Tuesday, December 20, 2016

In the Spotlight with Bayou Book Junkie ~ Author Karen Stivali (Reviews + Exclusive Giveaway)

In the Spotlight with Bayou Book Junkie ~ Author Karen Stivali (Reviews + Exclusive Giveaway)

Hi Karen Stivali and welcome to Bayou Book Junkie. Karen writes both MF romance and MM romance, and has published 15 books to date. In addition to writing, we’ve found out that she likes to bake, loves chocolate, books, movies and fictional British men, but we want more, more, more! We’re rather greedy like that, sorry, but hey, we’re fans! 😊

BBJ: Please tell us all about yourself, Karen, what started you off on your writing journey and how you came over to the best side, i.e. MM romance?
Karen: I’ve been writing fiction since I was a kid but what started me writing romance was a story I’d had in my head for 8 years but never got around to writing. I’d written a fan fic for a friend as a birthday gift and she loved it so much she asked me if I had any other stories in my head. I told her about the one I’d been toying with for years and she asked me to write it. So I did. I sent her each chapter as I wrote it and in the span of 3 months I’d written the 100k word book Meant To Be. That was my first full length novel (and it has a gorgeous fictional British male hero because of my aforementioned fascination with fictional British men).
Although my first 9 books were all m/f, there were LGBTQ secondary characters in all the books and they were some of my favorite characters. I knew it was just a matter of time before one of them took the lead in a story and when Collin started talking in my ear and telling me his life I knew Moment Of Impact was a story I needed to tell. The transition happened naturally. I truly love writing both mf and mm books. I want all my characters to get their HEA.

BBJ: So, you like fictional British men. Hmm. You’re talking about the likes of Mr. Darcy, Mr. Rochester, Gene Hunt, James Bond, and the sexiest sexy of them all, Austin Powers, right? I mean, who can resist Austin? *sigh* What about actual, real British men, like Tom Hiddleston, Tom Hardy, Colin Firth and Henry Cavill, to name a few?  
Karen: My fascination with British men started with crushes on actors when I was a little kid and was magnified tenfold when I lived in England for most of a year when I was nine. I love the accent and the dry British sense of humor. That soft spot for a sexy Brit has carried on straight through adulthood and I’ve written a number of British heroes because it’s easy (and oh-so-appealing) to hear their voices in my mind. There are still plenty of real life British men who make my heart skip a few beats. I could listen to them talk all day. Pierce Brosnan, Robert Pattinson or Jude Law could read to me (or do anything else they fancied) anytime.

BBJ: What are you most passionate about? What makes you happy, and what saddens you? And angers you?
Karen: That’s a hard question. I guess I’m most passionate about people being treated fairly. Equal rights. Respect. Kindness. It makes me happy when people care about one another and do nice things for people expecting nothing in return, just to do a nice thing. It saddens me when people are hurtful, intentionally or by accident, and don’t care enough to even give a sincere apology. I see that so much online and sometimes I have to actually get off social media for a while because that sort of thing really takes a toll on me. I have a strong inclination to defend people who are being harmed and it becomes exhausting arguing. Plus sometimes it’s just not my place to be the one doing the defending and staying silent stresses me out because it makes me feel helpless. I like to feel useful.

BBJ: Name 3 things you could probably/possibly legitimately claim are ‘work-related expenses’ when completing your tax return (and yes, your secrets are safe with us, muahaha!) 
Karen: Chocolate. Seriously. I bring tons of it with me whenever I do signings or go to conferences. I hand it out as swag of as prizes for people who ask questions during panels, so it really is a work related expense…but I *might* buy a bit more for snacking and sharing with friends than is actually really needed for the events. 😊
 I can’t think of anything else. The rest is legit. Pens. Printer ink. Travel to conferences. I should get more creative!

