Monday, August 29, 2016

ROOT, PETAL, THORN, by author, ELLA JOY OLSEN

In this beautifully written and powerful debut novel, Ella Joy Olsen traces the stories of five fascinating women who inhabit the same historic home over the course of a century—braided stories of love, heartbreak and courage connect the women, even across generations.
 
Ivy Baygren has two great loves in her life: her husband, Adam, and the bungalow they buy together in one of the oldest neighborhoods in Salt Lake City, Utah. From the moment she and Adam lay eyes on the home, Ivy is captivated by its quaint details—the old porch swing, ornate tiles, and especially an heirloom rose bush bursting with snowy white blossoms. Called the Emmeline Rose for the home’s original owner, it seems yet another sign that this place will be Ivy’s happily-ever-after…Until her dreams are shattered by Adam’s unexpected death.
 
Striving to be strong for her two children, Ivy decides to tackle the home-improvement projects she and Adam once planned. Day by day, as she attempts to rebuild her house and her resolve, she uncovers clues about previous inhabitants, from a half-embroidered sampler to buried wine bottles. And as Ivy learns about the women who came before her—the young Mormon torn between her heart and anti-polygamist beliefs, the Greek immigrant during World War II, a troubled single mother in the 1960s—she begins to uncover the lessons of her own journey. For every story has its sadness, but there is also the possibility of blooming again, even stronger and more resilient than before…

Some Q & A with Ella:


1.  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m the mom of three teens: A boy who leaves for college a week before my book hits the shelves, one sixteen-year-old girl who is a teen cliché (but we still love her madly), one who barely became a teen and would like to find at least one armpit hair (nothing yet). I have a super supportive husband who also works from home, so we wear matching bathrobes all day long and meet in the kitchen at noon for frozen burritos. I also have two dogs who, I swear, smile at me every time I look at them (more than I can say for the teens).

I live in Salt Lake City, Utah and I based my first two books in my neighborhood which is full of old houses and history. I’ve always loved imagining scenes from the past when exploring an ancient place (you can only imagine how long pondered the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris), so when we searched for our home, I insisted we buy one which spoke to the passage of time. My husband groaned about the old wiring and I squealed about the porch swing. Guess who won?

2.    What are some things you enjoy when not writing?

I love to travel (see above – I have an obsession with historic locations). I spend as much time in the mountains near my home as I can. And I adore all things summer (outdoor concerts, al fresco dining, art festivals, family reunions, farmers markets, cold drinks with a kick). And I read, like crazy.

3.    Can you tell us how you started writing and your challenges in getting your first book published?

I was one of those nose-in-book kids. Of course, I tried to write back in the day. I would complete one opening chapter, exactly like the book I was currently reading (names and location changed). Then I would stop writing, as I realized how hard it was, and I would pick up another book. Throughout junior high and high school I scripted angsty-teen poetry and diary entries full of broken hearts and 1980’s pop-culture. As an adult, I wrote hundreds of two-page analyses on the financial stability of publically held companies – and died a little every day.

After my youngest kiddo started first grade, I decided to teach myself how to write a novel. Not so easy. It was slow going at first, maybe three hours a week. When I finally typed THE END I didn’t realize I was actually at the beginning.

Years of rewrites, querying and rejection followed. I developed a thick skin, likely rewrote the entire book several times, and sent hundreds of query letters. It took me almost eight years from conception to publication.

4.    What are you working on now?

Currently I’m working on a “sister” book, publishing September 2017. The title is: WHERE THE SWEET BIRD SINGS. It’s not a sequel but a linked book, sharing a couple common characters. Here’s the elevator pitch:

Though she has a loving husband, Emma Hazelton is adrift, struggling to rebuild her life after a tragedy. But one day, a simple question and an old black-and-white photograph prompt Emma to untangle the branches of her family tree, where she discovers a legacy of secrets. Where the Sweet Bird Sings explores the meaning of family and identity. What connects us to another? Is it shared history? Is it ancestry? Or is it love?

5.    Is anything in your book based on real life experiences?

Oh, don’t get me started. Root, Petal, Thorn takes place in a hundred-year-old bungalow and traces the stories of five women who lived in the home over a century. The location is based on my own home, in my own neighborhood.
Some unknown family inhabited my beloved home when the Titanic sunk, on V-E day, when JFK was assassinated, when the Beatles performed on Ed Sullivan – and all the years in between. So I started imagining. Then I started writing. And a story was born. The characters, by the way, are entirely fictional. Their lives are much more interesting than mine.

