The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…

Matthew Quick and SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR

April 26, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


The fact that Matthew Quick earned both popular and critical success with his debut adult novel, The Silver Linings Playbook (now in Paperback), one might wonder why he would choose to switch genres and debut as a YA author of SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR, officially being released tomorrow?

The business answer is simple. Having already had written a second adult manuscript before The Silver Linings Playbook was published, Matt discovered that his adult-market editor was swamped and unable to read/work on the new book immediately. Rather than waste time in waiting, “Q’s” agent suggested he return to his high school English teaching experiences and reach out to teenagers by writing about them. And that led to the personal reason when the author realized, “I can do that.”

Indeed he did! For Matthew Quick’s perspective on young adults is a positive one, acknowledging that when at their best they still have “a beautiful innocence” about them. He also believes that though caught in between the desire to be thought of as adults and yet wanting to hold on to being kids, they are capable of doing amazing things while coming into their own. And those thoughts created the novel’s backstory as Matt says: “The teen years are sort of like a beautiful sunset. Brief, but powerful. I wanted Amber to represent this.”


Amber Appleton lives in a bus. Ever since her mom’s boyfriend kicked them out, Amber, her mom, and her totally loyal dog, Bobby Big Boy (aka Thrice B) have been camped out in the back of Hello Yellow (the school bus her mom drives). But Amber, the self-proclaimed princess of hope and girl of unyielding optimism, refuses to sweat the bad stuff. Instead, she focuses on bettering the lives of her alcoholic mother and her quirky circle of friends: a glass-ceiling-breaking single mother raising a son diagnosed with autism; Father Chee and The Korean Divas for Christ (soul-singing ESL students); a nihilist octogenarian; a video-game-playing gang of outcasts; and a haiku-writing war vet. But then a fatal tragedy threatens Amber’s optimism—and her way of life. Can Amber continue to be the princess of hope?

With his zany cast of characters and a heartwarming, inspiring story, debut YA author Matthew Quick builds a beautifully beaten-up world of laughs, loyalty, and hard-earned hope. This world is Amber’s stage, and Amber is, well…she’s sorta like a rock star.

Of course Amber lives up to her title by being powerful, positive, and facing most challenges head-on, yet it is through the strong voice-driven storyline that the reader accepts, believes, and embraces her. TRUTH: Amber’s distinctive voice will fill readers’ minds, causing an almost instant connection from page one. The fact that the thoughts and feelings of a 17-year old girl could be expressed with such believability by a male writer is also fascinating.

However Matthew Quick has a simple explanation for this ability. First, the author notes that he’s counseled many teenage young women and listened to them. Then, with a bit of empathy and a good ear, he believes it’s possible to capture anyone’s voice.

On the other hand, Matt admits how much his writing needs that ability: “I write voice-driven stuff so I need to find a voice before I can write a novel. Amber’s voice just sort of popped into my head one day. I loved writing in her voice. It was a very emotional experience. I’m sort of an emotional guy, which people don’t get by looking at me. But I’m actually very intuitive and sensitive. True.”

TRUST: Simply read these Reviews and you’ll sense the critically high emotional feeling for this book. Please also read the 6 Comments to “Matthew Quick Shines A Writer’s Light”, giving special attention to:

Kent says:

“Sorta Like A Rock Star is considered a YA book. However, its message and story is so universal that even this 34-year-old male with a penchant for horror movies and punk rock records was left in awe. It leaves you wanting to be a better person.”

Yes Kent is Kent Green of Emerald Productions — one of “Q’s” friends and the filmmaker of the Book Trailer video — BUT his reaction and feeling are based on sincere truth.

Have you viewed the SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR Book Trailer yet? If not, do enjoy now.

After receiving the SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR Advanced Reading Copy from Little Brown to review, I fell under Amber’s spell as well. Her voice, her spirit, her hope and her faith are 100% contagious. She’s a teenaged girl in dire need and, though well aware of that reality, Amber chooses to help and buoy others rather than wallow in any type of pity. Why? Because she believes in the good of the world despite having experienced the bad. And, also, because she believes in God — JC, the ultimate sorta like a rock star.

