The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…

Kristina Riggle and The Life You’ve Imagined

August 16, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

In the follow up to her successful debut of Real Life & Liars, Kristina Riggle presents us with another thoughtful, touching, bittersweet read — The Life You’ve Imagined, releasing tomorrow, August 17, 2010. This second book also proves that the author’s natural gift is her talent to write a quiet little novel that whispers, nudges, and reminds how much of life is filled with hope.

However the irony is that the idea for this storyline came out of Kristina’s seemingly lack of hope, as she explains:

“Really the story was inspired by my eroding naivete about how the world works. I used to believe — as I think many young National Honor Society types do — that the world is a meritocracy and if I just work hard enough, rewards and happiness will automatically come to me. This is definitely true for the Anna character, who can’t quite believe that she’s at the cusp of achieving everything she’s ever wanted, yet the envisioned happiness is not there.”

As for the title, it’s a line taken from the following quote:

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the live you’ve imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler. __Henry David Thoreau

Yet, according to the author, “the quote was almost an afterthought, just a piece of scenery. As the novel evolved, the notion of an imagined life being sharply different from reality came into focus and I realized that was the perfect title.”

The quote and its dream for future happiness also provides the link to three childhood friends unexpectedly reunited one summer, all still searching for their dream of happiness.

Here’s the novel’s Synopsis:

Are you living the life you imagined? Is there anything you’d have done differently if you could? Those are the questions asked in Kristina Riggle’s unforgettable new novel.

In high school, Cami and Anna were as close as they could be…now, years later, both have returned to their hometown to face the people they had once left behind. Anna must confront her mother, still distraught over the abandonment of her husband, and come to terms with choices she had made years before. While Cami returns home to stay with her alcoholic father, she uncovers a secret he sought to keep which could change her life and salvage her future. They reconnect with their classmate, Amy, who can’t understand why achieving the thin body and handsome man of her dreams hasn’t given her the happily-ever-after she desired. This is a novel that digs deep and touches the heart of the issues so many women face-the quest for perfection, the hope of love, the value of family and importance of always striving for your dream.

Selected by independent booksellers as an IndieNext “Notable” Pick for September 2010 The Life You’ve Imagined has also earned Praise from the author’s notable peers.

And HarperCollins offers a special bonus to those readers who Browse Inside the book. There are 54 pages available for your reading pleasure….certainly much more than one would imagine!

Kristina writes in the same format she used in Real Life & Liars, rotating first person narrators to place the reader into the mindset and physical space of her four main characters. Bound by their small town background of growing up in fictional Haven, Michigan, the personal issues that each must resolve in order to achieve her dreams are universal problems for anyone, anywhere.

These women have dreams that they’ve tried to achieve, but their efforts have not necessarily lead to happiness. Instead such personal control has created more stress and disappointment, blurring the truth of what they really desire. After all wishes made during adolescence usually change with maturity, opportunity, and the confidence to let go, allowing life to happen.

Perhaps it’s that confidence these characters seek from their hometown reunion. The author’s description/depiction of fictional Haven, Michigan is truly stunning. And the Nee Nance Store, the dying family business that connects them all (see Guest Kristina Riggle on All in the Family), could not be a better example of the confidence needed to know when to let go of a dying dream and then move on.

But what about the author, is she living the life she imagined?

Kristina says, “No! And I’m glad. I imagined myself by this point sailing along in my career as a newspaper reporter, well on my way to becoming editor of a large urban daily. Novel writing was a vague aspiration for some undefined “‘someday.'” I always envisioned myself a hardcore career woman who would “‘do it all.'” I’m still a career woman, but the career is different, and my definition of success more fluid and flexible. I no longer try to predict my life many years ahead, and when I do imagine the future, it’s more in terms of family and home rather than jobs and money. Also, the older I get the more aware I am that it’s all so fragile. I’m happy that my family and I are healthy right now, today. And I’m awfully glad that my “‘someday novel'” came sooner rather than later, because who knows what later will bring?”

Readers/fans of Kristina Riggle are also glad her life didn’t turn out as imagined since The Life You’ve Imagined — the second “someday novel” — is available now, tomorrow, rather than later. Enjoy!

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Kristina Riggle’s The Life You’ve Imagined 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, August 18, 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 possibly claim your book.

Guest Kristina Riggle on All in the Family

August 10, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[As she did with her debut novel, Real Life & Liars, Kristina Riggle writes with soul about family and friends coming to terms with change in The Life You’ve Imagined, being released August 17, 2010. And, in today’s guest post, she shares the personal inspiration for the book.]

This is what I remember most about my dad starting his own business: him sitting in a basement office space with a city directory open in front of him, cold-calling strangers to sell his lawn care service.

Since you don’t know my dad, this is probably unremarkable. But my dad is shy.

And if you’re shy, too, you know how hard it is to talk to strangers about the weather. And here he was, calling up strangers in their homes to sell them something. And the stakes were high. If he failed, there went our family’s livelihood.