BBJ: We nosed and found the amazing recipes you’ve tried out. But, could you please share a fool-proof recipe with us, Karen? And, yes, we’re talking SERIOUSLY fool-proof, as the only baking that happens at chez moi is of the ‘just add milk and an egg’ boxed variety! Savouries, if possible, please, involving yummy cheese and real butter *drool*
Karen: Hmmm….I’d have to say the split pea soup and the pepperoni bread are both pretty hard to screw up. And, as a bonus, they go great together as a winter meal. Give them a try and shoot me a message if you need a pep talk or have a technical question while you’re making them. Seriously, friends call me for cooking advice all the time. I actually love teaching people how to cook. It’s really not hard at all once you get over the crisis of confidence. Anyone can do it with a little practice and it’s so worth it to learn how. Then you can make anything you want anytime you want it. How cool is that?

BBJ: Do any of your friends or family members ever end up between the pages of your books? If so, how thinly-veiled are they, and do you live in fear of reprisals? 😊
Karen: I never write friends into books, even though sometimes they think they see themselves there. I do base a lot of the family dynamics in books on struggles I’ve been through in my own family upbringing. I’m familiar with dysfunction and emotionally manipulative family members so those themes tend to sneak into my character’s backstories. I don’t live in fear of reprisals because the people who are the evil-doers are unlikely to read the books and even if they did they’d never identify with the “bad” characters because in their minds they’re perfect and always right. They’d never see themselves as the villains even if it was a direct reference.

BBJ: If you had the chance to make the Moments In Time series into a film, who would you choose to play Collin and Tanner, and why? And, could we be flies on the wall, pretty, pretty please?
Karen: I think Jack Falahee (currently starring in How To Get Away With Murder) would be great as Tanner. He has the right mix of confidence, smouldering sexiness and compassion and would really be perfect for the role. Collin would need to be played by someone who’s like Randy Harrison was in the first seasons of the American version of Queer As Folk. Blonde, innocent, but so ready to explore. Collin’s much more neurotic than the Justin character though, so that would need to be amped up.

BBJ: Name 5 things you absolutely, totally, utterly, really, truly couldn’t do without.
Karen: The internet, my laptop, my phone, my friends, my kids. Not necessarily in that order.

BBJ: Which would trust more when considering buying a book, Karen – a 5* review that’s quite bland/inoffensive/generic-ish or overly effusive or a 3* review that’s more detailed and critically constructive?
Karen: I would only give a 3 star review to a book I really didn’t like. In fact, I believe in only leaving reviews for books I can give 4 or 5 stars to. If I can’t go that high then I prefer not to say anything. So if a book has a lot of 3 star reviews I’m inclined to believe it’s kinda Meh and I’ll skip it.

BBJ: How does writing MM differ from writing MF, and which is the hardest part of a book for you to write, Karen? And what kind of…ahem…research…did you do for the sexy scenes? Reading? Visual stuff? Do you need assistants for research on future tales? We BBJ girls are ready, willing and able! 😍
Karen:   No matter what pairing I’m writing the first thing I need to do is to get to know the individual characters inside and out---their likes, dislikes, fears, quirks, habits, past---and once I know that I work out how that plays out with their love interest. In that regard there is no difference in writing mf vs mm. All the characters are unique characters. As long as I know who they are and what makes them tick, I can write anyone. The hardest part to write is almost always the black moment when things are all going to hell and looking hopeless. I get very caught up in my characters’ emotions so if they’re basket cases, odds are I’m a basket case too. It’s very emotionally taxing at times and I often dread writing those scenes. For research? I have a pretty vivid imagination so I often just rely on that but if I find myself in need of inspiration (or checking the feasibility of something I’ve choreographed) I’ll troll Tumblr until I find something that inspires me. I’m always happy to have assistants point out hot things I might be missing out on so feel free to make me aware of anything you feel might be relevant. 😊

BBJ: What do you do in your spare time? What’s your idea of the perfect day off?
Karen: What’s spare time? Honestly I haven’t really had a complete day off since I started writing. There’s always something that needs to be done---an email, a new idea that needs notes, a deadline, a reread---literally always something. I create “spare” or leisure time by chatting with online writer friends. They are the only thing that keeps me from completely losing my mind. It’s a service we provide one another---free listening/ranting/reality checks from someone who gets what you’re going through. It’s invaluable.

BBJ: Who’s your rock, Karen? That one person who always has your back, who’s always there for you?  
Karen: I don’t have one main rock, I have several, and with one exception they’re all writer friends. I’m very lucky to have a good handful of people who I talk to almost every day and I know if I’m having a crisis of some sort they’re there for me. And I’m there for them. 24/7. No matter what. It’s comforting and I don’t know what I’d do without them.

BBJ: And now, the quick-fire round:
Matt Bomer or Tom Hiddleston? (or is it Austin all the way, yeah baby!) Matt Bomer. Those eyes. *sigh*
What’s your star sign? Capricorn
What’s your guilty pleasure? I don’t believe in guilt where pleasure is concerned.
Describe yourself in one word. Describe myself in one word? Hmmmmm….. Loyal.
The best thing about the US is…? The best thing about the US is….New York City. I’m an ex New Yorker  but still loyal to my birth city. And not a day goes by that I don’t crave some sort of food that can only be found there.

Thanks for popping in, Karen. We hope you had fun!

Moment of Impact
Series: Moments In Time
Author: Karen Stivali


Outside Collin Fitzpatrick’s dorm room is a dangerous place. Beyond his door the students of his small, conservative college think he’s straight, as does his Catholic family who'd disown him if they learned the truth. Inside, he’s safe with his incredibly sexy roommate Tanner D’Amico. Their room makes a perfect place to hide away and fall in love. The moment they cross the line from roommates to lovers, Collin becomes caught between their heavenly passionate encounters and the hellish reality that someone might find out and destroy everything. Tanner's not used to being so confined, and wants to show the world how much he loves Collin. But Collin’s not sure he’s ready for the impact stepping outside will make.

Categories: Bisexual, Contemporary, Gay Fiction, New Adult Romance

Sales Links
Main Author Pages

Tracy and Mari's Review:

*Copy provided to Bayou Book Junkie in exchange of a fair and honest review.*

I DIDN’T mean to see Tanner D’Amico’s cock. I really didn’t. 

Tracy: Best opening line of a book ever!!

Mari: Damn, talk about starting a story with a bang! The first paragraph was just about the most perfect way to begin a story I’ve read. Definitely an eye-catcher. And the rest was just about as awesome!

Tracy: Collin and Tanner have been roommates for months, but have known each other for a couple of years. Every Monday without fail Tanner comes home with Wendy, and while Collin pretends to sleep, he listens to them having sex, his stomach twisted in knots with jealousy, until one Monday Tanner comes home without Wendy. Collin is shocked when Tanner proceeds to strip off his clothes and masturbate. Collin has to fight the urge to not move, not make noise, to not spontaneously combust, he is so turned on watching Tanner.

He has had a crush on Tanner forever, and is shocked that when Tanner is done masturbating, he starts talking to Collin. Collin just wants the bed to open up and swallow him. He can't believe he was caught watching. But wait Tanner didn't stop and he knew Collin was watching. What does all this mean? Turns out Collin isn't the only one who has had a crush forever!

These boys couldn't come from a more different background. Tanner’s parents are artsy, having met and married on the stage on Broadway. They are free spirited and accepting of their son being bi-sexual. Tanner is an only child.

Mari: I adored Tanner from the start. He’s so sweet to Collin, never pressuring him into giving him more than he can. Well, until he just needs more, that is. He’s the more forward of the two of them, the more experienced and if it hadn’t been for him finally making a move, they’d have been at an impasse forever.

Tracy: Collin comes from a very strict Catholic upbringing. His father having died when he was 10, he and his two older brothers (one who will soon be a priest) were raised by their very devout Catholic mother. A mother who when there is trouble runs to Father Thomas. A mother Collin knows will disown him if she ever discovers he is gay. 

Mari: I so didn’t’ like Collin’s mother. She’s what’s wrong with people in this world. She might be devout, but she’s also bigoted and intolerant. Collin is so afraid to give into any natural urges he might have because of how she might react. He has witnessed how his mother dealt with one of his brothers (the soon-to-be-priest), and he doesn’t want to go through that if he can avoid it.

Tracy: Collin and Tanner enter into a relationship, but Collin is scared to death of being found out. He is so paranoid he wonders will people be able to look at him and tell he is gay? Tell he is sleeping with Tanner?

I love sex in books and I LOVE that Karen gets right to it, and although there is no actual "sex" in this book, I didn't feel cheated. The extracurricular activities these boys participate in was scorching hot, and only made hotter by the chemistry between them. Even the kissing was smoking hot!

My mouth crashed against his, and I felt his body tense as the first shot blasted out of him. I kissed him, hard, swallowing his groans as he emptied himself all over us. The tension ebbed from him, and he leaned into the kiss, tongue deeper in my mouth, spirals slower, exploring. He broke away once, twice, but each time he came back, like when you’re full but the food’s so damn good you want just one more bite. For the first time in my life, I wanted to be food. I wanted to be a goddamned buffet.
And I wanted him to devour me.

Tracy: This book was very well written. It's magic when an author can capture an emotion of a character and make the reader feel it. That's what this book did for me. I felt Collin’s fear and paranoia of being discovered. Tanner’s hurt of being Collin’s dirty little secret. I felt the intense raw hunger and need they had for one another. The sweet tenderness they had, and I felt the love they shared. 

Mari: The story is witty, fast-paced, with insane chemistry between both main characters, Tanner and Collin, with some angst thrown in between the very hot sex scenes, that even if there’s no penetrative sex, it’s satisfying all the same, because it’s not just about getting off, but the deep connection these boys already feel for one another. 

Tracy: If you can't tell by my review I thoroughly enjoyed this first leg of Collin and Tanner's journey and can't wait to get my hands on the rest of it!! 

Mari: I enjoyed it, too, Tracy! Karen Stivali impacted me with this book and I’m looking forward to the next books in this series and following Tanner and Collin as they settle into their relationship. 

Definitely a 5 impacting Stars read from both of us!!!

Moment of Silence
Series: Moments In Time
Author: Karen Stivali
This book is a 'Moments in Time Novel'. It takes place in the same world, but can be read separately.
Release Date: December 18, 2015


Growing up, Jason Stern led a charmed life complete with devoted sisters, a father who was one of Brooklyn’s most respected rabbis, and a mother who made the world's best babka. He headed to NYU ready for anything—except falling for the wrong guy, coming out, and getting disowned by his once-loving family. In spite of that, Jason managed to graduate with honors. He's got friends who treat him like family, and he's proudly running the largest LGBTQ teen shelter in Manhattan. Life is good, but he's still falling for the wrong men. 

When charming, sexy Quinn Fitzpatrick begins work at the shelter, Jason falls hard and fast. Quinn is tall, blond, funny—damn near perfect. Only if Quinn’s gay, even he doesn't seem to know it. If he does, he's not telling anyone. And he's about one ceremony away from becoming a Catholic priest.

Long hours of work turn to long nights of talking and laughter, and Jason dares to hope this time he's falling for the right guy. But Quinn's got a past to deal with and major decisions to make about his future. When Quinn leaves for a silent retreat, Jason knows the silence may change everything.
Pages or Words: 76,000 words
Categories: Contemporary, M/M Romance

Buy the book:

Moments of Silence is on sale on Amazon for a limited time, don't miss out on a fabulous read! Additionally, you can enter our exclusive giveaway to win a copy of any of the books in the Moments of Time series!

