Saturday, February 21, 2015

A little visit with Liz Crowe

Now THIS is what I call dessert!

Today, we visit with Liz Crowe, author of some pretty amazing reads.  Wonder if I can tempt her with something sugary...

So, Liz, good to have you here! Let’s see, I’ve got some of Laura’s cookies and half of one of Raffaella’s Italian cream cakes. Have some! And let’s talk about the Love brothers. Tell me, when you wrote the books, did you have a particular set of brothers in mind? Maybe someone from TV or the movies? Who inspired you to write these guys?

Hi Deanndra! I’m gonna pass on the sweets, thanks. I’m not really into them — I save my bad calories for alcohol.

I was inspired to write the Love Brothers literally while waiting around in my local garage for my favorite mechanic to finish working on my car. There is a lot of virtual ink spent on books about men who “have it all” — money, power, cars, houses, women — emphasis on the “money.” While I realize a fair bit of books are written about “everyday heroes” (firemen, cops, paramedics, soldiers) I had this sudden, vivid image of a dude who owned a garage, who had a passel of brothers he was close to, but frustrated by at the same time.

I am intrigued by family dynamics, and so I concocted a challenging set up — a family made up of 4 brothers, 1 sister, with parents whose beginnings were romantic, yet very precarious. Italian heritage father, Anton, 3rd generation also with a pack of brothers you’ll meet in a 4th book takes over Halloran Farms stable management, meets the proverbial (very rich, Irish heritage) horse farmer’s daughter Lindsay. So we have a super feisty and frustrated “little lady” who’s more into her horses than any kind of a real relationship and is feeling a little…repressed by the social mores and expectations of her family in a time when the rest of the world has moved on (the 60s). Enter smoldering, hot, younger, earnest (and virginal) new stable manager. Yeah. She sort of … pounces. Chaos ensues. But that’s for a later book!

So the boys and girl that are the result of this somewhat chaotic beginning all work regular jobs. Not a billionaire, fireman, or President Business in sight! I even have one “failed author” brother for good measure. But they do love their family with a fierceness that I think comes through even when they are in conflict. And, they love their basketball. They are in Kentucky after all.

Our characters share that characteristic - they're definitely not all wealthy and, if any of them are, it's because they've worked for it. I just have to ask you this: In my Love Under Construction series, the Walters family home is in Shelbyville, and Laura’s dad is the sheriff in Taylorsville. What little Kentucky town inspired Lucasville, and why did you choose it?

I made Lucasville up out of whole cloth to be honest. I toyed with the concept of setting it in Crestwood, where my mother grew up when it was farm town. Now? It’s a sea of McMansions and upscale strip malls. I grew up in Southeast Kentucky (Williamsburg—closer to Tennessee than anything) but moved to Louisville for college, where I met my spouse, a born-and-raised Louisville boy. I spent enough time in the “city” (Lexington) before that to have a good sense of the two main Kentucky cities’ similarities and differences. I’m very familiar with both Shelbyville and Taylorsville but having set books in actual cities for so long, I wanted to just make one up.

I needed the characters to be able to get between Lex and Lousville fairly easily, to get the Love Brewing products there of course and later, for one of them to have access to both Churchill Downs and Keenelend / Horse park. I also needed it to be a town that only existed originally because of a couple of now-bankrupt horse farms (yes, a bit of a tip of the fictional hat to D. Wayne Lucas) but had morphed into its own little cozy “small town” only to be taken over when it became a bedroom community for Lexington (kind of like Georgetown did post-Toyota).

Viola! “Lucasville, Kentucky” is born.

I loved the way each of the guys had an Italian name and an Irish name. How long did it take you to come up with those combinations? Because I’ve got to say, I love ‘em.

As readers come to understand, the parents’ strong personalities drive a lot of things, up to and including their “compromise” on each of the boys’ names (Angelique’s too, of course but if she feels like an “afterthought” there is a good reason for that, stay tuned). One of the most fun things about conjuring these guys is contemplating and creating their distinct personalities and their combo names. I knew it would be a “ back and forth trade” on the names first, then I figured there had to be a sort of conflict built in, even within their names. Hence (in birth order): Antony Ian/Kieran Francesco/Dominic Sean/Aiden Leonardo. And the brothers use each others’ middle names a lot. Kieran is essentially “Francis” to his family by the time you meet him.

How I came up with them? Well, there is tool crutch thing called the internet and thank the Lord it contains sites like “traditional Italian/Irish names” which I used to come up with decent combinations!

Ah, the Internet. Where would we writers be without it? Kentucky has offered the world some incredible works by incredible writers like Irvin S. Cobb, Robert Penn Warren, and Harriette Simpson Arnow. Is there a Kentucky author who’s influenced your writing? If not, who has done so?

