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Author Interview and Giveaway: Unexpected Gifts by SR Mallery

 Follow The Blog Tour of Unexpected Gifts by SR Mallery (25-27 Aug)

Today, I am so happy to have SR Mallery, the bestselling author of Unexpected Gifts on my blog.

~Meet the Author~

S.R. Mallery has worn various hats in her life. First, a classical/pop singer/composer, she moved on to the professional world of production art and calligraphy.
Next came a long career as an award winning quilt artist/teacher and an ESL/Reading instructor. Her short stories have been published in descant 2008, Snowy Egret, Transcendent Visions, The Storyteller, and Down In the Dirt.

Website/Blog:  www.srmallery.com
Twitter:  @SarahMallery1
Pinterest:  (I have some good history boards that are getting a lot of attention—history, vintage clothing, older films)
Amazon Author page:   http://www.amazon.com/S.-R.-Mallery/e/B00CIUW3W8/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1


Welcome to Njkinny's World of Books & Stuff, Sarah!

Let's start the Interview.

1) Tell us something about yourself.

Electic. That’s my middle name! In fact, once, when I was applying for a marketing job, the interviewer took one long, hard look at my work experience–– secretary, classical and pop singer, educational film strip composer, production artist, calligrapher, quilt designer/instructor, adult ESL/reading teacher, and writer––and exclaimed, “Well, either you’re the most amazing, versatile person I’ve ever met, or…you’re crazy!”

I got the job, btw.  I didn’t stay long, though...

2) What genre are your books and why did you choose this genre?

My stories/books are primarily historical fiction. Because I also enjoy writing more up-to-date stories who knows about the future, but for now, I get so much pleasure researching past times, I have decided I am going to stick with historical fiction.

3) In one sentence what is your book, “Unexpected Gifts” about?

A ‘lost’ college student, forever choosing the wrong man, learns to how to change her life’s path by reading her ancestors’ diaries, journals, and letters.

4) How did you get the idea of writing this book? What kind of research did you do?

One night many years ago when I was visiting my father, my then two-year-old daughter and I were in bed together.  She was nestled up against me, sleeping peacefully; I was reading a short story my mother had written many years before. As I lay there, taking in my mother’s words, a feeling of comfort and wonder overcame me. ‘There are three generations in bed tonight,’ I remember thinking. That awareness catapulted me into the idea of a confused modern woman retracing the lives of her ancestors through their diaries, journals, and letters, and in the process of seeing their mistakes, learning what not to do in her own life.

As for doing research it was a huge job. I immersed myself in books regarding various 20th century U. S. time periods so I could learn about their lingos, fashion, and customs. I watched documentaries and listened to homemade and commercial CD’s that included songs/music written during the 60’s, 50’s, 30’s, and early 1900s, to help me live and breathe those eras. And always, always, I scrutinized photographs—a practice that not only always sends me back in time, it triggers plots, motivations, and character relationships. 

5) What was the hardest part of writing “Unexpected Gifts”?

Because I had decided to have my main modern protagonist, Sonia, learn from her ancestors, I had to figure out a helpful method to accomplish that. So I came up with a two-columned sheet. On the left side was each ancestral chapter with several flaws that each ancestor had. In the right column I wrote how those particular flaws gave Sonia the insight into how to change her own behavior.

Although time consuming, it grew into a back and forth, analytical process all of which was incredibly helpful.

6) How do you approach your writing so as to make them relatable to readers?

I have come to realize that no matter the time period, no matter how different the culture, people have always been people---with hurts, anger, ambition, shame, joy, and love. That has never changed!

So when I write a scene, or in particular, a dialogue, I really picture myself being there, first asking the questions then answering them. I always ask myself, ‘What kind of language would I use? If I were an immigrant coming over from another country trying to speak English, how would I sound? If I were an educated journalist from the Great Depression, wouldn’t my language reflect that? If I were an Irish lass back in the 1920s, how would I talk? There, I not only studied the slightly different grammar structure used by the early 20th century Irish, each time I edited that chapter I read the words out loud with an Irish accent!

