Wednesday, December 2, 2020


Can love blossom after life changes in an instant? One July morning in Manhattan, handsome athlete and entrepreneur Phoenix Walker accompanies his love, half-Asian beauty Orchid, to the airport.

Neither believes today is goodbye. But after she leaves, disaster strikes. Phoenix wakes in the hospital, broken, forever changed. He longs for Orchid but remembers the tragedy in her past that makes her panic over images of trauma.

Now, he's faced with the hardest decision of his life. Does he burden the woman whose traumatic childhood makes him feel protective of her? Or does true love mean leaving her without explaining why?

Rising from ashes is hard. Giving up the one you love is harder.


"A richly detailed story of star-crossed lovers...all told with unforgettable heart and insight."
-Caroline LeavittNew York Times Bestselling author of Pictures of You, Cruel Beautiful World and With or Without You

"A book full of soul and heart about love, loss and redefining oneself. I adored this modern, important take on the power of love."
-Karin Tanabe, author of A Hundred Suns

"Goodbye Orchid tugs at readers' heartstrings and takes us on an emotional roller-coaster ride through this serious romance, layered with trauma and lost love. The characters--including Phoenix's twin brother and friends--are richly drawn, and the themes are timeless. But it's the story that kept me turning those pages and hoping for a satisfying ending. Van Den Hende did not disappoint."
-Susan Cushman, author of Friends of the Library, and Cherry Bomb

Some Q & A with Carol ~

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

Hi, I’m Carol Van Den Hende, which seems like a mouthful but is pronounced just the way it looks. Fun fact: if you meet me in person, you wouldn’t necessarily associate me with a Dutch last name (hint, I married into it!)

I’ve always been an imaginative person, and have been writing since I was a kid. True story: I wanted to be an English major in college but my traditional Chinese family persuaded me to use my math and science skills towards an engineering major. No regrets though, as I’ve loved my career path, and am thrilled to have come full circle back to writing now.

This article from Mensa shares my lessons from those diverse paths:

What are some things you enjoy when not writing?

Outside of being an author, I’m also a speaker, Climate Reality Leader, Board member, strategist at Mars Incorporated, and most importantly, a wife and mom of twins. The many hats at work and home keep me busy. The other activity I love is dance; I’m missing the gym a lot!

Do you have a ‘day job’ as well?

I work full-time as a strategist for Mars, and have enjoyed careers there as a marketer and digital technologist. I’ve spent more than 20 years applying my MBA to brands like M&M’S®, TWIX®, 3MUSKETEERS, MILKY WAY®, DOVE® Chocolate and more. I like to say that there’s no “sweeter” job!

What are you working on now?

Readers have loved the characters in Goodbye, Orchid, saying they’re like “new friends,” so I’m working to extend that world into more books. For instance, Phoenix’s tattooed twin, Caleb, has unresolved tension with his ex-girlfriend, latex-wearing Sascha.

What was the most unique research you had to do for a book?

Goodbye, Orchid is well-researched. I’m thankful for the input from medical professionals, psychologists, and survivors who vetted early drafts of Goodbye, Orchid. The story is inspired by combat-wounded veterans, so I’m fortunate to have military heroes both shape the book, and love the finished story. Their endorsements have really touched me:

“As a combat decorated and wounded veteran, I was truly captivated by Carol's amazing storytelling. Goodbye Orchid transported me to my post-war self from fourteen years ago. Phoenix Walker captures the mindset, roller-coaster and daily heroics of my experience after being injured. I could relate from many levels, and even gained new insights from seeing the perspective of loved ones. All around excellence.” —Doc Jacobs, Bronze Star with Valor and Purple Heart-decorated Navy Corpsman, CEO Doc Jacobs Foundation, author There and Back Again

"In this most worthy novel, the protagonists’ lives are shattered and they re-emerge champions, showing a true test of character. Phoenix is fiercely independent and successful until something happens to break him. Everything he knew, everything he was, everything he dreamed of is thrown into chaos. He is all of us, unconquerable until we’re conquered. A tale of sacrifice and rebirth; heroism is in the details.” —SSGT Aaron Michael Grant, author of TAKING BAGHDAD: Victory in Iraq With the US Marines

I’m especially proud that a portion of profits is being donated to charities like USA Cares, to help military veterans and their families.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

I really enjoy helping aspiring and established authors by speaking at writers’ conferences. In December, I’ll be teaching a class for the International Womens’ Writing Guild.  When I speak with writers, I often recommend starting with what you stand for (your personal brand), how that translates into your visual identity (design), and planning your objectives before jumping into tactics. Perseverance also helps!

