Saturday, April 8, 2017

Review and Author Interview: Toward a Secret Sky by Heather Maclean

Book info:
TitleToward a Secret Sky
Author:  Heather Maclean
Series:  ???
Genre:  YA Paranormal romance
Published:  April 4th, 2017
Source:  Received from publicist for honest review
My rating:  4.5 stars

Shortly after 17-year-old Maren Hamilton is orphaned and sent to live with grandparents she’s never met in Scotland, she receives an encrypted journal from her dead mother that makes her and everyone around her a target. It confirms that her parents were employed by a secret, international organization that’s now intent on recruiting her. As Maren works to unravel the clues left behind by her mother, a murderous madness sweeps through the local population, terrorizing her small town. Maren must decide if she’ll continue her parents’ fight or stay behind to save her friends.

With the help of Gavin, an otherworldly mercenary she’s not supposed to fall in love with, and Graham, a charming aristocrat who is entranced with her, Maren races against the clock and around the country from palatial estates with twisted labyrinths to famous cathedrals with booby-trapped subterranean crypts to stay ahead of the enemy and find a cure. Along the way, she discovers the great truth of love: that laying down your life for another isn’t as hard as watching them sacrifice everything for you.

My Review:
I received an email back in March requesting that I possibly review this and another book.  I unfortunately got started on this one a little late so that I didn't get it finished in time to post the review before the publishing date.  I did however really enjoy the book, and will definitely be recommending it.  If you've followed me for awhile, you know that I am a Twilight fan.  This book definitely was reminiscent of that story, in a good way, but not an identical way.  And when I read the author's answers to my interview questions, it turns out that it is supposed to be similar.   I know some people are not fans of the Twilight series, and I'm sorry, they may or may not enjoy this.  I will definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good story about angels and demons on earth.  I loved how the author brought in specific types of demons, Incubus to name one.  The way the characters fit into whatever category, angel - demon - human, was done so creatively, and really quite originally in some cases.  I loved the characters and the setting of Scotland as well.  Although I might be a bit more partial to Irish than Scottish, I still liked that is how the setting was.

My only issues are that some of the story went a little faster and I didn't get as many details as I would have liked, but part of that is probably my own particular idiosyncrasies and tastes.  I was a little confused at the very beginning as to why everyone was screaming at the funeral, and I'm still a bit unsure as to whether that was just normal reaction to the stormy weather, or if there was something else going on.  Anyway, this was a page-turner, hard to put down, and I totally recommend it!

Also, possible spoiler, the way it ends, I totally feel like there needs to be a sequel, yet I don't see anything saying there will be on Goodreads.  So I'll just cross my fingers, and hope that like a book I read last year about this time that I really wanted a sequel for, this too will get one.

Author Interview:

1.         What does your writing process look like?  Do you know the whole story when you start?  Or do you just start writing and go with it (seat of the pants writing)?  If you plan it out, how do you do that?  Outline, note cards, post-it notes, etc.?

I’m almost afraid to admit it, but I am a write-by-the-seat-of-my-pants girl—at least for the first draft. I have to get the story out, with all of its passion, and the plot sorted, then I’ll go back and tweak everything. For staying organized, I actually use the extremely old-school Excel. I make a spreadsheet by chapter with columns for the main action, each character, and then any themes such as love, loss, problems, then I fill in each box. I can step back then and see how long it’s been since someone appeared, how the character development is going, if I’ve got enough tension throughout, etc.

I’m also a Post-It note queen. I have dozens of stacks all over my house and in my purse and I’ll jot down ideas as they come to me, which is more often than not when I’m just about to fall asleep!

2.         How did you come up with the idea for your story?

I had just seen the movie Twilight with my best friend and our daughters. It was such a great bonding night, and when we got home, our girls demanded I write them a similar story. I started on the spot. My initial idea was a Da Vinci Code-type adventure book set in Scotland, but I wanted to make sure it had an epic Twilight-level love story. I know people like to critique that book, but Stephanie Meyer got the love story down perfectly. The idea that this guy had been waiting a thousand years for his true love? Amazing. And I believe in soul mates and love and first sight since I’ve experienced both, so those had to be in there too!  

3.         How long have you been writing?

Since I could hold a pencil! Professionally though, any chance I got. I was the editor of my grade school and high school newspapers. I worked for my college newspaper. I was the Publisher of the largest student-run magazine in the world, Business Today. I interned at Entertainment Weekly. And this was all before the internet! There are so many more opportunities now for aspiring writers!

4.         What tips do you have for aspiring writers?

Creative tips: When the writing muse visits, drop everything and write! She might not be back for days!

Business tips: Get a great, experienced agent. There are tons out there, and they’re always looking for new talent. I have many writer friends who represent themselves, but I absolutely rely on my agent. She used to be an editor, she’s just so gosh darn smart, and she’s become like a part of my family. Publishing is ultimately a business, and you need a professional who has your back when things get dicey (which they do!).

5.         Favorites: 
i.                  Books/authors/genres

Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, anything by Thomas Hardy, and Historical Fiction

ii.                  Movies/TV Shows

Movies: Braveheart, Moana, Deadpool
TV Shows: Victoria, Reign, Gotham, Southern Charm

iii.                  Music

An embarrassing mix of Alternative and Pop: the Lumineers, George Ezra, Clean Bandit, Machine Gun Kelly, James Arthur, Taylor Swift, and I’m a huge Eminem fan.

iv.                  Food/writing snack

Snicker bites (they should be outlawed!), mini candy canes, and milk chocolate pretzel Snappers.

v.                  Social Media Site

Author Bio: 
Heather Maclean is a bestselling author who is making her YA debut with Toward a Secret Sky, hitting shelves nationwide on April 4. She has appeared on Good Morning America, The Early Show on CBS, Fox Business Network, ParentsTV and Dr. Radio on Sirius XM. A graduate from Princeton University, she began her career at Entertainment Weekly. Her work has appeared in Conde Nast Traveler, Pregnancy Magazine, NY Metro Parents Magazine, as well as numerous newspapers from across the country. A mother of three, Maclean is the founder of Little Laureate, an award-winning educational children's media company. Named one of the "16 Best Entrepreneurs in America" by Sir Richard Branson, she accompanied the adventurous business legend on a 50,000-mile trip around the world, alternately helping improve the lives of others (designing sustainable development initiatives in South African villages) and fearing for her own (rappelling out of a Black helicopter in a Moroccan sandstorm). Visit to learn more about Heather.