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Archive for May, 2011

Favorite Fictional Worlds, II

May 12, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Q&A

Once again thanks to Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters) who responded earlier this year with an alternative answer for her fictional BFF. Since Eleanor’s “twist” was simply too good (and intriguing) to pass up, TDW asked its other authors her question:

In what fictional world/neighborhood would you like to live? And why?

This week the following writers replied:

~Robin Antalek (The Summer We Fell Apart):

“I would love to inhabit the very distinct world of the Manning clan and all the generations and their many offspring in Arkansas and Mississippi that Ellen Gilchrist has created over the span of eleven short story collections, seven novels and four books of poetry. Her writing gave me the courage to become a better writer. The world she has created in her prolific career is more magical and mysterious to me than anything I have ever read, and I return to her work when I am stuck in my own, and when I want to escape.”

~Tawna Fenske (Making Waves coming August 2011):

“I’m looking out the window at a spring snowstorm right now, so every fictional setting I’m imagining is set in a warm, tropical locale. Actually, this was the best part of writing my debut novel, MAKING WAVES. The book is set mostly in the Caribbean, either on a ship or an island. Having the opportunity to imagine myself in these sunny spots kept me feeling warm and tingly the whole time I wrote it. OK, setting might not have been the only thing making me warm and tingly.”

~Tanya Egan Gibson (How to Buy a Love of Reading):

“I’d love to live in the 1920’s world of Anna Godbersen’s BRING YOUNG THINGS. Gold Coast mansions! Bootleggers! Speakeasies! Flapper clothing!”

~James King (Bill Warrington’s Last Chance):

“I’m afraid I’ve come up short with this question, I must read too many depressing books.”

~Judy Merrill Larsen (All the Numbers):

“Well, the first one that come to mind would have to be Maycomb, Alabama. I’d play with Scout and Jem, we’d try to sneak a Boo sighting, and on hot days we’d relax with lemonade and Miss Maudie’s Lane cake while waiting for Atticus to come home. But there would also be such sadness. And lessons to be learned. All that growing up to do. But, it’s a place I’ve returned to often through the years. I’d also like to wander in the 100 Acre Wood with Christopher Robin and Pooh. Both of these places are so vivid in my memory . . . it’s like I really lived there. Which, I suppose I did.”

~Kate Ledger (Remedies):

“I don’t have a need to stay too long, but I think I’d enjoy a year at Hogwarts. I’d like to learn some spells and receive my mail by way of Owl Post.”

~Meg Mitchell Moore (The Arrivals coming May 25, 2011):

“I’d enjoy spending some time in the post-war London that Clarissa Dalloway inhabits in Mrs. Dalloway. Alternatively (or in different moods) I’d like to check out the Colorado plains of Plainsong and any of the small Canadian towns from an Alice Munro story.”

~Camille Noe Pagan (The Art of Forgetting coming June 9, 2011):

“As a child, I wanted to live in Narnia. As an adult, I still wouldn’t mind slipping between the pages of any one of my favorite childhood books–especially The Secret Garden, A Wrinkle In Time or any one of The Chronicles of Narnia.”

~Ivy Pochoda (The Art of Disappearing):

“Ok, so I’m a dork. It’s not entirely fictional, or perhaps, not fictional at all, but I would love to live in Henry James’s New York City. Man, those mansions, need I say more. I used to walk past many of the building he describes, which are now hidden behind the heinous commercialism that is Manhattan. I’d much prefer to see them back when.”

~Kristina Riggle (Real Life & Liars and The Life You’ve Imagined, and The Things We Didn’t Say coming June 28, 2011):

“Oh, I want to live in West Egg, next door to Gatsby’s mansion, on the other side from Nick Carraway. The decadence! The glamour!”

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

“I used to think I’d like to live in the older novels I read, so I could wear fancy gowns all the time, but I’ve since come to realize that both gowns and the way of life that went with them were awfully restricting. Now I think I’d enjoy a visit to Harry Potter’s world, with its wands and magical candies and flying around on brooms, but not until after all the killing’s over.”

~Therese Walsh (The Last Will of Moira Leahy):

“Well, my answer to this question is a no-brainer for me–but maybe it’s because I had a light lunch today. I would love to land in the world of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I’d pack a straw and hang out near the chocolate river, for sure.”

