Downsizing Blog Tour: Author Interview + Giveaway

 

Downsizing JustRead Blog + Review Tour 

Welcome to the Blog + Review Tour for Downsizing by Lin Stepp, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!



Downsizing

Title: Downsizing
Series: Mountain Home Books #2
Author: Lin Stepp
Publisher: Mountain Hill Press
Release Date: April 1, 2021
Genre: Clean/Sweet Contemporary Romance

Forced to suddenly downsize her life, and not by choice, pushes Mary Pat Latham to give up all that is familiar, to reexamine her life in every area, and to eventually open her heart to new beauty and purpose, instead of only looking back in regret.

At midlife, Mary Pat Latham has an almost perfect life—a successful husband, a beautiful home, four fine grown children, and a wealth of meaningful activities and social clubs to fill her days—so it’s a total shock when her husband walks in one day and says he wants a divorce. As if hearing a stranger talking in her own kitchen, Mary Pat listens to Russell’s reasons for wanting to abandon their long marriage and to his plans, already in place, to sell their home and move on. What will she do? Where will she go? She hasn’t worked since the children were born, her life wrapped up in home and family. Stunned, Mary Pat heads to the small mountain home she and Russell bought from her parents years ago, too shocked and humiliated to face her friends or anyone she knows right now. 

Owen McCarter knew he’d need to stop by the old Jennings place, on some pretense or other, after Wheeler told him he’d seen a woman up there acting sick. After all, the house was next door to his at the end of Highland Drive. When he knocked on the front door later, it took him a minute to recognize Mary Pat, weeping and so different from the girl he’d known in childhood and fallen in love with. Owen reached out in friendship, of course, seeing Mary Pat so upset, but he felt surprised at the old memories that touched him, too. Hearing her problems and learning why she’d come to the mountains, Owen knew it unlikely she’d stay for long after the more lavish life she’d known. But he couldn’t help wishing she would. 

Another Lin Stepp novel set in the Smoky Mountains … with a special “Downsizing Diet” available free to readers as a book supplement.

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Lin Stepp

image credit Katie Riley

Lin Stepp is a New York Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and Amazon best-selling international author, A native Tennessean, businesswoman, and former  faculty member at Tusculum College, Lin has twenty-one published books, including her beloved Smoky Mountain and Mountain Home novels, all set in different Tennessee and North Carolina locations, plus a novella A Smoky Mountain Gift in one of Kensington’s Christmas anthologies.

Stepp’s latest novels, set around the Smoky Mountains, are Downsizing (2021) and Happy Valley (2019). Lin also has three novels set on the South Carolina coast in her Edisto Trilogy: Claire at Edisto (2019), Return to Edisto (2020) and Edisto Song (2021). Lin and her husband J.L. also write regional guidebooks, including a Smoky Mountain hiking guide and two state parks guidebooks for Tennessee and South Carolina.

Lin’s title Claire At Edisto was the 2019 Best Books Award Winner in Fiction: Romance, sponsored by American Book Fest, her novel Welcome Back a finalist in the 2017 Selah Awards, and Lin and her husband’s guidebook Discovering Tennessee State Parks a 2019 Best Books Award Finalist in Nonfiction: Travel Guides with American Book Fest.

Lin enjoys hiking and exploring out of doors and she loves speaking for events, festivals, libraries, and book clubs and sharing about her work and interests through her monthly blog and newsletter, both on her website at: www.linstepp.com

CONNECT WITH LIN: Website | Facebook | Twitter


 

Hi Lin! Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions and giving my readers the chance to get to know you and your new book- Downsizing  a little bit better!  I usually start these interviews the same with five random facts about YOU, but since this is your second time here, let’s mix it up a bit!

Can you share 5 random facts about this new book?

(1) This is my fourteenth published novel set in the Smoky Mountains.

(2) DOWNSIZING is set in the Glades Arts & Crafts Community east of Gatlinburg off Highway 321. The Arts and Crafts Community offers a series of galleries, shops, stores, and restaurants on a scenic 8-mile loop road, a great place to visit in the Smokies.

(3) Mary Path Latham, faces a series of hard “knock downs” at the first of this book that force her to downsize and change her life, and not by choice.

(4) When life “knocks us down”, we often “Look Up” for help, and you will see often in this book how God helps Mary Pat in the transitions she faces.

(5) While forced to downsize her life in ways she has no choice about, Mary Pat also decides to make some positive life changes, including downsizing her weight.  If this interests you there is a FREE download book detailing Mary Pat’s diet with some inspirational tips offered at the end of the book.


What drew you to writing romance?

As a young girl I always dreamed about writing and illustrating children’s books … and I did later write some picture books with illustrations for my children to enjoy, which are still in a drawer somewhere. … However, time slipped along with college, marriage, children and work taking my time and energies. For pleasure and relaxation, however, the books I read the most through high school, college, and my young adult years were romance books, both contemporary and historical, many with a bit of suspense and mystery tucked in….Those were always my favorites.

