Happy Friday, everyone! Today I'm so happy to welcome Monica Epstein, whose debut novel, Where There is Will was recently published by The Wild Rose Press. She's here today to share the news about her book and also kindly agreed let me ask her five nosy questions. I read her novel and really enjoyed it. (Check the review below.) First of all, though, please welcome Monica!
1. Hi, Monica! Would you mind sharing a bit about your journey as a writer? (i.e., how long have you been writing, how long were you trying to be published before you got “the call”, etc.)
My writing journey began unexpectedly in midlife. I had enjoyed creative writing as a child, but once I hit high school, and all writing became based on facts, I lost my passion. I wrote well, but I never considered it as a career. Fast forward many years later, when my children no longer needed my full-time attention, I had to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I pursued a Certificate in Editing. Although my preference was to work in a more creative environment like publishing, living outside Washington, D.C. didn’t lend itself to finding such a job, so I took what I was offered—a job as a technical writer for a software company.
Writing a novel began on a whim. Friends I had made online liked to share stories they wrote. I decided to try my hand at it too. But after completing my first short story on a cruise, there was still plenty of time at sea. I turned the short story into Chapter One, and by the time my husband and I disembarked, I had Chapters Two and Three written, as well. My characters took control of all of my free time until they were satisfied I had told their entire story. That’s when I knew I had to pursue publishing. But it took me another three years to learn how to turn it into something others would want to read.
2. The heroine in Where There Is Will is considerably older than the hero. Do you consider the book to be a “cougar romance”?
I never intended to write a cougar romance. I always hated the term cougar. My goal was to write a novel about second chances. I believe I was given a second chance in life career-wise, and I wanted to spread the message that it is never too late to recreate yourself.
The short story I wrote on the cruise was inspired by my son and I having similar taste in music. Once I decided to continue that story, I had the basic premise of older woman/younger man, so I kept going with it.
In one of my last rewrites of WHERE THERE IS WILL, I included some references to the heroine being a cougar, but I did it for comic effect.
3. In your bio at your website, you mention that you’re a technical writer at your day job. Is it difficult to change hats and write romance in your free time? Do you feel your technical writing helps you as a fiction author?
Good question. I haven’t thought much about this.
Being a technical writer means I know how to write. My sentence structure is good, grammar is correct, and so forth. Most of the time, anyway ;-) But writing creatively is very different and it presents a challenge. You see, software manuals are very exact. I don’t want the reader to have to guess. It’s my responsibility to tell them exactly what they need to do. Fiction writing should show rather than tell. This goes against what I do during the day.
One drawback to being a technical writer (maybe it would be a drawback of any full-time job, even one that doesn’t involve writing) is sometimes I lack the concentration I need to write in the evening. The upside to writing technical material during the day and fiction at night and on weekends is that they use different parts of my brain. My creative side gets exercise when I’m telling stories.
4. Your heroine Michelle moves across the pond to London after her divorce. That’s a big step for her. Have you ever done anything similarly adventurous in your life?
Not at all. I would be terrified. In fact, I’m the least courageous person I can think of. But I console myself by telling friends they can entrust me with their purses while they zipline, climb mountains, go on safari, or whatever else is on their bucket lists. Your purse isn’t safe in the car or the hotel, right? Someone has to keep an eye on it.
5. Can you share a bit about what you’re working on now? We’re all ears!
I’m grappling with several different ideas. The one that seems to be ahead is a story about a woman who keeps coming to the rescue of her former husband and his family. The only problem is his current wife doesn’t believe the former wife is really responsible because she’s dead. But when the current wife needs saving, she might have to reconsider her beliefs.
Where There is Will
When she moves to London following her divorce, Michelle Loeser has no interest in looking for love. She needs to focus on surviving without her ex’s six-figure income, coping with a severe fear of heights, and rebuilding her confidence. And if she keeps her promise to her best friend, she’ll pursue her passion for writing too.
Will Sheridan found his passion early in life. At age eleven, he was cast in the starring role in a film series. Now, at the age of 25, he’s a celebrity at a crossroads in his career. He has no time for women who don’t understand his priorities.
When Will offers to help Michelle acclimate to the unfamiliar city in exchange for cooking lessons, she figures what’s the harm? But jealous fans and coworkers, eager paparazzi, and a distrustful mother see it differently.
Because we had a product release to the American market fast approaching, I stayed late at the office, picked up a bite to eat before boarding the Tube, and headed straight to Caryn’s for mah jongg. I walked into her flat and knew something was wrong immediately by how quiet my friends were. “What’s happened? Or have you been talking about Will and me?”
Penny turned to Amanda, who looked at Caryn.
I settled my gaze on Caryn. “Well?”
“We have, but there’s more to it.” Caryn faced Amanda.
“Will you three stop looking at each other and tell me?”
“I’ll tell because I saw it,” Amanda volunteered. “I was watching an entertainment news program while eating dinner.”
Penny snorted. “A gossip show.”
“Call it what you like,” Amanda said, “but the point is you and Will were mentioned.”
I brushed my hair away from my face. “What did they say?”
“They showed a picture of you and Will entering your flat, and one of him leaving it the following morning.”
“How could you tell it was the following morning?”
“The one with both of you was definitely taken at night. It was dark and the street light was on. The one of Will alone looked like it was taken in daylight. And he was dressed the same, so I figured it was the next day.”