To be continued….

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Announcement: The winner of Laura Dave’s The First Husband is Mary Quackenbush. Congratulations!

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

The Revealing of Meg Mitchell Moore

May 11, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Journalist Meg Mitchell Moore turns her writing skills to fiction with The Arrivals, coming to bookstores and online retailers Wednesday, May 25, 2011.

To briefly describe this debut novel, consider the intriguing question it poses: What happens when an empty nest fills up again?

And, as a result, its received glorious early praise:

“Moore finds a crisp narrative in the morass of an overpacked household, and she keeps the proceedings moving with an assurance and outlook reminiscent of Laurie Colwin, evoking emotional universals with the simplest of observations, as in ‘the peace you feel when you are awake in a house where children are sleeping.’” Publishers Weekly

“Featuring sharp dialogue and witty, easily recognizable characters, Moore’s debut takes an engaging, often humorous look at a family’s struggle to cope with the passage of time and shifting family dynamics. It is a clear reminder of the changing yet changeless nature of families and the individuals who inhabit them.” Booklist

“What an intoxicating read! Meg Mitchell Moore takes on the age-old topic of parents and children and their children with a fresh perspective, a canny understanding of human emotion, and the absolute best dialogue I have ever read. Both charming and deeply meaningful, this is one book you must not miss.” – New York Times bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of The Arrivals for Monday, May 23, 2011 but let’s meet the author now through her “official” bio:

Meg Mitchell Moore worked for several years as a journalist. Her work has been published in Yankee, Continental, Women’s Health, Advertising Age and many other business and consumer magazines. She received a B.A. from Providence College and a master’s degree in English Literature from New York University. The Arrivals is her first novel. Her second novel will be published by Reagan Arthur Books in 2012. Meg lives in Newburyport, Massachusetts, with her husband, their three children and a beloved border collie.

A second novel to be published next year? It’s definitely time to get to know Meg, upclose and personal:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Busy, more laundry than time, caffeinated, productive, LUCKY.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: It’s never too late.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: Three happy healthy little girls sleeping after a day at the beach, bottle of wine with my husband.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Failing as a parent.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: Top of a ski slope.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: Single parents the world over.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases?
A: Well, you know, hurry up.

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: A natural and flawless sense of direction.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Raising three children with impeccable grammar. Also, just raising three children—not done yet, but so far so good.

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

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

Q: What do you regret most?
A: Not learning a bunch of foreign languages when my mind was a sponge. Now my mind is definitely not a sponge.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: My border collie running after a tennis ball on the beach—that’s pure joy.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: Eyes.

Q; Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Jackson Brodie.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Angela Argo in Blue Angel

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights. I know! He’s not real! But I want him to be.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: Laziness. Or bullying. Lazy bullies are the worst.

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

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: I’m pretty happy with this one. But if I had to pick another: owner of a bookstore/coffee shop. On the water. In New Zealand.

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

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: The shrimp, avocado and mango salad at Agave, a Mexican restaurant in my town.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: Different for Girls, Joe Jackson
The Crane Wife 3, The Decemberists
Fly Me to the Moon, Frank Sinatra
Orbital, Josh Ritter
Kick Drum Heart, The Avett Brothers

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: Case Histories, by Kate Atkinson
To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf
The Emperor’s Children, by Claire Messud
Hateship, Frienship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, by Alice Munro
Olive Kitteride, Elizabeth Strout

Mmm = Meg Mitchell Moore, a talented, new author to follow on Twitter and friend on Facebook!

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of The First Husband by Laura Dave in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Laura Dave and The First Husband. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. 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 see if you’re a winner.

Guest Julianna Baggott on The Physics of Writing

May 10, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[There are authors who describe writing as an art while still others define it as a skill, but could writing also be considered a science? In today’s guest post, essayist/poet and novelist of her seventeenth book — The Provence Cure for the BrokenheartedJulianna Baggott makes a case for scientific application to writing.]

The Physics of Writing

Scientists get all of the best laws and theories – motion, gravity, thermodynamics, evolution, relativity. What about writers, huh? How about a few unbreakable Laws of Creative Musing? How about a little Theory of Novelization? ‘Bout time, if you ask me.

