The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…

Archive for August, 2010

How Authors Bid Their Characters Adieu

August 12, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Q&A

Knowing that memorable characters linger in readers’ minds well beyond the last page of a novel, The Divining Wand wondered about the authors’ experience in letting them go. After creating and living through them for months, years….the question was asked: How do you say “goodbye?”

Here are several responses:

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

“I don’t think I do say good-bye to characters. Because they’re mine, I get to carry them around in my head and watch them live out their lives. It’s very different from being a reader and finishing a book and feeling that sense of loss–I feel that a lot when I finish my favorite books. Thankfully, as a writer, I am the Supreme Authority over my characters, where they go, what they do, and all that. I’m pleased to report that they all lived happily ever after!”

~Robin Antalek (The Summer We Fell Apart):

“I haven’t yet said goodbye to the characters in THE SUMMER WE FELL APART—book groups – (I just visited my 53rd) have kept these characters alive for me much longer than I ever dreamed. Even though in my writing world I have moved on to another set of characters – readers have allowed me to keep tabs on the Haas siblings – and I love that.”

~Julie Buxbaum (After You, The Opposite of Love):

“I don’t. When I finish a book, I always keep open the possibility that I’ll get to revisit with them at some point. Since I really and truly love all my characters–I feel like they are my friends–and at the same time, also spend somewhere around three hundred pages torturing them in the name of that annoying thing called “‘plot'”, I sometimes feel like it’s merciful when I leave them alone for a while.”

~ Beth Hoffman (Saving CeeCee Honeycutt releasing in Trade Paperback October 26, 2010):

“I can’t say goodbye, I still think of them and will most likely bring them back in future works in cameo appearances.”

~Kristy Kiernan (Between Friends, Matters of Faith, and Catching Genius):

“You mean if I don’t kill them? I let them go gently. I try to give them new emotional tools–empathy, or fortitude, or simply hope–and then place them gently into their new surroundings…without me.”

~Leah Stewart (Husband and Wife, The Myth of You and Me, Body of a Girl):

“I think of the last lines of my books as their goodbye, and my goodbye to them. If I can get the last line right I feel I’ve given them a fitting send-off.”

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Announcement: The winners of Julie Buxbaum’s “signed” copies of After You are Jenny and Colleen Turner. Congratulations!

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and Julie will send out your book as soon as possible.

The Revealing of Kate Ledger

August 11, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Interviews, Profiles

Last August Kate Ledger made her fiction debut with Remedies — a novel that earned critical raves, including this Starred Review from Publishers Weekly:

“Ledger’s accomplished debut offers a compelling view of married life through the prism of unacknowledged grief. Baltimore physician Simon Bear is a confident, magnanimous man with an inflated view of himself and his abilities. His wife, Emily, a star public relations executive, handles corporate crises with an ease, but can’t find a way to connect with their moody adolescent daughter, Jamie. While the Bears outwardly appear an enviably successful couple, neither Simon nor Emily has ever resolved the tragic and early death of their firstborn. Simon buries himself in work and with all-consuming hobbies (his latest is winemaking). Emily, too, is consumed by work, though she’s privately devastated about her shortcomings as a mother and tempted by another man. Jamie, meanwhile, presses her mother’s buttons, knowing she can never make up for the loss of the dead brother she never knew. Ledger follows the trajectory from achievement to failure with rare insight, suggesting that it is through Jamie that Simon and Emily can find redemption. An impressive portrait of a family in crisis, executed with finesse and assurance.”

Last week the Trade Paperback edition of Remedies was released and has been selected as an Indie Next List Notable book, August 2010. The Divining Wand has scheduled a full presentation/review of the novel for Monday, August 23, 2010, however — in the meantime — let’s meet the author through her “official” bio:

Kate Ledger grew up in Philadelphia, PA, and graduated from Akiba Hebrew Academy and the University of Pennsylvania. She received a Master of Fine Arts degree in fiction from the University of Arizona. For several years, she worked as the senior writer at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. As a freelance writer, she has published articles in Self, Health, and other national magazines. She lives in St. Paul, MN, with her husband and children.

