Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Release Blitz: Lavender in Bloom by Lily Velez ~ Guest Post #Excerpt #Interview #Giveaway



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 Lavender in Bloom by: Lily Velez Publication Date: July 25th, 2016 Genre: Historical, Coming-of-Age Romance
It’s the year 1802 in Avignon, France
Noah Capet has spent most of his young life living simple and unvaried days in the hushed countryside of southern France. Quiet, reserved, and diffident, his preference for existing is to do so in solitude, keeping to himself both in town and on his family’s farm—a predilection that’s altogether disrupted when a newcomer to town by the name of Jeremie Perreault begins an unremitting quest to befriend him. Jeremie is everything Noah is not. Charismatic and gregarious, he leaves a trail of charmed admirers in his wake wherever he goes. Expressive and idealistic, he talks without end about his deep love for old books and his spirited dream to one day travel the world on a literary pilgrimage. Over the course of a single summer, the two form an unlikely friendship, but just as quickly as it develops, it soon entirely dissolves as they’re forced to face the truth of what has unexpectedly emerged between them. Lavender in Bloom is a tender and tragic coming-of-age story about first love and self-discovery, and a poignant reminder that time is fleeting and always takes with it the choices we’re too afraid to make.
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Guest Post

The Lavender in Bloom Playlist

I absolutely love music and its power to stir the heart and so deeply move us. Creating a playlist for my books is one of my go-to strategies in my writer’s toolbox because listening to that playlist is the easiest way for me to get into the mood of a scene or the headspace of a particular character. Below, check out the tracks that made it onto the playlist for Lavender in Bloom, along with commentary on why each song’s so perfect for the story.

You can listen to the entire playlist for Lavender in Bloom here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL2GrUHSQ_FVEgy8rJdNnbqRBE_c0GZT_l

Frail Love by Cloves -- This song was an absolute Godsend and I’m so glad I found it, as it ended up becoming the ‘theme song’ for Lavender in Bloom. Every last lyric was just perfect for Noah and Jeremie’s story. Especially these particular lines: I can’t live it like I’m living, I can’t live a lie, I’m giving up more than I should, forgive me for my frail love.

All I Want by Kodaline -- For the longest time, this track was the theme song for Lavender in Bloom. I honestly couldn’t listen to it without getting teary-eyed, as it so perfectly captures the tragedy of Noah and Jeremie’s story. Favorite lines: When you said your last goodbye, I died a little bit inside and If you loved me, then why’d you leave me?  

The Beautiful Ones by The Battle of Land and Sea -- I love this song because, for one, it’s a break from the sad songs, but also because I feel it sets the mood for Noah’s life in the countryside. It has a very rural feel to it that makes me think of a simple and tranquil living.  

Say Something by A Great Big World ft. Christina Aguilera -- Another perfect song for Noah and Jeremie’s story. In fact, there’s a point in Lavender in Bloom where Jeremie outright tells Noah to just say the word, and he’ll be his. There’s also a point where they’re sort of at odds, waiting for the other to make the first move (or speak the first word, as it were), and this song really captures that. Favorite lines: Anywhere I would’ve followed you and I will swallow my pride: you’re the one that I love and I’m saying goodbye.  

The Power of Love by Gabrielle Aplin -- I included this song because it really captured the mood for a fable that’s featured in Lavender in Bloom. In fact, it’s a fable that describes how lavender first came into bloom in France. It’s based on an ‘alternate universe’ story featuring Noah and Jeremie, and it would be the perfect song for a montage of their love. Favorite line: The power of love, a force from above, cleaning my soul.

Make it Holy by The Staves -- This is such a pretty song, and it’s perfect from Jeremie’s perspective. Favorite lines: I could make you want me, make you need me, make you mine. I could make it holy, make it special, make it right.

Forgetting by David Gray -- Another sad song. From the very first chords, this song just sets the mood for a scene of heartbreak. It kind of has a nostalgic feel to it. Despite the title of the song, it’s the type of song that makes you remember times long past.

Ashes by Madi Diaz -- This is another song I see as being from Jeremie’s perspective, especially toward the end of the book, when he asks Noah to make a certain decision. Favorite lines: Don’t you let me down and No, I won’t stand to keep watching you stay.

