Owl Madness Day 1: Em Shotwell and Sharon M. Johnston

While BLACKBIRD SUMMER and DIVIDED are set worlds apart, the two stories are filled with a lot of parallels. Authors Em Shotwell and Sharon M. Johnston talk about each other’s books: the similarities, differences and favorite parts.

BLACKBIRD SUMMER really drew me in with its rich world setting and intricate plot, and I could see how our two MCs had a lot in common. Both Tully (BLACKBIRD SUMMER) and Mishca (DIVIDED) have to deal with emerging powers, unorthodox romances, an interracial couple and a hidden threat. Tully’s family know they have gifts, and Tully feels like she’s a bit lesser in her family with her gift of Suggestion being a weaker gift than the rest of her family. But the rape of her sister triggers an additional, and lesser known, gift of Reflection. Ultimately, Tully needs to be able to harness her new gift to protect her family.
She also has hottie Logan come onto the scene, who, because of his Chan, felt a draw to Tully. That pull Logan feels, and follows, means he’s not put off by the arranged marriage Tully’s family want her to eventually have, or the fact they have to sneak around so their romance isn’t discovered.
It wasn’t until I went to Romantic Times in 2016, that I discovered that having an interracial couple in a novel could put the book in a different category. I was standing in a line, and my mum was talking about my story to a woman near us. And then she went ‘ohhh, it has an interracial couple.’ I’m not sure if it’s an Australian verses American thing, or if I’m just na├»ve. But I was glad that it was something Em and I had in common with our stories.
I must admit, when I read BLACKBIRD SUMMER I could not figure out the villain. With how freaky the town was acting, I was sure that it was a supernatural attack from an evil gifted family who had used suggestion on the whole town to turn them against Tully’s family in some power play. And I was totally wrong.
There were some stark differences that stood out for me between the two books. While both have strong MCs finding their way through love and the threat of an enemy, the way they deal with things was the main difference that stood out to me. Tully has a big close-knit family to rely on, and she does, whereas Mishca has a very small family that she keeps secrets from.
My favourite thing about Em’s writing is her fearlessness in making bold decisions with her plot. Sometimes it made me sad (no spoilers), but at the same time I admired her ability to draw you into her story and take you to dark places. The way she dealt with Tully’s sister and her rape felt so real, and so well done.
I adored BLACKBIRD SUMMER, and am really looking forward to reading other books in the series.
After growing up listening to my father reading fables, folklore and, it’s no surprise I love stories. As soon as I could read, my nose was firmly in a book. I love reading, listening to audiobooks and writing.
I write weird fiction and soulful contemporaries. I have short stories in anthologies: WORDS WITH HEART, NEVER BE YOUNGER, THE BASICS OF LIFE and THE LIFE AND TIMES OF CHESTER LEWIS. My short story Karma was also runner-up in The Australian Literary Review’s short story competition. I regularly co-host Pitch Madness and am also a regular Pitch Wars mentor.
As well as blogging on my website, I also blog with YAtopia and Aussie Owned & Read, where I contribute to discussions on the love of literature and the publishing industry in general.
I have a gorgeous husband, aka the hottie hubby, and two wonderful boys. Well known for my fantastic taste in shoes, I’ve actually been stalked by women wanting to know where I got my high heels from. I also have a love of fur-babies – cats and guinea pigs specifically.  
About Blackbird Summer
When the world fears you, being Gifted is a curse.
In the cornerstone of the rural south, Brooklyn, Mississippi, no one dares make eye contact with the strange Caibre family. Until the rewards are worth the cost. The townsfolk come, cash in hand, always at night, to pay for services only a Gifted can provide.
No matter the Gifts prevalent in her family, at twenty-one, Tallulah is expected to follow the path laid out for her: marriage, babies, and helping her mama teach the family home school program. She’s resigned to live the quiet life and stay out of trouble…until she meets Logan.
An outsider and all around rebel, Logan doesn’t care about her family’s reputation. Yet after a tragic loss wreaks havoc on the crumbling relationship between the Caibres and the townsfolk, Tallulah must decide if love and freedom are worth risking everything.
It has been a while since I first read Sharon’s book, Divided (book one in the Open Heart series), but I can tell you, her story is so unique, with such plot twist, that it isn’t a story that I will soon forget. First, I want to say that Sharon’s writing is superb. She is a master of her craft and when I first read DIVIDED, I was shoving it into everyone’s hands and demanding they give it a read. It is not your typical swoony YA/NA. Now don’t get me wrong, I adore (really adore) swoony YA, I am only saying that Divided really stands out among the crowd. You really can’t help but root for Mischa.
I have to be careful with what I share, because that plot twist is so huge! As Sharon pointed out, both Tallulah in BLACKBIRD SUMMER and Mischa in DIVIDED feel like outsiders, though for different reasons. Both young women “develop” powers; Mischa’s after a heart transplant and Tallulah’s are awakened after a family tragedy. Both women view their new found strength very differently.  Tallulah comes from a family of people who are gifted with power, and when she comes into her own gifts, she has a massive support system, as well as a strict code of rules she must follow. Mischa feels even more isolated, and her powers become a secret she must keep from everyone—even those who love her most.
Our books have a lot of similar themes, but by the end chapters, they are sprinting in opposite directions and I cannot wait to see where Sharon takes Mischa next! Her writing style will have you turning the pages so fast that you’ll give yourself a cramp from swiping your ereader screen (or perhaps a paper cut from you’re the pages…if you are old school like me.)  
There is just so much I want to share about Sharon’s book (and my own) but SPOILERS! Divided is so tightly (perfectly) paced that I really have to watch what I give away… So why don’t you go grab yourself a copy and come back and then we REALLY chat about it! I admin a book group on Facebook for my readers, and we love to chat all things book related (not to mention I often have ARC give-aways from amazing authors like Sharon) and contests. So read DIVIDED. Read BLACKBIRD SUMMER. Come join me at Myrtle’s Diner on facebook (link is pinned to the top of my facebook page).
Em Shotwell writes books about determined misfits and the people who love them. When she isn’t tied to her laptop or have her nose stuck in a book, she can usually be found on her front porch, strumming her ukulele and singing loud and off key. Come visit her on facebook at facebook.com/EmShotwellAuthor. Or claim your FREE copy of THE CHANS by visiting her website,www.emshotwell.com
About Divided

A new heart should mean new life, instead it’s a living nightmare.

Mishca Richardson’s life is at an all-time high after her heart transplant. With new boyfriend, Ryder, she has the perfect summer romance. Even the nightmares plaguing her sleep since her operation can’t dull her new dream world.

Yet, life starts to unravel when Mishca develops superhuman abilities. She does her best to hide them so as not to end up a science experiment in a lab, but she can’t ignore the strange instant attraction she experiences when she meets her university professor, Colin Read.

Torn between love and obsession, Mishca must unite her divided heart and decide between the two men. But when the truth about her weird powers comes to light, she’ll have a lot more to worry about than romance.