Alexis: Hi Shelly, thank you for visiting Happily Ever After Thoughts :-) This is your debut book. Can you tell us a little about what it was like finding out you would be published?
Shelly: I drove my husband to an appointment and got an email offering to contract my book. I was waiting to hear from Soul Mate Publishing, so I wrote their editor, Debby Gilbert, and told her I had an offer from another publisher. She fast tracked my submission and made an offer a week later. I had heard wonderful things about Debby and I knew I wanted to work with her.
Alexis: How great is that? Two publishers wanted you. That's a testament to your skill as a story teller. So can you tell our readers what A Year to Remember is about?
Shelly: When her younger brother marries on her twenty-ninth birthday, food addict Sara Friedman drunkenly vows to three hundred wedding guests to find and marry her soul mate within the year. After her humiliating toast becomes a YouTube sensation, she permits a national morning show to chronicle her search. With the help of best friend Missy, she plunges head first into the shallow end of the dating pool.
Her journey leads her to question the true meaning of soul mates, as she decides between fulfilling her vow to marry before her thirtieth birthday and following her heart’s desire. But before she can make the biggest decision of her life, Sara must begin to take her first steps towards recovery from her addiction to food.
Alexis: Sounds like she has a lot on her plate (pun intended:-) Where did you get the idea for this story?
Shelly: The book was inspired by my friends’ and my experiences in our late twenties. I did admit I was jealous of my brother in a toast at his rehearsal dinner. Luckily, it was before the age of YouTube. At twenty-nine, I threw all my energy into dating and finding my soul mate. Of course, he found me.
After I’d been in recovery from food addiction for more than two years, I decided I wanted to write a book that didn’t end with the girl losing weight to get her man. At the same time, I didn’t want to convey that all you have to do is accept your weight and you’ll be happy. It’s a lot more difficult than that. I wanted to educate the public about food addiction and do it in an entertaining way.
Alexis: That is a wonderful idea. What are your favorite character traits of Sara?
Shelly: While Sara pretends to be pessimistic when it comes to finding love, she hasn’t given up hope. With one exception, she sees the best in people, which helps her along her journey. She’s a supportive friend. But since Sara is a food addict, I needed to demonstrate how it affected her mentally. At the beginning of the book, she’s a bit selfish and self-absorbed. That changes when she deals with her food addiction.
Alexis: This book just gets better and better. Yet, on the other hand, you also write paranormal. What is it about that genre that entices you away from Women's Fiction?
Shelly: I love paranormal romance and almost all my favorite authors are from this genre. I’ve been obsessed with the paranormal since I was in elementary school. I thought “Love at First Bite,” where George Hamilton played a vampire, was so romantic and I watched it over and over. In middle school, I started reading paranormal romance books.
Paranormal romance is the opposite of women’s fiction. Women’s fiction is about real issues faced by women while paranormal romance is pure fantasy. However, my paranormal still involves issues faced by women. No matter what I write, I seem to have an underlying theme about faith in a higher power.
Alexis: So there is a connection for you no matter the genre. I think your readers must like that. What can we expect next from you? Do you have any new releases coming or a work in progress?
Shelly: I’m working on the first book in my paranormal romance series. It’s outlined to be a seven book series with a possible spin-off series. I’m having such a great time writing it. It’s very dark, but with bits of humor mixed in. No vampires and no werewolves.
I’m also working on a sequel to A Year to Remember, about Sara’s best friend Missy. I’m rewriting a couple of the scenes from A Year to Remember from Missy’s point-of-view and following her amazing story. I like that we got Sara’s point-of-view for this book and that Missy has a different take on the things that happened.
Alexis: That does sound intriguing. Good luck with all that you have in process. Thank you so much for sharing your stories with us. It's a pleasure having you visit.
Shelly: Thank you Alexis for inviting me!
Alexis: For a chance to win a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card, be sure to leave a comment for Shelly. If I have contact information, I will let you know when you win, otherwise, check the side column for your name on Wednesday under WINNERS :-)
For more information on Shelly’s Romances go http://www.shellybellbooks.com/
Alexis: Check out this excerpt from A Year to Remember.
The door opened and someone entered the room. I assumed it was Missy coming to rescue me once again.
“I can’t find the light switch, Missy. Do you know where it is?”
Without warning, someone yanked me tightly against his warm, solid body. I heard his slight intake of breath and then he kissed me.
I know I should have fought against it, but whoever he was, he kissed sinfully well. At first, his soft lips whispered lightly against my own, seeking permission. When not only didn’t I stop him, but made a little moan of approval, his tongue caressed my lips until I opened my mouth. Only then did he allow his tongue to touch mine, first tentatively exploring the hidden depths of my mouth, and then hard and passionately, as though he’d never get enough of me.
He tasted like a heavenly combination of whiskey and cake. His tongue teased mine in sweet caresses, heating my blood to a fevered pitch.
Desperately needing to learn the identity of my mystery man, I lifted my hand to touch his face. He grabbed it away, nibbling on each fingertip then gently brushed his fingers across my cheek. I licked my lips in preparation of more kisses, but instead of kissing me, he spun me around in circles, confusing my sense of balance. As the world tilted on its axis and I tried to regain my bearings, he silently left the room.
For a few minutes, I stood rooted to the spot, attempting to recover from the encounter and craving more from my mystery kisser. Blushing from my response to him, I knew although I’d never seen his face, I would have made love to him if he’d asked. Before him, no one in twenty-nine years had made my body burn that way.
Suddenly, I remembered the room’s two floor lamps. I floundered around the room until I smacked into one. After finding our coats, I left the synagogue with Missy.
Ending the evening of my twenty-ninth birthday with a kiss from my mysterious suitor should have thrilled me. Instead, I wondered why he (as drunk as I was, I was pretty sure I would have noticed if it was a woman) didn’t unmask his identity.
Was he married?
Fifteen or eighty-five years old?
Or even worse, embarrassed to be discovered kissing me?
Tired of being alone and bringing Missy as my date, I learned one important lesson that night. I ached for what my brother had found with Emily. I yearned for my soul mate.
How would I find him?
Shelly Bell started reading at three years old. In elementary school, the librarian gave her books to test out for the school library. As a teenager, she spent her allowance each week on romance novels, enjoying both young adult category romance, young adult paranormal and single title books, and adult romance.
She received her Bachelors of Arts in Social Work and a Certificate in Women Studies from Michigan State University in 1990 and her Juris Doctor degree from Nova Southeastern University, Shepard Broad Law Center. Practicing law since 1997, she specializes in corporate, environmental and employment law as In-House Legal Counsel for a scrap metal company in Detroit. On the side, she dabbles in horseracing and crematory law.
Married to Jason in 2003, they have two children and reside in the metro-Detroit area, where she reads on her Kindle each night when her family falls asleep.
A member of Romance Writers of America, she writes both women’s fiction and paranormal romance.
A Year to Remember is available as an e-book from Amazon ow.ly/93MzC, Barnes and Noble ow.ly/93MBE , and Soul Mate Publishing (for iBooks and other e-readers) ow.ly/93MEv. It will be released in print this summer.
Alexis: Don't forget to comment for a chance at that $25 gift card!