Tracy and Mari's Review:

5 Stars!!!

*Copy provided to Bayou Book Junkie by author/publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Mari: Jason has had a hard life ever since he came out to his family. After living an idyllic childhood and being sure of his family's love for him, he suddenly finds himself on his own. He pushes through with the help of his family and becomes the driving force behind New Home. He's attracted to unattainable men, and who could be more unattainable than an almost-priest? Not that he could've resisted Quinn anyway. 
Quinn is on leave for a few months, prior to making his final decision in taking his vows as a Catholic priest, and working at New Home. He's attracted to Jason and even if he is aware it will complicate his decision he can't stay away.
They fall into a relationship, and while things between them are almost perfect, there's the dark cloud look over them that there's a deadline to Quinn making a decision. Jason is intent on making the most of the time they have together, trying not to think of the impending heartbreak, because even if he hopes otherwise, Quinn wouldn't choose him over God, or would he?

Tracy: I fell in love with Jason when we met him on Fire Island. I didn't want him with Collin, but I really loved his character and couldn't wait for him to find love. Karen picked the perfect person for him in Collin's brother, Quinn. They fit and had an electrical chemistry and connection from their first on page scene together. There's was a slow burn, but as soon as they let go, WOW... Fireworks exploded. There was sex and more sex, it was hot, but it was sweet, tender, loving and had an innocence about it. The writing of the love scenes was beautiful and poetic.

I adored Quinn and I loved watching him grow and come into his own. Discovering love, relationships and sex. Discovering Jason. I loved Jason's patience and tenderness. I adored watching him fall completely in love for the first time. 

Mari: I loved Jason from the prior books, too, and I fell even more for him on this book, especially after realizing all he'd gone through with his family. Seeing him crushing and then falling for Quinn, was bittersweet, with all that was hanging on the line and reading his doubts even as he gave his all, almost crushed me.

Quinn was adorable! And I also loved seeing him embrace his relationship with Jason so fully. They were hot, hot, HOT! together, but also sweet and as Tracy says, there was something poetic and beautiful to their lovemaking.

Tracy: This was a well-written story that I held me captivated from the first to the last page. Karen kept me on edge the entire time. I just knew the bliss between Quinn and Jason was going to blow up in my face. I waited for the other shoe to drop, and when it did Karen had me bawling like a baby. (When I informed her of this she graciously offered me Kleenex and Chocolates).  

Mari: I can attest to that! Hahahaha! Tracy read it before me and told me that she knew things were coming to a head, because they were too perfect. And yes, even kind of knowing that things couldn't remain that good, I got all teary when it actually happened. 

Tracy: I loved the story, the characters, getting to see Collin and Tanner again. Most of all, I just love Karen's writing and I'll be waiting somewhat patiently for Bryan and Oliver's story. 

Mari: I love Karen's writing and while I adored the Moments of Time series, I think this book and Jason and Quinn are my favorites. It was an emotional, loving, fabulous read, one to be cherished for sure! 

About the author

Karen Stivali is a prolific writer, compulsive baker and chocoholic with a penchant for books, movies, and fictional British men. She’s also the multiple award-winning author of contemporary and erotic romances. Her lifelong fascination with people has led her to careers ranging from hand-drawn animator, to party planner, to marriage and family counselor, but writing has always been her passion. Karen enjoys nothing more than following her characters on their journey toward love. Whether the couples are m/f or m/m, it’s guaranteed that Karen’s novels are filled with food, friendship, love, and smoking hot sex—all the best things in life.
When Karen isn’t writing (and often when she is), she can be found on Twitter attempting witty banter and detailing the antics of her fruit-loving cat, BadKitteh. She loves to hear from readers (and other writers), so don’t hesitate to contact/follow/like her at:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/karenstivali
Website: http://karenstivali.com
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/karenstivali
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/KarenStivali
E-mail: karenstivali@gmail.com


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  1. This opening is not from romance, but from my favorite mystery/fiction author Dennis Lehane for his third Patrick/Angie book. I don't know why but this line always stuck with me ... "A piece of advice: If you ever follow someone in my neighborhood, don’t wear pink"

  2. I have all of the books so I'm not entering the contest. I love these books so much and absolutely have to agree that Moment of Silence is my favorite. I've also read Meant to Be and it is fantastic. I'm looking forward to reading her next book.

  3. i cant think of one right now but love the opening line you have..lol

  4. I already own the entire series. It so good. I can't think of my favorite lines at the moment.