I’d have to say that among Kentucky authors, I really admire and respect Sena Jeter Naslund. She was (maybe still is) writer in residence at my alma mater the University of Louisville and wrote the most amazing novel: Ahab’s Wife. It’s “Moby Dick” from his wife’s perspective, among other things but that is her most famous one. My second favorite would be Barbara Kingsolver — The Poisonwood Bible is one of the most amazing works of fiction out there, from this “Kentucky preacher’s daughter’s” perspective. She no longer lives in God’s Country Kentucky, but was raised there.

I am a huge, gigantic fan of Margaret Atwood, Stephen King. (No one does deep, interior POV like him even though I don’t care for his horror novels — The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon about a little girl who literally gets lost in the woods and uses her photographic memory of baseball players and stats to get her through the trauma is a book I go back to again and again when I need a dose of “now this is how you write.)

I also love books by Lianne Moriarity, Anne Tyler, Roni Loren and Shayla Black. But non paranormal stuff — I do not do vampires or werewolves, full stop --- I don’t really “do” a lot of romance formula to be honest which I realize holds me back since I’m trying to write within a specific genre. But I write what I want to read and I think it will catch on eventually if I keep doing it and pay excellent editors to help me keep honing my craft.

I wasn't a fan of Ahab's Wife, but I did love Four Souls, so we share a love of Naslund's work. And I’d offer you some cheesecake, but I think my friend Layla made off with all of it. But I do have plenty of bourbon and moonshine. Speaking of which, with Kentucky being famous for its bourbon, why did you choose to make the Love family business a beer-making enterprise?

Nah, we’re good sans cheesecake but please pass me the Basil Haydon, it’s my go-to sipping bourbon. I’ll admit most of my characters are drinkers but picky ones since many of my books including The Love Brothers have a backdrop of craft brewing. I helped found a craft brewery in Ann Arbor a few years ago and love that business. The premise is that Anton Love (patriarch) made a bundle of dough on a horse race…once, but that’s part of another book….and opened “Love Brewing” with his brother, Leo, catching the leading edge of the “craft beer boom” about the same time as some of the currently big names in the business like “Dogfish Head” and “Bells.” He and Lindsay opened a pub downtown (which remains but the actual production brewery had to move offsite when they got big enough to need more tank space). Dominic is the only one of his sons who goes into the business with him but as you know, that does not always work out well.

Sir's favorite bourbon is Angel's Envy. It's always around the house. He's toyed with some home beermaking too. I know you’re into brewing. Can you tell us a little about how you came to be involved in that craft?

I’m not a brewer. I’m the “face,” as we say. I have worked in marketing and public relations my entire career, after getting my BA in English Lit at U of L. The list of things I’ve marketed is long but my most successful run financially speaking was as a realtor. I was asked a few years ago to apply my marketing skills and area connections to help start up a brewery. I knew exactly zero about how to brew but made it my business to find out, learning from the many craft breweries already in place and successful in Michigan. Once we hired a brewer and set up the equipment in an old appliance store warehouse, he taught me to brew. But at heart I’m a “taster,” an “appreciator,” and have a basic level “Cicerone” license which makes me kind of like a wine sommelier only for beer — I can help you pair the right one with your meal and can also distinguish problems with beer that has “off flavors.”

I love setting books in the beer biz — it’s unique, and I bring a back of the house to the front knowledge of it to my settings and characters, which some books set in the business I’ve read lately really don’t have.

And I have to ask – is the series finished, or will there be more?

I have a “companion novella” to Love Garage called SAFE LOVE coming out (ebook only) in March and Family Love, the aforementioned backstory of Lindsay and Anton (PLUS the reasons why Angelique the one daughter in the group and her mother never get along through the earlier books) should release in July this year. It already has a cover. I managed these covers start to finish — my choice of model, photographer and designer.

I’m working my way toward the Stewart Realty series, but I’m not there yet. I did, however, read Cheeky Blonde and, I have to say, I loved it. I especially liked the way you rid the story of a particular person. Very creative. For those who would like to start reading your catalog, which book would you recommend first and why?

Ha! Yeah, Cheeky Blonde is a ton of fun in a lot of ways — it introduces readers to the craft beer biz in a kind of  unique way — via the sexier sales end, by dropping them right in the middle of one of the bigger “beer fests.” I have books kind of across the spectrum of basic erotic and non-erotic romance tropes. If a reader likes m/m and m/m/f relationships, I’d go with Honey Red, another stand alone set in a brewing world. Essence of Time is one of the Stewart Realty stand alone novels (ostensibly book 4 of the series) and is also m/m/f but with a lot of background about the two men and how they ended up together. It’s a fan favorite/most hated novel. You’ll see why when you read it.

