The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…

Go-to Writing Books, V

April 21, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Profiles, Q&A

Before, during and after a work-in-progress, a published/debut author has likely read more than a few books on the art and craft of writing. Whether it’s for motivation or inspiration, favorites must exist to be read and reread — including fiction and poetry — whenever the need arises. With this thought in mind, The Divining Wand asked its authors:

What books do you keep nearby or go back to as you’re working?

And, for the final week of this question, the following authors replied:

~Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters):

“Stephen King’s On Writing to remind me why I do what I do, and anything by Maeve Binchy to remind me how to create loveably flawed characters and keep multiple plotlines going.”

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

“My favorite writing books include: Save the Cat by Blake Synder, On Writing by Stephen King and Elements of Story by John Truby.”

~Beth Hoffman (Saving CeeCee Honeycutt):


~Allie Larkin (Stay):

“Sometimes, it helps to check back with BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott, to remind myself to trust my process and listen to my characters.”

~Judy Merrill Larsen (All the Numbers):

“I’ve recently become a fan of Donald Maass’ THE FIRE IN FICTION. I also like John Dufesne’s THE LIE THAT TELLS A TRUTH, and of course Anne Lamott’s BIRD BY BIRD. For sheer inspiration, I look to poetry.”

~Karen McQuestion (A Scattered Life, Easily Amused coming September 21, 2010, and Celia and the Fairies for ages 7 – 11, and Favorite YA):

“I love Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey. I use it to brainstorm plot points when I write myself into a corner, I also periodically reread Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.”

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

“Lately I always have Claire Messud’s THE EMPEROR’S CHILDREN and Elizabeth Strout’s OLIVE KITTERIDGE near me. Within reaching distance, for sure. Any page of either of those books contains too many gems to count. Also Alice Munro. If I am writing away from home and don’t have access to my books sometimes I’ll just pull up any Alice Munro excerpt online and be so struck by the beauty and exactness of her descriptions that I am humbled and inspired to keep writing. ”

~Keetha DePriest Mosley [formerly Reed] (Culinary Kudzu: Recollections & Recipes from Growing Up Southern, More Culinary Kudzu: Recollections & Recipes from Growing Up Southern:

“I keep a Childcraft dictionary on my desk. Santa brought it the Christmas I was seven years old. Sometimes I thumb through it, enjoying the feel of the slick pages. Any time I open that dictionary, I’m taken back to the way I felt when I was a child looking at it: words were so much fun.”

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

“My bible is Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell. I go through it with each book, scribbling notes and plot points in the margins. It’s fun to go back, now that I’m working on my third book, and see how the process evolved for the first two! I also really like Writing the Breakout Novel by James Scott Bell, On Writing by Steven King, and Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott. I have stacks of books on writing but those are the ones I always come back to. As for what I read when I’m writing, I zip through thrillers! ”

~Ivy Pochoda (The Art of Disappearing):

“Carson McCullers’ “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” is almost always on my desk. James Woods’ “How Fiction Works,” because James Woods’ is both THE MAN and a genius and a great drummer. David Gates’ “Preston Falls” because he doesn’t mince words or suffer gilded lilies.”

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

“I love to read and re-read THE GREAT GATSBY and BIRD BY BIRD, though my copy of the latter is currently loaned out. I may turn that loan into a gift and just buy myself a new one. I miss it.”

~Emily Winslow (The Whole World):

“For the book I’m currently working on, math text books and a volume of Nabokov short stories.”

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Announcement: The winner of The Four Ms. Bradwells by Meg Waite Clayton is Jane Cook. Congratulations!

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

Fictional Characters as Best Friends Forever, II

February 24, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Profiles, Q&A

As every book is opened, a new adventure begins. And sometimes, somewhere among the pages, there is also found those special characters that create an immediate personal bond — the ones, if only real, would be chosen as our BFF.

With this in mind The Divining Wand wondered who the authors felt close to, and asked:

What fictional character would you choose to be your BFF and why?

And this week’s authors replied:

~Meredith Cole (Posed for Murder, Dead in the Water):

“Nancy Drew. She always had the best adventures (and the best car). We could go zooming off and solve mysteries together, and hopefully some of her talent for picking up a skill fast would rub off. I would love to go scuba diving or surfing or skate in a roller derby, but only if I could learn to be an expert in just a few days.”

[On April 2, 2011, Meredith will be speaking at the Nancy Drew Convention while the sleuths are visiting Charlottesville.]

