The Divining Wand

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Archive for April, 2010

The Revealing of Matthew Quick

April 13, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

mattMatthew Quick (The Silver Linings Playbook coming in Paperback on April 27, 2010) was first introduced in The Divining Wand’s October 7, 2009 post, A Love Story of Two Authors who Made Their Dreams Come True. Matt returns now only a few weeks away from the “official” May release date of his second book, SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR. And please note that this YA novel (truly for all ages) is scheduled to be presented/reviewed here on Monday, April 26, 2010.

First, however, let’s meet Mr. Quick — a former English teacher — who offers website visitors more than a bare bones “bio.” In fact, here is the “Short Informal” edition:

For several years, Matthew Quick (a.k.a. Q) told his students that they should take risks and do amazing things, because there is potential in all of us. He became known for his impassioned speeches about literature—how it pushes us to live an examined life, and how Thoreau promised success unexpected in quiet hours for those who dare to live the life they imagine, for those who advance confidently in the direction of their dreams.

Because he secretly wanted to be a novelist, but had settled for the more financially stable life of a teacher, Q began to feel like a gigantic hypocrite.
He quit his tenured teaching position, sold his house, floated down the Peruvian Amazon and formed The Bardbarians (a two-man literary circle), backpacked around Southern Africa, hiked to the bottom of a snowy Grand Canyon, soul-searched, and finally began writing full-time in his in-laws’ unfinished basement.

Three years later, he emerged from the basement with a finished manuscript called THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK. He found an agent, who sold the novel in several countries—before selling the movie rights to The Weinstein Company.

While that’s a good starting background, it’s time to get to know Matt revealed:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: A chance to break the cycle. Word. Word.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: Two mottos hang above my writing desk: ‘Sine Metu’ & ‘The WRITING will save you.’

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: Feeling as though my hard work and sacrifices have paid off and put good into the world.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: I’m actually quite terrified of dying by snakebite or shark attack. I’m also very afraid of returning to some sort of work-a-day nine-to-five job if my writing career tanks. This motivates me (the fear of failure, not the sharks and snakes, although a writer with whom I have Friday morning coffee is nicknamed ‘The Shark’).

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: I love hiking and swimming in the ocean, so I’d like to return to the Galapagos Islands. But I am very happy writing full-time with my wife, Alicia, in our little South Jersey apartment.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: Sometimes, I feel as though I look like a caveman. I like sitting around fires and looking up at stars. So maybe early American settlers? I don’t know. Maybe the Geico cavemen?

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: I greatly admire Gao Xingjian and Haruki Murakami. Both writers seem to live by a strict code, on their own terms, and yet they both have found a way to be relevant and wildly successful.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases
A: I try not to be a language policeman too much. But I get bored quickly when people talk about what they dislike. It seems much more original (and constructive) to discuss what you love or admire or believe in.

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: I’ve always wanted to play a musical instrument well enough to jam with other musicians, but I have never wanted to practice very much. I’d love to wake up one day and magically be able to play the guitar and sing at the same time.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Being a full-time fiction writer. I’m not a NYT bestseller, but I write fiction for a living and that has been my goal ever since I was a teenager.

Q; What’s your greatest flaw?
A: I tend to work too much and I overanalyze everything. When I commit to something, I commit 100%; I lock on until the job is done. This often drives Alicia crazy.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: I’m very loyal. I’m also pretty intuitive, especially when it comes to emotions.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: No regrets. I try to live in the now. You cannot control the past.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: I’m glad I’m me. Although, I’d like to be a bird so I could fly. Maybe a bird living in the Grand Canyon. What a place to fly, eh?

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: Probably my bushy eyebrows. Ha!

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: George Bailey.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Alicia and I actually quote Mr. Potter a lot for laughs. “Sentimental hogwash!” “What are you but a warped frustrated young man?” Say those things in a grumpy old man voice and you are sure to smile.

Q; If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: I love sports, but I don’t fantasize about meeting athletes. A friend of mine claims that he almost got in a bar fight with Kevin Youkilis of the Boston Red Sox. This tale has turned into somewhat of a legend. I’d like to get Kevin’s side of the story.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: Unless I’m at a lecture, I do not like to be lectured. If someone talks at me without giving me a chance to speak, and/or if it is clear that he/she has no interest in my thoughts, I begin to feel very anxious. And when someone keeps talking at me for a long time without picking up on the many polite social cues I offer, this really makes me feel uncomfortable, and I will usually make up some excuse to leave the room.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: I love taking walks with Alicia. Is that an occupation?

