Thursday, December 19, 2013

Bloggers on Board!

Today, I want to give some love and attention to two incredible women who have been such a huge support to me and so many other authors. Bloggers Marlene Engel from Book Mama and Melissa Amster from Chick Lit Central have not only helped promote Finding Lucas and are always happy to host me on their wonderful blogs, but they have become dear friends, and I love them. Without bloggers, we authors would not be able to see our dreams come to life, and I am so grateful to them for everything they've done for me.

On a cold, wintry day, I sat down with Marlene and Melissa for a virtual chat (until we can actually do this in person), and it was such a pleasure to hang out with my curly haired compatriots. 

Welcome, Melissa and Marlene!

I live in Maryland (DC Metro area) with my husband, two sons and daughter. When I'm not reading and interviewing authors, I work for a Jewish non-profit. In my spare time (what's that?!?), I like to watch my favorite shows on TV, bake challah and desserts, and host meals and other gatherings.  Check out my personal blog and follow me on Twitter.

I'm a wife and mother.  I have five children ranging in age from 3-21.  Yes, you read that right!  We have three boys in college, a special needs daughter who we sadly lost 7 years ago to Leukemia and our youngest we recently adopted.  I couldn't love her any more if I gave birth to her myself!

My hobbies include reading chick lit/women's literature, vacationing and going to Broadway shows.

I'm a huge advocate for the special needs population.  As I stated previously, we had a special needs daughter.  She was totally blind and had multiple developmental delays.  Sadly, she passed away almost 7 years ago from Leukemia.  I am a better person because of her.  She taught me to live each day to its fullest and to not take things for granted.  I try to do things that would make her proud of  me.  I hope I'm succeeding!

I believe that people are rewarded for their kindness and beauty is measured by the heart.  It only takes a second to say hello or smile at someone.  Simple acts like these go a long way!

I'm an open book.  If there is anything you want to know, just ask.  :)

Sam: So, we're all settled in with our drinks and snacks. I know the two of you have chocolate, and I have my chips. Here we go! Both of your blogs focus on women's fiction and chick lit. What is it about these genres that you love?

Marlene: I love reading stories that women can relate to.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a funny chick lit story or a serious women’s fiction book.  They both have a way of making me forget about what’s going on in the world and just get lost in the story.

 Melissa: It’s so easy to relate to. There are women close to my age, going through similar worries and experiences. It also allows me to live vicariously through some characters, like if they have a really cool career or travel someplace I’ve always wanted to go.

       Sam: Chick Lit Central has been such a popular blog for a long time. It's the go-to site for many readers who want to find their next great read. And Book Mama has quickly become a favorite, as well. When and why did you start your blogs?

            Marlene: I started Book Mama Blog in May with the encouragement of Melissa Amster.  Melissa and I “met” when I messaged her about becoming a reviewer at Chick Lit Central.  After being a guest book reviewer there for several months, she said that I should start my own blog.  Hesitant at first, I reluctantly decided to give it a try.  I give her all of the credit for Book Mama Blog being born!

     Melissa: Thank you, Marlene! I started Chick Lit Central in May, 2010 to connect with other chick lit readers around the world.    

           Sam: You must get so many emails. What’s the funniest review request you’ve ever gotten?
          Marlene: I was recently asked to review a children’s holiday book.  At first I thought, didn’t this publicist look at my blog to see what I typically review? But then I realized that I was asked to do the review because the author donates all of the proceeds from that particular book to organizations that help children battling cancer. They felt that it would be a good match for my blog because they read in my “About Me” page that I had a daughter who passed from cancer.
           Sam: And you also do so much for charity, Marlene. I was really honored to be a part of the giveaway you organized for victims of Typhoon Haiyan. Melissa, what's your funniest review request?

          Melissa: I get many requests for books that have NOTHING to do with chick lit. Like self-help books for building your own house or children’s books or historical books about men I’ve never heard of from the 17th century.     
    Sam (giggling): Maybe someone will write a chick lit book about a woman building her own house. Actually, it's probably already been written. I was so happy to see the two of you join forces. Why did you decide to become sister blogs?

         Marlene: Around the time that I started Book Mama Blog, Melissa and I had a conversation about me becoming a Review Associate at Chick Lit Central. I knew that her policy was that her Review Associates were to review solely at CLC. Under that policy, I wouldn’t be able to review book at my blog. Trying to figure out a way to not only allow me to review at CLC, but also at BMB, Melissa asked me if I would like to have our blogs be “sister blogs.” This way we can help to promote each other’s blogs and I can not only do reviews at her blog, but also at mine as well.  It’s the best of both worlds!

         Sam: It definitely is!

         Melissa: I got Marlene into blogging and then realized that I created a monster. (A good monster though. Like Mike Wazowski.) Since having her own blog no longer freed her up to do much with CLC, I thought we should pair up as sister blogs so we could bring our audiences to each other’s blogs and also do some fun features together.

         Sam: Melissa, I love that you influenced Marlene to start blogging. I remember when I was looking for bloggers to review Finding Lucas, you were so helpful. You're the blog whisperer! With all of the requests you get, I'm sure you have to say no to some of them. What would make you dislike a book and not want to review it?

        Marlene: If a book’s story is poorly written or a story is just too far-fetched, I may have to turn down the book. Typically, if I’m asked to review a book that falls into the Chick Lit or Women’s Fiction genres, I’ll usually opt to review it.  There have, however, been exceptions.

         Sam: I'm sure those are few and far between. I've been so impressed with the authors whose books I've been reading lately. And thanks to you, I have discovered so many wonderful stories. Melissa, what about you?