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

As with many passions, it’s challenging to feel there’s enough time for everything I’d like to do – to capture the myriad story ideas, to reach and respond to so many lovely readers, to meet and support other wonderful authors.

But the lush world of my imagination, and the positive response from readers makes it all worth it!

Readers have touched me with their responses:

such an amazing story written with intricate details and emotional passages that took my heart and tore it to pieces… unputdownable from the first compelling page to the last touching words. Yes, Phoenix and Orchid expanded my heart.”

VanDenHende takes a love story and puts it through so many different emotions that will make you laugh and cry together! I highly recommend this heart wrenching novel but advise you have a box of tissues nearby!”

Could I put Goodbye Orchid down? Absolutely not. The story tore my heart out.”

It’s been especially gratifying to be recognized by multiple awards too, like the American Fiction, Pinnacle, Best Book and IAN awards.

Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?

I love so many, and from talking with book clubs, I know that readers love everything from the inciting incident in Chapter 1, meeting the cast of characters, visiting Walter Reed, all the twists and turns, and especially the emotionally satisfying ending.

Do you have a favorite character?

I love them all, and of course, Phoenix is close to my heart. As reviewers have said, his and Orchid’s story is both “heart-breaking and heartwarming.”

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

Thank you for joining me on this journey. Brain research shows that the same areas light in readers’ brains when lost in a story as the writer’s brain while penning it, so thanks for connecting with writers in this way! When you love a book, please share the joy with other readers by leaving a review.

To connect with Carol ~

Monday, November 23, 2020


A trio of second-born daughters set out to break the family curse that says they’ll never find love on a whirlwind journey through the lush Italian countryside by New York Times bestseller Lori Nelson Spielman, author of The Life List.

Since the day Filomena Fontana cast a curse upon her sister more than two hundred years ago, not one second-born Fontana daughter has found lasting love. Some, like second-born Emilia, the happily-single baker at her grandfather’s Brooklyn deli, claim it’s an odd coincidence. Others, like her sexy, desperate-for-love cousin Lucy, insist it’s a true hex. But both are bewildered when their great-aunt calls with an astounding proposition: If they accompany her to her homeland of Italy, Aunt Poppy vows she’ll meet the love of her life on the steps of the Ravello Cathedral on her eightieth birthday, and break the Fontana Second-Daughter Curse once and for all.

Against the backdrop of wandering Venetian canals, rolling Tuscan fields, and enchanting Amalfi Coast villages, romance blooms, destinies are found, and family secrets are unearthed—secrets that could threaten the family far more than a centuries-old curse.

Praise for The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany ~ 

"A delicious modern fairytale...Bella!"—Adriana Trigiani, New York Times bestselling author of Tony's Wife

A gorgeous blend of family, friendship, and love.”—Chanel Cleeton, New York Times bestselling author of When We Left Cuba 

“A glorious journey through Italy, and the heart...Filled with humor and wisdom, this is a celebration of life, and love.”—Yangsze Choo, New York Times bestselling author of The Night Tiger, a Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick

"There's magic within the pages of Lori Nelson Spielman's charming The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany."—Popsugar

"Mysterious family lore, a heartrending love story, and luminous descriptions of Italy all add up to an utterly captivating read!"—Meg Donohue, USA Today bestselling author of You, Me, and the Sea

“Long-simmering resentments and buried secrets permeate The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany, a romantic, beautifully rendered, sweepingly complex family saga.”―Shelf Awareness

Q & A with Lori ~ 

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

Hi Jill. Thanks so much for having me here today!

I’ve always loved writing, but never really dreamed I’d be a published author. I came from a working-class family, and I’d never met a single author. When I went off to college, my mom suggested I become a teacher or a nurse, both good choices for a working wife and mother. I chose teaching, which I loved. But around the time I turned forty, I started writing a YA book. I signed up for a writing class at a local community college. And suddenly, I’d found my passion. Four books and ten years later, I finally sold my first book, The Life List.