Amber talks to God, prays to him and believes he’s listening to her most of the time. Her hope comes from this faith — a trusting belief. Matthew Quick’s writing is pure, realistic, and captivating as he manages to project Amber’s strength and optimism without a hint of Pollyanna. However this teenager did feel reminiscent of someone from my childhood tales…who?

The Pied Piper initially came to mind, only to be rejected. It wasn’t until the day after finishing the book that the answer came: Amber Appleton spread seeds of hope everywhere she went and, in time, those seeds grew and yielded much more than hope. Amber Appleton = Johnny Appleseed. Word.

What Matt has written could well become modern day folklore. And, if Amber Appleton is SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR then “Q” must be KINDA LIKE A GENIUS MANAGER! True? Please, whatever your age, read SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR and discover how true this is!

[Book Giveaway:] The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR in a random drawing of all comments left on this post. The deadline is Wednesday, April 28, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please visit on Thursday to possibly claim your book. Good luck!

Matthew Quick Shines A Writer’s Light

April 20, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

Given that author Matthew Quick (The Silver Linings Playbook releasing in Paperback on April 27, 2010, and SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR YA officially coming May 1, 2010) is also known as “Q,” one would expect that the lone initial refers to his last name. While that’s most likely, after reading Matt’s guest post, a case could be made that “Q” stands for “quirky”…in the very best way!

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Messed-Up Fairy Tales

When Larramie (aka the Author’s Fairy Godmother) asked me to write a guest post, I immediately recalled the words of a filmmaker. Kent Green of Emerald Productions read both my novels in preparation for shooting the SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR book trailer. While planning, he said something like, “Q, I love your work. You write messed-up fairy tales.” I write realistic fiction—no magic, no Fairy Godmothers—but I knew exactly what Kent meant.

My stories have been called quirky. I usually write about people who are overlooked or ignored by others. My protagonists have good hearts and are generally likeable, but they also tend to be people others might label as freaks. The heroes in my novels try to fit into the world and often fail. So my stories are quirky, or as the filmmaker says, messed-up.

A fairy godmother is usually a kindly magical woman who comes to help an overlooked or unfortunate young person. In the case of Cinderella, a goodhearted young woman is down-and-out and seemingly without hope when her fairy godmother shows up and provides an opportunity. Magically, the fairy godmother conjures a carriage, a dress, and slippers. She transforms Cinderella, unyokes her from her low social ranking and highlights Cinderella’s admirable qualities, giving her the courage to attend the ball.

Metaphorically, the fairy godmother shines a light on something beautiful that no one else saw before, and empowers Cinderella.

My new book SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR is about a young woman who constantly finds beauty where others cannot see it. Even though Amber Appleton is homeless and in need herself, she looks after her classmates, performs comedy routines at the old folks’ home, uses R & B music to teach Korean women how to speak English, and trades haikus with a Vietnam War veteran. And in the process, Amber carries a metaphorical light with her everywhere she goes. It is the light of hope. Those who bask in the full glow of Amber’s hopeful outlook cannot help but be transformed for the better. She illuminates the best attributes of many people who were previously unnoticed.

When a fatal tragedy occurs, Amber falters, and falls into a deep depression. Her light goes out. At this point in the story, the people Amber cared for are called upon to be the caregivers, to lend her their collective light and to remind Amber that she can still shine.

I won’t give any spoilers here, but what results may surprise you—perhaps like a messed-up fairy tale would.

In my opinion, it is always the writer’s job to believe in seemingly impossible things and to shine a light on what was previously hidden in darkness. Projecting a light and creating a movie in readers’ minds—one that makes them feel, reflect, and maybe even act—that’s magical to me.

I would like to thank everyone’s favorite literary Fairy Godmother for posting my words here at The Divining Wand.

