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The Revealing of Seré Prince Halverson

February 09, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

According to debut novelist, Seré Prince Halverson: “I became a writer because I loved to write, and I was blessed with an utter lack of any other talent.”

If true, what a gift the author’s one talent is as it shines through her recently released The Underside of Joy. A one sentence description of the book notes:

Set against the backdrop of Redwood forests and shimmering vineyards, Seré Prince Halverson’s compelling debut tells the story of two women, bound by an unspeakable loss, who each claims to be the mother of the same two children.

Deservedly earned glowing praise:

“Halverson’s gloriously down-to-earth novel is so pitch perfect that as readers reluctantly reach the last page, wanting more, they will have to take it on faith that this really is her first fiction.”–Library Journal, Starred Review

“…As she mines the family secrets her characters hold close and how those affect their relationships with one another, Halverson proves she’s a wordsmith and a storyteller to keep an eye on.”–Bookpage, Fiction Top Pick

“A poignant debut about mothers, secrets and sacrifices…Halverson avoids sentimentality, aiming for higher ground in this lucid and graceful examination of the dangers and blessings of familial bonds.”–Kirkus Reviews

“Halverson paints a lovely picture of small-town life and intimate family drama…Nuanced characters and lack of cliché make for a winning debut.”–Publishers Weekly

“Halverson’s debut novel marks her as a strong new voice in women’s fiction…this would make an excellent book-club choice.”–Booklist

The Divining Wand has scheduled a return visit from Seré Prince Halverson on Wednesday, February 22, 2012 but — in the meantime — let’s meet the author through her “official” bio….in her own words.

I am from a lot of places, but I now live in Northern California and it feels like home. I worked for 20 years as a freelance copywriter while I wrote fiction and raised kids. My husband and I have four grown children. I’m a mom and a stepmom, and I have a mom and a stepmom. The Underside of Joy is my debut novel.

Piqued your interest? Let’s get to know Seré even better:

Q. How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A. This crazy plot finally seems to be working.

Q. What is your motto or maxim?
A. Never, never, never, never give up. (Via my dear friend Elle Newmark, via Winston Churchill)

Q. How would you describe perfect happiness?
A. I don’t think the most genuine happiness is perfect. Hence, the title of my book! That said, my yellow Lab, Stuart, seems to experience pure, perfect happiness when chasing a tennis ball. And I feel something close to it when watching him.

Q. What’s your greatest fear?
A. The same as any mother’s fear.

Q. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A. I love many different places, but I feel most at home right here in the writing studio my husband and family recently built for me, overlooking a forest and vineyard.

Q. With whom in history do you most identify?
A. I enjoy reading journals and biographies of writers. No matter their gender, or the time period, I can almost always identify with some aspect of their lives and struggles. John Steinbeck’s Journal of a Novel, for one.

Q. Which living person do you most admire?
A. I stand in awe of teachers.

Q. What are your most overused words or phrases?
A. Just, Very, Um, So, Wonderful. I know! Really? Really! And then a couple of the four-letter variety, which I just really should stop saying.

Q. If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A. Oh, to be able to sing and to speak several languages! My novel will be published in 13 languages, and I’m thrilled because that’s the closest I’ll ever come to being multi-lingual.

Q. What is your greatest achievement?
A. The Underside of Joy. And my kids. (I don’t think I “achieved” them, but I’m very proud of them.)

Q. What’s your greatest flaw?
A. Disorganization: My purse, my closet, my desk, my computer, my mind. My kitchen cupboards, however, aren’t bad. I have no idea why they’ve escaped the madness.

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

Q. What do you regret most?
A. That I wasn’t able to publish my novel before my dad died. He would have gotten such a kick out of this.

Q. If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A. I like being me, even though it can be, shall we say, challenging.

Q. What trait is most noticeable about you?
A. I don’t think there’s any one thing…but I do smile a lot.

Q. Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A. Cal/Calliope in Middlesex

Q. Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A. The Grinch. I know that’s not very literary sounding, but he’s my favorite.

Q. If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A. Joe Montana. “Hi Joe, you look just like my husband’s Joe Montana Christmas tree ornament. Are you up for surprising your biggest fan?”

Q. What is your biggest pet peeve?
A. The toilet seat thing. Left up afterward or down during and—ugh—wet afterward. Come on, guys. And drivers who tail too closely, especially on dark, rainy, twisty roads with deer crossing signs posted everywhere. Back off. And please click down your brights. Thank you very much.

Q. What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A. Reading or going for a walk.

Q. What’s your fantasy profession?
A. Other than being a novelist? Singer/Songwriter

Q. What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A. Honesty, compassion, and a sense of humor.

Q. If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A. Dungeness crab. Fortunately, my husband likes to go crabbing. That’s if you mean only one ingredient. If you mean one type of food, I’d say sushi. I get serious, debilitating sushi cravings.

Q. What are your 5 favorite songs?
A. Five is an impossible number. I have so many favorite songs. I might have to slip in an extra and hope you don’t notice.
2,000 Miles by The Pretenders
This Must be the Place by Shawn Colvin (Talking Heads cover)
Closer to Fine by Indigo Girls (Almost anything by the Indigo Girls.)
Anchorage by Michelle Shocked
I Hope That I Don’t Fall in Love with You by Tom Waits
Circle Game by Joni Mitchell

Q. What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A. Again, only five? You use the word “five” loosely, right?
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (When I was nine, I went to Green Gables, the home where L.M. Montgomery wrote, and I bought the book in the gift shop and still have it.)
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
The Boys of My Youth by Jo Ann Beard

Genuinely warm and wonderfully honest, Seré is a gorgeous storyteller. Discover more of these truths by becoming a friend on Facebook, visit her blog Who Moved My Buddha?, sample an excerpt from the book’s Chapter One, and then continue reading The Underside of Joy.

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Announcement: The winner of Eleanor Brown’s The Weird Sisters is: Janel. Congratulations! Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address.

AND

The winner of Julianna Baggott’s PURE is: Candice. Congratulations! Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address.

The Revealing of Erika Liodice

January 26, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Author Erika Liodice dreams, creates to succeed, and inspires others to do the same. With passion and determination, she became a debut novelist in late November, 2011 when her first novel Empty Arms was published as an ebook in Kindle and NOOK Book editions. And only last week Empty Arms was released in paperback. One might say that Erika’s arms now hold her dream come true.