The fictional apple has dropped on my fictional head and here you go:

Baggott, Asher & Bode’s Laws and Theories of Creative Forces and Narrative Brain Matter

LAW # 1. Fiction punishes you for your absence. This law states that if you stop writing for a week or a month or more, you might think that your writing will be so happy to see you again (oh where have you been! I’ve missed you so!) that everything will come flowing forth. Wrong. You’re out of shape. You’re a body not in motion that’s got to shove itself into motion.

Suggestion: Keep writing because it’s easier to keep a body in motion that’s already in motion. (Also, for novels, once you come up for air and then reattack, you have to find your way back into that world, those characters’ heads. It’s not easy. The more times you break from the dream, the more time wasted reestablishing that dream.)

LAW #2. Writing rewards you early with great leaps in craft – but the better you get, the more diminished the returns. I explained this theory of mine to the world’s leading expert in expertise – Anders Ericsson – who explained, patiently, that this theory wasn’t mine. He could show me a graph that proved it. But this is how writing draws you in. At first, if you put in a little effort, you get great rewards. The better you get, the more effort required for infinitesimal steps forward. Like learning a foreign language – in a few weeks, you can speak well enough to get food, find toilets, tell people off. In a few months, you’re fluent. But it takes years to go from fluent to bilingual and sometimes it never truly happens. (Don’t make me show you a graph.) But by the time the rewards for your labor are tiny, you might already be in so deep – years of hours upon hours – that there’s no turning back. Sorry.

LAW #3 Time plus talent equals stronger craft. Talent without time equals – well, not much of anything. It takes hours – according to Ericsson 3-4 hours per day for 10 years. (When people tell me at cocktail parties that they want to be a writer, I tell them that’s great – and hit ‘em with the data.)

In other words: Talented writers who don’t write are doomed. I know a lot of talented young writers who don’t write. It’s over. Done. Wasted potential. From the start, in fact, they’ve got a strike against them. Writers who are excellent in a first draft are very hard to talk into the enormous effort it takes to get you from damn-that’s-good to actually brilliant and polished. Writers who are really just creating a lump of clay in the first draft – to then have something to sculpt with – have an easier time putting in hours and seeing results. It’s easier for an orthodontist to fix buck teeth than a tiny overlap. It’s the final 1/100th of the centimeter that’s the hardest.

LAW #4 For all I’ve said about putting in the hours, writers can improve solely as a function of the passage of time. A talented young writer of 23 – if he/she keeps writing – is going to be a much stronger writer at 35, simply because they’ll have more life experience to write about. It’s one of those few professions that writers simply get better at as they age. I truly believe this.

LAW #5 If you want to take a leap as a writer, dismantle the books you love. Reading for pleasure? Stop it. Read like a young engineer taking apart a clock. Mark up the margins. Break it down. Read and reread. Read aloud. Memorize lines. Figure out the structure. Reconfigure it. Once all of it exists in parts, try to put it back together again.

There you have it 5 Laws (and Theories) which, unlike the sciences, have all been broken before and will all be broken again. Feel free to add on as the fictional apples fall on your own fictional heads.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of The First Husband by Laura Dave in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Laura Dave and The First Husband. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, May 11, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

Laura Dave and The First Husband

May 09, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


With witty, wise, storytelling regarding the complexities of modern love — complemented by her elegantly honest prose –, Laura Dave (The Divorce Party, London Is the Best City in America) offfers readers her third novel, The First Husband, available Thursday, May 12, 2011.

How good is it really? In its May 2011 issue, Marie Claire designated The First Husband as a “NEED TO READ” decadent novel noting: “What distinguishes Dave from her peers are her keen observations about the difficulty of creating lasting love in a freedom-obsesses society, and her willingness to follow her characters into the grayest areas of their emotional lives…”

The author accomplishes just that by first introducing Annie Adams, a thirtysomething travel columnist, who watches her five-year committed relationship dissolve within an hour. After five years with someone she loved and thought would be her life partner, what does Annie do? Well that was the question that inspired the novel — how do we not live our lives in reaction? Also how do we operate from a place of agency?