Meanwhile, my mother – raising two children and already working full time to support us – would spend her evenings doing the accounting for the family business.

I wasn’t consciously thinking of this as I sat down to write The Life You’ve Imagined, but it must have been lurking in the back of my mind. The story revolves around four women connected by a dying family business, in this case a convenience store called the Nee Nance Store.

No matter how much you love your job, if it’s not your company, it just isn’t the same. You can’t have that ownership and pride, nor is the fear of failure ever quite as great. And the odds are stacked against small businesses, certainly. As a reporter I’d done many a story about a new business venture. The owners would show off their shiny new spaces and equipment, bubbling over about how their store was unique and special. And more often than not, I’d drive by later only to see an empty, dark storefront.

My dad’s business beat those odds. He just retired in January after twenty-one years. And it was my dad’s company – plus the support of my mom, without whom he never would have made it — that finally pushed us firmly into middle class instead of hovering over the poverty line.

How did the business affect my sister and me? From middle school on I was also a receptionist when I got home from school. I’d have to answer, “Riggle Professional Lawn Care” or at least, “Riggles” when I answered the phone, and then professionally and courteously take down the message, even if someone was honked off about too much crabgrass. (My dad used to joke that I should answer, “Riggle Towers, how may I direct your call?” as if we were in some shiny office complex, as opposed to our little brown house.) I also had to begin processing the incoming checks every day, to make it easier for my mom to enter them into our books every night when she got home from a long day working at the bank.

But my small contributions to the family business were nothing compared to my characters in The Life You’ve Imagined. Maeve and her daughter Anna lived out their lives behind the front counter of their store; the operating hours of a convenience store meant that they were almost always working, and had scant privacy.

For Maeve, who was stuck with the store after her husband took off, the Nee Nance was a necessary evil: it was income and support for her daughter, and the only job skill she thought she had. For Anna, it symbolized everything she never wanted, so she took off for the big city as soon as she could. But as the story opens, she finds herself back home again.

This isn’t the only family business in the story. Anna’s childhood sweetheart, Beck, is heir to the Becker Development fortune. The contrast between their two lives growing up was something else which imprinted Anna with a desire for something better than what she had. She’s going to have a new relationship with Becker Dev, now, as it turns out that the other son, Paul Becker, has just purchased the Nee Nance Store’s building….

I’m lucky in that my family’s business story wasn’t so dramatic. But I know now, with adult perspective and as a parent myself, how terrifying those first years must have been, and how every economic downturn must have left my parents wondering: Is this the year we fail?

Labor Day is approaching, a time when we applaud the everyday working Joe and Jane. I’d like to take a moment to cheer for the family business, for the proprietors who have the guts to chase a dream. In fact, do more than just cheer, give them your business. Like Anna and Maeve, they might just be hanging on by their fingernails…

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Book Giveaway: This week Julie Buxbaum has graciously offered two “signed” copies of After You to the winners of a random drawing from comments left on this specific post, Julie Buxbaum and After You. A comment on any other post during this week will not be eligible. The deadline for this contest is Wednesday, August 11, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT and the winners will be announced here in Thursday’s post. IF you do enter, please return Thursday to possibly claim your book.

The Revealing of Kristina Riggle

August 04, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

In her moving and compelling debut, Real Life & Liars, Kristina Riggle focused on a family coming to terms with change, and change remains the theme in her second novel, The Life You’ve Imagined, being released on August 17, 2010.

However this storyline revolves around friends who either need or desire change. Consider the book’s description:

Is the life you’re living all you imagined? Have you ever asked yourself, “What if??” Here, four women face the decisions of their lifetimes in this stirring and unforgettable novel of love, loss, friendship, and family.

Anna Geneva, a Chicago attorney coping with the death of a cherished friend, returns to her “speck on the map” hometown of Haven to finally come to terms with her mother, the man she left behind, and the road she did not take.

Cami Drayton, Anna’s dearest friend from high school, is coming home too, forced by circumstance to move in with her alcoholic father . . . and to confront a dark family secret.

Maeve, Anna’s mother, never left Haven, firmly rooted there by her sadness over her abandonment by the husband she desperately loved and the hope that someday he will return to her.

And Amy Rickart—thin, beautiful, and striving for perfection—faces a future with the perfect man . . . but is haunted by the memory of what she used to be.

Kristina Riggle’s The Life You’ve Imagined takes a provocative look at the choices we make—and the courage we must have to change.

Selected by independent booksellers as an IndieNext “Notable” Pick for September 2010, The Life You’ve Imagined is scheduled to be presented/reviewed by The Divining Wand on Monday, August 16, 2010. In the meantime, let’s meet the author through her “official” flap jacket bio: 

Kristina Riggle is a freelance journalist, a published short story writer, and coeditor for fiction at the e-zine Literary Mama. She lives and writes in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with her husband, two kids, and dog.

And now it’s time to reveal more about the real Kristina:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: I write and take care of my kids.