And now to get to know the “real” Kate by what she reveals:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Started slowly, seemed to speed up, now races.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: Do the right thing.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: When my kids’ funny expressions and silly antics make me laugh. That’s good stuff.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Not knowing the answer.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: Hanging out with my husband, wherever that might be. We have a good time together.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: This is such an interesting question, and I don’t know who I identify with. But if I could go back in time, one person I’d like to meet and hang around with for a while is Nellie Bly, the reporter who traveled the world in 80 days and did investigative reporting inside an insane asylum by pretending to be a patient who needed to be committed.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: My daughter, at age seven, is pretty incredible.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases?
A: Like. For a while I was actively trying to exorcise it from my speech, but it was like impossible.

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: Fluency in every language on the planet.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: Indecisiveness.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: Sensitivity.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: The year I finished writing “Remedies” was a tremendous year. My husband and I moved across the country with our family to a new city for his new job. Our daughter was three years old, and I was nursing twin babies. I was writing freelance articles for magazines and also desperately trying to finish the novel I’d been writing for several years. Even now, I can’t quite say how we got through that year, but we did. And the book sold and the babies weaned, so it all worked out.

Q: What do you regret most?
A:Never getting enough sleep.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: House cats seem to have it pretty good, a little purring, a lot of napping.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: Many people tell me I look like someone they know, a cousin or a childhood friend.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Atticus Finch

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Iago. So very bad. But if we’re talking villains who eventually get rehabilitated, I’d have to say The Grinch.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: Apolo Ohno. “How you doin’?”

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: People who are rude for no good reason.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Pottery. I used to be a member of a potter’s guild. I haven’t thrown in a few years, but I miss it terribly.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: I have about twenty. I fantasize about them every time I have a hard day writing. Opera singer…. architect…fashion designer…Queen of England.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Kindness, cleverness, humor.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Ugh. Only one thing? That sounds like a nightmare. Brown rice, maybe. Keep it simple.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: Reelin’ in the Years–Steely Dan
Tangled Up in Blue–Bob Dylan
Mr. Tambourine Man–Bob Dylan
Suzanne–Leonard Cohen
Country Roads–John Denver

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: The list changes, of course, because you’re never the same person when you read again, and what each book means to you is always changing, but right now my five faves are:
Mrs. Dalloway–Virginia Woolf
The Things They Carried–Tim O’Brien
The Corrections–Jonathan Franzen
American Pastoral–Philip Roth
Song of Solomon–Toni Morrison

Fascinating in her breadth of knowledge and interests, while being down-to-earth with humor and friendliness, Kate Ledger is an author to watch by following her on Twitter and becoming a fan of Remedies: A Novel, by Kate Ledger on Facebook

[Note: This week Kate Ledger and Sarah Pekkanen (The Opposite of Me) are two of the featured writers on Author Buzz. For a chance to win a copy of their respective novels, read the “Dear Reader” letters from Kate and Sarah.]

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Book Giveaway: This week Julie Buxbaum has graciously offered two “signed” copies of After You to the winners of a random drawing from comments left on this specific post, Julie Buxbaum and After You. A comment on any other post during this week will not be eligible. The deadline for this contest is tonight at 7:00 p.m. EDT and the winners will be announced here in tomorrow’s post. IF you do enter, please return tomorrow to possibly claim your book.

Guest Kristina Riggle on All in the Family

August 10, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[As she did with her debut novel, Real Life & Liars, Kristina Riggle writes with soul about family and friends coming to terms with change in The Life You’ve Imagined, being released August 17, 2010. And, in today’s guest post, she shares the personal inspiration for the book.]

This is what I remember most about my dad starting his own business: him sitting in a basement office space with a city directory open in front of him, cold-calling strangers to sell his lawn care service.

Since you don’t know my dad, this is probably unremarkable. But my dad is shy.

And if you’re shy, too, you know how hard it is to talk to strangers about the weather. And here he was, calling up strangers in their homes to sell them something. And the stakes were high. If he failed, there went our family’s livelihood.

Meanwhile, my mother – raising two children and already working full time to support us – would spend her evenings doing the accounting for the family business.

I wasn’t consciously thinking of this as I sat down to write The Life You’ve Imagined, but it must have been lurking in the back of my mind. The story revolves around four women connected by a dying family business, in this case a convenience store called the Nee Nance Store.

