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Archive for June, 2012

The Divining Wand’s Summer TBR List

June 21, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: News

Dear Authors/Readers/Friends —

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

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

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

First To-Be-Read:

~ Haole Wood {Kindle Edition] by Dee DeTarsio

~ Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

~ The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty

~ Can I Get an Amen? by Sarah Healy

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

~ Mission to Paris by Alan Furst

~ The Innocents by Francesca Segal

~ Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon

Looking Forward To:

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

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

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

Curious About:

~ In the Kingdom of Men by Kim Barnes

~ An Uncommon Education by Elizabeth Percer

~ Trapeze by Simon Mawer

~ I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag by Jennifer Gilbert

~ Swimming to Elba by Silvia Avallone

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

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

As ever —
Larramie

Kristina Riggle: Why I Write

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

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

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

Why I Write

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

Critical Praise:

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

- Booklist (starred review)

“Touching and timely” – Publishers Weekly

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anita Hughes: Why I Write

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

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

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

Why I Write

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

Now Picture the Book:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dawn Tripp: Why I Write

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

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

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

Why I Write

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

A Boston Globe bestseller
:

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


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

Reviews and Praise:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

For your instant gratification, please read an Excerpt.

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

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

Joshua Henkin: Why I Write

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

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

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

Why I Write

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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



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



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

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

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

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

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

The Revealing of Anita Hughes

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

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

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

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



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



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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Revealing of Joshua Henkin

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

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

The book is briefly described in the following sentence:

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

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

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



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



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nichole Bernier: Why I Write

June 05, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Books, Guest Posts

[Although today celebrates Nichole Bernier becoming a novelist with the debut of The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D., the truth is she’s always been a writer. In fact one need only look at her professional success as a contributing editor and journalist for proof.

However, in today’s guest post, Nichole shares the personal aspect — the real reason — for why she writes.]

Why I Write

The day I started keeping a journal I was twelve, an awkward twelve—as if there’s ever anything else—and brand new to town. It was the first day of seventh grade. My English teacher gave the class an assignment to write about something on our minds, anything interesting or troubling. We were to do this for ten minutes daily. No one would see it but her.

Moments before, the girl at the desk next to mine had turned to me and said, “I like your skirt.” My family had just moved to Connecticut from the midwest, and as the oldest child of four whose mother still picked out her clothes, I had no concept of cool. So I had no idea I was about to experience my first social catastrophe of junior high.

“It’s not a skirt,” I said, stretching out my legs to show the glorious plaid extending all the way to my lace-up Buster Brown shoes. I can still see the expression on the girl’s face, a combination of disbelief and good fortune, because she had something so rich for the person beside her.

I know these details not just because I remember them – because really, who ever forgets? – but because I wrote them in my journal, and then continued to document my year’s highs and lows. I don’t recall my teacher ever saying anything to me face-to-face about my personal writing, and I’m not sure I would have been comfortable if she had. I remember her as a cool artsy presence, a pen pal, an aloof fairy godmother. But the fact that she didn’t say anything made it possible for me to keep up the illusion that I was writing only for myself.

I continued the journaling habit the following year even though it was no longer an assignment, exorcised each hopeful and painful detail, like when a boy announced to homeroom on the first day of eighth grade that over the summer that Nichole Bernier’s mosquito bites had turned to maraschino cherries. As the years passed, the journal became the place I processed the big decisions: what kind of person I might become if I went to this college instead of that one. Whether I should let go of a relationship that was not healthy, and later, whether I should gamble everything — job, rent control, beloved city—for one that was. It was where I played with poetry and experimented with long and flowery tortured sentences.

In spite of those sentences, the journal writing probably led to my career in magazines because investigating ideas through writing was second nature to me. I loved that work: the travel, the struggle for just the right word and sentence to describe a place. I loved interviewing people and reading between the lines of their quotes and body language to develop character. Literary journalism was the name my graduate school had for this form of writing, and I loved it — fact through fictional style. It never occurred to me to actually write fiction even though I loved reading it.

But after I lost a friend in the September 11th attacks, my magazine writing wasn’t the appropriate place to express some of the more haunting thoughts, and my journal was no longer enough. I began doing free-form scene writing, though if you told me at the time that it was the beginning of a novel I wouldn’t have believed it. Once I accepted that it was, my relationship to writing changed. Words were a way to report on details and observations, but also a creative vehicle to deeper truths, the why behind the beautiful and ugly things people think and do and have done to them. Fiction writers can take a germ of an idea spool it out into the what-ifs: What if someone felt this way about trying to protect her family in post-September 11th world that suddenly felt dangerously arbitrary, but it became an obsession? What if a mother felt passionately about her career, but left it behind because that’s what she thought good mothers did?

Once I started seeing the what-ifs behind the whats, I couldn’t unsee them. In our old town there was a family — mother, father, and teen son — that sat a few pews in front of us in church. The boy was sadly obese and always had an unwashed look. The mother always had her arm around him protectively. One day they were sitting directly in front of me, and I noticed blanched patches on the boy’s skin around the back of his neck and ears, signs that suggested the beginning of vitiligo disease. I imagined what it would be like for a parent, worrying about a teen who had these strikes against him in a world where appearances matter. What would he grow to be because of, or in spite of, this disease? Was he teased? Would some good person still love him someday?

Writing for me makes beautiful things more beautiful, and distills an ugly thing—prejudice, cruelty—to its ugly core. It clarifies the nauseous prickle of witnessing something you cannot make sense of until you begin to get it down on paper. The sentences will be reduced and discarded, reduced and discarded, until the essence of a thought becomes an of course. It’s an understanding I can’t reach until I write it out.

* * * * *

Previously selected as one of BookPage’s Most Anticipated Debuts of 2012, The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D, has now been chosen by VOGUE for its Hit List: Six Summer Novels. And here’s a glimpse of why:

Before there were blogs, there were journals. And in them we’d write as we really were, not as we wanted to appear. But there comes a day when journals outlive us. And with them, our secrets.

Summer vacation on Great Rock Island was supposed to be a restorative time for Kate, who’d lost her close friend Elizabeth in a sudden accident. But when she inherits a trunk of Elizabeth’s journals, they reveal a woman far different than the cheerful wife and mother Kate thought she knew.

The complicated portrait of Elizabeth—her troubled upbringing, and her route to marriage and motherhood—makes Kate question not just their friendship, but her own deepest beliefs about loyalty and honesty at a period of uncertainty in her own marriage.

The more Kate reads, the more she learns the complicated truth of who Elizabeth really was, and rethinks her own choices as a wife, mother, and professional, and the legacy she herself would want to leave behind. When an unfamiliar man’s name appears in the pages, Kate realizes the extent of what she didn’t know about her friend, including where she was really going on the day she died.

Set in the anxious summer after the September 11th attacks, this story of two women—their friendship, their marriages, private ambitions and fears—considers the aspects of ourselves we show and those we conceal, and the repercussions of our choices.

TRUST: A novel based on loss, introspection and ultimate self-discovery, The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D is hauntingly bittersweet, often asking more questions than can ever be answered. How well do we know others is an obvious example but how well do we know ourselves may be more thought-provoking. Intriguingly honest, this is a story told within a story about a life of quiet desperation until its end(?).

Now please, explore the book on your own….enjoy!

More about Nichole Bernier can be found on her website, on Twitter, and on Facebook. 

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