Center of Gravity
by Laura McNeill
ROOM WITH BOOKS encourages our readers to follow the tour and comment.
Her whole life, Ava Carson has been sure of one thing: she doesn’t measure up to her mother’s expectations. So when Mitchell Carson sweeps into her life with his adorable son, the ready-made family seems like a dream come true.
In the blink of an eye, she’s married, has a new baby, and life is grand.
Or is it?
When her picture-perfect marriage begins unraveling at the seams, Ava convinces herself she can fix it. It’s temporary. It’s the stress. It’s Mitchell’s tragic history of loss.
If only Ava could believe her own excuses.
Mitchell is no longer the charming, thoughtful man she married. He grows more controlling by the day, revealing a violent jealous streak. His behavior is recklessly erratic, and the unanswered questions about his past now hint at something far more sinister than Ava can stomach. Before she can fit the pieces together, Mitchell files for divorce and demands full custody of their boys.
Fueled by fierce love for her children and aided by Graham Thomas, a new attorney in town —Ava takes matters into her own hands, digging deep into the past. But will finding the truth be enough to beat Mitchell at his own game?
Center of Gravity weaves a chilling tale, revealing the unfailing and dangerous truth that things—and people—are not always what they seem.
The road rushes under the wheels. I rearrange snippets of the frantic conversation. Gash. Some blood. Breathing fine. Emergency room. A few more miles to the hospital.
I flash back to this morning. Packed sack lunch, flop of dark hair across his bare forehead, navy backpack slung over one shoulder. A surge of pure love courses through my heart. A stab of worry steals my breath. I force myself to focus.
The traffic light ahead flashes green to yellow. Intersection’s clear. I push the accelerator to the floor, glance in the rearview mirror. Air from the open window catches Sam’s wisps of hair. He smiles, showing off his first few baby teeth, and reaches a chubby hand at the rays of sunshine streaking by, trying to catch the light.
Thump. Thump. The Jeep jerks to the left. I guide the wheel, hold it steady, and take my foot off the gas. When I pull over and brake, the abrupt stop sends up a dust cloud.
“Uh-oh,” Sam says.
I unbuckle, jump out, and survey the damage. A glance at the tire confirms it. Flat. Dead.
Hands on my hips, I bite my lip.
Tentatively, I grab the jack from the back of the Jeep, the weight of it solid and heavy in my hands. I can fix this. After all, in my former life, as a school counselor at Mobile Prep, I was the problem-solver, crisis manager, and shoulder to cry on. I always handled situations. And I didn’t need help.
Then my eyes fall on Sam as he babbles and blows bubbles in the back seat. I hesitate, gripping the metal between my palms. As the sun beats down on us, heating my skin, my pulse begins to race. Maybe I was fearless because I didn’t know any better. I wasn’t a mom then. I didn’t have two children depending on me. Trusting me to do the right thing, be on time, and not screw up.
Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing Laura McNeill author of Center of Gravity.
Hi Laura, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Please tell us a little about yourself and your background. What were you like at school?
English was always my favorite subject, followed by art class. I’ve always loved reading and looked forward to analyzing everything from Shakespeare to William Faulkner. I played sports (field hockey, soccer, softball) and was also a basketball cheerleader. At home, I learned to cook and sew with my mom and spent time with my father sailing and flying.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I’m so excited to share Center of Gravity with everyone. The manuscript had been written for a while, and went through many revisions to get to its present storyline. I look at the novel as the launching off point for the next phase of my career – that as a domestic suspense author. My second domestic suspense novel, Sister Dear, comes out in April 2016.
I started out in the business under the pen name Lauren Clark and was discovered by my agent through the second book I published on Amazon (Dancing Naked in Dixie). In all, I wrote 4 books—all in the humorous Southern fiction genre—and one short story under Lauren Clark.
Which writers inspire you?
I really admire Sue Monk Kidd, Joshilyn Jackson, Anita Hughes, and Pam Jenoff.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does she do that is special?
Ava Carson, my heroine, really morphs from innocent newlywed to an intuitive and mature woman. The trigger that changes her–and her life—is a tragedy involving her children. When she realizes the full impact of her husband’s betrayal, she digs deep within herself to find the strength to try and save her boys.
What are you currently working on?
