The Divining Wand

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It’s Been Divine!

August 30, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Site Info

To love what you do and feel that it matters – how could anything be more fun? __Katherine Graham

Although I only recently discovered the above quote, it expresses my life as a blogger for the past six years. What began as a desire to help get the word out about one debut author took on its own energy, gathering more authors/books every year. A bookcase — standing across the room — is a testament to the fact. The shelves are “jammed” with every writers’ work that has been presented first on Seize a Daisy and here on The Divining Wand. In addition to having fun, I learned, evolved, and hopefully shared the behind-the-scenes dedication/determination that create magic for all who love to read.

As much as I love to read, help, and share, I’m also creatively curious. This journey that began in 2006 has reached the inevitable fork in the road or, more appropriately, the question of “what if” I channeled my energy in another direction? It’s time to find out, time for me to move on.

It’s been a privilege and pleasure to have played the role of literary Fairy Godmother. And yes I will miss authors, friends, readers. However now I can return to being just a fan, someone looking for a fresh new read….someone ready to seize a bunch of daisies!

Thank you for your trust and believing, it’s been divine!

As ever –
Larramie

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Interview with Erika Robuck on
Hemingway’s Girl

August 29, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Books, Interviews

Let’s simply begin with the TRUTH. Hemingway’s Girl by Erika Robuck (Receive Me Falling) is a captivating, beautifully written historical fiction novel that feels completely real. Impressive in its detail, the storytelling — focusing on a young Cuban girl and Ernest Hemingway — not only breathes life into both characters, but provides the reader with a remarkable understanding of the complex, (tortured) writer. A love story without the romance, Hemingway’s Girl might well be the most entertaining, engaging book for any TBR List. Available in local bookstores and online retailers next Tuesday, September 4th, Pre-order now and consider it your post-Labor Day treat!

Jenna Blum, New York Timesand International Bestseller of THOSE WHO SAVE US and THE STORMCHASERS writes:

“You’ll love this robust, tender story of love, grief, and survival on Key West in the 1930s….Because of its strong heroine & writing, HEMINGWAY’S GIRL is a novel of which Papa himself would approve. Addictive.”

Addictive it is. Rather than offer a written synopsis of the novel, you can picture the book as the author “shows and tells” a background of the story in the following Book Trailer:

(If the video doesn’t appear on your monitor, please view it here)

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And now enjoy The Divining Wand’s interview with Erika Robuck.

TDW: Much has been written about “Papa” and, though you were drawn to write about him, were you ever the least bit intimidated?

E.R.: In the beginning of the research process, I was intimidated. So many people have studied Hemingway and have strong opinions about him one way or another, so he was a daunting figure to tackle. I read as many biographies as I could, visited his house in Key West, and traveled to the Hemingway archive at the JFK Museum in Boston to learn everything I could about him, with a special focus on the year of 1935 when my novel takes place. After reading hundreds of his letters and rereading his novels and stories, I felt like I had Hemingway’s voice in my ear. It was only then that I felt ready to make a character of one of the greatest American writers. I hope that I’ve done him justice.

TDW: Creating the poor yet resiliently strong main character of Mariella to spar/play off of this larger than life man was brilliant. Where did she come from?

E.R.: The origins of my character, Mariella, came from a variety of sources. I saw a young Cuban girl staring up at Hemingway in a photo with a massive fish and wondered she thought of him. I read about an infatuation Hemingway had later in his life with a young woman. I also thought about all of the ways Hemingway tried to distance himself from the rich, especially as his second marriage began to fail, and I thought he would be drawn to a young, poor, down-to-earth girl. These ingredients blended to season Mariella’s character.

TDW: Did you use general research to outline a broad storyline and then follow up with detailed research? What ratio of the novel is fact and fiction?

E.R.: I create layers of timelines as I research. The first is broad and covers significant events throughout the life of the subject. I use different colors to add notes with each biography I read to highlight new details on the timeline or emphasize events of great importance. Finally, once I’ve chosen my approach and specific time period for my subject, I make a very detailed time line of the months or years in my novel. Then I weave in my fictional characters and their lives to enliven the important historical events. It becomes an equal balance of fact and fiction once the writing is complete.

TDW: While reading I felt as though I’d been transported back in time yet wondered how you captured that feeling? Nothing appeared to be glaringly obvious, rather it was a sense of living in 1935 (and 1961).

E.R.: I’m so glad! One of my greatest challenges as a writer of historical fiction or period pieces is to capture the time as naturally as possible, without being too heavy handed in the dialogue or setting. Music, phrases, transportation, and social structure can infuse the text without overwhelming it, but I try to apply it with a delicate hand. I want the magic of the historical setting to transport the reader, while emphasizing the connections between the past and the present.

TDW: You’ve written that for research you attended a boxing match. Did your research include any other physical experiences?

E.R.: For this novel, the most profound physical experience I had was visiting The Hemingway House in Key West. The rooms and grounds are so well preserved and reflect so much of the personalities of Hemingway and his second wife, Pauline, that their presence still hangs heavy in the air. I also spent a lot of time on fishing boats, in Key West bars (it was research!!), and on Matecumbe Key where the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 took place. The ghosts of old highways and bridges along the Keys want their story to be told.

I also might have tried absinthe, but that’s just a rumor.

TDW: Where did the themes of using people and perseverance come from? Were those your choices or did they come from the personalities of Hemingway and Mariella?

E.R.: In my research, I found an op-ed piece Hemingway wrote following the hurricane called ‘Who Murdered the Vets.” In it, he expressed his outrage over the government’s failing to evacuate the WWI vets building the Overseas Highway. Over five hundred veterans lost their lives in the storm, and were already living in squalor and extremely hazardous conditions.