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

“Harry “’Rabbit’” Angstrom, because there’s the chance that hanging with him would make me, in comparison, look good.”

~Allie Larkin (Stay):

“You know, I think I still want to be friends with Pippi Longstocking.”

~Jael McHenry (The Kitchen Daughter coming April 12, 2011):

“Oh, I’m a Lizzie Bennet girl from way back. All of Jane Austen’s heroines are wonderful, but she’s my favorite, and just the kind of BFF we all need — smart but not superior (usually), insightful about human behavior, independent but loyal, and funny as all get-out.”

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

“It’s so tempting to take the easy way out with this one and say Marissa, the main character in The Art of Forgetting–if only because I deliberately wrote a character that I like and relate to. But I’m going to go with Rachel from Emily Giffin’s Something Borrowed. Yes, she slept with her best friend’s fiancé–but the friend deserved it! Seriously, though, of all the contemporary fiction I’ve read recently, Rachel stands out as a character who’s flawed in a way that makes you root for her, rather than against her. She’s practical and down-to-earth, too, which are great traits for a best friend.”

~Lori Roy (Bent Road coming March 31, 2011):

“I would choose Scout from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Scout embodied a longing to do the right thing, a passion for it. She was an intelligent, hard-headed tomboy who loved and protected her family and friends.”

To be continued….

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Attention: Beginning next Tuesday, March 1, 2011, MaNIC MoMMy is hosting March Madness Book-A-Day Giveaway! You’ll have an opportunity to win a book from one of many TDW authors as well as several other authors who may be new to you. Every day there’s a winner and, at the end of the month, a GRAND PRIZE WINNER. Interested? Please click the link for details.

Announcement: The winners of Letters from Home by Kristina McMorris are Elise and Keetha. Congratulations!

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

Writing Rituals, Secrets, and Superstitions, II

January 20, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

For every writer there are intangible elements — personal habits — that allow the mind to roam and find its comfort zone when the words aren’t flowing. To take a look at what some of these practices include, The Divining Wand asked its authors:

Do you have any unusual writing rituals, secrets or superstitions that always work when all else fails?

And this week the following authors replied:

~Robin Antalek (The Summer We Fell Apart:

“I write everyday whether I feel like it or not. If something isn’t working I play a game of what if and turn the story around so the characters react in a manner opposite than what I expected. Even if I don’t end up using it, the different approach helps me get words on the page. The thing about rituals or superstitions is that they don’t get words on the page. I know this sounds simplistic – but to be a writer you must write.”

~Eileen Cook (The Education of Hailey Kendrick YA, Unpredictable, What Would Emma Do? YA, Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA, and Fourth Grade Fairy ages 9 – 11 coming April 19, 2011):

“I don’t have any rituals, but if anyone has any that work I’d be happy to give them a whirl. I find what works is that I don’t let myself give up. Keep showing up, keep trying different approaches, but the most important this is to keep trying. As the famous saying goes- you can’t fix a blank page. If I get something down then there’s always a place to start.

“If all else fails a tea and cookie break don’t hurt. I’m not sure they help, but a cookie is never a bad thing.”

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

“I do almost all of my writing via computer, but when I hit a wall, I pull out my writer’s ‘journal’ (a plain, college-ruled, wire-bound notebook) and write by hand. Something about writing on paper with a pen helps me break through. I’ll start by giving myself a little update about where I’ve been with the story, where it is now, and where I want to go with it. I then try to figure out what’s stopping me from getting from here to there. I’ll try different solutions in the notebook, writing out a scene or two in longhand, before returning to the keyboard.”

~Allie Larkin (Stay):

“When I get stuck, I like to go do something active that lets my mind wander, like taking the dogs for a hike or gardening. I don’t like to sit at the computer and stare at the page when things aren’t working.”

~Jael McHenry (The Kitchen Daughter coming April 12, 2011):

“Reading it aloud. If I’m not sure if something’s working, if I’m looking for errors, if I want to know if chapters start or end in the right place, or if I don’t know what to write next, I read what I’ve written out loud. Maybe just a few sentences, maybe a whole chapter, but hearing the words is totally different than seeing them on the printed page. I don’t know if it’s that unusual, but it’s one of my favorite tricks.”

