug, Marco had to force it downwards.
“It doesn’t feel comfortable,” I said, looking at the red marks the ring had left on my finger.
“A jeweller can adjust it,” he said. “Marry me, Felicity.”
I wanted to ask him why his mother hadn’t inherited the diamond herself but thought better. I wasn’t that insensitive. Instead, what came out of my mouth uncensored was, “Let me think about it.”
“What’s there to think about?” he said as he gave the ring a final push on my finger. “Either you want to marry me or you don’t.”
There it was. That belligerent tone that I so disliked. A tone that reminded me of my father, whom I had escaped by coming to Rome. Although Marco looked nothing like him, he had the same way of intimidating me. Like my father, Marco trivialized my fears, making me feel foolish and dismissed like a school girl. He also took up too much space with his loud manner and overconfident ways, often imposing his own ideas on mine.
Was this how it would be if I married him? The wife behind a man who needed to be the center of attention? A woman constantly overshadowed by her husband?
On the other hand, Marco was almost classically handsome, fun to be with, and remarkably smart. Also, our sexual intimacy couldn’t have been steamier.
He must have noticed the troubled look on my face, for he immediately softened his voice and said, “You don’t have to answer me right now. I have to go to Geneva on business and will be back in two days. Let me know then.”
And so this is where I am. Marco is coming back from his business trip this evening and expects an answer – except I don’t have one.
About Carol Balawyder:
Carol Balawyder holds an undergraduate degree with a major in English Literature and a graduate degree in Criminology. She has taught English in various colleges in Montreal, Concordia University and Ho Chi Minh University of Technology in Vietnam. During this phase of her teaching career she developed teaching material including Open For Business (Harper & Row), Windows on Sci-Tech (Thomson Publishing) and Pour Etre Ganganat (Beauchemin Publishers).
In the second half of her teaching career she taught criminology in Police Technology and Corrections Programs. She helped set up and animate a writing workshop for women in prison and has worked in halfway houses and drug rehab centers.
She has self published Mourning Has Broken (a memoir on grief) and her Getting to Mr. Right Series. Her short stories have appeared in Room Magazine, The Canadian Anthology of Fiction, Mindful.org, Between the Lines, Carte Blanche and she was given an honorary mention for a play submitted to The Canadian Playwright Competition.