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: Screenwriter / movie director!

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Loyalty, sensitivity, and the ability to laugh and make others laugh (without being mean).

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Pizza (with vegetables on top).

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: Very hard question. The answer changes every day. And I listen to all kinds of music. Here are the first five songs I recently put on my latest running mix: Peace Sells by Megadeth, Africa by Toto, Rockin’ In The Free World by Neil Young, Citizen Erased by Muse, Titus Andronicus by Titus Andronicus

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: Also very hard to answer…but today I will say, Soul Mountain by Gao Xingjian, Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr., The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, Hamlet by Shakespeare (even though it is a play), Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, Simply From Scratch by Alicia Bessette, and so many more!

Thanks for interviewing me! Thanks everyone for reading along. Please visit me @

In addition to Matt’s personal invitation, follow this engaging author on Twitter and Become a Fan on Facebook.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria in a random drawing of all comments left on this post. The deadline is Wednesday, April, 14, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return on Thursday to possibly claim your book.

First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria by Eve Brown-Waite – Now in Paperback

April 12, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


Feeling restless, adventuresome, yet vacation time is still months away? Eve Brown-Waite might be able to offer an easy chair alternative when her memoir First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria: How A Peace Corps Poster Boy Won My Heart and A Third World Adventure Changed My Life is released in its Trade Paperback edition tomorrow — Tuesday, April 13th. Imagine those exotic, Third- World countries you can visit, not risk danger or disease, and stay on budget!

Seriously, though, this a wonderfully informative, humorous book that deserves critical praise:

“A laugh-out-loud debut about humanitarian work . . . . As revealing as it is entertaining.” —Kirkus Reviews

“With an appealing, down-to-earth voice, Brown-Waite chronicles her adventures abroad in an accessible, humorous tone sure to appeal to armchair travelers.”—Booklist

Even better this memoir deserves the praise left on the post in Comments to The Revealing of Eve Brown-Waite:

However such words are to be expected after reading the book’s description:

Eve Brown’s dream is to join the Peace Corps … and maybe solve world hunger and win a Nobel Peace Prize along the way. But she secretly fears she isn’t tough enough to survive the bug-infested jungle, much less life without toilet paper and decaf cappuccino. Then she falls head-over-little-black-heels in love with John–a dashing Peace Corps recruiter whose do-gooder passions outshine her own. She becomes more determined than ever to get into the Peace Corps – and to win John’s heart in the process. 

Assigned to Ecuador, she yearns for warm showers and cold beers (instead of the other way around!) . And though she occasionally finds herself overwhelmed by her work reuniting homeless children with their families, she learns to delight in small successes. But a year into her service, a tragedy befalls one of her fellow volunteers which unearths troubling memories from Eve’s past and causes her to return, rather unceremoniously, to the US. Back home, Eve attempts to settle down with John and get reacquainted with the joys of sushi and supermarkets. But faster than she can say “pass the malaria pills,” John accepts a job with CARE in a remote corner of Africa and Eve gets a second chance to test her mettle in the Third World. 

With uproarious wit and candor, Eve Brown-Waite details the (mis)adventures that ensue. From intestinal parasites and guerrilla warfare, to culture clashes, and unexpected friendships, First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria captures the thrills and absurdities of global humanitarian life in a story any globetrotter – armchair or otherwise – will love.

And, finally, there is my original presentation/review — written on April 3, 2009 and reposted here on August 19, 2009:

From the cover of her memoir, Debutante Eve Brown-Waite’s “eye” peeks out from behind the jungle foliage of either a Latin American, Asian or African country, and one can only imagine what she has seen. Perhaps it’s something exotic, dangerous, or yet another test of daily survival during her years in the Peace Corps?…Read more…

So lace up those hiking boots, grab your safari jacket, and trek over to the nearest bookstore where a passport in the book guise of First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria: How A Peace Corps Poster Boy Won My Heart and A Third World Adventure Changed My Life is waiting to take you away….

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria in a random drawing of all comments left on this post. The deadline is Wednesday, April, 14, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return on Thursday to possibly claim your book.

More of Our Authors’ Journeys

April 08, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

In the past weeks — and those yet to come — The Divining Wand’s posts have been filled with success. New/debut book releases are fulfilled dreams for authors and rewarding enjoyment for readers yet, remember, “getting published” doesn’t just happen.