I hope you will read SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR and I hope it will fill you with a euphoric sense of wonder and goodwill, and maybe even increase your faith in seemingly impossible things.

Please visit me @

And here again is the SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR book trailer.

The Revealing of Matthew Quick

April 13, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

mattMatthew Quick (The Silver Linings Playbook coming in Paperback on April 27, 2010) was first introduced in The Divining Wand’s October 7, 2009 post, A Love Story of Two Authors who Made Their Dreams Come True. Matt returns now only a few weeks away from the “official” May release date of his second book, SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR. And please note that this YA novel (truly for all ages) is scheduled to be presented/reviewed here on Monday, April 26, 2010.

First, however, let’s meet Mr. Quick — a former English teacher — who offers website visitors more than a bare bones “bio.” In fact, here is the “Short Informal” edition:

For several years, Matthew Quick (a.k.a. Q) told his students that they should take risks and do amazing things, because there is potential in all of us. He became known for his impassioned speeches about literature—how it pushes us to live an examined life, and how Thoreau promised success unexpected in quiet hours for those who dare to live the life they imagine, for those who advance confidently in the direction of their dreams.

Because he secretly wanted to be a novelist, but had settled for the more financially stable life of a teacher, Q began to feel like a gigantic hypocrite.
He quit his tenured teaching position, sold his house, floated down the Peruvian Amazon and formed The Bardbarians (a two-man literary circle), backpacked around Southern Africa, hiked to the bottom of a snowy Grand Canyon, soul-searched, and finally began writing full-time in his in-laws’ unfinished basement.

Three years later, he emerged from the basement with a finished manuscript called THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK. He found an agent, who sold the novel in several countries—before selling the movie rights to The Weinstein Company.

While that’s a good starting background, it’s time to get to know Matt revealed:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: A chance to break the cycle. Word. Word.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: Two mottos hang above my writing desk: ‘Sine Metu’ & ‘The WRITING will save you.’

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: Feeling as though my hard work and sacrifices have paid off and put good into the world.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: I’m actually quite terrified of dying by snakebite or shark attack. I’m also very afraid of returning to some sort of work-a-day nine-to-five job if my writing career tanks. This motivates me (the fear of failure, not the sharks and snakes, although a writer with whom I have Friday morning coffee is nicknamed ‘The Shark’).

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: I love hiking and swimming in the ocean, so I’d like to return to the Galapagos Islands. But I am very happy writing full-time with my wife, Alicia, in our little South Jersey apartment.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: Sometimes, I feel as though I look like a caveman. I like sitting around fires and looking up at stars. So maybe early American settlers? I don’t know. Maybe the Geico cavemen?

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: I greatly admire Gao Xingjian and Haruki Murakami. Both writers seem to live by a strict code, on their own terms, and yet they both have found a way to be relevant and wildly successful.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases
A: I try not to be a language policeman too much. But I get bored quickly when people talk about what they dislike. It seems much more original (and constructive) to discuss what you love or admire or believe in.

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: I’ve always wanted to play a musical instrument well enough to jam with other musicians, but I have never wanted to practice very much. I’d love to wake up one day and magically be able to play the guitar and sing at the same time.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Being a full-time fiction writer. I’m not a NYT bestseller, but I write fiction for a living and that has been my goal ever since I was a teenager.

Q; What’s your greatest flaw?
A: I tend to work too much and I overanalyze everything. When I commit to something, I commit 100%; I lock on until the job is done. This often drives Alicia crazy.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: I’m very loyal. I’m also pretty intuitive, especially when it comes to emotions.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: No regrets. I try to live in the now. You cannot control the past.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: I’m glad I’m me. Although, I’d like to be a bird so I could fly. Maybe a bird living in the Grand Canyon. What a place to fly, eh?

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: Probably my bushy eyebrows. Ha!

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: George Bailey.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Alicia and I actually quote Mr. Potter a lot for laughs. “Sentimental hogwash!” “What are you but a warped frustrated young man?” Say those things in a grumpy old man voice and you are sure to smile.

