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Novel set in California (Love vs Giving Up) plus interview with author Mila Gray

10th April 2016

This is One Moment by Mila Gray, novel set in California.


Didi, doing her first internment as a trainee psychologist in a state of the art military hospital/rehabilitation centre, finds herself drawn to a wounded marine called Walker.  However Walker is struggling to cope with his injuries, his recollections of the event that caused them and what the future will hold for him.  And then there is Didi’s boyfriend Zac, who is rich and famous and every girl’s dream.

Didi’s goals include having a perfect marriage and life, like that of her parents, a life that Zac could surely give her. Whilst working in the military centre she, of course, has an obligation not to become too close to the patients, however having met Walker life isn’t quite that simple!

This is a wonderful romance, with a deeper theme of what it is like to one moment be a fit active marine with a promising career ahead, and the next moment to be in a military hospital with life changing injuries.  Mila Gray paints the outline of what the various patients in the centre are going through, and leaves the reader to colour it in, making the imagery very strong.

Other themes within this book look at why people cope so differently with similar situations, why the young join the military knowing they could be risking their lives, how Post Traumatic Stress affects people differently, and what it is like to suddenly have to consider a future so different to the one previously envisaged.  Answers are not given! This is a book about overcoming difficulties, changing your goals when the old ones become inappropriate, and seeing things as they are, not through a mist of blackness or an unrealistic glow of brightness.   And about seeing a chance for happiness and grabbing it.

The characters are well drawn and true to life.  There are times you want to shout at them, but their friends do it for you, and they don’t listen anyway.  The chapters alternate between life as seen from Didi’s perspective and life as seen by Walker.  There are many light and humorous moments, also times of great sadness and some despair.  During the sad narratives I found myself unable to put the book down, gripped to see how it turned out.  During the lighter moments there are some laugh out loud moments.

Set in California, this book gives brief glimpses of Californian life, but the main setting for this book is the hospital/rehabilitation centre.

A great read, light enough for any occasion, but with a depth that kept me interested, brought the characters to life and made me keep turning the pages.

Emma for the TripFiction Team

We are delighted to feature Mila who has kindly agreed to answer our questions:

TF:  In our review we have written: This is a wonderful romance, with a deeper theme of what it is like to one moment be a fit active marine with a promising career ahead, and the next moment to be in a military hospital with life changing injuries  How did you go about researching the incredibly traumatic situations you describe in the book?

MG: I did a lot of reading about military hospitals and rehab but mainly I just used empathy. I think any good writer has to have empathy in spades, how else do you put yourself in another person’s shoes and feel what they are going through?

TF: Mila Gray is the alter ego of Sarah Alderson. How did you choose the name and what were your reasons for separating the writers? Is it at any level confusing for you, I wonder or does it make the different writing styles easier to manage?

MG: I was under contract at the time with another publisher in the UK for my YA and Pan Macmillan in the UK approached me about writing a book for an older college-aged audience. In the UK my Mila Gray books are published as adult fiction. In the US they are shelved as young adult. I needed to write under a pen name to honour my original contract but also because it’s a slightly different genre – more new adult and a lot, LOT sexier. Also, best not to have my parents read it.

I am now writing an adult thriller and that will be under yet another name. It helps to separate out genre and is easier for marketing to have them under different names. My husband who is a brand consultant and designer helped me come up with the Mila Gray name. I wanted something short, bold, and that would place me at eye level on a bookshelf in stores!

TF: Location is very much the driver behind TripFiction. You set off with your family in 2009 to find a new place to call “home”. You took off to Bali, finally settling via London in California. Please tell us a little more about this period of your life! What were the ups and downs?