The January 25, 2010 post, Our Authors’ Journeys, told how long it took before Kristy Kiernan, Lauren Baratz-Logsted, Kristina Riggle, and Emily Winslow were published? And how they handled rejection, what kept them going as they kept writing? Today’s post features four more authors with their personal tales. All are debut authors (though Trish Ryan’s memoir sequel will be published at the end of June) and please welcome the site’s most recent author, Robin Antalek, in the lead-off spot.

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Robin Antalek (The Summer We Fell Apart):

“I’ve been doing this forever—literally – all of my adult life and I am 48! I began to publish fiction here and there in my twenties in small journals. For money I wrote press releases, grants, radio scripts, a column on Healthy Kids for a food co-op – basically anything that wasn’t fiction! It wasn’t until I submitted a story on a lark to the Writer’s Institute at the State University of New York at Albany – where a guest author was running an invitation only fiction workshop— that I seriously considered fiction. When I got into the workshop, he changed my entire way of thinking and I went on to win a few contests. That I was a finalist in a few “good” contests gave me enough nerve to tackle a novel that promptly went in a drawer. As did the follow-up novel. Novel three I felt was good enough to go out and started to query agents. I did everything they tell you to do about queries – matched my novel with their lists – read the acknowledgement pages of novels I admired that were similar in vein to my own for leads and I perfected a one page query letter that neatly summarized my manuscript. I had a half dozen agents request full to partials all to no avail. So then I decided I would send to the few remaining houses that accepted slush pile manuscripts. Months (and I do mean months) later I get a phone call just as I am walking in the house from picking my daughters up at elementary school – it’s an editor who wants to buy my book but she thinks I need an agent to help with negotiations. She offers to send it to a friend of hers who has just left a prestigious agency to strike out on her own. Her friend, the agent, calls me the next afternoon to tell me she stayed up all night reading and loved it. It was like talking to an old friend. She offered me representation and as it goes in publishing, that book did NOT end up selling to the original house. Or any other. After extensive edits my agent and I mutually agreed to pull the manuscript out of circulation. She told me to go back, take my time, and write what I really felt. A year and a half later The Summer We Fell Apart was the result and it sold to Jeanette Perez at HarperCollins.

“Why did I keep going all those years? Because I had so many stories to tell. Because of all the “jobs” I’ve ever had in my life—it was the one job where I could forget who I was and where I was and the possibilities seemed endless. I’ve tried to quit in dark moments of self-doubt – but I was more miserable not writing. Oddly enough, the magic moment, for me anyway, was when I made peace with the fact that I might be writing stories only for myself – the rest – as they say—is history.”

Holly LeCraw (The Swimming Pool):

“I was writing for years before I was published. I began with stories and had a couple published, but then turned to novels; I am not good at working on multiple projects at a time, much less multiple genres. I also realized, as soon as I began writing a novel, that I needed the longer form.

“To be completely concrete: I began writing seriously when I was 22. Took several detours into publishing and grad school; had three kids; now I am 43. I kept going because I am very very stubborn, and I knew I would be worse off if I stopped trying.

“But I would like to note that I didn’t try to get published until I thought I had something publishable. The struggle wasn’t to get published. The struggle was to get good enough.”

Trish Ryan (He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not: A Memoir of Finding Faith, Love, and Happily Ever After, A Maze of Grace: A Memoir of Second Chances coming June 22, 2010):

“I’m not sure exactly how long it all took, as I’m not sure where to begin counting. Confession: long before I wrote He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, I wrote a truly awful self-helpish book, and looked for representation. I wasn’t paying attention to the rules (non-fiction sells on proposal, not finished product) and thought that my book was so unique & wonderful that I didn’t have to. Silly girl. Not surprisingly, that book never got off the ground. I filed it away forever (and am thankful now it was never published!).

“A couple of years later, when I was pulling together my query for what became He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, I was much more careful to think about the agent/author relationship, and consider what might be a good fit, and how to approach agents in a professional way. It was almost exactly two years from my agent took me on and when my memoir hit shelves.

“Are there tips for handling rejection? It hurts. I think you get through it by finding that fine line between confidence in your writing and being open to recognize and recalibrate when you’ve made a mistake.”