As for the title, Laura explains: “In today’s age, I feel like many of my friends have such serious relationships before marriage (decade long relationships) that in some ways this person they end up parting with is a first husband. I liked that the title could speak to that a bit.”

Indeed it does and the storyline evolved into the following synopsis:

A savvy, page-turning novel about a woman torn between her husband and the man she thought she’d marry.

Annie Adams is days away from her thirty-second birthday and thinks she has finally found some happiness. She visits the world’s most interesting places for her syndicated travel column and she’s happily cohabiting with her movie director boyfriend Nick in Los Angeles. But when Nick comes home from a meeting with his therapist (aka “futures counselor”) and announces that he’s taking a break from their relationship so he can pursue a woman from his past, the place Annie had come to call home is shattered. Reeling, Annie stumbles into her neighborhood bar and finds Griffin-a grounded, charming chef who seems to be everything Annie didn’t know she was looking for. Within three months, Griffin is Annie’s husband and Annie finds herself trying to restart her life in rural Massachusetts.

A wry observer of modern love, Laura Dave “steers clear of easy answers to explore the romantic choices we make” (USA Today). Her third novel is packed with humor, empathy, and psychological insight about the power of love and home.

After three months Annie is married and starting over in rural Massachusetts?! Granted, Griffin seems to be wonderful and his small town, though isolated, is quaint and charming, albeit a bit off the beaten path. But is Annie being impulsive or reactive to finding “a ready made life” there? Because the truth is that this world travel columnist has a lack of self-worth baggage that she’s been dragging around though her mother’s numerous marriages and divorces. In other words, Annie has never had the stability to prove to herself that she deserved stability. This is one of the major themes of the novel and it’s also an issue that Laura Dave shows a brilliant take on as she says:

“I think she was deeply scared to even hope for it or ask for it — because then she would have to acknowledge how much she had longed for it. Watching Annie start to trust herself and gain a sense of self-worth (and choose a man who honored who she truly was) was a great joy for me as a writer.”

Perhaps the simple fact that Annie realizes she enjoys being with someone completely different than she’s used to –even loves him enough to marry him — makes The First Husband both insightful, delightful, and fresh. And all that likely comes from the author’s writing process. Because, when writing, Laura doesn’t know what’s going to happen….at times. Although she doesn’t follow a major outline, there are mental ideas as to where her characters are headed. However how they get there is both poignant and fun, creating a naturally human flawed storyline.

Without giving away *spoilers*, The Divining Wand asked the writer if she knew when, where, and how Annie would meet Griffin? And Laura admitted:

“I knew Annie was going to meet someone that night, and at some point I decided certain things about Griffin. But the joy for me is letting the characters talk to each other and say crazy things and be surprised myself as that meeting transpires on the page. When I feel surprised myself, I know my readers will feel that surprise too.”

Not only will there be that feeling of surprise, there will be “Aha,” and even “too close for comfort” feelings as well. For Laura Dave’s goal is to present her best possible writing by putting it first, the story second. Believing that good writing is rewriting, after the first draft, she often writes a dozen more. It’s in these drafts that the author finds what puzzle pieces are missing, what changes are needed, and what interesting bits of the story deserve more attention.

During the past decade, hundreds of novels have been written about twenty/thirtysomething women searching for happiness in quest of “Mr. Right.” TRUTH: The First Husband is not one of those novels. Instead it’s a tale of a thirtysomething woman searching for love within herself and the happiness that comes from learning where she can grow and belong. Modern love may throw in complications but it remains a universal story of self-acceptance. Which is why The First Husbandis a stunning, thoughtful, hopeful read for all ages because loving oneself is a lifelong journey. Enjoy!

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of The First Husband by Laura Dave in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, May 11, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

Favorite Fictional Worlds, I

May 05, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Q&A

When Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters) responded earlier this year with an alternative answer for her fictional BFF, it was simply too good (and intriguing) to pass up. And so, with a grateful nod to Eleanor, TDW asked its other authors:

In what fictional world/neighborhood would you like to live? And why?