No matter how much you love your job, if it’s not your company, it just isn’t the same. You can’t have that ownership and pride, nor is the fear of failure ever quite as great. And the odds are stacked against small businesses, certainly. As a reporter I’d done many a story about a new business venture. The owners would show off their shiny new spaces and equipment, bubbling over about how their store was unique and special. And more often than not, I’d drive by later only to see an empty, dark storefront.

My dad’s business beat those odds. He just retired in January after twenty-one years. And it was my dad’s company – plus the support of my mom, without whom he never would have made it — that finally pushed us firmly into middle class instead of hovering over the poverty line.

How did the business affect my sister and me? From middle school on I was also a receptionist when I got home from school. I’d have to answer, “Riggle Professional Lawn Care” or at least, “Riggles” when I answered the phone, and then professionally and courteously take down the message, even if someone was honked off about too much crabgrass. (My dad used to joke that I should answer, “Riggle Towers, how may I direct your call?” as if we were in some shiny office complex, as opposed to our little brown house.) I also had to begin processing the incoming checks every day, to make it easier for my mom to enter them into our books every night when she got home from a long day working at the bank.

But my small contributions to the family business were nothing compared to my characters in The Life You’ve Imagined. Maeve and her daughter Anna lived out their lives behind the front counter of their store; the operating hours of a convenience store meant that they were almost always working, and had scant privacy.

For Maeve, who was stuck with the store after her husband took off, the Nee Nance was a necessary evil: it was income and support for her daughter, and the only job skill she thought she had. For Anna, it symbolized everything she never wanted, so she took off for the big city as soon as she could. But as the story opens, she finds herself back home again.

This isn’t the only family business in the story. Anna’s childhood sweetheart, Beck, is heir to the Becker Development fortune. The contrast between their two lives growing up was something else which imprinted Anna with a desire for something better than what she had. She’s going to have a new relationship with Becker Dev, now, as it turns out that the other son, Paul Becker, has just purchased the Nee Nance Store’s building….

I’m lucky in that my family’s business story wasn’t so dramatic. But I know now, with adult perspective and as a parent myself, how terrifying those first years must have been, and how every economic downturn must have left my parents wondering: Is this the year we fail?

Labor Day is approaching, a time when we applaud the everyday working Joe and Jane. I’d like to take a moment to cheer for the family business, for the proprietors who have the guts to chase a dream. In fact, do more than just cheer, give them your business. Like Anna and Maeve, they might just be hanging on by their fingernails…

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Book Giveaway: This week Julie Buxbaum has graciously offered two “signed” copies of After You to the winners of a random drawing from comments left on this specific post, Julie Buxbaum and After You. A comment on any other post during this week will not be eligible. The deadline for this contest is Wednesday, August 11, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT and the winners will be announced here in Thursday’s post. IF you do enter, please return Thursday to possibly claim your book.

Julie Buxbaum and After You

August 09, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

There is a priceless, poetic irony in the fact that Julie Buxbaum (The Opposite of Love, After You) long feared writing her thoughts down on paper (see The Terror of the Blank Page) since, in both her novels, she delves deeply into the most personal of human emotions to reveal life’s heartbreaking pains and comforting truths. While her debut novel tackled the struggles of figuring out, “Who am I going to be when I grow up?”, After You is based on the author having grown up and now wondering about the challenges our adult selves must face whether we want to or not.

With human relationships on her mind — having recently become engaged at the time –, Julie questioned: How well do we actually know the people we love? Because the bottom line is that in any type of relationship it’s impossible to know for certain what someone else is thinking. Ah, but what if she created a storyline in which one character is allowed — even lovingly forced — to step into the shoes of her best friend?

After You provides that rare opportunity. Here is the Synopsis:

The complexities of friendship. The unraveling of a neglected marriage. And the redemptive power of literature…Julie Buxbaum, the acclaimed author of The Opposite of Love, delivers a powerful, gloriously written novel about love, family, and the secrets we hide from each other, and ourselves.

On a cobblestone street in Notting Hill, Ellie Lerner’s life-long best friend, Lucy, is stabbed to death in front of her eight-year-old daughter. Ellie, of course, drops everything – her job, her marriage, her life in the Boston suburbs – and travels to London to pick up the pieces of the life Lucy has left behind. While Lucy’s husband, Greg copes with his grief by retreating to the pub, eight-year-old Sophie has simply stopped speaking.

