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The Sterling Wood Series

Charlene Johnson Author Interview

Charlene Johnson Author Interview

Homecoming follow Lily as she goes back to her small hometown where she discovers that someone is out to kill her. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling story?

I grew up in a small town in Southwestern Pennsylvania and had relatives and friends that worked in the coal mines. Everyone knew each other , and it was a nice place to grow up. When I decided to write a Romantic Suspense, I thought it would be fun to create a small town and a storyline located in that area.

Lily was an intriguing character. What were some driving ideals behind her character development?

I drew very loosely from my own life for Lily’s character. The town where I grew up was predominantly white. There was a small group of black families living in town, and I was related to most of them in one way or another. In the local cemetery, blacks were buried separately from whites for the most part. After attending college and working for a few years in town, I wanted to see more of the country and advance in my career. There wasn’t much opportunity for upward mobility in my field of study. I took a job with the federal government, moved to California, and thirty-six years later, I still live there.

I enjoyed the mystery at the heart of this story. Was it planned before writing or did it develop organically while writing?

I’m a plotter, not pantser. I had the main storyline before I started writing. I planned to write a standalone, but as I developed some secondary characters, I thought they had stories of their own. Thus, why I decided to write a series. I’m planning five books in the series, but who knows? I created two other local towns while writing Homecoming that will play a role in the other books in the series.

This is book one in your Sterling Woods series. What can readers expect in book two?

I’m currently finishing up the 5th book in my paranormal romance series, Circle of the Red Scorpion. I will immediately start working on Changing the Rules, Book 2 in the Sterling Wood Series, and hope to have it done in the late 3rd quarter of this year.

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Lily Sommers reluctantly returns to Sterling Wood to attend her Uncle Jimmy’s funeral – a town she left years ago.

Sterling Wood holds painful memories she’s tried to forget.  One, in particular, is still raw and every time she returns pulls the scab off a wound that will not heal – Luc Pearson, the handsome high school sweetheart who betrayed her.

Seeing Luc again isn’t the only problem she has to face in Sterling Wood.  Someone is trying to kill her, and she doesn’t know why. 

She soon learns shocking revelations that could change the course of her life as a ruthless killer stalks her. Will the people closest to her be able to save her?

Things like that aren’t supposed to happen in Sterling Wood.

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Homecoming

Homecoming (The Sterling Woods Series Book 1) by [Charlene Johnson]

For Lily, a high school heartbreak had given her few reasons to be fond of seeing her hometown, and trips to Sterling Wood were as short and infrequent as she could manage. All that changed quickly, though, with the death of her Uncle Jimmy. Suddenly reconciled with her high school sweetheart while dealing with her grief, Lily becomes involved in a mystery with decades old origins, and twists that will change almost everything she knows about her family. Unshakable love, senseless murder, and shocking secrets will all be uncovered to rattle the small town of Sterling Wood.

Homecoming by Charlene Johnson is equal parts enduring love story and twisted murder mystery. Sterling Wood is depicted as the typical small town, full of people who are happy to stay and continue the status quo. Lily is the one who made it out, becoming a successful photographer with her own business and high profile clients. Her short trips home to visit family are in large part a means of avoiding Luc, the high school love who broke her heart. When she has to return for her uncle’s funeral however, she knows it will be a longer visit, and soon, years of misunderstanding are washed away and the two are an item again. It only takes a little longer than that before it becomes clear that someone has malicious feelings toward both Lily and her family.

Love, family, and maybe more accurately, what makes a person family, are the themes that are constantly revisited throughout the book. The idea of a small town that breeds intense friendships and well as deep seeded resentments is a common one, and Johnson does well to create her own version of it here. She uses a variety of concepts that can be found often, but infuses enough originality and backstory to keep it fresh.

