Wednesday, April 12, 2017

THE PROMISE OF PIERSON ORCHARD, by author, KATE BRANDES

This story is Erin Brockovich meets Promised Land, about a Pennsylvania family threatened by betrayal, financial desperation, old flames, fracking, and ultimately finding forgiveness.
In the novel, Green Energy arrives, offering the impoverished rural community of Minden, Pennsylvania, the dream of making more money from their land by leasing natural gas rights for drilling. But orchardist, Jack Pierson, fears his brother, Wade, who now works for Green Energy, has returned to town after a shame-filled twenty-year absence so desperate to be the hero that he’ll blind their hometown to the potential dangers. Jack also worries his brother will try to rekindle his relationship with LeeAnn, Jack’s wife, who’s recently left him. To protect his hometown and to fulfill a promise to himself, Jack seeks out his mother and environmental lawyer Stella Brantley, who abandoned Minden—and Jack and Wade–years ago.
When LeeAnn’s parents have good reason to lease their land, but their decision leads to tragedy, Jack must fight to find a common ground that will save his fractured family, their land, and the way of life they love.
“An expertly paced, moving exploration of grief and responsibility and an eloquent portrait of a small town struggling with compromise.” — Kirkus Review

Some Q & A with Kate:

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

I’ve spent most of my career, not as a writer, but as an environmental scientist. Ten years ago I decided I wanted to write fiction, in part, because of the people I’ve met during my career as a scientist.

Early on, I worked as a geologist for six years on water supply and contamination problems deep underground. Then I took a series of jobs over more than a decade that allowed me to use my environmental science knowledge to work on land and water conservation. Along the way, I chose work with a community link so that I could use my science background to serve as a bridge between the technical side of things and my community’s understanding of the problem at hand. My career gave me access to people’s response to problems with the land and water, which was always related to their backstory: their personal history, who they grew up with, emotions, influences, as well as where they came from.

I turned to creative writing as a way to examine people’s feelings about things I care about, drawing on my experiences as a scientist working with communities.  Writing is my way to make sense of the world. If there's a crisis in my life or a difficult decision ahead, I’ve always reached for the pen to figure out what to do. So in order to contemplate some of the bigger societal questions I face daily about changes to the land and natural world around me, I turned to writing fiction to open the conversation within myself, from several viewpoints.

When I started my novel, almost no one had heard of fracking. I was fascinated by it early on because of my experience with looking at water problems deep underground. But also because I’m from a rural area of Pennsylvania, not unlike the rural places where fracking has taken place in this state. I could see the struggle from the rural perspective that I didn’t think anyone was really talking about it. It’s complicated and I wanted to explore it through fiction.

What are some things you enjoy when not writing?

I love the outdoors and spend a lot of time gardening and hiking. I also enjoy running, which is a lot like writing – an endurance sport. Baking is also a hobby of mine, as is reading.

Do you have a ‘day job’ as well?

I still work part-time as an environmental scientist for a local conservation organization.

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

I love the writing of Kent Haruf. I admire his spare style. I’ve been told my writing has a similar quality.

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

Here’s my publishing story, in case it might help anyone else along the way:
It took seven years from the time I began writing my novel until it was accepted for publication. I waited until I thought it was really ready (after about five years of writing) before I started querying agents.

I’d been querying agents for about two years without much luck. A response I often got was that they liked the book, but didn’t think they could sell it. So I decided the novel might be better suited for a small press and I started to query them directly. I had a lot of rejections and just when I was about to give up and start working on my second novel in earnest, my publisher Nancy at Wyatt-MacKenzie contacted me and said she was interested.

I immediately sent emails to about thirty agents saying I had an interested publisher and I was now seeking agent representation. I had quick response from several agents. I ended up signing with my dream agent, Katie Shea Boutillier at The Donald Maass Agency. She then negotiated the deal with Wyatt-MacKenzie.

How do you market your work?

My publisher had a hand in helping me develop my marketing plan, but mostly it’s been me. I’ve spent a lot of time talking to everyone I know who’s published before about what I should do. I’ve done this over several months and planned ahead. I’ve been laying the groundwork since last fall for a marketing blitz that began mid-February and runs until mid-May. It includes a book blog tour, speaking at events, blog posts, an Instagram campaign, contests, appearances, etc.

