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Feb 17, 2014

Author Feature: Lia Riley

Title: Upside Down (Off the Map, #1)
Author: Lia Riley
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Release date: August 5, 2014


In this New Adult debut by Lia Riley, a college student embarks on a study abroad trip to Australia and learns that sometimes you have to go upside down to land right way up.

Talia Stolfi lives her life by one rule—fake it till you make it. But the act is getting harder and harder to maintain. Her older sister was taken off life support after a long-term coma last year. Then Mom bailed to Hawaii and drunk-dials Talia with TMI about the hairy hippie she’s dating. Talia disastrously loses her virginity to her sister’s boyfriend in a shared moment of grief. No one knows she suffers from OCD. In fact, she’s been so wrapped up with her secret compulsions that she never turned in her senior thesis. Now she’s not graduating with an honors in history. She’s not graduating—period.

A low-key exchange semester to Melbourne, Australia seems like the perfect way to cut and run until a chance encounter on a city street throws her into the path of a surly environmental activist.

Bran Lockhart is square in the midst of a shite year. After the girl of his dreams turned into his worst nightmare, he slunk back to Melbourne, and lives in the world’s dodgiest share house. He alternates his days between being mocked by commuters while dressed as a pocket-change collecting Koala for The Wilderness Society and part-time tutoring at Melbourne University. He needs to salvage his research plans to study climate change or pack it all in, move to the beach and be a full time surf bum. The last thing he needs is this nagging curiosity about a cute American with sad eyes.

But one unexpected kiss leads to another and soon Talia and Bran discover they are in uncharted territory. As they are tested by life’s challenges, they discover the courage to claim love and learn that sometimes in order to find yourself, you need to venture off the map.
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Welcome to Books Over Boys, Lia! I’m so thrilled and honored to have you stop by my humble abode today. ;p Let’s start off with some icebreakers, shall we?

Q. What is a song for which you thought you knew the words and later found out that you had them wrong?

Aw, thanks, Momo. I LOVE BOOKS OVER BOYS! Super stoked to be here. First things first, I mess up songs all the time. My worst offense was probably with The End Of The World, by R.E.M. My bestie and I struggled to memorize the words during a West-Coast road trip during college. Recently, I Googled the lyrics and Holy Batman, we were so off the mark.

Q. When was the last time you did something for the first time? What was it?

I got my hands hennaed at my sister’s wedding in December (she got hitched to a way cool Pakistani guy).

Q. If you were a professional wrestler, what would your ring name be and why?

Lady Siracha--I’m hot AND classy. My super power is modesty.

Tell us a little about yourself. Who is Lia Riley?

Q. If you had to describe yourself using three words, they would be…

Look a balloon!!!

Q. What’s your most favorite book of all time? Like, ever? ;p

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I am a sucker for a good Byronic hero and have no bigger book boyfriend than Mr. Edward Rochester.

Q. When you’re not writing, you’re ____?

Chasing tiny ones, procrastinating on Twitter, zoning out on my husband mid-sentence as a plot bunny hops by, kicking it at the beach, or reading.

Q. What’s one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about you?

I’ve been to Antarctica and a penguin sat on my lap. Also, there was that one time Oprah complimented my outfit.

*rubs hands together* Now, let’s talk about writing and books, eh?

Q. What about writing captivates you the most?

I rarely know where my ideas come from. I’m a total pantser, write with my eyes closed and often when I go back and edit can’t remember drafting many of the scenes. If that’s not magic, I don’t know what is.

Q. You are debuting with your Contemporary New Adult series, Off the Map, this year. What’s the story behind the story? How did Talia and Bran come to be?

I jumped on a Qantas flight the month before my twenty-first birthday for a study-abroad trip to Australia. My expectations were simple: cross the equator, pass the International Date Line and rock out (er, study REALLY HARD) for six months. Instead, I discovered a place that has become my second home.

First and foremost, I love Australians. I mean that quite literally. I married one--the perfect souvenir! Generally speaking, Australians excel at dry wit and have one heck of an anti-authoritarian streak. To me, nothing is sexier than a sense of humor, and when the guy making the jokes has a hot accent and cheeky grin? Life=made!

Secondly, to say that Australia’s landscape is dramatic is an epic understatement. The continent’s isolation has spawned animal, plant and human diversity that are like nowhere else on the planet. Even a quick jaunt into the wilderness yields a bone-deep sense that you are in an ancient place.

This is a country of extremes. When it’s hot, it’s bloody hot. When animals are poisonous, it means they can kill you with one bite. When there’s a storm rolling in from the Southern Ocean? Those waves are going to be huge. When you fall in love in such a place, buckle up--the ride’s going to be intense.

My agent and I chatted New Adult last June and I shared my surprise there were so few study-abroad stories. She suggested I try one. So I did. I named my H/H Violet and Dylan, and developed a whole backstory. Luckily, Talia and Bran intervened, looked over what I was doing and said DUDE, GET OUT OF THE WAY. Turns out they were way smarter than me.

I cobbled together a synopsis and three chapters and my agent freaked, in a good way. In early August, she rang with the news Grand Central/Forever wanted to offer. I was visiting my parents in Michigan and after the call jumped into the lake with all my clothes on.

This isn’t my personal story fictionalized, but I have visited virtually the book settings. Also, I have struggled with OCD/Anxiety since a kid and Talia faces similar challenges.

Q. What has this entire publishing process been like? On Valentine’s Day, all three covers in the series were revealed—total omg! Next, there will be ARCs and then finished copies… all your words are getting put onto pages and it’s starting to look more and more like a book! How does it feel being an author?