~Kristina McMorris (Letters From Home coming February 22, 2011):

“You mean, besides dancing around a nightly bonfire covered in warpaint and snake oil? Ha. Probably nothing all that unusual, but I do like to write while being comfy. To me, that means fuzzy socks (the uglier, the better), a zip-up hoodie (I have three to choose from), and a warm woolen blanket to drape over my legs. Summer temperatures obviously create challenges in this regard.”

~Melissa Senate (The Love Goddess’ Cooking School, The Mosts YA, The Secret of Joy, the rest in Bibliography):

“I carry a little talisman for every book. Right now, it’s a tiny marcasite silver starfish charm on a delicate bracelet to represent the book I’m working on (set in a harbor town)–and to wish me luck on its fate in proposal form.”

To be continued….

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Announcement: The winner of Eleanor Brown’s The Weird Sisters is Jonita. Congratulations!

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

Thank you to all who entered….if only The Divining Wand was magical enough to offer 24 more books.

Current and Coming Attractions

September 16, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Advance News, Book Trailers, News

Although The Divining Wand authors have been busy writing, publishing, and keeping TBR books piled high, it’s only natural to wonder what’s next for our favorite writers. And what follows is a tasty sampling to whet your reading appetite.

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As of today, Thursday, September 16, 2010, Eileen Cook (Unpredictable, What Would Emma Do? YA, Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA, releasing in paperback September 21, 2010, The Education of Hailey Kendrick YA coming January 4, 2011, and Fourth Grade Fairy ages 9 – 11 coming April 19, 2011) celebrates the paperback release of Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood with the first video in a series of six.

As Eileen explains:

“The idea behind the videos is that the snotty Lauren Wood has her own video blog where she offers popularity tips. You can probably imagine what great advice Lauren has! I am going to have videos come out every couple days until all six are up. Please visit Lauren’s new website and click on the You Tube icon.

And now for the future:

~Robin Antalek (The Summer We Fell Apart):

“I’m currently working on a book set on a private island off the west coast of Florida about a woman who has experienced the premature death of her mother and sets out to find the family she never knew while her mother was alive. Tentative title: The Blooms of Ella Island.”

~Stacey Ballis (The Spinster Sisters, Room for Improvement, the rest in Bibliography, and Good Enough to Eat):

“Working on a new book that is a real departure for me, much more mainstream fiction. It is a questing story of a young woman who may or may not be dying, and how it explodes her quiet life.”

~Melanie Benjamin (Alice I Have Been):

“I’ll be appearing at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, TN, October 8-10. The paperback release of ALICE I HAVE BEEN is December 28th and I’ll be touring for that in January, dates & locations TBA. I’ve been blogging for the Huffington Post, and just joined a new group blog called the Girlfriends’ Book Club. My next historical fiction will be released by Random House in August of 2011; I’ll be announcing the title of the book very shortly!”

~Meg Waite Clayton’s The Wednesday Sisters, The Four Ms. Bradwells coming March 22, 2011):

“The Four Ms. Bradwells, coming March 22 from Ballantine. And my first novel, The Language of Light, will be reissued in paperback in the summer.”

The flap copy:

Meg Waite Clayton’s national bestseller The Wednesday Sisters was a word-of-mouth sensation and book club favorite. Now the beloved author is back with a page-turning novel that explores the secrets we keep, even from those closest to us, and celebrates the enduring power of friendship.

Mia, Laney, Betts, and Ginger, best friends since law school, have reunited for a long weekend as Betts awaits Senate confirmation of her appointment to the Supreme Court. Nicknamed “the Ms. Bradwells” during their first class at the University of Michigan Law School in 1979—when only three women had ever served full Senate terms and none had been appointed to the Court—the four have supported one another through life’s challenges: marriages and divorces, births and deaths, career setbacks and triumphs large and small. Betts was, and still is, the Funny One. Ginger, the Rebel. Laney, the Good Girl. And Mia, the Savant.

But when the Senate hearings uncover a deeply buried skeleton in the friends’ collective closet, the Ms. Bradwells retreat to a summer house on the Chesapeake Bay, where they find themselves reliving a much darker period in their past—one that stirs up secrets they’ve kept for, and from, one another, and could change their lives forever.

Once again, Meg Waite Clayton writes inspiringly about the complex circumstances facing women and the heartfelt friendships that hold them together. Insightful and affecting, The Four Ms. Bradwells is also a captivating tale of how far people will go to protect the ones they love.

