Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Book Tour: Joni, Underway by Kelly Oram & Jonathan Harrow!

We are so excited to feature this Brand new book from Best Selling Author Kelly Oram and her talented husband Jonathan Harrow!

Kelly Oram wrote her first novel at age fifteen--a
fan fiction about her favorite music group, The Backstreet Boys, for which her
family and friends still tease her. She's obsessed with reading, talks way too
much, and likes to eat frosting by the spoonful.

Jonathan Harrow left a career in Hollywood to
pursue his dream of writing novels. He has an author crush on Charlotte Bronte,
and a real crush on his author wife, YA bestseller Kelly Oram.

They live in Phoenix with their four kids and
their cat, Mr. Darcy.

Connect with Kelly          
Connect with Jonathan       

Nineteen year old Joni is loving life as an adult—living on her own, dealing with grown-up things like jobs, hook-ups, and doing her own laundry. Best of all: after finishing her first year at ASU, she will never again be called a freshman.

But when her brother is suddenly killed in a car accident, Joni’s adult life is turned upside down. Struggling to cope with loss, guilt, and anger—not to mention the meddling of friends and family trying to “fix” her—Joni is relieved to be presented with an escape in the form of a sailing trip her brother had been planning for months before he died.

With her first step onto the sailing vessel Lady Marguerite, Joni plunges into an adventure that will mark the beginning of her real adult life—a journey across the ominous dark blue of the Atlantic Ocean with a small, eccentric crew, and the young Captain Reid, whose gorgeous looks are only outmatched by his talent for care and kindness. Unfolding through the ups and downs of life at sea is an unforgettable story reminding us that love will always be a work-in-progress and coming of age never gets old.

Purchace your copy here: http://amzn.com/B00YDSK0J6

For me the creation of a good book is a bit like magic. I mean I kinda get how one does it, but being able to put a wonderful boo together? Well, as I said: Magic. I honestly am in awe of many authors and simply baffled by their ability to create wonder. As we all know, I am not a writer, never will be so it's beyond my reach. Why am I telling you this?
Well, simply Joni, Underway is one of those books that left me... touched, in wonderment and awe- and possibly somewhat changed.
It's no secret that I am a fan of Oram's books... But this one is not just hers. This is co-authored with her husband Jonathan Harrow. I never read any of his works - an oversight I shall correct soon. And here comes the reason why I was telling you the latter- I can not imagine how people co-write books! I am fascinated by it. Many collaborations work with dual or multiple POV- makes sense. But see- this one was written from just Joni's POV.. So how I have been wondering do you do that? It's a far cry from my imagination of how authors work- which is alone with their laptop at all hours of the day... Kelly Oram kindly gave us a glimpse on how she and Harrow did it. I shall not fangirl about any longer and get to my review:

The writing style is more somber than I was used to by Oram. But the content is more somber as well. I kinda expected cute and lighthearted romance- though I don't know why retrospectively. And I got something much deeper instead. Its had plenty of Oram's wonderful humor and sass - and to my delight it had wonderful descriptions, beautiful moments and such depths it touched me somewhere deep inside my stone cold heart.
I honestly can't tell you how much I loved the prose in this- because I find it impossible to dissect this novel- it became way to personal.

At the beginning I was kinda taken aback by how much I actually disliked Joni. I found her selfish, self-involved and melodramatic. I couldn't believe the self-pity party. This huge thing happened and she sat there just feeling sorry for herself. The way she was with her family? Atrocious at best! And then she embarks on her journey... and EVERYTHING changes.
The journey was beyond wonderful. I have no words to describe the trip, the characters and all the things that happen. I just gulped it up and wanted more!
What I can say is, that being someone who met her husband on her travels and has traveled all over the world for several years with said guy, Joni, Underway got it right. The traveling bits- amazing! The changes one goes through, the bonding, the heart all of it is there. And that's why I can't be objective nor make a decent review.. because this is one of the most beautiful and most touching books I have ever read...
Now don't misunderstand me.. It's not mooshy or uber-emo. It simply spoke to me. It is well written and has an interesting storyline. But mostly it has fantastic character building. I fell in love with each and every quirk of the cast. It was amazing to see them bond and to slowly see different sides to each one of them.
The romance is slow and extremely sweet, heartfelt and well swoon-worthy in a very subtle way. Reid -sighs- is a dream, with his faults and all. Joni and Reid are magic.
My only little thing that I found a bit disappointing: the end. Well not the end as such, but it all suddenly just worked out and was sorted.. It felt a wee bit rushed. But it's a teeny little thing and frankly it did not take away the happy cloud I was on.
Joni, Underway left me unable to read anything - I was still stuck in that world and all I wanted is grab my guy and go travel the world again.