Q; If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: I love sports, but I don’t fantasize about meeting athletes. A friend of mine claims that he almost got in a bar fight with Kevin Youkilis of the Boston Red Sox. This tale has turned into somewhat of a legend. I’d like to get Kevin’s side of the story.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: Unless I’m at a lecture, I do not like to be lectured. If someone talks at me without giving me a chance to speak, and/or if it is clear that he/she has no interest in my thoughts, I begin to feel very anxious. And when someone keeps talking at me for a long time without picking up on the many polite social cues I offer, this really makes me feel uncomfortable, and I will usually make up some excuse to leave the room.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: I love taking walks with Alicia. Is that an occupation?

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: Screenwriter / movie director!

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Loyalty, sensitivity, and the ability to laugh and make others laugh (without being mean).

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Pizza (with vegetables on top).

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: Very hard question. The answer changes every day. And I listen to all kinds of music. Here are the first five songs I recently put on my latest running mix: Peace Sells by Megadeth, Africa by Toto, Rockin’ In The Free World by Neil Young, Citizen Erased by Muse, Titus Andronicus by Titus Andronicus

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: Also very hard to answer…but today I will say, Soul Mountain by Gao Xingjian, Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr., The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, Hamlet by Shakespeare (even though it is a play), Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, Simply From Scratch by Alicia Bessette, and so many more!

Thanks for interviewing me! Thanks everyone for reading along. Please visit me @

In addition to Matt’s personal invitation, follow this engaging author on Twitter and Become a Fan on Facebook.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria in a random drawing of all comments left on this post. The deadline is Wednesday, April, 14, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return on Thursday to possibly claim your book.

A Love Story of Two Authors who Made Their Dreams Come True

October 07, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Books, Debs, Profiles

Almost every aspiring writer, if asked, would probably describe their working life as a solitary one, perhaps even a lonely one on occasion. They’re usually not complaining, merely stating a fact of the hours that turn into weeks, months and years spent writing THAT novel. Which novel? The debut one of course — the one that will launch their career and realize their dream.

What happens, though, when a husband and wife share the same dream? Do they live on love, compromise one or another’s future, encourage each other through rejection after rejection?

At the end of August, on The Red Carpet of The Debutante Ball, The Divining Wand introduced you to Alicia Bessette whose novel, All Come Home debuts in August 2010. What wasn’t mentioned then, but will be now, is that Alicia is married to Matthew Quick, author of the highly acclaimed debut novel, The Silver Linings Playbook. Already translated into Italian, Spanish and Chinese (forthcoming), the book’s movie rights have been optioned by The Weinstein Company, and David O. Russell has written the screenplay adaptation. In addition to all that success, Matt will debut as a YA novelist with Sorta Like a Rock Star in April 2010.

Successful authors, both husband and wife (TRUST: Alicia will soar), what are the odds? Unless you have a dream, talent and a plan, they’re not not very good at all. However “Q&A” made it work as Alicia wrote last Wednesday, September 30, 2009 in her post, Persistence + Luck = Pluck…by Deb Alicia. Although this post appeared and was read at The Debutante Ball as well as on Facebook, this Fairy Godmother felt it needed to appear here too. So for anyone who believes or needs encouragement to believe in their dream, with Alicia’s permission, here is:

Persistence + Luck = Pluck…by Deb Alicia

Short version: I emailed a query to an agent at Folio Literary Management. Next day she requested the first fifty pages of my book. A week later, she requested the whole thing. Two days after that, she called and asked if I was willing to make some changes to the manuscript. I thanked her for her astute observations, and promised to resubmit the revised manuscript exclusively to her. She said that wouldn’t be necessary, because she was offering me representation.

Extended version: Rewind to the summer of 2003, when Matt and I traveled to Ireland. We were work-weary and restless, in our late twenties, and armed with books by Thich Nhat Hanh. In the pubs of Dublin and Sligo, Westport and Kilkenny, we had long conversations about our marriage; our future; our deepest, brightest dreams. Many of these conversations included some version of the following exchange:

Matt: I can’t be a high school English teacher for the next thirty years. I just can’t.
Me (quoting a paperweight I saw in a Dublin bookstore): What would you do if you knew you could not fail?
Matt: Write books.
Me: Yeah. Me too.

