By Charlotte Bonner.
We are very happy to welcome Pepper Basham to The Reading Corner to discuss her upcoming release Authentically, Izzy, out November 15th!
Izzy Edgewood is a wannabee bookstore owner, quote queen, and Lord of the Rings nerd who has been waiting for Prince Charming to sweep her off her sneakered feet. But it’s hard to meet people when you spend more time with fictional humans than real ones. Which is why her pragmatist cousin Josephine decides to take Izzy’s future into her own meddling hands and create an online dating profile for the hopeful romantic.
To Izzy’s shock (and suspicion), Josie’s plan works. Soon, she’s dialoguing with a Hobbit-loving man named Brodie who lives in a small town an ocean away from her home in the Blue Ridge Mountains. But is their shared love of books, family, and correspondence enough to overcome Izzy’s fear of flying and the literal distance between them? And is a long-distance relationship even worth considering when a local author has been frequenting the library where she works and is proving to be a perfectly fine gentleman?
In this epistolary novel from award-winning author Pepper Basham, bookish dreams and happily-ever-afters collide to create a beautiful sort of magic that’s even better than fiction.
Hi Pepper! Thank you so much for your time! I absolutely adored Authentically, Izzy and I cannot wait for everyone to read it.
Before we start the interview, I would like to give you the space to introduce yourself to our readers.
Thank you SO much for reading and adoring Authentically, Izzy! It was such a fun book to write!
Hi everyone. I’m so glad to get a chance to virtually “meet” you. I’ve loved stories my whole life and am so grateful I get the chance to write them as one of my jobs. 😊 As a wife, mom of five, speech-language pathologist, and author, I wear a lot of hats, (both figuratively and in reality). I love wrapping deeper stories with humor, grace, and romance. I’m a native of the Blue Ridge Mountains on the Virginia/North Carolina border and adore the culture, history, and beauty of these mountains. My music and movie choices are pretty eclectic, and I play Minecraft for “brain breaks”. I ADORE spending time with my kids! They are some of the best people I know, and I am so grateful to have grown up in a very large (and crazy) Appalachian family.
You have such a unique writing style in Authentically, Izzy, with a majority of the book written through email correspondence between Izzy (the MC), Brodie (the love interest) and Izzy’s cousins. What inspired you to write in this style? Was it a planned style from the get-go, or something that came naturally later through your writing and editing?
Izzy started out through emails. I wasn’t really sure why at first. It just seemed to fit, but when I looked back on it after getting most of the story written, I realized that Izzy wouldn’t let me get inside her head any other way. We (as readers) had to meet her through her own words and relationships in this intimate view. I know the format isn’t for everyone, but once the story started, I just had such a fun time bringing the characters to life in this way.
Walk us through what a day-in-the-life of author Pepper Basham look like when you’re deep into the writing process. Do you have any rituals that help to get you motivated and stay focused?
Oh dear! I’m horrible with focus! LOL. I think it comes from learning how to write while having a herd of kids around me all the time. Since I work full-time as a speech-language pathologist, my writing is usually relegated to lunch breaks and evenings. Lots of times, I’ll daydream during free time during the day and then once I have actual writing time (around 7 or 8pm), I’ll write for 2-3 hours. I love fun stories and interesting characters, so that helps with keeping some focus…plus there are always deadlines to spur me on too 😊
A major theme in the book is Izzy’s (and Brodie’s) love for books and fictional characters, something I think many of us can relate to. In particular, Izzy is a massive Lord of the Rings fan, even naming her dog Samwise (which I loved!). Does this come from a personal love of the Lord of the Rings series? Were there any books or quotes you were most excited to include within Authentically, Izzy?
YES YES YES! My whole family loves Lord of the Rings. In fact, my daughter just brought a new puppy home, and his name is Tollers (after C.S. Lewis’s nickname for his buddy, J.R.R. Tolkien). Lord of the Rings has so many wonderful truths sprinkled throughout the trilogy, but also an amazing story world and some remarkable characters. For me, it feels sort of timeless.
