Please join Mariah Stewart, author of Almost Home, as she tours the blogosphere with TLC Book Tours!

Guest Post by Mariah Stewart

The inspiration for a book can come from just about anywhere and strike at any time. It seems that most of my books have been the result of a perfect storm of ideas.

I sort of imagine a whole big bunch of unrelated thoughts free-falling through my head: little bits and pieces of a newspaper or magazine article; the sudden memory of something that happened at a slumber party when I was in high school; a snippet of conversation I overheard in a restaurant a few nights ago; people I knew when I was a child; a name I heard long ago; scenery I passed by on a drive last summer; hearing a song I used to love to sing in the car, driving fast with the top down.

I see all of this swirling around and around until the interesting conversation I overheard is now part of an entire discussion that is coming from the mouths of other people – mostly people I never met before but who I instinctively know because they’re already starting to tell me their own stories. Those stories might even sound a bit like other stories that I heard over the years from other voices in other places, but before too long, their stories start to become one.

My new series for Ballantine Books, The Chesapeake Diaries, happened pretty much that way. After having written nineteen romantic suspense novels, I wanted to write some stories like the ones I’d written back when I started, contemporary romantic women’s fiction that focused on relationships and community and family ties. So I started to pay attention to the free-fall in my head, and I found some characters who’d appeared in some of my earlier books who felt they still had something to say, and I found the images of the Chesapeake Bay and the towns that line its Eastern Shore that my husband and I visited frequently. Before I knew it, I had a cast of characters all clamoring to be heard and a lovely little bayside town they all called home. In the blink of an eye, the free-fall turned into an entire series of books, the third of which is Almost Home, which was published in April of this year. Next up is Hometown Girl, coming at the end of September.

My favorite luxuries? These days, with my daughters grown and doing their own things, luxury is a day to spend with my girls, getting manis and pedis, followed by lunch at our favorite organic restaurant, with a little shopping thrown in before we come back home and spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing by the pool. Minted iced tea mandatory, chocolate optional.

Check out our review of Home Again, also by Mariah Stewart

I have 1 copy of Almost Home to give away!

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This giveaway is open to US and Canada residents only. Deadline to enter is midnight on May 27, 2011.

Giveaway copy is provided free of any obligation by Ballantine Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.