This week the following writers replied:

~ Joëlle Anthony (Restoring Harmony YA):

“I would definitely want to live in Deep Valley, Minnesota with Betsy and Tacy and the Crowd. This would be circa 1906-1910. I know Minnesota is FREEZING in the winter, and BOILING and HUMID in the summer, but they made it sound so nice and cozy with their wool dresses (and wool long underwear!) and furs (of course, my furs would have to be faux). Walking to school through the snow, or downtown to Heinz’s for hot chocolate all sounds so dreamy to me! And spring and summer sound so fun…swimming in the lake (again, in wool!) and eating lots of fresh peach pie. And picnics on the Big Hill. Sign me up! For those of your readers who are not as obsessed as I am with Betsy and Tacy, I am referring, of course, to the Betsy-Tacy book series by Maud Hart Lovelace.?

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

“I’d love to live in The Secret Garden. Okay, not in the garden itself, but I think it would be so much fun to live in the huge manor behind it and play on the moors all day with Dickon and Mary and frolic in that fictional and magical world. I don’t get to frolic enough in real life.”

~Eileen Cook (The Education of Hailey Kendrick YA, Unpredictable, What Would Emma Do? YA, Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA, and Fourth Grade Fairy ages 9 -11):

“This is a hard question to answer- I can think of millions of books I would love to visit. I’d swing by Jane Austen’s drawing room, take a wander through the museum in The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and put my feet up at Hogwarts and enjoy a cup of Butterbeer with Harry Potter.”

~Ann Wertz Garvin (On Maggie’s Watch):

“Is it just too predictable to say- in Harry Potter’s world, specifically Hogwarts? I’ve always wanted a little magic in my life; and I don’t mean the magic of spring. I want to twitch my nose or blink my eyes and be the witch or genie of my television youth. When I was 7 or so, I was sure, with the right amount of determination and focus, I would be able to levitate, turn bullies into pigs and disappear. I started small, I concentrated on pencils first, sure I could move them to my side. I think now, if only I’d turned that single-minded energy into punctuation or say my abs, I’d be amazing. There would be no need for my wizard fantasies. No need to pine for a wand. But I do pine. I fantasize about joining forces with Harry; smiting evil, silencing gossips, saving the world. I would so happily bow to a Hippogriff and ride off to find terrorists; anything to get me away from grocery shopping and making meal after uneaten meal for the picky eaters in my family. Truth be told, drudgery is my terrorist so I suppose it’s predictable that I want to live in a place where food appears out of nowhere and a room of requirement exists (you know, other than Costco).”

~Beth Hoffman (Saving CeeCee Honeycutt):

“Right now I wished I lived on a deserted island (like the Swiss Family Robinson) so nobody could find me! I’m trying to stay focused on writing my new novel and if I could only hide for a while, I’d be able to get a lot more done.”

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

“When my daughter was going through her mopey, teenage years, unhappy with the world around her, we came up with a game that we’d play while driving in the van: We invented our own perfect planets that we would create and rule over. Planet Ad was a pleasant place indeed: Every structure would be painted in bright, Caribbean colors. There would be no rap music, no cigarettes, no rudeness, no slow drivers in the left-hand lane, no laugh tracks on TV sitcoms. There would be no cell phones; people would actually talk to each other in person.”

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

“I would like to live on my own creation–Big Dune Island from Catching Genius. Sun, sand, the Gulf of Mexico, shrimp…ahhh, happiness.”

~Holly LeCraw (The Swimming Pool):

“I confess I am too entranced by the ordinary world around me to want to go anywhere else. Truth.”

~Lauren Baratz-Logsted (most recent The Twin’s Daughter YA, and middle grade addition The Sisters Eight Book 6: Petal’s Problems, The Education of Bet YA, Crazy Beautiful YA, Sisters 8 series Book 5: Marcia’s Madness):

“The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander. There needs to be another female character in there to give Eilonwy some competition for Taran’s heart. Plus, I’m pretty sure I’m less strident than she is.”

~Kristina McMorris (Letters From Home):

“I’m a huge fan of The Tudors, so would love to experience life as part of their royal court — but just for an evening of elegant gowns, delicious wine, and charming folk dances. In other words, not long enough to be sentenced to a beheading.”

