Interview (and giveaway!) with LFY in Hershey, Pennsylvania author, Cerella D. Sechrit

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Today I am super excited to be hosting an interview with a debut author, Cerella D. Sechrist and her book, Love Finds You in Hershey, Pennsylvania, which sounds absolutely YUMMY! Hi, Cerella! Welcome to my blog, Book Reviews by Buuklvr81, where I LOVE to spread the word of wonderful reading and books like yours! I’m excited to have your here today! Let’s start off with some questions about your new LFY book from Summerside Press.

BL:Tell us a bit about this new book, LFY in Hershey, PA (which BTW is a FABULOUSLY FATTENING place that I LOVE to go to!).

LOL! To minimize the guilt, I prefer to call it the “sweetest place on earth.” Otherwise, it’s like calling a cruise ship a ‘floating buffet’. (Neither one is a lie, but it’s all in the marketing!) It’s the most delightful little town, though, isn’t it? =)

Love Finds You in Hershey is about Sadie, a single mom and restaurateur in the town of Hershey. She’s experienced a lot of hard knocks already in her twenty-nine years (her husband died in a car accident when their daughter was only several months old; her mother died of cancer a couple of years later; her cooking show was canceled; etc.) So she’s hoping that the worst is behind her, and she can look forward to the sweet side of life. She has her best friend, Jasper, who helps her take care of her daughter, and she’s pretty content with this stage of her life and career.

But then this mysterious Russian entrepreneur shows up in town with plans to open a competing restaurant next door to her own. As if this isn’t stressful enough, it turns out Dmitri is really talented at the one skill Sadie lacks: creating desserts.

Then throw in her absentee father’s unexpected return in the hopes of mending their broken relationship and Jasper’s sudden realization that he wants MORE out of his relationship with her, and it’s a recipe for disaster.

It’s a story layered with comedy, redemption, romance, Russians, and oh yes…chocolate. =)

BL:Is this the first book that you have written? How long did it take you to write this story?

This isn’t the first book I’ve written (more like the fifth), but this is the first one I’ve had published. =)

It’s hard for me to judge how long it took to write it – the writing isn’t what takes the most time for me. It’s the plotting, the research, the editing and polishing, etc. that take up most of the process. It probably took about a year, with all things considered. I wrote the actual manuscript in two separate spurts. I started it, got halfway through and then became bogged down in the middle (the hardest part of writing – when the newness has worn off, and the end is nowhere in sight.) I stepped away from it for a bit and worked on some other projects, then came back and finished it up several months later. The risk when you take a break like that is that you won’t actually come back and finish it, so I don’t often recommend taking that tack. Fortunately, unfinished projects bother me, so I just had to come back and wrap it up.

BL; You told me that you live close to Hershey. Did you spend a lot of time there doing research? Was it hard to do the research there when you were surrounded by such fabulous stuff such as the chocolate? Did you get to do a lot of taste testing?

I did spend some time in Hershey – it’s less than an hour from where I live in southern Pennsylvania, so it was fortunately easily accessible. Hershey is such a charming town – it’s actually rather small, but there’s still so much to see and do. It has lots of tourist offerings (Hersheypark, Chocolate World, the Hershey Story Museum, etc.) but there are so many other things there (Hershey Gardens, the Hershey Theatre, ZooAmerica) as well. It manages to balance the tourism with small-town charm, making it an absolutely ‘sweet’ place.

It wasn’t hard to be surrounded by the chocolate because that’s so much of what Hershey is known for! The hardest part is when you’re driving through the streets and smelling that mouth-watering cocoa scent wafting from the factories. I don’t know how I’d do it if I drove down Chocolate Avenue every day. LOL!

I did my fair share of chocolate taste-testing, all in the name of research, I assure you. =) The only thing I haven’t gotten to do yet is the Origins Chocolate Tasting at Café Zooka, part of the Hershey Story Museum. They have an offering of chocolates you can try from six different regions worldwide. That’s at the top of my ‘to do’ list the next time I’m in town.

BL: What was the best part about writing this book?

Other than the chocolate? LOL! Just kidding! I think it was watching my main character, Sadie, make her transformations. Characters so often become like your children, so every time she had a success and learned a little something from her mistakes, I was so proud.

In addition to that, it was probably the laughter. It’s a good feeling when I would hand a chapter to one of my proofreaders and get to linger in the room as they read. They’d burst out laughing at different scenes, and it was such a heartwarming feeling – even better than sipping hot chocolate on a chilly, winter’s day.

BL: Are any of the characters based on actual people or the events based on actual events in your life?