What are some things you enjoy when not writing?

I love music and being out in nature. I love to travel, read, and sail.

Do you have a ‘day job’ as well?

I wrote The Life List while working full-time, but have since retired from my teaching job. Strangely, I almost feel like I was a more productive writer while I was working!

Where do you get your ideas?

I’ve always had an active imagination and was a daydreamer from the get-go. When I see people at random, I often imagine what their lives might be. I prefer to listen rather than talk, and often find inspiration in other people’s lives. I guess the warning is, be careful what you say when you talk to me—it could end up in a book!

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

Every author inspires me, but in particular, Lolly Winston. I was listening to her audiobook, Good Grief, back in 2004. She wrote in first person, present tense, and I thought to myself, ‘I want to write like this!’. A few years ago, I wrote to Lolly, but I’m not sure she received my message. I wanted her to know what an influence she was on my writing.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published (or this book?)

As I mentioned, I’d written three other full-length novels that received nothing but rejection. It’s so hard to get back in the chair and begin again…and again…and again. Each time I received an agent’s rejection letter, I’d say, “Not this one.” Finally, after a thorough but unsuccessful search, I’d lovingly put my manuscript aside and say, “Not this one.” Soon thereafter, after licking my wounds, I’d get back to work.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a new women’s fiction novel set in northern Michigan, about a down-on-her-luck woman who befriends a runaway girl.

What was the most unique research you had to do for a book?

The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany is set in Italy, so of course, I HAD to travel to Venice, and Tuscany, and The Amalfi Coast. I felt I owed it to my readers! I HAD to eat lots of pasta, and drink my fill of local vino, all in the name of research. I’m beginning to think I should set every book in an exotic locale, just for the research experience! J

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

I have a section on my website devoted to writers. My best piece of advice is often the opposite of what most writers receive. I don’t say, “Never give up.” I say, give your book a fair shot. Get impartial critiques. Revise, revise, revise!  Send it out to agents, far and wide. But at some point, if you’re only receiving rejection letters, set the project aside and start a new book. Like any endeavor, it takes years of practice. You will be amazed at how much you’ll improve with each book.

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

I said if I ever got published, I would never complain. Writing is a joy. Hearing from readers is thrilling. But…I’m really uncomfortable self-promoting, and it’s absolutely expected. I believe it was James Cagney who said, “They pay me for the waiting. I throw in the acting for free.” In my case, they pay me for the promoting, I throw in the writing for free!

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

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for welcoming my stories into your lives and onto your bookshelves. You have no idea how much I appreciate you!

And thank YOU, dear Jill. You are a gifted author, a champion of books, and bright light in this world!


To connect with Lori ~ 

FB: @Lorinelsonspielmanauthor

Twitter: @LNSpielman

Insta: @lorinelsonspielman


Tuesday, November 17, 2020

SNOW IN SUMMER by Laura Kemp

Publishing date ~ November 18th!

It’s been a year since Justin Cook defeated an immortal enemy that had hunted her family for generations. Settling into a peaceful life with her boyfriend in the small town of Lantern Creek, Michigan, she hopes to escape the events of the summer before. But the past won’t let go so easily.

When a woman named Amanda Bennett survives a fall from a cliff on Mackinac Island, it triggers a series of events that reawakens the past. Soon Justine and her brother Adam are pulled into a mystery that threatens to destroy the new life they have worked so hard to create. As people begin to die- people only Amanda Bennett can see- Justine must race against time to destroy a dark power she thought she had buried the summer before.

Reviews ~

In ‘Snow in Summer’ Laura Kemp weaves a fast-paced, captivating, and intricate story filled with romance, drama and adventure that’s all wrapped up in a hefty dose of the paranormal. With intrigue and secrets galore, readers will be pulled in from the opening pages, no doubt desperate to solve the multiple mysteries in their race to find out who will survive at the end to tell the tale.       -Hannah Mary McKinnon, Bestselling Author of Sister Dear

A delightfully creative follow up to the wildly popular Evening in the Yellow Wood, yet Snow in Summer stands its own in the hierarchy of memorable, edge-of-your-seat plot twisters, sealing author Laura Kemp’s standing among the authors to watch.     -Claire Fullerton, Award Winning Author of Little Tea and Mourning Dove

Laura Kemp draws you in from the breath-taking prologue, takes you on a mysterious and intriguing journey, and sets you down at the end, a little shaken, but thrilled. In this compelling follow-up to her genre-bending debut, Ms. Kemp has delivered another winner.     -Alison Ragsdale, Bestselling Author of The Art of Remembering 

Q & A with Laura:

What are some things you enjoy when not writing?