Once I decided to use the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 as a focal point in the novel, I read many survivors’ accounts. It was truly horrifying, but what struck me over and over again was the resilience of those who lived through the storm. One family local to the Keys lost over twenty members, but two of them returned to rebuild their lives there. I wanted my main character to embody that kind of grit and determination, in spite of difficult circumstances.

TDW: And where did Mariella get her strength? Not from her mother or her father. Although, they must have had strength to cross racial/ethnic lines to marry for love.

E.R.: Mariella inherited the best of each of her parents. From her father, she inherited her toughness, her connection to the sea, and her spunk. From her mother, Mariella inherited her feisty strong will. The circumstances of her father’s death gave Mariella her determination and forced her to care for her mother and sisters.

TDW: What draws you to writing historical fiction?

E.R.: Growing up between Annapolis and Baltimore, I’ve always had a strong sense of history around me. Old buildings, harbors, cobbled streets, and historic tours of turn of the century homes were a part of my surroundings during my upbringing, and I’ve always felt the mingling of past and present.

For me, historical fiction is a way to teach others about forgotten places in time or to animate events with characters to make readers more understanding and empathetic. I’ll never forget the way I felt about the aftermath of slavery when I read BELOVED, civil rights in A LESSON BEFORE DYING, or facets of WWII in THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY. These novels transported me to other places and times and made me feel history the way no textbook ever could. That’s what I want to do.

TDW: What element of the book was the most difficult or emotional for you to write?

E.R.: The most difficult parts to write were the hurricane and the sections of the novel set in 1961 when Hemingway died. All of the storm research and reading I did gave me nightmares for a month, and putting my beloved characters in the face of such danger was hard to do. Also, the shadow that Hemingway’s suicide casts over the novel, and the sections where my protagonist learns about it, made me terribly sad.

TDW: If there’s any little tidbit about Hemingway you discovered but didn’t use in the book, would you please share?

E.R.: At the Hemingway House is a large olive oil jar fountain that trickles into a tiled basin. On a tour of the Key West house, our tour guide told us that the basin represented a bit of the power struggle in Hemingway’s second marriage.

On the night that Hemingway’s favorite bar, Sloppy Joe’s, moved to Duval Street, the patrons (including Papa, himself) carried anything they could grab and moved it down the street, while they continued drinking. Legend has it that, much to Pauline’s dismay, Hemingway took a urinal home from the old Sloppy Joe’s. Pauline wouldn’t allow it in the house, and had it put on its side and tiled to form the base of the fountain. It still rests there today.

* * * * *

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Hemingway’s Girl by Erika Robuck — in a random drawing — to anyone who leaves a comment on this post by 11:59 p.m. EDT tonight! The winners will be notified by email tomorrow.

The Revealing of Erika Robuck

August 28, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Historical fiction author Erika Robuck’s (Receive Me Falling) stunning novel Hemingway’s Girl releases next Tuesday, September 4th after a glorious spring/summer buzz. Seriously, as early as May 24th, Cindy Adams in her New York Post article Lots to read as summer kicks off noted the book and then critical raves followed.

“Robuck brings Key West to life, and her Hemingway is fully fleshed out and believable, as are Mariella and others. Readers will delight in the complex relationships and vivid setting.”
Publishers Weekly

“Robuck’s breathtaking alchemy is to put us inside the world of Hemingway and his wife Pauline… Dazzlingly written and impossibly moving, this novel is a supernova.”
Caroline Leavitt, New York Times Bestselling author of Pictures of You

“Writing in clear and supple prose, Erika Robuck evokes a setting of the greatest fascination…This is assured and richly enjoyable storytelling.”
Margaret Leroy, Author of The Soldier’s Wife

“Robuck brings to vivid life the captivating and volatile world of a literary legend. Like a Key West hurricane, Hemingway’s Girl gains power and momentum, destroying much in its path, and reminds the reader of the strength found in healing.”
Kristina McMorris, author of Bridge of Scarlet Leaves

“Robuck pens a love letter to all of us who ache to have more Hemingway. Set against the enchanting, tempestuous landscape of Key West in the 1930s, Hemingway’s Girl imagines the powerful and resilient women behind the mythical man. An inspiring story of heartache and renewal. Readers will be sure to enjoy this ode to a literary icon.”
Sarah McCoy, author of The Baker’s Daughter and The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico

“Fans of Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife will adore Erika Robuck’s spellbinding tale of Hemingway and the fiercely independent Cuban girl he befriends in 1930s Key West. Robuck is a gifted storyteller, and in Hemingway’s Girl, she brings the literary legend to life: his passions for boxing and fishing, the tumult of his second marriage, his curious tenderness toward Mariella whose beauty he is enthralled by and whose grit he admires. Evocative and taut, Hemingway’s Girl is an irresistible, exhilarating story of love and adventure, impossible to put down.”
Dawn Tripp, bestselling author of Game of Secrets

The Divining Wand has scheduled an interview with Erika Robuck for tomorrow but, for today, let’s meet the author through her “official” bio:

ERIKA ROBUCK was born and raised in Annapolis, Maryland. Inspired by the cobblestones, old churches, Georgian homes, and mingling of past and present from the Eastern Shore, to the Annapolis City Dock, to the Baltimore Harbor, her passion for history is well nourished.

Her first novel, RECEIVE ME FALLING, is a best books awards finalist in historical fiction from USA Book News. Her second novel, HEMINGWAY’S GIRL, has been acquired by NAL/Penguin and is scheduled for publication on September 4, 2012. Her third novel, CALL ME ZELDA, will follow.

Erika is a contributor to popular fiction blog, Writer Unboxed, and maintains her own blog called Muse. She is a member of the Maryland Writer’s Association, The Hemingway Society, and The Historical Novel Society. She spends her time on the East Coast with her husband and three sons.

