The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…

Suzanne Anderson and
Mrs. Tuesday’s Departure

March 14, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

The lovely, idyllic cover of Suzanne Anderson’s ebook debut, Mrs. Tuesday’s Departure [Kindle Edition], holds the promise of a children’s story filled with adventure. And, on one level, that hold true even though the other story told in this book within a book format provides a dramatically opposite tale.

In her ambitious, action-packed, suspenseful first novel, the author combined the following two thoughts:

1. A brilliant, talented person knowing she suffered from Alzheimer’s and would slowly lose her mind.

2. Being 1/4 Jewish in Nazi Germany was a sentence to a death camp.

And then added her personal interest in reading about WWII, particularly the city of Budapest — her maternal grandparents’ home.

The result, according to Suzanne:

“Mrs. Tuesday’s Departure originally started as a story about a family caught up in the terrors of World War II Budapest. However, I changed the particulars of the story, choosing to refer to the Nazis as the ‘Black and Reds’, and never naming the actual city but simply alluding to the fact that it was a European city. I made these changes because I wanted the story to focus on the relationships within the story, because to me that was the real point. How do the dynamics of relationships between siblings change in the face of illness? How do we react under the ultimate stressful situations? How do we express our loyalty? How far are we willing to go to save those we love?”

In answering those questions, the story evolved and is described in this synopsis:

On a cold winter morning, twin sisters race to a train station to save the life of a child who has been abandoned by her parents. Seventy years in the future, an old woman finds a package that reveals the key to the child’s safety.

So begins a race against time. Set against the backdrop of war, Mrs. Tuesday’s Departure is a tale of undying love and a mother’s betrayal. In order to survive, those left behind must make their way through a frightening landscape where the rules are constantly changing even as one sister’s loosening grip on reality threatens them all. Is their only means of escape real or a flight of one writer’s creative fantasy?

Yes, even as the other questions play out in the novel, one question remains for readers to decide. Intentionally choosing this option, Suzanne Anderson used the literary device of a book within a book not to confuse but rather offer the possibility of a hopeful ending.

Fast-paced and vividly descriptive, there is also a genuine warmth to Mrs. Tuesday’s Departure that comes from the family bond that holds the twin sisters — Kate and Lily — and their 12-year old niece, Mila, together. Through the use of flashbacks the sisters’ background and consequential sibling rivalry is told and explained. In fact, it is here that the author truly shines as she describes their father, a master of manipulation, who likely sealed their personalities and fate in adolescence. Jealousy, anger, and mistrust exist between the two now grown adults yet, despite all, the bond of love remains.

In this fluidly written book, the main message is that there are times when we are willing to risk everything for the ones we love. And Suzanne’s themes of fear, loyalty, and impossible choices — woven throughout the story — highlight that message in a believable light. The characters’ tension and terror feel as real as a successful escape appears hopeless. Still it’s the humanity of war that tends to bring forth surprising heroes.

Mrs. Tuesday’s Departure [Kindle Edition] is an exciting, entertaining, and impressive first novel with its story’s unique perspective as original as the book’s cover. Suzanne Anderson took control over her lifetime dream of writing and publishing a book by self-publishing an ebook. Its reviews have earned 4 1/2 stars and readers are (pleasantly) surprised at its universal appeal. The truth is they would like to read more. If you own a Kindle, do download this emotionally haunting story.

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[While Eleanor Brown’s The Weird Sisters remains on The New York Times Bestseller List, another TDW author’s novel is being popularly acclaimed. Sarah Pekkanen’s (The Opposite of Me) latest book, Skipping a Beat, garnered a lovely review in People Magazine (the Oscar issue) and in The Washington Post. In addition, it’s an O Magazine pick for April and Harper’s Bazaar magazine put Skipping a Beat on it’s “hot list” for March. Sarah’s novel is also a Doubleday Book Club pick. And Foreign Rights have sold in Italy and Australia. Since it went into a second printing before publication, could a third and fourth run be far behind?

Ah, there’s nothing better than a good news Monday!

Book Giveaway: For those readers who have Kindles, The Divining Wand will honor the first 10 comments left only on this specific post — until Wednesday, March 16, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EDT. — with a download of Suzanne Anderson’s Mrs. Tuesday’s Departure. Please include the email address used to download and the ebook will be gifted to you promptly.

Kristina McMorris and Letters from Home

February 21, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

From the age of nine, Kristina McMorris has been a successful actress, TV show host, entrepreneur, and public relations expert but tomorrow she embraces the role of debut novelist with the launch of her historical fiction, WWII saga, Letters From Home.

Inspired by the discovery of her grandfather’s courtship letters to Grandma Jean during WWII (see Tales of the Past), Kristina soon began to ask “what if?” the couple’s relationship through their correspondence had been based on deceit. And, simply put, that is the backstory for the novel which honors the author’s grandparents as well as all the other brave, unsung heroes of the Greatest Generation.