I have varied hobbies that include singing, musical theatre and anything to do with the outdoors. I do night hikes and teach about earth science at a camp near my home. I also enjoy riding horses and snowmobiling with my husband. 

Do you have a ‘day job’ as well? 

I am a middle school SPED parapro and I help kids with special needs in math, science, ELA and Social Studies.

Where do you get your ideas?

They kind of come to me if I’m daydreaming. A ‘what if’ scenario. My idea for EYW came to me from my experiences up north when I lived there for the summer. I just took the cool people I met and put a paranormal twist on everything!

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

I never had anyone inspire my decision to write because it has never felt like decision to me. I simply write because I can’t not write. Anita Shreve influenced my writing style. She was so poetic and beautiful and haunting. I hope I’m half as good as she was someday.

How do you market your work?

I market every day on Facebook and Instagram. It’s another full-time job-but one I love.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on Book 3 in the series. About half way done!

Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?

I love the action scenes where my MC’s strength is tested. I love watching her flip the ‘damsel in distress’ trope!

Do you have a favorite character?

I love them all, but Justine is probably my favorite. I relate to her and there is a lot of me in her persona. 

What would your job of choice be if you didn’t write books?

Definitely a park ranger or something to do with teaching earth science.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Don’t give up. Take constructive criticism. Workshop your stuff. Don’t be afraid to get better. Don’t take rejection personally.

Favorite band or music?  Favorite book and/or movie?

I’m in a band so it’s my favorite! Si Bheag Si Mohr. We perform Celtic/Bluegrass.  Favorite book is ‘The Alienist’ by Caleb Carr and favorite movie?? Yikes! I love ‘Casablanca.’ I’m old school all the way.

Place you’d like to travel?

Wow! Everywhere! The Redwood Forest in California, Iceland, Norway, Africa. Anywhere I can find natural beauty.

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

Thanks for loving Woody! It makes my heart happy! 

To connect with Laura: 

Tuesday, November 3, 2020


The bestselling author of Burying the Honeysuckle Girls returns to uncover a faith healer’s elusive and haunted past.

Dove Jarrod was a renowned evangelist and faith healer. Only her granddaughter, Eve Candler, knows that Dove was a con artist. In the eight years since Dove’s death, Eve has maintained Dove’s charitable foundation—and her lies. But just as a documentary team wraps up a shoot about the miracle worker, Eve is assaulted by a vengeful stranger intent on exposing what could be Dove’s darkest secret: murder…

Tuscaloosa, 1934: a wily young orphan escapes the psychiatric hospital where she was born. When she joins the itinerant inspirational duo the Hawthorn Sisters, the road ahead is one of stirring new possibilities. And with an obsessive predator on her trail, one of untold dangers. For a young girl to survive, desperate choices must be made.

Now, to protect her family, Eve will join forces with the investigative filmmaker and one of Dove’s friends, risking everything to unravel the truth behind the accusations against her grandmother. But will the truth set her free or set her world on fire?

Reviews ~ 

“Prepare to be up late with this one; Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters is simply riveting. This is the kind of book where the past has a pulse—and teeth. It’s a page-turner for sure, with well-drawn, complicated characters whose choices linger long after the last page is turned.” —Joshilyn Jackson, New York Times bestselling author of Never Have I Ever

“Emily Carpenter is the reigning queen of Southern Gothic, and Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters is a triumph. Moody, suspenseful, and gorgeously written, this novel takes readers into the seedy, sometimes savage world of Depression-era religious revivals, where believers make easy prey and grifters cloak themselves in the Word. Carpenter’s latest is a riveting tale of class, sex, spirituality, and the heavy burden of family history that lingers long after the final pages. I loved it.” —Julia Dahl, author of Invisible City

