Monday, April 4, 2016

PUYB Virtual Book Club Chats with Laura McNeill, author of 'Sister Dear'

Laura McNeil is a writer, mom, travel enthusiast, and coffee drinker. In her former life, she was a television news anchor for CBS News affiliates in New York and Alabama. Laura holds a master’s degree in journalism from The Ohio State University and is completing a Ph.D. in Instructional Leadership at the University of Alabama. When she’s not writing and doing homework, she enjoys running, yoga, and spending time at the beach. She lives in Northern Alabama with her family.   
Her latest book is the domestic suspense, Sister Dear.

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About the Book:

All Allie Marshall wants is a fresh start. But when dark secrets refuse to stay buried, will her chance at a new life be shattered forever?

Convicted of a crime she didn’t commit, Allie watched a decade of her life vanish. Now, out on parole, Allie is determined to clear her name and reconnect with the daughter she barely knows.
But Allie’s return to Brunswick, Georgia, sends earthquakes through the small, coastal community. Even her daughter Caroline, now a teenager, challenges Allie’s claims of innocence.

Refusing defeat, a stronger, smarter Allie launches a campaign for the truth, digging deep into the past. Her investigation threatens her parole status, her own safety, and the already-fragile bond with her family. What Allie uncovers is far worse than she imagined. Her own sister has been hiding a dark secret—one that holds the key to Allie’s freedom.

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Before you started writing your book, what kind of research did you do to prepare yourself?
I knew that I wanted to write about a woman falsely accused of a horrific crime, so I spent a great deal of time researching the prison system in Georgia, including Arrendale State Prison, where my main character, Allie, spends a great deal of her incarceration. I also researched the Georgia court system, sentencing for violent crimes, and the state’s parole system.

Since the novel also centers on a small town in the South in which the community is very focused on football, I researched the use of steroids in athletes and the long-term health consequences of using performance-enhancing drugs. In addition, Allie’s father, in the book, is also a veterinarian, so I spent time researching medical care of dogs, cats, and horses.

Did you pursue publishers or did you opt to self-pub?

Sister Dear was published by Thomas Nelson, a division of HarperCollins.

If published by a publisher, what was your deciding factor in going with them?

Thomas Nelson/HarperCollins offered me a two-book deal and the editors there were very excited about my first release, Center of Gravity (July 2015). Sister Dear is a stand-alone book, but it is also suspense and a story set in the South.

If published by a publisher, are you happy with the price they chose?

As any author with a traditional publishing house, we have very little, if any, say about the price of our books, though I always love a good sale!

Did you purposefully choose a distinct month to release your book?  Why?

Thomas Nelson/HarperCollins chose the month to release the book.

How did you choose your cover?

The graphic artists at Thomas Nelson/Harper Collins chose this cover. I am very happy with it and liked it right away. I love the beach feel of the cover, especially since the novel is set on the Georgia coast near St. Simons Island.

Did you write your book, then revise or revise as you went?

I always write the book straight through and then revise later. I like having the entire storyline in my head before I try to make any changes.

Did you come up with special swag for your book and how are you using it to help get the word out about your book? 

I’ll be making bookmarks, posters for book signings, and cards.

What’s your opinion on giving your book away to sell other copies of your book?

I think that giving away some books to raise awareness of the story is always a good idea. I think there are so many books out there, and it can be difficult for readers to find your work. Often, if you are a brand new author, the offer of a free book might entice readers to pick up your novel.

What are three of the most important things you believe an author should do before their book is released?

1.      Write the best story possible
2.      Have the book professionally edited and proofread
3.      Get a wonderful cover designed that really captures the essence of the book

What are three of the most important things you believe an author should do after their book is released?

1.      Politely let readers know that the book is available through a website, blog, and social media. Pay it forward by shouting out about other books.
2.      Reach out to readers who have loved your previous work and ask them (politely) to read and review your new book. Say thank you when they do.
3.      If possible, have at least one special pricing event through Book Bub or another website.

What kind of pre-promotion did you do before the book came out?

Social media including Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter
Blogging through
Kindle Fire giveaway in March 2016
Fitbit giveaway in April
Signed paperback giveaway in April
Book signing in Fairhope, AL – April 21
Alabama Book Festival in Montgomery, AL – April 23
Book signing in Seaside, AL – April 24

Do you have a long-term plan with your book?

I’ll continue to share details about the book and go to book clubs, signings, and events as needed in 2016. I’m also hopeful that Thomas Nelson/HarperCollins will continue to promote the book throughout the year.

What would you like to say to your readers and fans about your book?

It is my hope that readers find Allie and Caroline’s story compelling and inspiring. Sister Dear centers on family secrets, heartbreaking betrayal, forgiveness, and the unbreakable love of a mother for her child.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Dorothy - Thank you for the opportunity to visit your blog with a very thought-provoking Q & A - I loved your questions! I am grateful for the opportunity to spotlight Sister Dear, share my thoughts about the story, the characters, and talk about the message that I hoped to get across to readers! xoxo, Laura