When my children were grown and gone at mid life, my husband J.L. and I started hiking the trails in the Smoky Mountains near our home. Soon we decided to work on a hiking guidebook featuring our favorite trails, which took us much often to the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina as we explored trails all over the Smokies.  While out hiking we’d stop in small bookshops and stores, and as an avid reader, I started looking for contemporary romance novels set around the Smoky Mountains we were exploring. But I couldn’t find any. One day I asked one of the store managers, “Don’t you have any contemporary novels set here in the mountains—you know, a good story with a little romance and mystery?” He shook his head. “ I wish I did. People ask for that kind of book all the time. You’d think with the Smoky Mountains the most visited national park in America that someone would write some.” … That seeded the first thought in me to write books to meet that need. And one day when out on the road, the idea for a series of romance books, with a bit of suspense tucked in, simply dropped into my mind.  I came home and scribbled down my ideas, seeing how I could set each romance in a different place in the Smoky Mountains, giving readers not only into a rich, heart-warming story they would love to read but taking them to a real place in the Smoky Mountains they might visit later. … With that idea bubbling, I began to plot and plan my stories.

Later, with three books completed and seeking a publisher, I connected with an imprint of Carolyn Sakowski’s wonderful John F. Blair publishing company out of Winston Salem, North Carolina. They were seeking a regional Appalachian romance series and liked my books … so my publication journey began signing contract with that imprint. My first book THE FOSTER GIRLS, set in Wears Valley, published in 2009, followed by books taking readers to Gatlinburg, Townsend, Cosby, Bryson City, Maggie Valley, and more.

I wrote what I loved to read and what I enjoyed reading myself, and hoped others might like my books, too—and to my joy readers loved my Smoky Mountain stories. Even before all twelve of the planned books were completed, fans began pushing for more, so on the advice of my editor at Kensington at the time, Audrey LaFehr, I started a new series of stories, The Mountain Home Books, to take readers to more places and adventures around the mountains. HAPPY VALLEY, published last year, was the first Mountain Home Book; DOWNSIZING is the second, and the third EIGHT AT THE LAKE publishes next year.

In 2019, I also ventured away from my Smoky Mountain branding … and took readers to our favorite beach vacation spot with three books called The Edisto Trilogy…. I now have over fifteen published romance books, a novella in one of Kensington’s Christmas anthologies, plus three regional guidebooks co-authored with my husband—including our hiking book The Afternoon Hiker, that started it all.


With over a dozen fictional stories published, where do you continue to find inspiration for these fantastic stories?

I have a rich imagination … and ideas just seem to flow out to me all the time for my books. God is “the author of good ideas” and I know He helps me with every idea and every story, too. … Reading an article in the newspaper or a magazine, hiking up a mountain trail, exploring around the Smoky Mountains, or seeing a special picture or scene often inspires a new idea for me.  Good ideas just seem to be everywhere waiting, and I find there are always more ideas than time!! I just finished writing two new Mountain Home books in the last year … one set in Cherokee, North Carolina, and the other in the charming small town of Waynesville, near Asheville. Right now, as well, I am plotting a new beach series, too, that I’m planning to call The Lighthouse Sisters.

 
In our last interview, you mentioned that you were a great example of the quote, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” What advice would you offer to hopeful writers who feel like it’s too late for them?

I was a professor for twenty years at Tusculum College, teaching a variety of psychology and research courses. So often in my classes in Developmental Psychology, Adult Development and Aging, Social Psychology, and my counseling classes, we looked at the “myths” our society has programmed into us about aging. In 1935 when Social Security was enacted, the average life expectancy for men was only 58 and for women 62. Social Security was designed as a help, after the Great Depression, for those who lived longer than expected. Today our average life expectancy is at nearly 80 years and rising. We are living longer and living stronger. Yet, those old “myths” about being over the hill at a much younger age still prevail. … And they hold people back from pursuing a whole new “second adulthood” after their mid years.

Retiring and “sitting around in a rocking chair” or relaxing on the sofa watching the telly is conducive to poor health and unhappiness.  All research advises a life of activity—physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually—in order to stay the happiest and healthiest in the years after mid life. So today especially, “it is never too late to be what you might have been,” a Shad Helmstetter quote. I always encourage everyone to form new dreams, new goals, and new plans for their latter years—knowing they will have long rich years in which to enjoy those goals, works, and dreams and to contribute to our world in a positive way.

It sounds like perhaps this quote might apply to Downsizing’s Mary Pat Latham as well, as her life is completely turned upside down through no choice of her own. Though the circumstances are QUITE different, did your own experiences of starting a new path later in life help to shape this story in any way?

An old quote by an ancient philosopher Hericlitus said: “The only constant in life is change.”  Benjamin Franklin later added to that saying: “One’s ability to adapt to those changes will determine your success in life.” There is a lot of truth in both. Our true character and grit—as well as the strength of our faith—often shows up the clearest not in the easy times but in the hard times. … As a psychologist, I’ve often talked with my students about the “midlife crises” many men and woman pass through. Often in these sometimes restless and evaluative years at midlife, people make life changes, which can be good or bad.

Russell Latham, Mary Pat’s husband, made some impulsive decisions at midlife that negatively impacted his marriage, family, and future life. As he told Mary Pat, his wife of thirty-four years, he wanted a change and more excitement. Also in an ugly tirade he tore Mary Pat up critically with his words. Russell’s words and actions sent Mary Pat’s life into a downward tailspin. She lost her home, she lost many of her friendships; her children were angry with her, and she realized she hadn’t prepared in any way over the years for any type of satisfying career. She’d let many of her old dreams and goals slide away, and frankly she’d let her weight pile up, too. Suddenly, hurt and disillusioned, she had to start all over again or simply stagnate and wallow in her sorrows.

My own personal life was more like Mary Pat’s mother. I always worked at various jobs around raising my children, and as my faith grew … I felt very strongly that God had things he wanted to do with my life. I always felt the tug to reach higher as if hearing the words of Mary Oliver: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Mary Pat had to meet this moment, too, from sheer necessity – and to decide on a new direction for her life. As an author, I wanted her choices to reflect the choices we all have to make in difficult times … and I wanted her to rally out of sorrow to make strong positive choices and for her life to be an inspiration to others.

Every time in my life when I pushed ahead or outside of the norm around me to start a home business when my kids were small, to return to school at mid life, to work in a job that seemed above my abilities, to begin to write books, to reach for a higher faith … I rarely received encouragement and applause for my efforts. Until I succeeded. A great quote I saw the other day said: “People are going to talk about you, no matter what you do, so you might as well do whatever brings you joy and live your best life.” It’s good advice.

Can you tell us a little bit more about Downsizing?

I loved working on this book and celebrating the strength of women, their courage and power in facing hard times, their abilities to begin again when life knocks them down in the dirt. I celebrate the philosophy that when we face sorrows, hurts, and problems, that like the old song, we can always try to, ‘pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and start all over again.’

DOWNSIZING was filled with many admirable women who didn’t let life beat them down, who started over again on a new course and in so doing found happiness and new purpose.  Mary Pat’s husband Russell asked for a divorce at mid life, crashing Mary Pat’s life all around her. As the book progresses you meet many others who have faced hurt and hardship, too, and charted a new course and direction for their lives, including Mary Pat’s daughter later in the story, her old friend Nancy Sue, Mary Pata’s work colleague Charlotte Hillen, and neighbors Francine and Mrs. Ellis. Even Owen McCarter has seen his share of sorros and disillusionment and has had to rise above them and carry on. One of the themes in this novel is that we can overcome difficult times, especially with God’s help, and that God can bring good times out of bad.

What do you hope readers will take away from the book?

Life is full of choices, every day. So many things we do or become in life are a result of choices we make along life’s way. I would hope in reading DOWNSIZING, besides being entertained with a good story, that people would take away the concept that in every day they can make new choices and chart new and positive directions for their lives. A Robin Sharma quote I love says: “Change is hard at first, messy in the middle, and gorgeous in the end.” Too often we give up if problems, habits, attitudes, or other ways we are trying to change in prove hard. But we need to always persevere and ‘let patience have her perfect work.’

Making a new life after loss and sorrow is hard. Getting over ugly and critical words is hard. Being betrayed is hard. Moving is hard. Dealing with your children and family is often hard. Losing weight is hard. Finding time to exercise and be active is hard. Problems with our work, career, home, friends, and more can be hard.  But the point is not to focus on the negative but on the positive, to move forward, to set strong, clear goals, to make good choices, and to work hard to accomplish them. And to always remember to trust that God will enable and help us.

Thank you again for taking the time to answer these questions. Before you go, are there any other projects you are currently working on that you can share?

To close I’d like to share this somewhat humorous story. In one of my earlier books DELIA’S PLACE, I needed to “make up” a fictional devotional guide for Delia and her cousin Hallie to use as they were trying to sort out problems in their young lives. … Off the top of my head I created a devotional and called it A JOURNEY OF WORDS. It was referred to several times in the book. After DELIA’S PLACE published, readers began to email us and ask us at signing events where they could buy the book … This went on for several years. At a festival we were attending an older lady came up wanting the name and author of that book. … “It’s not an actual book,” J.L. explained. “Lin made it up for the story.” … She put her hands on her hips and frowned. …”Well, that’s just mean. I wanted to get several copies for Christmas gifts. It needs to be a book and you need to write it.” And she stomped off.  An author friend at the table next to us laughed out loud and said, “I think you guys need to write that devotional. That woman is the third person who has asked for it today.”

Driving home when the subject came up, I told J.L., “It takes a l-o-n-g time to write 365 devotionals, each like its own little story, prayed over and thought over carefully, but if you’ll write half of it, we’ll do it.” This fall J.L. and I finally finished that devotional, and A JOURNEY OF WORDS should be published sometime in the next year or two! …. I can’t wait to see that woman’s face when she sees it!



(1) winner will receive a Tennesee gift pack including a print copy of Downsizing by Lin Stepp, The Afternoon Hiker and Discovering Tennessee State Parks by J.L. & Lin Stepp, and a Great Smoky Mountains National Park pocket guide!

Downsizing JustRead Giveaway

Full tour schedule linked below. Giveaway began at midnight April 5, 2021 and will last through 11:59 PM EST on April 12, 2021. Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

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