I Will Love You by Gin Wigmore -- One of the few happy love song on the Lavender in Bloom playlist, and the only one with a more upbeat melody. As such, it’s very much treasured. This is a cute one, too. I love every single lyric, but my favorite lines are: If you die before I do, I know that heartache will kill me, too, so if I ever lived again, it would be to find you. It’s especially perfect because I can definitely see Noah and Jeremie as living many lives and finding each other in each one.

Tell Me How to Feel by Maggie Eckford -- This song captures one of the main character’s thoughts in the wake of the book’s concluding actions, in which they just feel so blindsided, lost, and heartbroken.

Benediction by Luke Sital-Singh -- This song has a sad vibe from the start, and it’s also one I picked because it instantly makes me think of the lavender fable and Noah and Jeremie’s ‘alternate universe’ story. Favorite lines: There’s a knock in the silence, I see death at the door, But I know we’ll be alright, ‘Cause your hands are still warm and I’m sorry we don’t have forever, but come die with me.

Hengilas by Jonsi -- This song’s in another language (Icelandic!), but it has such an atmospheric quality to it that just draws you in. Favorite lines: We look into foreign eyes, yet we have always known each other. Perfect, because Jeremie has a line in Lavender in Bloom about Noah’s eyes feeling like home even from the moment he first looked into them.  



Where did the inspiration for Lavender in Bloom come from?
The story behind Lavender in Bloom first emerged on July 22, 2013. Back then, I was still developing my character Noah Capet, and while doing some free-writing for his backstory, pieces of his forbidden romance with Jeremie began to emerge little by little. The very first ‘telling’ of the story was less than 500 words and written in first-person from Noah’s point of view. Over the next few years, I’d return to Noah and Jeremie again and again, writing snippets here and there that eventually amounted to tens of thousands of words. Finally, I decided 2016 would be the year I brought their story into the world!

How long did it take you to write Lavender in Bloom and what did your writing process look like?
I wrote the manuscript that would become Lavender in Bloom in 21 days. That manuscript was approximately 56,000 words long. It helped that I’d spent the past 3 years getting to know Noah and Jeremie better and writing numerous scenes between them (many of which ended up in the manuscript).

As for my writing process, each day, I woke up early, did my usual morning routine (yoga, prayer, meditation, exercise, a fruit smoothie), and then I’d spend anywhere from 1-4 hours writing. I was guided by a general outline of how I wanted to get from Point A to Point B, and for the most part, I stuck to it, but I still gave myself room to be surprised by new scenes that would surface as well as interactions I hadn’t planned for. In fact, even during final editing, new scenes continued to pop in!

Are your characters inspired by any real-life people?
My characters rarely, if ever, are inspired by real-life people. I will say, however, that Noah is named after my dog, a labrador/pitbull mix, who’s been in my life for over 10 years now. :) I guess you could say this was my way of immortalizing him. Funny enough, my dog Noah’s most distinguishing feature are his eyes (just like Noah Capet in Lavender in Bloom), and while my dog’s personality has grown to be a little more expressive in recent years, back when I was creating the character named after him, they shared similar personality traits. They were both quiet and more on the aloof side.

Where did all the fables in the book come from?
In Lavender in Bloom, you get to enjoy a nice variety of anecdotes. Some, like a king building a chapel simply to house his relics, are quite true. The story of the luck of the horseshoe is a well-known legend. As for the story of the sun and the moon, and the story of how lavender first came into bloom in France...those two are both my own creation. I read a number of fables about the sun and the moon but couldn’t find one that resonated with me so ultimately crafted my own. The lavender story is based on an ‘alternate universe’ story featuring Noah and Jeremie but was slightly modified to fit in with the ending I had in mind.

