The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…

Summer’s TBR Lists

June 02, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Summertime and the living is easy. Fish are jumping and the books are piled high. A-h-h yes, summer is the best season for a reason to relax and get lost in a book. And, since summer book lists are currently being named and made, The Divining Wand decided to ask its authors:

What’s on your summer “must/want to read” list?

This week the following writers replied:

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

“I always feel like I’m playing catch up on my reading. There’s a few books that I’ve had on my to be read list, and I hope I get to them before summer. I’ve been wanting to read the new Kate Atkinson LEFT EARLY, TOOK MY DOG ever since I read her WHEN WILL THERE BE GOOD NEWS?. And I’ve been very interested to read ROOM by Emma Donoghue ever since I hear the premise. I also always have my eyes and ears open for news of Debutante Ball (past and present) books coming out. I’ve never been disappointed by the talented Debs!”

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

“My spring/summer must-read list includes Kim Culbertson’s INSTRUCTIONS FOR A BROKEN HEART, Therese Fowler’s EXPOSURE, Will Allison’s LONG DRIVE HOME, Rebecca Rasmussen’s THE BIRD SISTERS, and Meg Waite Clayton’s THE FOUR MS. BRADWELLS (I know it’s already out, but I’m behind on the stack of books I want to read!).”

~Ad Hudler (Man of the House, All This Belongs to Me, House Husband):

“I want to read River Jordan’s new book about praying for strangers; Swallow the Ocean by Laura Flynn; and Stacy Schiff’s biography of Cleopatra.”

~Holly LeCraw (The Swimming Pool):

“I am getting into the classics–I mean really. I just read Oedipus Rex for the first time and was blown away. Next is The Iliad and Odyssey. Ridiculous that I have a supposedly top-notch education and am still so ignorant. Other more modern authors in the to-read pile: Nicholson Baker, Paul Auster, David Grossman.”

~Kristina McMorris (Letters From Home):

“Now between deadlines, with research texts set aside, I’m excited to finally tackle my towering TBR pile! A sample of the novels in my shiny stack are Caroline Leavitt’s Pictures of You, Sarah’s Jio’s The Violets of March, Sarah Pekkanen’s Skipping a Beat, and Ruta Sepetys’s Between Shades of Gray.”

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

“Summer brings a new Jennifer Weiner book and her latest is called “Then
Came You.” I’m also a huge fan of Elin Hildebrand and will be eagerly awaiting “Silver Girl.” I love diving into juicy, thoughtful beach reads like these!”

~Lori Roy (Bent Road):

“Rebecca (currently reading) – Daphne du Maurier
Fall of Giants – Ken Follett
Mr. Peanut – Adam Ross
Fighting in the Shade – Sterling Watson
A Visit From the Goon Squad – Jennifer Egan”

To be continued….

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Announcement: The winner of The Art of Forgetting by Camille Noe Pagán is Kristan. Congratulations.

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your book will be pre-ordered to be sent out next week.

Favorite Fictional Worlds, II

May 12, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Q&A

Once again thanks to Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters) who responded earlier this year with an alternative answer for her fictional BFF. Since Eleanor’s “twist” was simply too good (and intriguing) to pass up, TDW asked its other authors her question:

In what fictional world/neighborhood would you like to live? And why?

This week the following writers replied:

~Robin Antalek (The Summer We Fell Apart):

“I would love to inhabit the very distinct world of the Manning clan and all the generations and their many offspring in Arkansas and Mississippi that Ellen Gilchrist has created over the span of eleven short story collections, seven novels and four books of poetry. Her writing gave me the courage to become a better writer. The world she has created in her prolific career is more magical and mysterious to me than anything I have ever read, and I return to her work when I am stuck in my own, and when I want to escape.”

~Tawna Fenske (Making Waves coming August 2011):

“I’m looking out the window at a spring snowstorm right now, so every fictional setting I’m imagining is set in a warm, tropical locale. Actually, this was the best part of writing my debut novel, MAKING WAVES. The book is set mostly in the Caribbean, either on a ship or an island. Having the opportunity to imagine myself in these sunny spots kept me feeling warm and tingly the whole time I wrote it. OK, setting might not have been the only thing making me warm and tingly.”