And now it’s time to get to know Erika upclose and personal:

Q. How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A. Where boys, God, books, and coffee are juggled.

Q. What is your motto or maxim?
A. “There is no friend as loyal as a book.” –Ernest Hemingway

Q. How would you describe perfect happiness?
A. Perfect happiness is my three boys and husband in perfect health, playing in a gentle surf, where I sit with my toes in the water, reading a book.

Q. What’s your greatest fear?
A. Losing my children. My children losing me at a young age. Ticks.

Q. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A. I would be in Key West at the Hemingway House, writing at the desk of Ernest Hemingway.

Q. With whom in history do you most identify?
A. I most identify with author, Kate Chopin. She wrote while raising her children.

Q. Which living person do you most admire?
A. I most admire my father. He works full time, is a deacon, visits prisoners, counsels those approaching marriage and baptism, and is a caregiver for my homebound mother, among other things.

Q. What are your most overused words or phrases?
A. In writing: “just” and “such.” While scolding my children: “You know what…(blah blah blah).”

Q. If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A. I would absolutely love to be able to play the piano. I’m so bitter that my parents didn’t force me to take lessons when I was a child.

Q. What is your greatest achievement?
A. Finishing a novel and finding an agent and publisher after nearly a decade of rejection feels like it’s up there.

Q. What’s your greatest flaw?
A. An obsessive need for a clean inbox before I can get to work.

Q. What’s your best quality?
A. Irreverent humor.

Q. What do you regret most?
A. Not finding out more about my grandmother’s polygamous father from Ireland. ‘Tis a story that begs to be told.

Q. If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A. I would be Hemingway’s boat, Pilar, in his lifetime. He had many mighty sea adventures on that beauty.

Q. What trait is most noticeable about you?
A. I love make up, especially lipstick. I wear it always.

Q. Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A. Juliet Ashton from THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY.

Q. Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A. I adore Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz from the Disney show Phineas and Ferb. My boys have turned me on to that loveable mad scientist.

Q. If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A. NHL Player Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburg Penguins— “Please sign all of these jerseys, pucks, and sticks for my boys.”

Q. What is your biggest pet peeve?
A. When people don’t respond promptly to email or phone calls.

Q. What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A. Boating with my family.

Q. What’s your fantasy profession?
A. I’d like to work at the Hemingway House in Key West doing anything from giving tours to cleaning the writing studio.

Q. What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A. Following through on one’s word, compassion, and not taking oneself too seriously.

Q. If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A. Peanut Butter bagels. Yummy.

Q. What are your 5 favorite songs?
A. Into the Mystic (Van Morrison), Moonlight Sonata (Beethoven), From Here You Can Almost See the Sea (David Gray), One Prairie Outpost (Carbon Leaf), Rhapsody in Blue (George Gershwin)

Q. What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A. Possession (A. S. Byatt), Emma (Jane Austen), Atonement (Ian McEwan), The Reed of God (Caryll Houselander), The Old Man and the Sea (Ernest Hemingway)

In addition to being remarkably talented, Erika has a lovely positive and thoughtful nature that can be enjoyed by following her on Twitter and becoming friends on Facebook. Also please remember to return here tomorrow for the interview with Erika about Hemingway’s Girl!

The Divining Wand’s Summer TBR List

June 21, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: News

Dear Authors/Readers/Friends –

The summer solstice occurred in the Northern Hemisphere yesterday evening so welcome to the first full day of summer and the beginning of my vacation!

Last June this literary Fairy Godmother felt The Divining Wand had featured “the very best of the best for everyone’s enjoyment,” however the books appearing here — during the first six months of 2012 — have been even better! Please look through the archives and choose to read something that’s already been published. Honestly you’ll enjoy all of them. I did and wish I could go back and read them again for the first time!

Since that’s not possible I followed my heart, hunches, and curiosity to put together a personal summer TBR list — rather eclectic and promising:

First To-Be-Read:

~ Haole Wood {Kindle Edition] by Dee DeTarsio

~ Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

~ The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty

~ Can I Get an Amen? by Sarah Healy

~ Flat-Out-Love [Kindle Edition] by Jessica Park

~ Mission to Paris by Alan Furst

~ The Innocents by Francesca Segal

~ Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon

Looking Forward To:

~ The Divorce Girl by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg (July)

~ The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns by Margaret Dilloway I(August)

~ Hemingway’s Girl by Erika Robuck (Advanced Reader Copy)

Curious About:

~ In the Kingdom of Men by Kim Barnes

~ An Uncommon Education by Elizabeth Percer

~ Trapeze by Simon Mawer

~ I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag by Jennifer Gilbert

~ Swimming to Elba by Silvia Avallone

Please stay tuned for updates. If you follow me on Twitter and/or are a friend on Facebook, I’ll be sure to comment on these titles.

Wishing you a relaxing, healthy summer complete with the best in reading….enjoy!

As ever –
Larramie

Kristina Riggle: Why I Write

June 20, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Books, Guest Posts

[Having written/published three successful novels in two years, Kristina Riggle (Real Life & Liars, The Life You've Imagined, and Things We Didn't Say) has become a critically acclaimed and well-known/loved author who ends her third career year with Keepsake, releasing next Tuesday, June 26th.

Perhaps the best word to describe Kristina's writing is "real." And there's good reason for that since it's who she is and why she writes.]

Why I Write

Why do I write? “I love it” is the short answer, but that’s obvious and boring. I love to sing, too, but I’m not doing that professionally. I write because it’s what I know. What I am, in fact.

What I mean is that writing is “it” for me. My thing. People ask me how long I’ve been writing, and I always say, “Since I knew how to read”. My grade school, Townline Elementary, always encouraged writing, and the Young Author’s Day preparation –when we all wrote stories and made little books out of construction paper with laminated covers – was my very favorite time of year.

