For our June meeting of the Lesfic Book Club, we discussed Melissa Brayden’s novel, Strawberry Summer. If you weren’t able to make it, check out the transcript below.
A couple of notes on the
If you want to join us live, we
discuss lesfic novels every month at http://lesficlove.com (sign up or follow me on Twitter to find out
what we’re reading next). Some chat participants requested that their names be
obscured, so below you’ll see that everyone has been anonymized as Reader 1,
Reader 2, etc
I saw @Melissa Brayden sign up a
little while ago, not sure if she’s back yet but just in case… hi, Melissa,
we’re over here
Hi, guys! I’m here!
Super excited to chat with
hey @Melissa Brayden good to
Just finished a birthday
party for my sister and snuck away to my childhood bedroom for book club!
Welcome Melissa.Everyone has
been so excited to have you here.
Welcome, thanks for joining us!
Welcome @Melissa Brayden !!!!
Hello and welcome!!
Hey @Melissa Brayden
You have the honour of
Strawberry Summer being my first ever lesfic book.
Melissa, how hard was it to kill
off a popular character in SS?
@Reader 5 wow
Oh yeah? That’s very cool. I
still remember my first lesfic book VERY fondly. I was so amazed to have found
Reader 3 – great question!
I’m having trouble getting mine
Clay was the lovable big brother
It was a tough decision. I’d
been known as an author who was fairly light and fun in her work. So the
concept of a death in SS felt like territory I wasn’t allowed to cross into.
However, I knew it was the right thing for the story, despite the fact that I
was stepping outside of my own comfort zone. I think it was the right decision.
I’m curious as to what inspired
you to go with the strawberry theme.
I cried so much when Clay died.
It broke me
Which book was it?
Right he was great
Reader 6, the book was Behind
the Pine Curtain by Gerri Hill.
I love Gerri Hill
Oooh… that’s a good book.
Reader 12, the strawberry
theme was inspired by a convo with my friend, Georgia (Beers). Shall I tell you
Ooh I read that Pine Curtain
recently – good book
Of course it was haha that’s great
! I love Georgia she’s great!
Georgia was writing a beer
book at the time, and needed a title. She asked if we could bounce ideas. So I
just started riffing. I do that without thinking, just off the top of my head.
I knew that in sampling beer you encounter a lot of different flavors so I was
tossing out titles with cinnamon and lemon and strawberry and offered up
Strawberry Summer. She didn’t snatch it up by I fell in love with it. From that
title, the whole strawberry concept came to life. She wound up calling her book
A Little Bit of Spice (twisting my suggestion of A Little Bit of Cinnamon)
We’ve all done Georgia 2 months
Not sure we should talk about
her like that without her here to defend herself
I love it.
That’s awesome! It was a really
That was a wonderful book too!
That’s such a fantastic title
That’s so cool!
It was really fortuitous for
Do you often start with a title
and go from there?
Just read Spice one too (sorry
9pm here can’t type)
That’s great title inspiration
I actually worked on a
strawberry farm for 3 consecutive summers when I was at university. It was a
much smaller operation than the Beringer farm though!
Not generally, but this one
really worked nicely. Titles are generally second to the story for me.
I love how so much of the
community is so positive and supportive of each other
But I take inspiration
wherever I can get it.
Peri, I love a happy small
Yes! Agreed @Reader 11 – I liked
that the stereotypical high school popular guy turned into one of the nicest
And the mean girl turned into a
pretty nice woman
NortherGirl – that’s
Yes loved that too! Even Melanie
was spot on
Lilly Craig – I think it’s
important to me that my characters feel three dimensional and no one is all
good or all bad.
As hard as Clay’s death was, I
feel like it was the only way I’d believe them breaking up.