~Meredith Cole (Posed for Murder, Dead in the Water):

“I’ve just finished up the third Lydia McKenzie mystery, tentatively called “‘An Artful Death.'” Lydia is hired by a real estate company to help catch illegal tenants. She finds an elderly Russian woman murdered in her apartment and suspects that the landlord got impatient. In the midst of her investigation, her parents arrive with another mystery to solve.”

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

“I’m working on a novel set in an underwater-themed amusement park. The main character is an eighteen-year-old former competitive figure skater whose now skates in the park’s ice show wearing a full-body jellyfish costume. One of the most fun parts of writing this so far is brainstorming ideas for amusement park rides! (My five-year-old daughter has been helping me.)”

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

“I’m working on my new novel, A THOUSAND CRANES.”

~Allie Larkin (Stay):

“I’m working on a piece for an anthology of dog-related essays that Wade Rouse is editing called I’M NOT THE BIGGEST BITCH IN THIS RELATIONSHIP. Published in 2011, proceeds will benefit The Humane Society and other animal causes.”

~Kate Ledger (Remedies):

“I’ve begun a new novel. If it were a pregnancy, I’m in that hesitant phase of the first trimester, and I’m not ready to discuss too much. I can tell this: The next novel also centers on family relationships and has medical themes because that’s what I’m interested in. Having finished a book, I feel I have a good sense of the arc of a novel, the overall shape it will take. I also know how long and hard the process is. My hope is that this gestation will be briefer than the last.”

~ Shana Mahaffey (Sounds Like Crazy):

“I am working on my second novel right now. I can tell you that the book is about a woman who has to correct a mistake she doesn’t know she made and guiding her through this process is her best friends dead brother.”

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

“I’m working on a book about adult siblings. It started out being about location and identity (I was going to call it ELSEWHERE) but it’s gotten further and further away from that theme to become about all the complex emotions of siblinghood. Which, alas, probably means I have to think of a new title.”

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

“I’m working on a non-fiction book called “‘Marriage in Translation: Interviews with Foreign Wives of Japanese Husbands,'” which takes an intimate and sometimes surprising look at the rewards and challenges of cross-cultural relationships. I’m also teaching an online class this Fall through Stanford University Extension called “‘Writing Novels About Women’s Lives.”‘

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Announcement: The winner of Leah Stewart’s Husband and Wife is Shannon. Congratulations!

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

And thank you all for entering. If my wand was truly magical, there would be a book for everyone.

Fan Mail: An Author’s Most Memorable Reward

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

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

Here are several responses:

~ Alicia Bessette (Simply from Scratch):

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

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

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

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

~ Allie Larkin (Stay):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Therese explains:

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

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

Please click the above link for more details.

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

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

What If….Allie Larkin and Jessica Barksdale Inclan?

July 08, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites

What a day — or more — for a daydream in the summer heat of July. In fact it feels like the perfect time to wonder “what if” The Divining Wand possessed magical powers and could grant authors, who create their own magic with “what if,” the following two questions:

Based only on their writing, what author would you want to be?


If given the opportunity to have written ONE book in your lifetime, what would that title be?

~ Allie Larkin (Stay):

“I have a fascination with Willa Cather. She had an amazing life, and I have so much respect for her as a woman who made a career of her writing in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s. But based just on writing, it’s obvious that Willa Cather loved her characters, and had an intense appreciation for the landscapes she placed them in. I think her writing process must have been a celebration of the elements of life that she loved and admired most.

“Just one? Can I cheat and say the title of that book would be MY ANTONIA PLANTS THE BEAN TREES THAT GROW IN BROOKLYN WHILE LISTENING TO THE SONG OF THE LARK, AND TRIES NOT TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD OR PROVOKE THE LORDS OF DISCIPLINE? (I tried to fit OF MICE AND MEN in there too, but it was just ridiculous.)”

~ Jessica Barksdale Inclan (Being With Him, Intimate Beings, The Beautiful Being):

“I think I’d have to stay with being myself. It’s all I can do in this lifetime.”

“Okay, this I can do. Pride and Prejudice, no question.

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What Better Season for Turning These Pages

July 01, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Books in Review

On March 4, 2010 The Divining Wand’s post presented, Our Authors’ Spring/Summer Book Releases. Now, at the July 4th mid-summer break, let’s review those books you may have missed and belong in your TBR tote bag.


Presenting Debutante Sarah Pekkanen and The Opposite of Me

Jenny Gardiner and Winging It


Kristy Kiernan and Between Friends

Holly LeCraw and The Swimming Pool

Matthew Quick and SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR


Lauren Baratz-Logsted and Marcia’s Madness

Meredith Cole and Dead in the Water

Presenting Debutante Joëlle Anthony and Restoring Harmony

Barrie Summy and I So Don’t Do Makeup

Presenting Debutante Emily Wiinslow and The Whole World


Allison Winn Scotch and The One That I Want

Tish Cohen and The Truth About Delilah Blue

Allie Larkin and Stay

Carey Goldbergy, Beth Jones, and Pamela Ferdinand with Three Wishes

Trish Ryan and A Maze of Grace

Robin Antalek and The Summer We Fell Apart

Of course there are more books to come, including Alicia Bessette’s Simply from Scratch debuting on August 5th and Kristina Riggle (Real Life & Liars) second novel The Life You’ve Imagined releasing August 17th. Yet for a lazy, hazy holiday break, there’s more than enough great reading here. Enjoy!

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Announcement: The winners of Robin Antalek’s The Summer We Fell Apart are Keetha and Jenny.

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

Allie Larkin and Stay

June 08, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books, Debuts

On Thursday June 10, 2010, Allie Larkin becomes a debut author when her women’s fiction novel, STAY, appears in bookstores and ships from online retailers.

However this book and its author hold many surprises, the first of which is: Allie didn’t always want to be a writer. It’s true that she has always been a reader, even while struggling with Attention Deficit Disorder that went undiagnosed until she was eighteen. Being a writer felt too big of a “focus” challenge and instead Allie chose to study theater in college, leaving after two years to “find herself.” When she returned to school ten years ago to study Communications, her professors noticed her writing talent and it was only then that Allie started writing fiction.

Another revelation is that Stay began as a writing exercise for an advanced fiction class in 2002. From there, it turned into a 50-page short story about two best friends, Van and Janie, having a conversation about Van’s messy love life over coffee at Starbucks. Sent out to a prestigious literary magazine, it was rejected, filed away, and dragged out a few years later for a writing group Allie had been invited to join. Taking a fresh look at her work, she wondered: “How did this start?” “What happened five years before this?” And, about six months later, Allie Larkin realized she was writing a novel. In her own words:

“There’s only about one page of material from the original story that made it into STAY. But Van and Janie are still there, and through the writing and revising process, they evolved into characters I love like old friends. It turned into a puzzle. I wanted to tell the right story for my characters, and the fact that the characters mattered so much to me kept me going.”

As for the identity of that adorable “book cover dog,” he IS Allie’s own beloved Argo, although she is quick to note that wasn’t the original plan. But when finding a stock photo of a black German Shepherd didn’t prove easy, over 1,000 pictures of Argo were taken and sent off to Dutton for the art designer to work her magic. And the novelist’s reaction:

“Since Argo was such a huge part of writing STAY, having him on the cover just feels perfect. Not only was he the inspiration for Van’s dog, Joe, but he was my writing buddy.”

Now that you’re well-informed on the backstory and side stories of Stay, here is the synopsis:

Savannah “Van” Leone has loved Peter since the day they met. The problem is, Peter has loved Van’s best friend, Janie, since the moment they met. And now they’re walking down the aisle, with Van standing nearby in a Halloween orange bridesmaid dress, her smile as hollow as a jack-o-lantern. After the wedding, Van drowns her sorrows in Kool Aid-vodka cocktails and reruns of Rin-Tin-Tin, and does what any woman in her situation would do: She buys a German Shepherd over the internet.

The pocket-sized puppy Van is expecting turns out to be a clumsy, hundred-pound beast that only responds to Slovakian. Van is at the end of her rope—until she realizes that this quirky giant may be the only living being who will always be loyal to her, no matter what. And thus begins a friendship that will alter Van’s life in ways she never imagined.

Joe leads Van to Dr. Alex Brandt, a rugged vet with floppy blond hair and winning smile. But just as things are starting to heat up, the newlyweds return from their honeymoon, forcing Van to decide just how much she’s willing to sacrifice in order to have everything she ever wanted. Warm and witty, poignant and funny, Stay marks the arrival of an irresistible new voice.

Read the “irresistible new voice” in the excerpt of Stay: Chapter One.

And view its charming Book Trailer:

With words of praise from literary critics and spotlighted in the June 7th issue of People Magazine Great Reads for Animal Lovers section, the real surprise of Allie’s novel is that it’s NOT even close to the standard chicklit fare. And, while all the differences could be listed, the “clincher” is that Van isn’t looking for a man…rather she’ll be happy with “man’s best friend.”