You know how dancers will say they’ve been at the ballet barre since they had baby teeth? Or basketball players spent dawn to dusk shooting hoops on the playground? I used to sit on my feet to better reach my manual typewriter as it sat on the particle board desk in my bedroom, in front of the window looking out over the daylilies. I would sprawl outside on a warm summer day on a blanket with a notebook and pen, and write sentences for a melodramatic story of young love, or a murder mystery.

Some kids just have a “thing”, and you watch them, and you feel like you can see their future. Is every kid like that going to be a superstar? Of course not. But you can tell they feel most alive, most in their element, pursuing that art, or sport, or study.

I was a kid like that, and my thing was writing. My eighth grade English teacher signed my yearbook, “Keep on writing!” I won a citywide writing contest when I was fifteen. Sure, I beamed for the praise – who wouldn’t? – but I would have written without it, because I loved it.

What was true then, as a child, is still true now. I feel most “me” when I write.

I didn’t jump into writing novels for a living. I was a journalist first, but that’s writing, too. Any career I chose was going to involve writing. That was inevitable.

Writing always was my “thing”. Simple as that.

* * * * *

Keepsake is a timely and provocative novel that asks: What happens when the things we own become more important than the people we love?

Trish isn’t perfect. She’s divorced and raising two kids—so of course her house isn’t pristine. But she’s got all the important things right and she’s convinced herself that she has it all under control. That is, until the day her youngest son gets hurt and Child Protective Services comes calling. It’s at that moment when Trish is forced to consider the one thing she’s always hoped wasn’t true: that she’s living out her mother’s life as a compulsive hoarder.

The last person Trish ever wanted to turn to for help is her sister, Mary—meticulous, perfect Mary, whose house is always spotless . . . and who moved away from their mother to live somewhere else, just like Trish’s oldest child has. But now, working together to get Trish’s disaster of a home into livable shape, two very different sisters are about to uncover more than just piles of junk, as years of secrets, resentments, obsessions, and pain are finally brought into the light.

Critical Praise:

“Riggle offers a marvelous and sensitive portrayal of rich, full characters, using realistic dialogue and intriguing secondary subplots. The housecleaning scenes leave the reader feeling horrified yet sympathetic at the same time. She also employs a light sense of humor, while never making fun of the disorder at hand. Highly recommended.”

- Booklist (starred review)

“Touching and timely” – Publishers Weekly

“This story of two sisters…is as unflinching as it is compassionate. I was pulled in from the first page, as Trish and Mary reckon with the devastations of loss and the bonds of family, and as they make their hard, brave, often funny journeys toward hope and wholeness.” – Marisa de los Santos, New York Times bestselling author of Falling Together

“Kristina Riggle addresses the difficult turf of the hoarder with compassion and understanding. With its contrasting sisters-one unable to let go of things, the other unable to allow clutter into her life-Keepsake immerses us in the complicated world of family and love.” – Meg Waite Clayton, bestselling author of The Four Ms. Bradwells and The Wednesday Sisters

Now here’s an Excerpt from (available for pre-order) Keepsake.

This fairy godmother has “known” Kristina Riggle since she waltzed around The Debutante Ball during the year of waiting to become a published author. What I knew then and still realize today is that her writing has never, ever disappointed because of how honest and basic she expresses the truth. Kristina captures storylines by taking a slice of life and creating them into novels to which we can all relate. The stunning aspect is that she makes it feel so easy….enjoy!

Please visit Kristina Riggle’s website, follow her on Twitter and like her novels on Facebook.

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Keepsake by Kristina Riggle — in a random drawing — to anyone who leaves a comment on this post by 11:59 p.m. EDT tonight! The winner will be notified by email tomorrow.

Anita Hughes: Why I Write

June 19, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Books, Guest Posts

[Happy Debut Day to Anita Hughes as her terrific summer novel, Monarch Beach, appears on bookstore shelves and ships from online retailers today!

Although this is the novelist's first published book, Anita admits in today's guest post to making up stories since childhood. Could that explain why she writes?]

Why I Write

As a young girl, I always had a notebook filled with the beginnings of a novel. My favorite part of writing was naming my characters, and then I usually sent them on some Nancy Drew-like adventure. Even at the age of ten, I felt a connection to the characters I had created. I worried about them as they tried to solve some impossible mystery, and missed them when I put the notebook away.

Today, I write for much the same reasons. I have always loved to read. In college I consumed 18th and 19th century British literature, with some French and American writers sprinkled in. As an adult, I read with the same passion and the authors I love cover a wide spectrum. I am only happy if I am reading a good book and have another great book waiting in the wings.

Writing is like reading only better. I invent the characters instead of just reading about them. I put them in the locations I want to go, give them problems I can relate to, and cheer when they succeed. I am happiest when I am sitting at my laptop, making my characters laugh and cry. They often take me in directions that surprise me, and I feel a real loss when I write the final chapter.

The wonderful thing about writing is even after I type ‘The End,’ the story doesn’t leave me. I find myself thinking about my characters, picturing where they live, hearing their conversations. They occupy a special part of my brain and reflecting on them makes my day-to-day life richer.

In many ways, life is about gathering great moments and storing them in our memory. For me, that includes music, movies, books and my own writing. Having an internal world full of these things makes dealing with the external world easier. When the outside world gets tough, I can always sit at my computer and slip into my latest manuscript. When I wish I had a new pair of shoes, I can give my heroine a delicious pair of Christian Loubutrins. When I want to go on vacation, I can send my characters to Capri or Monaco. And if I feel nostalgic for my childhood, I can always have them tackle a Nancy Drew-style mystery.

* * * * *

Monarch Beach, already selected for Los Angeles Magazine’s The Reading List – June ‘12, has also been chosen for the Los Angeles Times Summer Reading Guide and here’s a synopsis of why:

Monarch Beach is an absorbing debut novel about one woman’s journey back to happiness after an affair splinters her perfect marriage and life—what it means to be loved, betrayed and to love again.