Reader 2, agreed. It was
I grew up in a small town of
7,000 (though moved away before I came out)… and I felt that your town reminded
me of growing up in my hometown. Do you (or have you ever) live(d) in a small
I liked how you started the
book. Lots of tense drama. Then suddenly we’re into sweet times and you’re
Can ask about your influences as
a writer? I think your dialogue feels a lot like Buffy dialogue to me – I love
Agreed, the dialog was so fun in
Bully’s are bully’s for
underlying problems they themselves internalize so it was great.
I loved the way it was set in
the past to reach the present had me on the edge of my seat the whole ride
I caught that too Reader 8
Reader 10, I have’t and maybe
that’s one of the reasons I romanticize them so much in my head and love to
write them. I just finished a book with a small town and each time I go there
with the setting, I just long for that slower paced life a little bit. Where
everyone knows everyone .
Since I think I’m the only high
schooler here, I’ll have to agree that all the descriptions of high school
hierarchies are still spot on. Completely relateable.
Where did you get the idea of
the department store? Here in the UK department stores and high streets in
general are dying a death.
Does small town = village?
Lilly – My influences are
mainly rooted in romance novels themselves. I’ve never seen Buffy but I hear
great things! Judith McNaught, Danielle Steele, Reader 10 Higgins, Jill
Shalvis, Nora Roberts (specially Nora)
Reader 4, I’m thrilled to
Love Nora Roberts!
Northergirl – I just love
malls and the crisp air you encounter in the pristine department stores. Also
one of my favorite romances, Paradise by Judith McNaught, has two feuding
department stores so it stuck in my head.
Reader 3 – I think so (village)
My village has 1220 and I know a
Hehe by choice or because
everyone just keeps to themselves?
Where’d you get the idea for the
House that was built over the lake? That was so cool
Right I was like I need that
I think mainly I just wanted
to live in one like that. I researched what was possible and went with it!
It was great
Although more people know me-
are you that fruitloop with the 3 dogs? Er yep
Haha that’s a fun thing to be
known for tho
Reader 6 is the Bunny Whisper
That is a small town danger: I
was a musician, so even if I didn’t know somebody in town, there was a distinct
chance they knew who I was!
I feel like everyone knows me
for they know my mom (she’s bartended for like 20yrs lol)
Yeah, a lot of people knew me,
from all my extracurriculars, but I didn’t know that many people. Now I’ve been
gone so long who knows?
Waiting in the Wings was my
first lesfic, and also a second chance romance. Do you have a favorite trope,
or sets of tropes?
I’m a big fan of friends to
lovers and enemies to lovers – and of course, reunion romances. I just finished
one of those as well.
Have you ever thought of writing
a romance set in a fantasy setting?
I haven’t. I worry I’d be bad
I’m always soooo impressed
with those that do. Barbara Ann Wright comes to mind!
Reader 3 – Did you grow up
there? If you grow up in a small town, everybody knows everybody. If you move
there later, it’s actually pretty easy to remain “the stranger” for
quite a while. Little opportunity for social interaction like clubs, etc.
I read the soho lift backwards
would you recommend reading them in order. I guess there were spoilers from
page 1 of book 3
While I think you can read
them in any order, you’ll get more out of the progression and character growth
if you read them 1-3.
Which Is why I also read series
in order even if they can be standalone lol
I did that with 7 shores. Only
just read KTG today then immediately started on JTW because I wanted to follow
Reader 3, perfect!
I ask this at every book club
Melissa but if it was made into a film who would play Courtney and Maggie?
Hmmm….that’s really hard. I
think a Reader 16ie Holmes type (but the younger version, maybe Dawsons Creek
time period) for young Maggie. There’s sooooo many choices for Courtney, would
be hard to pin down a favorite. A young Amanda Peterson, Reader 16e
Hudson….Reese Witherspoon…..on and on and on.
I saw Reader 16ie Holmes and
Reese Witherspoon for sure lol glad I pegged them right
Wow I would love to see this
Melissa, do you think we might
see Maggie and Courtney pop up in any of your future work?
I would like for them to! I
really do miss those characters. They are on a short list of favorite
characters Ive ever written.
