Blog Tour: Mile 21

Mile 21 blog tour

Today I am excited to feature a Contemporary LDS Romance, Mile 21and welcome its author, Sarah Dunster to my blog!


Author Interview

Thanks for visiting my blog today, Sarah! I read the synopsis for your book, Mile 21, and knew immediately that I wanted to read it. I love reading romances, including LDS romances (which your book is), but I also felt that this one was probably going to have some bittersweet moments as well, and would end up being a good, heartfelt book.

I looked at what you’ve written in the past (historical fiction and poems). Why did you choose to write a contemporary LDS romance this time around?

Lightning Tree

I love so many genres. And I write in so many genres. The first book I happened to publish was Historical Fiction, but I also love to write Contemporary Fiction and Fantasy YA. I also love reading serial mysteries and hope to try my hand at one of those one day... I guess I'm one of those people who thinks she can have her cake and eat it, too.

I love reading just about all genres, so I can see how that would carryover to writing.

Did you feel that writing in this genre was easier or more difficult than what you’ve written before?

Easier. I'd say Fantasy and Historical are equally difficult. With Historical Fiction you have to look everything up, get multiple sources to make sure of accuracy, and try to re-create something; a feel, an event, an environment, that doesn't exist anymore. And in Fantasy, you have to create a world that never existed.

Your main character, Abish, has recently lost her husband and is thrown back into the singles’ scene. I know you have some personal experience with this. How much of your own experience, going back to being single and dating again, influenced Abish’s experiences?

A whole lot, to be honest :) It is very difficult (I think. Some might disagree.) to be in a singles' ward to begin with. Try being different in a singles ward. People in that situation who are LDS tend to be young, naive, inexperienced... they have a harder time understanding different situations, sometimes.

I liked how you showed that naïveté, but also a couple of people who were friends to Abish as well.

Do you have any embarrassing or funny stories you’d like to share (leaving names anonymous, of course) from your time as a single mom before you got remarried?

OH, goodness. Yes. There was this one guy who kept following me around. I'd be on campus and Bam, he'd be there. He was nice, but really not my type... and anytime I walked across campus, there he was. I could almost be sure of it. Also, the skirt thing at the end with Abish--happened :) to me and my current husband. The reader will have to read the story to know what I'm talking about so I won't spoil it for them.

I had a minor skirt situation when I was in high school. Maybe it’s a right of passage. ;)

I just have to ask if Abish was always your MC’s name? It is a biblical name, or I should say that it is a name from the Book of Mormon, and not very common. Was there a reason or something that inspired you to use it?

I felt like Abish was the perfect name for my character. She's unusual, she's had that feeling like she was supposed to be set apart to do something special... she's had those encounters with death.

After reading the book I think it was a good name choice, as I felt it fit her character really well.

Do you think you’ll continue writing in this genre or branching out to something else next?

I have another Historical Fiction I am working on. The sequel to my first. Also, I've got some ideas brewing for a YA/Juvenile Fantasy series. But yes, I love Contemporary Fiction and strong female characters, and I really am a sucker for a good love story. So I'm sure I'll be writing more in this genre as well.

What are your favorite five feel-good movies or books or a combination of both?

Chick Flicks: While You Were Sleeping, Crossing Delancey, How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days, Pride and Prejudice (A&E version) (of course), Legally Blonde.

 
  

I’ve never seen Crossing Delancey or Legally Blonde. I may have to check them out.

What’s your favorite food to indulge in?

I have too many. But sushi. Definitely sushi.

What words best describe your book?

Funny, offbeat, inspiring, emotional, satisfying.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your book?

You'll love it! Read it!

Thanks, again, Sarah for stopping by! I hope things go well for Mile 21. I know I really enjoyed it and am excited to read whatever you write next.



Continue reading to find out more about Mile 21, Sarah, read my review, and enter to win an ebook copy of your own!


  
Mile 21Mile 21
by Sarah Dunster
Contemporary LDS Romance
October 7th 2013 by Bonneville Books Marketing

Summary

“You have to be here. I can’t be on the premises without an owner or tenant present. Wouldn’t want to be accused of walking off with anything.” He looks around the kitchen. “Not that there’s anything here to tempt me.”

“You’re a jerk.”


Bob glances down at the photo again. 


“Will your husband be back soon?”


“He died a year ago. So, no.”


I gain immense satisfaction in seeing his cheeks darken a bit.


Abish Miller is a mess. But you might be too if you were a twenty-one-year-old widow with a dysfunctional family, an overpowering boss, and a torturous return to the singles’ scene. Training for the marathon she and her husband never got to run is about the only time she can forget about her problems.But life won’t leave her alone. It throws Bob Hartley, a recently divorced young father, into her living room and then her ward. And when her irritation turns into attraction, she’s sure that it must be some sort of cosmic joke, especially when it seems he loathes her! Feeling like she just keeps hitting the wall, Abish must learn to push past her fears or she’ll never achieve her personal best.


Defined by sharp wit and an authentic voice, Mile 21 shows the despair of giving up on hope—and the joy of choosing it again.


You can read an excerpt of Mile 21 here and view the book trailer here

   




My Review

I knew when I began reading Mile 21 that it would probably be an emotional roller coaster. I wasn't sure what kind of challenges the main character would face, but I knew there would be some. I was right. It was a crazy, heartbreaking, but uplifting ride and I'm so glad that I read it!

The title is perfect for this book. Those of you who may be runners or have run a marathon would understand that the twenty first mile is said to be the hardest. This is where Abish is in her life. She doesn't know if she will make it to the finish line. She runs a lot and not just as exercise or because she likes running, but as a way of running from her problems.

