Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Featured Author: Jillian Liota

Welcome Today's Featured Author
Jillian Liota!!! 

The Keeper by Jillian Liota 

Soccer goalie Rachel Jameson is in her final year at Glendale College on academic and athletic scholarships. It’s quite the achievement for a young woman who grew up in a home filled with drunken abuse, who barely made it out of high school alive.

But she’s smart, dedicated, and has her eyes set on that cap and gown next spring. Nothing’s going to get in the way of a hard-fought battle for the freedom and independence she’s so desperately craved.

Until she meets Mack.

He stumbles into her world with a flirty smile and warm eyes – a man that pushes Rachel out of her comfort zone and into his arms. Their chemistry is swift and undeniable, and soon after meeting the two recognize the depth of their connection.

But an unfortunate circumstance forces the two to abandon their romance before it has truly begun. Rachel’s carefully planned life begins to shake like an unstable house of cards, and when she risks losing Mack completely, she has to decide what’s more important.

Her future.

Or theirs. 

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The doorbell rings at 12:45. Having been ready and wandering aimlessly around our apartment for nearly an hour, I come flying down the stairs with such energy that I nearly slip on the tile near the entry.
“You expecting someone?” Charlie asks from the living room.
“Yeah, kind of,” I respond, before wiping my hands on my jeans, blowing out a breath and opening the door.
He stands there smiling in Chucks, jeans, and a faded Ramones t-shirt holding a… dead flower?
“Uhm… hi,” I say, unsure how to proceed.
“Hey. This is for you,” he says handing the shriveled up flower to me.
A choked laugh escapes me as I start to reach out to take it from him.
“I’m not sure what to say. You shouldn’t have?”
He laughs and chucks the dead flower into the bushes next to our door.
“It was a joke, RJ. You said you’re awkward at dates, so I thought I would start it off awkward to alleviate the stress.”
I raise my eyebrows.
“And a dead flower is…”
“Hey, if I can’t wow you with some glamorously expensive meal, I at least have to try and make you laugh. Don’t tell me I totally ruined everything already.” His facial expression is twisted into mock seriousness, and I can’t help the smile that blooms on my face. He leans forward, his forearm resting on the doorjamb, his face just inches from me. “There it is.”
“That smile,” he responds, his eyes focusing on my mouth. He’s so close to me that I swear we’re breathing in each other’s air.
I bite my lip to keep from giggling like a mental patient, and glance down at my bare feet before summoning the courage to look him directly in the face again.
“Wanna come in? I still have to put my shoes on.”
He nods and follows me into the living room, where Charlie is currently curled up in her pajamas watching reality TV, nursing the remains of her hangover.
She flicks her eyes to me for only a second when we walk into the room, but then double-takes when she realizes I’m not alone.
“Charlie this is Mack. Mack, my roommate, Charlie.”
“Nice to meet you,” Mack says, nodding at her.
Charlie gives Mack her megawatt smile.
“You too. So, where are you two going?” she asks, flipping onto her knees and facing us from over the back of the sofa.
“Not sure,” I reply as I tuck my feet into socks and slip on one of my Chucks. “Somewhere casual, right Mack?” I look up at him for confirmation as I lace my shoes.
He just nods.
“Yup. Casual.”
After finishing with my shoes, I stand and say bye to Charlie. With Mack’s back turned towards us as he walks to the door, Charlie’s eyes grow wide and she gives me a quick thumbs up before mouthing Oh. My. God. I giggle and wave at her before walking out the front door.
When we get out to the curb, I see a truck with two bikes in the bed. Without a word, he drops the bed of the truck and begins to unload.
“We’re riding bikes?” I ask.
“Well, if I remember correctly, your exact words were ‘I’m like a kid. I like it simple.’ So, we’re going old-school, pre-drivers license days.” He pushes a Schwinn towards me, complete with basket and bell.
“Wow, Mack. Pulling out all the stops,” I throw my leg over the bike and get comfortable on the seat. “What would you have done if I was wearing a dress and heels?”
He looks at me with a smirk.
“After your glamazon comment last night, I figured you in jeans was a safe bet.”
“I have to be honest. I’ve never been on a bike date before. Two points for creativity.” I ring the bell twice for emphasis.
“Two points? That’s it?” He opens the passenger door to the truck and pulls out a blue helmet. “I deserve at least five.”