If readers like a series of books within an existing set of publisher parameters, I recommend The Turkish Delights series. The first 3 books adhere to the Decadent Publishing “1 Night Stand” set up which is pretty cool (imaginary dating service, insert your characters and plots herein). It’s got one with a bit of a “cougar love” storyline, an overt m/m one, and one with a very strong BDSM storyline (Turkish Delights/Blue Cruise/Tulip Princess). The other 2 are the “backstory” and the “aftermath” of the other 3. I love books with lots of supporting cast who also require their stories told. I lived in Istanbul for several years — I’d love to write an entire memoir about that and my time in Japan and England dragging my kids around in the wake of my auto exec spouse’s career someday.

Paradise Hops is a stand alone that is easily my most polarizing, thanks to how I resolve the love triangle. It’s my favorite stand alone (also set in a fictional brewery, this one in Ann Arbor).

Mutual Release, the 7th book of the Stewart Realty series is one of the 3 stand alone longer novels that has a very strong BDSM storyline but deals head on with how some men use that as an excuse to abuse, while others struggle with their seeming inability to get off without using it. To me, the concept of a “D/s” relationship based on all the reading and research I’ve done, including interviewing lots of people who practice it either daily or on the weekends when the kids are out of the house or whatever, is all about trust. And Mutual Release is about 2 grown ups who meet in their thirties who come to find out that trust has to run both ways in order for a relationship to work. I really like it as it has the “good” and the “bad” of that particular, very popular to talk about right now lifestyle/fetish.

But if you want to meet a compelling Alpha male who works his way through a series of 8.5 soon to be 9 books, you gotta pick up Floor Time. It’s free on all ebook retailers and will be your introduction to Jack Gordon, hands down my fans’ favorite funny, successful, Realtor/lawyer dude, deeply entrenched in and seemingly enjoying his bachelorhood even if he’s “given up” on finding the woman who’d “play” the way he wants. Of course, he meets her. Of course she’s perfect for him on many levels — but she’s a little bit too much like him which gave me the opportunity to craft a trilogy that is sexy as hell, and emotionally packed but has no “easy endings” for anyone. Warning: Jack is addictive.

Have a brownie. No, there’s nothing funny in them. Can you tell us what you’re working on next? Or is it a big secret?

I’m an open book as we say. And no thanks on the brownie — pass me the bourbon again instead.

I am working on Family Love (book 4 of The Love Brothers); Net Worth (fan demanded book 9 of Stewart Realty. I had to meet a self-designated sales number for Good Faith, book 8 in order for me to justify writing this and they helped me fly right past it in the last quarter of 2014. So they get their sequel.); a new book called Why Not Me? which at the moment is going without a genre designation until I get further into it; and Precious Vessel, a sexy thriller set in anti-dystopian, future Detroit that is my agent bait for 2015. I’m determined to convince someone to represent me and help me boost my career a bit higher up the ladder using that project. It’s finished, polished and gets submitted to 10-15 new agents every week. So far, I’m in the rejection collection stage but think someone will eventually find my voice, strong author platform and backlist unique and high quality enough to partner with me.

Oh, I’m also head writing (i.e. “outlining the way Liz outlines”) a chick lit thing called Lady Balls about an all-female sports network (like if ESPN only had women announcers and reporters) that is started in Detroit. Lots of male/female work politics, sports and a spunky main character gal who used to play sports, and hates being the “tits and ass” but realizes it’s her only way to stay working in the business she loves: sports — she moonlights as a stripper. Yeah.

Well, I can't believe you left me with all of the sweets to eat by myself, but I'm certainly not going to complain about that! I'm glad you stopped by, and I hope you've had as much fun as I have. Thanks for being here, Liz. Let’s visit again soon!

Thanks for having me!


Love Garage, Book One

Antony Love is the quintessential responsible oldest brother of a boisterous, Italian/Irish family, placed in charge at a young age by his parents who are busy running the family business. He manages his siblings with a fair but iron hand, until his life is shattered by personal tragedy leaving him the shell of the man he once was.

When outspoken matriarch Lindsay Halloran Love becomes ill, the youngest brother Aiden shows up at Antony's garage, having dropped out of school (again), needing work and a place to crash. Antony provides both, with three caveats: "Don't smoke in my truck, don't be late for work, and don't mess with my girlfriend."

But Aiden Love, budding novelist, gets one glimpse of Rosalee Norris, young widow of Antony's lifelong best friend and all bets are off.