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

“I’d love to live in the 1920’s world of Anna Godbersen’s BRING YOUNG THINGS. Gold Coast mansions! Bootleggers! Speakeasies! Flapper clothing!”

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

“I’m afraid I’ve come up short with this question, I must read too many depressing books.”

~Judy Merrill Larsen (All the Numbers):

“Well, the first one that come to mind would have to be Maycomb, Alabama. I’d play with Scout and Jem, we’d try to sneak a Boo sighting, and on hot days we’d relax with lemonade and Miss Maudie’s Lane cake while waiting for Atticus to come home. But there would also be such sadness. And lessons to be learned. All that growing up to do. But, it’s a place I’ve returned to often through the years. I’d also like to wander in the 100 Acre Wood with Christopher Robin and Pooh. Both of these places are so vivid in my memory . . . it’s like I really lived there. Which, I suppose I did.”

~Kate Ledger (Remedies):

“I don’t have a need to stay too long, but I think I’d enjoy a year at Hogwarts. I’d like to learn some spells and receive my mail by way of Owl Post.”

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

“I’d enjoy spending some time in the post-war London that Clarissa Dalloway inhabits in Mrs. Dalloway. Alternatively (or in different moods) I’d like to check out the Colorado plains of Plainsong and any of the small Canadian towns from an Alice Munro story.”

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

“As a child, I wanted to live in Narnia. As an adult, I still wouldn’t mind slipping between the pages of any one of my favorite childhood books–especially The Secret Garden, A Wrinkle In Time or any one of The Chronicles of Narnia.”

~Ivy Pochoda (The Art of Disappearing):

“Ok, so I’m a dork. It’s not entirely fictional, or perhaps, not fictional at all, but I would love to live in Henry James’s New York City. Man, those mansions, need I say more. I used to walk past many of the building he describes, which are now hidden behind the heinous commercialism that is Manhattan. I’d much prefer to see them back when.”

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

“Oh, I want to live in West Egg, next door to Gatsby’s mansion, on the other side from Nick Carraway. The decadence! The glamour!”

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

“I used to think I’d like to live in the older novels I read, so I could wear fancy gowns all the time, but I’ve since come to realize that both gowns and the way of life that went with them were awfully restricting. Now I think I’d enjoy a visit to Harry Potter’s world, with its wands and magical candies and flying around on brooms, but not until after all the killing’s over.”

~Therese Walsh (The Last Will of Moira Leahy):

“Well, my answer to this question is a no-brainer for me–but maybe it’s because I had a light lunch today. I would love to land in the world of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I’d pack a straw and hang out near the chocolate river, for sure.”

To be continued….

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Announcement: The winner of Laura Dave’s The First Husband is Mary Quackenbush. Congratulations!

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

From: Readers/Friends
To: TDW Authors/Friends

Holiday Greetings!

December 14, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Reader's Holiday Greetings

[During this Season of giving and sharing, The Divining Wand’s readers would like to thank their authors/friends for this past year and wish them Holiday Greetings. The next few weeks will feature universal as well as personal nods to writers who share with us throughout the year. Happy Holidays!]

To Karen McQuestion, the author of A Scattered Life:

I’ve spent some time reading up on your story and it is such an inspiration to anyone who has ever found their work to be ignored by the “traditional” publishing houses. I haven’t had the opportunity to read your book yet, but one of the things that I love about the Christmas season is that I am able to spend more time than usual reading. There’s just something wonderful about being able to curl up with a good book next to a twinkling Christmas tree! I’m looking forward to it and “A Scattered Life” will be among my holiday reads. I’m looking forward to reading “Easily Amused” as well. Happy Holidays to you, your husband, and your three almost-grown children!

Jonita Fex

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To Tanya Egan Gibson, author of How to Buy a Love of Reading:

Dear Tanya,

This holiday season, I think I shall buy you a love of reading… Just kidding! But I would like to thank you for writing such an original story. I really admire that you didn’t pull any punches (like with Hunter’s addiction issues).

Here’s a little virtual gift. Cheesy, I know.

Warm holiday wishes to you and yours!


