Aaliyah Wyndham is a twenty-seven year old attorney working in the field of Entertainment Law. She has had a crush on her next-door neighbor, C.E.O. Gabriel Cortez, for over a year. Following a break-in, the two share a romantic interlude that seems quite promising, until Aaliyah realizes that Gabriel doesn‘t realize who she is! Aaliyah decides that for his oversight, she wants to make Gabriel pay, and make him pant.
There is only one problem with this plan: Lucas D’Alessandro, her best friend since childhood. He’s been Aaliyah‘s “Big Brother” for so long that she never notices when she begins to feel decidedly unlike his sister. Meanwhile, he is facing the same quandary, struggling to decide whether to pursue a more intimate connection with Aaliyah or to leave the field clear for someone else, namely Gabriel.
Shall Aaliyah rest her case with Gabriel, or shall she make a motion to Amend her Heart with Lucas?
What are others saying about Amended Hearts?
I definitely recommend this book.
I definitely recommend this book.
Welcome to my blog Noelle, and thank you for taking the time to showcase your novel and tell us a bit about yourself.
Noelle has answered some questions below, if you have any others to ask please feel free to leave a comment.
Do you have a pen name? How did you come up with your pen name?
Noelle Vonham Paling is my pen name. I needed to compartmentalize my pursuits, because I write several different genres. I also needed to preserve my legal name, because prospective clients don’t want to read about romance when they google my name. I’ll probably stick with Noelle and change up the last names, as I continue to publish. My first name is a derivative of Noelle, and Vonham combines my two middle names. Paling is close to my real last name.
What do we have to look forward to in the future?
Oh, there is so much!
A Summer Heart,the free prequel to Amended Hearts, is being released at the end of June. Aaliyah, the central character in Amended Hearts, is a twenty-year-old college intern in L.A. She’s staying with her brother Derrick’s best friend, Lucas, for the summer. Lucas is a successful songwriter and musician. He’s trying to change his image, but once you’ve gone Hollywood, it’s hard to come back to earth again.
Aaliyah’s presence will remind Lucas of his roots, and force him to take a harsh look at the choices he’s made over the years while living the rock star’s dream. Making sure that the Hollywood Hounds keep their distance and that his plastic conquests stop ringing his doorbell for the duration is no easy task. Meanwhile, Aaliyah is at that “I’m grown. I can handle myself” stage, and driving him crazy, because she doesn’t know the dangers posed by his city, how far people will go to get close to him, or how willingly they will use her to get under his skin.
Aaliyah is dating a guy she knew from childhood, Fumi, who has just become the next it guy in the modeling world. He’s torn between his old life as an engineering student and his need to blaze his own path away from family pressure to continue his father’s business. He is also conflicted about his need for privacy and his enjoyment of finally being more than the nerdy guy who doesn’t get out much. He wants to be with Aaliyah, but this summer that both have to focus on their careers and in their regular lives they live 3,000 miles apart.
Aaliyah is torn between doing a good job for this internship so that she can continue to pursue her desired future in Entertainment Law and trying to enjoy being a young woman in L.A. When it comes to Lucas, she’s worried. The man she has always known is nothing like the Hollywood version she meets in L.A. Plus, he’s trying to control her, saying that Fumi isn’t good for her. Aaliyah doesn’t like Fumi’s new associates, but she also doesn’t want to face Lucas and admit that he may have had a point. She can still see the remnants of her old friend Fumi when she looks into his eyes, but will he be strong enough to overcome the allure of glamour and fame, or will he lose himself to this Hollywood life?
Will her friendship with Lucas survive his overprotective act? Which path will Fumi choose? Will Fumi and Aaliyah’s feelings for one another be able to withstand the spotlight? If so, will the two of them pursue a relationship beyond the summer, or will their hearts forever be lost to a summer love? We’ll just have to wait and see in A Summer Heart.
A Mended Heart is the third book in the series. It will be released later this year. The guy who didn’t win Aaliyah’s heart will be featured with his supervisor, Naomi, in the next book in the series. In Amended Hearts, I explored what it was like to fall in love as an ingénue. In Naomi’s book, we’ll explore what it’s like to try and open your heart as a scarlet lady who’s been broken and rebuilt into a new image. After the Arts Ball, Naomi gets a phone call that literally brings her to her knees. The day of reckoning has finally come, but justice isn’t nearly as sweet, nor as simple, as she thought it would be.