What are you working on now?

I’m at work on my second novel. It will be another book club fiction novel with an eco-bent. But it’s a completely different story from my first novel.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Just go for it. You’re a writer if you’re writing. If you truly want writing as part of your life, you’ll find a way.

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

I hope you love my story! But either way, I want to hear your thoughts and would welcome feedback!

Bio:

An environmental scientist with over 20 years of experience, Kate Brandes is also a watercolor painter and a writer of women’s fiction with an environmental bent. Her short stories have been published in The Binnacle, Wilderness House Literary Review, and Grey Sparrow Journal. Kate is a member of the Arts Community of Easton (ACE), the Lehigh Art Alliance, Artsbridge, the Pennwriters, and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. Kate lives in a small town along the Delaware River with her husband, David, and their two sons. When she’s not working, she’s outside on the river or chasing wildflowers. The Promise of Pierson Orchard is her first novel.

Links:


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

THE ORPHAN'S TALE, by author, PAM JENOFF


Sixteen-year-old Noa has been cast out in disgrace after becoming pregnant by a Nazi soldier and being forced to give up her baby. She lives above a small rail station, which she cleans in order to earn her keep… When Noa discovers a boxcar containing dozens of Jewish infants bound for a concentration camp, she is reminded of the child that was taken from her. And in a moment that will change the course of her life, she snatches one of the babies and flees into the snowy night. 
Noa finds refuge with a German circus, but she must learn the flying trapeze act so she can blend in undetected, spurning the resentment of the lead aerialist, Astrid. At first rivals, Noa and Astrid soon forge a powerful bond. But as the facade that protects them proves increasingly tenuous, Noa and Astrid must decide whether their friendship is enough to save one another—or if the secrets that burn between them will destroy everything.


“…Jenoff has written a tribute to the human spirit that soars.”  NPR

"Readers who enjoyed Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale and Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants will embrace this novel. " —Library Journal
"Secrets, lies, treachery, and passion…. I read this novel in a headlong rush." —Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train

Some Q & A with Pam ~ 

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

I always wanted to be a writer, but for many years I never got started.  For me the turning point was the events of 9/11.  This marked an epiphany where I realized that I didn’t have forever, and that if I wanted to be a writer I needed to get started right away.  So I took a night course called “Write Your Novel This Year.”  At that point I was an attorney working full-time, so I used to write from five to seven in the morning before heading to the firm.

What are some things you enjoy when not writing?

Between raising three small children, writing and teaching law school, there isn’t a lot of free time!  I enjoy spending time outdoors with my family, outlet shopping with my mom, going to Philadelphia Eagles games with my brother, and running.  I would also like some sleep.

Do you have a ‘day job’ as well?

I do.  I am a law school professor at Rutgers. My students are the best in the world. I love it!

Where do you get your ideas?

Generally speaking, my books are inspired by my years working on Holocaust issues for the State Department in Europe.  I became very close to the survivors and was moved and changed by learning their stories. I call my books love stories to the people who lived during that most tragic era.

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

I give a lot of credit to Natalie Goldberg and her book Writing Down the Bones.  Her writing approach, inspired by Zen Buddhism, where you just keep writing without allowing your inner editor to stop you, really broke me open as a writer and I continue to use it to this day.

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

It was not a hop, skip and a jump to publication for me.  Rather it was 5 years and 39 publisher rejections until one publisher (the same one I am with today) made a small offer 11 months after submission.  Now that things have gone well lots of people in publishing like to act like they knew it all along.  But I have rejection letters from all of them!

How do you market your work?

I don’t.  I’m not the slightest bit entrepreneurial.  But I have found that by building relationships with readers and other writers, supporting each other, you can organically develop a network of support.

What are you working on now?

A story about 12 female special agents from Britain who went missing in Europe during World War II and what might have happened to them.

Is anything in your book based on real life experiences?

