Friday, February 5, 2016

Celebrate Love, Blog Series with author Frances Hoelsema and Growing Up Neighbours

Today we have our third author in the Romantic Spotlight. Our guest today promises stories that leave you feeling good about love. Now how can you resist? I will pain you no longer, and let you read on while I go throw another log on the fire. 

Could you share a little about yourself and what led you to become a writer?

            I am a wife and work-at-home mom of two boys from Michigan. I’ve always enjoyed reading, and on certain occasions I would envision telling my own story. But I never did anything about it. When I had gotten my first Kindle for Christmas a few years ago and started reading even more, the nudge to write got stronger and stronger. I knew exactly the story I wanted to tell, and this time I decided to tell it. Good for you! I know that nudge...kind of like being pushed off the couch ;o)

Do you write full time? How much of your life is set aside for writing?

            I do not write full time. I have two young boys to watch over, as well as my part-time job I do from home. When I write it’s usually just in the afternoons during quiet time. I’d say maybe two hours a day is devoted to writing when I’m working on a book. When a book has been completed I work on other things so then my writing is pretty much not happening. Two hours a day is awesome! I am quiet time deprived, myself.

Could you tell us a little about your novel?

            Growing Up Neighbors is part non-fiction in that it centers around the love story my husband and I experienced. However, it has a lot of details that are completely made up. Ah, now one has to wonder if the made up part is from things you might have desired…unless of course it’s the tragedy...then I'm sorry. It is about two neighbors that grow to be the best of friends. As they age, their friendship deepens, but neither of them realize their true feelings for one another until tragedy strikes. It’s an excellent, sweet story geared towards young adults that will leave the reader feeling good about love.
Would you take us on a brief tour of your novel and the world you’ve created?

            This novel spans a huge chunk of time. We follow Deborah Harrington and Nicholas Michaels from childhood to adulthood. They live in Michigan, although cities and other places have been totally made up. Here you’ll experience life and all that life offers, both the good and the bad.

Where does the inspiration for your main character and story come from?

            The inspiration for the main character in Growing Up Neighbors, as well as the overall story, comes from me and my life. Deborah is me! Actually, Deborah is my given name ;)

What do you think makes a good romance story?

            What I think makes a good love story is something that is believable. It’s hard to get a true feeling for romance when it’s instant and there’s no basis behind it. There needs to be passion and friendship, as well as connection and reason. I so agree.

How do you handle the emotional side of romance writing?

            For starters, Growing Up Neighbors does deal with tough situations and tragedy, which I just draw emotions from how I felt. But the overall love story this is and all my writing will be are stories that leave you feeling good about love. They’ll be sweet and happy because many relationships actually end up that way. Nice!
What elements do you think are more important in this type of writing?

            With romance writing, like I mentioned above, I think the elements that are important are for the readers to be able to connect with the characters through something that is believable. Readers need to be able to see the love and follow with it.

What is the message behind the story? Was it something you specifically wrote a story around or did it develop as your characters came to life?

            The message behind the story is that life is a journey to something. Growing Up Neighbors is about a journey to love. And most importantly, love wins. And yes, I wrote the story around the message because it’s what I experienced.

Do you work from an outline or just go with the flow? If you use an outline, how detailed is it?

            I do work from an outline. I stay more focused and can write much better when I have an outline. I am a very organized person so it’s something I really need. With Growing Up Neighbors I had what I wanted each chapter to mention as well as each section of that chapter detailed on what I wanted to cover. The new novel I’m working on I wrote out actual sentences I wanted to include, but this story is not so much based on my real life so I needed to have more structure.

What is the time span in your novel, weeks, months, years?

            Growing Up Neighbors takes place over years.

How much research went into your story?

            I didn’t do any research with this story because it was all written around what I already knew, and everything I went through. And yet I’ll bet you’ll come across people who will challenge what you have written lol.

Could you tell us how you go about your research, how you ‘catalogue’ information to make it all work?

            I didn’t do research on Growing Up Neighbors. In my new novel, however, one of the characters has fibromyalgia and so I asked those I knew about what they live with, as well as researched some medical websites to know more. I just wanted to know the basics for this disease, as well as what individuals can experience.

How does this book differ from what you have written in the past?

            This is my first novel. The only other things I have written in the past are school reports, in which case Growing Up Neighbors is far, far different.

How have the changes in present day publishing impacted your schedule as a writer?

            I’m not too familiar with the publishing world. I did set out on this journey knowing I’d probably just self-publish because it seemed easier. But I’m still learning about all of that as well. My goal is just to do what I need to do to get my name/book out there so I’m pursuing all avenues. As far as changes and scheduling, it hasn’t done anything to me seeing as I’m new. The CIR group is an awesome place to draw on the information and experiences of other authors. Don’t hesitate to ask when you are uncertain about any writing/publishing/marketing related topic.