She’ll have to confront her past, and come face-to-face with the forces that shaped her into the woman she is today. We’ll get a glimpse of who she was back then, and find out why she has been so fixated upon that one perfect man from the previous novel. We’ll also find out whether or not she’s ready for a relationship that goes beyond physical pleasure and to allow a man into her life who is after her heart, and not just her body.
Will Naomi be able to move beyond her bitterness and find peace in the arms of the man who is ready to love her? A man who has already had to face his own mistakes, and knows a thing or two about wasted time, and the crippling nature of unforgiveness? Will she be able to embrace the one thing she begged God to have, but never thought she would receive, or will she push it away, because comes from the source of all of her pain? Will she remain a fractured woman, bound by the pain of her past, or will she allow herself the experience the joy of having A Mended Heart?
Which one of your characters do you most identify with? Why? If not one of your characters then any character.
I wrote Aaliyah during the same stage of life that she’s experiencing in the book, and so I definitely understand her motivations. She’s at a crossroads in her life. Anyone who has gone the traditional route through college and law school knows that your “real life” begins at twenty-five, when you finally graduate and take the Bar Exam. Most people begin that life at eighteen or twenty-two, but remaining in school puts you into a state of arrested development. Starting your life at that point isn’t easy, but it is doable. Aaliyah helped me work through some things. Also, though I had no idea at the time, Sophia’s character reminds me more of the woman I have become at this stage of my life. Also, Derrick is a deliberate combination of my brothers, rolled into one. His over the top, overprotective love and affection are from one, while his cooking skills and sweet, easy going nature are from the other.
If you could sit down with anyone in the world who would it be?
If I had to speak with a living person, it would probably be any member of the First Family. I think their ability to continue to behave with grace under fire is remarkable, and the deep and abiding commitment that the President and First Lady share is refreshing. They would make a great romance novel.
You are a published author! What made you succeed where others fail?
I had encouragement from those around me. They kept saying, “What have you got to lose?” After my work was rejected by a mainstream publisher, I just let the book sit on a hard drive. Year after year, they hounded me to find a way to get my work out there. I finally listened.
What advice would you have for someone who is just starting out?
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. There are so many things I’ve learned from putting out my first book that I probably could have read somewhere, but I would have never understood it fully had I not taken this journey. I made a number of mistakes, but I’ve also stumbled into quite a few triumphs.
Don’t try and be perfect, or you’ll never be published. If you start out with a digital book your readers will help you to determine where you went wrong, and you will have the opportunity to fix things before the book goes into print.
Where does your inspiration come from?
God. When I write, it feels as though I’m taking dictation, trying my best to capture the phrases that are being whispered into my ear in rapid succession. At other times, I have dreamed an entire screenplay, book or stage play, and I can only capture a shadow of its glory when I awaken and try to get enough notes into my computer to make it possible to reconstruct the story later on.
What attracts you to your genre?
It’s always been interesting to me that women’s fiction is so utterly dismissed as an expendable part of literature. Romance is about relationships, and relationships are the greatest mystery, the greatest drama, and the greatest adventure that exist in this life.
What was the first novel/short story/poem you wrote? Did you ever publish it?
The ABC Book of Names. My first grade teacher, Mrs. Gladney, had us self publish our books by using book bindings for the front and back covers, hand printed white paper for the inside and book tape for the spine. She also glued and sewed them for us. I won first place in our class contest, and I was so pleased. I still have my copy somewhere around here.
Is there a message in your novel you want your readers to grasp?
There are a number of messages about the choices we make in life, but I’ll name a few.
- Being afraid of change can cause you to miss opportunities, while embracing changes can open doors.
- Self esteem among women is a big theme. Aaliyah is an educated and accomplished woman with a bright future and a loving family, but she’s insecure because she doesn’t measure up to the images she sees in the media. Becoming comfortable in her own skin is only a part of her journey throughout the story.