Desperate to help Sophie, Ellie turns to a book that gave her comfort as a child, The Secret Garden. As the two spend hours exploring the novel, its story of hurt, magic and healing blooms around them. But so, too, do the secrets Lucy kept hidden, even from her best friend. As Ellie peels back the layers of her friend’s life, she’s forced to confront her own as well – the marriage she left behind, the loss she’d hoped to escape, and the elusiveness of the place we choose to call home.

A novel that will resonate in the heart of anyone who’s had a best friend, a love lost, or a past full of regrets, AFTER YOU proves once again the unique and compelling talent of Julie Buxbaum.

Glowing praise came with publication of the Hardcover edition in September 2009:

“Buxbaum skillfully handles this tale of grief and growing, resonant with realistic emotional stakes and hard-won wisdom.”
—Publishers Weekly

“Buxbaum keeps the story as smart as the writing…The author keeps it real and works out optimistic rather than happy endings for her sharply focused and honestly sympathetic characters.”

And now on the Trade Paperback’s front cover:

After You highlights—beautifully and compellingly—the truth that sometimes we have to lose the people closest to us to find ourselves.”—Jodi Picoult, #1 New York Times Bestselling author

To sample After You, please take a look at Excerpt: Chapter 1.

The beauty of this multi-layered novel is that it begins simply enough with Ellie devastated by the death of her friend yet trying, as best she can, to comfort an eight- year-old, motherless child. Yet soon there are more personal issues revealed and challenges to be met. For Ellie — who lost an unborn baby two years prior, drifted emotionally/physically away from her husband, and could care less about her career — must come to terms with what she believes is the loss of her identity. If not a best friend, mother, or devoted partner/wife….who is she and where does she belong?

Indeed, in the author interview on her website’s Q&A page (click on Synopsis), Julie says: “As the novel unfolds, the reader learns that there is more going on in Ellie’s old life in Boston than originally suspected (and in Lucy’s in London, too, for that matter). AFTER YOU then becomes less a story about a woman comforting a grieving child and very much a story about a woman running away.”

Or perhaps Ellie merely chooses to escape with Sophie by reading the magical tale of the classic children’s novel, The Secret Garden. In addition to being the writer’s all-time favorite book, its story of redemption and self-healing mirrors the raw loss and loneliness both of her characters feel….while dealing with the discovery of hidden secrets.

After You is simple in its premise of loss, heartbreaking in its honesty of grief, and profound in its insights into the mistakes made in relationships. It’s sad, yet never maudlin. After all the truth is the truth — another challenge to be faced and accepted by adults.

This novel is also stunning, breathtaking, optimistic and — dare I say — comforting? Julie Buxbaum’s writing “voice” draws the reader in with a soothing calmness even amidst the confusion of sorrow, indecision, and mistaken assumptions. There’s no reason to fear for these characters but there is hope to cheer for them. And, oh, the lessons one can learn.

Please, After You is a “must reading” experience. “Must read” because the words Julie Buxbaum used to write only in her mind now fill blank pages and, without question, come straight from her heart.

Book Giveaway: This week Julie Buxbaum has graciously offered two “signed” copies of After You to the winners of a random drawing from comments left on this specific post. A comment left on any other post during the week will not be eligible. The deadline for this contest is Wednesday, August 11, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT and the winners will be announced here in Thursday’s post. IF you do enter, please return Thursday to possibly claim your book.

Fan Mail: An Author’s Most Memorable Reward

August 05, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Contests

Meeting and greeting their readers at book signings/speakings, book clubs, or through a random encounter is a thrill for any author, yet what usually makes the most lasting and satisfying impression? Reading fan mail, of course! To know their work has successfully reached out to affect someone…well, that’s why writers write. And, with that in mind, The Divining Wand asked its authors: What’s been your best/most memorable fan mail?

Here are several responses:

~ Alicia Bessette (Simply from Scratch):

“I got my first official fan mail just recently, from a bookstore employee in Massachusetts, who thanked me for “‘finding the true souls” of my characters. I love that.

Another nice fan mail came from a bookstore employee in Germany, who wrote, “‘The right Book for an evening for two: my couch and me.'”