6.    Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

The easiest advice to give and the hardest advice to follow is: Just Keep Writing. If you give up, the book you want to write will never be written. There are oodles of times you’ll want to quit: after someone insists your main character is unlikeable, after a red-pen session with a beta reader, after you read a gorgeously written book and realize yours is nothing like it, after your hundredth query rejection, after you celebrate selling your book to a publisher then realize you’ve been paid essentially $.07 per hour for your hard word, after you realize you must spend most of said advance to promote your own book, after your first bad review…

7.    Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans?

Please read my book! Too desperate. Read it, love it, and write a fantastic review! Too direct. Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy! Better. I’d love to connect!

Twitter: @ellajoyolsen

Goodreads: goodreads.com/author/show/14740197.Ella_Joy_Olsen







Tuesday, August 16, 2016

THE MEMORY OF US by author, CAMILLE DI MAIO

Julianne Westcott was living the kind of life that other Protestant girls in prewar Liverpool could only dream about: old money, silk ball gowns, and prominent young men lining up to escort her. But when she learns of a blind-and-deaf brother, institutionalized since birth, the illusion of her perfect life and family shatters around her.
While visiting her brother in secret, Julianne meets and befriends Kyle McCarthy, an Irish Catholic groundskeeper studying to become a priest. Caught between her family’s expectations, Kyle’s devotion to the Church, and the intense new feelings that the forbidden courtship has awakened in her, Julianne must make a choice: uphold the life she’s always known or follow the difficult path toward love.
But as war ripples through the world and the Blitz decimates England, a tragic accident forces Julianne to leave everything behind and forge a new life built on lies she’s told to protect the ones she loves. Now, after twenty years of hiding from her past, the truth finds her—will she be brave enough to face it?

Some Q & A with Camille:

Tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you started writing.  
I was the kid who went to the library at recess, and by age twelve I knew that I wanted to be an author.  I wrote a few short stories as a teen, and some blog posts as an adult.  But, I decide to really go for it a few years ago, and start a novel.

What are some things you enjoy when not writing?
First, I'm a reader, which fuels the writing.  Second, I'm a traveler.  I'm a bit addicted to travel.  I've been to four continents and most of the states, and my bucket list is endless.  I enjoy farmers markets, local artisan crafts, and anything with chocolate.

Do you have a ‘day job’ as well?
My husband and I have been in real estate for seventeen years, originally as property managers and then as Realtors.  We've recently brought on a few buyer's agents so that it can free me up for more writing time.  I also homeschool our four children.

Where do you get your ideas?
I am most inspired to write when I'm traveling, but inspiration can come from just being a good observer of life.  Once I'm working on a story, I'm pretty focused, but if something crosses my mind that would be great i a book, I keep a list of notes and observations to draw from in the future.  

Is there a particular author or book that influenced or inspired your writing or decision to write?  
Here's the long answer.  I was most blown away by a debut novel called Olivia and Jai by Rebecca Ryman.  In my opinion, it's perfect in every way.  It made me want to write.  I have also been intrigued by the British classics for years, particularly Jane Eyre.  I love its bittersweet ending, and made me love books that are not always perfectly happy.  Finally, I was greatly influenced by the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer. Not so much the books, but the author's process. She wrote them while she was at swim team practice with her kids, and I thought, "If she can do it, I can do it"!  She also wrote scenes as she was inspired to do so, and did not write chronologically.  I thought that was fascinating, and used that technique myself. 

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
I queried my first draft, just so excited that I had written a whole manuscript.  I knew very little about the craft of writing, and I had tons of rejections.  But, I did have a goal to be traditionally published, so I went to conferences and took classes and learned how to make it better and better.  When I felt (years later) that it was finally ready, I queried six agents, and two were interested in it!  The lesson in that is to keep editing until you get your yes.  

If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you’d change?
This is the kind of answer that we can all give in hindsight, but I don't want to change anything because it got me to where I am.  It was not easy, and I would not look back and wish that it had been easy - there is no growth in that.

