I attended my first book launch party Sunday! My coworker and friend, Emily C. Reynolds, just released her debut novel, Picture Perfect. Enter for your chance to win! There are three ways to win an electronic copy of her novel.

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I asked Emily to tell us about herself and her novel.

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Tell us a little about yourself!

I grew up in a small town in southern Maine, about an hour north of Boston. I graduated from Gordon College in Massachusetts with degrees in English Language & Literature as well as Biblical Studies. The best thing that ever happened to me was walking into a coffee shop one morning and walking out, leaving my heart with the fine-looking barista working behind the counter. My husband Jason is the inspiration for my storybook heroes and my biggest cheerleader on this journey toward publication. We are blessed with a teenage son, two cats, and a dog named Boomer.

Can you share with us the storyline of Picture Perfect?

In Picture Perfect, a photographer and a martial artist partnered for swing dance lessons also become unknowingly pitted against each other in a real estate tug-of-war. As romance heats up, secrets from the past close in. Agendas collide, and when the truth comes out, one wrong move could trip them up for good.

Here’s a little of the story setup of Picture Perfect:

Extending the right hand of fellowship to church visitors probably doesn’t include sucker-punching the cute guy from pew seventeen. But when Lily recovers from being startled by him late at night, she realizes who he is. And wishes she’d hit harder. It’s clear Micah doesn’t remember her—or breaking her heart ten years ago.

Avoiding him becomes her best option. Besides, she has more important things to worry about—namely renovating her newly leased storefront so she can quit her job and take her photography full-time.

Micah is back in his hometown with plans to open a martial arts school and make a fresh start. But the past haunts him, and the present isn’t looking much better. The one girl he’s interested in hates his guts and he has no idea why.

When they get thrown together for swing dance lessons, romance heats up on—and off—the dance floor. As Lily gets to know Micah, she wants to believe he’s changed. But forgiveness isn’t easy, especially when she discovers they’ve both set their sights on the same piece of real estate. And a dark secret from Micah’s past is quickly catching up . . .

Any sneak peaks you can give us behind the scenes in the creation of Picture Perfect?

So many people give writers the advice “write what you know,” and I think it’s natural for our passions to flow into our stories in some form or another. Tidbits of my own life and interests are woven into the storyline of Picture Perfect.

A perfect example is the scenes relating to martial arts. Micah, the hero in the story, practices jujitsu. Lily, the heroine, studies boxing. One of the underlying currents of the story is the concept of self-defense and safety.

The summer before my freshman year, I asked a family friend (a police detective) if he would teach me self-defense. He showed me a few tactics, but I remember at the end of the evening feeling more worried, because as he showed me scenarios, my mind started to run. I realized how little I knew, and how many different ways a person could attack another person.

Fast forward a few years. Not long after meeting my husband, I learned he studied jujitsu. He asked if I wanted to learn. I said no. I wasn’t interested in jujitsu. I wanted to learn self-defense. So he invited me to meet his instructor, who was excited to teach me techniques geared for women. I started coming early, before jujitsu class, to learn. I learned about women’s areas of strength, about awareness and alertness, and the physics of the human body. I practiced palm strikes and knees to the groin until I developed muscle memory and instinct and earned the nickname “Lethal Knees.”

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Then my session would end, and jujitsu class would begin. It didn’t take long before I was joining them on the mat. ☺

Over the years, I’ve loved teaching women’s self-defense because I’ve seen wonderful things happen when a woman learns she really can protect herself physically. In my experience, learning self-defense helps develop confidence, and that’s something that has far-reaching effects–many women discover inner strengths they never knew they had and become “stronger” on different playing fields of life, whether it be work, relationships, communication, setting boundaries, the list goes on.

How much of your book was from personal experience, and how much was research?

A LOT of the scenes were inspired by incidents in real life, but I encountered several issues that required research. You’ve probably heard the warning about having a character do something that makes them “too stupid to live” because it alienates the reader.

In Picture Perfect, I had to create a realistic situation in which two people had apparent legal rights over the same piece of real estate. It was surprisingly difficult! In order to explore how to make that scenario work so that I didn’t get irritated responses from readers who understand property rights, I reached out to some friends in real estate. I asked a lot of questions and had to run several options past them, and then be careful to work within the confines of what they told me would—and would not—be realistic. As a writer, you might find out that a turning point that’s pivotal to the storyline isn’t feasible as is. You’ve got to learn how to think “what if…?” to find another option that might work instead.

Definitely don’t let your character do something that makes them TSTL. And don’t think you can get away with something that’s not factual. Readers are smart! It’s better to spend the extra time in research than get called on the carpet publicly later.

Any advice for writers?

Surround yourself with people who support you. I am blessed to have a fantastic critique group that helps me hone my stories, and a few brainstorming buddies who encourage me and help strengthen my plots.

Join writing groups. This was one of the best things I did for my professional development. I got connected to other writers, critique groups, and a storehouse of publishing information that I soaked up, realizing how little I really knew.

Be kind to yourself! Remember that everyone’s first draft is downright awful, so don’t let the ugly stop you. Keep going. Put the words down anyway, even if they make you cringe. As people say, you can’t edit what’s not there.

Accept who you are as a writer. I’m not a fast writer. The story doesn’t unfold in a straightforward manner for me. I’m much more “seat of the pants” than plotter. I have to constantly remind myself that it’s okay that the course is not charted; that’s part of the fun for me (I get to be surprised when a character does something). Only it’s not always fun. Sometimes it’s downright stressful. The story doesn’t journey in a straight line from start to finish. There will be detours and dead ends and “wasted” time. But that’s just how it works for me. I can choose to get frustrated and think I’m less of a “real writer” because of it, or I can choose to accept that it’s just one of the weird ways I work.

Thanks for letting me share a little about my writing journey! I hope you enjoy a few giggles and sigh moments reading Picture Perfect.

I love to connect with readers! Find me on Facebook under Emily C Reynolds or at my web site www.EmilyCReynolds.com.

Picture Perfect is available for purchase on Amazon

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