GayRomLit, Giveaways, Sara Alva

Interview and Giveaway: The Countdown to GayRomLit with Sara Alva and Joseph Northton

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The Countdown to GayRomLit Celebration continues today with author Sara Alva. Sara, along with her narrator and friend Joseph Northton join us today with an interview they did with each other about Sara’s new audiobook Pura Vida. Enjoy and then be sure to click on the Rafflecopter widget below for the chance to win an Audio Copy of the book.

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Thank you for having me on The Novel Approach!

Hi, I’m Sara Alva, and this year I’ll be attending GRL for the first time, thanks to some coaxing from fellow authors. I often tend toward the wallflowery end of the spectrum, but I’m looking forward to spreading my…petals?…and getting to know other attendees. If you’re there and you happen to see me standing in a corner, feel free to come snap me out of it!

Sara Alva Audio

I don’t have a new release at the moment, but this past month I contracted Joseph Northton (narrator of Dani Alexander’s Shattered Glass) to record an audiobook of my summer love novella, Pura Vida. The audiobook is now available at Audible, Amazon, and iTunes, or you can listen to a sample chapter on my website.

Narrators and authors don’t always get the chance to converse beyond the basics of what it takes to produce the audiobook. Luckily for me, my narrator and I are pretty close, so I invited Joseph to chat in order to delve a little more into the book and the narrating experience.

Here is the (slightly) edited transcript: 


Sara: Okay, fire away!

Joseph: All right. The novella Pura Vida is set in Costa Rica. How did your experiences in Costa Rica influence your writing?

Or wait, does that sound too formal? Just tell them about the time you got electrocuted. 

Sara: Haha 

Joseph: Kinda bummed that didn’t make it in the book 

Sara: Lol. Well Costa Rica is amazing. Everyone should go there–beautiful scenery, fantastic wildlife, and super nice people– the kind who return the camera your husband accidentally left in a taxi. But yes, one time there was a lightning storm while I was in the water at the beach. The lightning struck near me and for at least an hour afterward, I was electrically charged. Any metal anywhere near me produced a visible spark. Maybe I’ll save that experience for a sequel… Struck by Love!

Joseph: Haha. So the wildlife in Costa Rica factors into the plot. You saw actual sea turtle nests right? Burying eggs and hatching? 

Sara: I did, yes. Sea turtles are my first loves. Actually, the baby turtle in the cover art is one I saw crawl into the ocean. I hope he made it. 

Joseph: Really? See, that’s a great tidbit for this interview. I thought it was a plastic toy. 

Sara: Lol no. My husband took that photo. 

Joseph: Did you have to do any supplemental research about them? 

Sara: Not really, I already know everything.

Ha, just kidding. Actually, I wrote Pura Vida right after returning from Costa Rica. Much of the story was brainstormed there, at the beach. So all turtle-related info was pretty fresh in my memory. 

Joseph: The stuff about how sea turtles are guided or misguided by light was really cool. 

Sara: Yeah, part of the decline in population has to do with man-made structures too close to the beaches. The lights confuse the turtles and they head the wrong direction. All our development has reduced their nesting grounds pretty severely, unfortunately.

Joseph: How do you feel about poachers, and how did you decide to use them in the story? 

Sara: Costa Rica has done amazing things to preserve their natural habitats and their wildlife, but there is still an issue with poachers, because there’s still a demand for the items procured. So the best thing for us to do is to continue to educate people in the hopes the demands go down, and preserve as many nests as possible. 

Joseph: The notion of “risking one’s heart” is a big part of this story. Were you ever caught in such a dilemma? 

Sara: Yes.

Next question.

Joseph: Haha. 

Sara: Lol. Well, love is always pretty risky. Trusting someone that much? It has to be. Maybe even riskier for Juan and Simon in this book than for a lot of others. They have geographic, social, economic, and cultural barriers to overcome. In theory, most of us wish things like that didn’t divide us as human beings. In reality, though, they do, whether we consciously accept it or not. Actually, sometimes consciously accepting it is the first step in breaking through. 

Joseph: Yeah I can see that. Well thanks for answering my questions! 