I would love a sequel that would
Do you have a dog and which out
of the ones in your books is it? If any?
I have two Jack Russell
terriers. Apple, a girl, and Ryder, a boy. I don’t think I’ve written
them in yet. Someday…..
I loved that you made Maggie’s
mum a bodice ripping writer of romance!
Right that was epic
Agreed! And that Maggie cringed
about it so much haha
Seconded – her little asides
about what her characters were doing were fantastic
Those were such fun scenes to
write. It was important to me that she be warm and kind as a mom, but a total
romance fanatic about her job. I like the dichotomy.
Loved that! It brought her mom
to life for sure!
The characters all felt so
rounded with their own quirks, such as Maggie’s Beatles obsession. Are you a
I am! I love the play,
John Lennon and Me, and directed it once. It inspired that little piece
What’s your favorite part of the
romance story to write?
I really love writing the
middle 2/3 section because the characters generally already know each other
well and are HAPPY. The happy, playful, in love scenes are the reason I get out
of a bed. They come to me fast and I end the day with a smile.
Loved those scenes! Makes me
want to make out in the strawberry fields
Do you then struggle to write
the conflicts, since happy is easy and fun?
You definitely excel at it –
Maggie and Courtney’s chemistry was so immediate and intriguing
All because of Abraham Lincoln
Reader 2, I think more so
when I was a new writer. I wanted everyone to be happy all of the time. I’ve
learned that’s now always the best thing for a romance arc, along with gentle
prodding from the editor who worked on my first three books.
You’re sooo good at writing
those happy scenes, they always feel warm & fuzzy but also like meaningful
moments, beyond just fluffy filler (which is nice sometimes too!)
What were the easiest and the
hardest things to research for the book?
The hardest was definitely
learning how a strawberry farm worked, because it can work a lot of different
ways! The easiest was the department store, because those facts are
soooo interesting. The shopping from left to right? Yeah…..
Yeah mollydollys went past me on
the soho series but now I’ve read the sweet one I get it
Aha, you caught that, huh?
There was another secret How Sweet it Is reference in this book as well, but
not many people caught it.
Give me a mo, I remember seeing
something. Then of course there was Mal and Hunter (H mentioned) in7 shores.
Where do you fit on the scale of
pantsing and plotting?
I know the big plot points
only and pants the other 80%. So I would say panther for sure.
For example, I knew Maggie
was going to suffer a loss, but as I wrote it, I thought it would probably be
Travis. But I pants my way to Clay, because that’s where the story took me.
impressive! I will remember that
every time I wish I plotted more. haha
Wow interesting and impressive
Wait, so did you write the back
story first and come back with the opening, or start with the present day and
fill in the back story?
I wrote this one entirely in
order, so I started with the present day scene, then jumped backward – still
not totally knowing how we got to that present day anger/angst.
Ooh interesting. That makes me
wonder when you knew what Louis was going to do because I was on the edge of my
seat about him for a while.
I knew about Louis only as I
I didn’t have him planned in
This is so much more impressive
Louis kinda made me feel
It would have been so easy to
kill him off instead
aw. Poor nerd.
He was a challenge, but I also
liked that arc.
Holy, that’s so impressive!
I agree, @Reader 5 – an
unpredictable, unstable person
I got that from Louis too. He
was obsessive with Berta something bad had to happen because of him
And killing him off wouldn’t
have had the punch packing that a beloved character did. I really needed to
upset the balance in place.
I got that too Clay was the
right choice for the story.
Wait, so did you write the back
story first and come back with the opening, or start with the present day and
fill in the back story?
Who would be your favorite
authors, both for lesfic and for non-lesfic?
Lesfic would be Ann McMan,
Georgia Beers, Robin Alexander. Non lesfic: Chevy Stevens, Nora Roberts,
Reader 10 Higgins, Jill Shalvis
Did you befriend Georgia through
lesfic or know her from elsewhere?