I laugh.
“You’ve gotta do a lot more than throw me on a bike to get big points with me.”
His face shows the hint of a smile as he walks towards me and plops the helmet on my head, then clips the straps under my chin. He takes a step back and just looks at me, causing my face to flush.
He steps back towards his bike, straddles the seat, and calls a ‘let’s go’ as we take off down the road.
It has been a really long time since I’ve ridden a bike. At least since before I started driving, if not longer. I forgot how fun it is. We pedal next to each other down the road, and at this slower pace, I’m able to soak in details about the day that would normally race past me.
Like what an absolutely gorgeous day it is, and how the sun is high but not too hot. Or the leaves on the ground, when the abscission of leaves doesn’t happen on most trees in my neighborhood. Or something less beautiful, like the fact the people down the road decided it would be okay to leave their stained mattress at the curb. Bleh.
It’s a short ride, maybe twenty minutes total, and we don’t really talk. We just alternate between racing and riding at a leisurely pace. When we finally pull into the Atwater Village Fun Center, I ring my bell over and over as I race past Mack towards the bike racks.
“I beat you,” I say with feigned innocence as I lock my bike into the rack and pull off my helmet.
Mack just smiles.
“Congratulations. Now, have you been here before?”
I shake my head.
“Good. Because today we are going to have awesome kid fun.”
“Mini-golf?” I ask.
“And bumper boats.”
“You know if we ride the go-karts, I’m going to completely kick your ass.”
He just looks at me and smiles.
“I don’t doubt that in the slightest.”
After locking our bikes to the rack, Mack grabs my hand and loosely links his fingers in mine. It’s easy. Natural. Like we’ve always done this. He squeezes my hand lightly and gives me a sweet smile before leading me inside.
He doesn’t let go, not even when one of the employees asks us to hold onto golf clubs to help measure which ones we should use. He doesn’t let go until we get outside and pick up a scorecard and golf pencil.
“Alright, so what are the stakes of this game?” I ask, crossing my arms as we look over the first hole.
“Ahhhhh, so you’re a betting girl, huh?”
“Absolutely. I am very competitive.”
“Oh that has become glaringly obvious,” he replies, chuckling to himself. He puts his hand to his chin and looks me over, then makes a humming sound. “The winner plans the next date. Whatever they want.”
“You’re assuming there will be another date,” I retort.
“Are you assuming there won’t be?”
“I never said that. I just think you’re getting a little ahead of yourself.” I swing my golf club over my shoulders and rest my arms on each end. “What if this date is a miserable experience for you and then you’re stuck planning some lame trip to Applebee’s for next weekend. I mean, for all you know, I’m a totally insane, crazy person who sifts through Justin Bieber’s trash looking for hair clippings.”
Do you sort through his trash looking for hair clippings?”
“Are you a Belieber with Bieber Fever?”
The giggle that falls from me is relentless and I nearly drop the golf club.
“How do you even know those words?”
He grins.
“My sister has a daughter, which is where she places the blame for her ludicrous knowledge of his song lyrics, even though I know it’s really her with the cardboard cutout.” I laugh again. “And suggesting this bet doesn’t mean I’m thinking there might be another date.” He steps in close to me and lightly rests the palm of his hand on the back of my neck, his thumb tracing the edge of my jaw. “I’m guaranteeing there will be another date.” His eyes flicker to my lips, then back up to my eyes.
I’m not sure how to respond. The laughter from just a moment before has been sucked out of the space around us and replaced with a weird tension that makes the hairs on my body stand to attention. I feel jittery and unsure what to do with my hands.
When he rests his forehead against mine and I can feel his breath on my face, I want him to kiss me. I don’t really know him and I know it would be way too fast for a girl like me, but at the same time, I can’t explain the way I feel right now.
The closest descriptor I can think of is that it feels like I’ve been shaken up inside, like the nuts and bolts that normally hold me together have fallen loose and I might collapse at any moment and melt into the ground.
After another beat, Mack steps back, releasing his hold on me, and it takes every effort I have to not show in my facial expression everything he just made me feel.
I let out a controlled breath even though I feel like gasping for air.
“Sounds like a good bet to me.”

