June 26, 2017

A romantic adventure awaits in this debut {Book Review & Interview}




This novel has all the makings of a classic romantic comedy. Fiery chemistry, laugh out loud endearing moments between the leads—and so very much heart within every chapter.
The "opposites attract" trope is utilized in a refreshing way with Tyler and Allegra because on paper, they don't work. What is unique in how Ms. Dawn spun their love story was that they in actuality needed time apart to continue their growth, before they got back together in what I can only say was a very agonizingly stressful few chapters for this reader! There was such realness in this romance, between Tyler and Allegra. Neither of them had to settle or completely change their personality to be with the other person. Instead, they grew together into complementing each other in a bright and lovely way. A way that, I hope someday, I can do with a special guy of my own. A takeaway upon finishing a book that I am endlessly grateful for: wait for the one who sees the best in you, and challenges you with grace, just like Tyler and Allegra did.

AMAZON | GOODREADS
ABOUT THE BOOK: Allegra Spencer has been living a careful life. Her safe job as an accountant is bookended by going to church and the gym. Okay, sometimes the gym. Fine. She goes to church. And the coffee shop. She avoids risk at all cost, preferring to stay safe in her cozy condo. Until her accounting firm goes belly up and she's out of a job. 


Tyler Hawk had a glorious career as a star NFL tight end. He retired on a high note and now lives a second dream of owning his own business and leading others on extreme outdoor adventures. But he needs help with his books—and his heart. When Allegra takes the job, sparks fly. 


It’s a case of safety zone versus danger zone, and in their minds, never the two shall meet.

***
Mikal, I am so glad you’re here—though I wish it were in person to get one of your legendary hugs, my friend! Thank you for stopping by to share all about your story and the journey it took to get to here. 

Mikal: I adore you and miss you like mad!!! Thank you so much for having me. This is surreal and crazy and wonderful, and so like our Lord. ❤ 


So we know this adventuring rom-com is your debut. Tell us a little about yourself and how you first started writing.


Mikal: Well sure! It was a cold, wintry night when I was born—oh. That’s not what you all want to know. Huh.

I grew up wanting to be a ballerina, astronaut, lawyer, missionary…and writer. My friends would probably say I achieved astronaut early on—I’m always spaced out. HA! But writing, that was my first love all along. I was one of those nerds who loved writing papers in school—even if I did leave them until the last minute. I wrote lots of “books” growing up, and went through a poetry period in high school and the first year of college. My mum and husband encouraged me for years to write before I really started taking it seriously a couple of years ago. And lo and behold… 

What, way back when, sparked the idea for Count Me In? And did it have a former title, different character names?


Mikal: So, believe it or not, the idea came from a course through ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers). The exercise was to write a sentence for each part of a story (inciting incident, black moment, denouement, etc.). When I’m not given much time, I can just write and the story comes out. Catch Me (the original title), with Tyler and Olivia (whose name changed to Allegra), was born out of that.


Give us a glimpse into your process from that earliest draft, to following God’s lead to indie-publishing.


Mikal: You mean I’m supposed to have a process?!?! Whoops. 😉 

I started writing Count Me In last year during that class. It wasn’t until another person who was in that same class emailed me and said she’d read that story if I wrote it. But I was fighting God on that.
I was in the middle of writing a contemporary romance with some pretty serious issues in it. I wanted (still want) to write it, but I was struggling. I started thinking of that class and what the other writer had said to me, and thought it might be fun to make it comedic. But I didn’t want to write “fluff.” I wanted to be taken seriously, to move people, have them see God in my work, and maybe do some healing of their own. But yeah. The struggle. 
I went to a brainstorming session with some author friends in town one afternoon and told them of my struggle. One of them, Jennifer Slattery, told me she would rather give her mum-in-law, who was battling cancer, a lift-me-up, lighthearted book than a deep, raw story to read during her chemo treatments, that there was a place for lighthearted books. That conversation gave me the courage to go for it.
Last summer, I was blessed by a bunch of friends and strangers to attend the ACFW conference in Nashville. In order to get some editor appointments, though, I needed a finished manuscript. So I worked hard to get it done, and wrote The End with only a week to spare. Talk about cutting it close! Anyway, I met with an agent and two editors, all of whom asked me to send the manuscript to them. When I got home, I was conflicted about sending it to them. I started praying, talked with my husband numerous times, and called my mum to seek her wisdom. About a month later, I realized that the thought of indie publishing brought me complete peace. I don’t know that either road would have been wrong in the Lord’s eyes—probably either would have been okay and good—but taking the indie road, while difficult and a lot of work, allows me to write the stories God lays on my heart in the time I need (because husband, kids in all the sports, older kid, work, and a chronic health issue all keep me busy).
I am truly blessed. And excited!


Easiest/best part of writing a novel, and the hardest? Go!

Mikal: The easiest and best part is that writing is NOT a solitary career!!! I thought it was, but much to my introverted chagrin, it truly isn’t. The friendships I’ve made and the fitting in has done my heart a world of good, especially being so far away from family and friends (in person). 

The hardest part? That proverbial sagging middle!! I get to the middle and stall. I’m so thankful for critique and brainstorming partners who help! Not to mention an excellent editor. She’s the bomb.

What’s one of the biggest lessons you took away from writing Allegra and Tyler’s story?


Mikal: I wrote this story not really thinking of overcoming fear with God as a theme, but there it is. I struggle with anxiety, and it was amazing how the lessons Tyler and Allegra learned were lessons I keep needing to learn (and relearn). Stepping outside my comfort zone and relying on God was the biggest lesson. And guess what? I’m publishing a book! ←That would be outside my comfort zone.


And now, what’s one of the biggest lessons, and biggest blessings, you took away from publishing this heart story?


Mikal: Honestly? The biggest lesson and the biggest blessing both collide. The lesson? Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. For years, I’ve been honored and thrilled to support authors, giving them shout-outs on social media, sharing about their books, and just being excited for them. The biggest blessing? They’re now doing just that for me. ME. They don’t have to, but they do it because we’ve formed friendships. 

They’re a blessing to me, though, not because they’re sharing about Count Me In, but because they’re genuinely loving, sweet, compassionate, beautiful friends. Just like you. ❤


Thank you so much for having me, Meghan!! And I promise, my editor and critique partners toned down the italics in the book, so there aren’t as many there as there are here.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mikal Dawn is an inspirational romance author, wedding enthusiast, and proud military wife. By day, she works as an administrative assistant for an international ministry organization, serves in her church’s library, runs her kids to football, Tae Kwon Do, and figure skating, and drinks lots of coffee. By night, she pulls her hair out, wrestling with characters and muttering under her breath as she attempts to write. And drinks lots of coffee. When she isn’t writing about faith, fun, and forever, she is obsessively scouring Pinterest (with coffee in hand, of course!) for wedding ideas for her characters. Find Mikal on mikaldawn.com, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.