How do you develop your characters and plots?
I tend to develop characters first. They’re my favorite part about writing a new story, in fact, because my stories are, for the most part, very character-oriented. As aforementioned, Noah and Jeremie have been around in my mind for a few years, so I’ve had ample time to get to know the ins and outs of their personalities. How? For one, I do extensive free-writing for my characters to get in their heads and understand them better. Prior to beginning this manuscript, I had already written tens of thousands of words featuring Noah and Jeremie in different scenes. I also like to create Pinterest boards for characters so I know everything about the way they look, what their home looks like, what their pets look like, how they dress, the type of possessions they’d have, etc. As for plots, I typically let the characters run the show. The story for Lavender in Bloom completely arose on its own one day. I hadn’t intended that for Noah’s backstory at all. But he clearly had something up his sleeve. ;)

What was your favorite part of Lavender in Bloom to write and why?
There were a lot of scenes that were exciting for me to write. I would say one of my favorite scene, however, takes place in Jeremie’s bookshop when Noah has finished helping him ready the store for its grand opening. I don’t want to give away too much so that I don’t spoil it for readers, but toward the end of this scene, Jeremie does something to indicate that he’s begun to see Noah as more than just a friend. To me, it was just a very tender moment in the story, and I think it’s something we can all relate to. We’ve all had those moments when we’ve wondered if the object of our affection feels similarly. It can be scary to make the first move to find out, so I just feel like the scene has a universality to it. I also enjoy this scene because it’s the ‘point of no return’ for Noah and Jeremie. Neither of them can pretend like the moment never happened, and it ends up changing their relationship for the rest of the summer.

What was the hardest part of the writing process?
As it happened, the mass shooting in Orlando (the worst mass shooting in U.S. history) took place while I was doing final edits for Lavender in Bloom. I live in Orlando, and the shooting actually took place at a venue just 20 minutes away from my home. That was hard because it emphasized the amount of hate that’s in our world, especially when it comes to who a person loves. Noah and Jeremie’s story takes place in 1802. Although revolutionary ideals (and later, The Napoleonic Code) decriminalized same-sex relationships at the time, it’s not like you could suddenly walk down the street hand-in-hand with your significant other. Objections still ran deep, and just decades before the story’s set, two men were actually burned alive in Paris for being lovers. So the hardest part for me was realizing just how close to home Noah and Jeremie’s story is for countless people even to this day.

Can you share some surprising things you learned while researching this book?
At one point in Lavender in Bloom, Jeremie shares an anecdote about a book in his collection. What’s so unique about it? It’s bound in someone’s skin! As it turns out, this sort of thing happened back in the day. People would have books bound with their own skin upon their death so that the book would serve as a memorialization for their families. I don’t know if those family members ever ended up keeping those books, though! I don’t think I’d want to! ;)

If you could spend a day with a character from your book, who would it be and what would you do?
I’d probably most enjoy spending a day with Jeremie. I would want to join him on one of his literary pilgrimages--probably the one where he visits all the breathtaking libraries in the world. That would be so much fun, and it’s actually a goal of mine as well!

What were your goals and intentions in this book? What do you hope people will take away?
I hope people will take away the fact that you can’t live your life to please other people. This is something I think we all face at some point in our lives. We either do what’s expected of us to make mom and dad (or whoever it might be) happy and proud (but it comes at the expense of our own joy)...or we forge a path for ourselves, break the mold, and live the fulfilling life of our dreams.

It can be scary to do the thing that lights you up on the inside--especially if it’s met with the disapproval of others. No one wants to be an outcast. We want to be accepted and loved. We want to feel like we belong.

But this life you have is your life and yours only. It’s a gift. You’ve been given a unique opportunity to explore the world, to grow, to learn about what you like and don’t like, to develop meaningful and beautiful relationships with others, and to have an overall fulfilling and positive experience until your last day. So why spend a single minute of your life in a job/role/position/relationship/etc. that doesn’t make you excited to be alive?

Your dreams are special, and I hope this book encourages people to go after that thing that’s been tugging at their heart for a while now, to say yes to that opportunity no matter how scary it might be, and to not let amazing and beautiful things slip through their fingers because of fear.