About Jillian Liota:
Jillian has been writing since she was old enough to hold a crayon. Her very first book, about a mermaid, was printed into hardback when she was just 5 years old. (Thanks for paying for that, mom and dad!) Over the years she continued to write fiction, primarily based on her own life. In her mid-twenties, Jillian read her very first romance novel and was instantly hooked. She read voraciously, anything she could get her hands on, until she realized the book she wanted to read hadn't yet been written. Now, she has gotten back in to her writing roots and is excited about her first (real) novel, The Keeper. Jillian currently lives in Auckland, New Zealand with her husband, Danny, and pet minions, Maia, Amelie and Hobo.

Instagram: @jillianliota

Interview With Jillian Liota:
1. Can you tell us a little about your book?
Rachel is a college student who has a scholarship to play for the soccer team at Glendale College in the Los Angeles area. She has a fun roommate, a broody but caring older brother, and a few good friends on the team. She meets and feels an instant connection with Mack - but after their first amazing date, they realize they can't be in a relationship. You'll have to read up to find out why!
2. Using one sentence, can you describe The Keeper?
The Keeper is a New Adult romance between Rachel and Mack, two people who are good and kind and genuine and absolutely perfect for each other - but they each have a past they are trying to move on from that keeps them from starting their relationship. 

3. If your book were made into a movie, who do you picture playing Rachel and Mack?
Ooooooh, that's a hard question! When I write, I usually try not to picture faces as a whole. I might imagine a certain expression and work really hard to describe it, and I'll think of certain physical traits I want the hero and heroine to have, but I never really picture entire faces in one go. I'd have to say Mack would be played by Chris Pratt. He has that self-depricating thing going on, the kind heart, the warm eyes. For Rachel, I would probably think someone like Carey Mulligan, with that ability to look at one moment so elated and so beautiful, but in the next to look so grief-stricken and worried. 

4. Do you have a favorite spot to write?
I almost always write on my couch while my husband watches TV. I know some authors go to coffee shops or have special rooms or need mostly quiet. But my husband is my best friend, and I often ask him questions that help inform how I might write something. So, it isn't so much that I always have to sit in one spot on the couch with my legs crossed and my laptop resting on a pillow (although that is preferable) - it's more about being near my hubs. He's my muse :)
5. Do you have a favorite food or drink you must have nearby when writing?
Oh Diet Coke absolutely, with a Twix bar. I think I even put those two things in my "About the Author" section of The Keeper because they were so instrumental :)
6. Do you listen to music while you write?
Typically no. I might pull up songs if I'm trying to evoke a particular mood and I just can't get into it. Or if I am using a song in a part of what I am writing, I'll listen to it while typing out the lyrics, rather than look up the lyrics online. But mostly I zone out so much when I write that listening to music wouldn't affect me at all.
7. If  you could spend 24 hours as a fictional character, who would you chose?
Without even second guessing, I can immediately respond that I want to be Salome from Kulti. I just think she is the absolutely amazing, genuine, caring, deep character. I love her relationship with Kulti and how she approaches her life. Mariana Zapata wrote Sal and Kulti, and the novel Kulti, so well. It sits on my iPhone and I've re-read it at least a few times. It was actually the inspiration for why I have Mack and Rachel as soccer athletes. If I could make Mack and Rachel live in the same 'world' as Sal and Kulti, it would be AMAZING. 

 8. What are writing projects are you currently working on?
 Currently I am working on Keep Away, which will be a sister-novella to The Keeper, and will be      about Charlie and Jeremy (characters from The Keeper). Keep Away should release for free sometime in February or March 2017. Apart from that, I am working on a new book tentatively titled Life in Boxes - and it's about a man with very strict rules about his life, and a woman who explodes into his world and shakes things up. No guesstimate on that release, though, since I haven't even started writing it yet.

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