“Stretching from the 1930s to present day, Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters is a wild romp through the deep South and the hearts of two women connected by blood, lies, and mystery. Emily Carpenter’s newest novel will hold you in its chilling grip from the eerie beginning to the stop-you-in-your-tracks ending. Carpenter fans will love this one!” —Lauren K. Denton, USA Today bestselling author

“A historical murder mystery, lost memories, and priceless, hidden relics: Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters is an atmospheric, unputdownable Southern Gothic masterpiece. Carpenter’s masterful narrative bounces between young Ruth in 1930s Alabama, her exciting escape from the mental institution that was her childhood home and prison, and her granddaughter searching for hidden truths after her death. This was a well-plotted mystery full of family secrets and Southern atmosphere, and I absolutely could not put it down.” —Wendy Heard, author of The Kill Club

“Stories don’t stop because we turn our backs on them but only an author as gifted and elegant as Emily Carpenter is able to call them back from the shadows. In the wistfully insightful Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters, Carpenter returns to her rich Southern Gothic roots to deliver a tour de force that is both a return to and a reckoning for her beloved Burying the Honeysuckle Girls. Beautiful, mesmerizing, and saturated with suspense.” —Amber Cowie, author of Loss Lake

“This captivating story is a perfect blend of historical fiction and southern gothic. Carpenter deftly weaves past and present story lines, filling both with dramatic tension, atmospheric settings and characters that leap off of the page. I recommend it highly!” —Jane Healey, bestselling author of The Beantown Girls

Q & A with Emily ~

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

I’ve always written but never believed I could be published. I thought maybe you had to live in New York or know people in the publishing industry personally, and I was just a girl from Alabama. By the time I got serious about writing a novel, I realized this wasn’t true in the least. 

What are some things you enjoy when not writing?

I love being with my family...actually just kind of hanging around the house and cooking dinner and doing laundry and all those sorts of caretaking things. Not because I particularly like laundry or cooking (I don’t), but I like to be around when my kids breeze through and suddenly want to talk. Those times are really special, some of my most memorable. I also love horseback riding, going to movies, eating out at elegant restaurants, and sitting around a fire pit with wine and friends. 

Do you have a ‘day job’ as well?

I don’t, actually. I’ve stayed home with my kids since they were born, which I felt like was both a lucky thing but could also be really challenging and confining too at times. Nothing’s perfect. 

Where do you get your ideas?

I have no idea where my ideas come from. They just appear in my head, in varying degrees of completeness and then I go with it.

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

I think every book I ever loved contributed to my desire to write. All my favorite books and authors made me love stories and I just wanted to tell stories like them. Maybe the books I read in my adolescence contributed the most. From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenwieler. The Grounding of Group Six. Flowers in the Attic. Down a Dark Hall. Lots of spooky books!

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


It was actually the third book I’d written - the first book I wrote was rejected by 162 agents! Once I felt like this was the next book I should query, I edited it for a year and then queried agents for another year. When I found my agent at a writers conference, she and I edited it again for a year and a half, I think, to get it just right. 

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?

Nothing at all. It was a fantastic growing, learning experience. 

How do you market your work?

I’ve hired publicists myself for three of my books and have had varying degrees of success with that. Nothing’s guaranteed but an experienced, dedicated publicist can really help focus the campaign for the launch. I also try to engage on Facebook where most of my readers seem to hang out - do some guest-hosting on various book pages and of course just let those interested know when a book has hit a list or gotten a really good review. 

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a book that involves a magic house. That’s all I’m going to say because I don’t want to jinx it. I don’t talk a lot about what I’m writing! I’m superstitious that way. 

Is anything in your book based on real-life experiences?

Maybe minor details, like eating at a particular BBQ restaurant. But no, not the real plot points. Those are pure fiction. 

Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?

Actually the very first chapter - the prologue, where we meet Dove again. 

Do you have a favorite character?

I love Dove and I really get a kick out of Ember, one of the characters in the present-day narrative. 

What would your job of choice be if you didn’t write books?


I literally cannot do anything else other than write so I’d be in dire straights if I had to earn a living another way!


What was the most unique research you had to do for a book?


Definitely creating the app called Jax for UNTIL THE DAY I DIE was really a challenge. I got to talk with a developer who’s created some brilliant apps that have been super successful and it was so informative and fun. Especially because I am so tech-impaired. 

