Continuing in my series of "behind the scenes" of book publishing (or maybe I should call this, "beyond the pages?"), I'm excited to introduce you all to my lovely publicist at Penguin, Milena Brown. I adore her (and not just because she knows how to rock a great scarf!). Milena handles all the details of publicity for my books, and don't you just love how my latest novel has a face out spot on her bookshelf!? She's 100 percent gracious about answering all of my sometimes-annoying and needy-author questions, and she handles the big things (talking to bigtime media professionals) and the little things (booking my hotels and flights for upcoming tours) with perfect amounts of patience, savvy and kindness. (Someone give this gal a raise!) I thought you would enjoy reading my recent Q&A with Milena: Sarah: You are living the dream---working as a book publicist in NYC (a career so many people would die for!). How did you achieve your career goals? Milena: It is a dream job; especially working with a company as prestigious as Penguin. I really encourage people to try and make a living out of a hobby. My hobby has always been reading since I can remember, and being able to turn my love for books into a career is a joy. Knowing that the book publishing industry was predominately based in New York City, I moved here from California a year out of college. I started as an entertainment publicist because I didn’t know a soul in book publishing and entertainment in Los Angeles was so prevalent. After being completely unhappy in entertainment, I decided to finally pursue book publishing any way I can. I networked like crazy, even taking positions that had nothing to do with publicity just to get my foot in the door. I made the necessary contacts with publicity at various publishing companies, proved myself and now I’m in a career that suits me perfectly. Sarah: Tell us about a day in the life of a book publicist! All the glamorous (and non-glamorous details, please!) I am what you would call a cheerleader for my authors. Sarah: Yes you are. Just the other day you cheered me up! Ha! Milena: In a nutshell I promote books and authors, but my typical day always consists of 3 things: reading, writing and communicating. I’m constantly drafting letters and publicity materials for various media representatives whether it is for broadcasting, print or online.  I am in constant contact with producers, editors and writers on a daily basis on behalf of books and authors I represent. I handle publicity campaigns from beginning to end: speaking directly to magazine editors to scheduling author book tours (from booking airlines to hotels, which would count as the un-glamorous part). My job is essentially to get people excited about a book and it makes my work that much more fulfilling when someone matches my enthusiasm. Sarah: What gets you really excited in any given day? I’d love to hear about the things that make you do a happy dance at your desk. Milena: Writers are the most talented people in the world and it’s such an honor to be able to interact with authors on a regular basis in which I’m also a fan.  Every season there are books that I’m really eager to be working on. However, there are two things that literally make me do the happy dance at my desk: overdose of caffeine and when someone from a very important media outlet calls whether it be the New York Times or TODAY Show---you tend to drop everything your doing when those phone calls come in. Sarah: Tell us about a few of the campaigns you’re working on right now! I’m working on a few November/December campaigns that encompasses a wide variety of topics and genres. Of course, I’m working on a beautiful novel for January…The Bungalow. Sarah: I may be partial, but I hear that's a pretty good novel! OK, really, what else are you excited about? Milena: A wonderful holiday book The Puppy That Came for Christmas, which is sure to be stocking stuffer. The World in 2050, a non-fiction book that predicts what will happen if we continue with demographic, climate and global trends…scary stuff! And You’re (Not) The One – a hilarious novel on a woman who thinks she’s found “The One,” but the romance takes a turn for the worse. Sarah: Ooooh, those sound great! Will be keeping my eyes peeled. OK, so we’ve talked about the fact that we’re both fueled by coffee, so I have to know: What’s your espresso drink of choice and do you have a favorite NYC café where you always start your day? I think coffee literally flows through my veins. Sarah: Me too. You'd be at home here in Seattle. Milena: My favorite coffee is one that isn’t even sold in the states (I know…I go to extremes for good coffee). My mother is from Puerto Rico and lives in California. Her aunt in Puerto Rico ships a box filled with packages of coffee called “Mami” and my mom sends me a good 6 month supply. I make it the “old school” way---in a stove-top espresso pot and warm the milk separately in a saucer.  Despite that, I still have a favorite NYC coffee spot---Café Lalos. Their cappuccino is heaven in a cup. If they had a location near the office, I would be there everyday…until then, Dunkin Donuts it is. Their coffee is on point. I can’t complain. Sarah: Now I'm craving coffee! OK, so when you’re not reading a book, what magazine are you reading cover-to-cover these days? (You know, I’m a magazine junkie, as it’s where my career began!) Milena: I am obsessed with Bon Appétit! I am always in search of new recipes and they also have great ideas for dinner parties and entertaining at home. We subscribe to a good amount of magazines here at the office and I notice that O magazine, PEOPLE, Vanity Fair and New York Magazine tend to linger on my