~Sarah Pekkanen (Skipping a Beat and The Opposite of Me):

“Can I cheat a little on this question with a neighborhood that isn’t fictional but is probably very different today? I’ve always loved the neighborhoods described by James Herriott in his “All Things Bright and Beautiful” series – pubs, rolling green hills, friendly neighbors (and since I adore animals it would have been fun to go on veterinary rounds with him). But I’d have to go back in time…”

~Lori Roy (Bent Road):

“I would choose to live on Melrose Island, South Carolina, the childhoold home of Tom Wingo from THE PRINCE OF TIDES (abscent the tragic childhood.) Why would I want to live there…because Pat Conroy made it irresistible.”

To be continued….

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Announcement: The winner of Exposure by Therese Fowler is Jennifer Downing. Congratulations!

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

The Revealing of Julianna Baggott

May 04, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A


Novelist, essayist, and poet Julianna Baggott — author of seventeen books — also writes under the pen names of Bridget Asher and N.E. Bode. Her most recent novel, The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted, has been described as: An absorbing, beautifully written tale about life, death, love, food, and the magic of new possibilities.

Both commercial and critical reviews agree:

“Fans of Under the Tuscan Sun will adore this impossibly romantic read.”—People magazine

“Unabashedly romantic and unafraid of melancholy, Asher’s book is a real charmer about a Provencal house that casts spells over the lovelorn.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Readers who enjoy…Lolly Winston’s Good Grief and Jane Green’s The Beach House or travel-induced transformation books like Frances Mayes’s Under the Tuscan Sun and Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love will find common themes in Asher’s engaging third novel…and become quickly invested in the lives of the deftly drawn characters.”—Library Journal

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted for Monday, May 16, 2011. However, in the meantime, let’s meet this prolific author through her “official” bio:

Julianna Baggott is the author of seventeen books, most recently THE PROVENCE CURE FOR THE BROKENHEARTED under her pen name Bridget Asher, as well as THE PRETEND WIFE and MY HUSBAND’S SWEETHEARTS. She’s the bestselling author of GIRL TALK and, as N.E. Bode, THE ANYBODIES TRILOGY for younger readers. Her essays have appeared widely in such publications as The New York Times Modern Love column, Washington Post, NPR.org, and Real Simple.

She lives in Florida with her husband writer David G.W. Scott and their four kids, and is an associate professor at Florida State University’s Creative Writing Program.

Now it’s time to get to know Julianna, upclose and personal:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: big-eyed, skewed, definite, quick, forgiving, obsessive, tenacious, associative

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: Practice empathy.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: It wouldn’t have anything to do with its fast-friend contentedness. It’s about challenge — while not being devoured by challenges.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Oh, so many to choose from. Mainly, I have children — so I fear anything bad that might happen to them. I fear not breathing, drowning, untested smoke detectors, frogs, diseases, apocalypse …

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: It’s almost April so the answer is a boring one: Paris.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: I was raised Catholic so we got to choose the name of a saint for confirmation. Other girls were picking Theresa the Little Flower left and right. I love Theresa but I didn’t want to die scrubbing floors, coughing blood into a hankie. And so I chose — Joan of Arc — not just Joan, mind you. No, no. All three words. My Catholic full name is Julianna Christin Joan of Arc Baggott. Friends sometimes still refer to me as such.

I published a book of poems, LIZZIE BORDEN IN LOVE, poems in women’s voices — Mary Todd Lincoln to Monica Lewinski. I do a lot of relating in that book.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: We now own a signed Obama basketball jersey. It feels so good to finally have a president and first lady whom I can admire. And to call everyone — including the president — on stuff — I deeply admire Jon Stewart and Rachel Maddow. Odd one off — I just watched The Fab Five and came to admire Jalen Rose. I admire the people of Wisconsin, standing up for the rights of the middle class right now. I admire those risking their long-term health, battling nuclear meltdown in Japan — so awful. (I wish Milk could be alive to see those of us dedicated to fighting for civil rights.) I admire quiet lives lived in the service of others — which brings me back to Saint Theresa the Little Flower.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases
A: All curse words. Cannot repeat here. I’m inventive with that sh*t.