There’s a special place in my heart for debut authors and — during as well as after reading the Advanced Uncorrected Proofs sent by Dutton — Allie Larkin had more than staked her claim. As a gifted storyteller who writes of the serious and amusing facts of life, she delivers both with a realistic wallop. With her voice unique, her writing flawless, and her themes profound, how — I wondered — can this be her first novel?

What I do know, though, is the prestigious literary magazine that rejected Allie’s short story included a personal note saying she had “something special” here and “to keep working on it.” She eventually took that advice, creating an insightful, genuinely bittersweet look at the messiness of life.

Much of that messiness comes from love and this debut author explains her feelings on the subject and how she incorporated it into the book:

“I am fascinated by the complicated ways people love each other and how that affects the choices they make. That’s what I set out to explore in STAY. We can love without being in love. We can be in love without having the ability to act on it. We can love our friends like family, and we can love our dogs like family too. And the feelings that aren’t clear cut or easily understood are just as valid and important as the ones that are.

“Joe’s love is relatively uncomplicated compared to all of Van’s other relationships. Dogs are amazing, because their sense of loyalty, their enthusiasm for the simplest of things, and their ability to love unconditionally is inspiring and contagious. The spark of the idea to give Van a dog came to me while I was raking leaves in the backyard, but the overall concept comes from the way Argo has changed my life. Argo has made me a better, happier, more open person, and I knew giving Van a German Shepherd would do the same.”

Clever, fresh (in language too), endearingly complicated, enjoy the fun of STAY, available everywhere this Thursday.

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away a copy of Allie Larkin’s Stay in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week are not entered into the contest. The deadline is Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winner to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to possibly claim your book.


Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Tish Cohen’s The Truth About Delilah Blue in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post, Tish Cohen and The Truth About Delilah Blue. Comments left on other posts during the week are not entered into the contest. The deadline is Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winner to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to possibly claim your book.

Guest Allie Larkin’s Messy Friends & Messy Characters

June 02, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Today’s guest post features Allie Larkin debut author of Stay coming out next Thursday, June 10, 2010.

The book has earned both literary praise:

“A charming debut…. Smart and with emotional depth, this is a cut above.” Kirkus Reviews

“Larkin debuts with a funny and touching story about love, loss, and dog ownership.” Publishers Weekly

And commercial recognition:

“Feel-good debut novel…” People Magazine

For Stay, as Allie explains, is about unconditional love at its messiest best.]

My friend Lady is my messy friend. She is the person I can call when I’m laughing or crying so hard that no one on the planet would ever be able to understand a single word coming out of my mouth. She’s the friend I can have over without vacuuming and shoving dirty laundry into closets first. She’s seen me when I’m crabby, she’s seen me when I’m sick, she’s talked me through broken hearts, failure, and self-doubt, and she’s celebrated with me through new love, great successes, and total joy. I’ve done the same for her.

Everyone is messy. The type of mess can vary greatly from person to person, but somewhere in every person lurks a big old tangled mess of something. Some people’s internal mess keeps them obsessed about external perfection. If you compulsively need to vacuum your house three times a day, your house might be spotless, but your need to vacuum is your mess. Some people hide it better than others, but hiding the mess comes at the cost of intimacy and connection.

I love Lady even more because of the messy times. I love her because I’ve seen her at her best and at her not so best. I know the nuances of her little quirks and flaws, the same way she knows mine. There’s an intimacy to that kind of honesty in friendship.

I love that kind of honesty in characters, too. Pippi Longstocking is headstrong and sloppy, and has little regard for social convention. Anne from Green Gables was stubborn and had a habit of saying things she should have confined to her thoughts. Bridget Jones won our sympathies over diet failures and costume mishaps. I think these characters stay in our hearts because they are flawed like real people, and they’d make excellent messy friends. Pippi would not be concerned about the dog hair on your couch. Anne would get worked up with you about your latest injustice. And Bridget would cry along, if your heart were breaking. We wouldn’t feel the same way about them if they were perfect girls with perfect houses and perfect clothes and hair that didn’t even frizz in the middle of a monsoon. If Pippi were a well-behaved child who always followed rules and remembered to say please and thank you, there wouldn’t even be a story, and there certainly wouldn’t be a horse on the front porch.