Oh, did you mean a list of words? Well, this eight-word sentence sums it up. Though I sometimes also do laundry.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” Groucho Marx

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: Contentment in my children’s health and happiness. There’s no simpler joy, and therefore nothing so fine.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: See above. Any threat to my children. The actual fears are too scary to type out.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: In Charlevoix, Michigan, on a beach. Or maybe Venice, Siena, or Rome. I visited Italy in 2000 and I sometimes feel homesick for it. Is that possible, to be homesick for someplace I visited for ten days, ten years ago?

Q; With whom in history do you most identify?
A: I’m bad at this. Most of my history education has been lousy. All boring crap about dates and the names of generals. However, I will say I recently read THE LOST SUMMER OF LOUISA MAY ALCOTT by Kelly O’Connor McNees, and I adored it. I also remember reading a kid-friendly biography of Louisa when I was little – already wanting to be an author someday – so I’ll go with Louisa May Alcott. I wanted to be Jo in Little Women. Who didn’t?

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: I’m terrible with these questions. Real people are so flawed and complex, and I’ve never been one to hold up an individual as a beacon. I really admire my parents. They’re both so strong in different ways.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases?
A: Had to ask my husband this. He said I have a fondness for fancy words in casual conversation, but we couldn’t pick out a certain one. Maybe “draconian” is a good example. I think he’s poked fun at me for using that one. But it’s a great word!

Q; If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: Oh, I’d love to be a talented dancer! I love dancing, and it’s the perfect exercise: a tough workout and most excellent fun. I have danced, once in amateur theater, but I wouldn’t say I’m a natural dancer, far from it. I have to work so hard on the simplest steps.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: My kids and my books. That’s the boring-but-true answer.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: I talk too much. And I try too hard to be liked by everyone.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: I’m a great communicator. And I’m nice. (Ha.)

Q: What do you regret most?
A: I remember one woman unloading with a really racist remark in my presence. I gaped at her, horrified, and she back-pedaled (poorly). But I still wish I’d been forceful and really called her out. I shudder to think that she’d assumed she was safe to say that kind of thing around me.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: I don’t want to be any other person, I like who I am just fine. A thing, eh? That’s fanciful. Ummm….a cello because it’s curvy with a pretty voice.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: That I talk too much, see above. According to my husband, it’s my cute butt, but that’s what I get for asking him.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Frodo Baggins in Lord of the Rings. You don’t have to be big and strong to save the world.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Ever see Christopher Walken in “Balls of Fury”? He takes an already funny movie and sends it into giddy spasms of hilarity.
Runner up: Mr. Burns from The Simpsons.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: Billie Jean King, and I’d say thanks for winning the Battle of the Sexes. A generation of female athletes owes her a debt. Not that I’m an athlete. But I could have been. And my sister is. (She played a sport in every season in high school.)

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: Rudeness. Courtesy costs so little and makes life better for everyone.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: I love to sing! And like I said above, I wish I could dance. I’ve done a teensy bit of community theater and I’d love to do more someday.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: Psychologist. Or anthropologist. I love science, just not so much the math. And all that…precision. My high school chemistry labs never once came out right.
Or maybe Broadway star, as long as we’re talking fantasy, here. (See above).

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

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Gosh, I’d get sick of anything after like, a day. But I’m being too literal. So, sushi. Mmmm, wasabi.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: Here are five of my favorite songs. I have lots of favorites, and these shift depending on the day.
Cabaret, from the show (Liza Minelli, especially)
Sweet Child O’Mine, Guns-n-Roses
Ghost in the House, Allison Krauss
That’s Not My Name, Ting Tings
Haven’t Met You Yet, Michael Buble

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: Catch-22, Joseph Heller
Breathing Lessons, Anne Tyler
How I Became a Famous Novelist, Steve Hely
Notes on a Scandal, Zoe Heller
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

Whether serious or funny, Kristina Riggle has a charming way of being any and every women. Enjoy her company by following along on Twitter and becoming a friend/fan on Facebook.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Alicia Bessette’s Simply from Scratch in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post, Presenting Debutante Alicia Bessette and Simply from Scratch. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is tonight 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.

What If….Kristina Riggle and Sarah Pekkanen?

July 13, 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?


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

~ Kristina Riggle (Real Life & Liars and The Life You’ve Imagined coming August 17, 2010):

“There are many authors whose talent I admire — Anita Shreve, Anne Tyler, Elizabeth Berg and Jennifer Weiner leap to mind — but I want to be distinctly and only me. I want to have a writing voice so unique that people can read my words without looking at the cover and be able to say: “‘That sounds like a Kristina Riggle book.'” I’m working on that.”

“Interesting question! I have titles floating around in my head I love, but I hope to write a book that will match up with them someday, therefore I don’t want to spill them publicly. Wish I’d thought of THE HOUR I FIRST BELIEVED before Wally Lamb. What a great title. How about: THE BEST BOOK KRISTINA RIGGLE COULD EVER POSSIBLY WRITE.”

~ Sarah Pekkanen (The Opposite of Me):

“I’d want to be Jane Austin – and have written Pride and Prejudice!”

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