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: A singing voice. My heart wants to belt it out.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: I didn’t see it coming, but if you get married young, you have a shot at a long marriage. Dave and I have this relationship that kind of astounds me.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: Right now I’m really working on impatience.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: I’ve got some resilience. I hope it lasts.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: I found the body of a good friend, dead from suicide. I don’t think I have to explain anymore.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: I get to be other people for many hours of each day. I play this fantasy out — page upon page.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: I think I’m scary looking sometimes — like E.T.. My four year old asks me to close my eyes while telling stories because they “fweak” him out.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: C’mon. Atticus Finch.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Humbert Humbert — though technically he’s a hero.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: Bill Buckner, Pumpsie Green, Willie Mays … I’d want to hand them my novel THE PRINCE OF FENWAY PARK, in which they are (beloved) characters.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: If I sit on one more moist toilet seat in my own home … four boys in this house.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: I love to dance.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: Choreography or weird photography portraits …

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Love, forgiveness and humor — humor is hugely important for survival.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: I actually went a few months (pregnant) only eating chicken salad sandwiches with cranberry jelly. I just don’t know.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: At one point: Thunder Road, The Boys are Back in Town, Currently: shove a song in by The Smiths. If you want to make me cry: Danny Boy, Woman’s Work.

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: I hate this. I refuse. Here. But I’m not sticking to this.
Eloise in Paris (a shot over the bough), Lolita (okay?), 100 Years of Solitude (I know, I know.), Their Eyes Were Watching God (I said it.), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (back off)

Energetic, eclectic, and most entertaining, Julianna Baggott could be your new author to follow on Twitter and friend on Facebook.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Exposure by Therese Fowler in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Therese Fowler and Exposure. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. 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 see if you’re a winner.

Guest Laura Dave on REBOOTED:
How My Worst Writing Moment Became My Best

May 03, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[A published author is of often defined as a writer who never gave up. In today’s guest post, Laura Dave (The Divorce Party, London Is the Best City in America, and The First Husband coming May 12, 2011) shares an experience that tested and challenged her “author dream.”]

REBOOTED:
How My Worst Writing Moment Became My Best

Right before my twenty-sixth birthday, I moved to New York City. I’d been living in small towns, for the last several years, working tirelessly on my first novel. I was living on fellowship funds, getting up at 4:30 AM to write, and working a variety of odd jobs. They were challenging years. But I was hopeful that they’d paid off: I was heading to New York with two hundred pages of a book.

But, less than a week after I arrived in Manhattan, I spilled water on my computer and lost the entire thing. All two hundred pages.

Gone.

I spilled one glass of ice water, and the entirety of my work—all of those years worth of struggle and hope—seemed to disappear. I was devastated. I remember lying on the floor of my childhood bedroom, my father standing in the doorway, asking me what I was planning to do next. And I remember my answer.

“Well, I am going to start again,” I said.

The words were out of my mouth before I even thought about them. Much to my surprise, I knew, immediately, that they were the truth. There would be no taking this accident as a sign I was meant to do something else. (Except perhaps learn how to utilize a back-up system.) I would lie on the floor for a few more hours, feeling sorry for myself. Then I would pick myself up and get back to work.

As crazy as it may sound, I often look back at that moment with gratitude. Because it was in that moment that I became a writer. Whatever pitfalls I experience along the way now—whatever bad days make me want to put the pen down—I have lost fear that I will give up on my work. If I didn’t quit then, in the face of such loss, I figure I have no excuse to give up in the future.

But just in case: in my new home in Los Angeles, I have two back-up systems saving every word.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Exposure by Therese Fowler in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Therese Fowler and Exposure. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, May 4, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

Therese Fowler and Exposure

May 02, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


As easily as Therese Fowler (Souvenir, Reunion) accepts the fact that her third novel, Exposure — in bookstores tomorrow, May 3, 2011 –, was meant to be, she also shrugs off early reviews that describe her writing as brave.

Every fictional story begins with an idea of truth and, while the author’s truth came from her son’s arrest for what the media dubbed a sexting crime, Exposure is entirely fictional. However Therese is a Mother, sociologist, and novelist who knows the power of words and what books can do. Writing this cautionary tale was necessary not only to address human mistakes but to hopefully make a difference in what happens afterwards. Also she wanted to provide hours of good reading.

