The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…

Julianna Baggott: Why I Write

February 08, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Books, Guest Posts

[Julianna Baggott (complete listing of her books) is an author who writes across genres, believing they complement rather than are separate from each other.

Available today is the author’s riveting, breakout novel PURE — the first volume in her post-apocalypse thriller trilogy. It’s based on Julianna’s background of magical realism. That is what she writes and, in this guest post, she explains why.]

Why I Write

I’m answering this question late at night — in a usually loud house now quiet. The kids are asleep in bedrooms nearby. My husband is in asleep downstairs, my parents in the guest room, the dogs on dog pillows out for the night. It’s dark except for this glow.

I’m here as a moth, batting against light.

I’m here because I’ve learned that writing – this twitch of my fingers – is really rooted deep inside of me. It’s a way of running your hands through the reeds, the silt – the kind of silt still clouding the day, the kind settled (like memory) waiting to be stirred.
I’m here because my mind has things to run through.

I’m here because this is a place I’ve come to know. The white page, patient as snow.

I’m here because I’ve lived this day as a writer – meaning I’ve lived doubly. I’ve lived it as myself and I’ve lived it to pull from it what I need to remake a world. Or, no, I’ve spent the day collecting and now I have these things to shine up and set against each other.

I’m here to make. I have the human desire to create something from nothing.

The day’s done, but I’m not done with it. I miss it already. I long for what’s slipped by. I want to keep. I’m here because I hoard the days. I hoard our fragile lives.

I write because sometimes there are too many words to keep up with. They’re noisy. They churn in the chest like a motor.

Where else would I go? What else would I do?

I’m here because the world itself doesn’t do what I want it to do. In fact, it’s unruly, unpredictable.

I’m here because when in deep, that unruly world (that brutal world) slips away. I am immersed. I’ve found warm water. There’s the silt again.

I’m here writing because I want to give something. I want to be put to good use. Here, I say, here and here. Fistfuls. Any use?

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Book Giveaway: To celebrate the release day of PURE, The Divining Wand will give away one copy of the book — in a random drawing — to anyone who leaves a comment on this post before the deadline of 8:59 p.m. EST tonight! If you enter, please return tomorrow when the winners of both Book Giveaways will be announced.

Picture the Book: PURE

January 19, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Book Trailers, Books

When Julianna Baggott appeared on The Divining Wand last May, she had written the lovely romance The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted as one of her Bridget Asher novels. That was then and oh how time and books change.

For on Wednesday, February 8th, the author’s highly anticipated, riveting, breakout novel PURE — the first volume in her post-apocalypse thriller trilogy — will be released.

Fox 2000 has already acquired the film rights to PURE and the reviews are amazing:

“Julianna Baggott enjoys living on the knife edge between hilarity and heartbreak, and that makes her a writer after my own heart.”
— Richard Russo, winner of the Pulitzer Prize

“[PURE is …] a great gorgeous whirlwind of a novel, boundless in its imagination. You will be swept away.”
— Justin Cronin, New York Times bestselling author of The Passage

“… extraordinary … an important book … by one of our finest writers.”
— Robert Olen Butler, winner of the Pulitzer Prize

Ah, but those are only three raves, here is an entire page of Praise about the book.

In a Letter to Readers, Julianna explains the origins of PURE.

The synopsis:

We know you are here, our brothers and sisters . . .
Pressia barely remembers the Detonations or much about life during the Before. In her sleeping cabinet behind the rubble of an old barbershop where she lives with her grandfather, she thinks about what is lost-how the world went from amusement parks, movie theaters, birthday parties, fathers and mothers . . . to ash and dust, scars, permanent burns, and fused, damaged bodies. And now, at an age when everyone is required to turn themselves over to the militia to either be trained as a soldier or, if they are too damaged and weak, to be used as live targets, Pressia can no longer pretend to be small. Pressia is on the run.

Burn a Pure and Breathe the Ash . . .
There are those who escaped the apocalypse unmarked. Pures. They are tucked safely inside the Dome that protects their healthy, superior bodies. Yet Partridge, whose father is one of the most influential men in the Dome, feels isolated and lonely. Different. He thinks about loss-maybe just because his family is broken; his father is emotionally distant; his brother killed himself; and his mother never made it inside their shelter. Or maybe it’s his claustrophobia: his feeling that this Dome has become a swaddling of intensely rigid order. So when a slipped phrase suggests his mother might still be alive, Partridge risks his life to leave the Dome to find her.

When Pressia meets Partridge, their worlds shatter all over again

And now the opportunity to picture the book.