Here is the synopsis of Letters from Home:

Chicago, 1944. Liz Stephens has little interest in attending a USO club dance with her friends Betty and Julia. She doesn’t need a flirtation with a lonely serviceman when she’s set to marry her childhood sweetheart. Yet something happens the moment Liz glimpses Morgan McClain. They share only a brief conversation – cut short by the soldier’s evident interest in Betty – but Liz can’t forget him. Thus, when Betty asks her to ghostwrite a letter to Morgan, stationed overseas, Liz reluctantly agrees.

Thousands of miles away, Morgan struggles to adjust to the brutality of war. His letters from “Betty” are a comfort, their soul-baring correspondence a revelation to them both. While Liz is torn by her feelings for a man who doesn’t know her true identity, Betty and Julia each become immersed in their own romantic entanglements. And as the war draws to a close, all three will face heart-wrenching choices, painful losses, and the bittersweet joy of new beginnings.

Now watch and listen to Kristina explain and describe her storyline:

In addition to providing an Excerpt from Letters from Home Chapter One, the author also shares a few of her grandfather’s original letters in Mail Call.

The Raves & Reviews have been wonderful and include:

“Ambitious and compelling…[a] sweeping debut.”__Publishers Weekly

Yet the true testament to this book’s advance success can be viewed by its growing sales of global rights, book club rights sold to Doubleday and Reader’s Digest, film rights being shopped by the prestigious Creative Artists Agency of Los Angeles, and the book’s spotlight in the current issue of Woman’s Day magazine.

What is it about this novel that offers a universal appeal? Perhaps the love story depicted through intimate correspondence, the human triumphs and tragedies of a war fought to end all wars, a connection to what most of our grandparents lived through, the consequences of deceit, and the stirrings of women’s independence on the homefront and even close to the frontlines.

Of course more than likely it’s a combination of all these storyline elements bound together by the author’s distinctive and elegant writing style. The word “lovely” has been used often to describe Letters from Home and Kristina’s choice of words/phrasing are quite lovely. Her style lends itself, in its measured tones, to the characters’ voices, emotions, and behavior. After all much more privacy prevailed then than it does now in casual, contemporary times. Also the mere fact that this debut novelist is paying homage to a generation, being lost to attrition and barely mentioned in public school history classes, is a love letter of its own.

Admitting she previously had not been an avid fiction reader, The Divining Wand asked the author how she became a fiction writer? And she explained:

“I’ve learned the most from simply writing and revising. Fellow authors were kind enough to offer critiques, as well as many contest judges. And, of course, I discovered the magic of reading. I also applied a great deal of what I learned from years of acting, including character arcs, scene elements, and plot points. When it comes to developing goals, motivation, and conflict, there is very little difference between a scene on stage and one in a book.”

Interesting how two creative processes are similar, isn’t it? And why it’s not surprising to discover that, since Kristina initially envisioned the story as a movie, the storyline played out in her head and she wrote from there. In fact she details the experience:

“The story came to me like a movie while I was walking on the treadmill one day. Once I hopped off, I jotted down an outline, describing the scenes/chapters in a sentence or two, from beginning to end. Additional story lines for the secondary characters, namely Julia and Betty, evolved in later drafts, but the final scene I first envisioned–even one of the last dialogue lines–remains the same in the finished book.”

While loss of innocence is a major theme of the novel, so too are sacrifice, the search for inner strength, and the journey toward a woman’s ability to make her own choices. The reality of war causes the novel to have less than an “happily ever after” ending for all the characters, however these characters do share the book’s message — appearances can be deceiving. And, from the first page to the last, the reader discovers that every character is not who they first seemed to be.

Of course, as has been noted, this is also a tribute to all the men and women of the World War II generation, and — on a personal level — Kristina’s Grandma Jean. The Divining Wand asked the author if she had achieved “favorite grandchild” status for writing the book and Kristina said:

“Grandma Jean is definitely tickled, but I admit, she tends to be very even keeled about anything you toss her way. She did, after all, survive the rigors of a childhood on the farm, the Great Depression, and a world war. That said, she’s one of the sweetest, strongest, most loving, and most gracious women I’ve ever known. I absolutely adore her, and am honored to call her my grandmother. So I’m especially excited that she’ll be attending my official book launch event at Barnes & Noble to meet attendees and even sign some copies.” 🙂

How lovely! And how generous is the fact that a portion of sales proceeds will benefit United Through Reading®, a nonprofit organization that video records deployed U.S. military personnel reading bedtime stories for their children.

Letters From Home will be available in bookstores and through online retailers tomorrow. A multi-generational read, it’s a remembrance of gratitude owed to the past — a most lovely, entertaining reminder.

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[For the third consecutive week in a row Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters) and Caroline Leavtitt (Pictures of You) are on The New York Times Bestseller List. To meet these authors when they hit the road again in early March and throughout the spring, please check Eleanor’s Events and Caroline’s Appearances (scroll down the page). ]

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Kristina McMorris’s Letters from Home 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, February 23, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EST with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.