How do you market your work?
My publisher is a marketing dynamo, and their philosophy is that writers should write.  However, I do love interacting with readers, so I'm on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Instagram, and various reading sites.  That is certainly good for some sales, but I really enjoy those for the relationships.

What are you working on now?
I am turning in my second novel, BEFORE THE RAIN FALLS, to my editor this week, so in the time before I get that back, I'm plotting my third book.  It will be set in New York City between 1900 and 1960, and follow a very interesting part of the city's history.  I can't wait to dig in to it.

Is anything in your book based on real life experiences?
There are a few tidbits that came from my life - squeezing hands three times to say "I love you" silently, baking cinnamon rolls, and a few other things.  But, the plot and characters are not.

Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?
My favorite scene is one in which my main character, Julianne, gets in to a heated argument with her father.  There are many deceptions and hypocrisies that are revealed, and I feel that it's my most authentic dialogue.  When I read that scene, I forget that I wrote it. 

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Be humble.  I understand that this is our art, and that a piece of us is put in to these book babies.  But if you want to be a successful, paid author, you have to be humble enough to admit a few things:  1.  This will ultimately be the work of many people - you, your editors, your cover artist, your publicist, etc.  2.  Those in the business have been it longer than you have - listen to their wisdom.  3. Brainstorming is your friend - others may see a possibility in the story that you don't - be open to suggestions! 

What are the downfalls of your writing career? The best parts?
I wouldn't call this a downfall, but I would say that writing the second book on a deadline was a different experience than writing the first book, when it was only for me.  It definitely gave it a sense of urgency that the first one didn't.  The best part is that I feel like I'm doing what I was meant to do - I've found my vocational purpose.

Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans?
Thank you so much for your enthusiasm and support.  It means a great deal to keep in touch through social media, and I'm appreciative of the reviews.  The reader/author relationship is one I value greatly - both as a reader and an author!

Camille Di Maio - Author

THE MEMORY OF US (May 2016)
BEFORE THE RAIN FALLS (May 2017)

Visit my Amazon Author Page:  amazon.com/author/camilledimaio
Visit my website:  http://camilledimaio.com/
Follow me on Twitter:  https://twitter.com/CamilleDiMaio
Follow me on Instagram:  https://instagram.com/camilledimaio/




Tuesday, August 2, 2016

A GIRL LIKE YOU, by author, Michelle Cox

Henrietta Von Harmon works as a 26 girl at a corner bar, Poor Pete’s, on Chicago’s northwest side.  It’s 1935, but things still aren’t looking up since the big crash and her father’s subsequent suicide.  Left to care for her antagonistic mother and younger siblings, Henrietta is persuaded to take a job as a taxi dancer at a local dance hall.  Henrietta is just beginning to enjoy herself, dancing with men for ten cents a dance, when the floor matron suddenly turns up murdered.  The aloof Inspector Clive Howard then appears on the scene, and Henrietta unwittingly finds herself involved in unraveling the mystery when she agrees to go undercover for him.

Even as Henrietta is plunged into Chicago’s grittier underworld, she struggles to still play mother “hen” to her younger siblings and even to the pesky neighborhood boy, Stanley, who believes himself in love with her and continues to pop up in the most unlikely places, determined, ironically, to keep Henrietta safe, even from the Inspector if needs be.  Despite his efforts, however, and his penchant for messing up the Inspector’s investigation, the lovely Henrietta and the impenetrable Inspector find themselves drawn to each other in most unsuitable ways.


A Girl Like You has received two starred reviews from Library Journal and Booklist and placed as a Finalist in Romance in the 2016 Next Gen Awards.  It has also been listed as a top spring read by Your Tango, Popsugar, Culturist, and Buzzfeed and is currently enjoying its second print run.  Book two of the series, A Ring Of Truth, will be released Spring 2017.


Some Q & A with Michelle:

Tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you started writing.
I was always trying to write stories as a kid, but they never seemed to pan out.  My favorite thing to do was to try to imitate Louisa May Alcott, but nothing lived up to my expectation, so I decided to try to illustrate her stories instead.   I guess I could endure bad art better than bad writing! 
Seriously, though, I spent my high school years wanting to be a writer, but never thought I was good enough, so I pursued science instead.  It wasn’t until I was two years into college that I decided to be true to myself and got a literature degree.  Then I got married and had kids, and writing took a back seat again.  Only recently, really, in 2012 did I decide that the time was now, that I was finally ready to devote a small portion (little did I know that it would grow into a HUGE portion) of my time to try my hand at writing. 
I’d like to think that I was merely following the advice of one of my lit professors who instructed us not to even attempt to write a novel until we were at least forty; however, that’s not exactly true, that’s just how it happened.   