Abish is such an interesting, intense, and authentic character. I didn't always relate to her because she was, to be honest, very upset with the world and God for the way her life was turning out. She had a lot of anger. Even though I didn't always relate to that and some of her choices I could understand why she felt as she did. She is very sarcastic and blunt and I really enjoyed her personality. Sure, she could be a little brutal, but I also felt she was really honest, at least to those around her. She wasn't as honest with herself. I really felt for her and the challenges she was facing. I loved seeing her change and eventually open up in order to allow happiness in her life again. I learned so much from her and really connected with her moments of inspiration. Here is one of those moments:
     What did I do, Heavenly Father, to deserve this?
     Three words suddenly reverberate off every corner of my skull and catch fire in my chest. You deserve happiness.
     I spring upright, my heart beating wildly. I look around at all the sleeping girls in their bunks. I take several deep breaths. When my heart has slowed a bit, I shift my legs under me so that I'm sort of kneeling."What am I supposed to do, then?" I whisper.
     Find your happiness. Mine is a plan of happiness.
     There's this rush of feeling. It's hard to describe—like I'm seeing the entire world that has been out of joint suddenly snap into place. For a moment I imagine I understand how everything moves perfectly together and the earth is buzzing with life and order.
     Faith is what you do when you want something to be true but don't know it is.
     Men are that they might have joy.
     You can trust me with your happiness.
Here is another inspirational moment when Abish is reliving a memory: 
     Keep your heels high, Abish.
     I've never done this before.
     Yes, you have. You do it all the time.
     Do what!
     Finish. Get through it, even when it hurts. Even if you might die.
     Am I going to die?
     No, you're not going to die. You're going to live.
     Am I? Can I?
     Yes, you can.
Then there is Robert or "Bob." He has it pretty rough too, even though Abish doesn't see that because her focus is so internal. He really doesn't have the best first or even second impression of Abish and she of him. He is steady, forgiving, and caring. He is also an amazing father and guy all around. I loved how he challenges Abish and doesn't always go easy on her, such as the in the football game. At the same time, he also protects her, even from herself sometimes.

Here's one exchange between Abish and Bob that I couldn't help sharing with you: 
     We're in the middle of the first verse when someone slides into the spot Shelley has vacated.
     Bob.
     I give him a sideways glance and continue singing, only a lot more quietly now . . . more like musical mumbling.
     He leans over and hunts around for a hymnbook. There aren't any. I turn on the chair so that I'm angled slightly away from him, hoping it'll discourage the request I know is coming.
     "Can I share?" he finally asks.
     I edge the hymnbook slightly in his direction. He grabs one side of it and starts sining—a clear, smooth baritone. Pavarotti. I'm sitting next to Pavarotti. I keep my face angled away from him and start to mouth words instead of singing.
     He glances at me. "You okay?"
     "Yes," I whisper. I'm making myself look even more of an idiot than if I just braced myself and got it over with. I sigh and begin singing. 
     After a few seconds he's laughing. I can hear the tremble in his voice.
     "Yeah, so I'm a lousy singer," I hiss, flinging my half of the hymnbook toward him. It nearly clocks him in the eye.
     He fumbles and manages not to drop it. "Understatement of the year."
     "You really know how to make someone feel good about herself."
     "How did you get through Primary?"
     "Tone-deafness is a rare gift. About as rare as perfect pitch, I'm told. And they mostly stuck me in the back during sacrament meeting programs and Father's Day performances."
     "Remind me never to share a hymnbook with you again. Not only are you a bad singer, you almost gave me a black eye."
     "Oh, believe me . . ."
     I have no intention of sharing with you again. It's the response that belongs in the conversation, but for some reason the words won't form in my throat. And suddenly I'm having a hard time suppressing a smile because it actually is pretty funny. I never realized before how funny it is that I'm tone deaf, but I sing at church because it's what you do. I raise my voice, giving Bob a belligerent look as I continue. He smiles and sings louder too, holding the book between us again so that i can read the words of the second verse.
They really make a good match. I love the teasing and honesty that this excerpt shows that is between them. Neither character is perfect and nor is their relationship, but that is one of the things that made this such a great story. It did take a while for Abish's and Bob's histories to come out. I kept wondering about how they lost their spouses and why they felt as they did. Then when I found out it was so heartbreaking. I especially had to fight the tears with Abish's story. 

The setting was rather nostalgic for me. There's this reference to the college craziness right before finals that cracked me up, but is so true! Then there are all the single activities, church meetings, and dorm situations. There are some characters who are terrible to Abish and just terrible examples of who they should be as members of the church. I'm glad there were a few good examples thrown in as well. I also loved the reference to The Princess Bride.

Overall, this was a rough read in spots, but also deeply heartfelt and inspirational. I believe what Abish found to be true, that God wants us to be happy and that we are here to be happy, even through the difficulties of life. For me, this is a book that I will continue to think about for some time.

Content: Clean
Source: Publisher, which did not affect my review in any way.




About the Author


Sarah DunsterSarah Dunster is an award-winning poet and fiction writer. Her poems have appeared in Dialogue: Journal of Mormon ThoughtSunstone Magazine, andSegullah Magazine. She is a contributor to LDS arts blog A Motley Vision. Her first novel, “Lightning Tree,” was released in April of 2012. Her fiction has been described as fresh, character-driven, and outside the box of LDS literature. Sarah Dunster enjoys writing almost as much as she enjoys spending time with her seven children, age eleven and younger.




Giveaway

One ebook copy of Mile 21 (US and INT as long as you can access a Mobi, ePub, or PDF copy).

All my usual requirements apply. Please use the rafflecopter below. Ends 10/31/13.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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