Sunday, August 3, 2008

Surprise packages

Today I have the privilege of visiting with three amazing ladies. Nancy Anderson, Lael J. Littke, and Carroll H. Morris are the authors of Surprise Packages, the third volume of their series The Company of Good Women. What's so amazing is these women live in three different states, yet they have been able to come together to write a great series that is both inspiring and uplifting. Every woman will come away from this series touched in some way, and Surprise Packages is a great conclusion to a series about three women living completely different lives, yet they remain the best of friends, seeing each other through both good and bad times.

The Book
Fifteen years after meeting at Education Week at Brigham Young University, the friends face new challenges. Deenie, now living in Gainesville, Florida, begins to question everything she has believed about herself as she sees her actions through others' eyes. Juneau's feelings of guilt come to a head when a secret from her childhood and the mystery of her great-grandmother, Letitia, combine to force her to confront her past. And Erin, whose painful divorce has made her cynical about love and marriage, must decide if she can take a risk when she has a second chance for love.

Staying in touch through phone calls, e-mails, and periodic vacations together, the friends offer one another support, sometimes in the form of blunt feedback. But as they anticipate reaching their goal to become Crusty Old Broads, life takes a turn that puts their twenty-five-year pact in doubt.

I really loved this series because each of these three women is someone we can all relate to and the story proves that there is no trial we can't overcome, and true friendship lasts forever.

Ladies, thanks so much for visiting with me today. and by the way, you beautiful women are an inspiration to me.
Now Surprise Packages is the last in your trilogy, The Company of Good Women. Tell me what makes your trilogy unique.

Lael: Well, it’s the story of three women in three different parts of the country and their quest to become Crusty Old Broads—written by three women from three different parts of the country who are self-professed Crusty Old Broads! Through the story, we try to offer a realistic—but hopeful—view of the issues faced by LDS families.

You ladies aren't crusty, just seasoned, and you're not old, just mature:o) Where are you ladies from?

Lael: I'm from Pasadena, CA, Nancy is from Sandy, UT, and Carroll lives in Green Valley, AZ.

How did you come up with the idea of writing together?

Lael: We were vacationing together in Moab, Utah, when Nancy said, “Why don’t we write a book together?” We sat down right then and brainstormed about what we wanted the themes of our novel to be. We still have the notes that Carroll wrote in aqua ink!

What experiences did you ladies have that made a novel a feasible project?

Carroll: I am the author of several fiction and non-fiction books published by Deseret Book. Lael has over forty YA books (Deseret Book and national publishers) to her credit. Nancy, though at the time unpublished, had been working on some book ideas.

Wow, you ladies have been busy. How long did it take until the first book came out?

Nancy: We got the idea in 1998 while on vacation in Moab. We wrote “at it” for several years—we finally got serious when Deseret Book expressed interest in what we were doing. The first book in the series, Almost Sisters, was released in July of 2006, about eight years after we first got the idea.

Well, the wait was definitely worth it. So, what were the biggest challenges you faced as co-authors?

Nancy: 1. Merging files and making corrections. On the first book, Lael was the manuscript master. For the last two, Carroll took on that job.

2. Literary liposuction. The story of each character—told completely—would have filled its own book. So cutting the text without gutting the story was a challenge.

Lael: 3. Writing the third book of the series. We knew where we were going in the first two books, but none of us had written ahead in book three. We had only general ideas about where it would go.

Carroll: 4. Making the series add up to something. We wanted our readers to finish the series feeling that they’d been changed by the time spent with Deenie, Juneau and Erin. We hope they will periodically read the series over, like visiting old friends.

I know I will. What is your personal favorite part of Surprise Packages?

Lael: Gradually bringing Juneau and her husband, Greg, closer so that eventually they “speak the same language.”

Carroll: The romance between Erin and Vince Gerlach. Much of the Erin material is quite serious and dramatic, but the romance was fun to write.

Nancy: Deenie discovering that being a Mormon woman raised in Utah doesn’t make her better than other people. She learns a lot about herself and other as she sees life with this new self-awareness.

How did you come up with the title Surprise Packages?

Lael: That comes from a talk the three of us heard when we were vacationing in Sedona. The speaker said that when we make a decision, we’re wrapping up a package that we open in our future. In book three of the series, the three women open the packages created by the decisions they—and others—made in books one and two.

Are the characters and events in the novel based on someone you know or events in your own life?

Lael: Many incidents are loosely based on my own or a friend's experiences, but I changed them to suit my purposes.

Carroll: As authors, we throw everything we’ve experienced, heard about, read about, wondered about, and imagined, into the great stew pot in the back of our minds. As it bubbles away, all those elements emerge in a new form—fiction that’s as real as life itself.

Nancy: It’s true that we start with what we know or know about, but then the characters take over. Some plot lines are the result of our characters refusing to go where we want them to!

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Carroll: That no matter what situation a person is in any moment, the story isn’t over yet. Never, never, never give up—on others or on yourself!

Are there any similarities between you three and the three characters in the novel?

Nancy: There are some superficial similarities. For instance, Carroll and I (actual sisters) met Lael at a Women’s Conference. Deenie, Juneau, and Erin meet at Education Week. We have vacationed together every year since then and we drew on our experiences to describe the vacations the characters go on together.

Carroll: Nancy actually appliqued denim jackets for Lael and I. We wore the jackets when we were on vacation in Moab—and we did stop traffic, just like the characters in the book!

It sounds like you three have vacationed together a lot. What’s your favorite vacation spot?

Lael: Our favorite place is Carlsbad, CA, but Moab, Utah, and Sedona, Arizona, are right behind.

Do you three have a new project in the works?

We have an idea for a book that will have the same format as the series—we’ll each write from the viewpoint of a character. It’s a stand-alone novel set in Powell, Wyoming, during World War II. But it is on the back burner while we’re working individual projects.

I'm definitely looking forward to your future books. Thanks so much for visiting with me today. it's been fun.

Surprise Packages, as well as the first two novels in The Company of Good Women series can be purchased at your local bookstore or on You can also visit the authors by logging on to their website at

(After the interview) - These remarks are strictly off the record.

Nancy: Jewel, we're so glad to be here. You're so awesome, we had to make sure we were interviewed by you!

Carroll: Yeah, we told our PR guy he had to stay on the phone until he got through to you. I mean, you're the best!

Lael: Yeah, we are your biggest fans!

Oh, you ladies are so nice. Here's an autographed photo of me for each of you.

Nancy, Carroll, Lael: Wow, thank you so much!

You're very welcome.

Log on to and order your copy of my new YA fantasy The Journey!


Tristi Pinkston said...

I didn't know you gave out autographed pictures, Jewel! I want one!

This is a great review and interview, even if I somewhat doubt the authenticity of that last little bit . . . :)

Jewel's Gems said...

Now how could you doubt my popularity? It's all true, even if only in my own mind:o)

Tristi Pinkston said...

I don't doubt your popularity! :)

Hey, do you have a word count for me from the July BIAM?

Jewel's Gems said...

Sadly, I only wrote about 2000 words. Too much going on:o)

Carroll said...

Jewel, thanks bunches for taking the time to say nice things about Lael, Nancy and me. And our trilogy.

Re: the off the record part: You are the best! But who (where?) is our "PR guy!" I'd love to give him a To-Do list!