I am working on the final revisions to Sister Dear, a story set in Brunswick, Georgia near St. Simons Island. Sister Dear involves a woman who goes to prison for a crime she doesn’t commit, only to discover that the person who holds the key to her freedom is someone very close to her. She must do some intense detective work to piece together the clues, which leads to a very intense show-down at the end! Think Orange is the New Black meets White Oleander (Janet Fitch – awesome novel!).
Which actors/actresses would you like to see playing the lead characters from Center of Gravity?
Ava – Jessica Chastain
Mitchell Carson – Christian Bale
Graham Thomas – Chris Pratt
What made you decide to sit down and actually start writing?
I had just finished up a 6 year career in TV news reporting and anchoring! My head was FULL of ideas!
Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
I’m definitely a morning person. I like to get up, make coffee, and write first thing, before I check email or social media. There’s something special about the solace and quiet of the morning, before all of life’s other distractions kick in and take over!
Where do your ideas come from?
A variety of places. Some are real-life experiences from friends or family, others are what-if questions, like Sister Dear (What if a woman went to prison for a crime she didn’t commit?)
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
I’m definitely a plotter. The more detailed the better.
What is the hardest thing about writing?
I think it’s in the details. Getting the ending just right. Making the characters likeable, yet flawed. Coming up with a few twists. Giving the reader a worthwhile read. Those are all of the things I strive for … and worry about!
Do you read much and who are your favorite authors?
I read a lot! Right now, I am reading Pam Jenoff, Jennifer Wiener, Kristin Hannah, and Mary Kubica.
For your own reading, do you prefer eBooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
I have a library of lovely hardback books, but my go-to is Audible books or e-books on my iPhone. I’m on the go all of the time, so it helps to always have a book at my fingertips!
What books are you reading at present?
The Nightingale (Kristin Hannah). Pretty Baby (Mary Kubica). Maybe Someday (Colleen Hoover).
Tell us about the cover and how it came about.
We were really looking for an attention-grabbing cover, one that was different and set it apart from many of the novels out today. We went through almost a dozen versions of the cover, and finally tweaked it enough to settle on the Center of Gravity cover you are looking at today. I think that the unraveling rope/wire captures the tension of Ava’s marriage unraveling.
Who designed your book cover?
A wonderful designer at Thomas Nelson/HarperCollins!
Do you have a trailer for Center of Gravity?
I don’t, but I really love book trailers…maybe I’ll have one done for Sister Dear.
Do you think that giving books away free works?
I think free books can work, especially if it is a short story, novella, or the first book in a series of 3-6 books. It’s completely up to the author, but it can be a way of gaining new readers. The free content, however, has to be quality content, or readers won’t bother to pick up the rest of the series or other books that an author has written.
How do you relax?
I love to read for relaxation (unless it’s a thriller). I’m also a yoga fan and love being outdoors and spending time with my friends.
What is your favorite quote?
Read a lot. Write a lot. – Stephen King
What is your favorite movie?
The Shawshank Redemption
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Any final words?
I appreciate my readers so much. I’ve met so many fabulous people over the past few years and am grateful for all of the connections and friendships I’ve made. Getting a note from a reader or a mention on Facebook absolutely makes my day!
Thank you very much for taking joining us for this interview.
After six years behind the anchor desk at two CBS affiliates, Laura moved to the Alabama Gulf Coast to raise her family. Her accolades in broadcasting include awards from the Associated Press, including Best News Anchor and Best Specialized Reporter.
Laura works at Spring Hill College as the school’s web content and social media manager and is active in her community—participating in fundraisers for the American Cancer Society, Ronald McDonald House, and Providence Hospital’s Festival of Flowers.
Laura was recently awarded a 2-book deal with Thomas Nelson Publishing, a division of HarperCollins. Her novel, Center of Gravity, set in Mobile, Ala., will be published in July of 2015. Laura is represented by Elizabeth Winick Rubenstein, president of McIntosh and Otis literary agency in New York. Her writing awards include those from William Faulkner-Wisdom Creative Writing Competition, Writer’s Digest, RWA, and the Eric Hoffer competition.
She holds a master’s degree in journalism from The Ohio State University and a bachelor’s degree in English from Clarion University of Pennsylvania. She is currently pursuing a second master’s degree in interactive technology from the University of Alabama. She is a native of Upstate New York and currently resides near the Alabama Gulf Coast with her two children.
Author’s Website: http://lauramcneill.com/
Author’s Blog: http://lauramcneill.com/layouts/blog/
Laura McNeill will be awarding a $20 Amazon/B&N gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour.