The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…
Subscribe

Archive for the ‘Books’

Interview with Erika Robuck on
Hemingway’s Girl

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

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

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

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

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

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

.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TDW: What draws you to writing historical fiction?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

The 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.

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.

Claire Cook: Why I Write

May 31, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Books, Guest Posts

[It simply wouldn’t be summer without a new Claire Cook novel to inspire/entertain and this Tuesday, June 5th the New York Times bestselling author (complete book listing) offers readers her ninth book, Wallflower in Bloom

For those (few) who don’t know Claire’s story, writing and publishing nine books in a career might seem easy. Ah, but finding the dedication for her desire took a bit of work and that is all a part of why she writes.]

Why I Write/Claire Cook

I write because I can. I’d love to be a musician or a painter, but writing is the place where my urge to create and my ability intersect. I think we all have that place. For some, the trick is finding it. For others, it’s all about having the courage to live the dream.

I’ve known I was a writer since I was three. My mother entered me in a contest to name the Fizzies whale, and I won in my age group. It’s quite possible that mine was the only entry in my age group, since “Cutie Fizz” was enough to win my family a six-month supply of Fizzies tablets (root beer was the best flavor) and half a dozen turquoise plastic mugs with removable handles.

At six I had my first story on the Little People’s Page in the Sunday paper (about Hot Dog, the family dachshund, even though we had a beagle at the time — the first clue that I’d be a novelist and not a journalist) and at sixteen I had my first front page feature in the local weekly. I majored in film and creative writing in college, and fully expected that the day after graduation, I would go into labor and a brilliant novel would emerge, fully formed, like giving birth.

It didn’t happen. I guess I knew how to write, but not what to write. Looking back, I can see that I had to live my life so I’d have something to write about, and if I could give my younger self some good advice, it would be not to beat myself up for the next couple of decades.

But I did. At the same time, I pretended I wasn’t feeling terrible about not writing a novel, and did a lot of other creative things. I wrote shoe ads for an in house advertising agency for five weeks, became continuity director of a local radio station for a couple of years, taught aerobics and did some choreography, helped a friend with landscape design, wrote a few freelance magazine pieces, took some more detours. Eventually, I had two children and followed them to school as a teacher, where I taught everything from multicultural games and dance to open ocean rowing to creative writing.

Years later, when I was in my forties and sitting in my minivan outside my daughter’s swim practice at 5 AM, it hit me that I might live my whole life without ever once going after my dream of writing a novel. So, for the next six months I wrote a rough draft in the pool parking lot, and it sold to the first publisher who asked to read it.

My first novel was published when I was forty-five. At fifty, I walked the red carpet at the Hollywood premiere of the movie version of my second novel, Must Love Dogs. I’m now the bestselling author of nine novels, including my about-to-be released Wallflower in Bloom.

Writing is still that place for me where my urge to create and my ability intersect. And not many days go by that I don’t take a deep breath and remind myself that this is the career I almost didn’t have.

* * * * *

In addition to being a June Indie Next Pick, Wallflower in Bloom has been praised by these two distinctly different raves:

“A fun and inspiring read . . . Cook’s humor and narrative execution is impeccable; Deirdre’s increasing self-consciousness elicits support for her to overcome insecurity and endure in her journey to find happiness and fulfillment on her own terms.” —Publisher’s Weekly

WALLFLOWER IN BLOOM is a Cool Reads for Summertime pick — Atlanta Journal-Constitution

In other words, this book is a winner!

Here’s the synopsis:

A winning and witty novel about a woman who emerges from the shadow of her overbearing family and finds herself “dancing with the stars.”

Deirdre Griffin has a great life; it’s just not her own. She’s the round-the-clock personal assistant to her charismatic, high-maintenance, New Age guru brother, Tag. As the family wallflower, her only worth seems to be as gatekeeper to Tag at his New England seaside compound.

Then Deirdre’s sometime-boyfriend informs her that he is marrying another woman, who just happens to be having the baby he told Deirdre he never wanted. While drowning her sorrows with Tag’s vodka, Deirdre comes up with an idea. She’ll use his massive online following to get herself voted on as a last-minute replacement on Dancing with the Stars. It’ll get her back in shape, mentally and physically. It might even get her a life of her own. Deirdre Griffin’s fifteen minutes of fame has begun.

