The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…

Kristina Riggle and Things We Didn’t Say

June 27, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

From the front cover:

“Impossible to put down,
even harder to let go of.”
__Julie Buxbaum, author of
The Opposite of Love,
After You

In her first two books — Real Life & Liars and The Life You’ve Imagined –, Kristina Riggle wrote about ordinary individuals caught up in the dilemma of how to resolve complicated problems in their lives. However the author twists the scenario a bit in Things We Didn’t Say available for purchase tomorrow at your local bookstore and online retailer.

Kristina’s third novel is breathlessly insightful and emotionally charged — a book one lives, rather than reads. Its intimacy and immediacy pulls the reader into a family crisis that escalates to a shattering breaking point all within the time frame of forty-eight hours. Believable? It could not be more honest.

First, however, is the twist that the main female character has already decided what to do about a problem. She’s packed and ready to run away from the family she hoped to belong to when a sudden, frightening event causes her to stay….a while longer. Ah, but what then?

Here is the synopsis for Things We Didn’t Say:

What goes unsaid can sometimes speak the loudest . . .

What makes up a family? For Casey it’s sharing a house with her fiancÉ, Michael, and his three children, whom she intends to nurture more than she ever took care of herself. But Casey’s plans have come undone. Michael’s silences have grown unfathomable and deep. His daughter Angel seethes as only a teenage girl can, while the wide-eyed youngest, Jewel, quietly takes it all in.

Then Michael’s son, Dylan, runs off, and the kids’ mother, a woman never afraid to say what she thinks, noisily barges into the home. That’s when Casey decides that the silences can no longer continue. She must begin speaking the words no one else can say. She’ll have to dig up secrets—including her own—uncovering the hurts, and begin the healing that is long overdue. And it all starts with just a few tentative words. . . .

While that is the storyline, Kristina describes the novel as “…a messy, grown-up love story because real love must be able to endure through the worst, most confusing and difficult times. Sometimes love alone isn’t enough to sustain a couple, when the storm comes, as it always will.”

It will, it does and, without being able to speak up in common agreement, divorce usually follows. When children are involved, post-divorce couples/parents remain bound together creating (hopefully) a polite, healthy relationship. However when Michael and Mallory — the novel’s other two adult characters — are that divorced couple/parents, one can only expect the unexpected.

This also makes the book a contemporary story of a blended family in which a young woman falls in love with a man and his three children. Bearing her own unspoken, emotional scars, she is seeking to love and belong. And he is willing to try to recapture the fun and sense of true love. It’s not surprising that Kristina says:

“I’m in awe of the optimism and determination of those who create blended families. By their very nature, these couples walk into a their new relationship bearing scars of the past, moreso than those who have never been married before, and I find their willingness to give it another try inspiring. I also wanted to write about a competent single dad who has primary custody of his kids, because it goes against the grain of the pop-culture stereotype of the distant or bumbling divorced dad.”

With such good intentions, how could Casey and Michael’s relationship not at least lead to a wedding, instead of an about-to-be runaway bride? Well there are three children — two of whom are teenagers — and ex-wife Mallory to add to the mix.

TRUTH: This author raises the dramatic tension almost as high as possible with the introduction of Mallory, yet there is not one false step in her portrayal of who she calls “the first true antagonist I’ve tackled.”

She is real and, more likely than not, everyone will recognize a Mallory in their life. Nevertheless Kristina admits:

“I did my utmost not to turn her into a caricature of pure villainy. She is damaged, but I would not say she’s evil. It’s an interesting question that Michael wrestles with throughout their marriage, how much control she has over her own actions, and thus how much personal responsibility she bears. I also found the failed marriage between Mallory and Michael to have a life of its own as well, and it was a challenge to portray that relationship in a way that was understandable and relatable. Sometimes the story of a marriage isn’t easily understood, especially by those from the outside looking in, and I hoped to give the readers some insight into that story.”

Such is a prime example of Kristina Writing in Shades of Gray with complex characters behaving badly. Because, as a writer, she could not feel protective of Michael, Casey, Mallory, and the children. If she did, nothing bad would ever happen to them and a very boring story would be told. Instead the author took on the difficult task in making sure each character developed with his/her own story in order to become necessary and not just a stereotype in the general plot.

TRUST: Julie Buxbaum’s quote on the book’s front cover tells all you need to know about Things We Didn’t Say. And then there are my words for the author: Brava, Kristina, Brava!

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Things We Didn’t Say by Kristina Riggle 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, June 29, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be notified by email as well as announced Thursday on my Facebook page.

Guest Kristina Riggle on
Writing in Shades of Gray

June 21, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[]In real life there are at least two sides to every story and nothing is either black or white. In today’s guest post, Kristina Riggle (Real Life & Liars, The Life You’ve Imagined, and Things We Didn’t Say coming June 28, 2011) explains how this same fact applies to people — whether real or fictional.]

Writing in Shades of Gray

Early in my career as a novelist, I sighed with relief that my writing no longer had to hurt anyone’s feelings.

In my newspaper days, I had to print nasty things that Politician A said about Politician B, because both were prominent and that made such mud-slinging “news.” I remember interviewing a trembling mother about her murdered daughter, and the poor choices the young woman made which the police thought contributed to her slaying. More than once I remember interviewing someone and the person would raise their eyes to meet mine and ask, “Do we have to put in the part about (embarrassing yet newsworthy background) ?” And I’d have to say yes, we do.

Oh sure, like all journalists I reminded myself that the truth hurts but is necessary. That I was just doing my job. And I still believe this to be true. Obviously, journalists can’t sanitize their stories for the sake of protecting feelings.

But when I quit that day job and began the transition to fiction writing, I thought with great relief that those days of hurting with my words were behind me.

Or, are they?

When people ask what I write, my glib answer is, “I write novels about screwed-up people.” My characters behave badly, early and often. They fumble their way toward something better by the end (most of them, usually) but to say they are “flawed” is the least of it.

I write about screwed-up people because they are interesting, even if they are not always endearing. Some of the interesting-not-always-endearing characters in THINGS WE DIDN’T SAY include a divorced father named Michael, so wrapped up in his fading career and his ex-wife’s drama he barely notices his fiancée struggling to stay above water in his stormy household.

The young fiancée, Casey, has kept huge chunks of her life hidden from the man she claims to love, not comprehending how damaging her secrets would be when spilled into the light of day.

The ex-wife, Mallory, manipulates the other characters and ratchets up the drama the minute she arrives on the scene.

To me these people are just made up and the story is made up. What could be the harm?

My mother, reading an advance copy, told me she assumed that my kid sister’s childhood tummy aches must have inspired the stomachaches suffered by the youngest child in the story, Jewel.

Oh. I hadn’t even realized I’d done that. (Sorry, Kim).

I’ve learned by now, on book three, that people will read themselves into fiction (even if they didn’t grow up in the same household as the author). And if they see themselves in my characters behaving badly, my words might sting.

The only remedy I can imagine is for me to treat all my characters with respect and sincerity, even the ones that will make readers want to throw the book across the room. Sure, my characters behave badly, but they are complex and real and rounded. In other words, even the worst ones aren’t completely bad.

Just like my journalism subjects. In newspapers and novels both, I work in shades of gray.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away three copies of Making Waves by Tawna Fenske in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Presenting Debutante Tawna Fenske and Making Waves. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, June 22, 2011 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 Further Revealing of Kristina Riggle

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

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

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

And the early Praise follows:

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


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

- Publishers Weekly

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

Library Journal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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