The book quickly delves into an engaging and well thought out mystery. Many of the characters represent common personality tropes. While Lily is presented as fiercely independent and successful, it quickly becomes clear that most, if not all, of her motivations are driven solely by her past issues with Luc. Even when she returns to Sterling Wood and begins to uncover her family history, Luc stands as more of a driving force. I felt the the other characters in the book were interesting and well developed in comparison to Lily.

The compelling mystery at the heart of this enchanting novel kept me turning pages and I was very eager to find out the next twist. Although I would have enjoyed a deeper dive into Lily’s character, the big reveal at the end was well worth the read.

Pages: 270 | ASIN: B085SZP4B1

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Really Real

Ellie G. Collins Author Interview

Ellie G. Collins Author Interview

Mylee in the Mirror explores young romance and school drama with an infusion of Greek Mythology. What were some themes you wanted to continue from your first book and what were some new ideas you wanted to explore?

Well, in Daisy, Bold & Beautiful I wanted to create a situation for my main character that would demonstrate the same moral of the story that I find within Persephone’s story – it is important to stand up for yourself. The story in Mylee In The Mirror is very different, but I arrived at it in the same manner – I wanted a story that would demonstrate the moral of the story I find in Aphrodite’s story – you can’t force someone to love someone else. I hope to do that with all the books in this series – decide on a moral of the story for each god/goddess featured in the book and create a story that demonstrates that moral.

I enjoyed Ty and My’s characters and interactions. What was the inspiration for their relationship?

Hmmm… well, I didn’t really have a specific relationship in mind when I was writing it. I developed each character (for instance, Ty is loose combination of my [real life] Trampoline & Tumbling teammate, Ty, my dad, and my brother, Will), then had them interact the way I imagined those characters would interact with each other. I have a friend, Peter, who I joke around with, kinda like Mylee and Ty joked around together, but My & Ty were friends longer than Pete and I have been and they’re closer than Pete and I are.

How has your writing developed and changed from book one in your Greek Mythology Fantasy Series?

I don’t know exactly how my writing developed and changed from Daisy to Mylee, but this book was really different to write because Daisy was all about 6th graders and I was a 6th grader when I was writing it, so I could really relate to what they were doing and how they were acting. Mylee is about ninth graders AND Ty was my first male main character. Obviously, I don’t know anything about being a boy, and certainly not a 9th grade boy, so I had to talk with my brother quite a bit to decide what Ty would do and how he would act. I also talked quite a bit with my mom about the two moms in the story and Grammy Jean. Grammy Jean was based on my real-life great grandmother, who passed away last winter. The character wasn’t exactly like my Grammy Jean, but pretty close. So, I guess I can say I worked more and worked harder this time trying to understand motivations to make the characters feel really real, know what I mean?

What are you currently writing and when will it be published?

I’m just starting work on book 3. This will feature my first god (instead of a goddess), and the main character will be a boy this time. I hope to be done with it sometime this spring, so hopefully it’ll be published sometime in the summer. I’ve been busy, though, because this is competition season for both my gymnastics team and my tramp & tumble team. Last weekend we traveled down to Oregon for a meet and this weekend we fly to Reno, Nevada for another one. Between all that and school there isn’t a ton of time for writing, but I’m really anxious to share this next story, so I’ll find the time! 😊

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Mylee in the Mirror (Greek Mythology Fantasy Series Book 2) by [Collins, Ellie]

Freshman year is just starting, and already Mylee fears her family is falling apart. She’s not interested in dating or any of the high-school drama it brings, but that’s just what she gets when Sam, the most popular guy at school, invites her to the Homecoming dance. Mylee needs advice, so she summons Aphrodite, Goddess of Love and Beauty, her secret confidant.

Tyler is worried about Mylee, his best friend and teammate. Already sad about her family woes, he’s livid that Slimeball Sam is trying to ooze his way into her life. And she seems to be falling for Sam’s act! Worse, Ty is worried all this attention from such a popular guy will place Mylee officially out of his league.

What does an ancient Greek goddess know about modern teenage romance? Can My and Ty save their friendship and discover what matters most?

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