Irresistible, offbeat, yet with a thoroughly relatable and appealing heroine, this is an original and deeply satisfying story of one woman who’s ready to take a leap into the spotlight, no matter where she lands.

Read and/or listen to Claire read Chapter One….enjoy!

Visit the one and only Claire Cook at her website, follow her on Twitter, like her on Facebook, and enjoy the reading fun of Wallflower in Bloom!

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Wallflower in Bloom by Claire Cook — 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.

Interview with Meg Mitchell Moore on
So Far Away

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

[When Meg Mitchell Moore’s wrote The Arrivals (presentation/review), she focused on adult children going home to a safe haven for love and comfort. However in So Far Away — available in bookstores today — the author turns her attention to characters searching/yearning for home, family, or a sense of belonging.

Described in one sentence, the novel is about: The lives of a wayward teenager and a lonely archivist are unexpectedly joined through the discovery of an old diary.

The following synopsis provides a bit more detail:

Thirteen-year-old Natalie Gallagher is trying to escape: from her parents’ ugly divorce, and from the vicious cyber-bullying of her former best friend. She discovers a dusty old diary in her family’s basement and is inspired to unlock its secrets.

Kathleen Lynch, an archivist at the Massachusetts State Archives, has her own painful secrets: she’s a widow estranged from her only daughter. Natalie’s research brings her to Kathleen, who in Natalie sees traces of the daughter she has lost.

What could the life of an Irish immigrant domestic servant from the 1920s teach them both? In the pages of the diary, they will learn that their fears and frustrations are timeless.

And here is a sampling of Praise:

“This sweet and thoughtful novel is both tense and elegiac, exploring the damage we inflict on ourselves and each other, and the strength it takes to heal.” (Publishers Weekly )

“So Far Away is the moving story of three very different women whose lives improbably intersect. Meg Mitchell Moore effortlessly moves among a teenage cyber-bullying victim, a mother who longs for her lost daughter, and a 1920s Irish domestic with a shocking secret. The result is a powerful page-turner about love, loss, motherhood, and friendship.” (J. Courtney Sullivan, New York Times bestselling author of Maine and Commencement)

“Meg Mitchell Moore has taken the hot button topic of cyber bullying and crafted a story so compellingly real you will never forget her thirteen-year-old heroine, Natalie Gallagher. Moore’s pitch-perfect rendering of this girl’s voice is nothing short of stunning.” (Laura Harrington, author of Alice Bliss)

TRUTH: So Far Away captured my heart from the first page and the story of Natalie, Kathleen, and Bridgett never let it go. With genuine characters, experiencing painful, profound feelings throughout an intertwined — yet not complicated — storyline, the novel reflects both the past and present. But read on and allow Meg to explain much more in the following interview.

TDW: Writing/publishing two novels in a year is impressive, when did you have this story’s idea? Before, during, or after writing The Arrivals?

M.M.M.: I started thinking about this story after I had completed The Arrivals and while I was sending out queries to find an agent. I sold So Far Away as part of a two-book deal with The Arrivals, and I had written nothing but a descriptive paragraph at that point. It changed a lot in the course of the writing but whenever I was stuck I went back to that original paragraph to see if the original theme was still viable.

TDW: How much — if any — did the suicide of Phoebe Prince spark your writing?

M.M.M. Consciously, it didn’t. Subconsciously, maybe. That story was certainly in the news as I wrote the first draft, especially in Massachusetts. I had already decided to make Natalie a victim of cyberbullying before Phoebe Prince’s tragedy occurred, and it retrospect I set the story in the same year, but that was more because I was tying in a different historical event (that I will not reveal here) and had to set the book in a certain time to do that. I do think all of the terrible, heartbreaking suicides related to bullying influenced my story in one way or another.

TDW: The voices and entire storyline are dark yet not depressing. In other words it made me care about all the characters, not just Natalie and Kathleen. How did you manage to avoid being “too dark?”

M.M.M.: Thank you! I think that is a fine line and I’m happy that you think I found it. I tried to use humor where appropriate to keep the story from getting too dark. That dark humor is something I think of as a very Boston trait (witness any movie starring Ben Affleck) and I tried to create characters who were going through difficult times but still might be able to appreciate something funny or sarcastic.

TDW: Victims of cyberbullying, runaways, even immigrant outcasts were all characters on the outside looking in. These were also prominent young adult characters based in an adult novel and I wondered if this had always been your intention?

M.M.M.: I think that theme built itself as the story went on. There are several times where I write about girls in trouble, girls in danger, etc., and looking back I think a lot of that really came out in the revision process. As the mother of three young girls those fears are sort of always lurking in the back of my mind anyway.

TDW: The journal was a brilliant element, not just as a means to connect Natalie with Kathleen, but to connect Natalie with her past and another brave young ancestor. How early did the idea of Bridget and the journal come to you?

M.M.M.: Thank you! That’s a funny story. I originally set Bridget’s story in 1925/1926 and told it from the third person. I alluded to the journal but never actually wrote it. Early readers including my agent and my editor kept gently “suggesting” that I really needed to write the journal, but I resisted for a long time; I thought Bridget’s story would lose its urgency and sense of history if I told it in journal form. Of course they were exactly right, it just took me a little time to come around and to force myself to do the work required to write the journal.

TDW: I thought of So Far Away as a tale of people helping people by pulling them out of their own troubles. Would you agree?

M.M.M.: Absolutely. If fact, the working title for a long time was Solace and I still consider that a major theme, that solace can come from unexpected or unlikely sources.

TDW: What is So Far Away? Love, worthiness, a sense of belonging and/or all that along with more?

M.M.M.: I think the title refers to so many different themes in the book. For starters, Bridget is far from her home in Ireland and I wanted her nostalgia about that to be nearly palpable. Other characters are far from the people they loved, or emotionally far from people who might even be in the same room.

TDW: The descriptions of Boston were amazingly detailed. Now that you’re moving, will this novel be your ode to Boston?

M.M.M.: Thank you! That’s very perceptive, and I think it has become that. We didn’t know we were leaving the east coast until the book was complete, in fact it was going through copyediting when we found out, and in retrospect I like to think of the novel as an ode and a goodbye to a town (Newburyport) and a city (Boston) that have both meant a lot to me over the years. There are a lot of descriptions of driving up and down Route One north of Boston, which is a drive I do often, and one that I find so rich with odd details and strange businesses—it feels very particularly Boston to me. If there is another place like it in all the world I don’t know what it is.

TDW: What are you most proud of in So Far Away?

M.M.M.: I am most proud of the work that went into it, which hopefully doesn’t show too much. The stories of the three main characters were always very clear in my mind but knitting them together was absolute torture and took many, many revisions. I’m proud that I stuck with it until it felt right and true.

Meg Mitchell Moore can be followed on Twitter, liked on Facebook, and read in So Far Away.

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of So Far Away by Meg Mitchell Moore — in a random drawing — to anyone who leaves a comment on this post by 11:59 p.m. EST tonight! The winner will be notified by email tomorrow.

Interview with Joëlle Anthony on
The Right & the Real

April 26, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Books, Interviews

[Happy Book Birthday to Joëlle Anthony’s (Restoring Harmony) second YA novel, The Right & the Real, celebrating its publication today.

Once again Joëlle tells an entertaining, edge-of-the-seat story, of girl power….with the help of terrific secondary characters. For those who may have missed the synopsis in Picture the Book: The Right & the Real, the book can be described in this lead sentence: Kicked out of her home for refusing to join a cult, 17-year-old Jamie must find a way to survive on her own.

Being a reader/fan of YA, the author knows her audience and offers a terrific adventure complete with a love story too. In the following interview though, Joëlle provides more background to the storyline and her philosophy on life as well.]

TDW: Restoring Harmony was a successful dystopian novel but now you’re back in the present with The Right & the Real, is there any reason other than that’s where the storyline worked best?