A few of my favorite quotes from the trilogy are:
“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
“I am wise enough to know that there are some perils from which a man must flee.”
I loved ending with a kissing quote from Lord of the Rings, but, in truth, I just had a blast sprinkling in so many of my favorite books and quotes from years of reading. I hope others will feel connected to the story because of their love for books and find some familiar “book friends” along the way.
Following on from that, are there any books or authors that inspired you, whether quoted or not within the book, when writing Authentically, Izzy? Was there anything else that inspired you when writing and brainstorming this wonderful book?
I wrote this book during Covid and something that really impacted me was the idea of “identity.” Someone knowing who he or she truly is. Izzy has that struggle and when everything during Covid went to an online format, it became an interesting idea of how a person who hasn’t really known herself suddenly has the ability to meet someone through a somewhat anonymous online format, it changes things for her. As the story began to come alive, it just made sense that these two bookish people would speak bookish. Instead of “Speak friend and enter” as in The Fellowship of the Ring, they would “speak bookish and enter” into a relationship. It was such fun.
With that said, I had almost finished writing Izzy when I read Kerry Winfrey’s book, Very Sincerely Yours, and it was such a blast to see how she created her online communication between her characters. (Loved her characters, btw).
I love writing lighthearted stories, but I don’t want them just to be “lighthearted.” There’s nothing wrong with those stories at all, but, for me, I want a bit of substance between the fun, that’s why I love the gentle character growth we see in Izzy. I wonder how many of us experienced some of that while going through the last three years.
Are there any messages that you hope your readers will take away from Authentically, Izzy?
Well, it’s very important to me that my books not only entertain but leave the readers with a sense of hope. I think Izzy does that. The hope of being seen and loved as we truly are.
The live-action Cinderella movie quotes it wonderfully well: “This is perhaps the greatest risk that any of us will take. To be seen as we truly are”. And I think that Izzy learns who she is BECAUSE someone saw her as she truly was and loved her completely. Love changes everything, doesn’t it? How we see others and how we see ourselves.
You have written many books across historical and contemporary romance, with Authentically, Izzy being your latest. Do you have any more books planned, that you can share with us?
Oh yes! I’m so excited to share that Positively, Penelope (a second book after Authentically, Izzy) is coming out in August 2023! If you’ve met Penelope in Authentically, Izzy, you realize that this story is going to be quite the . . . um . . . imaginative tale. Instead of featuring books, as much, in Penelope we have the wonderful fun of featuring musicals. Btw, I just had a cover release for it and the cover is practically perfect in every way 😊
I have a historical romance (book 2) called The Cairo Curse coming in February 2023 and (book 3 of the same series) The Juliet Code coming in December 2023.
What books would you recommend for fans of Authentically, Izzy?
Oh, my goodness!! Let’s see, of my books:
If you like contemporary romance, I’d encourage you to read Just the Way You Are, Jane by the Book, or A Twist of Faith. For historical, I’d recommend The Mistletoe Countess.
As far as other authors with a similar “feel”, probably something by Bethany Turner or Melissa Ferguson.
And lastly, where can readers get ahold of your book?
Authentically, Izzy is available wherever books are sold. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Baker Book House, etc.
Pepper Basham is an award-winning author who writes romance “peppered” with grace and humor. Writing both historical and contemporary novels, she loves to incorporate her native Appalachian culture and/or her unabashed adoration of the UK into her stories. She currently resides in the lovely mountains of Asheville, NC where she is the wife of a fantastic pastor, mom of five great kids, a speech-language pathologist, and a lover of chocolate, jazz, hats, and Jesus. Her newest novel is The Mistletoe Countess, a historical romantic romp with a dash of mystery and a bunch of humor too. You can learn more about Pepper and her books on her website at www.pepperdbasham.com.
Pepper’s Instagram: @pepperbasham
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