Randy Susan Meyers’ quote describes how well the novelist succeeded: “Headlines rarely reveal the truth. Exposure does. I couldn’t put it down.”

Here’s the synopsis for Exposure:

In Exposure, Therese Fowler has written her most gripping novel to date—a ripped-from-the-headlines story of ardent young love and a nightmarish legal maelstrom that threatens to destroy two families.

Amelia Wilkes’s strict father does not allow her to date, but that doesn’t stop the talented, winsome high school senior from carrying on a secret romance with her classmate Anthony Winter. Desperately in love, the two envision a life together and plan to tell Amelia’s parents only after she turns eighteen and is legally an adult. Anthony’s mother, Kim, who teaches at their school, knows—and keeps—their secret. But the couple’s passion is exposed sooner than planned: Amelia’s father, Harlan, is shocked and infuriated to find naked pictures of Anthony on his daughter’s computer. Just hours later, Anthony is arrested.

Despite Amelia’s frantic protests, Harlan uses his wealth and influence with local law enforcement and the media to label Anthony a deviant who preyed on his innocent daughter. Spearheaded by a zealous prosecutor anxious to turn the case into a public crusade against “sexting,” the investigation soon takes an even more disturbing and destructive turn.

As events spiral wildly out of control and the scandalous story makes national news, Amelia and Anthony risk everything in a bold and dangerous attempt to clear their names and end the madness once and for all. 
 
A captivating page-turner, Therese Fowler’s Exposure is also a deftly crafted, provocative, and timely novel that serves as a haunting reminder of the consequences of love in the modern age.

Now an Excerpt — The first three chapters of the novel.

A love story, a coming-of-age story in the 21st century, Exposure works because Therese created two honest-to-goodness adolescents who — though anything but average — are still in the developing stage of life. In other words, they have a great deal to learn. Anthony has a slight chip on his shoulder but his kindness and determination to succeed prevail. And Amelia, for all she has, hides her own background flaws. Both are real, likable, and even understandable. But where did they come from? The Divining Wand asked the author and she said:

“The teens were inspired first by a good friend’s daughter who lives in Amelia’s world of dance and drama, combined with my own past (community) theater experience. Because I love Shakespeare and because I knew this would be a story about young love, I used a Romeo and Juliet framework, and that helped shape the parents’ roles. But the particulars of each character–Anthony’s chip, Amelia’s stutter, Harlan and Kim’s pasts and occupations and beliefs–arrived organically.”

Another significant characteristic is the shared individual passion/dream that both teens have for life. This energy and goal-oriented perspective makes them a bit different from their classmates and inevitably attracts them to each other. It’s an essential message to note, explaining why the book is about the powerful bond of pure, first love rather than sex. In fact sex, except for the criminal charges of sexting, is neither steamy nor seamy. There is no reason it needs to be.

Instead the compelling elements of Exposure focus on Amelia and Anthony’s love, parental (over)reaction, others’ assumptions, and the law’s interpretation. When these things collide, the plot takes on an out-of-control force of its own. And, to the author’s credit, she guides the events that follow without getting in the way. For the truth is that this author’s Fairy Godmother was stunned when, with merely fifty pages left to read, there appeared to be no resolution in sight.

While Therese admits that the book almost flowed by itself, she also says:

“I should note that in some ways the teens were also responsible for how dire the situation became–their youth and naivete led them in a direction that made sense to them but may not have been so wise. We think we know so much at that age…”

Adolescents think they know as do parents, educators, and the legal system. However, in this brave new world, do any of us know how to maintain privacy and protect ourselves from blurred lines?

Indeed it requires caution, yet is there a solution when caution isn’t taken?

According to the author, “Every situation will demand its own solution. Foremost, I would say everyone involved should take a step back and look at what’s really going on. The consequences of overreaction from any quarter are potentially huge.”

“Huge” is also THE word to describe Exposure. With perfect timing of telling life behind sensational headlines, Therese Fowler has written her BEST novel yet. Remember this “must read” is fiction, yet oh too true!

[For those who may not know, Therese and Exposure were featured/reviewed — Fowler gives ‘Exposure’ to dangers of teen sexting — in USA Today last Thursday, April 28, 2011.]

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Exposure by Therese Fowler in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, May 4, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.