The story is based on a life built on secrets, half truths, evasion, and lies. Not exactly a reader’s choice for a tender, warm-hearted selection, yet the ebook has garnered 5 ***** ratings and the following praise:

“Empty Arms is a compelling novel about haunting secrets, risk and consequence, and one woman’s journey to build a future out of the scattered ashes of her past. A beautiful debut.” ~ Therese Walsh, author of THE LAST WILL OF MOIRA LEAHY

The Synopsis:

Catharine Chase’s entire life is built on a secret. In 1972, at the tender age of sixteen, she got pregnant. An embarrassment to her parents, Catharine was exiled to a maternity home to carry out her pregnancy far away from the watchful eyes of their tight-knit community. What they didn’t tell her is that she wouldn’t be allowed to keep her baby.

With her daughter’s screams still echoing in her ears, the medical staff told Catharine she’d move on with her life and have more children, they promised she’d forget. But they were wrong. Catharine never forgot Emily. And when she and her husband, Paul, learn that they can’t have children, she risks her job, her marriage, and her family’s reputation in a desperate attempt to find the daughter she never wanted to give away and reclaim her only chance to be a mother.

The Divining Wand has scheduled a visit from Erika on Wednesday, February 15, 2012 however — between now and then — let’s meet the author through her “official” bio:

Erika Liodice is an award-winning blogger and founder of the inspirational blog, Beyond the Gray, where she shares her journey to publication while encouraging readers to reach for their own dreams. She is a book reviewer at Reader Unboxed and a contributor to Writer Unboxed, The Savvy Explorer, and Lehigh Valley InSite. Empty Arms is her first novel.

And now it’s time to get to know Erika at her upclose and revealing best.

Q. How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A. Chasing my dreams, inspiring others to chase theirs.

Q. What is your motto or maxim?
A. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” -Confucius

Q. How would you describe perfect happiness?
A. Sipping wine with my husband on a sunny afternoon overlooking a body of water.

Q. What’s your greatest fear?
A. Losing my husband. He’s my best friend; I couldn’t live without him.

Q. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A. On a tropical island basking in sunshine.

Q. With whom in history do you most identify?
A. Henry David Thoreau because I derive much of my inspiration from “sauntering in nature”, I spend a good deal of time pondering my purpose here, and I love to travel. Plus, like Thoreau, I spent many years working at passionless day jobs in order to support my writing dream.

Q. Which living person do you most admire?
A. Jodi Picoult because she writes about tough topics that challenge my beliefs and change the way I look at things.

Q. What are your most overused words or phrases?
A. In my writing it’s: my stomach tightens. I was horrified when I realized how much my protagonist’s stomach was tightening! Fortunately, I discovered this during the editing phase and was able to correct it.

Q. If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A. To speak many languages fluently. English is my native language and I studied Spanish for 11 years, but I would love to know a few more so I can converse with all of the interesting people I meet during my travels.

Q. What is your greatest achievement?
A. Building a life that I absolutely love.

Q. What’s your greatest flaw?
A. Over-committing myself.

Q. What’s your best quality?
A. I put my heart and soul into everything I do.

Q. What do you regret most?
A. Not going to art school.

Q. If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A. Sometimes I think it would be fun to be the sun because I’d always be warm and I’d get to travel around the world every day.

Q. What trait is most noticeable about you?
A. I think people immediately notice that I’m tall and blonde, but I hope they also notice that I have a big heart and love to laugh.

Q. Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A. I’ve loved Nancy Drew since I was a little girl. The Nancy I grew up with was multi-talented, self-reliant, clever, and fearless. She was great role model and I loved getting lost in her adventures.

Q. Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A. I love to hate Miranda Priestley from The Devil Wears Prada. She’s so evil, but I also sort of wish she’d let me borrow her clothes.

Q. If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A. Bethany Hamilton (the surfer who lost her arm in a shark attack). I’d like to tell her that I don’t know how she ever got back in the water but that I admire her determined spirit, positive attitude, and commitment to her passion.

Q. What is your biggest pet peeve?
A. When people complain about things that are within their control.

Q. What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A. Being my husband’s wife. Too sappy? Okay, bargain hunting on Craigslist.

Q. What’s your fantasy profession?
A. Professional vacationer.

Q. What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A. Good sense of humor, honesty, and kindness.

Q. If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A. Macaroni and cheese.

Q. What are your 5 favorite songs?
A. 1) “The Scientist” by Coldplay, 2) “Innocente” by Delerium, 3) “In the Waiting Line” by Zero 7, 4) “Blindfold” by Morcheeba, and 5) “La Femme Parallel” by Thievery Corporation.

Q. What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A. 1) The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, 2) The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks, 3) The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, 4) The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve, and 5) The Last Summer (of You and Me) by Ann Brashares.

Erika Liodice is writing her dream life by working hard as well as playing hard so why not join her by being a follower on Twitter, becoming a friend on Facebook, and reading Empty Arms!

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Book Giveaway: And the winner of Sarah McCoy’s The Baker’s Daughter is: Jennifer Downing. Congratulations! Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with the delivery address (home or email download) and your choice of book format.

The Revealing of Sarah McCoy

January 17, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Author Sarah McCoy (The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico) draws upon the unlikely connection between her past (Germany) and present (El Paso, Texas) residences to create the historical novel, The Baker’s Daughter available next Tuesday, January 24th.

Here are a few selections of glowing praise for the book:

“A beautiful, heart-breaking gem of a novel written just the way I like them, with the past coming back to haunt the present, endearing heroines and a sunny, hopeful ending. You’ll wolf it up in one delicious gulp.”
–Tatiana de Rosnay, international bestselling author of Sarah’s Key and A Secret Kept

“A sensitive, multilayered novel, this is a moving examination of the effect war and the politics of exclusion, have on the human heart.”–Amanda Hodgkinson, New York Times bestselling author of 22 Brittania Road

“A haunting and beautiful story… Spanning sixty years, and taking on forms of human cruelty and indifference ranging from the Nazis to modern-day immigration reform, McCoy forces us to examine the choices we make. I was riveted from start to finish.”
– J. Courtney Sullivan, New York Times bestselling author of Commencement and Maine

The Divining Wand has scheduled a visit from Sarah McCoy on Wednesday, March 14, 2012 but — for now — let’s meet the author through her “official” bio:

SARAH McCOY is author of the novel, The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico. She has taught English writing at Old Dominion University and at the University of Texas at El Paso. The daughter of an Army officer, her family was stationed in Germany during her childhood. She calls Virginia home but presently lives with her husband and dog, Gilbert, in El Paso, Texas. The Baker’s Daughter is her second novel. She is currently working on her next.