- A sense of history is very big in the book. We’ll meet three generations of Aaliyah’s family, and two from some other important characters. Listening to the wisdom of their elders, and having their love and support helps these characters to keep their pride from continuing to ruin their lives.
- Overcoming destructive emotions, such as anger, resentment, bitterness and unforgiveness, is an overarching theme. I know firsthand the destructive nature of these emotions. When someone wrongs you so deeply that you put them out of your life, the worst thing you can possibly do is to allow them to remain close to you by occupying your mind. Allowing them to roam freely through your thoughts as you desperately hang onto your outrage at their actions against you does nothing but enslave you to them. Also, these emotions warp our perceptions, and that is particularly true when the memories are those of a child or an adolescent. We may hold onto something for years that, as an adult, we would have viewed with the tolerance and understanding it truly deserved.
What books have influenced your life most?
Hamlet is still my greatest influence. Reading that play was like gazing through a window onto humanity and having the lights come on for the first time. I love Cat On A Hot Tin Roof because of Brick. I am an absolute sucker for MacBeth. The flawed hero is obviously something that resonates deeply with me.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
It originated before I could read. No one could ever tell enough stories for me at bedtime, and so my parents left picture books beside my bed, and I would make up stories to accompany them. In preschool, I was not allowed to read during nap time. Though unable to sleep, I was forced to lie quietly for an hour each day during school. That was an interminable amount of time for a four-year-old, and telling myself new stories became my coping mechanism. Soon, I began writing them down, and the rest is history.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I am challenged by the modern notion that authors must write down to our audiences. Who said that failing to attain or to utilize an extensive vocabulary is a sign of greatness? I write primarily for adults, and I believe that many of us are a bit stifled by the lack of vocabulary utilized to express even the most esoteric thoughts and concepts in modern literature. I love simplicity, but just as there is a time for simplicity, there is also a time for complexity. In my writing, I try and include both.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Please tell me your thoughts. I’m thrilled when I hear that I’ve succeeded in entertaining you for a couple of hours. If I haven’t entertained you, I would welcome your thoughts on how I might improve.
What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?
The logistical problems I had were trying to write while my niece sought my attention. She was in kindergarten when I began the project, and so she had every right to expect for me to put down the computer and pay attention to her when she was in the room. It was challenging to sneak in a few pages, because she thoroughly resented the computer.
What were your expectations for your novels before you were published?
I expected to sell some books to my relatives and friends, and have them finally see some of my work. I also hoped to bring over some of my audience from a few other sites where I write on a regular basis. I hoped to actually sell one of two copies to people I did not know, as well.
How do you react to a bad review?
So far, I haven’t really had any on Amazon. On some free forums, I have occasionally had someone tell me something unflattering about my work. I try and take it in, and view the work objectively. Sometimes they have a suggestion that makes the story better. At other times, I cannot see how incorporating their perspective will strengthen the story, and so I thank them for their time and keep it moving.
Are the names of your characters in your novels important?
They can be. For instance, Aaliyah was nearly Elizabeth, after my aunt. However, early on in the writing process, I was watching a report that talked about how ethnic names could prevent a person from obtaining job interviews. I immediately decided that I would use an ethnic name for my central character. The singer, Aaliyah, was extremely popular and I found her name beautiful, and its meaning significant. Therefore, Elizabeth Wyndham became Aaliyah Wyndham.
Any topic you want to write about but don’t have the nerve to try?
I have not written about LGBT relationships, and I have never written about sexual assault. Those subjects intimidate me, as a writer. Having read non-minority writers attempting to take an egalitarian approach towards writing minority characters, I am keenly aware of the limitations of imagination and the insidious nature of unconscious stereotyping. When it’s bad, it’s very bad. With regard to sexual assault, I am afraid to make the entire story about it, and I am afraid not to. I’ve known some victims who just wanted to get on with life, and I’ve known others who live their lives in terms of B.R. (before the rape) and A.R. (After the rape). It seems unrealistic and insensitive to just plunge them back into their lives, as though nothing has occurred, with no indication of trauma. I don’t feel knowledgeable enough to handle either topic with the depth of understanding and sensitivity they deserve. Until I have done extensive research and immersed myself in their stories to the extent that I better empathize with their daily reality, I won’t feel comfortable addressing these topics.