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?


Read in the genre you want to write - and current books, so you can see what’s happening in the marketplace. Books are art but they’re also a commodity, so it’s always smart to see what readers are buying or what stories might be overdone. 


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


I miss the collaboration of theater - which has led me to want to write a play. But that is not so easy, so it’s slow going. The best parts? Living inside and creating a story that is purely your world. And getting to know the writing community. I’ve made some dear friends who are fellow writers. 

Is there any place you'd like to travel?

I went to Scotland right before the pandemic shut-down. And all i can think about is going back! It’s such a dreamy, poetic, wild, and beautiful place. 

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

THANK YOU for allowing me to do what I love. When you buy books and review them, you give me such a gift. It’s my privilege to entertain you, and I hope to get to do it for a long time. 

To connect with Emily ~

FB: Emily Carpenter
Twitter: @EmilyDCarpenter
Instagram: @emily.d.c

Tuesday, October 20, 2020


A mother’s love vs. a doctor’s oath...

Oncologist Emma Blake has dedicated her life to finding a cure for a rare brain cancer. Twenty-five years ago, Emma’s childhood friend Kate died of glioblastoma, and Emma vowed to annihilate the deadly disease. Now, Kate’s father, Ned, is pushing her to work harder to fulfill that promise.

When Emma discovers she’s pregnant, she’s torn between the needs of her family and the demands of her work. While Ned pressures her to do the unthinkable, her husband, Tim, decorates the nursery. Unwilling to abandon her research, Emma attempts to keep both sides of her life in balance.

Emma knows she needs to reconcile her past with her present and walk the fine line between mother and physician. But Ned has a secret, and when Emma discovers what he’s been hiding, the foundation of her world cracks.
Nowhere Near Goodbye is a story of family, failure, and second chances.

Reviews ~ 

Barbara Conrey asks what happens when a doctor's devotion to finding a cure for cancer competes against the expectations of motherhood. The answer is a story I will never forget. Emotional, heartbreaking, and hopeful, Nowhere Near Goodbye is an exciting debut in women's fiction. 
Jennifer Klepper, USA Today Bestseller author of Unbroken Threads

The past versus the present. The desperate needs of a family against the desperate needs of work. And secrets that could derail everything. Conrey's beautifully written novel probes the choices we make - and the choices we regret, and she does it with grace and aplomb.     Caroline Leavitt, New York Times Bestselling author of Pictures of You and With or Without You  

Emma Blake is a character not soon forgotten. NOWHERE NEAR GOODBYE is Emma's story, told with exceptional honesty and heart. Meticulously written, with powerful characters, this debut novel delves into friendship and family, deception and forgiveness, ultimately leading the reader to an emotional but satisfying conclusion. Rebecca Hodge, Author of Wild Land

Some Q & A with Barbara ~ 

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

Well, the first thing you might want to know is that I'm seventy. Actually, I turn 71 next month. So I'm an almost 71-year-old debut author during a global pandemic. Talk about timing!

I've always wanted to write, and I dabbled. I wrote opinion pieces for my local newspaper about my family, searching out the perfect Christmas tree, Thanksgiving dinners that went horribly awry. That kind of thing.

Everything I wrote tended to be humorous, yet when I wrote my debut, Nowhere Near Goodbye, the story leans more on the emotional side.

What are some things you enjoy when not writing?

Reading! I love to read. Almost anything. And then there's buying books. I think I have an addiction; the minute I reach the last page of a book I'm reading, the next one is waiting for me.

I love to be outdoors, so I'd also say hiking – I've hiked most of Vermont and only recently had to start choosing trails that are not so daunting. It's hard to admit that I can't do everything I did twenty years ago.

Do you have a 'day job' as well?

I'm retired. I retired when I was sixty-four and immediately starting writing full time. I so admire younger authors (much younger, I might add) who handle a day job and are raising young children. I do not know how they do it.

Where do you get your ideas?

Well, I can tell you how I got the idea for Nowhere Near Goodbye. A friend of mine lost a loved one to glioblastoma, and she was devasted. The only thing I knew about the disease was that it killed Ted Kennedy, so I started researching it, for no other reason but to commiserate with my friend.

I knew then, and this was probably twenty years ago that I wanted to write a book where the tumor didn't win. Because in real life, the tumor almost always wins.