Sara: Okay, my turn. Since you’re an actor as well, how is narrating similar to and/or different from acting?

Joseph: I had to learn how to overact, and under-enunciate. So it’s basically the opposite of acting. 

Sara: Ha, I hadn’t thought of that. That’s true. 

Joseph: From a technical perspective at least. But, of course, I’m drawing from the same emotional tool belt that an actor does. 

Sara: What’s in the tool belt? 

Joseph: Just the ability to be an observer of human behavior, as actors are supposed to be. That helps when it comes to saying things the way people talk, which is surprisingly difficult to recreate. 

Sara: (I’m trying to think of something funny to say and failing)

Joseph: Yeah, there’s nothing funny about acting theory. 

Sara: Haha

Joseph: No one really knows what they’re talking about. Well, some people do. Maybe like five people. The rest are just trying their best. Me included. 

Sara: Same with writers. 

Joseph: Ha 

Sara: What did you enjoy about narrating, and what parts made you want to fly across the country and smother me in my sleep? 

Joseph: I enjoyed the Alyssa sections. She was fun and perky, so I wasn’t afraid to go too far with the “acting.” I think that helped make her character come alive. In other reads I’d sometimes do a take with this big emotive face, then listen to it later and realize my voice was flat. That didn’t happen with Alyssa. 

Sara: Ah, cool. Yeah I bet the emotion would always come across a lot clearer if we could see your face. Wait, I got it! The next big thing. Books read to you by actors over Skype. Sorta like bedtime stories from your mom, only with adult content. And not read by your mom. 

Joseph: Haha

Sara: Okay and your least favorite part? Don’t avoid the question just to spare my feelings.

Joseph: Haha. Nah, but I’d say the technical aspects can be a challenge. It takes a lot of hours and a lot of cutting and pasting to create the illusion of something read effortlessly. Every time you do a retake you have to match the tone and volume so the listener isn’t jarred from the flow of the story. 

Sara: Well, I appreciate all the hours. I think you did an amazing job, and I’m really excited you brought this novella to life.

Joseph: You’re welcome.

Sara: Okay, that’s probably good right? Can you think of something else I should’ve asked you?

Joseph: Nope. Goof job.


Sara: Haha, don’t worry, I’ll edit it.

Joseph: No, I say we go raw. Just cut and paste. Except correct my typos. But leave that part in, so they know I made typos.

Sara: All right then. Goof job to you too! :-)

Thanks for reading our little chat! If you have any other questions for Joseph about audiobooks or narrating, feel free to leave them in a comment here. I’ll make sure he answers!


Pura VidaBlurb: Simon has found himself in an open relationship for the summer—though not by choice. Instead of wallowing, he’s decided to make the most of a family vacation to Costa Rica by hooking up with the first hot guy available. Trouble is, he has no clue how to go about doing that.

Luckily, he runs into someone with a little more experience. But when the moments of lust turn into something more, Simon isn’t so sure he’ll be able to return to his old relationship. And there’s no way to hold onto this new one, either, as thousands of miles will separate them in only a few short weeks. Either way, he’ll have to learn to let go.

Now Available from Audible, Amazon, and iTunes


Sara AlvaAbout Sara: Sara Alva is a former small-town girl currently living in big-city LA with a husband, cats, and an avocado tree. She recently discovered—after a year in her house—that she also has a fig tree in her backyard, which might mean she needs to get out more. But sometimes the stories waiting to be told demand more attention, and when she puts fingers to keyboard, it’s usually to write about journeys of self-discovery, heartache, personal growth, friendship and love. When she isn’t writing, she’s teaching or dancing. For more information, free short stories and news on upcoming releases, visit Sara’s website.

Connect with Sara: Website | Facebook | Twitter



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A Sneak Peek At The Coming Week

Here’s a Sneak Peek at the Coming Week

Sneak Peek

Hi, everyone, welcome back for a look at what we have coming up in this busy week ahead! This may well be the most guests we’ve ever welcomed in a week’s time, and I can’t wait to share it all with you: the guest posts, the giveaways, and, of course, the reviews.

Here’s what’s on tap!