I shrugged. “So what? That’s no worse than the towel picture.”
“There’s more,” Penny said.
I dropped into a chair at the table.
Amanda continued. “They mentioned your name, what you do for a living, where you live and work, and that you’re a forty-five-year-old divorced American.”
“I won’t be forty-five until the end of next month,” I corrected, although it wasn’t important. “How do you think they found all this out about me?”
“I imagine it’s public record who rents flats where,” Caryn said. “I can call the management company to see if anyone has inquired about you.”
“Maybe they followed Will and me. We were together last night. They either saw us at the restaurant and followed us to my flat, or they had been following Will all evening—from the studio, to my place, to the restaurant, and back again. Seems like an awful waste of time.”
“Those pictures can be worth a lot of money to them,” Amanda pointed out.
“Do you think someone camped out in front of your flat all night?” Caryn asked.
“That’s a frightening thought,” Penny said. She gave my arm a comforting pat.
“I think you should tell Will,” Amanda suggested. “He should be on the lookout for someone following him.”
“But now someone could be following Michelle too,” Caryn added.
My stomach was as tight as an overstretched rubber band. “Will warned me there would be issues if our relationship was out. He’s always been so careful not to do anything in public that might be construed as personal.”
“Except for running around in a towel,” Amanda mumbled.
My glare caused her to smile. “I was trying to lighten things up a little. And for the record, I’m glad you gave in to your desires. How was it?”
“Amanda,” Penny said, “our friend’s private life was revealed on telly, and you want to know how the sex was?”
“What’s wrong with that?” She turned to me. “Well?”
“It was wonderful, fantastic, better than I dreamed of,” I said offhandedly. “But I’d still like to know how the reporter found out so much about me.”
Caryn put her arm around my shoulder. “It’s unnerving, but I’m sure you’re not in any danger. Isn’t that right, ladies?” She turned to the others for backup.
“That’s right. They’re not out to harm you,” Penny reassured.
Amanda remained quiet, and Caryn gave her the eye.
“I don’t think they intend any physical harm,” Amanda began, “but, undoubtedly, there have been instances where harm has been done by paparazzi.”
“We’re not talking about blood-thirsty paparazzi,” Caryn growled. “Let’s not scare Michelle. Can we play now?”
Penny and Amanda began shuffling the mah jongg tiles. I joined them, but my mind wasn’t on the game. Now I understood why Will liked to keep his girlfriends out of the public eye.
I took the Tube home from Caryn’s like I always did, but this time I was more aware of my surroundings: the Indian woman dressed in a sari, a cute little girl beside her; the man wearing the herringbone ivy cap, reading the newspaper; and the two teenage girls covered in tattoos and piercings, talking too fast for me to determine what language they were speaking.
As I walked the short distance to my building, I kept glancing over my shoulder, feeling like someone was there. By the time I engaged the deadbolt, it felt like someone was playing the bongos in my chest.
Despite sleeping alone in my apartment every night without any concerns, tonight I placed a chair against my front door and kept my phone within easy reach, just in case.
Where There Is Will is available at HTTP://AMZN.COM/B00HJE46UA.
***Nona’s review of Where There is Will***
Michelle Loeser meets handsome actor Will Sheridan on a flight to London, when he spills cola on her cashmere sweater. After he apologizes, they begin talking and hit it off. Though Michelle thinks they’ll never meet again, she’s proven wrong when she realizes she inadvertently took his cell phone.
When they reconnect, they discover they have more things in common and Will offers to help her make her way around the city in exchange for her giving him cooking lessons. Their friendship grows, as does Michelle’s attraction to Will. But can he return those feelings, considering she is twenty years his senior and he can’t go anywhere without paparazzi on his trail.
I very much enjoyed Where There is Will. The love affair between Michelle and Will unfolds gradually. They begin with friendship and help each other in a number of ways. Michelle helps Will become more self-sufficient around his home while he helps her overcome her fear of heights. He also boosts her self-confidence, which was shattered by a bitter divorce. He encourages her desire to write. In return, she helps reacquaint him with his Jewish heritage. As the story goes on, you can see that their relationship has a strong basis in friendship from which romance can blossom.
Of course, not everyone is in their corner. Some of Michelle’s friends warn her not to get her hopes up. Will’s mother is not exactly in their camp, either. And Will’s rabid fans definitely do not like the idea of him dating an “old lady.” Michelle also has some trouble with difficult co-workers. Worst of all is the crippling self-doubt that Michelle must overcome in order to make things work with Will.
I loved the way the author showed London as Michelle took it all in, as well as the inclusion of British slang. I learned a few new terms. I also really enjoyed the inclusion of Judaism and the religious holidays. There are a lot of interesting layers to the story and Michelle’s self-growth becomes as important as her romance with Will.
Though their relationship becomes intimate, the love scenes are all behind closed doors, so readers who prefer clean romance will not be offended. Where There is Will is a lovely story of a woman “of a certain age” who, in making a fresh start, finds a new life and new love. I highly recommend it.
Monica Epstein writes about topics that appeal to women like herself—over 40 and nowhere near ready to throw in the towel and call it a life. Her first novel, Where There Is Will, is published by The Wild Rose Press.
Monica lives in a suburb of Washington, D.C. with her husband, their teenage daughter, and a small collection of hats and fascinators. She dreams of being the Queen of England in her next life.
Learn more about Monica at the following: