Tuesday, January 20, 2015


My special guest on Books by Banister today is RomCom
author Stacey Wiedower. Her debut novel, 30 First Dates, came out of the gate strong last week (58 Amazon reviews and a 5-star average in just 10 days!), and I'm sure there are more great things in store for this funny and talented lady. I loved Stacey's short story in the holiday anthology, Cozy Christmas Capers, and can't wait to dive into 30 First Dates. Be sure to grab your own copy of the book while it's being offered at an introductory price of 99 cents!

Read on for Stacey's interview with the heroine of her novel, romance-challenged Erin Crawford . . .

*   *   *   *   *

The main character of 30 First Dates, Erin Crawford, is going through a bit of an existential crisis … though she doesn’t know it yet at the start of the story. A few months prior, she’d broken up with the potential love of her life because he was in love with someone else. When her current boyfriend becomes ex-boyfriend material, she hates the pattern she sees emerging. And that’s where I’ll start this interview. Consider this a conversation with Erin just as she’s launching her blog, which of course is named “30 First Dates!”

Me: How was the idea for 30 First Dates born?
Erin: Out of a drinking game, really. (Laughs.) I was goofing off with some of my friends, and my roommate Sherri suggested we all write a bucket list. The last item on my bucket list was to start a blog.

Me: So it was that simple? How did the dating portion of the blog come into play?
Erin: Well, I was mulling over my bucket list one night, which is actually a list of 30 things I want to do before I turn 30. But I had no idea what to blog about. A few weird coincidences put the idea of applying for “The Bachelor” into my head, and instead of doing that I decided I’d create my own dating reality show on my blog.

Me: You were engaged once. What happened to end that relationship?
Erin: I got engaged my senior year of college to Mathew, who I met at the start of sophomore year. The short answer to this question is that I found out he was fooling around on me, but the more complicated answer is that I was too young, totally scared and in no way ready to get married and settle down. I don’t think we’d have made it, so all in all I’m grateful things worked out the way they did.

Me: What about your ex-boyfriend Noah? You’ve referred to him as “the love of your life.” How did he become the one who got away?
Erin: The crux of the problem with Noah was that while I thought he might be the love of my life, I was not the love of his. It became clear to me while dating Noah that he wasn’t over his ex-girlfriend, Amelia. I could have seen a future with Noah, but in it I was always going to be second best. That’s why I broke up with him.

Me: Let’s talk career for a bit. You’re a teacher. Was that a lifelong dream?
Erin: You know, it wasn’t. I think like many entering college freshmen I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. In high school I was good at several different subjects and I really liked my senior calculus class – I had a teacher who made it interesting and even inspiring. That’s what pushed me in the direction of choosing math as my major, and probably what led me into teaching. If I could reach one kid the way she reached me, how cool would that be? Once I made my choice, I stuck with it all the way through graduate school and into Teach for America.

Me: If you could go anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice, where would you land?
Erin: Paris. No question. It has this romantic quality about it that just seems so exciting, like by being there anything could happen. I’ve never been out the country before and haven’t seen much beyond the American southwest, but I have a strong feeling that’s about to change. That’s another impetus behind my 30 by 30 bucket list and 30 First Dates.

Me: How would you sum yourself up in five words?
Erin: Wow, only five? Anybody who knows me knows I talk a lot, and often before I’ve thought through what’s coming out of my mouth. But I’ll give it a shot: Outgoing, fun, hard-working, loyal and, if I’m being completely honest, a bit hard-headed.

Me: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Erin: I have absolutely no idea. That’s the exciting part about 30 First Dates, and it’s also the reason I started the blog in the first place. I wanted a new adventure, something to drive me to change things up in my life and maybe figure myself out in the process. I was tired of “floating.”

Me: You’re an only child. How do you feel that’s affected you, especially when it comes to relationships?
Erin: I grew up with parents who wanted me and made me feel loved in a neighborhood surrounded by other kids, including my best friends Ben and Hilary. So I won’t give the expected answer about feeling lonely. And my parents’ relationship gave me a good model for how I want my own family and home life to look one day.

Me: Does that mean you want to have an only child, too? How do you feel about having children?
Erin: (Laughs.) I get this question a lot, probably because I’m the girl who flees the room when the conversation turns to child-bearing and parenting and such. The whole process terrifies me, if you want to know the truth. I feel like I need to have a better plan in place for my life before bringing someone else into it who depends on me to have it all together. But just to get it on record, I do want children someday. Or a child. I wouldn’t be opposed at all to having just one, because like I said, it wasn’t a bad experience for me.

To find out how Erin’s adventure turns out, check out 30 First Dates! It’s available here as an ebook and in print. And thanks so much to Tracie for hosting me on Books by Banister!

Book Blurb

30 dates, 30 wild ideas, total media frenzy… but only one Mr. Right.

Erin Crawford is a relationship blogger with a bucket list and a vendetta. After having horrible luck in her own relationships, she decides to start a blog called "30 First Dates." Her mission: go out with 30 men before her 30th birthday. It's her quest to find a non-jerk in 30 dates or less. As she blogs about her sometimes humorous and sometimes just sad dates, she also begins to cross off her bucket list of 30 things she wants to do before she turns 30—killing two birds with one stone by completing the items on her dates! In fourteen months she skydives, skinnydips, crashes a wedding, travels to multiple cities and lives way outside her usual comfort zone. The only question is, as her birthday approaches and her list grows smaller, will Erin be able to find love? Or is she destined to be a first-date-only kind of girl? 

Author Bio

Stacey had barely blown out the candles on her 21st birthday cake when she took her first job as a reporter at a daily newspaper. She later followed her passion to interior design school and spent three years working at a firm with bizarre similarities to the set of Designing Women. Today she funnels that experience into her work as a full-time freelance writer, penning everything from magazine articles to website copy to a bi-weekly column called Inside Design. She also writes romantic comedy, and the zany characters she's met poke their heads into her stories from time to time. Stacey lives in Memphis, Tenn., with her husband, also a writer, and a son who's inherited their overactive imaginations.

Connect With Stacey:

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


There are a variety of men orbiting around the Tobin sisters in Twin Piques. Friends, lovers, roomies, even the dog in their lives all have the Y chromosome. The guy they both share the longest history with is Gavin ("Gav") Shaw. He was the boy-next-door when they were growing up, and the three of them have remained very close through the years, although the dynamic between Gav/Willa and Gav/Sloane is very different. Gav and Willa have a sibling-like bond while there's always been a fair amount of teasing and flirting between Gav and Sloane. Gav is a very successful graphic novelist, so he works odd hours in his home office and his hands are usually covered in ink. In his spare time, he likes to run long-distance and date women Sloane dismisses as "ditzy dye jobs."

Gav Quotes (non-spoilery): "If a dude's paying that much attention to his facial hair, he's a narcissist. Normal, non-douchey guys don't concern themselves with a little stubble at the end of the day."

"I'm pretty sure my four-year-old nephew could read between the lines on that one."

"I've never seen the eye twitch, scowl, and pulsating forehead vein all in play at once. It's like the tension trifecta."

Casting: Gav's defining physical features are his messy mop of blond hair, which Sloane refers to as "a terminal case of bed head" and his lean runner's body (mentions of his rock hard abs and nice backside pop up frequently in the book). I think Matt Barr (an actor I've been crushing on since I first saw him on that silly CW cheerleading show Hellcats a few years ago) would be perfect for the part. And for Teen Gav, I would cast the adorable Nick Roux (Loved him on Jane by Design!)

Willa's Afro-Latin roommate, Tommy (no last name needed, like Diddy or Usher), is her gay bestie. He's a jack of all trades, master of none, which means he changes jobs a lot. Willa thinks he's an entrepreneurial genius; Sloane thinks he's a slacker. Despite his lack of direction, Tommy is a good friend to Willa and is always there to give her advice and support (usually in regards to her love life) when she needs it.

Tommy Quotes (non-spoilery): "I'm feeling sarongs this summer."

"I'd better stock up on Friskies because it looks like we have a smitten kitten in the house."

"Climb down off that stake before you get burned, Saint Willa."

Casting: This was a tough one since Tommy has an exotic ethnic make-up (African-American and Puerto Rican). The best I could come up with is comedian/actor Eric André. He has the nice eyes, righteous 'fro, and devil-may-care 'tude I imagined Tommy having (tho Tommy does have a shorn head in the book).

Willa thinks her bad luck with men might be over when she meets Brody Wyatt, the rose expert hired to resuscitate her grandmother's ailing garden at the Tobin family home. He's handsome, smart, interesting, and a great dog daddy, but he's also a bit skittish and hard-to-read. Willa's not quite sure where she stands with him. Sloane tells her sister to proceed with caution, but Willa's always been the leap first and ask questions later type (usually to her detriment).

Brody Quotes (non-spoilery): "Sorry, I didn't realize that you were now applying logic to this talent of yours."

"Gladioli are bad ass."

"I blame my sister for some of my very questionable fashion choices in high school - ripped jeans, frosted hair tips, yellow-tinted sunglasses."

Casting: From the beginning, I pictured Haven actor Lucas Bryant as Brody when I was writing Twin Piques. He's tall and lanky and has the dark hair and blue eyes. Also, he has the deep, rumbly voice and quiet, intelligent demeanor that characterizes Brody.

As Sloane spends the majority of her time at work and doesn't really have the time to date, it makes perfect sense that her most meaningful relationship with a man, aside from her friendship with Gav, is the one she has with her supervisor, Josh Finley. The two of them have a lot in common as they're both Stanford alums (Josh was the school's star quarterback.) and are ambitious, overachieving workaholics. They make a great team at Ashby, Terhune, and McAllister. Could they be something more?

Josh Quotes (non-spoilery): "You never know. Your sister could be calling to report that she talked a suicidal cat out of a tree or convinced some anorexic Pomeranian to eat its Kibbles n' Bits."

"Only you could put blood bath and smiley faces in the same text."

"Sloane's right. We can't call in second-string now or we run the risk of losing the client when she has a meltdown about this or some future bombshell."

Casting: Josh is a classically handsome guy who played football in college, so he'd have to be embodied by someone tall with an athletic build who looks great in a suit and like he could step out of the pages of GQ. I think Armie Hammer would fit the bill nicely. 

Has Willa finally found the man of her dreams, or will she be disappointed once again? Can Sloane ever love a guy as much as she loves her job? And what about the man who's always been the biggest mystery to the Tobin twins - their father? Why did he opt out of their lives before they were born, and where is he now?

You'll be able to get up-close and personal with all the men of Twin Piques, including Willa's mischievous mutt Cicero, when it's released on Amazon tomorrow. I can't wait to hear what you think of the book and all the relationships in it!

Monday, January 5, 2015


Sloane has always been the complete opposite of her fanciful, sweet-natured twin. While Willa's head is perpetually in the clouds, Sloane's feet are firmly planted on the ground where things are logical, concrete, and definable. The reason she loves numbers so much is because there's always a solution in math, and it can be found with the right formula and good reasoning skills. Sloane's mathematical prowess led her to Stanford, where she graduated with honors and multiple degrees. She's now employed as a forensic accountant at one of the top firms in San Francisco. People in her line of work are considered to be the "CSI of the accounting world," and Sloane loves the investigative aspect of what she does. "Numbers don't lie. People do." is emblazoned on her coffee cup at work, and that pretty much sums up (Ha!) her life's credo.

Sloane's ambition and obsession with her work do not leave her much time for a personal life, which is fine by her as she thinks relationships are "exhausting," "aggravating," and "a waste of time." The only use she has for men is in the bedroom. Beyond that, she doesn't want to deal with them and she can't comprehend why her sister is such a starry-eyed romantic.

Author's Notes: I can barely balance my checkbook, so I went out on a limb making one of my heroines in this book a math whiz. Fortunately, I do have access to several left-brained people as my brother and one of my beta readers have CPA experience, and my mother works in banking/finance. So, thank you to those folks for answering all my questions about the accounting world. In doing research for this book, I discovered that forensic work is pretty fascinating stuff. These people are responsible for bringing a lot of white-collar criminals to justice. Lest it be forgotten, it was an accountant who brought down Al Capone!

Like many highly intelligent individuals, Sloane is in her head a lot and doesn't have much patience for those who aren't as focused, productive, and quick-thinking as she is. I got a big kick out of writing her running commentary about how incompetent and/or useless many of the people she encounters during the course of the book are (I do love biting, observational humor!) Sloane doesn't hesitate to give credit where it's due, though. She often says Willa is just as smart as she is, but bemoans the fact that her twin doesn't apply herself (Of course, she thinks the pet psychic thing is ridiculous.)

Despite her prickliness, Sloane does have many commendable qualities. She is fiercely loyal and protective of her sister, shoulders the financial responsibility of keeping her family's historic home out of the creditors' hands (something her mother and sister don't want to deal with), and cares very deeply about doing right by her clients. If Sloane were a "real" person, she's someone I'd want to have on my side. God love Willa, but she is a bit scattered.