The Orphan’s Tale was inspired by two true stories I found in the Yad Vashem archives.  The first was a horrific account of a train of unknown children, babies taken from their parents too young to know their own names and headed for a concentration camp.  The second was the remarkable tale of a circus which rescued Jews.  I combined these to create Noa, a young Dutch girl who finds the train and takes one of the babies.  She finds refuge with a German circus that is sheltering Jews.

Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?

I can’t call it a favorite but a pivotal scene for me is the one where Noa finds the babies on the train.  I knew it would be an opening scene but I wanted forever to write it because I knew that in order to do it justice, I was going to have to figuratively put my own children on that train.  It was the scene that it broke me to write.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Don’t quit your day job! Joking, sort of. This is a tough business and it is important to have every possible support structure in place, financial, emotional, etc.  It is important to be disciplined and carve out your writing time because no one is going to do it for you.  Also be tenacious – the only difference between me and some much better writers I know is that on the path to publication, I didn’t give up.

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

Writing can be hard and lonely, but it is my rock star dream come true!

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

First of all, thank you.  Second, I really value the change to connect with readers on an individual basis, so please feel free to find me on e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or wherever you hang out online so we can continue the conversation.


To connect with Pam:

website: http://www.pamjenoff.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PamJenoffauthor/
twitter: https://twitter.com/PamJenoff





Tuesday, March 21, 2017

ALMOST MISSED YOU, by author, JESSICA STRAWSER

Violet and Finn were “meant to be,” said everyone, always. They ended up together by the hands of fate aligning things just so. Three years into their marriage, they have a wonderful little boy, and as the three of them embark on their first vacation as a family, Violet can’t help thinking that she can’t believe her luck. Life is good.

So no one is more surprised than she when Finn leaves her at the beach—just packs up the hotel room and disappears. And takes their son with him. Violet is suddenly in her own worst nightmare, and faced with the knowledge that the man she’s shared her life with, she never really knew at all.
Caitlin and Finn have been best friends since way back when, but when Finn shows up on Caitlin’s doorstep with the son he’s wanted for kidnapping, demands that she hide them from the authorities, and threatens to reveal a secret that could destroy her own family if she doesn’t, Caitlin faces an impossible choice.
Told through alternating viewpoints of Violet, Finn and Caitlin, ALMOST MISSED YOU is a powerful story of a mother’s love, a husband’s betrayal, connections that maybe should have been missed, secrets that perhaps shouldn’t have been kept, and spaces between what’s meant to be and what might have been.
"Perfect for readers looking for something new after all of the 'Girl' thrillers ... Gritty, witty, and a worthy addition to the recent slate of domestic dramas." —Booklist


Once in a great while, along comes a novel that defies the odds, a true mystery that bars no holds and plays no tricks, leaving the reader both deeply moved and thoroughly astonished. ALMOST MISSED YOU is just such a book." Jacquelyn MitchardNew York Times bestselling author of The Deep End of the Ocean

A skillful, insightful debut: a deft exploration of the mysteries of marriage, the price we pay for our secrets, and just how easy it is to make the worst choices imaginable. —Chris Bohjalian, New York Times bestselling author of Midwives and The Sandcastle Girls

Some Q & A with Jessica~

Tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you started writing.
I’m the editorial director of Writer’s Digest magazine, where for the better part of a decade I’ve been working with, interviewing and editing talented writers at all levels. I’ve always been a journalist and essayist, but also a voracious fiction reader. It was only a matter of time before I could no longer resist the pull to jump in and try it myself.

What are some things you enjoy when not writing?
I have a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old, so my non-work time is almost all kid time right now, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. We all love spending time outdoors—bike trails and state parks and anything by the water—and we all like to keep a page-turner on our bedside tables. A glass of wine with my husband or a good friend is the perfect cap to any day, and there’s nothing like travel to refill my well when it runs low.
  
Is there a particular author or book that influenced or inspired your writing or decision to write?
Too many to list, really. Anne Tyler, Alice Walker, Liane Moriarty, Maggie O’Farrell, Jodi Picoult, David Sedaris, Chris Bohjalian—voice draws me in above all else.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
I had an earlier novel that attracted an agent but never found a publisher, and then I parted ways with that agent with Almost Missed You just kind of hanging out on my hard drive. When I found my second agent, she felt I should shelve my unsold first novel but was beyond enthusiastic about my newer one, and I put my trust in her. Almost Missed You sold in a preempt within two weeks.