7) Tell us a fun moment you had while writing “Unexpected Gifts”.

I would have to say in general, just listening to the various songs/music of each era I was going to write about.  As I drove my car, danced around the living room, or did chores throughout the house, I particularly enjoyed the music from the 60’s.  It brought back SO many memories about Woodstock, an ex-boyfriend’s experience with Timothy Leary, and how actually seeing the Beatles at Carnegie Hall left an indelible mark in my memory bank (even though at the time I could barely hear them through the girls’ screams!)

8) When did you first realize that you had the talent to be an author?

My father, who had been a television writer for many years (he began his career in The Golden Age of Television), read my very first story, “Sewing Can Be Dangerous,” and shook his head.

“What? What? No good? Am I terrible?” I asked him, chewing on a fingernail.

“Well, maybe your language is a tad simple…but your storytelling and your pacing is amazing! Keep it up!”  Boy, was THAT an incentive to keep going!

9) What were the steps you took to get your book published?

My SEWING CAN BE DANGEROUS AND OTHER SMALL THREADS came first. I had a lot of interest from agents, although they were worried about marketing a newbie’s collection of shorts.  Then I got a New York agent who flipped over them and wanted to represent me.  But she had a condition. I had to finish the novel I had begun (UNEXPECTED GIFTS) so she could present/sell both of them at once.

I remember killing myself at that point in time--teaching ESL classes morning and night and scribbling furiously in between to finish my novel. I knew UNEXPECTED GIFTS was far too long and was almost like a first draft but I handed it in. Although she really liked it and told me what a good writer I was, etc, etc, she decided she wasn’t going to represent me anymore. Period. Done.

Of course I was devastated, but I picked myself up and started sending both books to publishers. One small press loved them so much she immediately wanted to sign me up.  So my first foray into the publishing world was through this press. They were lovely to me, but after a while, I decided I preferred having more control, particularly since the publishing business had been changing exponentially and being an Indie writer was no longer looked down on.

10) What is next for you, writing wise?

I’ve been working on an historical fiction Wild West novel, entitled THE DOLAN GIRLS. Here’s the synopsis:


The Dolan Girls by S. R. Mallery has it all. Set in Nebraska during the 1800s, whorehouse madams, ladies of the night, a schoolmarm, a Pinkerton detective, a Shakespeare-quoting old coot, brutal outlaws, and a horse-wrangler fill out the cast of characters. Add to the mix are colorful descriptions of an 1856 land rush, Buffalo Bill and his Wild West Show, Annie Oakley, bank/train robberies, small town local politics, and romance. Two, in fact!!

11) What is one quirk that, in your opinion, makes you a writer?

Well, much like my main character in UNEXPECTED GIFTS, I have OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)—the ruminating kind, not the hand washing neat freak kind!  In other words, I can’t stop my brain from working overtime and creating plots, scenes, and characters!

For example, I once happened to watch an ant make its way across my bathroom floor and within the hour I was writing a flash fiction narrative from the point of view of the lonely ant—VERY Kafka-esque!!  In addition, I have always liked to watch people and invent little stories about their lives. As I watch them, I keep asking questions in my mind like, ‘What if they...’; ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting if they...’; ‘What would it be like if they...’

12) Before you go, how about an excerpt from your book to intrigue and tantalize us?

OK! First, here’s the synopsis:

Can we learn from our ancestral past? Do our relatives’ behaviors help mold our own? 
In Unexpected Gifts, that is precisely what happens to Sonia, a confused college student, heading for addictions and forever choosing the wrong man. Searching for answers, she begins to read her family’s diaries and journals from America’s past: the Vietnam War, Woodstock, and Timothy Leary era; Tupperware parties, McCarthyism, and Black Power; the Great Depression, dance marathons, and Eleanor Roosevelt; the immigrant experience and the Suffragists. Back and forth the book journeys, linking yesteryear with modern life until finally, by understanding her ancestors' hardships and faults, she gains enough clarity to make some right choices.