MG: Oh goodness! We quit our jobs in London in 2009, which is when I decided to try my hand at writing. We set off with our daughter who was then three on a round the world trip looking for a new place to call home (you can read all about our adventures as the book based on my blog was published last year – it’s called CAN WE LIVE HERE?). We had a list of things we were looking for; sunshine, community, a good school, the chance to be creative etc. We ended up in Bali for almost five years and had a magical time living there, but then new opportunities arose in our careers so we decided to make a move back to London for a year to pursue those opportunities (and see more of our families) and then 3 months ago (tired of the rain in the UK) we took another leap – this time to California, so I could be closer to LA for work.

It was while we were originally travelling in 2010 that I finished my Lila series and got a two book deal for that. I followed that with four more YA books for Simon & Schuster, including The Sound and Out of Control.

My first book, Hunting Lila, was optioned and I wrote the screenplay for it – which then opened lots and lots of doors for me. I got a film agent in London and then signed with a top agency in LA too and started getting more screenwriting jobs which I now balance with writing novels. I feel really blessed. I feel like we took a lot of risks, often getting by on just the skin of our teeth. I did a lot of soul destroying copy writing work for a time to help pay the bills – but all the graft is finally paying off. We are living in the most beautiful place in the entire world (I think) and I’m so happy.

You ask about the ups and downs. The biggest downs I find always come just before you make the leap – and having now moved continent three times in 6 years I feel we have some experience of that process. Fear takes hold and I think it’s common to question if you are doing the right thing. It’s difficult to uproot a child too and so you have to weigh that against what you feel are the advantages. I’m lucky in that my husband is always very stable and supportive and holds my hand through my roller coaster ups and downs.

There have been lots of times as a writer that I’ve questioned what I’m doing and have felt like a fraud, also times when I’ve wondered what the point is because authors for the most part don’t earn very much. But I’m relentless in my pursuit of opportunities and I never give up. I always have dozens of ideas on the go and am always developing something – whether that’s a film treatment or writing a new novel, or pitching a TV series. I make sure I have a half dozen irons in the fire at any one time and so far and that’s the secret I think.

I wrote a novel two years ago. It was good but one of my UK publishers said it was too ‘issue-y’, the other said they just couldn’t buy it for some other reason. I was of course disappointed as I’d spent two months writing it and felt like it was a really good novel. I just sold it to my US publisher… so there you go. Never give up!

TF: When you write, do you have the plot planned out or do you tend to go with the flow?

MG: I always have a vague destination in mind when I’m writing. I know how the story should end and I have an idea of who the characters are and my main character’s journey but then I just let it flow. The more I trust in that process – in the story unfolding, and the more I let my characters behave as they want rather than how I want them to, the better the story becomes.

TF: What titles are you particularly looking forward to reading this Summer?

MG: I’ve been quite head down the last few months as I’ve been so busy moving and I’m really looking forward to finally having my books (they’ve been in storage for 6 years) so I think I might re-read some old favourites. I picked up a book the other day in a great thrift store – it’s Fear of Dying by Erica Jong. It’s not something I’d normally read but I love it so I’m going to read more of her backlist now. I’m also keen to get started on A God In Ruins by Kate Atkinson as I loved Life After Life so much. Also My Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes.

TF: What is next for you?

MG: Well, Hunting Lila is currently casting which is very exciting. I am hoping it shoots early next year. And I just worked on the pitch for a TV show of The Sound, which Channel 4 in the UK have optioned. Hopefully that will get a series commission and I’ll get busy working on that. If both of those happen then I think I’ll feel like all my dreams have come true. I’m halfway through writing a book too and once I’ve finished that I’m going to be working on another adaptation of a YA novel (not one of my own) for television. It’s a rather brilliant Game of Thrones style world and I can’t wait to get started on it. It all sounds so exciting but the thing I’ve learned with TV and film is that until the director calls it a wrap it’s best not to get your hopes up!

Thanks so much for having me on the blog!

And thank you to Lila for her insightful answers. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook and her Sarah Alderson website

Do come and connect with Team TripFiction via Twitter (@tripfiction), Facebook(TripFiction), Instagram (TripFiction) and Pinterest (TripFiction)… and now YouTube

For more books set in CALIFORNIA, just click here

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