Fan Mail: An Author’s
Most Memorable Reward, II

September 23, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Q&A

Last month’s post on how much fan mail meant to authors surprised some visitors, while inspiring others to finally write their own personal messages. The written word is powerful in expressing heartfelt gratitude and here are more author responses to memorably touching fan mail:

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

“A man wrote to say that my depiction of alcohol and drug addiction (in a teenage character, Hunter Cay) felt very real. He’d finished my novel between classes and had been crying when his sixth grade students came in. He wrote, “Thanks for touching my heart.” Which, in turn, touched mine. It is so wonderful and kind for people to take the time to write and share like that.”

~Kate Ledger (Remedies):

“One tremendously moving piece of fan mail came from a woman who wrote that REMEDIES had resonated with her own personal tragedy. I got teary at my computer when I read her note. Like the characters in REMEDIES, she and her husband had lost a child. She wrote that the effects of that loss have continued to ripple through her marriage. She wrote that the novel had been difficult to read, and also, ultimately, comforting, and that even though her own outcome was still in progress, the book had come along at exactly the right time.”

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

“These days you receive more emails than mail, I’m afraid. I did get a request from a girl to sign my photo and send it to her for her scrapbook. It made me feel like a teen rock star, so of course I did it. I’ve really enjoyed hearing from people. It means a lot when someone tells me that they stayed up half the night, or were late because they simply had to finish my book. It makes me feel like I’ve done my job right.”

~Melanie Benjamin (Alice I Have Been):

“They’re all memorable, because I’m touched every time a reader takes the time to let me know how much they loved my book.”

~CJ Lyons (Lifelines, Warning Signs, Urgent Care, and Critical Condition coming November 30, 2010):

“I’ve gotten several letters from fans facing painful medical crises, including one woman whose cancer pain kept her up at nights, unable to sleep or get comfortable. They have written thanking me for providing them with escape from the pain of their lives as they read my books.

The fact that my stories have been able to help these people facing their diseases with dignity and courage brought me to tears…truly better than any award my books could ever win!”

~Therese Fowler (Souvenir, Reunion):

“I’ve had so many amazing letters from readers world-wide; one that I loved came from the mother of seven-year-old twin girls who, after reading SOUVENIR, was inspired to create a journal for their future benefit, and to buy each of them a copy of SOUVENIR, which she was storing away in their “hope chests” to be read when they’re teens. A recent letter of praise from a woman who is a Medical Social Worker and who deals every day with patients in heartbreaking situations was also very rewarding.”

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

“The young woman who wrote to say that she was able to finally extricate herself from both her dysfunctional marriage and her ongoing affair with her also-married boss because she read “Inappropriate Men”. She wrote from her fabulous new job, where she had met her fabulous (and single!) new boyfriend who worked in the same building. She said that she had felt completely trapped and that the book helped her find her spine. That e-mail gave me goosebumps.”

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

“My most memorable wasn’t my best, but a long letter quoting all the passages from my first book that had anything to do with sex and suggesting that I and the letter writer would really understand one another. (Oh, dear.) I also remember one I got after my second book, which was about female friendship, from a woman who’d lost her best friend in Iraq. That one was lovely and very sad.”

~ Beth Hoffman (Saving CeeCee Honeycutt releasing in Trade Paperback October 26, 2010):

“I received a letter from a 93 year-old woman who said that she loved my book and was so glad it was available in large print. She went on to say that she read it twice because, at her age, she was running out of time and didn’t know if she’d be around if/when the movie came out. It was so touching.”

~Robin Antalek (The Summer We Fell Apart):

“I think it would have to be after I published a short story in a literary journal that was put out by a university in Florida years ago. It was handwritten – a page and a half long – from a young woman who claimed to have read the story so many times she felt like the characters were people she knew. She went on to tell me she had written a paper on the story for her English seminar class. It was a pretty cool ego boost for a struggling writer who wrote late at night after work.”

~Katie Alender (Bad Girls Don’t Die YA):

“I love every bit of fan mail I get. From the adorable one-line emails just telling me how much they enjoyed the book to the detailed breakdowns of all of the elements they liked (and why). I get a lot of emails saying I’ve inspired them to write (very flattering), a lot saying that they can relate to Alexis and her sense of outsiderness (very touching), and a lot with interpretations of the book that reflect a cinematic mind at work (very interesting). I am convinced that I have the brightest and funniest fans of any book, ever! I must say, I especially love getting snailmail (as TDW might be aware).”