When Amanda Blick, a young mother and kindhearted San Francisco heiress, finds her gorgeous French chef husband wrapped around his sous-chef, she knows she must flee her life in order to rebuild it. The opportunity falls into her lap when her (very lovable) mother suggests Amanda and her young son, Max, spend the summer with her at the St. Regis Resort in Laguna Beach. With the waves right outside her windows and nothing more to worry about than finding the next relaxing thing to do, Amanda should be having the time of her life—and escaping the drama. But instead, she finds herself faced with a kind, older divorcee who showers her with attention… and she discovers that the road to healing is never simple. This is the sometimes funny, sometimes bitter, but always moving story about the mistakes and discoveries a woman makes when her perfect world is turned upside down.

Now Picture the Book:

(If the video doesn’t appear on your monitor, please view it here.)

TRUTH: Monarch Beach is: !) An adult fairy tale; 2) A refreshing fantasy escape; 3) Deliciously fun; and 4) THE perfect summer read! For Anita Hughes offers a debut that transports the reader to live within a world where — though there may be heartbreak — the luxury of wealth provides the best of distractions. It’s almost a “guilty pleasure,” but somehow the writing reassures that you deserve to getaway on this reading vacation.

Rather than “champagne wishes” experience “butterfly wishes,” the Presidential Suite at the St. Regis Hotel, a lovely wardrobe, a happy young son, and a doting mother. This is all so real that even heartache brought on by a philandering husband and a rebound fling can be forgotten. ;) Really!

Chapter One is available to be read now and Monarch Beach can be read as soon as you wish. Mmmm, enjoy……!

Please visit Anita Hughes’ website, follow her on Twitter, and like her on Facebook.

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Monarch Beach by Anita Hughes — in a random drawing — to anyone who leaves a comment on this post by 11:59 p.m. EDT tonight! The winner will be notified by email tomorrow.

Dawn Tripp: Why I Write

June 13, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Books, Guest Posts

[Without question Dawn Tripp (The Season of Open Water, Moon Tide) is a literary artist weaving both subtle shadows and bold, clear-cut emotions into her most recent novel, Game of Secrets, just released in paperback last week.

The author's poetic, yet realistic prose can transport readers' minds into a different state of consciousness -- a state that Dawn seeks for herself in explaining why she writes.]

Why I Write

10th grade English. It was winter, snow falling through the windows outside. And our teacher Mr. Rossiter was talking about a poem by T.S. Eliot. I don’t remember what poem it was. I don’t remember what he said about it. But I will never forget the passion in his face, his eyes lit, as he spoke about that poem. And I remember thinking to myself: when I grow up, I want to write something that makes someone feel THAT.

From the time I was a child, I hung around with people who didn’t exist. Whether I met them through the books I loved, the stories I fell into, or whether they came to me out of the elsewhere place where the Muse lives. From the time I was a child, I wrote. I would look at something as simple as a pool of sunlight on a leaf and it would begin to form itself into words in my head. Or I would see a man in Boston Common sitting on a park bench, and I would begin to construct a story about why he was sitting there, where he had just come from, where he was going.

My novels start as tiny glimmers—of character, story, scene. When those pieces surface in me, I feel them—not with my mind, but in the body—they have a certain feverish intensity, a certain dreamlike immediacy—they feel alive. And I begin to write into them, longhand at first. I’ll fill a notebook with these fragments even if I can’t yet see—with my daylight mind—how they will all come together.

To me, secrets are key to strong storytelling. And by ‘secrets,’ I mean those things that strike closest to the heart—things we cannot always look at head-on, and yet they move in us. Even buried or barely glimpsed, they impact our lives in ways both explicit and oblique. My characters and their secrets—the sense and burn of them—always come to me before the plot—they drive the story. And I write to discover things about them: about what they want, fear, hide, remember, dream, what they will not let themselves dream.

In Game of Secrets, one of the most powerful characters for me was Huck as a fourteen-year old boy. I saw him first as that boy, driving fast down an unfinished highway in a stolen car—heat in his hands on the wheel thinking about a girl. And I wanted to know: Who is that? What does he want? What drives him? Who is that girl he’s thinking of? I fell into the novel through that scene—which in the paperback appears on pp. 113-115. Huck is not the main character of Game of Secrets, but he impacts the lives of the three women the novel revolves around. And for me, as a writer, Huck was a galvanizing force. He is deeply flawed—even as a boy, he has that James Dean kind of doom about him, and he grows up to be a man whose insular views and past stand for things that are easy to dismiss or disdain. I didn’t see that coming, and it broke my heart a bit. I wanted more for him. When he first appeared to me as that boy in the car, driving, he was like fire underground, and I wanted him to get out from underneath the dark weight of the life he had been born into. And as I wrote the story, that hope drove me. Even when I began to learn things about him I wished I didn’t know, I couldn’t quite outrun that raw and simple desire he felt once not just for that girl, but for the freedom of a dream she stood for.

When the burn of a story is in me, it’s always with me. Whether I am out for a run with the dog, picking my kids up at school, folding laundry, it’s like a parallel skin laid over every other thing. It’s like being in love. It’s like having the flu. It’s a fall-off-the-cliff kind of feeling—liquid silver in the veins—that rush of air and speed through space. And I have to be honest. I live for that state.

* * * * *

A Boston Globe bestseller
:

Jane Weld was eleven years old when her father, Luce, disappeared in 1957. His skiff was found drifting near a marsh, empty except for his hunting coat and a box of shotgun shells. No one in their small New England town knew for sure what happened until, three years later, Luce’s skull rolled out of a gravel pit, a bullet hole in the temple. Rumors sprang up that he had been murdered by the jealous husband of his mistress, Ada Varick. 