Incredibly beautiful book! Possibly the best release in 2015 but definitely one of my favorite books ever.


Top Ten Destinations

In Joni, Underway we are taken on a sailboat cruise from Maine, USA, across the Atlantic to Norway. For Joni’s brother, this trip was #1 on his bucket list. What are your top 10 destinations around the world?

Jonathan: since there are two of us, we’ll each give five, and if some of them don’t match (they won’t!) then I guess we’ll have to go on separate vacations!

Kelly: Fair enough. You go ahead and start.

#1 (Jonathan): The next FIFA World Cup! That would be Russia, 2018. Russia might not have made my top five on its own, but since the World Cup is there, then it makes the list. I’m a recent convert to watching pro soccer, so I’m not the biggest fan ever (like I probably won’t paint my face or cry or anything), but the overall experience would be a huge draw for me. All the other people visiting from the USA, supporting our team; watching soccer; experiencing a foreign country; and just soaking up the amazing festive vibe that a World Cup brings. Awesome.

#1 (Kelly): Okay, I can agree with Jonathan on this one. When Jonathan fell in love with soccer, he brought me along for the ride. We may support different clubs, but we could wear red, white, and blue together for the World Cup. Russia would be fun to see, and the World Cup would be an amazing experience, so this hits my top destinations list as well as my bucket list!

#2 (Jonathan): The second stop on my tour of top 5 destinations would be England. Now, that’s pretty broad—you could have all kinds of experiences in England. The specific type of experience I would like to have is to immerse myself in 19th century England. Not the history (don’t care!), but the lifestyle. I want to live there for a month or whatever, and try to recreate life from the regency era, or even later victorian. I mean, it doesn’t have to go so far as dressing up (like that movie “Austenland”, although I wouldn’t be opposed), but I would prefer to not stay in any modern hotel or anything. I want to just live in some secluded country manor and feel like a local (a rich one). And I would definitely have to visit all the Charlotte Bronte sites.

#2 (Kelly): I suppose that could be a fun trip, but if I only get five, I think this is where our vacation together would come to an end. I’d stop in England long enough to watch a soccer game (football match!) in a local pub with the rowdy supporters and then I’d be off to my real #2 destination…

I want to take a road trip across the United States. I want to hit all the continental states, every major city, and all the fun attractions in between. I’ve done mini versions of this and driven coast-to-coast and back again, but I wasn’t able to go everywhere and really take the time I wanted in each place. Give me two or three months, a smooth ride, an iPod full of my favorite tunes and the open road baby! I’d be in heaven. (Also, I vow right now, that I will do this before I die, so I guess this is on my bucket list too, lol)

#3 (Jonathan): Okay, here’s a dream vacation I call “The James Bond Experience.” No, I don’t pretend to be a secret spy (but if there were such a vacation package, I’d totally do it). What I do is basically experience the ultimate in luxury and sophistication (like Bond). This includes cruising the Mediterranean in a private megayacht, and making stops along the coast to eat at private homes of cool people (no restaurants). Of course, we would have to stop in Montenegro, which is the location of the casino in “Casino Royale.” Although I don’t know what I’d do there, since I don’t gamble or drink or seduce women or thwart international terrorists. But I would wear a tuxedo.

#3 (Kelly): While Jonathan’s pulling out his tux and living the life of luxury in the Mediterranean, I’ll be busting out the hiking boots and backpack and heading to Mount Kilauea, Hawaii. Why? Because volcanoes are awesome. Duh.
I would love to get up close and personal with a live fire-spewing mountain. (Well, not too close, I guess…) And the fact that this particular volcano happens to be in the Hawaiian Islands, where I can enjoy a pig-roasting feast, learn to hula, and have a local hottie give me surfing lessons? (While I watch him from shore of course because getting in the ocean scares me.) Sign me up!

#4 (Jonathan): Since Jurassic Park isn’t real, then I would have to fall back on the next best amusement park, Disneyland. The original Disneyland in LA, not any of the other parks in the world (don’t care!). Kelly, I already know what you’ll say: “But we live six hours from there, we go all the time.” That’s true, but I’m talking about doing Disneyland the RIGHT way, not the way we’re forced to do it because money is limited and we have four kids who would scratch their eyes out if we did it my way. MY way would be to take a full week, and we stay at the Grand Californian Hotel, of course. And we have a representative from Disney—like a Disney historian guru—who takes us all over the park, a little bit each day, explaining the history, pointing out little-known facts and quirks, giving us the whole VIP experience. We try all the different places to eat, and we get screenings at their theatre of various Disney animated films that inspired the rides. So basically, it becomes a nostalgic celebration of all things Disney, rather than just a mad rush to wait in lines for roller coasters.

