Earthly Pleasures , described by Ms. Gillespie as a paranormal love story, is set in heaven and on Earth, but it's unlike any heaven you've heard of. A Bette Midler-voiced supreme being gives the truth through Beatles songs: All You Need Is Love (the ultimate message from God), Let It Be (don't struggle against love), and Help (ask and you will receive), and those on Earth serve as reality TV stars on the show Earthly Pleasures.
The book is scheduled for release Tuesday, but don't go searching for it under Karin Gillespie's name: She used a pen name, Karen Neches, a combination of her husband, David's, last name, and a more common spelling of her first name.
"When you're doing a series of books, you're identified with that series," she said.
The only similarity between the three Bottom Dollar Girls books and Earthly Pleasures is her humorous and quirky style.
"This book is a complete love story," she said.
The story opens in heaven, where main character Skye lives. Her near-perfect life changes dramatically when a near-death experience brings Earthly Pleasures star Ryan Blaine to Skye's Heaven Hospitality office and she falls in love. The mortal Ryan is returned to Earth, and Skye finds a bit of angst and yearning in her perfect world, which can be a good thing.
"When everything is perfect, it's a little dull," Ms. Gillespie said. Earth is like boot camp, where tears can add to the happiness.
"I personally believe it's our trials and our conflicts that make us rich and make us better people," she said.
The idea of "soul mates" separated on Earth and in heaven inspired her to write the story.
"I also like the idea of setting up an impossible situation," she said.
Several twists of mistaken identity, love and loss blur the lines between Earth and heaven and finding heaven on earth.
The book took her two years to write, four times longer than the six months she invested in each of the Bottom Dollar Girls books.
"I didn't have to reinvent an entire universe (in the Bottom Dollar Girls books)," she said.
Art followed life when Ms. Gillespie started the romance novel as a newlywed after 20 years of being single.
"Clearly, my mind is on Cupid since I've been married," she said.
Her writing and male characters reflected a touch of cynicism before, she said:
"It's amazing how your real life can affect your writing."
Reach Sarah Day Owen at (706) 823-3223 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
BY THE BOOK
WHAT: Earthly Pleasures, $14, Simon & Schuster, 312 pages)
AUTHOR: Karen Neches (Karin Gillespie)
BOOK-SIGNINGS: 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Pastel's, 2120 Central Ave., wine and cheese reception; 1-3 p.m. Saturday, Borders, 257 Robert C. Daniel Jr. Parkway; 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 21, Pastel's Aiken, 321 W. Richland Ave.