Now, half a century later, Jane is still searching for the truth of her father’s death, a mystery made more urgent by the unexpected romance that her willful daughter, Marne, has struck up with one of Ada’s sons. As the love affair intensifies, Jane and Ada meet for their weekly Friday game of Scrabble, a pastime that soon transforms into a cat-and-mouse game of words long left unspoken, and dark secrets best left untold.

Reviews and Praise:

“Drop-dead Yankee storytelling . . . Elizabeth Strout fans will find a lot to admire about Game of Secrets, cleverly framed around the idea of revealing old family mysteries through a continuing series of Scrabble games.” 
—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Like a Faulkner novel, Game of Secrets weaves in and out of time. . . The varied points of view and fragments are rendered with such poetry, each sentence is a pleasure.” 
—The Providence Journal

“A gracefully told character study of three intelligent, forbidding women and the men who love them, wrapped up in a taut, suspenseful mystery.” 
—Booklist

“A page-turning thriller—a game of Scrabble helps two families spell out the history of a small-town murder.”
—Better Homes & Gardens

“A combination of thriller, mystery, and literary fiction; the secrets of a murder are revealed through an intense Scrabble game…An intelligent beach-read.” 
—Boston Phoenix

Although there is even more, Caroline Leavitt, bestselling author of Pictures of You describes the novel best:


“A hypnotic literary mystery . . . Startlingly original, Dawn Tripp’s haunting novel explores the secrets we keep even from ourselves.”

TRUTH: Game of Secrets is a gorgeous novel about the games people play with themselves and each other. However, by including an ongoing game of Scrabble, the author’s use of this unique element allows the storyline to develop and unfold to an end that’s almost certain to surprise. This is a book to savor for its characters, plot, description, and mystery. As lush and beautiful as a perfect summer day, Game of Secrets will be enjoyed in the present and become a memory keeper in the future.

For your instant gratification, please read an Excerpt.

Much more about Dawn Tripp can be found on her website as well as on Twitter and Facebook.

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Game of Secrets by Dawn Tripp — in a random drawing — to anyone who leaves a comment on this post by 11:59 p.m. EDT tonight! The winner will be notified by email tomorrow.

Joshua Henkin: Why I Write

June 12, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Books, Guest Posts

[As a novelist Joshua Henkin (Matrimony, Swimming Across the Hudson) has written of family and his latest book, The World Without You -- releasing a week from today, Tuesday, June 19, 2012 --, features the same subject.

Indeed, families are ripe with complex storylines but, in Joshua's case, family might also explain why he chose to write.]

Why I Write

I was recently at my twenty-fifth-year college reunion, and I was on an authors panel where the group of us had to speak about how we ended up becoming writers, so I’ve been thinking a lot about this question. My path to becoming a fiction writer started with my family, specifically with my grandfather and my father, both of whom were quite well known, at least in the worlds in which they each traveled. My grandfather was an Orthodox rabbi who emigrated from Russia to the United States and who lived on Manhattan’s Lower East Side for fifty years and never learned how to speak English. It simply wasn’t necessary. He lived on the Lower East Side of yore, a place where you could speak Yiddish and nothing else; the secular world didn’t impinge on you. He wrote about matters of Jewish law, and Jews from all over the world would come to consult with him. To this day, I could go to an Orthodox synagogue anywhere in the world and my last name would get me invited over to strangers’ houses for a Sabbath meal.

My father chose not to follow in his father’s footsteps and instead of pursuing the rabbinate he went to law school, clerked on the Supreme Court, and ended up a law professor at Columbia for fifty years. He was a scholar of constitutional and international law, and in another world, a very different world from my grandfather’s, his name carries a lot of weight. I was always Rabbi Henkin’s grandson, Lou Henkin’s son, and while there were real pleasures in this, it was also at times a burden. My father, who died a couple of years ago, and whom I very much loved, was also, I think it’s fair to say, overly invested in my education. When I was in eleventh grade and the SAT was impending he would come home from his office with a list of words he happened to run across while he was at work. The word “quondam,” for instance, which I have never encountered since and whose meaning I know simply because of those daily vocabulary sessions.

At college, we had to take expository writing freshman year, and we were asked to choose between different options—history, literature, social studies, and the like. One option was fiction, and if you enrolled in it you would write essays about fiction and you would also write some of your own short stories. When I mentioned this to my father, he said, “I wouldn’t begin to know how to write a short story.” And I thought, Aha, that’s what I’m going to do.

That’s what set me on the route to becoming a fiction writer. It seemed to me a way to carve out my own path in the world. I also found that I loved doing it. Yet after my first semester, I stopped writing fiction and instead took a more traditional academic path. I studied political theory and I planned to go on to get a Ph.D. in it. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be a fiction writer; I very much did. But I also wanted to be a basketball player, and at a certain point you realize you’re neither good enough nor tall enough. That’s how I felt about fiction writing. It seemed to me a delusion, a dream. But then I graduated from college, moved to Berkeley, and found a job working at a magazine, where one of my tasks was to be the first reader of fiction manuscripts. And I was struck by how terrible most of them were. I didn’t necessarily think I could do any better, but I was impressed by the number of people who were willing to try and risk failure. I found it oddly inspiring. I thought I should be willing to try and risk failure, too. So I started to take some workshops, ending up moving to Ann Arbor to get my MFA, and the rest, as they say, is history.

But the fact of trying and risking failure hasn’t changed. Richard Ford came to Ann Arbor when I was there. This was around the time that he won the Pulitzer Prize for Independence Day, and so he’d had a lot of success, but what he told the graduate students, and I really think this is true, is that when he sits down to write the page is just as blank as it is for anyone. Just because you’ve done it once doesn’t mean you can do it again. And it’s that fact—and the terror that accompanies it—that makes fiction writing both a challenge and a pleasure. Writing fiction is about creating something out of nothing, which is another of its pleasures. And I’m a gossip, which I believe most fiction writers are. We’re interested in people, and what better way to feed your interest in people than to make them up? My mother tells a story that when I was a toddler and she would walk with me down Broadway, she couldn’t get anywhere because I insisted on being picked up so that I could look in every store window. I wanted to see everything and everyone. To me, that’s what a fiction writer is—someone who wants to look in every store window, who’s always hoping to discover something.