Sloane Quotes (non-spoilery): "No matter how much you want it to be, life isn't a Hallmark movie, Willa"

"I always consider it to be a good day at work when someone calls me a 'bitch.'"

"Gavin Shaw Dumps Another Blonde Bimbo . . . that's been the headline of so many of my diary entries since you hit puberty."

"Don't you dare mention The Evil One's name, or I will reach through this phone and smack the stubble off your face."

Casting: I'm feeling Victoria Justice as Teen Sloane and Jaimie Alexander as Adult Sloane. Of course, both ladies would have to sport glasses when playing the character as she's horribly hyperopic (far-sighted). Willa is too, but she prefers contacts.

Check back here tomorrow when I'll be giving you the scoop on the Men of Twin Piques and take a look at Sloane's Pinterest board where you'll find a few surprises, like who her celebrity crush was during her teen years.


The  release date for Twin Piques is fast approaching (Two days and counting!), so I wanted to introduce you to the characters who populate this book. Hopefully, you'll enjoy spending time with them as much as I did! Let's start with the eldest (by six minutes) of the Tobin twins, Willa . . .

One might say that Willa is a little eccentric. She's a pet psychic by trade, enjoys wearing retro fashion, always carries a silly, smile-inducing purse (ladybug, Hello Kitty, and banana split handbags all have a place in her wardrobe), and is an unrelenting optimist in a world full of cynics. Described by others as "charming, "adorable," and "delightfully whimsical," Willa is liked, if not understood, by everyone she meets. Because of her "gift," she's very empathetic and strives to see the good in all people, even going so far as to make excuses for those who've wronged her, which drives her less forgiving sister crazy. Willa does have a long history of being taken advantage of by men, but she wants to believe in love and happily-ever-after so badly that she keeps on risking her heart in hopes that one of the frogs she kisses will turn out to be her prince.

Author's Notes: Willa is the sweetest character I've ever written for, which proved to be a challenge as I am not naturally as kindhearted and non-judgmental as she is. It was fun to shift my brain into a different gear to get into her perpetually sunny mindset, though. I feel like I really learned something from this character. A positive attitude can take you a long way, and if you project happiness, it will usually reflect back on to you. 

The one aspect of the Willa character I related to very strongly was her deep and abiding love of animals, especially dogs. Like Willa's canine bestie, Cicero, my dogs are colorful characters who are full of personality and have a variety of unique quirks. I am always wondering what they're thinking, and that's why I thought it would be fun to write for a character who believes she can read animals' thoughts (Whether or not Willa can actually do this or if she just imagines she can, I will let you decide!) 

I should note that I did visit a pet psychic with two of my dogs as research for Twin Piques. I'm sorry to say that it was an underwhelming experience. I was expecting a Patrick Jane (The Mentalist) type psychic who would put on a show and "wow" me with her observations, but what I got was someone who just asked a lot of questions, then made innocuous comments that really didn't help me gain any insight into my furry friends. So, I decided to take creative license and ramp up the fun factor when I wrote about Willa's unusual ability and her sessions with clients in the book.

Willa Quotes (non-spoilery): "I don't plan things like my sister does. I just follow my heart."

"I'm elated, ecstatic, on cloud nine, can't stop smiling, have been dancing around the apartment for the last half-hour; Cicero thinks I've lost it."

"Just because casual hook-ups aren't my thing, it doesn't mean I can't grasp the concept of them."

"Last time Cicero and I came by for a visit, the mean, old guard in the lobby wouldn't let us up, even though I promised to carry Cicero the whole time we were in the building. It was very upsetting to encounter that kind of canine prejudice." 

Casting: Willa (and Sloane) are slim and leggy, with big eyes and long, dark hair. It's hard to think of an actress who could convincingly play sweet, friendly Willa as well as brainy tough cookie Sloane, but I think Thor actress Jaimie Alexander could pull it off.

Since there are several flashback scenes to the twins' childhood and adolescence in the book, I feel like I should cast a Teen Willa/Sloane, too. I vote for former Nickelodeon star Victoria Justice. 

I'll be back later today to give you the scoop on Willa's sister, Sloane. Remember, Twin Piques will be out this Wednesday, January 7th, and you can read all about the Tobin twins then!

Meanwhile, I invite you to check out this Pinterest board I created for Willa. Here you'll find a variety of images, including lots of retro fashion, that inspired me when writing the character.