~ Eileen Cook (Unpredictable, What Would Emma Do? YA and Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA):

“I love hearing from readers! Writing is such a solitary occupation that it seems like magic to hear from someone and realize that people (non friends and family!) are reading your books. I think my favorite letter came from a reader who said “‘you write teens so well, it’s like you were one once.'” I love that line.”

~ Allie Larkin (Stay):

“I’ve been so lucky to get a lot of email, tweets, and Facebook posts with photos of people’s dogs with their copy of STAY, and I absolutely love it. It’s such a gift to get a peek into the lives of the people who read my book and I feel honored to get to see their best friends.”

~ Randy Susan Meyers (The Murderer’s Daughters):

“I’ve received a number of heartbreaking letters from women who’ve been victims of domestic violence. The saddest was from an Australian women whose sister was killed by her husband, who was making a bid to see the two little girls left behind. I hope I was able to give her the help she needed, in regards to places she could turn for help.

“While the letters are sad, I am also heartened by the help many women have felt by seeing a version of their story in print. One father wrote to ‘friend’ me on Facebook, hoping I would be a person who could understand the pain of losing a daughter to domestic violence.

“The more these stories are out there, the more attention I hope they will receive.”

~Wendy Tokunaga (Midori By Moonlight, Love in Translation):

“A Japanese woman wrote to me and said that my novel ‘”Midori by Moonlight”‘ was so much like her real life that she didn’t know whether to laugh or cry as she read it.”

~ Therese Walsh (The Last Will of Moira Leahy now in Trade Paperback and also chosen as a TARGET Breakout Book):

“Most memorable fan mail: I was told that Last Will of Moira Leahy helped 
someone in a dark hour who had been having suicidal thoughts. I also learned 
that Last Will was the last story read by a terminally ill woman who’d been
 having trouble finding a book to capture her interest. Her daughter said her 
mother finished LWML and “‘loved it.'” Isn’t that what it’s all about?”

Attention: Have you heard that Therese Walsh is celebrating The Last Will of Moira Leahy’s trade paperback release with A Big, Fat 51-Author (102 Book) “My Sister and Me” Contest – THE OFFICIAL RULES, THE OFFICIAL LIST?

Therese explains:

I’m thrilled to be able to kick off this mega “My Sister and Me” contest in conjunction with the trade paperback release of The Last Will of Moira Leahy.

There are 51 authors participating, and there will be more than 51 winners. Each winner will receive TWO copies of one of the books listed below–one to keep and one to share with a sister or friend. The contest will close 8/10 at midnight EST.

Please click the above link for more details.

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Announcement: The winner of Alicia Bessette’s debut novel, Simply from Scratch, is Bailey. Congratulations!

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your book will be sent out promptly.

The Revealing of Kristina Riggle

August 04, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

In her moving and compelling debut, Real Life & Liars, Kristina Riggle focused on a family coming to terms with change, and change remains the theme in her second novel, The Life You’ve Imagined, being released on August 17, 2010.

However this storyline revolves around friends who either need or desire change. Consider the book’s description:

Is the life you’re living all you imagined? Have you ever asked yourself, “What if??” Here, four women face the decisions of their lifetimes in this stirring and unforgettable novel of love, loss, friendship, and family.

Anna Geneva, a Chicago attorney coping with the death of a cherished friend, returns to her “speck on the map” hometown of Haven to finally come to terms with her mother, the man she left behind, and the road she did not take.

Cami Drayton, Anna’s dearest friend from high school, is coming home too, forced by circumstance to move in with her alcoholic father . . . and to confront a dark family secret.

Maeve, Anna’s mother, never left Haven, firmly rooted there by her sadness over her abandonment by the husband she desperately loved and the hope that someday he will return to her.

And Amy Rickart—thin, beautiful, and striving for perfection—faces a future with the perfect man . . . but is haunted by the memory of what she used to be.

Kristina Riggle’s The Life You’ve Imagined takes a provocative look at the choices we make—and the courage we must have to change.

Selected by independent booksellers as an IndieNext “Notable” Pick for September 2010, The Life You’ve Imagined is scheduled to be presented/reviewed by The Divining Wand on Monday, August 16, 2010. In the meantime, let’s meet the author through her “official” flap jacket bio: 

Kristina Riggle is a freelance journalist, a published short story writer, and coeditor for fiction at the e-zine Literary Mama. She lives and writes in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with her husband, two kids, and dog.