We were both experiencing a quarter-life crisis. And our lives needed a major overhaul.

Over Guinness, we hatched a wild plan to sell our house, quit our jobs, and move from Jersey to Massachusetts, where I’m from. He’d write, and I’d work. Then we’d switch.

And so, after the ’03-04 school year, we moved in with my parents. I taught yoga and worked for the weekly paper while Matt pursued an MFA. He spent no less than nine hours a day in his “office” (my parents’ unfinished basement), hunched at his desk, writing, revising, reading, studying, emailing authors for advice and encouragement, researching agents. About once a week, I’d wake up at 2 a.m. or 4 a.m. and realize he wasn’t in bed next to me. I’d find him in the basement, working.

As our meager savings dwindled, we questioned the wisdom of our drastic life-change. Others did, too (“So, are you going to get a real job?” “Publish that book yet?” “Gonna get your own place soon?” “What are you going to do next?”).

Two and a half years went by, Matt graduated, and we planned to venture out on our own again. But this time we had no idea what we were going to do, or how we were going to do it. Then, on a Wednesday morning in April 2007, he came bounding up the basement steps to announce that a wonderful agent offered to represent his novel, The Silver Linings Playbook. And soon after, his manuscript sold in New York, the UK, Italy, Spain, and Hollywood.

We celebrated with Guinness, of course. And Rocky Patel cigars.

With enough money to allow us both to write, full time, for about two years, we tearfully thanked my parents and rented a two-bedroom, 800-square-foot apartment outside Philly. That first year of on-our-own bliss-following, I wrote a 60,000-word spoof on the chick lit and fantasy genres. It had sword fights and Sephora, dragons and designer handbags. It was awesome.

It was rejected by more than 120 literary agents.

Oh, and five small presses.

Then, in 2008, I began All Come Home, a much different novel than my first. My goal was to write an emotionally honest book that demands to be read quickly and intensely, and that also demands to be savored and discussed. I wanted to write a book that book clubs would fall in love with.

I worked on All Come Home at least six hours a day, six or seven days a week. Full-time fury. I was determined. I also spent many hours researching agents and soliciting advice from kind writer-acquaintances.

Ten months and two revisions later, I calculated how many months’ rent remained in the bank. It wasn’t much. At the same time, I started pitching All Come Home to agents. Thankfully, I got a fantastic one: Laney Becker. She sold All Come Home to Penguin’s Dutton imprint. And she and her colleague, Celeste Fine, sold it to a German publisher too.

Matt and I picked up some Guinness and toasted a couple more years of bliss-following.

I tell my husband’s story in addition to my own because they’re inextricable; his success led to mine, and vice versa. But to get an agent, you don’t have to be married to someone who shares your dream. In fact, most writers aren’t.

You don’t need an MFA (although I greatly admire those who pursue graduate studies). You don’t need to quit your job, sell your house, or move into your parents’ or in-laws’ basement. You don’t need to “know somebody.”

Support from family and/or friends is nice, and if you have that, cherish it. Being open-minded and conducting yourself professionally helps.

From where I’m standing, what you absolutely need is tons and tons of persistence, and a little bit of luck.

Persistence + luck = Pluck. You’re going to need that, too, especially if, like many writers, you find yourself facing down rejections.

A final note about luck: One of my favorite expressions is, The harder you work, the luckier you get. That notion really resonates with some people. I’ll express it in another way, in case it gives your spine an electric flutter. Ready?

You make your own luck.

~Alicia Bessette


[Note: Two copies of Little Black Lies are being given away this week. Please leave a comment on Tish Cohen’s Little Black Lies by this evening at 7:00 p.m. EDT to be eligible for the random drawings. The two winners will be announced here in tomorrow’s post.]