What do you consider your biggest failure?
I’m not sure that I’ve had it, yet. Success and failure are both constants in life. If you’ve ever argued a case, you know that the talented person on the other side of the room has just as much of a chance to win the day as you do. The trick to it is to work harder and to practice more. Even with all of that, as well as drive and determination in spades, I’ve failed at plenty of things I tried. To me, it’s either a challenge to do better next time, or a lesson that perhaps this is not your gift. Either way, I’ve always looked upon failures as opportunities for instruction, and I’m always eager to learn.
Has your dog ever eaten your manuscript?
No, but my computer ate my thesis. I had to stay up all night, and write a play to replace it. It was on sentencing policy, mandatory minimum sentences and the work of the Innocence Project. Everyone in my class had to read a part in the play, and lawyers are natural hams. The only people who were upset were the ones who had to go after me, and read their dry research papers aloud. I received an A+ for the course.
How much impact does your childhood have on your writing?
Huge. I had teachers who encouraged me to explore the world around me, and teachers who resented my desire to go beyond the assigned curriculum. I had librarians who inspired me to read, and others whose personalities were so thoroughly unpleasant that they ran me away from my sanctuary, the library. Books were my haven, as a child. I have always loved them, and felt as though I had found friends in them.
What are books for?
A better question would be what aren’t books for? They offer knowledge, history, entertainment and instruction, just to name a few things. Sometimes, they offer them all at once.
Why do you think what you do matters?
One of the subjects I studied was political science. I used to beg my female classmates to at least consider the swirl. I pointed out that their male counterparts considered them to be an option, while they devoted themselves exclusively to dating black men. Showing that Multicultural Relationships are just relationships between people takes the fear and the stigma out of them. In addition, I love showing strong families that have loved one another faithfully for generations. Finally, self esteem is a huge issue among women today. We are constantly comparing ourselves to starlets and cover models, and feeling as though we just don’t measure up. It’s important to show female role models that have some of the same issues, and still overcome their insecurities.
What are the most important elements of good writing? According to you, what tools are must-haves for writers?
If you’re going to write dialogue, you have to write it as your characters would say it. Don’t make them sound like robots.
Have something to say. If you don’t have a perspective, then you’re just giving me some cookie cutter story that you copied from the other ten thousand stories out there.
Fall in love with your characters. If you don’t care about them, neither will your readers. I need pathos. Otherwise, I’m not reading your book.
Do you prefer e-books, paper backs or hard covers?
I prefer e-books, because of the convenience. Let’s face it. Carrying books around has always been a cumbersome task. Also, the more you love a book, the more likely it is to lose its cover and its pages. This means that you either have to re-bind the book or buy a replacement.
Do you buy a book by the cover?
I sometimes initially look at a book because of the cover, but if it sounds stupid or the writing is terrible, it won’t hold my interest long enough to reach the point of purchase. If the cover is dismal, and I don’t have a recommendation, that book will probably remain on the shelf.
Bio: By day, I am a lawyer by trade. However, if you are familiar with the field, then I’m sure you know that it is anything but satisfying to a creative mind and so by night, I write. A lover of all things written, spoken and harmonized, my home has always been found in words. I live in Columbia, SC and my work is in Charlotte, NC. Hello to my fellow light rail commuters! My chihuahua, Lady, is ridiculously friendly for her breed. No snapping, no growling, and so if you ever see us out and about at the pet stores, be sure to say, “Hi!” Most of my spare time is spent hanging out with friends and family and updating my stories.
My debut novel, Amended Hearts, arose out of my frustration with one simple question: “What’s it like to date outside your race?” I would explain that “It’s like dating a human.” Their race or culture never made them any less inclined to watch the American football game, or the rest of the world’s football game, rather than going to a museum or antiquing with me.
For some reason, the questioner would look at me with skepticism, as though I held some magic formula to dating Klingons and Werewolves, and so I wrote a story to explain. In the book the central character, Aaliyah, has to pick between two good men, Gabriel and Lucas. They happen to be from different backgrounds, but they all have a great deal in common. She must choose to follow her newest crush to Gabriel, or amend her heart for her best friend, Lucas. What about you? Are you Team Gabriel or Team Lucas?