J. A.: I never set out to write a dystopian, it just caught a wave. A bit of luck on my part, really. With Restoring Harmony, my plan was to tell a story set after an economic collapse, and to do that, I had to set it in the future somewhat. I’ve always considered myself a contemporary YA writer.

TDW: Where did the idea for The Right & the Real come from, what’s the backstory?

J. A.: I’m from Portland and I used to see the sort of motels around that are in the book. I couldn’t go past them without wondering who lived in them. I actually came up with one of the other characters in R&R, LaVon, several years ago when I was working on a book that I’ve since abandoned. I always liked him and when I was looking for a new book idea after Restoring Harmony, he kept saying, “Choose me!” so I thought about who might live in a motel next door to him, and why she might be there.

TDW: In both novels the plot spotlights fighting against control and oppression to gain freedom and independence. Is this a personal cause?

J. A.: I hope it is for everybody! Actually, I think it’s more that I really want to create young characters who are strong and determined. It’s almost my obligation or responsibility. If kids are going to read my books, I want them to feel empowered, like they could be in that situation and handle it, even if they aren’t equipped for it now. It’s more about doing the right thing than fighting anyone.

TDW: Is your idyllic life on the island in B.C. a way to live as freely as possible?

J. A.: Living on such an idyllic island is both a reflection of living my beliefs, and also, a little bit of me sticking my head in the sand. I know that the rest of Canada and the world is not the way it is here, and on a larger level, I worry about that. But on a local level, I do what I can to make this part of the world better. I don’t like the idea of fighting unless you have to, so I try to live here, in a responsible, peaceful way, so that I’m happy and also so I have as little negative impact on the Earth as I can.

TDW: Your protagonists have both been intelligent, strong-willed young adults who are not blind to romance, how do you balance the romantic element and still maintain the character’s independence?

J. A.: I am a total romantic, and I’m not sure I even knew it until people started calling RH a romance! However, it’s important to me that it’s one element of any story I tell, not the whole story. There are places for complete romances, but my writing is not that place. I think we all love romance to some degree, and I can use that in my writing to show my character growing – dumping the wrong guy, standing up for the right one, being on her own if that’s what’s necessary. It has to be one facet of the story, not the be all and end all. The other thing that’s important to me is for the guys to act like guys. My husband watches over them to make sure they don’t do anything too girly!

TDW: Your writing also contains wonderful pacing and believable action, does this come from your theatre background? Do these scenes play out in your mind?

J. A.: I can definitely see every scene as if it were a movie. These movies play in my head all the time when I’m writing. I do think this comes from my theatre background, but it’s hard to say for sure to what extent because I don’t see much separation between writing and theatre/acting. It’s all just part of me. There is a certain amount of scene structure that I learned while studying directing, and I think that helps me create visual scenes.

TDW: Your secondary characters could be stars in their own right and I appreciate how fully developed they are, yet how do you manage to give them that much life in such limited appearances?

J. A.: It’s very nice to hear you say that because secondary characters are my biggest challenge! When I write a first draft, everyone except my main character tends to simply prop up the story. I always mean to make the supporting cast fantastically rounded from the beginning to save myself some work, but it never happens. Once I have a draft, I go back and combine characters, cut others, and try to find ways to use small characters again later in the story. After I’ve done that, I spend time with each one, figuring out what they want in each scene, and in their lives, their likes and dislikes, even what they look like.

I read recently, and I’m sorry I don’t recall where, that every character in every book thinks that the author is telling their story, that they are the most important character in it. As I work on each one, I try to keep that in mind. It really helps.

TDW: Besides being entertained, what would you like readers to take away from R&R?

J. A.: Mostly, I just want them to be entertained. Actually, that’s all I want. A good story can teach you what you need to know, but I consider that a bonus. Some books you read for information, some you read to change your life, and some you read so that you can be sucked into the narrative. That’s what I aim to write…books that grab you and don’t let you go. I like books that make you wonder afterward what you would do if that happened to you. Like my mentors, Nevil Shute and John Rowe Townsend, I’m just trying to tell a good story.

Indeed Joëlle Anthony tells an excellent story and you can discover that by reading The Right & the Real available now.

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of The Right & the Real by Joëlle Anthony– 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.