Interesting background, don’t you think? Well then it’s time for the following upclose and personal Q&A with Sarah to know her even better.

Q. How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A. My God, I can’t do it in 8 words! I’m the lady who gets cut off by people’s answering machines. Please stay tuned: Still a work in progress. How’s that? Or Hold on tight: I’m just getting started, y’all! Does ‘y’all’ count as one word?

Q. What is your motto or maxim?
A. Everything has a purpose. Hold tight. Have faith. Keep watch. Miracles are a breath away.

Q. How would you describe perfect happiness?
A. I believe “perfect happiness” exists in every moment. We just have to open our eyes and look to find it. Even in the midst of terrible tragedy or great personal struggle, there’s the laughter of a child or the bloom of a flower. Reminders that perfect happiness is more constant and eternal than our pain.

Q. What’s your greatest fear?
A. I’m not sure I have a greatest so much as a bunch of little fears that stand on each other’s shoulders until they look like a giant. They range from developed, strong demons to skinny, weak ones: fear of failure; burrowing animals; fear of rejection; nightmares where my teeth fall out; having my privacy invaded; fear that my dog will run into a scorpion or tarantula or rattlesnake in the backyard; worry over the safekeeping of my family and loved ones scattered so far from me; packing anxiety when traveling; fear that my husband won’t ever know the depth of my love for him… Big and small stuff I can’t control no matter how I try.

Q. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A. Home. Wherever that might be at the time. Home is where my husband is, where my writing desk stands, where my puppy sleeps. Don’t get me wrong, I love traveling, but part of the great appeal is the homecoming, snuggling into the quiet of my house and recounting the excitement of where I’ve just been. When I’m home, I’m happiest.

Q. With whom in history do you most identify?
A. Oh, I identify with different individuals at various points in my life journey so I’d be hard pressed to pick just one. Recently, I was in Santa Fe and took a tour of the Georgia O’Keefe Museum. I felt such a kinship to her: her passion for her art and struggle to make a way in the industry; her relationship with her husband and her work; her love for unusual spaces that whispered vibrant stories; her appreciation for the power of femininity.

Q. Which living person do you most admire?
A. On a personal level, my mother, Eleane. I know it’s cliché but every day she never fails to be superwoman. She reminds me that love is transformative and not even the stars are out of reach. She reminds me that there is a higher power and we, a high calling.
In the writing world, Toni Morrison absolutely blows my mind. I want her to be my fairy godmother, sprinkle me with her blessings, and let me sit in her presence. As well, my dearest friend Sheri Reynolds is such a force of love and support in my life. I’ll never be able to fully tell her how much I cherish her.

Q. What are your most overused words or phrases?
A. “Just.” I don’t know why I just can’t seem to get just out of my dialogue. I have to comb it out of my writing. It makes the prose drag. I blame my Virginian roots.

Q. If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A. Being able to lean forward and touch my toes. I know, nearly everyone on the planet has this talent and I don’t. It’s been a lifelong frustration starting with the Sit-and-Reach Test in elementary gym class. Either my arms or too short or my legs are too long, but something is off.

Q. What is your greatest achievement?
A. Writing and publishing my novels.

Q. What’s your greatest flaw?
A. Being a perfectionist, Type-A, control freak.

Q. What’s your best quality?
A. Once I trust and consider a person a true friend, I brandish my sword to champion and defend that person. Faithful till death.

Q. What do you regret most?
A. Too often taking out my perfectionist, Type-A, control freak-dom on my husband.

Q. If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A. Can I cop out of this question by saying I’m just fine being who and what I am? I’ve never subscribed to the “grass is always greener” philosophy. If my grass isn’t green, I assume the neighbor’s probably isn’t either. I’ll stick with what I got.

Q. What trait is most noticeable about you?
A. Are we talking physicality or personality? If we’re going with physicality then I’d say my height. People who meet me in person are always surprised by my short stature. My husband calls me his wee pocket pixie. My grandmother is about 5’ tall. My great grandmother was 4’11’’. These are the trees from which I come.

Q. Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A. Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables. She reigns supreme in my imagination.

Q. Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A. Briony from Atonement. Though technically not a villain, she’s the complex heroine that points a wrongful finger and sets tragedy in motion. You want to hate her, but you love her because she made a mistake. One terrible, youthful mistake, and haven’t we all made one or two of those? Such a great character.

Q. If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A. I’ll admit, I’m not much on the sports celebrities. I guess I’d pick Nadia Comaneci. I was a gymnast in my youth, and she was my ultimate. I’d ask her if she wanted to grab a cup of tea. Nothing brilliant. Now my second choice would be Landon Donovan. I’d want to meet him so I could brag to my husband, an ex-college soccer player who is absolutely obsessed with the sport.

Q. What is your biggest pet peeve?
A. People who talk about nothing (the weather, the light fixtures, the salt and pepper shakers on the table—you get the picture) in an attempt to fill every moment of sweet silence.

Q. What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A. This is a difficult question because I don’t fancy anything as much as writing. Hmm. I’m going to go out on a limb here: according to my friend Jenna Blum, I could make a mean nickel as a gift wrapper. I do love putting together pretty packages.

Q. What’s your fantasy profession?
A. Exactly what I’m doing: writing novels. I’m living my fantasy and pinch myself every day.

Q. What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A. 1) Loyalty, 2) Authenticity, 3) Independence

Q. If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A. Up until this Christmas, I would’ve said crab, but I learned you can have too much of a good thing after a week of seafood binging while back east… Shoot, who am I kidding? The answer is still king crab legs!

Q. What are your 5 favorite songs?
A. 1) “Stardust” by Nat King Cole, 2) “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas” by Johnny Mathis, 3) “Anne’s Theme” by Hagood Hardy for the film Anne of Green Gables, 4) “You Don’t Own Me” by Lesley Gore, and 5) “Amazing Grace.” (Yeah, it’s an eclectic list. Each one moves me powerfully in a different way.)

Q. What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A. While I have a plethora of books I consider favorites, I’ll go with five plucked from my “fundamentals” list: 1) Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, 2) Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare, 3) The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 4) Nine Days Queen by Karleen Bradford, 5) The Awakening by Kate Chopin. Note: Austen’s Pride and Prejudice should be in there too.