No, not exactly. But an author draws most often from their own emotions and experiences. A lot of what Sadie feels, I have felt – her drive to succeed, to be better at something, to want the things she’s not meant to have. I know that feeling, so I could write her perspective from my own experience in that regard.

There are several humorous incidences (particularly with the bathroom!) involving her daughter, Kylie – none of those are actual events, but my family has experienced our own share of comedic bathroom moments. So I’m sure that helped my imagination run amok with some of what Kylie does to cause her mother grief.

It would be terrific if Jasper or Dmitri were real. I’d be married to one of them, if they were. LOL!

BL:Are there more books like this for your readers in the future or are you working on something new?

My agent is shopping around a contemporary series I’ve started about three sisters. It’s different from Love Finds You in Hershey in that it has some more serious issues at play. It doesn’t have quite as much comedy, but it’s still quirky and has a few laugh-out-loud moments. And the characters are every bit as relatable as Sadie is.

I think it’s something you’ll recognize as coming from the same author but not like reading Sadie’s story all over again.

I started out writing historical novels, so at some point, I’d love to go back to that as well. Hopefully, you’ll continue to see stories that make you laugh and cry as well as me mixing it up with something different on occasion.

BL:Are there any messages in this book that you want your readers to walk away with?

First of all, I would simply love it if readers walk away with a smile. If it makes you laugh and feel a little bit lighter then it has served the purpose of its telling. Life is bittersweet, just like chocolate. I hope you can laugh and cry and learn to balance the sweet with the sour.

Secondly, I hope it teaches readers what it taught me in writing the story – that I’m not going to be perfect at everything. And that is okay. My life still has value and meaning, even without being the best at all I touch. Who we are matters, and no one is perfect, no matter how it may seem. I will mess up, but that doesn’t mean I’m messed up. Grace steps in just when you’re at your lowest. That’s why it’s grace.

BL: Now, tell us a bit about you. What are some things that you like to do when you aren’t writing?

Obviously, I love to read when I’m not writing! I enjoy historical sagas and chick lit as well as young adult novels and classics.

When given the opportunity, I like to play Guitar Hero and Rock Band – especially if I can be the one doing the singing since I’m not that great on the guitar or drums. LOL

I love meeting friends for coffee and spending hours browsing in bookstores. I’m a bit of a nerd – I love museums and galleries, and I’m always up for visiting somewhere that has historical significance.

BL: What are some of your favorite books and movies?

I love history, so historical books and movies are always winners. Some of my favorite historical films are: The Last of the Mohicans, The Patriot, The New World, King Arthur, etc.

For historical novels, I enjoy Francine Rivers, Margaret George, Diana Gabaldon, and I’m currently reading Nancy Moser’s Ladies of History series!

I also enjoy the classics, especially Edith Wharton, Louisia May Alcott and Jane Austen.

And let’s not forget classic, 40s and 50s movies – I LOVE those!!! (As you can probably tell by a couple of the scenes between Dmitri and Sadie in Love Finds You in Hershey!)

BL: What is your favorite food and drink? Let me guess….chocolate and chocolate shake???? =) (That would be my favorite food living so close to Hershey! LOL)

I DO love chocolate shakes! Good call! LOL! I have a love affair with food, so it’s hard to narrow it down to a favorite. Carbohydrates are ALWAYS winners – pizza, pastas, breads. (Not that my waistline thanks me for this, but I love carbs nonetheless!)

When it comes to desserts, I love cake. Any cake. When Marie Antoinette said, “Let them eat cake”, she must have had me in mind.

As for my favorite drink, it would have to be coffee. I am totally addicted. =)

BL: Any final thoughts for us???

If you’ve read Love Finds You in Hershey, feel free to drop me a line on the Contact page of my website: www.cerelladsechrist.com

I try to keep lots of fun stuff on there so when you’re finished with the book, you can also check out recipes, a recommended soundtrack, Sadie’s blog, a photo gallery and lots more!

If you’d like to continue learning more about me, personally, check out my website and blog at www.thecerellalife.com

Thanks so much for featuring me here! =)

Thank you so much, Cerella, for the awesome interview!!! I hope that you will stop by again in the future and keep us posted about your future works!!!

The Giveaway:
Cerella has graciously offered to sign a copy of her book Love Finds You in Hershey, Pennsylvania and pass it along to one lucky winner! All you have to do is leave a comment on this post telling me what your favorite candy is! All entries MUST include some way to contact you, if you are the lucky winner! (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, EMAIL)

Giveaway will end on Monday, February 22nd at 6pm!
*Be sure and stay tuned for my review, coming tomorrow with a bonus entry into the giveaway!*

15 February, 2010
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