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?
You’d think I’d say yes, because there were years of uncertainty and rejection and waiting. But it was all a learning experience that helped me land the way I did, so I guess in that respect the answer is no.

How do you market your work?
Somewhat uncomfortably! I’m active in a number of writing groups, including the Women’s Fiction Writers Association and the Writer’s Digest community, and through my social media accounts (on Twitter @jessicastrawser and on Facebook @jessicastrawserauthor). I also speak/teach occasionally at writing conferences—I’d cut way back on work-related travel when my babies were born, but this year I’m looking forward to getting back out there and pursuing some more opportunities along those lines. My book also includes a reading group discussion guide, so I hope to do outreach to book clubs.

What are you working on now?
I have another stand-alone novel in a similar vein due out from St. Martin’s Press in Spring 2018. I’m wrapping my revisions on that one now.

Is anything in your book based on real life experiences?
Very little, if anything. My first, unsold novel was inspired in part by a tragic circumstance in real life, and that writing took an emotional toll. I can also acknowledge from a craft standpoint that I may have been too close to the material. It was freeing, after years on that project, to write something that was pure imagination.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
There will be moments where you’ll be tempted to give up. Resist. Hang onto whatever it is about your writing that brings you joy, and don’t let anyone take it from you. Have faith.


To connect with Jessica:

JessicaStrawser.com

twitter.com/jessicastrawser

Facebook.com/jessicastrawserauthor


By day, Jessica Strawser is the editorial director of Writer’s Digest magazine, North America’s leading publication for aspiring and working writers since 1920. By night, she is a fiction writer with a debut novel, ALMOST MISSED YOU, forthcoming in March 2017 from St. Martin’s Press and another stand-alone novel to follow in 2018. And by the minute, she is a proud wife and mom of two in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her diverse career in publishing spans more than 15 years and includes stints in book editing, marketing and public relations, and freelance writing and editing. She blogs at WritersDigest.com and elsewhere, tweets fairly regularly @jessicastrawser and enjoys connecting on Facebook.


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

THE MUTUAL ADMIRATION SOCIETY, by author, LESLEY KAGEN

Debuts February 1st, 2017 ~  already an Amazon best-seller! 

From the New York Times bestselling author of Whistling in the Dark comes an unforgettable novel that illuminates the sweet and brittle bonds of family, the tenderness of growing up, the heartbreak of longing for what we’ve lost, and the poignancy of finding love.

FACT: Unbeknownst to eleven-year-old Theresa “Tessie” Finley, she’s in over her head.

PROOF: After hearing a scream and catching a glimpse of a mysterious man carrying a body beneath the flickering streetlights in the cemetery behind her house, Tessie adds solving a murder case to her already quite full to-do list.

Tessie has elected herself president of the crime-stopping Mutual Admiration Society—as if dealing with her “sad madness” over the tragic drowning of her beloved father; showering tender loving care on her “sweet but weird” younger sister, Birdie; and staying on the good side of their hard-edged mother weren’t enough. With partner in crime Charlie “Cue Ball” Garfield, Tessie and Birdie will need to dodge the gossips in their 1950s blue-collar neighborhood—particularly their evil next-door neighbor, Gert Klement, who’d like nothing better than to send the sisters to “homes.” And, of course, there’s the problem of steering clear of the kidnapping murderer if they have any hope of solving the mystery of all mysteries: the mystery of life.

A rich and charming tour de force, The Mutual Admiration Societyshowcases Lesley Kagen’s marvelous storytelling talents. Laced with heartwarming humor and heartbreaking grief, this novel is nothing short of magical.