Therese Walsh (The Last Will of Moira Leahy):

“The first version of my book, The Last Will of Moira Leahy, was rejected, so I completely rewrote it. Total elapsed time = 6 years. (This included time spent revising, polishing, trying to find an agent, pouting—that sort of thing.)

“I had to do a lot of soul-searching after the first round of rejections. I also had some positive rejections to keep me going, but mostly I believed at a deep level that the story needed to be told; that’s what kept me going.”

Announcement: The winner of Holly LeCraw’s debut novel, The Swimming Pool, is Sarah. Congratulations! Please send your mailing addresses to: diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com, and I’ll have the book sent out promptly. Many thanks to everyone who entered.

The Revealing of Eve Brown-Waite

April 07, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

evebrown1Eve Brown-Waite had an “idea” that joining The Peace Corps might be exciting for a recent college graduate without a career goal in mind. She met the recruiter, fell hard for him, and thought her commitment to The Corps might bring forth a romantic commitment too. Yes it’s the girl meets boy theme that begins Eve’s memoir, First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria: How A Peace Corps Poster Boy Won My Heart and A Third World Adventure Changed My Life, which will be released in Paperback next Tuesday, April 13, 2010.

Here’s what one Book Club reader, Rolf Potts, said about the hardcover edition:

“First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria is an unconventional but enthralling love story …. This book evolves into a wonderful tale of one woman’s adventures in marriage, family, career, and world exploration.”

Who has Eve Brown-Waite become? By reading her “official” bio, you’ll learn:

Eve Brown-Waite was a finalist for both an Iowa Review Award and a Glimmer Train Award, and the first runner up for the 2008 New Millennium Writings Award for stories she wrote about her time abroad. She lives with her husband and two children in Massachusetts.

And now let’s get to know the “real” Eve:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Pretty damn good, but sometimes I forget that.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: Life is not a dress rehearsal.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: The whole family happy and healthy, discovering a new place together. Ideally, a developing nation where we could stay for awhile and do some good.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Getting to the end and feeling like I’ve wasted my life.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: In Haiti.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: The very strange lovechild of Erma Bombeck and Che Guevera.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: Al Gore. When the country gave him a huge, stinking lemon, he used it to try to make a difference.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases
A: My kids would probably say, “Make good choices.” Either that, or “penis.”

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: Singing.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Still being sane, happily married to an incredible man, and the mother of two really awesome kids.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: I care way too much what others think about me.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: I see the funny in everything!

Q: What do you regret most?
A: Not opening a Thai cooking school for tourists on Koh Samui.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: Me, but happier. And taller.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: Unfortunately, my voice. I have a condition called, Muscle Tension Dysphonia, which makes me sound like I’m about a hundred years old and on my last breath.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: Tiger Woods, and I’d say, “Why am I supposed to give a hoot about your sex life?”

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: That the publishing industry is far more concerned with BIG SALES than with great books. Oh, I also hate radio commercials that use kids as spokespeople. (I know, I know, I’m sorry. But it just drives me batty!)

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Doing freelance ministry.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: Doing random acts of kindness, writing funny and inspiring blog posts or columns about them and getting paid for it!

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
Honesty, kindness, a sense of humor.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Really, really good Tom Kah Gai (Thai chicken and lemongrass soup)

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: That’s too hard! There are too many! How about five from the “soundtrack” to FIRST COMES LOVE? The Story by Brandi Carlile, On The Road to Find Out by Cat Stevens, Solsbury Hill by Peter Gabriel, The Lion Sleeps Tonight by The Tokens and Every Day I Write the Book by Elvis Costello.

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: Oh my god, there are soooo many! Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Amy Tan’s The Hundred Secret Senses, Jim Fergus’s One Thousand White Women, and then I have to include two of my absolute favorites from many, many years ago (and I haven’t re-read them in quite awhile, so I’m not sure if they still even hold up, but they made such an impression on me when I was younger that I must include them). Dorothy Bryant’s The Kin of Atta are Waiting for You, and Herland by Charlottte Perkins Gilman.

Eve Brown-Waite is funny, talented, and dedicated to love — including noteworthy Causes. Become a friend on Facebook and follow along on her journey through life.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away a copy of The Swimming Pool in a random drawing of all comments left on this post. The deadline is tonight at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in tomorrow’s post. If you enter, please return tomorrow to possibly claim your book.