* * * * *

A moving, mesmerizing novel about love, loss, and the aftermath of a family tragedy.

It’s July 4th, 2005, and the Frankel family is descending upon their beloved summer home in the Berkshires. But this is no ordinary holiday. The family has gathered to memorialize Leo, the youngest of the four siblings, an intrepid journalist and adventurer, who was killed on that day in 2004, while on assignment in Iraq.



The parents, Marilyn and David, are adrift in grief. Their forty-year marriage is falling apart. Clarissa, the eldest sibling and a former cello prodigy, has settled into an ambivalent domesticity and is struggling at age thirty-nine to become pregnant. Lily, a fiery-tempered lawyer and the family contrarian, is angry at everyone. And Noelle, whose teenage years were shadowed by promiscuity and school expulsions, has moved to Jerusalem and become a born-again Orthodox Jew. The last person to see Leo alive, Noelle has flown back for the memorial with her husband and four children, but she feels entirely out of place. And Thisbe—Leo’s widow and the mother of their three-year-old son—has come from California bearing her own secret.



Set against the backdrop of Independence Day and the Iraq War, The World Without You is a novel about sibling rivalries and marital feuds, about volatile women and silent men, and, ultimately, about the true meaning of family.

TRUTH: How appropriate are those bursting fireworks on the cover of The World Without You? Very! For both symbolize a celebration of life — despite loss — and an emotional explosion in family dynamics. Profiling the parents, sisters, wife, brother-in-laws, and children left to deal with the present and future minus a loved one, Joshua Henkin focuses on memories of the past. With each family member telling a different perspective of Leo, the book explores how individual grief varies and reminds readers of the adage that no parent should have to bury a child. Yet the reality is that they do and the world continues on.

Now please read an Excerpt of The World Without You, available next Tuesday, June 19th.

More about Joshua Henkin can be found by on his website, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of The World Without You by Joshua Henkin — in a random drawing — to anyone who leaves a comment on this post by 11:59 p.m. EDT tonight! The winner will be notified by email tomorrow.

The Revealing of Anita Hughes

June 07, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Born in Sydney, Australia, Anita Hughes began her writing career at age eight, when she won a national writing contest in THE AUSTRALIAN newspaper, and was named “One of Australia’s Next Best Writers.” Fast forward to the present with Anita, now living in California, taking her bow as a novelist when Monarch Beach debuts on Tuesday, June 19th.

Best described as a novel about one woman’s journey back to happiness after an affair splinters her perfect marriage and life—what it means to be loved, betrayed and to love again., Monarch Beach has been selected for Los Angeles Magazine’s The Reading List – June ‘12 and also has received the following Advanced Praise:

“With honesty and heart, glamour and grit, Anita Hughes tells the inspiring story of an unusual woman discovering life on her own terms and finally spreading her wings. Loved it.” 
— Melissa Senate, author of The Love Goddess’ Cooking School



“Absolutely riveting and brimming with emotion. Monarch Beach charmed me from the very first page.” — Jane Porter, author of She’s Gone Country



“An utterly delightful debut about one woman’s journey of self-discovery. With a flair for fun, fashion and passion, Anita Hughes delivers a captivating story and characters that sparkle with life. Monarch Beach is an inspiring beach read.” — Ellen Meister, author of The Other Life



“Chick Lit takes a walk on the privileged side in Anita Hughes’ debut novel, Monarch Beach, about an heiress who loses one fairy tale, only to discover that – with the right attitude! – life is one big adventure. Easy-breezy fun.” — Lauren Baratz-Logsted, author of The Thin Pink Line and Little Women and Me

The Divining Wand has scheduled a return visit with Anita Hughes on Tuesday, June 19, 2012 but, today, let’s meet this author through her “official” bio:

Anita Hughes was born in Sydney, Australia. At the age of eight, she won first prize in a nationwide writing contest sponsored by THE AUSTRALIAN, Australia’s most prestigious newspaper. She graduated from Bard College with a B.A. in English Literature and a minor in Creative Writing, and attended UC Berkeley’s Masters in Creative Writing Program. She lives at The St. Regis Monarch Beach, where she is at work on her next novel.

And now it’s time to get to know Anita much better by going upclose and personal:

Q. How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A. Writing and walking along the beach at sunset.

Q. What is your motto or maxim?
A. Nothing succeeds like success.

Q. How would you describe perfect happiness?
A. Sitting on the balcony of the St. Regis and watching the sun set over Catalina Island.

Q. What’s your greatest fear?
A. Tsuanmis.

Q. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A. I live in a villa at the St. Regis, Monarch Beach. What could be better?

Q. With whom in history do you most identify?
A. Sacajawea because she accomplished so much with a baby strapped to her hip.

Q. Which living person do you most admire?
A. Joan Didion – for being able to write for so many decades.

Q. What are your most overused words or phrases?
A. Stop that!

Q. If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A. To be a great chef.

Q. What is your greatest achievement?
A. Raising great children.

Q. What’s your greatest flaw?
A. I over think things.

Q. What’s your best quality?
A. My sense of humor.

Q. What do you regret most?
A. Not being able to stay in college forever!

Q. If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A. Danielle Steele because she has written over 100 books and the ideas keep coming.

Q. What trait is most noticeable about you?
A. I’m quite petite.

Q. Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A. Philip Carey in Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham.

Q. Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A. Edward Casaubon in Middlemarch by George Eliot.