Genuine, insightful, and most thoughtful/appreciative, Sarah has a great deal to share. You can join her on Goodreads, follow her on Twitter, and become a friend/fan on Facebook.

Also, since The Baker’s Daughter becomes available in bookstores next week, you might want to “see” the author on her Book Tour.

For an extra bonus, enjoy the novel’s Prelude and Chapters One – Three.

The Further Revealing of Kristina Riggle

June 15, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

On June 15, 2009 the presentation/review of Kristina Riggle‘s debut novel Real Life & Liars launched The Divining Wand and last summer she graced this site again with The Life You’ve Imagined. Now, with a critically acclaimed reputation and an ever-growing fanbase, this author/friend returns with her third book, Things We Didn’t Say available June 28, 2011.

Described in one sentence, Things We Didn’t Say is: A story of a frayed blended family about to come undone completely when a teen-age son goes missing.

And the early Praise follows:

“The historic home in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where most of the book is set, takes on the presence of another character, while the constrained time period adds to the intimate feel of this absorbing novel about a blended family.”

-Booklist



“An involving portrayal of the obstacles confronting today’s families.”

- Publishers Weekly



“Riggle paints with exquisite care a not-so-pretty picture of modern life, when running away can seem like the only option if it promises just a little bit of freedom.”

Library Journal



“Don’t open the first page of this novel unless you’re prepared to sacrifice all other commitments for the next 48 hours or so! This is Riggle’s best yet. Compelling, believable, and full of delicious twists, this story will forever change how you relate to strangers, friends, and even family—reminding you that everyone you meet might be carrying her own secret struggles.”

– Katrina Kittle, author of The Blessings of the Animals and The Kindness of Strangers



“In this moving and captivating novel, Kristina Riggle explores with depth and honesty the question of how we define a family, and the myriad ways we all seek to shed our difficult pasts. Things We Didn’t Say is impossible to put down, and even harder to let go of.”

– Julie Buxbaum, author of The Opposite of Love and After You

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of Things We Didn’t Say for Monday, June 27, 2011 but, until then, let’s read an updated version of the author’s “official” bio:

Kristina Riggle lives and writes in West Michigan. Her debut novel, Real Life & Liars, was praised by Publishers Weekly for its “humorous and humane storytelling” and by Booklist as “a moving and accomplished first novel.” The book was a Target “Breakout” pick and a “Great Lakes, Great Reads” selection by the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association. The Life You’ve Imagined was honored as an “IndieNext Notable” book by independent booksellers.

Kristina has published short stories in the Cimarron Review, Literary Mama, Espresso Fiction, and elsewhere. She is also a freelance journalist writing primarily for The Grand Rapids Press, and co-editor for fiction at Literary Mama. Kristina was a full-time newspaper reporter for seven years before turning her attention to creative writing and freelancing. As well as writing, she enjoys reading, yoga, dabbling in (very) amateur musical theatre, and spending lots of time with her husband, two kids and dog.

And, now, here’s another opportunity to get to know the real Kristina:

Q: What would you choose as the theme song of your life?
A: “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” from Sound of Music because I’m stubborn with a Pollyanna streak believing in dreams that come true, etc. And I have a weakness for showtunes.

Q: Possible pseudonym?
A; My name IS a pseudonym. Riggle is my maiden name. I used to not like it — it sounds so funny — but now I’m attached to it. Plus it has given rise to a series of hilarious nicknames: The Riggler, Riglette, Wiggle, Wriggle, and this last one I shall choose if I ever do roller derby: Big Rig.

Q: Name three “bests” of being a published author.
A: Fan mail, meeting readers, and seeing my books on bookstore and library shelves.

Q: Favorite book release season of the year?
A: Summer, because mine always come out in the summer… Really, “season” is something I don’t think much about. I’ll buy books any day, any weather.

Q: If given the opportunity, which reality show would you be on?
A:Project Runway so I could meet Tim Gunn. Too bad I can’t sew for beans.

Q: Favorite childhood fairy tale?
A: I don’t remember being much interested in fairy tales as a kid, but I do remember my little sister nagging me to drive her to Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” when it was out in theaters. I grudgingly agreed, and loved the movie! I left humming the songs and loving the bookworm Belle heroine, and my sister was like, “Eh, it was okay.” Still love that movie.

Q: What U.S. city would you like to visit that you haven’t been to yet?
A:Tie between San Francisco and New Orleans.

Q: Your reward after a day of writing?
A: Another day of writing! I do like shiraz and dark chocolate if I want to reward myself after a very productive (and/or stressful) week.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are LEAST important to you?
A: Vanity, avarice, laziness.

Q: An author quote that inspires you?
A: I have such a quote in a typewriter-shaped picture frame next to my computer. The frame was a gift for my thirtieth birthday with the suggestion I put an inspirational quote in it. “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” (Richard Bach.) At the time I was an amateur. Now I’m not.

Q: Where do you like to read?
A: I mostly read in bed before turning out the light but if I could have my preference, I’d read in the sunshine in a lawn chair. I don’t get much “laze in the sun” time, though.

Q: Book or ebook reader?
A: Real book. I’m not an e-reader hater, but I have yet to see one which can “turn pages” well enough to keep up with my fast reading, and also be read in bright sunlight. Plus, I can drop my book in the bath or get sand all over it and it’s no big deal.

Q: Growing up, who was your teen idol? You mean, who did I crush on?
A: Jon Bon Jovi. And he still looks good!

Q: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
A: I wish I could be more like Mira, the heroine of my first novel, and not give a damn what people think. I even edited that sentence just now to make it less profane, for fear of offending. I’m so hopelessly nice sometimes I even annoy myself.

Q: Must love dogs and/or cats?
A: This is how my husband knows I love him. I gave up cats forever to marry him, and now we own a dog.

Q: Which author – past or present – would you have chosen as a mentor?
A: My literary idols are Elizabeth Berg and Anne Tyler.

Q: What book did you fake reading?
A: Never! Faking that you know something when you don’t is the quickest route to sitcom-level hijinks as you try to bluff your way through conversation. I am sheepish about never having read certain books, though. Like The Old Man and the Sea.

Q: What is your favorite scent?
A: Campfire smoke. To me it means peace, quiet and calm.