Set in horse country near Lexington, Kentucky, The Love Brothers Series is a saga of family devotion that runs as wide and deep as the Ohio River--except on Sundays when brothers Antony, Kieran, Dominic and Aiden work out their frustrations on the basketball court, Love brother style.

Buy Love Garage

Coach Love, Book Two

The smoldering intensity of first love ~ the forbidden fantasy of temptation ~ the cold hard facts of real life.

When one man’s hopes are dashed apart in a split second after years spent chasing a dream, he returns home to Kentucky furious at the world and everyone around him.

Kieran Francesco is the middle son of the volatile, tight-knit Halloran-Love family. His role as peacemaker and the one true athlete is well established. He now faces life devoid of the sport he adores after a horrific, career-ending accident, which places him in a new and entirely uncomfortable position—that of the brother with no future.

Over the course of a few tumultuous months Kieran is plunged back into life at the center of the Love family, where he must cope with one self-destructive brother, one ill-timed reconnection to an old flame and a series of bad choices that land him in more trouble than he’d ever known existed.

COACH LOVE, book 2 of The Love Brothers, a family saga of sibling loyalty that runs as deep and wide as the Ohio River—at least until Sunday, when Antony, Kieran, Dominic and Aiden work out their frustrations at the weekly Love brother pick-up basketball game.

Buy Coach Love

Love Brewing, Book Three

Release Date: March 2, 2015

Every family has one—the black sheep, the problem child, the prodigal. But Dominic Sean Love could teach all of those guys a lesson or two. Stuck in the middle of a boisterous group of siblings, he’s given “acting out” a new meaning from day one. 
While he’s the one son who follows his strict father’s footsteps into the Love family business, he’s also the one who butts heads with him the hardest. Their epic clashes are the stuff of family legend. But they have made peace and work side by side to take Love Brewing to the next level of success.

Until Dominic does the one thing his father can never forgive.

Diana Brantley has been Dominic’s friend, girlfriend and ex-girlfriend so many times she’s lost count. When he shows up at the farm she’s slowly transforming into a wildly popular farm-to-table resource for restaurants all over the U.S. her first impulse is to shoot first and ask questions later. But she doesn’t. And their lives entwine once more, for good, bad and ugly.

Pre Order Love Brewing

Safe Love: A Love Brothers Companion Novella

Release Date: March 2, 2015
**This is a COMPANION, it is intended to be read in-between books 1 and 2 not before**

Antony Ian Love has a lot on his ample shoulders. He owns and runs a small business, is estranged from his teenaged daughter AliceLynn, his beloved mother is dying of cancer, and he's come face to face with his youngest brother Aiden's sudden reappearance into the Love family circle. 

Years of sublimating his true self in deep mourning for his long dead wife have hardened the surly, emotional shell he's nurtured, but one woman seems to have broken through. Rosalee Norris is the young widow of Antony's best friend Paul and their mutual sorrow and close friendship has slowly morphed into something more.

Family therapist and recent divorcee Margot Hamilton is dropped into the close-knit Love family by necessity but fate has a real design twist in mind. With her heart and mind closed to anything resembling an emotional connection, Margot is shocked to discover something about Antony the very first time they meet--something she tries, and fails, to resist.
SAFE LOVE, The Love Brothers novella is a tale of love's realistic complications within the saga of family devotion that runs as wide and deep as the Ohio River--except on Sundays when brothers Antony, Kieran, Dominic and Aiden work out their frustrations on the basketball court, Love brother style.

Get Safe Love For Free Until March 10, 2015

to find out how CLICK HERE to check out Liz’s website

Amazon best-selling author, beer blogger, brewery marketing expert, mom of three, and soccer fan, Liz Crowe is a Kentucky native and graduate of the University of Louisville currently living in Ann Arbor. She has decades of experience in sales and fund raising, plus an eight-year stint as a three-continent, ex-pat trailing spouse.

Her early forays into the publishing world led to a groundbreaking fiction subgenre, “Romance for Real Life,” which has gained thousands of fans and followers interested less in the “HEA” and more in the “WHA” (“What Happens After?”). More recently she is garnering even more fans across genres with her latest novels, which are more character-driven fiction, while remaining very much “real life.”

With stories set in the not-so-common worlds of breweries, on the soccer pitch, in successful real estate offices and at times in exotic locales like Istanbul, Turkey, her books are unique and told with a fresh voice. The Liz Crowe backlist has something for any reader seeking complex storylines with humor and complete casts of characters that will delight, frustrate and linger in the imagination long after the book is finished.

Don’t ever ask her for anything “like a Budweiser” or risk bodily injury.

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