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

Many authors inspire me: Leif Engle, who wrote Peace Like A River. I've probably read that book three times.

Jodi Picoult, who wrote everything, practically. I own and have read all of her books and what I love most about her is she writes with passion. She writes what she is passionate about, and she's not afraid to use her platform for what she believes in, personally and politically. I joke that I want to be her when I grow up, but the reality is, I'm old enough to be her mother. I think her newest book, The Book of Two Ways, is my absolute favorite.

Robert Dugoni, who wrote The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell. A book so simply written, yet so moving.

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

I'm a practical woman. I dabbled with querying agents. Maybe I sent out a half-dozen letters and received lovely rejection letters. And then I thought about the process of procuring an agent who then had to shop the book around until a publisher was interested, and I decided to skip the middle-man. Not that I don't think agents are essential, I do, but I don't have the kind of time young authors have. By the time an agent and a publisher fell in love with me and my book, I could be dead.

So I started looking at small press publishers, and through talking with other authors who have gone that route, I chose Red Adept Publishing. So I sent my manuscript to them, and they loved 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?

No. I think I did everything the way I was meant to.

How do you market your work?

Marketing is a struggle for me. I'm not at all good at promoting myself and much, much better at promoting others. So I'm still learning what works best; it's a process.

What are you working on now?

I'm working on a prequel to Nowhere Near Goodbye. There's a minor character in my first book, Miss Maggie, and she intrigued me, so I knew I had to write about her to find out what her story is.

Is anything in your book based on real-life experiences?

Just that GBM is real. There's also a subplot that involves rescue beagles. The reality is that 96% of the animals used for medical and product testing are beagles because they are mild-mannered and trusting. The Beagle Freedom Project is real:

Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?

THIS:  "Do you think everything had to happen this way? I don't know, not for sure, anyway, but maybe Ali's the reason GBM struck Kate's brain and not mine. Maybe Ned and Laura, and everyone who loved Kate can finally accept Kate's death because something good came from saying goodbye when we should have been nowhere near goodbye."

What was the most unique research you had to do for a book?

For Nowhere Near Goodbye, I watched a video of a surgeon operating on a glioblastoma brain tumor. Well, I mostly watched it. I had to close my eyes at some parts.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

My advice is to write because you love it. Don't write because you want to be published. But if your dream is to be published and you write because you can't not write, then don't give up. No matter how many rejections you receive, no matter how often you doubt yourself, don't give up.

I recommend finding a writer's tribe. Mine is Women's Fiction Writers Association (WFWA), you don't have to write WF to join, and you will receive support and friendship and the opportunity to enhance your craft.

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

Oh, yes! Thank you for your support and belief in me. I truly never expected the positive reaction that  Nowhere Near Goodbye has received. I feel truly blessed!

To connect with Barbara ~

Website: Facebook: 

Instagram: Twitter: 




Tuesday, September 29, 2020


 This book debuts Tuesday, October 6th!

For fans of Where the Crawdads Sing and This Tender Land comes a heartfelt story about three young girls searching for adventure during the summer of 1960 from the New York Timesbestselling author of Whistling in the Dark.

That summer would change us . . . forever.

The summer of 1960 was the hottest ever for Summit, Wisconsin. For kids seeking relief from the heat, there was a creek to be swum in, sprinklers to run through, and ice cream at Whitcomb's Drugstore. But for Frankie, Viv, and Biz, eleven-year-old best friends, it would forever be remembered as the summer that evil paid a visit to their small town--and took their young lives as they'd known them as a souvenir. 

With a to-do list in hand, the girls set forth from their hideout to make their mark on that summer, but when three patients escape from Broadhurst Mental Institution, their idyllic lives take a sinister turn. Determined to uncover long-held secrets, the girls have no idea that what they discover could cost them their lives and the ones they hold dear.

Six decades later, Biz, now a bestselling novelist, remembers that long ago summer and how it still haunts her and her lifelong friends in Every Now and Then, a story about the ties that bind us, the timelessness of grief and guilt--and the everlasting hope for redemption.