I love, love, love hearing from readers. I wake up every morning, fire up my Blackberry and scroll through my messages---and smile extra big when I see an email from someone who has read The Violets of March and is writing to tell me how much they enjoyed the story. Truly, there is nothing an author loves more than to hear kind things from readers! After all, this is why we write. For you. I've been surprised and so excited by all the notes I've gotten lately from people who are giving my book as gifts to the special people in their lives---moms, grandmothers, aunts (someone even gave a copy to their very own Aunt Bee, just like in Violets!), mother-in-laws, sis-in-laws, best friends, etc. And, I squealed when I saw that The Violets of March has been making a long appearance in's "Most Gifted" books lists especially in the "literature and fiction" and "contemporary romance" tabs. Such an honor. The photo, above, was shared by a reader named Diana who asked me to send her a book plate signed for a special woman in her life. I mailed it along to her and she paired it with a lovely violet scarf for her gift. How sweet is that? Do you have someone in your life who needs a book and some cheering up? Let me know if you'd like me to mail you a personalized bookplate (a note from me with my signature that affixes to the inside cover of the book) so you can share with them!

Here is the cover for my second novel, The Bungalow, which will be out from Penguin (Plume) in the spring (March or April) of next year! Yes, that is approximately 10 months away! I'm very excited about this novel. It is a story that completely captured my heart. I still think about the characters often. And, if you read The Violets of March, you may like to know that one character from Violets makes a cameo appearance in The Bungalow, so keep an eye out for a little surprise. The Bungalow will also be published in Germany by my publisher there, Heyne Verlag. A little about the story: The Bungalow tells the story of Anne Calloway, who at the very end of her life receives a letter postmarked from the Tahitian islands that prompts her to confront the haunting and bittersweet memories of her time serving as a nurse during the war in the South Pacific, a lost love, an unspeakable tragedy and the mysterious thatched-roof beach bungalow at the center of it all. What do you think of the cover?

I'm working with a terrific video production person to create a book trailer for The Violets of March, and I can't wait to share it with you--soon! What's a book trailer, you ask? Think of a movie trailer, but for a book! These little video clips are gaining momentum in the literary world for their ability to successfully (or not--depending how they're done) give a feel for what a story may be like. I was fortunate to get permission from the lovely, and renowned jazz pianist Jessica Williams (who has played with all the greats--Stan Getz, members of the Miles Davis Quartet, you name it) to use one of her gorgeous piano ballads as the backdrop for the trailer. I'm pinching myself! While the trailer for Violets is being produced, I wanted to share a few book trailers from writer friends that I think are fun: The Weird Sisters, by Eleanor Brown: Stay, by Allie Larkin: If I Stay, by Gayle Forman (which I should add, has had almost 25,000 views on YouTube--wowza!): And, The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Connor McNees: Is there a book trailer that you particularly like? Share! I'd love to see it!

The FedEx guy delivered this box today, and when I looked at the label, I nearly kissed the man. My books! Well, my advance reader copies, but they look and feel like the real thing, and I'm am so delighted to have them in my hands! Flipping through the pages was so much fun! It felt a little like looking over your baby after you give birth (OK, maybe too strong of an analogy, but I did have tears of joy in my eyes!), counting toes, admiring eyes, etc. After all, I am this book's mama! Of course, I had to let the boys hold a copy. They squealed with excitement (not really knowing why--they're 1 and 3). Then, this is what happened--total mayhem: A very exciting day. Since I can't toast the occasion with something real (I'm pregnant!), I'm sipping mulled cranberry cider!

I’m a sucker for compelling new women’s fiction, and when there’s an adorable German shepherd puppy on the cover, well, I’m sold! I recently read, and loved, Allie Larkin‘s debut novel, Stay, a terrific story that drew me in from the very early pages. I highly recommend it and think you should order it from Amazon, or your favorite bookstore ASAP! Ask my husband, the evening Stay arrived in the mail, I was on the couch, book in hand, for hours. What a fun read! And, I met Allie a few weeks ago in Seattle at our mutual author friend Allison Winn Scotch’s reading, and I can tell you the author is as lovely and kind as the book. Turns out, Allie was sitting next to me, and we got to chatting. Allie and I are both Penguin authors, though my book is a few months behind her’s (won’t be out until June 2011, but cover designs are beginning this week, so stay tuned for some updates on my novel!). She lives in Rochester New York with her hubby and two pooches.

I recently chatted with Ali about book stuff, and here’s what she had to say:

I'm a huge stationary buff, and at the risk of sounding like a big nerd, I will share that I love stamps. Love them! And, when I saw these gorgeous calligraphy stamps from Primele over at From Portland to Peonies, I decided that I have to order one, asap! Cute, huh? Do you write a lot of snail mail? I'm trying to be better about sending letters because I love receiving them!