I disassociate. No joke. That Lia Riley, she must be really cool. I’m just over here behind the curtain. LOOK AWAY! NOTHING TO SEE HERE!!!

Q. Speaking of covers… I totes-ma-goats love ‘em! I especially love the map d├ęcor towards the bottom. What do you think of them? How well do they represent the story? Which is your favorite?

I love my covers with ALL THE GOATS!!!! When my editor emailed them to me I was all happy tears and Kermit flails. How can I choose? They are like my children. I dig Upside Down’s quiet intensity, Sideswiped’s green, and ahem, the flexing bicep and grabby hair in Inside Out. Also, the cover model-Grand Central downloaded him straight from my brain.

Q. For those who are unfamiliar with Talia, how would you introduce her? What’s Bran’s favorite thing about her?

Talia is a California girl who is sensitive, playful, self-deprecating and loves history.

Bran is quite the jaded cynic at the start of the book. Talia isn’t daunted by his gruff persona and he secretly loves how she doesn’t let him get away with being too cool for school.

Q. What’s five of your favorite things about Bran? What’s one of Talia’s favorite lines from him?

I love how Bran is socially conscious, perceptive, magnetic, intelligent and passionate.

I think one of Talia’s favorite lines from him is at the end of the snippet below. The scene marks a pivotal turning point in their relationship.

Q. What do you think is the hardest part of writing? What was the easiest part of writing your Off the Map series?

Hardest is time. I have to write in very early morning and in the evening. I harbor dirty hot fantasies about writing at 10am.

Easiest is probably dialogue. My characters are chatty and like banter.

Q. Lastly, before you go, can you share a snippet from Upside Down with us?

The set-up…Bran takes Talia on a hike up Cradle Mountain on the island of Tasmania during Easter break. Talia is terrified of heights. Here’s what happens…

Note: The snippet below has been unedited and is subject to change.
“You’re doing fine, Talia,” Bran says. “Now, I’m going to need you to release your left hand, reach up a few inches and grab the next hold.”

I grit my teeth. The way he talks, you’d think I’m scaling Everest or at least Mount Kilamanjaro. Instead—

“Excuse us, we’ll be by in a tic. That’s the way, Andy, right around the lady.”

I’m the lady. Andy, a kid who doesn’t look a day over seven, scrambles past in a flurry of Spiderman shoes and gap-toothed smiles. His parents bring up the rear, beaming at their agile little monkey with obvious pride.

And they aren’t the first group to go by.

Five Swedish women, another young couple and a guy in his mid-seventies shot past me during the last quarter hour.

The top is so close I can taste it. Bran is everything encouraging, but below is a twenty-foot drop. Not enough to kill, unless I fall with some sort of suicidal intent, still, what if--

“Take my hand.” Bran eases toward me.

“Nope.”

“Talia.”

“I’m serious. No.”

This is it. I can’t do it. I can’t let go.

He won’t admit the truth while I verge on full-scale panic attack mode, but there’s no doubt I’m giving him cause to lose interest. I’m spelling out the reasons I suck in bold, capital letters.

“Take a deep breath,” he orders.

“Breath taken.”

“Another one.”

“Okay.”

“I want your hand in mine, no bullshit. You’ll be safe. I’m going to keep you safe. Trust me.”

Somehow I do it. I lace my fingers with his and he helps me gain a few more feet. My head clears the boulder and there’s the steel marker identifying the summit. Holy shit, I’m going to get there.

A last step and we’re at the top. The kid in the Spiderman shoes munches a vegemite sandwich. I want to scoop him into a big fat squeeze except his parents would likely object. Instead, I tackle hug Bran.

“I knew you’d do it.” He buries his face in my hair.

“I didn’t.”

He turns me around to see the view, his hands tight around my waist. “Your place is here, Captain, in the sun,” he whispers. “Don’t ever forget that.”

Thank you the most for being here today, Lia! It’s been such a blast and I’m so looking forward to reading Upside Down!

Thank you so much, Momo. It was a total pleasure. High-five!

About the author:

Photo Credit: Kitti Homme
Lia Riley writes offbeat New Adult Romance. After studying at the University of Montana-Missoula, she scoured the world armed only with a backpack, overconfidence and a terrible sense of direction. She counts shooting vodka with a Ukranian mechanic in Antarctica, sipping yerba mate with gauchos in Chile and swilling fourex with stationhands in Outback Australia among her accomplishments.

A British literature fanatic at heart, Lia considers Mr. Darcy and Edward Rochester as her fictional boyfriends. Her very patient husband doesn't mind. Much. When not torturing heroes (because c'mon, who doesn't love a good tortured hero?), Lia herds unruly chickens, camps, beach combs, daydreams about as-of-yet unwritten books, wades through a mile-high TBR pile and schemes yet another trip. Right now, Icelandic hot springs and Scottish castles sound mighty fine.

She and her family live mostly in Northern California.

Connect with Lia Riley: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

4 comments:

  1. Great post! Except Lia doesn't just zone out with the hubby, she pretty much gets those plot bunnies all the time and does this with friends as well :) People are going to LOVE Upside Down.

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  2. I love this excerpt! I laughed when he calls her "lady" and then the kid climbs past her. Can't wait to read this! (And great interview questions!)

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  3. Cannot wait for this! Lia is so cool, her characters and books won't be able to help themselves. They can't be anything but awesome. Great interview. :-)

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  4. Thanks again for having me again, Momo. Unicorns 4 eva. xxx

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Thanks so much for stopping by Books Over Boys! You're a fun little lollipop triple dipped in awesomesauce. ;p