Don't you love when you stumble upon a book that you can't put down? I just finished such a book - Sweet Life by Mia King. With rich characters, an intriguing plot and an unforgettable message, this book is going down on my favorites list.
The book's tag line sums it up best: "What if you got away from it all—and then it all got away from you?"
The main character, Marissa, is someone you come to love quickly. All of her quirks and vulnerabilities are exposed along with her strengths and good qualities. King does an impressive job of creating a well-rounded heroine.
As she follows her husband Paul from New York to his new job in Hawaii, (with daughter Pansy in tow), life begins to unravel. Instead of finding paradise, she loses her marriage...and herself.
King, however, takes us on an entertaining ride as we watch Marissa find herself once again, as well as what defines her and makes her truly happy.
One aspect I loved the most is that King, like me, is a homeschooling mom and weaves her experience seamlessly into the plot. Stereotypes are quietly exposed and explained away, much to my delight.
I also loved the setting...the beautiful state of Hawaii. I learned a lot about Hawaiian traditions, foods and more. As a bonus, recipes to many of the dishes talked about in the story can be found in the back of the book.
Check out this enticing promotional video and see if you can't wait to read it as much as I wanted to:
Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Mia King and I think her answers will give you good insight into the making of Sweet Life:
1. Did the story of Marissa and Paul come to you through experience, or did you do research into the issue of a strained marriage? If the latter, how did you go about that?
The story of Marissa and Paul came to me as a result of moving to the Big Island. I noticed in the eight years that I've lived here that the island has a way of pushing you to look at your issues, ready or not. Many marriages and relationships get tested here.
For some reason living on the mainland seems to buy you extra time -- you can maintain status quo for a while. But if you move to the Big Island, look out -- if there is anything simmering under the surface of your marriage, well, it's going to come out.
Living here has definitely strengthened my own marriage, and for that I am forever grateful, but Pele and the island definitely make you work for it! ;-)
2. How does being a homeschooling mother influence your plot, if at all?
As a homeschooling parent, I struggled with finding my own definition of homeschooling and then defending it to friends and family who couldn't understand why I was homeschooling. By including it in my novels, I like to think that I'm mainstreaming the concept for more people, along with the truth that ANYBODY can homeschool. I would never had dreamed I would be homeschooling, but here I am, and I love it.
3. How do you find the time to craft such a brilliant novel while homeschooling?!
The ultimate compliment! My daughter is 7 1/2 and very smart, which helps, and my other two are still pre-K (well, one's less than 3 months so he's pre-pre-K!). I just write when I can, and work homeschool around my schedule as a family.
We're unconventional in that we have our own business as well and work weekends, so homeschooling gives us the freedom to spend time together and fit other things in. But some days I feel like I can't get anything done - homeschooling or writing, much less laundry or cleaning the bathroom - and I just try to give myself a break on those days.
4. Did you use to live in New York like your character Marissa? If so, what caused you to move to Hawaii?
I've been to New York a lot but never lived there. I did a lot of schooling on the East Coast, though, and wanted a character that would really experience a culture shock in moving to Hawaii. I've been fortunate enough to live in a lot of places so the move to Hawaii wasn't a big deal for me.
My husband and I were living in California before and came out on vacation when I was 5 months pregnant. We felt "the call" to come here, so we sold everything and did, two months later. We gave up our corporate jobs and my husband started a golf school, The Spirit of Golf Academy (www.spiritofgolfhawaii.com) and we both started writing. We've never had island fever and love being here, though we do miss family.
5. I love the painfully honest journey we get to take through Marissa's character, especially when she admits to faults such as looking down on the barista and the "hippy mom." What goes into defining your characters and their traits? Do you draw from experience, watch others, or something else?
The secondary characters and relationships are just as important to me as the primary ones. I love relationships and friendships that are borne from the unlikeliest of circumstances, and among the unlikeliest of people. People that Marissa never thought she'd become friends with, and yet they're the ones that help her deepen with herself and become a more authentic person.
I've had that happen in my own life, too: a woman who really bugged me moved next door to me and for three years I tried to move away, but couldn't! In the end, she became one of my dearest friends, and remains that way today.
6. What lessons/insights do you want your readers to come away with most after reading "Sweet Life?"
That life sometimes has greater things in store for us that we may not be able to see at first, and that it's never too late to change or uplevel your life.
You can probably see why I'm also adding Mia King to my favorite authors list!
And Mia is offering a SWEET giveaway to readers here! Check out this glorious gift basket which one lucky winner will receive:
The basket is filled with goodies:
- ~one small gold box of Chocolate Dipped Original Shortbread Cookies
- ~one gold box of Kohala Brownie Assortment
- ~one petite box of Hawaiian Macadamia Nut Rocky Road
- ~one petite box of Combination (Dark and Milk) Chocolate Covered Macadamia Nuts
- ~three Dark Chocolate Dipped Original Shortbread cookies
- ~one Original Biscotti with Milk Chocolate waves
- ~one Original Biscotti with Dark Chocolate Waves
- ~one signed copy of GOOD THINGS
- ~one signed copy of SWEET LIFE
- ~an assortment of temporary hibiscus tattoos, tropical key chains, monogrammed GOOD THINGS and SWEET LIFE pens, and bookmarks
And since Mia and I have homeschooling in common, she offered to throw in extra homeschool-related goodies. In addition to the basket, the winner will receive a Hawaiian studies workbook and stickers!
To enter, simply leave a comment here letting me know which part of the interview interested you most and why (for example, "I love that Mia homeschools"). For a bonus entry, blog about this contest on your site with a link to this post, as well as to Mia's site. Then leave a separate comment here with your link so I can put you down for another entry.
Deadline to enter is 11:59 EST, Saturday, September 20. U.S. residents only, please. Further disclaimers as follows:
- 1. Must be 18 or older to participate.
- 2. Any prize or prize notification returned to Mia or Big Island Candies as undeliverable will result in the awarding of that prize to an alternate winner.
- 3. No purchase is necessary to win.
- 4. The gift baskets, books and promotional items are given in-kind and have no cash value.
- 5. Basket contents and style may vary slightly depending on availability.
- 6. This give-away contest is offered in good faith and in the spirit of fun and aloha. Mia King, miaking.com, Big Island Candies and Penguin Group USA, Inc. and So a Blonde Walks Into a Review assume no liability for damages associated with the gift basket or contents contained herein.
Good luck and happy reading!