And now it’s time to reveal more about the real Kristina:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: I write and take care of my kids.

Oh, did you mean a list of words? Well, this eight-word sentence sums it up. Though I sometimes also do laundry.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” Groucho Marx

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: Contentment in my children’s health and happiness. There’s no simpler joy, and therefore nothing so fine.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: See above. Any threat to my children. The actual fears are too scary to type out.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: In Charlevoix, Michigan, on a beach. Or maybe Venice, Siena, or Rome. I visited Italy in 2000 and I sometimes feel homesick for it. Is that possible, to be homesick for someplace I visited for ten days, ten years ago?

Q; With whom in history do you most identify?
A: I’m bad at this. Most of my history education has been lousy. All boring crap about dates and the names of generals. However, I will say I recently read THE LOST SUMMER OF LOUISA MAY ALCOTT by Kelly O’Connor McNees, and I adored it. I also remember reading a kid-friendly biography of Louisa when I was little – already wanting to be an author someday – so I’ll go with Louisa May Alcott. I wanted to be Jo in Little Women. Who didn’t?

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: I’m terrible with these questions. Real people are so flawed and complex, and I’ve never been one to hold up an individual as a beacon. I really admire my parents. They’re both so strong in different ways.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases?
A: Had to ask my husband this. He said I have a fondness for fancy words in casual conversation, but we couldn’t pick out a certain one. Maybe “draconian” is a good example. I think he’s poked fun at me for using that one. But it’s a great word!

Q; If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: Oh, I’d love to be a talented dancer! I love dancing, and it’s the perfect exercise: a tough workout and most excellent fun. I have danced, once in amateur theater, but I wouldn’t say I’m a natural dancer, far from it. I have to work so hard on the simplest steps.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: My kids and my books. That’s the boring-but-true answer.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: I talk too much. And I try too hard to be liked by everyone.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: I’m a great communicator. And I’m nice. (Ha.)

Q: What do you regret most?
A: I remember one woman unloading with a really racist remark in my presence. I gaped at her, horrified, and she back-pedaled (poorly). But I still wish I’d been forceful and really called her out. I shudder to think that she’d assumed she was safe to say that kind of thing around me.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: I don’t want to be any other person, I like who I am just fine. A thing, eh? That’s fanciful. Ummm….a cello because it’s curvy with a pretty voice.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: That I talk too much, see above. According to my husband, it’s my cute butt, but that’s what I get for asking him.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Frodo Baggins in Lord of the Rings. You don’t have to be big and strong to save the world.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Ever see Christopher Walken in “Balls of Fury”? He takes an already funny movie and sends it into giddy spasms of hilarity.
Runner up: Mr. Burns from The Simpsons.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: Billie Jean King, and I’d say thanks for winning the Battle of the Sexes. A generation of female athletes owes her a debt. Not that I’m an athlete. But I could have been. And my sister is. (She played a sport in every season in high school.)

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: Rudeness. Courtesy costs so little and makes life better for everyone.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: I love to sing! And like I said above, I wish I could dance. I’ve done a teensy bit of community theater and I’d love to do more someday.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: Psychologist. Or anthropologist. I love science, just not so much the math. And all that…precision. My high school chemistry labs never once came out right.
Or maybe Broadway star, as long as we’re talking fantasy, here. (See above).

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Compassion, determination and a sense of humor.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Gosh, I’d get sick of anything after like, a day. But I’m being too literal. So, sushi. Mmmm, wasabi.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: Here are five of my favorite songs. I have lots of favorites, and these shift depending on the day.
Cabaret, from the show (Liza Minelli, especially)
Sweet Child O’Mine, Guns-n-Roses
Ghost in the House, Allison Krauss
That’s Not My Name, Ting Tings
Haven’t Met You Yet, Michael Buble

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: Catch-22, Joseph Heller
Breathing Lessons, Anne Tyler
How I Became a Famous Novelist, Steve Hely
Notes on a Scandal, Zoe Heller
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

Whether serious or funny, Kristina Riggle has a charming way of being any and every women. Enjoy her company by following along on Twitter and becoming a friend/fan on Facebook.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Alicia Bessette’s Simply from Scratch in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post, Presenting Debutante Alicia Bessette and Simply from Scratch. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is tonight at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winner to be announced here in tomorrow’s post. If you enter, please return tomorrow to possibly claim your book.