Lauren Baratz-Logsted’s Love of Writing

April 06, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

At first glance, Lauren Baratz-Logsted and her successfully diverse writing career (with the most recent books Crazy Beautiful YA, and Sisters 8 series with Book 5: Marcia’s Madness coming May 3, 2010) is likely to pose the questions of why different genres/ages and which is her favorite? In today’s guest blog post, Lauren literally explains.

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Back in 1994, when I left my day job of 11 years to take a chance on myself as a writer, I assumed like many a writer before me that the first book I would create would be the Great American Novel. Also as with many before me, it didn’t turn out quite like that. The first novel I completed? A comedic mystery. Never sold. My first published novel, The Thin Pink Line in 2003? Classified as Chick-Lit, and we all know that can’t be the Great American Novel, plus it was set in Britain.

By the end of this year, I will have had 19 books published. That kind of boggles my mind, even if it doesn’t boggle yours. And have any of those books qualified as the Great American Novel? Well, no. But they have been many and they have been diverse.

Agents and other publishing professionals often advise writers that they shouldn’t sell meat in their fish markets, that everything’s about the branding and the platform these days. But it turns out the only brand I’ve got is that I’m diverse. So just what have those 19 books consisted of? You may well ask. They are, as follows:

5 contemporary comedies, aka Chick-Lit: The Thin Pink Line, Crossing the Line, A Little Change of Face, How Nancy Drew Saved My Life, Baby Needs a New Pair of Shoes

1 anthology: This is Chick-Lit

1 literary novel set in the Victorian era with erotic and suspense undertones: Vertigo

5 young adult novels: Angel’s Choice (contemporary serious), Secrets of My Suburban Life (contemporary seriocomic sort-of mystery), Crazy Beautiful (fairy tale re-visioning), The Education of Bet (Victorian seriocomic; forthcoming), The Twin’s Daughter (Victorian suspense; forthcoming)

1 middle grade novel: Me, In Between

6 books for young readers: the first six volumes in the projected nine-book series The Sisters 8

Phew! That’s a lot to list! I’m certainly impressed with me right now. As you can see, even within a subheading like Young Adult, I’m all over the place in terms of time period and tone.

Two questions naturally arise here: Why do I wear so many different writing hats? And which type of book do I enjoy writing most?

I’ve got easy answers for you here, so step right up.

I wear so many different writing hats because I love writing, period, and I love taking on new challenges. I would never knock writers who start in one area and remain there throughout their careers but I can no more write in just one genre than I could read in just one; I read eclectically as well. So will I sell as many books or have as big a career as I might if I were to brand myself as just one type of writer? Who’s to say? All I know is, I’m happy doing what I do and I even manage to make something resembling a living at it.

As for the second question, while I do love writing it all, if I had to pick a favorite to work on, it would be The Sisters 8 series for young readers that I conceived with my novelist husband Greg Logsted and our 10-year-old daughter Jackie and now write with them as well. The idea for the series about octuplets whose parents go missing one New Year’s Eve came to us in December 2006 when we were snowbound in Colorado. There was no TV where we were, and there weren’t any other children around, so what choice did we have for entertainment but to begin writing a series of books? Working on these books with our own daughter, brainstorming together, doing book-signings together, getting fan mail that comes addressed to all of us – I think I can safely speak for both Greg and myself when I say this has been the greatest single joy of our writing lives. I wish it could go on forever.

One thing we have strived to do with The Sisters 8: since all three of us our huge fans of Roald Dahl, we’ve tried to emulate him to the extent that we do the best to make the quirky humor work for readers of all ages in addition to the targeted audience of 6- to 10-year-olds. We hope we have succeeded.

So what’s next for me? You may well ask. I may well ask. The answer? More of the same. More of the different. I’ll tell you one thing: As my career goes on, I seem to be writing for ever-younger audiences so I’ll project that the very last book I’ll ever write will be one of those counting books. There’ll be just a single word on each page, beginning with Ten and descending to One on the last page. And then I’ll be done with writing, free to turn up my toes, happy with a job – hopefully! – well done.

Thanks for listening.

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away a copy of The Swimming Pool in a random drawing of all comments left on this post. The deadline is Wednesday, April, 7, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return on Thursday to possibly claim your book.

Holly LeCraw and The Swimming Pool

April 05, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


From the book’s front cover:

“Holly LeCraw’s THE SWIMMING POOL is a complex,
astonishingly well-crafted, and completely compelling debut.”
– ANITA SHREVE, author of Testimony

When Holly LeCraw becomes a novelist tomorrow — April 6, 2010 — with her highly anticipated debut, The Swimming Pool, she will have accomplished a life-long dream.