        Melissa: If it is poorly written, has no storyline by at least the third chapter, doesn’t know its audience, etc. I only came across one book this past year that I couldn’t read too far into because it was just going nowhere fast. I was honest with the author about it and found a different way to share her book with our readers. Marlene and I recently learned that no two readers are alike, based on a certain book that’s making its rounds at the moment.

         Sam: That is such a good point. We connect with books based on our personal experiences, and every reader is looking for something different. There are books that are huge hits that I just can't get into, and others that are panned; yet, I love them. As a mom and business owner as well as an author, I know how hard it is to juggle every aspect of my life.To review books takes such finesse, critical thinking and a lot of time. How do you balance motherhood, work and your blogs?

       Marlene: Thankfully I work from home. That allows me to sneak onto the computer from time to time during the day. I also do a lot of my blog preparation at night when my husband is home to keep my (three year old) daughter busy, or later at night when she’s asleep.
       Melissa: Luckily, my kids go to bed at a reasonable time. My day has a certain predictable routine to it. I also try to get blog stuff done on the weekends.

        Sam: Ooh, don't jinx it, Melissa! I don't want you to be up with the kids tonight. What do you both hope people get from your blogs?

  Marlene: I have always been an avid reader.  For as far back as I can remember, I’ve had a love of books and reading. If I can share my passion for reading with others and potentially get them to read a book that I reviewed or blogged about, then my blog’s a success! I also have a lot of friends who are authors. I know the importance of promoting their work and getting their names out to the public. With more and more book stores closing, what book bloggers do has become even more imperative for the success of authors and the sales of their books. I like to think that my blog is a way to connect the authors and their books to the readers.

 Melissa: Connections with other chick lit readers, leading into possible long-lasting friendships. (Hmm…I wonder if I can come up with an example, or two, of that happening because of my blog. Hmmm… ;) ) Also, that they learn about new books and authors they might not have heard of before.

 Sam: This is definitely a long-lasting friendship. Who else sends me book fairies (thanks, Marlene!) and wonderful books with girly stuff tucked inside (thanks, Melissa!) So many readers have found Finding Lucas because of the two of you. You are both invaluable to my success. You two read so much so this is a hard question. But,  what are your top three favorite books?

        Marlene: Oh boy!  That’s like asking me who my favorite child is! I honestly don’t think I can pick a top three. What I can say is that my all-time favorite genre is chick lit. Any book that has a cast of female friends with a great story and swirled in with laugh out loud humor, will more than likely be a hit in my book!

        Melissa: Why don’t you ask me to choose my favorite child? 

         Sam: Ha! Both of you obviously feel the same way. Okay, who's your favorite child? Just kidding. We love those little monkeys equally.

       Melissa: I just love way too many books that I’ve read. If we’re talking chick lit, I have tons that I could list. So I’m going the non-chick lit route on this one (and it’s still hard to choose!!!)
      1.      She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb
      2.      A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
      3.      The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

        Sam: Many bloggers are also authors. Do you write?

        Marlene: No, I don’t write.  What’s funny is that my (21 yr old) son has told me several times that I should write a book.  Although I’m a self-proclaimed book nerd, I don’t think I’d make a good author.

         Sam: Never say never. I can see a memoir.

         Melissa: I have a personal blog. I like writing thought provoking posts and sharing memories. I’ve even written some short fiction pieces there.

         Sam: I've read some of your personal essays and fiction, and they are filled with warmth and humor. Putting yourself out there, be it with a book or a blog is not easy. What has been the biggest challenge and the biggest triumph you’ve had since starting your blog?

        Marlene: The biggest challenge has been having to manage the book reviews. I have recently added more book reviewers to help with the large review requests. The biggest triumphs have been the overall success of the blog and all of the amazing friends I’ve made.  I quickly learned how close-knit the literary community is and I’m extremely proud to be a part of it!

       Sam: I agree. The literary community is the most supportive, kindest and most talented group of people I have ever come across. I am proud to be a part of it.

      Melissa: The biggest challenge has been trying to find a balance within the blog. I used to post a lot each day and then started scaling back to a manageable level. I feel like I have it more under control now. Keeping on top of reviews is also a challenge, but that’s why I brought on reviewers for the blog.

Biggest triumph has been all the positive feedback about the blog. Hearing people tell me it is their favorite blog lets me know that I’m doing something right and reminds me why I stick with it even when I am short on motivation. Also, having some popular authors know who I am is incredibly cool. Having Jennifer Weiner call me by name in a crowded “auditorium” was legendary!

Sam: It is a blog that has become synonymous with women's fiction and chick lit. Oh, if Jennifer Weiner ever called me by name, I might pass out.

Thank you so much for taking time from such busy lives to be here today. I adore both of you and am so lucky to have you in my life. If anyone is looking for great book reviews, incredible giveaways and fantastic recommendations, be sure to follow Chick Lit Central and Book Mama!

For more information about Melissa and Chick Lit Central

For more information on Marlene and Book Mama Blog:


  1. I enjoyed being a fly on the wall of your virtual chat ladies! Melissa and Marlene are two of my favorite bloggers and I admire both of them as women and in their blogger capacity and appreciate the support they give to chick lit and chick lit authors. And you, Sam, are one of my favorite people and authors. XOXO.

    1. Ditto, Meredith! And I love how Blogger Girl totally encapsulates the blogger life. Loved being taken into that world!

  2. Great interview ladies! Thanks for all you do, you fabulous blogger gals!

  3. This was a wonderful interview. I enjoyed hearing from my two favorite blogger (and I also consider them friends).

  4. Love the interview--great knowing you guys some more.

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