Here’s an excerpt:

SONIA’S paraplegic Father --CHAPTER 2: Sam––Living With Fear

First thing I killed was no kind of thing at all. It was an enemy
soldier, which was a hell of a lot easier to say than the first thing I ever killed was a man.”
--Steve Mason

“...Nearing the village, we passed women in their beige tunics, black pants, and Sampan hats, shouldering thick bamboo rods weighted down by buckets of water. Most kept their heads lowered as they walked, but the few who didn’t, stared up at us with dead, black-brown eyes and pressed lips. The afternoon was drawing to a close by the time we reached a village compound that reeked of nuoc maum rotten fish sauce and animal dung. An old, leathery woman, squatting by her hooch was our welcoming committee, but once she saw us shuffle by, she scurried back into her hut, clacking loudly in Vietnamese as chickens pecked at rice granules, bobbing their heads up and down in 2/4 time.

            Carbini cut to the chase. “First, pull every one of those gooks outta their hooches, then line them up here,” he barked.

            I watched my troop comb each thatched home, rounding up families of all ages and herding them out into the open like a cattle drive in Oklahoma. I, too, started the mission and stooping into one of the huts, saw a young woman sitting on a straw mat, eating some rice in a black bowl, a young child at her side.

            She was exquisite—the best possible combination of French and Chinese ancestry, with such delicate features, she made my heart ache. My immediate instincts were to protect her and her son from Carbini and this horrendous war, but she just gazed up at me, emotionless.    

            I could hear Carbini yelling orders to get a move-on, and I signaled this girl, this treasure, to follow me. She shook her head vehemently, and curled her legs around her son. I motioned again, but still, she refused. I froze, unable to think, but when Carbini popped his head in the doorway and snarled, “Weylan!” she got the message and followed me out.

            Whimpering slightly, she joined her fellow villagers, gripping her child’s hand and wiping off a tear that had slid halfway down her cheek. I suddenly pictured slave owners in pre-Civil War days and felt my lunch rise up in my throat.

            “Now, get your Zippos ready, men.” As Carbini’s face flushed red, I sucked in my breath. He caught sight of my reaction and came over. “Weylan here doesn’t like my orders. Anyone else here who doesn’t like my orders?” Nobody spoke up.
            He opened up one of my backpack pockets, yanked out my Zippo lighter, and shoved it into my face. Immediately, you could hear the snap of pockets opening and boots shifting. We were getting ready to Rock ‘n Roll.

            Carbini was first. He marched over to a hooch, flipped on his Zippo, and carefully lit the underbelly of its thatched roof. It smoldered for a few seconds, a thin, rising wisp of smoke twisting in the tropical air. From that, a flame grew, nibbling at the straw with a low, blue heat before suddenly bursting into a torch, arcing up towards the sky in a yellow-hot blaze.

            Carbini turned to us and nodded, his eyes glazed. This was our cue, yet I spun around to search for the girl, who was at the back of the pack, crying softly as she hugged her son. I glanced over at some of the other men, their hands jammed deep into their pockets, and decided to follow their lead. The fire was raging full force on each hooch now, the thatch and bamboo crackling like a 4th of July fireworks display, leaving its reflections in the villagers’ eyes and turning the sky dark with thick, bulbous smoke.

            “Weylan! You son-of-a-bitch coward! You’re no better than the rest of us, you hear me?” Carbini started to charge over, then stopped mid-stride.

            In the distance, a large formation of F4’s was headed our way, torpedoing fireballs of napalm every several hundred yards and scattering screaming villagers down the main road. We were ordered to take cover, but followed the fleeing Vietnamese instead, charging after them and trying not to show our own fear...”

Thanks for taking out time to talk to me, Sarah. 

Wish you the very best for the future and hope we get to read more from you in the future! :)

I loved reading Unexpected Gifts by SR Mallery. Read my Review: Click Here

~Buying Links~

Grab the book for just 99c or Rs 63 on Amazon and Kobo!


Prize: 10 Ebooks of Unexpected Gifts by SR Mallery
Ends 13th September
Open Worldwide.

Open only to those who can legally enter and receive the prize. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded.No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Nikita (Njkinny) from Njkinny Tours & Promotions and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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