Robin is my new favorite right
now. Working my way through her books about to start Scaredy Cat
Ooh I’m just on with the Jericho
books. More small town charm.
We met in 2010 at the GCLS
conference. We wound up sitting next to each other for the keynote address and
struck up a conversation. Then I saw her at each event that year and we really
hit it off as friends. Now she’s my best friend.
Northergirl – I love Jericho.
That’s really awesome.
Now I’m even more curious about
your writing process. Do you have anyone reading along or working with you
during the process, like your editor? Or do you wait until you have a completed
I do not let anyone read my
manuscripts – only my editor. No beta readers or family or friends. Just me and
no one reads it until it’s in
Can you tell us a little about
Sure! My next release is
another small town romance – Beautiful Dreamer. Similar to Strawberry in some
ways and then not at all in others. After that in November, I have Back
to September which is a small book shop owner and a famous romance novelist.
Suuuper excited for Back to
Pre-ordered on Amazon! Counting
down the days until July 16th!!
I wondered if the cousin
ballerina from KTG is mentioned in your ballet one. That’s one of the only ones
I’ve not read yet
Yes. She is.
Ha ha, I love how they all tie
Could you ever see yourself
doing a collaborative book?
I think that might be hard
for me. Never say never, but that concept makes me a little nervous. Im a bit
of a control freak when it comes to creative endeavors.
I know Kris Bryant, Maggie
Cummings, and M Ullrich had success with theirs.
I suspect it’s a lot harder when
I enjoyed the inclusion of the
book club scene. Are you, yourself, part of a book club?
No, but I DESPERATELY WANT TO
BE. Another thing I romanticize. Sitting around and talking about books with
wine. I would join their book club in a heartbeat.
Most definitely seemed like a
great book club
I’m in, come to the U.K.?
Agreed, sounds like heaven
Do online book clubs count?
A little! But I do
want to sit on the floor, in the evening, and drink wine.
probably wouldn’t hurt to get
some adult conversation that doesn’t revolve around a little one too.
Which one of your books was your
favorite to write?
Waiting in the Wings, Kiss
the Girl, and Strawberry Summer are tied.
Anything in particular about
them that made them faves?
Waiting in the Wings because
I’d never written anything and it was so exciting to jump back into a STORY
each day. Kiss the Girls because I loved the friends and it was my first time
meeting the four of them. And Strawberry because the romance and it’s unravel
pulled me in. I liked developing it.
Kiss the Girl***
Can’t typo my own book!
I love the books on the sets of
friends. They seem such cool people to know
I even felt like learning to
Even my dog can surf
That is adorable!
Yes, writing friends is so
much fun. I have a new three book series coming up set on a vineyard.
Ooh if you need someone to taste
Right? Planning on this being
the best research ever? Maybe a wine trip is called for.
I gave you the idea therefore I
should be in on this
Did I miss everything?
How hard do you find it to write
with a toddler?
It’s impossible! I
only write in the first half of the day when he’s at daycare. The afternoons
and evenings are reserved for him. If I have any loose ends, I tied them up
after he goes to bed for the night. Writing with him present will just not work
It won’t get better for a while
either. But then he’ll go to school.
Has your writing approach or
schedule changed since becoming a mom?
(on the same page @Reader 3!
Yes, I used to be able to
take all day to hit my word count. I have to be more structured now and have my
count hit before 1pm.
Of the other couples you’ve
written which is your favourite? I loved Hunter and Samantha.
That tends to change. I
do adore Sam and Hunter. Brooklyn and Jessica rank high for me too. As
do Maggie and Country and Jenna and Adrienne.
Do you have any particular
process for choosing character names?
I liked the Maggie/Margaret
duality depending on who she was talking to (and how she felt about them)
Just finished Sam & Hunter,
Yeah she gets Hunter an awesome
name and her siblings are Claire and Kevin ???? WTH
I think they need to fit the
character. For example, Courtney. I wanted to find a name that felt softer, and
girlish because that’s how the character felt. I have to LIKE the name or I
can’t work with it.