#4 (Kelly): Jonathan is going to divorce me for saying this, but Disneyland isn’t my favorite amusement park. Give me rollercoasters, and lots of them! (Yeah, I’d definitely hit a few Six Flags on my cross-country road trip.) So, maybe I’d meet up with him in LA for lunch as I fly from Hawaii to my number 4 destination:
I would love to visit Rio de Janeiro! Well, I’d love to visit a lot of South America, but if I had to pick just one place, point me to Rio! Especially if it’s Carnival. It sounds intimidating and exciting all at the same time. This city is so rich in culture but it’s also surrounded by the Amazon rainforest, which is the main draw for me. I want to tour the Amazon and zipline through the jungle. (I‘ll just have to bring a bunch of valium with me because I have a serious phobia of bugs and, well, I hear the jungle is full of giant ones. But after my day excursions exploring the jungle I can come back to my nice cushy hotel, read a book on the beach for a while, eat some authentic Brazilian food, (YUM!), and scope out the local soccer team. (Also yum!)

#5 (Jonathan): The circumlunar flight by Space Adventures. This is a real thing—Space Adventures is offering private flights around the moon, passing within 100 kms of the moon’s “dark side” and then watching the earth rise as you come out from behind the moon. They also offer programs for private citizens to train as an astronaut and live on the ISS (International Space Station), which would be an amazing package. This is all still a few years off and would cost millions, but I’m just sayin’…if I could, I would. In fact, if space travel were more practical and available, it would be my #1.

#5 (Kelly): Wow. The moon? That might be a little too adventurous for me. Though the idea of liftoff sounds like a hell of a ride, the thought of being in deep space gives me the creeps. (Much like scuba diving and being under the water.) Have fun with that one Jonathan, and make sure to take a selfie with the Earth in the background. While he’s off jet setting (rocket setting?) to the MOON, I think I’ll settle for South Africa. 
Maybe it was my obsession with The Lion King when I was younger, or my love of animals, but I would LOVE to see Africa. I want to go on a guided safari. It’s like the zoo without all the cages! But don’t worry, I’d follow the rules and keep my windows rolled up so I don’t get eaten by Simba. Better yet, I want to hot air balloon over the savannah. That would be AMAZING. Hey Jonathan, our fifteenth anniversary is coming up next year. What do you think? Can we? I promise I’ll let you stay in the hotel that Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore stayed in in the movie Blended. (I’ll just get some ruggedly handsome safari guide with a five o’clock shadow and an elephant gun to take me out while you stay poolside.)

Jonathan: So there you go, our top ten destinations, which reveals a lot about ourselves. Most of Kelly’s are way too adventurous for me, and most of mine don’t involve hot male tour guides, so I guess we’re both on our own, lol. But hey, we’ll always have the World Cup!

Character casting


Hey, Jonathan here. One of the benefits of working together with Kelly on Joni, Underway was that we needed to establish a definite look for the main characters BEFORE any writing could start. When working alone, you can have a visual in your mind without worrying about how to make sure that others see the character the same way you do. When writing with a partner, however, there needs to be a certain level of agreement about what a character or location looks like. The simple solution to that? Casting! So we actually had most of these casting choices set before we even began writing. If Joni, Underway were made into a movie today, this would be our dream cast for the crew of sailing vessel Lady Marguerite

JONI MONDAY – Brit Robertson 

This was the easiest choice to make. In our minds, Brit IS Joni, and we wrote the character with Brit in mind. Her personality is the perfect fit, as she is down to earth and smart, but can be fun and quirky at the same time. Most importantly, she’s great at portraying quiet strength in the face of overwhelming odds. As for her look, she can be a stunner, but usually goes for the “girl next door” look, which is Joni all the way.

CAPTAIN REID – Jamie Dornan

This was a harder choice—not because of Jamie’s look, which is perfect for Reid—but because Jamie has mostly been seen in more brooding, dark roles, not to mention the fact that now everybody instantly associates his name with 50 Shades of Grey, so it can be hard to shake that off. In the end, he won the role for us because 1. He’s gorgeous, obviously, but in a way that seems European, if that makes any sense. As a bonus, he could totally pull off Reid’s “golden boy” look, with honey hair and brown eyes. 2. He’s got a natural accent, so again, easy to buy into the “hot foreigner” aspect. 3. Despite always playing darker roles, Jamie seems to be a great guy in real life, married with a kid. He’s a dad! We’d love to see Jamie finally play something light and fun, like Reid’s easy-going-beach-bum-with-a-heart-of-gold.