When I wrote STAY, I knew I didn’t want Van to be a perfect girl. I wanted readers to see her disorganized home, her less than stellar eating habits, and the way she runs her mouth a little too much. I didn’t want her to be someone you wished you were. I wanted her to be someone you felt like you were friends with. She’ll let you put your feet on the furniture. She won’t think any less of you for eating an entire carton of ice cream by yourself. She doesn’t have the energy to notice if your shirt has clues as to what you had for lunch down the front of it, because she’s too busy worrying if you’ll notice the coffee stains on her jeans. And she won’t judge you for your drunken indiscretion with that guy you met at that bar, as long as you don’t judge her for accidentally buying a 100 pound German Shepherd from Slovakia off the Internet.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Allison Winn Scotch’s The One That I Want in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post, Allison Winn Scotch and The One That I Want. Comments left on other posts during the week are not entered into the contest. The deadline is tonight, June 2, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winner to be announced here in tomorrow’s post. If you enter, please return tomorrow to possibly claim your book.

The Revealing of Allie Larkin

May 26, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

There’s great buzz about Allie Larkin and her debut novel, STAY, releasing June 10, 2010. And why not with this appealing description (from the Advance Uncorrected Proofs back cover):

Something Borrowed meets Must Love Dogs in a big-hearted, unforgettable debut about friendship, love, and a German Shepherd named Joe.

Literary critics agree:

“A charming debut…. Smart and with emotional depth, this is a cut above.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Larkin debuts with a funny and touching story about love, loss, and dog ownership.”– Publishers Weekly

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of Stay on Tuesday, June 9, 2010 but — as is tradition — let’s meet Allie through her “official” bio:

Allie Larkin lives in Rochester, New York, with her husband, Jeremy, their two German Shepherds, Argo and Stella, and a three-legged cat. She is the cofounder of The, a website dedicated to helping readers take simple steps toward going green. Stay is her first novel.

Hmm, interesting…but it’s time to discover what else Allie might reveal:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Full of friends, dogs, books, blogs and love.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: Be kind.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: I find a lot of happiness in the imperfect.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Jello. No, not really, but the way it moves weirds me out.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: I would love to get to hang out with all my far away friends, but the where doesn’t matter all that much.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: I think any writer feels some connection to the writers who came before them.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: My husband.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases
A: Oh! I have the “like” and “um” disease. Trying so hard to break it.

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: I am quite possibly the world’s worst dancer. It might be nice to be less embarrassing in that capacity.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Having a marriage that nurtures personal growth and creativity. STAY is very much a product of my husband’s belief in me and his endless support.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: I wear my heart on my sleeve.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: I care.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: I regret little things – drinking one too many cups of coffee, not going for a run last night – the big stuff is just a chance to learn and do better next time. I’ve learned too much from my mistakes to regret them.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: I’ve always wanted to be a mermaid.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: My hair has a life of it’s own.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Pippi Longstocking

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: I really like grey characters – the ones who aren’t quite good and aren’t quite bad.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: I don’t really follow sports, but maybe a question about what it felt like to not get picked last for kickball in grade school?

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: Burp talking. Go ahead and burp, but keep the alphabet to yourself, please.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Spending time with my husband. The world is a better place when he’s around.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: This one. 🙂

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Compassion, humor, patience

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Haddock. And no, I’m not joking.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: Yellow Brick Road – Kris Delmhorst, On the Way Up – Peter Mulvey, One Wind Blows – Toad the Wet Sprocket, Peace of Mind – Boston, Hannah & Gabi – The Lemonheads

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: Song of the Lark, The Bean Trees, Of Mice and Men, Little Women, The Ordinary Princess

With a delightfully fresh voice filled with wit and charm, Allie Larkin is a new author to follow on Twitter and become friends with on Facebook. By doing so, you can say: “I knew her when…”

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Emily Winslow’s
The Whole World in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post, Presenting Debutante Emily Winslow and The Whole World. Comments left on other posts during the week are not entered into the contest. The deadline is tonight, May 26, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winner to be announced here in tomorrow’s post. If you enter, please return tomorrow to possibly claim your book.


Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Barrie Summy’s
I So Don’t Do Makeup in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post, Barrie Summy and I So Don’t Do Makeup. Comments left on other posts during the week are not entered into the contest. The deadline is tonight, May 26, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winner to be announced here in tomorrow’s post. If you enter, please return tomorrow to possibly claim your book.