HAHA. Yes, Hunter was COOLER
than her siblings. That’s why.
Haha sometimes it just works out
Meant to be from the time she
Hunter was effortlessly cool!
I find it extremely hard to
write with a toddler lol
It’s near impossible.
It is. Mine thinks she needs to
help with everything I do so… It’s nearly impossible. (I also own my own
business and I’ve slacked a bit because of her lol)
Good news, as they grow they
bring new challenges. Terrible twos, they seem bliss compared to the answering
back, rebellion, slamming doors etc etc and that’s just me
All ages were easier than 4 and
a quarter. This one might break us.
Yup, you survive… then hit the
next hurdle that flattens you again … and repeat
Pretty much! Potty training is
Do you get much of a chance to
interact with readers like this? Do you enjoy it?
I do! I do a book club
about once a month, it seems. Sometimes in person, sometimes on Skype, or
sometimes typing like this. I love it! Beyond that, I do about 4-5
author/reader in person events each year (my favorites being the Golden Crown
Literary Conference and Women’s Week in Provincetown each year. I did Clexacon
this year, which was new, but. loved it!)
That sounds kind of scary haha
Would you consider yourself an extrovert?
Do you do worldwide tours?
Courtney seemed so cosmopolitan
and sophisticated and Maggie was always in awe of how our together she was.
What was the inspiration behind her character?
I think we always look to the
popular girl in high school and wish she noticed us more (Whether romantic or
not. I think straight girls do that too). And I wondered, what if she did? What
if she were popular, and kind, and NOTICED the other MC who’d never really been
noticed before? That got me excited to write.
That’s what I loved the most she
was able to be in both worlds and bring them to the other side. And then
Melanie became one of Maggie’s best friends it was nice to see. Which is what
happens after high school.
Ooh just remembered a question.
Back to soho on the KTG cover its Brooks, but which of the two is it meant to
be on JTW? I’m thinking Sam but then the tan?
I think you can choose, but
for me, it’s Sam.
Yeah Hunter has black hair. I
find her the hardest one to imagine. Is she based on anyone I can google
She is not based on anyone in
real life, no.
Shame I like to picture
everything in my head as I read and I hate not getting a visual of an mc
What got you started with
I’ve always been a
storyteller. I worked in educational theatre (directing shows), I ran a small
production company (editing stories), and I was a TV news reporter (also
constructing stories) – so this was just another extension of that skill. I had
a summer off and had never written anything before in my life. I gave it shot
with Waiting in the Wings and submitted just for fun. I never thought it would
get accepted. After that, I thought it might be some nice vacation money. When
my full time job’s salary was overtaken and then doubled, I knew it was my new
full time gig.
I was very lucky.
I think it’s harder now.
Because of how many books are
available? I still think that book would have stood out no matter what.
Yes, even if you write a
fantastic book now, the self publishing model Amazon offers has allowed so many
titles to flood the genre, that my fear is that good authors are having trouble
I’ll let you know, I’m working
on my debut
To some extent. It also is
easier to find readers, thanks to twitter and fb groups
Coming up on close to an hour,
Melissa I don’t want to keep you too long if you have to get back to the party?
Does anyone have any unasked questions?
Thanks for joining us Melissa.
Thanks for talking to us
Thank you so much Melissa!!
Thanks Melissa. I am a true fan
and this has made my month/year
Thank you so much Melissa!
ess, Thank you!
Thank you for joining in and
I had the BEST TIME!!!
I love talking about books!
Thanks for sharing and giving us
panters someone to idolize.
(they say some of the best
characterization comes from pantsing)
I shall use this forever
Thanks for writing all these
Thanks for joining us, Melissa –
it was great having you and feel free to pop by the Slack channel if you ever
want to chat or promo a new release
I think I will, now that I
know where to find it. Have a great Sunday everyone!