Q: What is your favorite movie adaptation of a novel?
A: Tie between Sideways and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Q: Name two books you always give or recommend, knowing they’ll be loved?
A: I’ve loaned out both Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott and Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler and have had to replace them because they never came home!

Q: What are (a few) five of your favorite things?
A: 1) My kids’ laughter.
2) Christopher Guest’s mockumentaries.
3) Adele’s latest album.
4) Showtunes.
5) Books.

Genuine, insightful, and always entertaining, Kristina Riggle is an author to enjoy following on Twitter and becoming a friend/fan on Facebook.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Populazzi by Elise Allen in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Presenting Debutante Elise Allen and Populazzi. 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.

The Revealing of Elise Allen

June 01, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Having earned success as a busy, popular, collaborative writer, Elise Allen is preparing to launch her solo career as a novelist with her YA book, Populazzi coming August 1, 2011. But first Elise will savor her two Daytime Emmy Nominations for being a writer of Dinosaur Train — the PBS animated show.

Then it will be all about her book, Populazzi, focusing on many an adolescent’s wishful thinking of:

WHAT WOULD YOU DO if you had the chance to erase your past and reinvent yourself as the person you’ve always wanted to be?

Here’s early praise:

“Fresh, funny, and sometimes wrenching, Populazzi nails what it’s like to try and find yourself while navigating the crazy world of high school. I loved it.” –Hilary Duff

“Populazzi is a smart, fun, and energetic ride through the twisting hallways of high school popularity.” –Deb Caletti, author of The Six Rules of Maybe

“Hilarious, psychologically chewy, downright Machiavellian, and heartfelt in all the most satisfying ways. Populazzi had me blazing through pages. Elise Allen rocks!” –Matthew Quick, author of Sorta Like a Rock Star and The Silver Linings Playbook

“Populazzi is a fresh, fun peek behind the popularity curtain. If you ever wanted to fit in, wondered how to climb the popularity ladder, or needed how to figure out which guy was the best for you- then you’ll love this book. Elise Allen is a welcome new voice in YA fiction and Populazzi is destined to climb the best seller lists.” –Eileen Cook, Author of The Education of Hailey Kendrick, Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood, and What Would Emma Do?

The Divining has scheduled a presentation/review of Populazzi for Monday, June 13, 2011. But, in the meantime, let’s meet the author through her “official” bio:

Though Elise Allen hails from Philadelphia (home of Tastykakes, the best soft pretzels ever, and her beloved Philadelphia Eagles), she resides in Los Angeles, where it never has the audacity to snow. Elise has a wildly eclectic writing career, including that run the gamut from Cosby to Dinosaur Train. She recently fulfilled one of her many life’s ambitions by writing for the Muppets. She is Hilary Duff’s co-author for the book ELIXIR, and looks forward to the release of her first solo YA novel, POPULAZZI.

She lives in L.A. with her husband, daughter, and insatiable food-hound of a dog, Riley.

Duly impressed? Of course. But getting to know Elise, upclose and personal, is even better:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Laugh-out-loud funny, surrounded by love and creative chaos.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: I will totally pay for my child’s therapy bills.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness? A: Living in the moment and feeling perfectly at home in my own skin… ideally while swimming in the ocean in Hawaii with my husband and daughter.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Anything bad happening to my daughter.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: I mentioned Hawaii, right? Specifically, the Kapalua Bay Hotel, where my husband proposed and where we went for our honeymoon. But since that hotel has been torn down, I’ll choose Napili Kai Resort, right next door.

Close second? Disneyland.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: Walt Disney – the good parts, not the hideous anti-semitic parts. Jim Henson as well, and both for the same reasons. These two men had boundless dreams and imaginations, but both knew that wasn’t enough – they had to put in the legwork to make those dreams come true. Both did, and both also knew you can’t make things happen on your own. They pulled together teams of incredibly creative and talented people, all of whom worked together to make the impossible a reality.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: Fozzie Bear! He’s funny, he’s constantly coming up with new ideas and throwing himself into them headfirst, and no matter how many times he’s knocked down, he always jumps up laughing and ready for more.

What do you mean he’s not a living person? Of course he is! He’s Fozzie Bear!!!

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases?
A: “awesome,” “highly entertaining” and/or “highly amusing”, and the one that would make Stephen King loathe me, “cool.”

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: I’ve said it before on TDW, and I stand by it – I totally want that Hermione Granger trick of doubling up on time so I could get more done in every day. Barring that, I’d really love to surf. I managed all of ten seconds on the board once, but it was a seriously magical ten seconds.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: I’d say my daughter, but I can’t take credit for her. I swear she came out incredible, and I just stand back in awe and hope I don’t screw her up too horribly. I’m very happy with my career and where it’s going, but big-picture, my greatest achievement was being smart enough to recognize how incredible my husband is, and not screw up the relationship in its early days, when I was very young and tragically inept about these things.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: LOL – I just went through a mental laundry list! I think my worst mistakes happen because I can beat myself up to the point of self-indulgence, where I’m so irritated at myself that I’m no longer seeing what’s really around me. When that happens, I’ll close off or lash out, neither of which are things I want to do, and I’m not proud when I do.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: I feel like no matter what happens, I can find the funny in it. I can relate the worst experiences in my life as the best stories, and it’s not because I’m sugar-coating – I’ll find the fun and enjoy the ride, even when it’s bumpy.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: Bad parenting moments – those times I’m feeling cranky or tired or self-critical and I say something to my daughter in the wrong tone of voice and I see her reaction and I want to turn back time immediately.

Did I mention I’m totally paying her therapy bills when she’s older?

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: At the risk of sounding very Gilderoy Lockhart, I have no desire to be anything but myself. I’m flawed in a zillion ways – maybe two zillion – but I wouldn’t trade my experience for anyone (or anything) else’s. Maybe I’d wish to be me, further along in my journey of evolution, but then I’d miss all the bumps and scrapes along the way, and the bumps and scrapes are badges of honor.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: Big curly hair! You should have seen me in the ‘80’s. I blew it out every day. I didn’t blow it straight… I blew it out. My first driver’s license picture is nothing but giant hair and lip gloss.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Thursday Next from the Jasper Fforde series. She’s smart, self-possessed, has a wickedly dry sense of humor, and she hangs with fictional characters for a living. What’s not to love?