Now most writers constantly dream that dream but, on her website’s On Writing page, Holly confesses her mixed feelings about whether she wanted to be a writer:

“I think I always did, although often I wouldn’t admit it to myself. It just seemed the height of hubris. I was one of those children who read constantly, constantly–hundreds and hundreds of books. Being a writer just seemed like the most magical, incredible thing in the world to me, and so it seemed delusional to aspire to actually be one. I struggled with that for years.

The author explains:

“What did I do all that time? The short answer is I dithered, and tried to do every legit sort of writing-type thing that wasn’t writing.”

What was her turning point?

“I have heard a number of writers, when asked for advice, say that you should only write if you can’t not write. That is what I spent a number of years proving to myself: I really have to do it, otherwise I’m miserable. As soon as I finally realized that, I buckled down. Whenever I wanted to give up, I just reminded myself that I’d tried that before, and it hadn’t worked.”

This author’s candid revelation of her personal journey might well be the basis for the complex and insightful, emotional storytelling. Although Holly claims that the plot of The Swimming Pool came as a complete surprise to her.

In fact, on the Author Q & A: WRITING THE SWIMMING POOL page, she describes how her backstory evolved:

‘I started off with a brother and sister, who became Jed and Callie. I knew the mother was dead, and I knew that Jed wanted to know who had killed her. At first I thought it was a short story. Then, one weekend, my wonderful husband took our kids down to the Cape to give me some peace, and after I had sat stunned in the silence for a while, I started playing around with those characters. I started asking questions–so, where’s the dad? Hmm, I think he’s dead too. But something is amiss. Not another murder, but a complication…maybe he had an affair. How does that matter? And then Marcella came to me, and the whole thing just opened up.

“That has happened to me before: a story seems fairly straightforward, and then some side character–in this case, the mistress of the father of the protagonist–comes along, and lets me look at it slant. The side character takes center stage, and suddenly the plot is much more layered.”

In other words, the storyline became complicated as the synopsis describes:

A heartbreaking affair, an unsolved murder, an explosive romance: welcome to summer on the Cape in this powerful debut.

Seven summers ago, Marcella Atkinson fell in love with Cecil McClatchey, a married father of two. But on the same night their romance abruptly ended, Cecil’s wife was found murdered—and their lives changed forever. The case was never solved, and Cecil died soon after, an uncharged suspect. 

Now divorced and estranged from her only daughter, Marcella lives alone, mired in grief and guilt. Meanwhile, Cecil’s grown son, Jed, returns to the Cape with his sister for the first time in years. One day he finds a woman’s bathing suit buried in a closet—a relic, unbeknownst to him, of his father’s affair—and, on a hunch, confronts Marcella. When they fall into an affair of their own, their passion temporarily masks the pain of the past, but also leads to crises and revelations they never could have imagined. 

In what is sure to be the debut of the season, The Swimming Pool delivers a sensuous narrative of such force and depth that you won’t be able to put it down.

Indeed this novel is intense from the start, just read the First Chapter.

Amid all its buzz my Advanced Reader Copy arrived from the publisher in mid-November, yet I waited until bone-chilling cold February to dive into The Swimming Pool and experience the summer sizzler.

In a tale of betrayal, loss, and too many secrets, the story actually begins at a family pool party on Cape Cod. Now please think about that. Why a backyard pool on Cape Cod that’s surrounded by an ocean? Yes it is rare (and oh so symbolic) but the pool was built to be unique and intimate.

Above all, Holly LeCraw’s writing is both elegant and powerful as this novel demands the reader’s unwavering attention. Adultery, murder, and another affair would likely pique interest. Yet it’s the reasons for those events — the characters’ motives — that elevates the book to a level of fascination. And every mistake or misdeed revolves around the human need to belong, to be a part of someone, to be needed.

This need, then, is a heartbreaking obsession that turns into passion? Some would say so, I do not. Because without truth can there be passion and love or simply more secrets? The Swimming Pool with its detailed setting — including the actual feel of heat, humidity, even the sea air — will allow every reader to decide this and more for themselves.