MURRAY AND GORDON – Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon

I know, this is cheating! Unfortunately, both of these actors have passed away, so we couldn’t really get them, but this is a DREAM cast, remember. Just watch “Grumpy Old Men” and you’ll have an easy time imagining Murray and Gordon. Murray is Walter Matthau, of course—the grumpier, more opinionated of the two. Matthau was great at playing a guy who was jaded and crabby, but in the quieter moments could really be a big softy. Perfect for Murray. And hey, if we really had to cast LIVING actors, we’d love to see Bill Murray play Murray!

JIM AND YVONNE – Bryan Cranston and Viola Davis
Viola Davis is another no-brainer. Beautiful (maybe a bit young for Yvonne) and authoritative and strong—easy to picture her being TOO strong, which is something that becomes an issue for Yvonne in the story. Cranston, of course, has proven that he is a master at playing the unassuming “normal guy” with deeper issues just waiting to surface. And we know he can do funny, so these two together would make the perfect mix of strong and tender.

STAR – Hayley Kiyoko

Another one that is not quite the right age anymore (Hayley is 24 now), but if we could go back in time and snatch her from “Lemonade Mouth”, we’d have our Star, the quiet anime artist and video game geek with parental issues.


Back on the docks, lost in the middle of a maze of boats and pilings and light posts, I watched painted numbers pass by. I was surprised at how many of the boats showed signs of occupancy. Wet towels hanging to drip-dry, or lights on in tiny windows just above the water line, or a radio playing softly. All the boats had names, of course. Some creative, or dignified, others just silly. Endless Summer. Serenity. Windsong. Yes Dear. Sea Monkey. Get Her Done. My favorite was Breaking Wind; very classy.
I was passing a shiny black yacht with the moniker Obsession, when a sudden commotion startled me. With a thrashing of water and a high-pitched shrieking came a half-naked body from under the boat. Elbows planted on the dock’s edge, a surfer-bodied guy levered himself up and flopped onto his back with an exaggerated yowl and chattering teeth. A headlamp was strapped to his forehead; its powerful beam blinded me as he leapt to his feet. “Sorry ’bout that. Didn’t get you, did I?” He turned toward Obsession. “Eva! All good now, yeah?” I moved to continue on, but he stopped me. “Hold up. Did I get you?”
“No, I’m good.” I squinted against his light.
“Oh.” He ripped it away and tossed it onto the deck of the boat. “Eva! Try it now!” Back to me: “What slip number?”
“What?” He’d caught me in mid-guess about his age. I’d have estimated mid-twenties and gorgeous. No, he was handsome, which is a word I thought only grandmas used anymore. I mean, guys are cute or guys are hot, but this guy…yeah, he was hot, but in a classic way that wasn’t intimidating. His looks didn’t say Hey baby, like what you see? They said—
“What slip number are you looking for?” He took great handfuls of each leg of his shorts and wrung the water out. His entire body was covered in goose bumps.
“Thirty-one,” I answered, and before I could follow up with the boat’s name, he said…
“Lady Marguerite.” And he cringed with a smile. “Uh-oh.”
He glanced sideways at me as he pushed excess water down his legs. “Uh, you’re young and beautiful, that’s what.” He said it with a laugh, like Duh, silly girl, didn’t you know? He could have shoved me in the water and I’d have been less surprised. “Nah, the guys are gonna love it, is all.”
I was so confused. Was he warning me or complimenting me? Should I be scared or flattered? “Okay, thanks.” Again, I turned to leave.
Again, he stopped me. “You ever been sailing?”
“What would you guess?”
He smiled, dark eyes sparkling. “Want me to walk you down there?”
I wanted to say You can walk me anywhere you want. Which, after passing through my filter, came out, “Nah, I can find it. You look really cold, so…”
He hugged himself, shoulders hunched, and his smile broadened as he considered me with a look I could only describe as thoughtful, and the kind of intense eye contact that makes your blood race.
A woman’s voice interrupted: “Yeah, that did it. Reading fine now.” From a tall, buxom supermodel standing on the back deck of Obsession with a glass of wine in hand. She swished it around with an eyebrow cocked at me.
The guy gestured down the pier. “You’re nearly there. Down toward the end, look for two guys drinking beer.”
I murmured some sort of thanks and hurried away, embarrassed by the obnoxious clack-clack-clack of my suitcase. I couldn’t help a glance back: The guy was toweling off; the supermodel had taken a seat to admire him above the rim of her wine glass. For a fleeting moment, I allowed myself to marvel at the incongruity of lifestyles in this world. Most of us have to trudge through life, get jobs, go to school, and get sunburned, while others are blessed with naturally-tanned Maxim bodies and live on rich yachts with gorgeous, muscled, goose-bumped handymen.