~Kristina Riggle (Real Life & Liars and The Life You’ve Imagined):

“One of my favorite notes was from a reader who enjoyed my debut with a stiff drink and added, “Only wished I had a joint to join Mira” who is, as constant TDW readers will know, the flower child grandmother protagonist. I think my favorite fan interaction was in person, at my book launch event. A woman I didn’t know told me she went out and scheduled her mammogram after reading about how my protagonist delayed her own, with severe consequences. I was so touched and honored that my book prompted her to take such an important step, and that she felt moved to share that with me.”

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Announcement: The winners of Jenny Nelson’s debut novel Georgia’s Kitchen are Keetha and Maria M.. Congratulations!

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

Current and Coming Attractions

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

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

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

As Eileen explains:

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

And now for the future:

~Robin Antalek (The Summer We Fell Apart):

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

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

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

~Melanie Benjamin (Alice I Have Been):

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

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

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

The flap copy:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Allie Larkin (Stay):

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

~Kate Ledger (Remedies):

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

~ Shana Mahaffey (Sounds Like Crazy):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tanya Egan Gibson and
How to Buy a Love of Reading

September 07, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

When Tanya Egan Gibson was a high school English teacher, one of her students admitted that she had never read any book she liked. Instead the student spent her time daydreaming about her friends and their experiences shared during the day, imagining what might have been done differently. Although this was creative, Tanya loved books too much not to accept a challenge and vowed one day to write a book the girl would like. And, after ten years. that vow/idea became How to Buy a Love of Reading.

Debuting in May, 2009 and released in trade paperback on July 27, 2010, How to Buy a Love of Reading is beyond multi-layered. In addition to its meta-fiction format, fully drawn, flawed characters, Gatsby-esque setting, society, and quotes, mention of numerous literary works, there’s more. However the novel isn’t complicated, certainly the author’s description is reassuring proof:

“My characters live in the fictional town of Fox Glen, Long Island, where appearances are everything, money is plentiful, and life is forever disappointing. Most of the characters have given up on their real, private selves and have come to believe in their public selves– images they once-upon-a-time constructed to protect their egos, and in which now they find themselves imprisoned.”

Indeed How to Buy a Love of Reading is primarily based on past behavior that now affects the characters’ present. Here is the synopsis:

To Carley Wells, words are the enemy: the countless SAT lists from her tutor, the “fifty-seven pounds overweight” assessment from her personal trainer, and most of all, the “confidential” Getting To Know You assignment from her insane English teacher (whose literary terminology lessons include “Backstory is Afterbirth” and “Setting is Nobody’s Slut”). When he tells her parents that she’s answered “What is your favorite book?” with “Never met one I liked,” they become determined to fix what he calls her “intellectual impoverishment.” They will commission a book to be written for Carley that she’ll have to love—one that will impress her teacher and the whole town of Fox Glen with their family’s devotion to the arts. They will be patrons—the Medicis of Long Island. They will buy their daughter The Love Of Reading.

Impossible though it is for Carley to imagine ever loving words, she is in love with a young bibliophile who cares about them more than anything. Anything, that is, but a good bottle of scotch. Hunter Cay, Carley’s best friend and Fox Glen’s resident golden boy, is becoming a stranger to her as he drowns himself in F. Scott Fitzgerald, booze, and Vicodin.

When the Wellses move writer Bree McEnroy—author of a failed meta-novel about Odysseus’s voyages through the Internet—into their mansion to write Carley’s book, Carley’s sole interest in the project is its potential to distract Hunter from drinking and give them something to share. Instead, as Hunter’s behavior becomes erratic and dangerous, she finds herself drawn into the fictional world Bree has created and begins to understand for the first time the power of stories—those we read, those we want to believe in, and most of all, those we tell ourselves about ourselves. Stories powerful enough to destroy a person.

Or save her.

While there is an Excerpt to the novel’s first pages, it’s up to you to discover it by visiting the website. Simply turn the light on, then browse the bookcase as well as that book being read in bed. According to Tanya, the website is filled with treasures for good reason:

“Much of the material on my website–photographs, a character’s journal, excerpts of fictional “‘books'” that are mentioned in my novel–does not appear in the book and is intended as an extension of the book, a way to keep the “‘world'” of Fox Glen alive.”