In her beautiful breathtaking debut, Holly LeCraw gives us a “sins of the father/mother” plot with a twist on life. The Swimming Pool — the author’s magical, incredible dream — will be available in bookstores and online retailers tomorrow…awaiting your reading dip into its pages!

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away a copy of The Swimming Pool in a random drawing of all comments left on this post. The deadline is Wednesday, April, 7, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return on Thursday to possibly claim your book.

Our Authors’ Best Writing Advice

April 01, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

Two months ago, several of our authors/friends shared words of wisdom that help guide them through the writing process. And, in today’s post, many more answer:

What is the best advice about writing that you’ve received/read AND put to use?

Katie Alender (Bad Girls Don’t Die YA):

“It’s so hard to narrow it down to the individual pieces of advice, because I’ve absorbed all of them into the “stew” of my writing process. “Just do it” is a big one. Also, letting a first draft be just paint thrown at a wall, basically.

“A fantastic writer I worked with once taught greatly by example. He was the boss, and he’d written a script and asked for notes on it. I went through carefully, picking a few things apart and giving general and page notes. As we went through, he would contest my notes and ask about my justification. When we came to a point he didn’t agree with, he said, “I don’t agree with you, but I can tell you’ve invested yourself in this, so I’m going to think harder about that idea.” It taught me that people who are involved in your creative process, like your editor, and your agent, deserve a level of respect and input when they put in the hours. Writing a book, like so many other things, is often the result of collaboration. And I welcome and embrace that. In fact, it’s one of my favorite parts of the process. It’s tremendously flattering that people would devote themselves to making my book better, and highly interesting to read their perspectives on the material. Also, once you establish yourself as a person who’s open to collaboration, the times when you do dig in your heels mean more.”

Meredith Cole (Posed for Murder, Dead in the Water coming May 11, 2010):

“I write in bits here and there since I also work and have a family. The best advice I got was from a screenwriting teacher who told me that when I’m not writing, but sitting at a traffic light or dropping off to sleep, I need to think about my book. I run it through my head like a movie and find the weak points. I imagine different scenarios and subplots. And so when it’s time for me to sit at the computer again, my story feels fresh and I’m raring to go.”

Ad Hudler (Man of the House, All This Belongs to Me, House Husband):

“…….Assign yourself a mental goal of BLANK pages to write every day, and don’t do anything else until you’ve reached that quota. Also, disable your browser while you’re working on this….for obvious reasons.”

Kristy Kiernan (Catching Genius, Matters of Faith and Between Friends coming April 6, 2010):

“George Pelecanos once told me: “Hey, don’t worry so much.” Sounds simple, but it’s not. It is, however, incredibly important to allowing creativity more room to work. If I could influence one beginning writer to set aside some of the agony and just write, I would feel I’d done them a tremendous service.”

Holly LeCraw (The Swimming Pool coming April 6, 2010):

“This is not advice per se, but my favorite quote from a writer, and one that has sustained me (because if he thought it, then maybe I am not such a screwup after all): “Writing a novel is like a one-armed man trying to build a chicken coop in a hurricane.”‘–William Faulkner”

Allison Winn Scotch (The Department of Lost and Found, Time of My Life and The One That I Want coming June 1, 2010):

“After my first manuscript failed to sell, a very kind editor friend, who had read the manuscript, called me up and said, ‘“Look, you have enormous potential, but you have to hone your craft.”’ We had a lengthy conversation, and the crux of it was that I wasn’t as good as I thought that I was. 🙂 What I mean by that is that I think a lot of aspiring writers think that their first go out of the gate is genius, but there is an unlimited learning curve in our craft, and even now, on my fourth book, I learn new things each time I tackle a project. I took her advice to heart, went out and read a lot of authors whom I admired and hoped to emulate, and tried, tried again. There are two ways to take criticism: the first is to dig in your heels and refuse to believe it, and the second is to understand that it’s a great tool for improvement. Thank goodness I chose the latter.”

Therese Walsh (The Last Will of Moira Leahy):

“My blog partner, Kathleen Bolton, told me years ago, ‘“Commit to the work and then never waver. Your book will be so welcome in the world.”’ I took her advice! Another bit of advice I’ve taken: Read, at least occasionally, above your writing level.”


Announcements: The two winners of Kristy Kiernan’s Between Friends are Colleen and Sunny Bravin. Congratulations! Please send your mailing addresses to: diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com, I’ll Pre-order your books. Many thanks to everyone who entered and may you Pre-order or purchase the book next week.