In Darkness, There is Still Light follows the life of professional cyclist Loren and the physical and emotional challenges she faces. What did you want to focus on in book 2 of the Wheeler series?
With so much of the conflict in Wheeler having to do with racing and Felix, for the second novel I wanted to bring the conflict closer to home – the relationship between Loren and Graham. Feelings between them developed quickly (too quickly) and being separated yet again makes her realize that perhaps she doesn’t know him as well as she thinks.
The second prong of the story was the possibility of redemption, but I’ll leave that statement with a quote from my Muse. “Every villain is a hero in his own mind.”
Loren continues to develop into a dynamic character that grows as the story progresses. What was your inspiration for Loren’s character and the challenges she faces?
Loren’s character has developed over the many, many revisions but in all honesty, she reacts the way I would react to situations thrown at her. I’ve had Black Moments in my life, and much like how Graham steeped in his emotions over what happened to her to add to his acting performance, I did the same.
Loren faces a series of traumatic evens in her life. What were some obstacles you felt were important to her characters development?
Loren holds on to her pain; it’s a security blanket and like any crutch, it’s difficult to let it go. Trust issues and lack of boundaries hold her back, both personally and professionally. She needs to rediscover who she is in order to move forward. In Darkness is the beginning of her healing.
Where do you want to take the story in book 3 of the series and when will that book be available?
Book 3 is outlined and will bring back the excitement of the cycling races of the Women’s World Tour, beginning with the Strade Bianche in Italy. I hope it will be ready for release in early 2019.
A streak of bad luck for Loren, old friends resurface but are now competitors. A former flame of Graham’s could make trouble for the couple. Another man steps into Loren’s life. Is he just a friend as he claims, or does he have ulterior motives?
‘Atherton Leaves Her! Has the Actor’s Whirlwind Romance with the Pro Cyclist Run its Course?’
Loren Mackenzie knew the headline in The Sun was an exaggeration, but the World Champion time trialist still felt the sting. As her pro cycling season draws to a close, Loren looks forward to taking a break from training and a reuniting with her boyfriend, Graham Atherton. However, rumors and innuendo begin to swirl around them, and secrets they have kept from each other shake their relationship to its foundation.
A trip to New York City affords Loren a bittersweet reunion with a love she thought was lost. But, echoes from the past ripple into the present and reliving the fractured memories of her childhood has left her afraid to dig deeper. The monsters that dwell in the dark corners of her mind are all too real.
Meanwhile, obsession and greed churn into a storm on the horizon, threatening Loren and those closest to her. When the tempest hits and the winds settle, what is uncovered tilts the axis of her world.
Loren must find the strength to believe that even in darkness, there is still light, there is still hope; there is still love.
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Wheeler is a suspenseful romance novel that follows a strong female cyclist battling both physical and emotional challenges. What was your inspiration for this thrilling novel?
I have been been a fan of cycling for some years now but over the last five years I’ve been hugely influenced by the women’s peloton. Their grace under pressure, heart and incredible talent is an inspiration. My ultimate goal for the hard copy of Wheeler is for the proceeds of each book sold to be donated to the Homestretch Foundation, founded by Kathryn Bertine, a former pro cyclist. She saw a need for women cyclists who wanted to compete but financially, had no way to train and earn a living. Homestretch provides the housing, equipment, training and nutrition for elite riders to have a chance to compete at the pro level.
Loren and Graham connection develops into a complex relationship through the novel. What were the driving ideals behind the characters development throughout the story?
Relationships among creative types can begin intensely, with all the Shakespeare quotes and French terms of endearment, only to burn out in a few short months. Loren and Graham are both isolated and lonely, even though they are surrounded by friends and family. They each have personal issues to overcome and are willing support each other through their trials in order to make the relationship work, just like real people.
Wheeler starts in the middle of Loren’s cycling competition. What is your experience with the sport and why was this a good setup for your novel?
Being a cyclist myself, understand most of what they go through: the training, the discipline, sacrificing yourself for your teammates. I know the intense physical discomfort (i.e. pain) of taking your body to the limit and beyond.