What are some things you enjoy when not writing? 
You mean before the books took over my life?  Well, of course I love reading, but I also enjoy gardening, baking and board games, especially long strategy games.  I also love craft beer!

Do you have a ‘day job’ as well?
My “day job” is being a full-time mom of three kids, though the youngest is ten now, so it’s getting easier.  Now I try to make writing be my day job, and the house/kid manager thing more my evening job.  I start writing/editing/promotional work when they get on the bus at 6:50 am and stop when they get home at 2:20.  Not a lot of time, so I have to make every second count!

Where do you get your ideas?
I used to work in a nursing home about 25 years ago, and I have a huge collection of stories from my time there.  They are the basis of my blog, “Novel Notes of Local Lore,” which is dedicated to Chicago’s forgotten residents. 
There was one woman I met there in particular, however, that I used as the basis for Henrietta, the heroine of A Girl Like You.  She was such a lively, spirited person and had such a fascinating story that I took some of the details of her life and wove them into the novel.  

Is there a particular author or book that influenced or inspired your writing or decision to write?
My favorite books have always been the classics, which I’ve been reading since I was about ten.  Dickens and Trollope are my ultimate favorites.  It’s funny because rather than inspiring me to write, they actually inspired me NOT to write.  I knew I could never write anything as good as that, so I didn’t bother trying.  It wasn’t until I was about 40-something and I had just had my third child when my brain suddenly fried—as it does—and I decided I needed something lighter to read, something modern.  So after exploring contemporary fiction a bit, I decided that I could probably give it a shot and be half decent!

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
Well, in the style of the great classic authors, my first foray into the publishing world was to write a gigantic novel called Love’s Labor Found, which clocked in at 224,000 words.  Imagine my surprise when not one agent out of the 200 I queried was the slightest bit interested!  Rather than split up my baby into thirds, I decided to write something, well, shorter and more marketable.  And voila—A Girl Like You was born. 
Rather than submit this one to agents or the Big 5, both of which I was kind of soured on now, I decided to go down a different path.  I submitted it to a hybrid/indie press, She Writes, and they took it!

If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you’d change?
Not really.  I’ve had a great experience with She Writes Press so far.  It is a wonderful community of women who offer a lot of education about the industry and support.  The creative control that the authors have over their work is amazing; it truly is a partnership.   I’ve enjoyed the relationship so much that I just signed the contract with them for Book 2 of the series, A Ring of Truth.

How do you market your work?
I work with a publicist, Crystal Patriarche of Booksparks.  They’ve done fabulous job, I think, in getting my book and my name out there.

What are you working on now?
Currently, I’m working on the edits for A Ring of Truth—the second in the Henrietta and Inspector Howard series, which is due out next April.  I’ve already written Book 3, and I’d like to start writing Book 4 soon; I just need to find some time!  Maybe this Fall I’ll free up a little.  That’s the plan, anyway.

Is anything in your book based on real life experiences?
Well, as I’ve said above, I did base a lot of Henrietta’s story on an 81-year-old woman I met in a nursing home.  Obviously, the book is fictional, especially since it’s a murder mystery, but I used several details from this woman’s life to build the framework of the story. 
For example, this woman used to like to follow me around the nursing home and tell me that “once upon a time,” she had had “a man-stopping body and a personality to go with it!”  That cracked me up every time, and I just knew I had to put it into the novel—hence Henrietta’s stunning beauty.  There were other elements as well that I “borrowed,” such as Henrietta’s family history, the burlesque club, and even the side character of Stanley, in a roundabout way.  There’s more, but I don’t want to give too much away!

Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?
I’d have to say that one of my favorite chapters is probably Chapter 7 because it includes all of the key elements:  suspense, humor, romance, intrigue.  Also, several of the plot lines converge here, so it’s very fun and exciting. 

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Don’t do it!  No, just kidding.  The only thing I can say is to try to write something that you – not the rest of the world – would enjoy sitting down and reading.  That’s when I think you write the best – as your truest self.

Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans?
I hope you stay with the series.  In my opinion, each book gets better and better.  My favorite—so far!—is Book 3.  So hang in there!

Bio:

Michelle Cox holds a B.A. in English literature from Mundelein College, Chicago, and is the author of the award-winning, A Girl Like You, the first in the Henrietta and Inspector Howard series.  She is known for her wildly popular blog, “How to Get Your Book Published in 7,000 Easy Steps—A Practical Guide” as well as her charming “Novel Notes of Local Lore,” a blog dedicated to Chicago’s forgotten residents.  Michelle lives with her husband and three children in the Chicago suburbs.

Links:

Twitter: @michellecox33



Tuesday, July 19, 2016

DON'T YOU CRY, by author, MARY KUBICA

In downtown Chicago, a young woman named Esther Vaughan disappears from her apartment without a trace. A haunting letter addressed to My Dearest is found among her possessions, leaving her friend and roommate Quinn Collins to wonder where Esther is and whether or not she's the person Quinn thought she knew.

Meanwhile, in a small Michigan harbor town an hour outside Chicago, a mysterious woman appears in the quiet coffee shop where eighteen-year-old Alex Gallo works as a dishwasher. He is immediately drawn to her charm and beauty, but what starts as an innocent crush quickly spirals into something far more dark and sinister than he ever expected.

As Quinn searches for answers about Esther, and Alex is drawn further under the stranger's spell, master of suspense Mary Kubica takes readers on a taut and twisted thrill ride that builds to a stunning conclusion and shows that no matter how fast and far we run, the past always catches up with us in the end.

If you haven’t read Mary Kubica yet, you need to start right this minute, with DON’T YOU CRY. This riveting psychological thriller had me turning the pages at warp-speed and kept me rooting for its heroine, the completely relatable Quinn Collins, who sets out to uncover the truth about her seemingly-perfect female roommate after the roommate mysteriously vanishes. The plot twists and turns more than Single White Female on steroids, and both women characters are crafted with emotional intelligence and extraordinary talent. Mary Kubica is a must-read for me, and she will be for you, too. ~ Lisa Scottoline, New York Times bestselling author of Every Fifteen Minutes

Don’t You Cry, an artfully crafted, wickedly smart page-turner about the razor thin line between suspicion and obsession, will keep you glued to its pages–and guessing wrong about who to trust–until its breathless ending. ~ Kimberly McCreight, New York Times bestselling author of Reconstructing Amelia, and Where They Found Her

Some Q & A with Mary:

1.    Tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you started writing.
I’m a mother of two and a former high school history teacher.  I’ve been writing since I was a little girl and have a secret stash of incomplete manuscripts hidden away in my basement, none of which will ever see the light of day.  I began working on my first novel, The Good Girl, in 2005 after I left my teaching career to start a family.

2.    What are some things you enjoy when not writing?
I volunteer at a local animal shelter, which – aside from my family and writing – is a passion of mine.  I photograph all incoming animals for our shelter’s website, and foster cats and kitten in my home.  I also enjoy reading (of course!), running and spending time with my family. 

3.    Do you have a ‘day job’ as well?
I don’t.  I made the decision to be a stay-at-home mom when my oldest was born and am fortunate enough to now have a writing career that I can do from home.

4.    Where do you get your ideas?
Generally they stem from my imagination and begin as a small concept that I shape and mold over time.  My forth novel, which will release in 2017, was the first that came from a news headline I read about how a toddler’s dreams helped solve the mystery of her father’s death.  My interest was piqued; I knew there was a novel there.

5.    Is there a particular author or book that influenced or inspired your writing or decision to write?
There really isn’t one in particular, but as a writer of psychological suspense, one of my favorites is S.J. Watson’s Before I Go To Sleep.  He truly sets the bar high for the genre.  I often mention Anita Shreve’s The Last Time They Met as well.  Though it isn’t a suspense novel, it has one of those killer endings that makes you question everything you’ve just read.  I haven’t read the book in many, many years, but I still think about the ending and how much it affected me, and hope to emulate that feeling in my readers with surprise twists. 

6.    Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
Yes!  After I wrote The Good Girl I submitted it to at least a hundred agents, all of whom passed on it.  I was sure the book would never be published, until two years later when one of the agents reached back out to me to see if the book was still available.  As it turned out, she had been recently promoted and actively seeking out authors and books, and she remembered The Good Girl for all that time.  It was a dream come true. 

7.    If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you’d change?
No, I honestly am thrilled with the way everything has turned out.  I feel very fortunate for the success of my novels and to be working with such a phenomenal publishing team.

8.    How do you market your work?
For the most part, I rely on the wonderful publicity team at Harlequin Books for that, but I love to connect with my readers on social media, and to attend book clubs in person or via Skype.  I think that personal contact is so important with readers and makes me something other than just a name on a book.

9.    What are you working on now?
I’ve just finished my forth novel which will release in the summer of 2017.  It’s about a man who is killed in a car crash with his four-year-old daughter in the backseat, unharmed.  The crash is ruled an accident until the coming days when the little girl begins having nightmares about a car following and pushing them from the road, and the man’s widow sets off to find his killer. 

10. Is anything in your book based on real life experiences?
No, completely fictional!

11. Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?
Generally my first and last chapters are my favorites to write.  The first I love because it’s a fresh start, and the last I enjoy because it feels like such a huge accomplishment – all the time and energy spent on the manuscript has come down to this one scene.

12. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Be patient and be persistent!  It can take hundreds of rejections and many years to find an agent or publisher.  Don’t give up.  You only have to find one agent to love your work, so keep going until you find that one.

13. What are the downfalls of your writing career? The best parts?
Travel can be tricky at times.  It’s hard to be away from my family – logistically and personally.  I don’t want to miss out any moments in their lives, and finding childcare can prove difficult at times.  But I love connecting with readers, I love creating characters and watching them morph into something new on the page.  I love that my greatest passion is now my career.  It almost feels too good to be true. 

14. Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans?
Just a huge thank you for all the support for my novels over the last few years!  It’s readers who determine the success of a book, and mine wouldn’t be what they are without terrific fans.  Thank you, thank you!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

THE TWO-FAMILY HOUSE, by author, LYNDA COHEN LOIGMAN


Brooklyn, 1947: in the midst of a blizzard, in a two-family brownstone, two babies are born, minutes apart. The mothers are sisters by marriage with an impenetrable bond forged before and during that dramatic night. When the storm passes, everyone seems to have gotten what they wanted, but the truth is not that simple. The consequences of that night, of one misguided choice, shape the course of the families – friendships unravel, marriages change and even the sacred bonds between mothers and children are tested. No one knows why, and no one can stop it, but everyone’s lives have been shaped by that evening.

From debut novelist Lynda Cohen Loigman comes The Two-Family House, a moving family saga filled with heart, longing, love, and mystery.


“It’s hard to believe The Two-Family House is Lynda Cohen Loigman’s debut novel. A richly textured, complex, yet entirely believable story, it draws us inexorably into the lives of two brothers and their families in 1950s Brooklyn, New York…. As compelling as the story line are the characters that Loigman has drawn here. None is wholly likable nor entirely worthy of scorn. All are achingly human, tragically flawed and immediately recognizable. We watch them change and grow as the novel spans more than 20 years….engrossing from beginning to end.”

―The Associated Press (As seen on ABCNews.com, The Washington Post, San Diego Union Tribune, Daily Mail, The Daily Journal)

Q & A with Lynda:

Is anything in your book based on real life experiences?

I have been asked this question more times than I can count, and I think it’s because The Two-Family House is truly a family story. The characters are people many readers seem to recognize from their own families. Whenever anyone tells me that they have a relative who is exactly like Abe or Mort, it always makes me smile.

The truth is, the people in the novel are not based on anyone from my actual family. My mom did grow up in a two-family house in Brooklyn with cousins living downstairs, but in that house, all six children were girls. Helen is not my grandmother and Rose is not my great-aunt. The men are not based on men I have known in real life. But still, certain anecdotes and even objects from my own life have made their way into the pages of the story.

In the novel, Helen talks with her brother Sol about weekly childhood visits with their grandmother. Their grandmother came once a week to babysit, and when she came, she always brought a small chocolate cake with a candied cherry on top. In real life, my grandmother really did visit every Saturday afternoon with a small chocolate cake for my brother and me. Every week, my brother and I fought over that cherry, and every week, my grandmother insisted that my brother should have it.