It’s also a way to pay to tribute to Carley by keeping her insight into reading alive. For her indifference to books comes from their characters. She wants them to be genuinely human, rather than figure fixtures telling a story. Carley needs to identify and care about people in a book since it’s her way of understanding herself and others. Yes it’s the “unknowable” that Tanya described in her guest post, and the “gap” that 16-year old Carley feels is too wide.

Described as “razor-sharp, funny, and poignant,” How to Buy a Love of Reading is a satire of how the rich are different or appear to be as they hide their true selves from themselves and each other. And then there’s overweight, “intellectually impoverished” Carley who is seeking much more. Although she wants to love books to understand THE boy better — for Carley even knows as in life, so in books, “there’s always a boy” –, this adolescent also wants to know and love herself.

Tanya Egan Gibson had high hopes that her debut would be “literary,” yet her attempts to write towards that goal removed emotion from the story. So she stopped trying and simply told the story of “an overweight teenage girl’s love for her unattainable best male friend.” It’s not complicated yet it is truth. Because, through the multi layers of the book and the book-within-a-book, the voice of Carley remains basic. She’s a girl who leads with her heart, a heart strong enough to set an example for all the bewildering souls around her.

And that’s the author’s gift to readers in How to Buy a Love of Reading. This present is a character/person who allows us to bring our own hearts to the pages with the desire to know and understand each other better. Could there be a more valuable reading experience for your “must read” list?

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Tanya Egan Gibson’s How to Buy a Love of Reading in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, September 8, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

Guest Tanya Egan Gibson on Unknowable

August 31, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[How well do you know your friends? Do you know them as well as favorite fictional characters? In today’s guest post Tanya Egan Gibson (How to Buy a Love of Reading) reflects on how by reading and knowing characters, we’re motivated to close the human “gap” of getting to know and understand the truth of real-life people. ]


At the beginning of The Great Gatsby, Nick Carraway says he wishes for “no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart.” He’s had enough of confidences from people he barely knows; he doesn’t want emotional involvement with strangers. But F. Scott Fitzgerald did, I believe. I suppose every writer of fiction does.

I write because other people are a paradox—essentially like me (human), yet essentially unknowable. I stare at strangers on line in the grocery store and want to know their stories. Does that T-shirt with the dancing cat on it mean something to her, or is it something she threw on? Is that last-minute candy bar purchase a happy treat or a guilty pleasure? Is she glancing at her cell-phone to check the time or to wish a call into happening? Her doctor? Her boss? Her child? Her lover?

Does she love someone? What does love feel like for her? We all want to be loved. But loved how? What feels like love to someone else doesn’t necessarily feel like love to me. I want to know what her love feels like. This is where and why the storytelling starts for me, this what if?-ing. To bridge the gap between myself and other people, I make them up in my head.

There’s always distance between people, even those we know well. I imagine a Zeno’s Paradox of Relationships where the space between us and those we care about is halved with every interaction, every effort, every disclosure–a gap that shrinks but never quite disappears. Most of the characters in my novel, How To Buy a Love of Reading, suffer from loneliness because they give up on other people, believing that nobody can ever understand them. (A little gap seems just as daunting to them as a big one.)

It isn’t just other people’s unknowability that plagues them; it is their own fear of being unknown. Hunter Cay, a sixteen-year-old bibliophile and substance abuser, is desperate to be seen for who he is–to be read accurately. He looks like he has everything–he’s handsome, wealthy, and idolized by his friends and his friends’ parents alike. But he makes it impossible for anybody but his overweight, unpopular, book-hating best friend, Carley, to crack open his “cover” to read his true “text” (and accept the unexpected story she discovers therein). He chooses the fiction he reads and the fictions he constructs about himself over real life because in the world of pretend there is no gap. You can be the character.

As much as I adore fiction, and as much as I turn to it to make sense of life, and to be entertained, and not infrequently to be comforted, I don’t think the real-life gap between real-life people is a bad thing. The mystery of other people draws me to them; the slow unveiling of another human being is a beautiful, mesmerizing dance.