There’s a parallel between being a pro athlete and an actor – long hours of training, constant travel, the media spotlight, but also the close relationships that can develop between teammates (co-stars). It takes the right mix of personalities to make it work or the film (or team) won’t succeed. I thought this would be an interesting, and realistic, pairing. They would need to understand how important their careers are, but also know that it could all end with one bad review, or the squeal of a car tire.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am currently wrapping up the first draft of the as unnamed follow up and I hope to have it to my editor by Autumn, 2017.
To become an elite cyclist in Europe, Loren Mackenzie has overcome much in her life, but no one would know it. Her tragic past is hidden inside tarnished armor and her fear of it being uncovered has kept her out of the spotlight.
Known as the Ice Queen of the peloton, Loren rarely shows emotion in the heat of competition; she leads her team with quiet strength and determination. But when a chance meeting quickly develops into a whirlwind romance, the ice surrounding her heart begins to melt.
All is not rainbows and unicorns, though. The relationship with an A-list celebrity brings with it the microscope of tabloid-media attention but also exposes the jealousy and obsession of another, threatening to unravel Loren’s tightly wound life.
Can Loren open her heart to the love she has held at a distance, or will her fear and shame ultimately defeat her?
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A little bit romance novel, a little bit suspenseful thriller, and a thorough introduction to the world of women’s cycling, Wheeler by Sara Butler Zalesky is an enjoyable and well-written story of a strong female protagonist battling both physical and emotional challenges. Spanning just a few months in professional cyclist Loren MacKenzie’s life, Wheeler is a whirlwind of a read. It begins in the heat of her cycling competition season when she meets handsome actor, Graham Atherton, roadside after a well-timed popped tire and follows their blossoming romance as well as Loren’s cycling competitions across Europe. It’s not all easy riding for Graham and Loren though, as Zalesky weaves intricate relationships between Loren, her teammates, family, and a sinister former boyfriend who is dangerously obsessed with Loren.
Readers who are familiar with professional cycling will doubtless appreciate Zalesky’s attention to the sport, and even readers who have no prior knowledge will enjoy learning about the strategy, training, and teamwork involved in cycling. Zalesky expertly creates a believable and enthralling team dynamic, following Loren and her team through both victories and crashes. Crafting relatable characters and developing story lines over the course of the novel is one of Zalesky’s strengths. Though the first half of the story feels rather one-dimensional with clichéd characters (the hyper-driven female athlete; the handsome, Shakespeare-quoting actor; the jealous ex-boyfriend), Zalesky develops her characters so that by the second half of the story, each of these characters has a well-defined history and far exceeds expectations.
Whirlwind romances are, of course, fun to read and daydream about, but the almost instantaneous and passionate relationship that Loren and Graham form feels forced. Their relationship is full of Shakespeare quotes and French puppy-love nicknames (hundreds of variations on mon amour and ma cherie are tired after awhile). But midway through the novel, Zalesky seems to hit her groove and relies less on these easy wordplays for content, allowing Loren and Graham to have more meaningful conversations. This is pleasing for readers, who may not have realized the novel they were reading would have more Shakespeare than they had read since high school.
Overall, Wheeler offers readers an intriguing literary escape into the intense world of women’s cycling and creates a protagonist that readers will consider a good friend by the end of the story. While few people could withstand the physical challenges that Zalesky puts in front of Loren, it is the emotional challenges she faces that make Loren such a wonderful character. Wheeler examines challenging topics such as emotional and physical abuse, the difficulties of balancing work and relationships, and familial estrangement, and does not shy away from painful moments. Multi-dimensional, inspiring, and sometimes heartbreaking, Loren will have readers rooting for her successes and looking forward to a second installment. Hopefully Zalesky’s second novel will come soon, as Wheeler’s abrupt end may catch readers off-guard, feeling almost as if they’ve fallen off their bikes unexpectedly.
Pages: 456 | ASIN: B01I0DTSQU
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