Look for two guys drinking beer. My feet kept walking, but my heart wanted to turn around and hurry back to ASU. For the billionth time that day, I felt the panicked certainty that I had made a monumental mistake getting on that airplane. Two guys drinking beer. I imagined a couple of thirty-something hipsters drinking Andrew’s homemade moonshine. I mean, what else had I expected from my brother? Like he was going to do anything normal, with normal people?
Near the end of the dock was an enormous vessel with a luxurious open deck. On a sofa lounged two women, zipped up in designer jackets lined with fur, conversing softly. They quieted, eyeing me with mirth. One of them asked me if I was lost, and when I told them I was looking for number thirty-one, their JuvĂ©derm smiles gleamed with fake hospitality. They gestured—next one down—and their suppressed titters followed me to a less impressive boat with simple, dark script across the back: lady marguerite.
I wasn’t a boat person. Hull and mast—that was the extent of my knowledge. This boat had two masts. It seemed big. Big-ish. I wouldn’t call it a yacht, but this wasn’t just some fishing boat you take out on the lake, either. It would take maybe two or three seconds to run the length of it full sprint, like halfway from home plate to first base. I think I was at the back of the boat—was that the bow or the aft or something? Oh hell, I really hoped I wouldn’t be expected to speak sailor.
A gravelly voice called out, “Who’s that?” Followed by an eruption of violent death-rattle been-smoking-for-eighty-years coughing, ending with an irritated, “Dammit!”
In the middle of the boat was an area for passengers to sit. There were two figures there. Thing is, hardly-any-clothes hot handyman had said to look for two guys drinking. What he should’ve said was to look for two of America’s Founding Fathers. I was pretty sure these guys were waiting for buddies to show up and help them throw a bunch of tea into the harbor.
“Who’s that?” he called out again—the one who seemed less really-really-old and a little more lively than his bingo partner, who sat hunched over, mouth-breathing badly, still oblivious to my presence. Though there was plenty of empty seating, they sat nearly on top of each other—a mutual propping up, perhaps.
When I still hadn’t responded, he shook his head with an exasperated “Dammit” and said, “Can’t hear ya.” He called out louder: “Can’t hear ya! Can’t hear ya!”
I pulled my roller across a narrow gangplank spanning from the dock to the back of the boat.
“Can’t hear ya,” he continued, not even looking at me now. He had a block of wood in his hand, whittling at it with a pocketknife. His friend was content to watch him work. “Can’t hear ya!”
“Hi,” I said, mostly just to shut him up. The boat swayed. I grabbed a railing to steady myself.
“One hand for yourself, one hand for the ship. Them’s the rules at sea.” He was watching me now, with eyes alight and a not-so-subtle elbowing to his buddy, like Are you seeing what I’m seeing?
The other one had indeed finally noticed me. He perked up with a gentle smile and rasped, “Welcome aboard!” Then chuckled, as if what he had said were absurd. I noticed a plastic bag hanging out one of his pant legs. It was filling with pee.
“Come on in,” the woodcarver said. “My cockpit is your cockpit. Beer?”
“No, thanks.”
“Can’t hear ya,” he nearly shouted.
I raised my voice. “No, thanks.”
He frowned. “Not twenty-one?”
“So I’m guessing you ain’t the morning entertainment, neither.”
“The what?”
Laughter flared up from the ladies in the neighboring boat. Deaf to them, the old guy continued with a spark in his eye. “The morning entertainment. The exotic engineer. The pole-slider.”
“Burlesque artist, striptease, two-dollar holler.”
“Stripper, yeah, I got it.”
By now the pee-bag guy had caught up to the conversation. His eyebrows flew up.
“No, not me,” I said. “I’m not a stripper.”
The awkwardness scale was tipped. With some lame excuse about needing to make a call, I stepped up and out of the cockpit, hoping to make a silent exit. I would feel guilty ditching, but guilt is no match for fear when put on the spot. The gangplank to the dock, however, was in use—the way was blocked by a figure boarding the ship.
The woodcarver’s voice warbled with exertion: “Skipper on deck!” He tried to stand, but couldn’t.
The “skipper” was half-naked, shorts dripping from his dive beneath Obsession, and he was still covered in goose bumps.

And I was in much less of a hurry to leave.


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