When I was young, my grandmother spoke openly about how much she adored my brother. He was the first grandchild, after all, and a boy. Hers was a preference that stemmed from both cultural influences and the fact that she had three daughters and no sons. My grandmother’s feelings were part of the inspiration for The Two-Family House, and because of that, it felt right to include the anecdote about the cake in the story.  

In terms of real life objects that I mention in the novel, the most significant one is Rose’s recipe box. In one of the early chapters of the book, Rose is sitting at her table with a recipe box, trying to figure out what to make for dinner. Because Mort is spending the night away on business, Rose is free to stray from the family’s weekly menu schedule that Mort has insisted on since the beginning of their marriage. The recipe box belonged to Rose’s mother and she describes it as her mother’s “touchstone.” Rose talks to the recipe box as if her mother was inside it, “like a genie in a bottle.”

When my own mother passed away nine years ago, I took her recipe box home with me in my suitcase. To this day, it is one of my most treasured possessions because, for me, it represents the true essence of my mother. It is precious to me in a way that I could never fully explain, and I suppose that is part of why I included it in my novel – I could describe Rose’s feelings for her mother’s recipe box much more easily than I could ever describe my own.

I believe that all writers draw from their own lives in their work, even when the stories they write are not based on real life experiences. For me, this is certainly true. The fact that I have chosen to include pieces of my real life in my novel has made me feel slightly more vulnerable about sharing it with the world, but it has also made the process of sharing it more meaningful.

Some info about Lynda:

Lynda Cohen Loigman grew up in Longmeadow, MA. She received a B.A. in English and American Literature from Harvard College and a J.D. from Columbia Law School. She is now a student of the Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College, and lives with her husband and two children in New York.


My website is located here: http://lyndacohenloigman.com/
My twitter is here: https://twitter.com/lyndacloigman
My instagram is here: https://www.instagram.com/lloigman/




Tuesday, June 28, 2016

UNTETHERED, by author, JULIE LAWSON TIMMER

UNTETHERED tells the story of Char Hawthorn, the stepmother to a fifteen-year-old, Allie. Before the book begins, Char’s husband dies, leaving open the question of who Allie should live with--Char, the devoted stepmom who has raised Allie full-time for the past five years but has no legal rights to her, or Allie's self-involved bio mom, who lives across the country and has never been interested in parenting, yet who now has sole legal rights to the teenager. While this situation plays out, Char and Allie get swept up in the life of a ten-year-old girl, Morgan, who was adopted out of foster care and then subsequently “rehomed” by her adoptive parents.

Reviews:
"Timmer handles the sensitive, emotionally charged nature of her plot with reverence and openness, avoiding harsh judgments. Untethered is a beautiful mosaic of love’s many fragments, no matter how shattered." Library Journal (starred review)

"[A] thoughtfully written and ultimately uplifting celebration of families that are not bound by blood or by law but by love." Kirkus Reviews

"Harper Lee famously wrote that you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. In Untethered, Julie Lawson Timmer makes mincemeat of this old chestnut, proving that a modern family can indeed consist of people who find their own way to each other, however circuitously. The pulse of the story is in the journey, and the triumph is in the unexpectedness of the destination. If you’re inclined to gently strong-arm your book club, Timmer’s is a poignant page-turner worth going to the mat for." Elizabeth Egan, author of A Window.


Tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you started writing.

I am a just-turned-50 mom/stepmom to 4 teens. I live with my husband, Dan, and two of those teens (two are in college) in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I grew up in Stratford, Ontario, but have now been living in the states for longer than I lived in Canada.
I made some lazy efforts to write at various stages of my life, but the year I was turning 45, I decided I needed to buckle down and really make it happen. A few months before my birthday, I decided I would not turn 45 without a completed draft of a novel. Having that deadline in mind was a huge help. Also at that time, I lost a friend to cancer, and her death inspired me to write my debut novel, FIVE DAYS LEFT (I dedicated the book to her). Having my friend as a guiding light was incredibly motivating. Any time I considered giving up, I thought about her, and pictured the dedication page which I knew from the start would have her name on it, and that was enough for me to sit back at the computer and keep writing.

What are some things you enjoy when not writing?

I love reading and spending time with Dan and the kids. I’m interested in personal fitness, and spend time taking classes (spinning, barre, Pilates, yoga, etc) at a terrific gym in town. I’m a recovering CrossFitter and often do “TimmerFit” with Dan, who has rigged our basement up into his own personal CrossFit gym. I also love spending time at my favorite place on earth, our cottage north of Ann Arbor. We have no Internet or TV up there so we completely unplug--relaxing, reading, sleeping in. It makes me smile just to type that! 

Do you have a ‘day job’ as well?

Yes. I’m a lawyer, and I work as in-house legal counsel for an automotive company. In 2015, I went part-time at work, and this has made a huge difference in my life! I used to write from 4am-6am every morning, and now, thanks to the additional days at home, I can sleep until a much more sane hour.

Where do you get your ideas?

Some materialize in my head based on a fleeting notion about a character--I tend to start with characters and build stories around them. But some ideas have come from friends, and one in particular (also a writer) who has a wonderful habit of sending me articles she thinks I should base stories around. My newest book, UNTETHERED, came from one such article.

Is there a particular author or book that influenced or inspired your writing or decision to write?

Margaret Atwood. When I was just out of law school, I read CAT’S EYE, about a regular girl growing up in Southwest Ontario. Until then, I hadn’t thought that I, a regular girl who grew up in Southwest Ontario, had anything to write about. Reading that novel made me see that it’s not so much in the story--explosions! Disaster! Mystery!--but in the telling, and the characters, and finding a common human emotion or experience that readers can identify with.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

Oy! I queried easily 100 literary agents before I landed my agent. I was shopping around FIVE DAYS LEFT, my debut novel. That took about 2 years, during which I rewrote and rewrote and rewrote the book so thoroughly that its final form bears almost no resemblance to the first draft. My journey from agent to publication was short--21 days!--so no complaints from me there. It was the querying that was exhausting. I became an expert in receiving rejection.

If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you’d change?

I would be sure to celebrate every single step more, and to worry less about the steps to come. This is the advice I give to people who have a first book coming out: cherish the exciting moments and try not to let yourself be consumed with the stress of impending deadlines, publicity requirements, etc. This is a lifelong dream for most of us, yet we can manage to turn it into drudgery if we fail to remind ourselves to stop, breathe, smile, celebrate.

How do you market your work?

Ha - not very well! I’m the worst when it comes to selling my book. Usually, in response to the question, “What’s your book about?” I’ll answer by talking about someone else’s book, and hand selling that. I’m much more comfortable promoting other authors than I am in promoting myself. For this reason, I rely on the publisher’s marketing and publicity, and with UNTETHERED, I’ve also used an outside publicist. 

What are you working on now?

I’m doing publicity for my second book, UNTETHERED, which came out in June, and I’m about to start edits on my third book, MRS. SAINT AND THE DEFECTIVES, which comes out summer 2017.

Is anything in your book based on real life experiences?

Yes. UNTETHERED is told from the point of view of a stepmom, and I’m a stepmom. It also tells about the practice of “rehoming,” which is, sadly, a real-life phenomenon involving adoptive parents giving away their adopted children through ads they place on the Internet.

Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?

Good question. I always tend to like endings, as they wrap everything up, and I feel UNTETHERED ends in a satisfying way.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Be careful about taking writing advice from other people, including me! We all have to find what works for us. I hear about a lot of writing “rules” and I fear some aspiring writers take those to heart. I’m a believer in making up your own rules based on trial and error. I don’t write every day, for example, and that is often the #1 rule in any list. It doesn’t work for me, so I don’t do it. 

What are the downfalls of your writing career? The best parts?

A downside I’m really feeling this summer is the sense that I never have a day, or even an hour, off. “I should be writing” is a phrase that haunts me every time I sit down to watch a movie or read a book or do anything that’s not writing. That’s a problem when, as I’ve said above, writing daily doesn’t really work for me. But it also doesn’t work for me to feel guilty on days I take off. I’m trying to figure out a way to assign myself days off and take them without guilt.

Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans?

I am so grateful for readers, fans, book bloggers, booksellers, librarians and (to the extent not covered by those categories) family and friends. Support from these groups is not something I ever take for granted. Every email or phone call or post on social media from someone who enjoyed what I wrote is an absolute gift.


Julie's Social Media:

Twitter: @JulieLTimmer
Instagram: JulieLawsonTimmer (https://www.instagram.com/julielawsontimmer/)