Guest Julie Buxbaum on
The Terror of the Blank Page

August 03, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Imagine Julie Buxbaum (After You, The Opposite of Love) being afraid to share her insight, honesty, and humor in writing! It’s true and — in today’s guest post — she not only confesses but explains how/why her “transformation” to being an author took place.]

The Terror of the Blank Page

I’m pretty sure there are only two kinds of writers in this world. The ones who spent their childhood dragging around piles of journals and their free time actually writing, and the ones like me, who for years only wrote in their heads. The biggest difference between the first and the second, I think, besides using paper, is that the first embraced what I like to call their inner writerdom, while the latter succumbed to the fear. When an option, fear seems to suit me.

For those of us who fancy ourselves writers, but have never written anything (and I was one of those people for a very long time, so believe me when I say I’m not judging) there is nothing more terrifying than the blank page. The idea is so terrifying in fact, that we choose to ignore it altogether and pursue alternative means of spending our lives. For me, I ran from the page by going to law school, and spending four years as an attorney, where I could fill pages by regurgitating case law, slewing together other people’s sentences. And only in the dark hours of night, or sometimes in the shower, would I write for myself, rearrange words until they meant something, only to get lost by morning, or when I put my foot on the bathmat, as if writing was some sort of dirty secret. Ah, it’s amazing what fear can do.

In college, my roommate took a fiction-writing course, and because I was too scared to share my work—no worse, I was too scared to create any work—I didn’t take the class, but read her syllabus again late at night, as if it was something to be shameful of. Neither did I turn my love of reading (and my distaste for numbers) into a major. Nope, again the fear kept me away and I embraced Philosophy, Political Science, Economics (Economics, really?), anything to avoid having to put my own thoughts, my own words onto paper. And still the paragraphs would line up at night, march into order, where I played with them, as if they were a game, not a way of life.

The funny thing is that when I finally embraced my identity as a writer, quit my job and plunged head first, I suddenly wasn’t scared at all. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I really, really hated my job, but I like to think that I needed to do all these other things first to know I was ready. Come to think of it, maybe there are two kinds of writers in the world. The ones who are born ready, and the rest of us who need to struggle just a bit first before we can face that terrifying blank page.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Alicia Bessette’s Simply from Scratch in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post, Presenting Debutante Alicia Bessette and Simply from Scratch. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winner to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to possibly claim your book.

Presenting Debutante Alicia Bessette
and Simply from Scratch

August 02, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

Throughout the year she’s watched, applauded, supported her fellow 2010 Class Members dance across the ballroom floor to launch their books and celebrate with tours/signings. However this Thursday, August 5, 2010 it’s Debutante Alicia Bessette’s turn to take a bow when her first novel, Simply from Scratch, appears in local bookstores and ships from online retailers.

Of course, truth be told, this book is not Alicia’s first published “composition.” As a self-trained musician, she’s been playing the piano since childhood and her original solo piano pieces can be heard on radio stations around the world. Reservoir, the first CD, was released in 2002 and the most recent, Orchard, received a nomination for the 2009 “grassroots grammies.” For more about Alicia’s music please visit, Alicia Bessette pianist/composer.

Yet in her Wednesday posts at The Debutante Ball, Alicia rarely mentioned music except for a brief nod, such as this, in the September 2, 2009 post, In which Ms. Wednesday introduces herself, and her book!. Here’s what she shared in that first post:

1. I’m married to my college sweetheart, novelist Matthew Quick. In 2004, with the shared goal of becoming full-time novelists, we quit our jobs, sold our house, and moved in with my parents. Five years later, Matt and I are on our own, back in the Philly area, publishing novels and doing everything we can to continue living the dream.

2. I can’t wait to be reunited with my piano, which is very quietly waiting in what was my parents’ dining room in Massachusetts. What caused the separation? More on that in future posts.

3. Does it have something (anything) to do with France? Or dogs? Movies? Music, of any kind? Yoga? Travel? If so, I’m probably very interested!

In that same post the new Debutante also offered a brief synopsis of her novel:

I once heard an inspiring piece of writing advice: “Write the book only you can write.”