MondaySara Alva kicks off our week with a Countdown to GayRomLit guest post to chat about her new audiobook release of Pura Vida

RJ Scott and Meredith Russell will also join us on their Forever in the Sun blog tour, book six in the Sapphire Cay series

And, as if that lineup wasn’t fantastic enough, we’ll also welcome Cardeno C. on the Strange Bedfellows audiobook tour

Tuesday – Today we welcome another trio of authors, starting off with Kate McMurray on The Long Slide Home blog tour, book three in the Rainbow League series

We’ll also welcome author Ravella Hawthorne on The King’s Command blog tour

And finally, Brita Addams will join us today to chat about the Newbie Blues

Wednesday – We’ll have our second GayRomLit attending author, Christina Pilz, joining us today to help celebrate the countdown and chat about how she fell in love with Oliver Twist

Also dropping by for a visit is Charlie Cochet on her Beware of Geeks Bearing Gifts tour

ThursdayRebecca Cohen will join us today on her Overly Dramatic blog tour

Rhys Ford will also be here today to chat about her contribution in the Charmed and Dangerous anthology

FridayCharley Descoteaux pops in today on her Buchanan House blog tour

We’ll also welcome author Sarah Masters today to chat about her new book Outcast Cowboys

Saturday – Finally, closing things out for us today is author Alicia Cameron, with an excerpt and giveaway of her new book Sedition


And that does it for the week ahead. Until next time, happy reading!

All Romance Ebooks, Sara Alva, Self-Published

Sara Alva Gives Voice To The “Silent” In This Story Of Young Love

“Secrets are what can ease or crush a soul, mend or destroy a heart, and rescue or murder a life.” ― Alexis Hurley

BLURB: Alex’s life as a teenager in South Central L.A. is far from perfect, but it’s his life, and he knows how to live it. He knows what role to play and what things to keep to himself. He’s got it all under control, until one lousy pair of shoes kicks him out of his world and lands him in a foster care group home.

Surrounded by strangers and trapped in a life where he could never belong, Alex turns to the only person lower on the social ladder than he is: a “special” mute boy. In Sebastian, Alex finds a safe place to store his secrets—those that sent him to foster care, and the deeper one that sets him apart from the other teenagers he knows. But Sebastian has secrets of his own, and when tragedy rips the two boys apart, Alex will stop at nothing to find the answers—even if it means dragging them both through a past full of wounds best left buried.

It might just be worth it, for the slim chance at love.

Continue reading

All Romance Ebooks, Sara Alva, Self-Published

In Which I Blah, Blah, Blah – And Try Not To Be A Shit Stirrer – Oh, And There’s A Review In Here Too…

I don’t know what you pay attention to on the internet. Between you and me, I try not to pay attention to a whole lot because I find that most of what I see, I end up wishing I could unsee. Anyway, there’s been some minor rumblings recently that I’m really interested in because they concern the genre we all read and review. It seems there’s been some talk of a bit of an exodus from the MM Romance/Gay Fiction reading community.


Well, I’ve seen a variety of reasons offered for it: some readers say they’re tired of the same old regurgitated tropes in contemporary romance, some think there’s been a decline in the quality of the stories, especially those being traditionally published (which has brought some attention to self-published authors and LiveJournal enthusiasts), while some say they’re just plain old tired of the glut of endlessly whiney characters being thrown out there for our consumption lately. But do you know what I find more than slightly amusing about this, in my own “wow, how ironic” kind of way? Those are all the exact same reasons I gave for my defection from M/F Romance a few years ago! Pfft. Weird. I guess it just goes to prove the old adage that what goes around comes around. Either that or it shows that, just like with any diet, the mass and unvaried consumption of one particular brain-food group is bound to, sooner or later, start leaving a bad aftertaste in your gray matter, and leave you craving something else. For all I know, it could be both. Or it could be that we readers are a fickle lot. I don’t know. At any rate, I feel pretty fortunate that I’ve been mostly immune to it thus far; at least so far as to say I’m not ready to give up on the genre. All I know is that in this fictional niche of which I’m admittedly a little bit possessive and protective, (which, hello, have you noticed is going through a huge growth explosion in both readers and authors?) I don’t want to see quality sacrificed for quantity. More does not always equal better. Now don’t say, “Well, duh.” You know it’s true.