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Dr. Heinz Doofenschmirtz from Phineas and Ferb. GENIUS!!!! I can’t even express how much I adore him. I got to meet Dan Povenmire recently (show creator and voice of Doofenschmirtz) and I completely geeked out on him. To his credit, he was very gracious, and even tossed me a “Curse you, Perry the Platypus!!!!”

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: DONOVAN MCNABB!!!!! I’m a HUGE Philadelphia Eagles fan, and while Donovan is no longer with the team, he had an amazing run, and from all accounts is a genuinely good-hearted human being. As for what I’d say to him, I’d thank him profusely for everything he did, then ideally settle in for hours of stories about what it was like for him to quarterback the greatest football team ever.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: You know in the dishwasher, those little grates for the silverware? My husband likes to push them up and out of the way, loading the silverware into the baskets in bulk, while I’m obsessed with using the grates and putting each piece of silverware into its own little puzzle slot. If I open the dishwasher and see the silverware in his way, I’ll actually spend the time to take the silverware out, put the grating in place, and drop each piece of silverware into its properly cradled spot.

For a woman who is at heart a raving slob, this is madness; so I don’t say anything about the compulsion, I just do it.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: I’m most satisfied when I’m doing something physically challenging outdoors, like a tough hike, a long bike ride, or a long run.

That… or going to Disneyland.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: Is it dorky to say I’m already doing it? I guess the fantasy part is that I want to be so successful at what I do that I can get into Disneyland’s Club 33 anytime I want. (Club 33, for anyone who doesn’t know, is a super-secret club/restaurant in the middle of New Orleans Square. You pretty much have to be a huge muckety-muck or know someone to get in. Friends have gotten me in twice, and it’s AWESOME!)

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Compassion, generosity of spirit, and a great sense of humor.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: I think fresh strawberries! It’s strawberry season, and I keep hitting the farmer’s markets and buying more because they’re so good! I might be addicted – I’ve been eating close to an entire flat of strawberries a day. But I’m not sick of them yet, so I could probably handle them for the rest of my days.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: How do I narrow it down to five???? Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart, Elton John and Kiki Dee; Only the Good Die Young, Billy Joel; That’s Rock and Roll, Shaun Cassidy (uh-huh, I SO just threw down Shaun Cassidy); Amazing, George Michael; Rio, Duran Duran

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: Again, you’re killing me with the narrowing down to five! From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E. L. Konigsburg; The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams; The Eyre Affair, Jasper Fforde; Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott; The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell

Thoughtfully creative, generous, and fun — with energy to spare –, Elise Allen is definitely an author to watch, read, and follow on Twitter and become a fan of on Facebook.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of The Art of Forgetting by Camille Noe Pagán in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Camille Noe Pagán and The Art of Forgetting. 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.

The Revealing of Katie Alender

May 25, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

When YA author Katie Alender debuted in April, 2009 with Bad Girls Don’t Die, it was considered a standalone novel. But its success had her publisher, Hyperion, thinking a three book series and the second book of that series — Bad Girls Don’t Die: From Bad to Cursed — releases on June 14, 2011, the third (yet untitled) will follow next summer.

In a very brief description: The BAD GIRLS DON’T DIE series is a chilling lineup of horror novels for teens.

Scary and excellent with the following honors bestowed on Book 1, BAD GIRLS DON’T DIE:

~Selected for the Tayshas Reading List of the Texas Library Association

~Available through Scholastic Book Clubs

~Named to the New York Public Library’s 2010 Stuff for the Teen Age list

Now Book 2, FROM BAD TO CURSED has already earned this Praise:

“This book made me wish I still slept with a night-light! A smart, scary ride.”
– Melissa de la Cruz, NYT bestselling author of the Blue Bloods Series

“FROM BAD TO CURSED sent a creepy, delicious chill up my spine. All I could think when I turned the last page was more, more, more!”
- Heather Brewer, NYT bestselling author of The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod Series

“In the classic tradition of Stephen King, Alender will have you sleeping with the lights on.”
- Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia, NYT Bestselling authors of the Beautiful Creatures Series

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of From Bad to Cursed on Monday, June 6, 2011 but, in the meantime, let’s meet the author through her “official” bio:

Katie Alender is the author of the Bad Girls Don’t Die series from Disney-Hyperion. She is a graduate of the Florida State University Film School and lives in Los Angeles. When she’s not writing novels, she can usually be found in her sewing room, making things for her friends or her dog (or her friends’ dogs). She enjoys reading, eating delicious high-calorie foods, and hanging out with her husband and her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Winston.

Of course there’s so much more to Katie as she reveals:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Always curious, always fascinated; much love; loved well.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: My short one: Judge not lest ye be judged.

My long one is a Heinlein quote:
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
~ Robert A. Heinlein

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: Keeping one’s priorities in order and always finding something to look forward to. (I’m pretty good with part B, but still working on part A!)

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Being actively disliked for being who I really am. (Indifference I can live with!) It has taken me many years to be content with myself, and part of that is based on the kitten-like trust I have that people respond to other people who are genuinely trying to be as real and kind as possible. There is a great deal of intolerance in the world, much of it based on a refusal to look past one’s own perception and judgment of others. And I feel that a lot of evil is rooted in that lack of compassion. It’s scary and sad to me.

Also, looking dumb in public.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: Either in a small pub in a rainy town in Ireland or in my house. If you look up “homebody” in the dictionary, I’m there.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: I have a great admiration for CS Lewis and the way his mind worked, and the way he was always on the lookout for beauty, fascination, and meaning; and he stayed humble (at least in his writings, he did).

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: I admire any person who has a dream or a calling and follows it whole-heartedly and fearlessly, especially if doing so doesn’t involve stomping on other people.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases
A: seriously, honestly, holy moly (in my books it’s people looking, sighing, glancing, and turning–but to be fair, we all do quite a lot of looking, glancing, and turning in our everyday lives… I’m just keeping it real)

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: I wish I had some kind of musical ability. I would love to be able to sing and play the piano. If there were elective surgery that could make you a good singer, I would get it. Just for my own amusement.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Obviously there are the books. Other than that, I would say it’s my ability to truly enjoy 99% of people I come into contact with and to make them feel happy and appreciated.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: I can be paranoid. Also, I’m horrible at sharing food. I’m like a cavewoman. And I think sometimes I can be a smartass.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: My ability to be interested in almost anything or anyone.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: I make it a point not to regret things that have had a profound impact on my life, because those events shaped me, for better or for worse. There have been times when I’ve been unkind to people, and I regret those times very much.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: Hey, I gotta be me. I have to see where this train is going!