How do you handle marketing? Do you have a plan, a publicist or just take one day at a time?

            I do all my own marketing since I’m self-published. This is another area that I’m constantly learning about. Right now I take one day at a time, one sale at a time. Any sales I make I’m super thrilled. In today’s reality, even traditionally published authors have to handle aspects of marketing.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

            To the aspiring authors I would say that if you have a story to tell, do it. Don’t wait or think you can’t. Just do it. Never stop or give up in any way.

Could you tell us what you’re working on now?

            I’m working on book two in the Neighbors series called Next Door Neighbors. I hope to have this published come spring 2016. This Neighbors story only takes place in the span of less than two years and follows two adult neighbors on their journey to love. It’s full of pain, passion and pursuit. The message in this novel is that love is not merely a feeling, but an action. 

Bio: Frances Hoelsema is a wife and work-at-home mom residing in Holland, Michigan. Some of her favorites are traveling, kayaking, hiking, shopping and cats. In her spare time she enjoys reading, writing and engaging with others around the world through social media. Ideas for her novels are mostly derived from her own personal feelings, emotions and life experiences, as well as from those she is in contact with. To find out more and/or to connect with Frances, please visit:

Tagline: Embark on a journey through life’s ups and downs, and ultimately to love.

Blurb: Little Deborah Harrington stared across the street the day the Michaels family moved in. Who was this family? Would she even like them? Nicholas Michaels hated the fact he had to move away from everything and everyone in his life, but his feelings change when he meets the Harringtons. Deborah and Nicholas become the best of friends, and as the children grow up, their friendship deepens. But then tragedy strikes. Will this cause them to part ways? Or will it perhaps make them realize they may have stronger feelings for one another before it's too late?

Excerpt: “Wow. This is beautiful,” she said. “But I don’t get it. The book I get and the CD I get, but this I don’t. You know I don’t wear a lot of jewelry so why the bracelet?”
Nicholas had bought the bracelet that had her birthstone all around it in small gems, in hopes that she’d wear it to the prom with him.
“Well, I was hoping that you’d wear it to prom. I think you’d look nice with it on,” Nicholas explained.
“Nick, I can’t go to the prom since I’m only a sophomore. You know that the prom is for seniors only, right?”
“Not unless a senior invites someone from a different grade to go.”
“So what are you saying?” Deborah asked as she looked puzzlingly up at Nicholas.
“I’m asking if you’d go to the prom with me.” Nicholas added his wink and smile that he felt for sure would charm her into saying yes.
“What?” Deborah was completely shocked. She thought for sure that he’d want to go with a group of friends, a girl his own age or maybe his own girlfriend if he had one.
After a few seconds had passed, which seemed like forever to Nicholas, he asked, “So will you?”
“Yeah! I’d love to. And, yes, I’ll wear this beautiful bracelet.” She gave him a smile and then returned to admire the beautiful piece of jewelry that it was.
“Great! I’m so glad you said yes."
"Did you think I wouldn't have?"
"Well, you never know," Nicholas shrugged.
The two of them let out a small giggle.
Nicholas looked at the time on his watch and added, "Look, I’ve got to go. I hope you enjoyed your birthday.” 
            “Oh, I did. Thanks to you,” Deborah assured him. She gave him another hug and then he left.
            Deborah gathered her gifts, including the ones that all her friends got for her, and brought them up to her room, the whole time not being able to wipe off the smile that was on her face. She loved all the gifts, but the fact that Nicholas asked her to the prom meant the world to her. Of course she knew it was just as friends that they’d be going together, but the fact remained that he asked her and got her something beautiful to wear to it as well.
            This was the best day of my life, Deborah thought as she put her pajamas on and went to bed feeling like a princess as she fell asleep.

Reviews: Diane L. Weiner, “Growing up Neighbors is a sweet romance which follows Nicholas and Deborah, two neighbors, from when they first meet through their wedding. The characters are typical, believable characters and go through things such as dealing with arguing parents, divorce, getting a first job, going away to college, and the ups and downs of romance. It's a young adult book which I think would be enjoyed by tween and early teen girls. It's an easy read-- I read it in one sitting--and the pace is steady. I like how the author ended the story.”
Marcene, “Brilliant story about the misunderstandings and the triumphs of growing up, friendship and love!!!”

Katie Blythe, “I really loved this story. It was a very cozy read for me. The best thing about this story, is that there is no “instalove.” The characters know each other at a young age and are very close friends first. They don’t grow up and they instantaneously see each other across the room and realize they are completely head over heels for each other and never realized it until that moment, which is a very good break from a lot of other stories. The friendship they have grows naturally and is very believable. It’s definitely a book to read during the fall/winter season.”

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