Delighted to welcome to the blog tonight for Friday Night Drinks author….S. M. Stevens.
Thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?
A vodka gimlet with fresh lime juice. Thanks for the invite. I look forward to a scintillating night of libation and conversation.
Oh, high expectations, let’s hope it doesn’t disappoint! If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?
I’m not choosy about my drinking establishments, but a pub or wine bar where we could actually hear each other talk would be nice. It’s hard to get to know each other over throbbing bass beats and thunderous conversations!
I agree, I think maybe that’s an age thing! If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?
Reese Witherspoon, because I really want her Hello Sunshine! Book Club to choose my novel. And Keith Richards because, well – just because.
That would be a party, I think. I absolutely love Reese Witherspoon. So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?
I am in the throes of promoting my first traditionally published novel, Horseshoes and Hand Grenades. It’s the story of two women struggling with past and present demons, meaning childhood incest for Shelby, and workplace sexual harassment for Astrid.
The book was prompted by the #MeToo movement. I was fascinated and appalled by the parallels between workplace sexual harassment and childhood incest, specifically how society asks many of the same questions of both types of victim. Horseshoes and Hand Grenades is my way of answering those questions.
There are a handful of workplace harassment-themed novels available today (with many more to come, I’m sure!), but I believe mine is the first in which the heroines are in their 20’s. This to me is the logical age for such a story, because that’s when most women embark on their careers and first learn about corporate hierarchies and power plays.
Despite the heavy themes, it’s also a fun, uplifting coming-of-age story, or so my reviewers tell me.
What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?
Proudest moment: Having an early reviewer of my Horseshoes and Hand Grenades manuscript tell me it prompted her to reveal to her husband her own sexual harassment experience. I hope the novel starts many such conversations.
Biggest challenge: Getting publishers to take note of a story that is not “extreme”. They seem to think that’s all that will sell – extreme poverty, extreme alcoholism, extreme abuse… But in fact, there are so many more readers out there who identify with less extreme life situations. That’s who I wrote this book for. (Almost counts in more than horseshoes and hand grenades.) And thankfully, TouchPoint Press saw the value in this, too.
What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, it’s just us talking after all!
I guess that would have to be landing a major interview or endorsement of Horseshoes and Hand Grenades. Not because I want to be in the limelight — I’ve been a PR person all my career so I can put other people out front. But I really want the book to reach as many victims of sexual abuse as possible – regardless of the “severity” of that abuse — so they can validate their experiences and start to heal. A major interview or endorsement would be a marvellous way to make that happen.
What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?
It’s still just an idea stewing in my brain, but I would love to write a story with a transgender or gender-fluid hero.
I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?
Favourite place: Any tropical beach.
Bucket list: My dream holiday would be somewhere in African to see gorillas in the wild. (Shameless plug: If you love travel, you should check out my daughter’s budget travel blog.)
Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.
I was the goalkeeper for my high school field hockey team. I loved sports but was hopefully uncoordinated and slow. I hated running laps to get in shape. But I found my niche in the comfort of the goal where I managed to not embarrass myself and even contribute to the team’s success!
My youngest daughter currently plays in goal in field hockey! Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?
Well, here’s something different for you. I’m currently reading The Animal Dialogues: Uncommon Encounters in the Wild by Craig Childs. His descriptions of animals and nature are completely unexpected but perfectly put together.
Whether recalling the experience of being chased through the Grand Canyon by a bighorn sheep, swimming with sharks off the coast of British Columbia, watching a peregrine falcon perform acrobatic stunts at 200 miles per hour, or engaging in a tense face-off with a mountain lion near a desert waterhole, Craig Childs captures the moment so vividly that he puts the reader in his boots.
Each of the 40 brief, compelling narratives in THE ANIMAL DIALOGUES focuses on the author’s own encounter with a particular species and is replete with astonishing facts about the species’ behavior, habitat, breeding, and lifespan. But the glory of each essay lies in Childs’s ability to portray the sometimes brutal beauty of the wilderness, to capture the individual essence of wild creatures, to transport the reader beyond the human realm and deep inside the animal kingdom.
So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?
Ha, I do have a secret weapon for that! I discovered years ago that my migraine pills also cure, and prevent, hangovers! Now if only the health insurance company wasn’t so stingy with them. ☺
After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?
Assuming I’m a bit drained after our late night, I would take my shepherd/collie mix Korra for a bracing walk in the crisp autumn air, and she would not harass any other dogs for once! Then, having been productive for an hour, I’d give myself permission to veg on the couch with my boyfriend watching a movie, preferably with rain drizzling down outside the window.
What a gorgeous dog! Susan, thank you so much for coming on the blog, it has been a joy and I am really looking forward to taking part in the blog tour for Horseshoes and Hand Grenades soon.
S. M. Stevens’ latest book, Horseshoes and Hand Grenades is out now and you can buy a copy here. I will be reviewing the book as part of the author’s blog tour on 31 January, so do check back then to see what I thought.
Shelby Stewart is damn sure “mild” childhood sexual abuse by her stepfather—a respected teacher and revered coach—didn’t change her. She succeeds at her new PR job in 1980s Boston but sucks at romance, sabotaging relationships with men her friends insist are not good enough for her.
Shelby’s co-worker, Astrid Ericcson, says she wrote the book on How to Get Ahead by Flirting. But when her boss’s innuendoes escalate to not-so-subtle touching and under-the-table footsie, she finds both her career and her safety at risk.
Together, the women try to build their careers, friendships and romances while facing their respective demons. Will they succeed? Or will they spiral out of control?
S.M. Stevens began writing fiction during back-to-back health crises: a shattered pelvis (from a horseback riding fall) and ovarian cancer. Her other books are Middle-Grade novel Shannon’s Odyssey and the Bit Players Young Adult series. She has lived in the U.S., U.K. (twice) and Italy, and currently resides in the New England region of the U.S. When not writing, she markets solar energy.
You can find out more about Susan and her work on her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Please join me back here, same time next week, when I will be having Friday Night Drinks with my friend and debut author…Giulia Skye.