Q. If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A. David Beckham – “Congratulations on your beautiful family.”

Q. What is your biggest pet peeve?
A. Finishing reading a book without having another good one lined up.

Q. What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A. Reading at the beach.

Q. What’s your fantasy profession?
A. I don’t think there’s any better job than being an author.

Q. What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A. Honesty, loyalty and ambition.

Q. If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A. Frozen yoghurt. My favorite flavors are cake batter and peanut butter.

Q. What are your 5 favorite songs?
A. Hotel California by The Eagles, Drops of Jupiter by Train, Candle in the Wind by Elton John, Come Together by the Beatles, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For by U2.

Q. What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A. Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham, The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, Middlemarch by George Eliot, Old Sins by Penny Vincenzi and The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides.

To learn more about Anita Hughes please visit her website, follow her on Twitter, like her on Facebook and pre-order Monarch Beach — a perfect summer treat!

The Revealing of Joshua Henkin

June 06, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Author Joshua Henkin (Swimming Across the Hudson) follows up on his successful New York Times Notable Book Matrimony with The World Without You available on Tuesday, June 19th.

The book is briefly described in the following sentence:

A moving, mesmerizing new novel about love, loss, and the aftermath of a family tragedy.

Too sweeping and general? Please take note of these *starred* reviews:

“When conventionalists claim, ‘They don’t write novels like that anymore,’ this is the sort of novel they mean. Yet the very familiarity and durability of the setup suggests that the traditional novel remains very much alive and healthy as well, if the narrative momentum and depth of character here are proof of vitality. . . . A novel that satisfies all expectations.” 
—Kirkus (starred review)



“Like a more bittersweet version of Jonathan Tropper’s This Is Where I Leave You or a less chilly variation on Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, Henkin tenderly explores family dynamics in this novel about the ties that bind, and even lacerate . . . The author has created an empathetic cast of characters that the reader will love spending time with, even as they behave like fools and hurt one another. An intelligently written novel that works as a summer read and for any other time of the year.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)



“An American Jewish family gathers at its summer home in the Berkshires to mourn the youngest of the four children, a journalist killed while on assignment in Iraq. Henkin excels at characterization, and he outdoes himself here in a novel that might have been called Six Characters in Search of Family Happiness.”
—Commentary (Summer Reading Preview)


The Divining Wand has scheduled a return visit with Josh on Tuesday, June 12, 2012 but today let’s meet the author through his “official” bio:

Joshua Henkin is the author of the novels MATRIMONY, a New York Times Notable Book, and SWIMMING ACROSS THE HUDSON, a Los Angeles Times Notable Book. His new novel, THE WORLD WITHOUT YOU, will be published by Pantheon in June, 2012. His short stories have been published widely, cited for distinction in BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES, and broadcast on NPR’s “Selected Shorts.” He lives in Brooklyn, NY, and directs the MFA program in Fiction Writing at Brooklyn College.

And now here’s the opportunity to get to know Josh upclose and personal:

Q. How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A. Wife, daughter, write, read, friends, dinner, dog, sleep.

Q. What is your motto or maxim?
A. Never listen to mottos or maxims.

Q. How would you describe perfect happiness?
A. Having finished a good day of writing, dinner with wife and daughters, Dulcie, our eleven-year-old golden retriever, at my wife’s and my feet while we watch Jon Stewart, a good book waiting by my bedside.

Q. What’s your greatest fear?
A. I’m not a big fan of mice.

Q. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A. I kind of like where I am right now, writing at my desk, soon to go out for a run in Prospect Park.

Q. With whom in history do you most identify?
A. No one I can think of offhand.

Q. Which living person do you most admire?
A. The home daycare person who took care of my daughters when they were toddlers. Fifteen kids demanding things from her, and she never lost her cool, was happy to be with them all.

Q. What are your most overused words or phrases?
A. “Actually, I am the boss of you” (to my six-year-old)

Q. If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A. I’ve started to take piano lessons, and I wouldn’t mind being really good at the piano. I’d kind of like to fly, too.

Q. What is your greatest achievement?
A. Is it possible to say marrying your wife and fathering you kids without sounding like an idiot and/or Oscar winner?

Q. What’s your greatest flaw?
A. Impatience

Q. What’s your best quality?
A. Curiosity

Q. What do you regret most?
A. That my daughters didn’t really get to know my father before he got sick.

Q. If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A. I’ve never really wanted to be anyone other than me, which isn’t to say that being me is so great, just that I’m very happy being who I am.

Q. What trait is most noticeable about you?
A. I ask a lot of questions

Q. Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A. Emma Bovary

Q. Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A. The bible salesman in Flannery O’Connor’s “Good Country People”

Q. If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A. Roger Federer. How in the world do you do it?

Q. What is your biggest pet peeve?
A. Bad grammar and syntax, malapropisms. I’m not proud of it, but I’m a schoolmarm at heart.

Q. What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A. Reading

Q. What’s your fantasy profession?
A. Writing

Q. What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A. humor, honesty, intelligence

Q. If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A. Di Fara Pizza in Brooklyn, even at almost 5 dollars a slice.

Q. What are your 5 favorite songs?
A. “Radio Sweetheart,” Elvis Costello; “Choice in the Matter,” Aimee Mann; “A New England,” Billy Bragg; “Bad Reputation,” Freedy Johnston; “Couldn’t Call it Unexpected Number 4,” Elvis Costello

Q. What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A. I hate ranking books. It’s like choosing among your children. But I guess Madame Bovary and Lolita would be on the list. Among more contemporary novels, I’d say Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates. Probably Ian McEwan’s Atonement. Just about any short story collection by Alice Munro.

Discover more about Joshua Henkin by visiting his website, following him on Twitter, liking him on Facebook, and Pre-ordering The World Without You.