Did you ever consider giving the story a happier, alternative ending?
I did, actually. There were a few days during the writing process when I wondered if I shouldn’t change the ending entirely. Ultimately, I realized that I would be robbing from the story’s truth by doing that. The fact of the matter is that in life, we do experience loss. We experience heartbreak. We experience grief. We make decisions (or choose not to make decisions), and we often have to live with the consequences for the rest of our lives. I think there are plenty of books with happy endings out there, and I love them just as much as the next person. But Noah and Jeremie’s story always had a tragic ending from the beginning, and I didn’t want it to lose its effect. As a writer, I feel that one of my jobs is to capture and display humanity’s universal truths in my stories, so while the truth in this case wouldn’t exactly be warm and fuzzy, I knew this was how it had to be written.

That being said, I’ve written a number of versions of Noah and Jeremie’s story--you could call them ‘alternate universes’, I suppose. Some end tragically all the same, but in others, there are happy endings. In fact, in my favorite version, Noah and Jeremie live in present-day Rome and have a precocious son named Remy. :)

Are you working on another book?
Two stories are currently warring within me to become my next book.

The first is a contemporary, new adult romance about a young woman who tracks down the family of the organ donor whose heart saved her father's life a year ago, and finds a group of shattered individuals still in the throes of grief.

The second is an adult historical romance set in the 1800s in Prague that follows a young psychology professor named Gottfried, whose world is turned upside down when a seventeen-year-0ld, would-be anarchist named Dominik Prochazka becomes enamored of him.

If you'd like to stay updated about my future books and be among the first to know about advanced reader copies, giveaways, and events, you can sign up to join my VIP crew here: http://www.lilyvelezbooks.com/free/


“I think of you almost every moment, Noah. I can’t eat, I can’t sleep. I am utterly tormented by these things I feel for you.”
It was as if lightning had struck Noah. He was paralyzed by the admission, stricken silent, and at his core, an inferno devoured him. Its heat filled his veins, spread from ligament to ligament, muscle to muscle. Jeremie had once read aloud a poem regarding a phoenix making its nest in a person’s bosom. Noah felt the phoenix now, felt her awakening, shifting, extending her wings and beating them powerfully so that he was left breathless, but no more breathless than by what Jeremie did next.
Jeremie came to him at once, erasing the last of the distance between them, and this time, Noah didn’t back away. The thin gap of space between their bodies sweltered. Still, Noah didn’t move. He didn’t move as Jeremie cupped Noah’s elbows, fingers grasping at bone. He didn’t move as Jeremie pulled him nearer. He didn’t even move when their faces were close enough for him to feel Jeremie’s warm breath against his mouth.
“Tell me you feel the same,” Jeremie whispered. It sounded like a prayer. His head was bowed slightly to be at level with Noah’s.
There was a pull in Noah’s stomach, an unfamiliar desire growing heavier. He was close enough now to see the velvet trimming on the collar of Jeremie’s coat, the paisley design of the white ascot at his neck. Jeremie’s lips lingered before his own, daring, eager, ravenous. It would’ve been effortless to give in, to lean his body into Jeremie’s, to be overtaken by the fever consuming him. He wanted to. Of that much he was certain, and it shocked him like nothing else ever had.
Tell me you feel the same, Jeremie had whispered.
And Noah, still fighting a war he hadn’t even known had begun long ago, had thought to, had nearly conceded to it. But then he saw an image of Jeremie’s father, cold and cruel, bringing his own son to ruins, and in the end, he couldn’t. He wouldn’t. For Jeremie’s sake, he couldn’t fall.
Firm in his resolve, he drew up his strength and stepped back out of Jeremie’s hold. The moment he did, the phoenix extinguished herself.
Tell me you feel the same.
Noah met his eyes, forcefully, meaningfully. “I don’t.”

Author Bio: Lily Velez has been writing stories since she was six years old. Not much has changed since then. She still prefers the written word and her overactive imagination over the ‘real world’ (though to be fair, her stories no longer feature talking dinosaurs). A graduate of Rollins College and a Florida native, when she's not reading or writing, she spends most of her days wrangling up her pit bulls Noah and Luna, planning exciting travel adventures, and nursing her addiction to cheese. All this when she isn’t participating in the extreme sport known as napping. You can learn more about Lily and her books at www.lilyvelezbooks.com.
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