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: Gosh, I don’t really know. I don’t know how most people perceive me. I know some people think I’m funny, and some people tell me I’m very relaxed (which I find hilarious, because I feel pretty wound up most of the time).

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: I’m a big fan of Professor Snape, as he’s played by Alan Rickman in the Harry Potter movies.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: I’m not much of a sports fan! The opportunity would probably be wasted on me. I would be interested in sitting next to a very good figure skater at a competition and having them analyze the competitors for me.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: This is going to be oddly specific. When you’re waiting for your bags at the luggage carousel, trying not to shove in too close, and clueless people come and stand directly in front of you. Like, why on earth do you think I’m standing here, for my health? Can’t we all stand five feet back and step forward when our bags are close by?

I also hate it when people abuse waiters, flight attendants–anyone you have any kind of power over. Get over yourself! Be a human being!

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

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: If I could just keep doing what I’m currently doing, I’d be pretty happy. I’m also looking forward to being a mom (at some point–that’s not an admission of anything)!

If I had to choose something else, I’d like to be a teacher and work with tweens and teens.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Competence, humor, and humility.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Oh, Lordy. Can I pick something with lots of ingredients, so I can make myself different variations? How about a stew? In terms of the least offensive food, probably english muffins the way I eat them every morning–one half with butter and cinnamon-sugar, the other half with peanut butter. Or Diet Coke. Which would probably ensure that the rest of the days would pass quickly.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: Alice in Wonderland, played by Dave Brubeck
Jolene, by Dolly Parton
Work, by Jars of Clay
Let’s Live for Today, by the Grass Roots
Romeo and Juliet, (as performed by the Killers… the original was Elvis Costello)

Q; What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: The Cloister Walk, by Kathleen Norris
Fair and Tender Ladies, by Lee Smith
Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand
Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
Pride & Prejudice, by Jane Austen

Smart, funny, and such an honest, standup individual, Katie Alender is one of the best role model for young adults. Follow her — or have your daughter, granddaughter, niece, etc. follow — on Twitter, become a fan of her Series on Facebook, and a fan on her 
Author Facebook page.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of The Arrivals by Meg Mitchell Moore in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Meg Mitchell Moore and The Arrivals. 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.

The Revealing of Camille Noe Pagán

May 18, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Journalist and former editor Camille Noe Pagan debuts as an author when The Art of Forgetting arrives in bookstores June 9, 2011. [However please note that from May 16th to June 1st, the author is donating $1 per pre-order of her novel to the Bob Woodruff Foundation, which provides resources and support to service members, including those who’ve suffered brain injuries.]

In this two sentence synopsis, the book is described as: A moving and insightful debut novel of great friendship interrupted. Can the relationship survive when the memories are gone?

And it’s been followed by impressive early Praise:

“This page-turner with original, likable, empathetic characters and an identifiable theme will attract readers who enjoy intelligent novels about women’s friendships.”—Library Journal

“Fastpaced and engaging, The Art of Forgetting is deliciously observant and refreshingly honest. Camille Noe Pagán is a welcome new voice.” –Kate Jacobs, author of The Friday Night Knitting Club and Comfort Food

“Charming and original…a delightful story of friendship, love, and forgiveness while exploring the surprising ways lives are forever reshaped in the aftermath of tragedy.” –Beth Hoffman, New York Times bestselling author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

“[A]n insightful exploration into the nature of friendship and self. This impressive debut is at turns funny, thought-provoking, and achingly sad. It is (dare I say it?) unforgettable.” –J. Courtney Sullivan, author of Commencement

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of The Art of Forgetting for Monday, May 30, 2011. But, in the meantime, let’s meet the author through her “official” bio:

Camille Noe Pagán’s work has appeared in numerous national publications and websites including Allure, Cooking Light, Forbes.com, Glamour, O, The Oprah Magazine, Reader’s Digest, SELF and Women’s Health. A former magazine and online editor, she lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan with her husband and children.

Not very personal, is it? Well that’s easily remedied as we get to know Camille, upclose and revealing:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: An amazing journey that gets better every day.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: Always be generous.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: Good health for myself and everyone I love. Several personal tragedies over the past few years have taught me that health really is the most important thing.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: No surprise, something bad happening to my children. I can’t read books or watch movies about children getting hurt or dying–it’s like dumping gasoline on the lit match of my anxious mind!

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: I’m tempted to say a beach in the Caribbean, but the truth is Brooklyn. My family and I recently moved to Ann Arbor, but I lived in New York for the better part of the last decade and I’d rather be there than anywhere else. Great food, interesting people, endless things to do: it’s the perfect place, if you can forget that you’re living in a shoebox in order to be there.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: I can’t say I really identify with one particular person. I’d love to spend a day in the life of Colette, Anais Nin or another great female writer from the last century or so.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: Right now, journalist Lara Logan is high on my list. I admire her for speaking out about her assault in Egypt earlier this year; in doing so, she’s started a crucial conversation about sexual assault and violence against female journalists and women.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases
A: I hate when people misuse “literally” … but I say “seriously” all the time and it’s almost as bad. You’d think I was stuck in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, circa 2005.

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: I’d have an amazing singing voice. As it stands, I sound like Julia Robert in Pretty Woman, yodeling in the bathtub with her headphones on.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: I’d like to say my daughter, 3, and son, 5 months, but they’re really gifts I can’t take credit for. So I’ll say that my greatest achievement has been my writing career as a whole. I was the first on both sides of my family to attend college, and there was a lot of pressure to do something “useful” with my degree–think law or engineering. I’m so glad I ignored the “shoulds” and followed my dream.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: My obsession with getting things done–I’m an achievaholic. Which means enjoying “now” is a daily struggle.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: My drive, or I guess you could call it ambition (see above :). If I set my mind to do something–whether it’s running a marathon, writing a novel or just figuring out how to make some complicated pastry–I almost always do it.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: I regret very little–I think most mistakes help guide us to where we’re supposed to be–but the few things I do regret, I could never put in print. 🙂