But let’s get back to that whole “regurgitated tropes” comment I made before. To be perfectly honest, I don’t see this as a M/M genre exclusive issue. Honestly, I think there are simply universal truths and cosmic contingencies that say, hey, here we all are and when you pare us down to our most basic selves, we’re really not all that different. Love and romance may not be an exact science, but chemistry and physics play a huge part in the experiment and is something we all have in common. Does that mean contemporary romance is doomed to be the same old, same old. Maybe, because really, when it comes down to it there just aren’t a lot of ways to vary the human experience, so I don’t know that I see it as lack of variety as much as it’s an abundance of product where there was, at one time, not so much to choose from. But that’s just me and my wonky thoughts on the matter.

Which leads me to the review-ish portion of the blah-blah-blah. So, let’s discuss the Jock/Nerd/Social Outcast trope, shall we? I’ve seen it done and done brilliantly in John Goode’s Tales from Foster High series. For me, these books are the absolute pinnacle of the theme. These are the books that I will forever compare this storyline against, and to be honest, so far everything has paled somewhat in the comparing. Does that mean it should be scrapped as a tired and recycled plot device? Absolutely not. But for me, if it’s going to be done and I’m going to read it, it’s going to have to be damn near flawless in its execution because I’ve read, again for me, what I consider to be the best. Is that fair? I don’t know, but it’s all I’ve got to work with, so I’m going with it.

Which now leads me to Sara Alva’s debut novel, Social Skills, the story of Connor, an eighteen-year-old college freshman and gifted musician who suffers from a crippling case of social anxiety; and the mediocre-at-best football player, Jared, who Connor has been hired to tutor in Anthropology.

Connor’s painful introversion, which he bears only through a sort of self-practicing music therapy, plays out as a deep contrast to Jared’s popular extroversion, which at times is itself more practiced artifice than a natural part of his personality. The building of their tenuous-at-best relationship plays out as a study of the built in difficulties in pretending you’re someone you’re not, of hiding in the closet, all for the sake of fear and of preserving a traditional public persona in a meatheaded, macho-ass, homophobic world. I liked Connor and Jared and was glad when they finally found their footing, but here’s where my problem with this book exists and why, in the end, I can’t give it a higher rating: I don’t think the premise supported the word count. Social Skills is more than three-hundred pages long, but when I boiled it down to its simplest themes and what I took away from the story, there was really only about a novella’s worth of significant plot there for me, and the rest labored a bit under the idea that nothing else needed to happen but to showcase all the stereotypical characters that could possibly populate a college campus. It was the socio-anthropological study of the teenage social structure, which did a lot of pointing out the obvious, and that’s pretty much it. Simply put, the story was predictable, which isn’t bad, per se—I mean, Connor and Jared eventually getting their HFN was what I ultimately wanted, and I got it. Connor and Jared saved this book for me—no, what I mean by predictable is that the reader knows these two boys are going to get together, which is good. But the reader also knows they’re going to have their short but sweet moment of bliss and then the bloom is going to rot right off the stem because publicly denying the one and only person who knows you for who you really are is a recipe for disaster. The reader knows that in order for the relationship to have any chance of working out, these two boys were going to have to spend some time apart figuring out who they are, deciding what was important to them, growing and making some changes, and ultimately figuring out who they wanted to be for each other. And the reader knows they’ll eventually get it all figured out. And that’s why, for me, this was a good read instead of great; it employed some common tropes in teenage drama but didn’t do anything more to make those themes special or unique in its 95,460 words.

So, while this is a case where a common M/M theme didn’t quite work for me, I’m not at all saying I wouldn’t recommend this book because, as I said, I did like Connor and Jared a great deal. They were sweet and conflicted and I was really rooting for them. I’m only saying that for me, the storytelling weighed in as just average, not that I expected a reinvention of the wheel, mind you, but I had hoped for at least a little new tread on the tires.

And that’s my universal truth.

You can buy Social Skills here: