Smokey Mountain Dreams AUDIO Spotlight

Today the narrator of Smoky Mountain Dreams, John Solo, interviews the author of the book, Leta Blake. Come find out how Leta writes a book, what sparked the idea for this particular story, and why you should read/listen to Smoky Mountain Dreams!

When you are fleshing out a story of this length, how do you develop from the first draft to the beta reading stage? Meaning, do you lay out a detailed overview, lay out chapters, then dive into chapter one? Or do you start with an idea and just start typing?

I am definitely not a plotter when it comes to writing. I’m what they call a pantser, in that I have an idea, some ideas for the crisis and a few story beats in mind when I sit down to write, but, otherwise, I discover the story and the characters as I write. It’s my favorite part of writing and whenever I try to be more “efficient” by plotting instead of proceeding in this gut-instinct sort of way, everything falls apart and it turns into a massive headache and a mess. I admit to envying plotters, though. They are able to write much more quickly, from what I can tell. They get a kind of rhythm going where they plug in chapters and go.

What was the spark that started the idea for this story? Was it a character, an emotion, a setting, chocolate ice cream?

Most of my book ideas come from listening to music. A character will show up while I’m listening to a song and say, “Hey, this is about me. Figure me out.” But that wasn’t the case with Smoky Mountain Dreams. The spark for this book came during a visit to Dollywood at Christmastime with my then 6yo daughter. There was a singer in one of the shows there, a blond man who wasn’t incredibly handsome, but wasn’t bad to look at. He also wasn’t an amazing singer, but he seemed so sincere in what he could do. I thought to myself, “How did he get here? Did he want more than to be some guy in a show at Dollywood but he didn’t have the chops? How did he end up here on a Dollywood stage?” And boom! Christopher was born!

I really enjoyed your character development in this story, specifically Jesse. It gave me a lot to chew on as an actor. Can you tell me about the genesis of that character?

Christopher showed up first and I spent a few weeks sort of casting around in my mind looking for someone to pair him with. I struggled with that for awhile, waiting for a song or something to show up and tell me who Christopher’s love interest should be. But, after getting no where, I sat down and asked myself, “You want to write a romance. What’s the most romantic story you’ve ever heard?” And immediately I remembered the story of Terri Schiavo, the woman who was in a permanent vegetative state after suffering heart failure.

I was young and impressionable when the legal battle over Terri’s life support was going on and I remember finding it unbearably romantic and the ultimate expression of love that her husband, Michael Schiavo, refused to divorce Terri or walk away from her care, even though her parents wanted him to do just that. Years went by and Michael refused to walk away from his wife, even though he’d fallen in love again with a woman named Jodi. They had children together and still Michael stayed married to Terri and fought for her right to die. When he finally won that right after many years of court battles, death threats to himself, his children, and the mother of his children, he was able to bury Terri and, on her headstone, he had inscribed “I kept my promise.”

Anyway, I’ve always thought what he did, what he endured for Terri, was the absolutely epitome of true love. He could have walked away at any time. He could have divorced her and married Jodi and moved on. And I also thought that Jodi must have truly understood and had a depth of love that few can imagine to not push him to take the easy way out.

I modeled Jesse’s situation on that, but as far as his character growth, I mainly wanted to make his as real as possible, and to make every character in the book as real as possible. So I hope that it paid off.

So many authors in this genre use the sex scenes in a very predictable manner, and it seems like they give us sex just to give us sex. You managed to use the sex scenes in this book to further the story and character development, which gave them so much more emotion! Do you script out the sex scenes, or do you have a definite end goal in mind (other than the obvious!)?

The sex scenes are always organic to me and I don’t script them out in advance. I can feel them approaching as I write out scenes and I go with what I think needs to be shown emotionally in each one of them. I’m pleased to hear you didn’t find them superfluous.

Why should readers/listeners pick up Smoky Mountain Dreams?

Aside from your wonderful narration, which brings it to life in the best possible way, I believe that Smoky Mountain Dreams is sweepingly romantic while exploring topics that many romance books don’t. That doesn’t sound very compelling.

I like it better when you say why people should buy Smoky Mountain Dreams, John. So, I’ll just quote you here: “You know that feeling you get when you finish reading a book and you can’t believe that you are done living in that world and with those characters? I and my wife, spent over 100 hours of my life working on this book, and I STILL didn’t want to leave.”

Title: Smoky Mountain Dreams
Author: Leta Blake
Narrator: John Solo
Publisher: Leta Blake Books
Release Date: 10-17-17
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance
Length: 14 hrs and 46 mins
Reviewed by: Lily G. Blunt

Sometimes holding on means letting go.

After giving up on his career as a country singer in Nashville, Christopher Ryder is happy enough performing at the Smoky Mountain Dreams theme park in Tennessee. But while his beloved Gran loves him the way he is, Christopher feels painfully invisible to everyone else. Even when he’s center stage he aches for someone to see the real him.

Bisexual Jesse Birch has no room in his life for dating. Raising two kids and fighting with family after a tragic accident took his children’s mother, he doesn’t want more than an occasional hook-up. He sure as hell doesn’t want to fall hard for his favorite local singer, but when Christopher walks into his jewelry studio, Jesse hears a new song in his heart.

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Author Bio

Leta Blake
Author of the bestselling book Smoky Mountain Dreams and the fan favorite Training Season, Leta Blake’s educational and professional background is in psychology and finance, respectively. However, her passion has always been for writing. She enjoys crafting romance stories and exploring the psyches of made up people. At home in the Southern U.S., Leta works hard at achieving balance between her day job, her writing, and her family.

You can find out more about her by following her online:

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More From Leta

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  • Tonight I had my first experience of audio by listening to your book being read and I have to admit I enjoyed the reading and the part of the book that was read. I know I would like to read this book and maybe break down and by my first audio book. You may have created a monster here due to the way I live to read and find great books to read.


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