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

Please remember that PURE is available for Pre-order in both Hardcover and ebook editions and will be released on Wednesday, February 8, 2012.

However, while you wait, enjoy the Prologue.

Julianna Baggott (aka Bridget Asher) and
The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted

May 16, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

“This novel is dedicated to the reader.
For this singular moment, it’s just the two of us.”

It is with the above Dedication that Julianna Baggott welcomes the readinbg audience into her latest Bridget Asher novel The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted. And that singular moment will become hours as the author tells a multi-generational tale of: “Grief is a love story told backwards.” In fact that’s the first line in the book.

According to the author, that sentence captured what she wanted to write in the novel — telling a love story from a place of grief and then moving beyond it. However the physical place, from where the story is told, was an equally important element. Julianna’s love of France made it an obvious choice as well as a six week’s vacation/research destination for herself, her husband, their four children, and a niece. While they had their share of adventures — several of which appear in the book –, the entire experience felt as though they were reawakening their senses.

In a March 22, 2011 interview with Caroline Leavitt, the author explained how her grieving character also needed to to experience a reawakening:

“One of the most important things about living somewhere foreign to you is that you can’t take for granted what you’re seeing, hearing, tasting. It’s how we should always live — no matter where we are — fully awake to the world around us. But sometimes we shut down to that world. I wanted to describe a character opening up to it.”

These ideas developed into a storyline and The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted synopsis:

“Every good love story has another love hiding within it.”

Brokenhearted and still mourning the loss of her husband, Heidi travels with Abbott, her obsessive-compulsive seven-year-old son, and Charlotte, her jaded sixteen-year-old niece, to the small village of Puyloubier in the south of France, where a crumbling stone house may be responsible for mending hearts since before World War II.

There, Charlotte confesses a shocking secret, and Heidi learns the truth about her mother’s “lost summer” when Heidi was a child. As three generations collide with one another, with the neighbor who seems to know all of their family skeletons, and with an enigmatic Frenchman, Heidi, Charlotte, and Abbot journey through love, loss, and healing amid the vineyards, warm winds and delicious food of Provence. Can the magic of the house heal Heidi’s heart, too?

In addition to reading the lovely praise, there is also an Excerpt from the book to be read here.

Both sweet, bittersweet, and touched with the power of love, this is a fascinating novel based on the human emotions of grieving a loss while trying to believe in the hope of what lies ahead. Julianna does indeed convey all this through exquisite sensory description and what a feast she provides. In Provence, alone, there are the tiny white snails on the roadside flowers, the world of Cezanne’s Mont Sainte-Victoire, the lilac fields, vineyards and the magical house of love stories — recently damaged by fire and in need of being restored too. Also there is the food, lusciously described in its preparation, aromas, and mouth-watering tastes. The author admits to eating much of this research — so much so that recipes have been included in the back of the book.

It’s true that Heidi’s sense of taste returns first, allowing her other senses to follow, but still letting go of her grief is difficult. The reader never meets Henry — her love, her husband — alive, yet he appears almost larger than life in every Henry story the brokenhearted widow retells their son. His presence is everywhere in and around their Florida home yet in Provence there are new memories await to be created without him.

While the strong themes of The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted are grief and loss and the idea of moving forward in order to heal, the author also explores the connections between mothers and daughters and sisters. For once again a storyline is affected by how past secrets haunt the present as is noted by: “Every good love story has another love hiding within it.” Or, in other words, a multi-generational plotline does promise more than one love. However the idea of being able to reopen one’s heart and find love again is what ultimately transforms this story of devastating loss into one of joy and redemption.

Since its release on March 29, 2011, The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted has had its share of favorable reviews yet, out of curiosity, The Divining Wand wondered if there was anything that a reviewer hadn’t asked or mentioned that Julianna would want readers to know about this story? And she said:

“I love the scene in the boutique. It was actually a scene that was salvaged from 165 pages of a failed novel. The novel wasn’t good but there was something elementally wonderful and vexing and true — in a deep twisted sisterly and motherly way — about that scene. I was so glad to have it. And I love the term getting Briskowitzed. It’d be funny if that one caught on.”

Now, in case all the other elements of this book have not piqued your interest, certainly those two tidbits will. Spend some time in France this May, June, July….with The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted. This Fairy Godmother guarantees you’ll feel relaxed, rested, and restored with hope.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted by Bridget Asher (aka Julianna Baggott) in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, May 18, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

The Revealing of Julianna Baggott

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

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

Both commercial and critical reviews agree:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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