“Readers are in for a unique treat with Kagen’s latest novel! Part Ramona Quimby, part Harriet the Spy, the Finley sisters have a unique flair all their own. This flair translates into one of the most delightfully quirky investigative teams in recent literature. Eleven-year-old Tessie’s witty narrative voice lilts with both the innocence of a child and the precociousness of a mind older than her years. While the mystery takes center stage at first glance, the heart of this novel is its poignant portrayal of sisterly love.” RT Book Reviews

“Lesley Kagen’s latest gem takes readers on a fabulous adventure to discover whether or not a murder has been committed in the local cemetery. With the hilarious Finley sisters at the helm, nothing can go wrong—or can it? Spunky, fun, and entirely charming. Both a mystery and a coming-of-age story that’s sure to delight!” —Mary Kubica, New York Times bestselling author of Don't You Cry

“A captivating tale that is woven together with sharp wit and heartbreaking honesty.” —Heather Gudenkauf, New York Times bestselling author of Missing Pieces

“With its gloriously quirky kid’s eye view of grief, mental illness, and strange happenings in a nineteen fifties neighborhood, this heart-warming story is sure to delight fans of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.” —Barbara Claypole White, bestselling author of The Perfect Son

“Fact: You will fall in love with eleven-year-old Tessie Finley and her sister Birdie. Proof: Lesley Kagen’s novel The Mutual Admiration Society, where Tessie Finley sets out to solve a mystery in true Nancy Drew fashion. Except Nancy Drew was never this funny, and never pulled at your heartstrings like Lesley Kagen’s characters do. This is a novel you will not want to put down, and Kagen is a master storyteller who will keep you hovering between laughing and crying the whole way.” —Cassie Selleck, bestselling author of The Pecan Man

Some Q & A with Lesley:

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

A. I think my mother's womb came equipped with a pencil and a pad of paper, because from as far back as I can remember, I was always dreaming up little stories and vignettes. But it wasn't until the fourth grade when I Am The Sun won St. Sebastian's all-school poetry contest that I began to seriously wonder if there might be a future in writing when I snagged the shiny first prize--a silver dollar. (Confession: I was a cagey kid who knew the more I mentioned God in the poem the better my changes would be to impress the nuns.) I wrote plays and elaborate essays in high school, and when I dropped out of college to take a job as a morning deejay at a local radio station, I created all the interviews and features. 

After I moved to LA, I started crafting ad copy and some comedy sketches. But it never crossed my mind to write a novel until I reached my fifties, when my teenage son refused to say anything to me other than "Make mine pepperoni, thin crust," and my daughter flew off to college in Virginia. My first-born's departure left me absolutely bereft, and, of course, concerned that I'd done all I could to prepare her for today's complex world. Which then led me to consider how much easier it was for my mother to raise my sisters and me in the "good old days" than it is to raise kids now--self-esteem hadn't been invented yet back then---and voila, a year and a half later, through much trial and error, I'd completed Whistling in the Dark, a story about three girls trying to figure out life in a close-knit 1950s neighborhood on Milwaukee's west side.

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

A. I love to tell this story, because I hope it inspire other writers seeking a book deal to believe in their story and not be too easily dissuaded by naysayers.Whistling in the Dark was rejected for literary representation by over 150 agents. When I finally found one who was willing to take a chance on it, countless publishers passed as well, until New American Library, an imprint of Penguin at the time, expressed interest. Much to everyone's surprise, the novel went on to win numerous awards, and is a New York Times bestseller now in it's 17th printing. 

Q. Is all your work based on real life experience?

A. Yes. I'm not the kind of writer who can dream up wonderful fantasy worlds or set a story in 18th century France. All eight of my novels are grounded in some part on my life experiences.

Q. Do you have a favorite chapter or scene in The Mutual Admiration Society?

A. I love the scenes between the eleven-year-old narrator, Tessie, and Charlie, the boy she describes as her fiance. They're two children who have lost one of their parents, the same way I did as a kid. Their dedication to each other, and Tessie's younger "weird" sister, Birdie, touches me deeply. I also love the scenes when Tessie, in her desire to protect those she loves, is such a wildly imaginative and determined little bad ass. 

About the Author:
Lesley Kagen is an actress, voice-over talent, speaker, and award-winning New York Times bestselling author of eight novels.

A mother of two and grandmother of two, she lives in a hundred-year-old farmhouse in a small town in Wisconsin. Visit with her on Facebook and at her website, www.lesleykagen.com.