That was my aim with my debut novel, Simply from Scratch—to create a story that’s bighearted, accessible, and totally, authentically me.

A week after Hurricane Katrina, I was hired at a regional newspaper, The Landmark, in my hometown of Holden, Massachusetts. For months my colleagues and I wrote about volunteers from our area helping the people of New Orleans. That spirit of community outreach inspired Simply from Scratch. I asked myself, What would happen if one of those Massachusetts volunteers didn’t return? And the book grew from that question.

Simply from Scratch is peopled with lively small-town heroes. You’ll meet a chainsaw artist in her seventies. (Because really, isn’t it time American literature boasted a strong, chainsaw-wielding older woman?) And you’ll meet Ingrid, a young girl scheming to get to know world-famous TV chef Polly Pinch, coquettish star of a hit cooking show. You’ll meet other characters too.

Marisa de los Santos, bestselling author of Love Walked In offered early praise:

“This story of a young widow edging warily back into the world is full of vivid characters and grace. Imbued with hope but blessedly lacking in sentimentality, it is a fresh, stirring take on the devastation of grief and the holiness of friendship.”

And the buzz of anticipation for the book began.

While more Praise is offered, the REAL treat is an Excerpt of Simply from Scratch Chapter 1 in its entirety!

That first chapter introduces many of the storyline’s characters, while leaving the reader with a variety of unanswered questions. It’s not meant to confuse but to pique interest as the author deftly withholds telling backstory details all at once. Instead she scatters bits of information like breadcrumbs to keep the reader following and engaged.

On the other hand, there may be one character who “knows” almost everything from the start. In response to an interview question (posed by a chain bookstore in Germany) — What is the role of the non-human character, the greyhound, Captain Ahab? –, Alicia answered in the July 21, 2010 post, Knowing things:

Greyhounds are a little bit odd. They’re different than other dogs. Their affection is subtle; their presence is calm and cool; and they have many quirks (they rarely sit, for example).

Like her dog, the grieving narrator of Simply from Scratch is a little … different! An artist, Zell “feels” the world more intensely than most people. She’s got her fair share of quirks too: talking to Ahab in pirate-speak; composing emails to Nick, her deceased husband. Captain Ahab’s reserved yet quirky personality underscores that of Zell.

Many people who feel a bond with animals will tell you that animals know things. They know when their people are hurting. They know when there’s celebration in the air.

Captain Ahab joins literature’s many animal characters that serve to remind us of intuition, of inner-knowing, of keen perception. In the very first scene of Simply from Scratch, Ahab looks on as Zell discovers a present hidden in her oven, a gift Nick intended to give to her. Not emotionally ready to open it, Zell hides the present away, until the end of the book.

But I think part of her knows all along what’s in that box. Some readers might know it, too.”

Knowing what’s in the box (I didn’t) or any other of these characters’ unspoken truths doesn’t matter. In fact it’s part of the enjoyment of getting to know the town that Alicia has created. A cross between two brilliantly written TV shows, “Northern Exposure” and “Men in Trees,” Simply from Scratch offers a comfort zone despite having grief, guilt, and a general feeling of indecision exist within its pages. Yet even as Zell mourns — as does everyone else –, there is hope. Why? Well they all must deal with the loss of a husband or friend and start over, simply from scratch.

Charming, thoughtful, and heartfelt, this debut novel gathers seemingly unrelated, significant details together to create a tale that’s both tender and true. But how did the author transform fictional quirky characters and events into what could pass for a realistic human interest story? Alicia explains:

I’m not sure how they all came together. When you’re working on a book, you devote so many hours and an unthinkable amount of thought (!) to it. After a while, all the random little pieces of your story — events, details, characters and what they want — all these things start to synthesize, start to make even more sense than you realized. I hesitate to use the word “magic” in conjunction with the writing process, and I don’t want to sound flaky … and yet, I do believe that when you’re writing, you’re in a very receptive state, and at some point, subconscious takes over, or some kind of inner awareness — perhaps the magic of creation? — and it guides you in drawing connections.

Simply from Scratch connects on all levels, including the double entendre of its title. Alicia Bessette’s “magic of creation” is present on every page and in every character, none of whom you will soon forget. Treat yourself to this warm-hearted novel and enjoy!

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Alicia Bessette’s Simply from Scratch in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winner to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to possibly claim your book.