The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…
Subscribe

What If….Allie Larkin and Jessica Barksdale Inclan?

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

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

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

AND

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

~ Allie Larkin (Stay):

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

Allie Larkin and Stay

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And view its charming Book Trailer:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AND

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

Guest Allie Larkin’s Messy Friends & Messy Characters

June 02, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

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

The book has earned both literary praise:

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

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

And commercial recognition:

“Feel-good debut novel…” People Magazine

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

The Revealing of Allie Larkin

May 26, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

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

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

Literary critics agree:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

AND

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