Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Interview and Giveaway Sparks the Matchmaker by Russell Elkins


Ollie just wants one thing. The girl. Things haven’t been going so well with Anne lately, though; their relationship has become a perpetual study date, and Ollie’s roommates are starting to worry about him. How to fix things? Why, with a marriage proposal, of course. Unfortunately for Ollie, his relationship with Anne has run out of gas. 

Life feels like it’s counting down to one. And that one is the only person in Ollie’s life he really cares about: Ollie. Perhaps, then, he should get over himself. 

But first he has to deal with Sparks, the irritating little Yankees fan who invades his life in order to “help” him. And while Keith, his best friend, is doing all he can to help, Ollie’s other friend Richie never fails to show up and threaten to ruin everything just by being himself. Never mind all the drama Sparks brings to the party by forcing Ollie to take a job actually helping people in need. 

Will Ollie meet the girl? Will it be in history class? On a road trip to Colorado? Can he get over Anne, or should he try to mend the relationship? Should he pursue the new girl Sparks is trying to set him up with? As the strings of the puppeteer tangle with the strings of the heart, only one person can sort out the mess Ollie has made. It seems that the harder he tries, the more Ollie messes things up. Is Sparks a cruel manipulator, or is he really going to help Ollie find his match?

Thank you, Mr. Russell Elkins

How different is to write fiction from nonfiction? Do you keep them separate?
My Open Adoption, Open Heart (our true story with adoption) series took me twice as long to write than my fiction because I had to work within truth and feelings- and by that, I mean that I had to be very conscious of getting my facts right, and especially careful about how I portrayed other people. It wasn’t easy to describe the drama we went through without making good people look bad, especially since everyone in our adoption story is so special to us. With fiction, after I’m done diagramming the plot, I just sit down and let my fingers fly. It doesn’t matter if I portray my characters as selfish or petty. Even though my fiction books are much longer, the drafts take me less time.

You and your brothers formed a band and still perform under the name “Invisible Swordsmen”. Who writes the lyrics and how different is to write lyrics from a novel?
My brother, Clark, and I are the core of the band. We’ve written close to sixty songs together. We both write lyrics and we both write the music, both of which are about 50/50. . 

I look at writing lyrics, writing music, and writing a novel all with the same perspective. Out of the three, I’ve been writing music the longest (since I was 13), so all of the other branches of creativity seem to stem off of that. As I write a novel, I think of it like writing a song (a very slowly moving song). How does it flow? Where are the cadence points? Does the speed/flow of the writing fit the mood of the scene? 

Writing lyrics and poetry has always come natural to me. I don’t do it as much as I used to, but I used to carry around a poetry journal that I would write in 4 or 5 times a week. When I write poetry, I tend to write nearly as fast as I would a normal journal entry. The difference is mainly just the mindset. The closest thing I can compare it to is that it’s another language. I speak a fluent Spanish, and it’s kind of like flipping that switch into Spanish. Once my mind is in Spanish mode, I don’t have to think about it. It just comes out.

How differently does a man write romance from a woman? Do you believe that you understand what and how a woman thinks?
As an author, I do my best to play to my strengths. No, I don’t believe I understand how a woman thinks, but I think that’s one of the things that makes Sparks the Matchmaker enjoyable. If I were to try to mimic one of the great female writers, people would pick up on that immediately and shoot me down because I wouldn’t do a great job at it. This story still has deep emotions and intimate moments, but it’s told through a boy’s eyes. My wife was the most skeptical out of everyone when I first told her I was writing a romance novel, but she was immediately my biggest fan after reading it.

We are “used” to the fact that women are the ones who like to play matchmaker. How good is Sparks in this and what is his role in the story (without spoiler, please)?
Sparks is both the best and the worst matchmaker all at the same time. He’s the best because he has a special ability to read people. He knows which girl would be perfect for Ollie (our main character). What makes him a terrible matchmaker is that he loves to toy with Ollie’s emotions. He only gives him information on a need-to-know basis, which drives Ollie out of his mind and makes him want to do things his own way. Ollie’s in a constant inner battle between whether or not Sparks is leading him right, and whether or not the end goal is worth the roller coaster ride. 

Do we need the help of others to find our love or happiness?
Yes and no. Ultimately, no matter what situation we are in, happiness is a decision. We have all known people who “have it good,” but are miserable- or the other way around, where the world seems to pick on them, but they’re happy as a clam.

On the other hand, I think we do need other people in order to be happy. We need to have relationships with other people in order to learn how to love. We don’t need to be “in a relationship” to find happiness, but we do need relationships with other people. Those who think only about themselves are never truly happy.

When I was in college I worked with people who had special needs. There is quite a bit of that in this book because of how much of an impact that part of my life had on me. I loved the real Greg and Marie so much, the people those characters were based on. Not only did they teach me how to love people for who they are, but they always loved me no matter what.

What do you think about the messages that a book must transmit no matter its genre and which is the most important message/s of Sparks the Matchmaker?
I do like books that have a bigger picture. Sparks the Matchmaker is a love story, but it’s also a journey that follows Ollie as he learns to think outside of his self-centered little world. Ollie isn’t a bad guy, but he does have some important things to learn. I think this is a journey we all need to go through, although probably not quite the same way Ollie does.

Praise for Sparks the Matchmaker: 

I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. How many "romance" novels do you read where the protagonist is male, or even where the author is male? At first, I thought that was going to be the unique focus of this story. 

I was pleasantly surprised, though. The "Sparks" character was a completely unique take on things. Also, I tend to be one of those people who frequently predicts the endings of books and t.v. shows, etc., but I hadn't seen the ending of this story coming. It was a quick and easy read (which was just what I needed right now) but with plenty of intelligence and creativity woven into the story. I think I can say with confidence that even my teenage son would enjoy it, as well as my Mom. Looking forward to the next installment in the series. 
Definitely not what I expected from a romantic comedy novel, but in a good way! Can't wait for the next one :)
About the author:
Russell Elkins has become a leading expert on open adoption through first-hand experience that he now shares in Open Adoption, Open Heart. Russell regularly contributes to Adoption.com. He also writes his own blog at russellelkins.com to educate others in the struggles and beauties of open adoption. 

Russell has always been a family man at heart, looking forward to the day when he could be a husband and a father. It took him a little while, but eventually his eyes locked onto a beautiful blonde, and he has never looked away. Russell and Jammie were married in 2004. They had the same goals for their home and didn't want to wait too long before starting their family. However, filling their home quickly with children wasn't in the cards, and they found themselves weighing their options to overcome problems with infertility. Their lives changed dramatically the day they decided to adopt. 

Russell and Jammie have adopted two beautiful children, Ira and Hazel, and have embraced their role as parents through open adoption. Both are actively engaged in the adoption community by communicating through social media, taking part in discussion panels, and writing songs about adoption. 

Russell was born on Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, D.C., in the fall of 1977. Along with his five siblings, he and his military family moved around a lot, living in eight different houses by the time he left for college at age 17. Although his family moved away from Fallon, Nevada, just a few months after he moved out, he still considers that little oasis in the desert to be his childhood hometown. 

Even after leaving home, Russell always stayed close to his family. He shared an apartment with each of his three brothers at different times during his college career. They formed a band together back in the 1990s and still perform on a regular basis under the name of the Invisible Swordsmen. 

After nearly a decade of college and changing his major a few times, Russell received his bachelor's degree in sociology from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. He later graduated from Ameritech College where he learned the trade of being a dental lab technician. Russell now owns and operates Elkins Dental Lab located in Meridian, Idaho.

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