In the end, I care about people more than characters–even my own. It’s easy to fall in love with characters, especially those of your own creation–they do what you want them to, they lay their souls bare, and (you can imagine) they understand you completely. The unreal is addictive because bonding with characters requires no emotional risks. (Hunter fantasizes about the authors of the books in which he buries himself, making up scenarios in which they befriend him in bookstores and bars, but when he is confronted with two real authors who want to help him, he is unable to be real.) Characters are easy; real people are hard. And what is easy is rarely most worthwhile.

I can’t imagine a life without stories. But fiction, I think, is a means, not an end; a prescription, not a cure. It suggests that peering closer to people is a good thing. It promises that we are not alone, that the universality of the “gap” can, paradoxically, bring us together. It is a “privileged [glimpse] into the human heart” that inspires us to read real people more closely, more thoughtfully, and–I hope–with more care.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Katharine Davis’s A Slender Thread in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Katharine Davis and A Slender Thread. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, September 1, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

The Revealing of Tanya Egan Gibson

August 25, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Interviews, Profiles

Tanya Egan Gibson debuted with her first novel, How to Buy a Love of Reading, in May, 2009 to the following praise:

“Brimming with literary allusions, commentary on the rich and famous, and the necessary ingredients for a successful novel, Gibson’s ingenious debut succeeds on many levels.” __Booklist

The book was released in paperback late last month and here’s a brief synopsis:

Literary references abound in Tanya Egan Gibson’s debut novel, How to Buy a Love of Reading. Filled with social commentary and dark humor, the book features a young woman, Carley, who has never read a book she liked, so her parents hire a novelist to write a book just for her. This novel-in-a-novel as well as Gibson’s clever depiction of Carley’s own life and social circle brim with wit and intelligence.

How to Buy a Love of Reading explores the power of books in our lives.

Intrigued? The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of How to Buy a Love of Reading for Tuesday, September 7, 2010, however — as is the custom — let’s first meet the author through her “official” bio:

Tanya Egan Gibson’s debut novel, HOW TO BUY A LOVE OF READING, was published by Dutton in May 2009. An alum of Squaw Valley Community of Writers, she is mother to a five-year-old girl who produces countless construction-paper “books” that she insists Mommy “get published” and a two-year-old boy who thinks books are for throwing (though he also has Goodnight Moon memorized), and wife to the most patient man in the universe.

Now it’s time for Tanya to speak for herself by revealing:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Love-filled tangle of children, husband, and stories.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: “Don’t think, just do.”

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: Seeing the love in my children’s eyes when they do something sweet and random, like stroke my cheek with a chubby little hand.

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

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: Any warm beach, watching waves crash.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: Despite my best efforts, I can’t come up with an answer for this one. Best I can do is tell you who fascinates me: F. Scott Fitzgerald. I’ve read so many biographies about him, Zoe, and their contemporaries.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: Joss Whedon (creator of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, DOLLHOUSE, et. al.)

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases?
A: “Actually,” and “Welcome to my world”

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: I’d love to know how to sew and design clothing.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Motherhood. It’s by the far the hardest but most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. That my children are kind, gentle little people makes me unbelievably happy.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: I’m inclined to want to question/change rules.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: I’m passionate about everything important to me–my family, my friends, my writing, everyone else’s writing.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: I can’t ignore mean people.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: I’d think it could be fun to be The Statue of Liberty for a while. The things she must see! (I figure her giant eyes give her the ability to see everything in lower Manhattan, not to mention all those folks on the ferries.)

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: I’m physically demonstrative and don’t like to “blend.” I hug. I talk with my hands. I wear clothing that can verge on costume-y: leather trench coats, shiny things, etc. I own a skirt trimmed with feathers.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Are you going to think I’m a total sap if I say Mr. Darcy? Oh, I don’t care. Mr. Darcy it is.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Spike, from BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. Wait, did I need to pick someone from a book? I hope not.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: Johnny Weir, a U.S. figure skater known for his big personality and sometimes eccentric behavior and costumes. I’d tell him how much I respect his being true to himself.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: Bad manners. I don’t mean using the wrong fork or putting your elbows on the table. I mean people being pushy, inconsiderate, or rude.

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

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: I’d love to be an Imagineer (a person who design rides and attractions for theme parks).