Praise for Every Now and Then:

“Kagen skillfully spins a nostalgic tale...This fast-paced and suspenseful outing will captivate Kagen’s fans and do much to win her new ones.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Kagen thoughtfully captures the spirit of '60s small-town America, showing both the idyllic, rosy past that inspires nostalgia and its troubling underbelly."

“A complete winner. It reminded me of the best parts of To Kill A Mockingbird, and the wonderful friendship displayed by Kate DiCamillo’s three amigos in the Raymie Nightingale trilogy. Filled with all the charm of a 1960's small town, Every Now and Then also tackles issues of racism, homophobia, and gender that are topical today. Biz, Frankie, and Viv are sure to steal any reader's heart.”
—Pamela Klinger-Horn, Excelsior Bay Books

Filled with secrets, lies, and all the truth of what is to be human, especially in a small town, Every Now and Then is a story every heart will embrace.”
William Kent Krueger, New York Times Bestselling Author of Ordinary Grace and This Tender Land

“With a grace reminiscent of Pat Conroy’s The Prince of Tides, Lesley Kagen paints a tragic and evocative of a childhood summer disrupted by tragedy in 1960s Wisconsin...Both a memorable coming of age tale and suspenseful page-turner. Longtime and new fans of Kagen will delight!”
Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Girls of Paris

 Some Q & A with Lesley ~

Q. Tell us how you started writing.

A. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t dreaming up a story and putting it down on paper. I still have the silver dollar I won in fourth grade in St. Sebastian’s all-school poetry contest. Growing up in a tough, blue collar neighborhood in Milwaukee, I was a pretty cagey kid and this being a Catholic school, I figured out early on that the more times I could mention God in the poem the better my chances were of winning.  

Q.  Where do you get your ideas?

A. I admire writers who dream up stories set in Paris in the 17th century or are inspired by the news, but that’s not me. My characters, settings, and the issues that are important to me—keeping kids safe, mental health, racism, love, and injustice—are based on my experiences, most especially my childhood.

Q. Have you always earned your living writing?

A. Kind of. My first big job out of college was as a DJ in Milwaukee, and I wrote a ton of features and commercials. After I moved to LA in the seventies, I wrote and voiced thousands of radio commercials for a huge retail record chain called Licorice Pizza and many others, but I also began acting on camera. Because I was lucky to have been born with one of those non-offensive Midwestern faces that were so popular at the time, I was cast as “the mom” or “best friend” or “wife” in loads of TV spots. I also guest-starred in a couple of sitcoms— “Laverne and Shirley” and “Bad News Bears.” It was incredibly fun and exciting, but I wanted to be a mom, and raise my kids in Wisconsin, so that’s what we did. I wrote in my journal every day and composed lots of irate letters, but it wasn’t until the loves in my life went to school that I found the time to write my first novel—“Whistling in the Dark.”

Q. Could you tell us a little about the challenges of getting it published?

A.  I love to tell this story with the hope that it might inspire another writer. After I completed the manuscript, I was so nuts about it that I thought it’d be a breeze to find a literary agent to represent it. (Laughing my head off here at how little I knew.) So I came up with what I thought was a pretty decent query letter and sent it off. I was told over and over that it wasn’t very good and that it would never sell. 156 times to be exact! The rejections were so brutal that I almost gave up. Thank God, I didn’t, because I did eventually find an agent. He ended up selling “Whistling in the Dark” to Penguin. Not for a million dollars, the way I thought he would. (Laughing even harder now.) The advance was so small that I remember thinking at the time that they’d only bought it as a tax write-off. Of course, as publication day rolled around, my expectations were set very low, but then my editor started calling me. She started out each conversation with, “You’re not going to believe this, but . . .” 

To date, “Whistling in the Dark” is in its 17th print, has sold over 200,000 copies, and was a New York Times bestseller. So, if you’re a writer who is thinking of throwing in the towel—don’t. Believe in your story, believe in yourself, don’t pay attention to the rejections, and someday, you, too, will have the chance to sing, “Nah nah nah nah nah nah” to all the naysayers.

Q. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

A. I’d really want thank all the readers and book clubs who’ve supported me throughout the years. So many of them have become dear friends and I can’t wait to hear what they have to say about “Every Now and Then.” Here’s hoping they love the “tree Musketeers” as much as I do, which would be a lot. Really, really a lot.   

 To connect with Lesley:

Instagram: lesleykagen