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: I wouldn’t mind having Nora Ephron’s career, but I can’t say I’d want to trade places with another person.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: I’m 5’1″ (although you’ll rarely see me out of heels). When I meet people I know from the internet, they’re often surprised to discover that I’m, ahem, a little person.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Hmm. I love Holly Golightly in the book version of Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. She’s a high-class hooker with a heart of gold–the original flawed protagonist.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Who doesn’t love The Evil Queen in Snow White? So vicious! So vain! Without her, there’s really no story.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: I’m so not a sports fan, but I am a long-time runner and I’m so impressed by Paula Radcliffe, a British distance runner who won the New York marathon less than a year after giving birth. I’d love to have a conversation with her about her determination.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: Wishy-washiness. I love the saying “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” I’d rather have an honest rejection than a halfhearted “maybe”.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Baking is a huge stress reliever for me. (Here’s my latest favorite. )

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: Writing is really it for me, but if I couldn’t write a word, I’d probably be an interior designer or real estate investor. I love design, architecture and real estate. Almost all of my favorite must-read blogs that aren’t about writing are design-related.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Kindness, curiosity and work ethic. Although loyalty is a close runner up.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Technically coffee isn’t edible, but I live on espresso with steamed milk–I don’t think I’d survive a day without it.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: There’s no way I could pick five. I will say that I adore Nina Simone’s version of “I Shall Be Released” and I was crushed–crushed!–to learn that it was written by Bob Dylan. I like him just fine, but it completely changed the way I thought about the lyrics. Every once in a while, my husband will put on the Dylan version to tease me.

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver. I can’t adequately quite explain why, but this book is just magical for me–even more so than The Poisonwood Bible, which is another favorite. I read it almost every year.

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. If you can believe it, I read this for the first time during the summer after college, when I was at Radcliffe for a publishing program. I remember life being so full of possibility and yet disappointment, too, and this book always brings me right back to that time.

The Bible. Religion aside, this was one of my earliest sources of story and it’s had a huge influence on my love of the written word.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. This is one of the books that made me the voracious reader that I am (which, of course, turned me into a writer). I remember cracking it open and being whisked into a whole other world–and to my delight, there were six more Narnia books to lose myself in when I finished!

Like Life, by Lorrie Moore. I love all of Moore’s short story collections, but this is the one that I’ve opened countless times to turn a bad day around. I love how she combines funny and sad in the perfect way.

Smart, determined, and ever thoughtful, Camille Noe Pagán is another new author to follow on Twitter and become a friend/fan of on Facebook, allowing you to say you knew her when….

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

The Revealing of Meg Mitchell Moore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Revealing of Julianna Baggott

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


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

Both commercial and critical reviews agree:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Revealing of Laura Dave

April 27, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Laura Dave, highly acclaimed for her first two novels [with the most intriguing titles] — The Divorce Party and London Is the Best City in America –, offers readers her latest book, The First Husband in bookstores on May 12, 2011.

In a one sentence synopsis, The First Husband is described as: A savvy, page-turning novel about a woman torn between her husband and the man she thought she’d marry.

And the novel has garnered this early praise:

“Dave presents an inspiring account of a woman who ceases her external travels to become her own compass. I have more insight into my own life after reading this book, and I thank Laura Dave for that gift.”—Connie Kalter, Publishers Weekly

“Positively shines with wisdom and intelligence. What truly sets Dave apart is her ability to convey the contradictions and imperfections, the inherent impossibility of true love, and yet somehow still make you believe in it.”
Jonathan Tropper, New York Times Bestselling author of This is Where I Leave You

“In an honest and heart-felt tale, Laura Dave masterfully explores the big questions: should you have said yes? Waited? Answered that call you ignored? Filled with sparkling wit and pithy observation, The First Husband is everything I love about contemporary women’s fiction.”
Jen Lancaster, New York Times Bestselling author of Bitter is the New Black and My Fair Lazy

“For anyone who wonders if she has found ‘the one’, The First Husband is a wonderfully witty novel about love and loss, and about how to find a happy home. I loved every moment, every page, and you will too.”
Allison Winn Scotch, New York Times Bestselling author of The One That I Want and Time of my Life

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of The First Husband for Monday, May 9, 2011 however, in the meantime, let’s meet the author through her “official” bio:

Laura Dave is the author of the novels The Divorce Party and London is the Best City in America. She is also a journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Glamour, and NPR’s All Things Considered, among others. Her first novel was optioned for film by Reese Witherspoon and her second novel was optioned for film by Jennifer Aniston. A New York native, she now lives in Los Angeles.

And now it’s time to get to know Laura, upclose and personal:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Happy, busy, blessedly full of family and friends

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: Just breathe!

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: My family being happy and healthy.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: My mother is southern, and scared me away from ever answering that question. Don’t test the universe!

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: Exactly where I am. Truly.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: Such a good question, and one I can best answer by altering it a bit. A person I most admire? Jane Austen.

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

Q; What are your most overused words or phrases?
A: “Oh no!”

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: I’d love to be able to dance. I mean really, really dance.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: I take care of the people I love, and I do my best to live a life I love.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: I worry. (And when I’m not worrying, I worry about that.)

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: I am very loving.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: No regrets. Not allowed.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: I’m working on that answer being me. It’s still a work in progress though.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: I’m pretty much always wearing a gray sweater. I rotate among five or six of them—one more cozy and soft than the next. I am getting married in the fall, and I’m fairly certain one of them will make an appearance at the wedding.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Clarissa Dalloway, Mrs. Dalloway

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Whoever the ‘bad guy’ is that I’m currently writing about. And finding a way to make him good.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: Funny enough, I used to write freelance pieces for ESPN the Magazine. And I got to meet many amazing athletes who I admire.

Nowadays, I’d like to meet the starting lineup on the Philadelphia Phillies. And tell them to “please win!” so my house stays peaceful!

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: Mean people.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Cooking. Or spending the morning at the farmer’s market, picking out what I’m cooking that night.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: Being a novelist still feels like a great fantasy to me!

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Humor, Goodness, openness.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Salad. I know that’s the world’s most boring answer, but I love a salad! But before I seem too good, cheese would be a very close second.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: I love music so much, it’s hard to pick just 5. But I made a playlist for The New York Times when The Divorce Party came out.

That’s a good place to start!

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: Slouching Toward Bethlehem, The Great Gatsby, Pride and Prejudice, The Feast of Love, and whatever I’m just starting for the first time.

Multi-talented, unique, and engaging, Laura Dave is a terrific author to follow on Twitter and become a friend of on Facebook.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of The Violets of March by Sarah Jio in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Presenting Debutante Sarah Jio and The Violets of March. 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.