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Kindness, independent thinking, humor.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Cheese! CheddarSwissHavartiiMuensterBrieManchegoHumboltFogMozzarellaFetaBleuSt.AndreJack! I love all cheese!

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: As of today: “Stepping Out” (Joe Jackson), “Lifetime Piling Up” (Talking Heads), “Every Breath You Take” (Sting), “Don’t You Forget About Me” (Simple Minds), “Bring Me To Life” (Evanescence)

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: After trying and trying, I really can’t winnow it down to fewer than six! Please forgive my inability to comply with directions. (This particular weakness is related to my answer to the “Greatest Flaw” question above.)

Here are the 6: Bel Canto (Ann Patchett), The Confessions of Max Tivoli (Andrew Sean Greer), The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald), Slaughterhouse-Five (Kurt Vonnegut), Waterland (Graham Swift), The Keep (Jennifer Egan).

Embodying the three personal qualities most important to her — kindness, independent thinking, humor –, Tanya Egan Gibson also possesses a passionate nature that’s difficult to resist. Discover that for yourself by becoming a follower on Twitter and her friend on Facebook.

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Book Giveaway: This week Kate Ledger has graciously offered two “signed” copies of Remedies to the winners of a random drawing from comments left on this specific post, Kate Ledger and Remedies. A comment left on any other post during the week will not be eligible. The deadline for this contest is tonight at 7:00 p.m. EDT and the winners will be announced here in tomorrow’s post. IF you do enter, please return tomorrow to possibly claim your book.

Author News and New Authors

July 29, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Advance News, News

Welcome to The Divining Wand’s last post of July and, while not dismissing summertime in August, there is a feeling of fall around here! That’s correct, fresh and new ideas have either recently launched or will soon, beginning with the multi-talented Katie Alender (Bad Girls Don’t Die YA).

On Tuesday, July 27, 2010, Katie and fellow YA writers took “getting to know authors beyond their pages” to a vlog level. Here’s a portion of the Press Release for AuthorMix:

A new web-based video series aims to give teen readers a “fly on the wall” look at their favorite authors.

Los Angeles, CA — July 27, 2010 — In an effort to reach out to their web-savvy readers, many authors now turn to video, releasing video blogs (“vlogs”), book trailers, and even virtual book tours (as recently mentioned in the New York Times: A new web video series takes this one step further by bringing together a group of authors in a roundtable format, letting readers eavesdrop on conversations about life, love, high school, writing, and publication. AUTHORMIX is like listening in on the green room at a book festival–personal, honest, and unrehearsed.

“The whole thing started because I would read blogs or tweets about authors who got together for one reason or another,” says creator/host, author Katie Alender. “And what I really wanted to know was–what do they talk about when they’re just hanging out?”

In an effort to find out, she came up with the idea for an off-the-cuff style video series that would give authors a chance to chat in a relaxed environment.

Participating authors are Melissa de la Cruz (New York Times best-selling author of The Au Pairs and Blue Bloods series of novels for young adults); Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (New York Times best-selling authors of Beautiful Creatures, also one of’s Ten Best Books of 2009); Cecil Castellucci (author of Beige, Boyproof, Queen of Cool, and The Plain Janes series for DC Comics); and Katie Alender (author of the Bad Girls Don’t Die series).

[For more information, please visit the site and follow AuthorMix on Twitter. Congratulations, Katie!]

As for this site’s news, regular visitors may have noticed that TDW recently has featured three “new” authors:

~ Claire Cook (Seven Year Switch, Must Love Dogs, Life’s A Beach, and the rest in Bibliography)

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

~ Julie Buxbaum (After You, The Opposite of Love)

And, now, I proudly announce the following authors have also joined our community and will be appearing on these pages soon:

~ Kate Ledger (Remedies)

~ TanyaEgan Gibson (How to Buy a Love of Reading)

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

~ Beth Hoffman (Saving CeeCee Honeycutt releasing in Trade Paperback October 26, 2010)

~ Katharine Davis (A Slender Thread, East Hope, Capturing Paris)

Also expect more guest author posts and (hopefully) a weekly Q&A with readers asking questions of the featured author. Indeed fall is in the air….

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Announcement: The winner of Claire Cook’s Seven Year Switch is Amy Chase. Congratulations.

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