Monday, May 3, 2021

A SONG FOR THE ROAD, by author KATHLEEN BASI (debuts May 11th, 2021)

Cheryl Strayed's Wild meets Katherine Center's How to Walk Away in Kathleen Basi's debut novel about an unconventional road trip and what it means to honor the ones we love.

It's one year after the death of her husband and twin teenagers, and Miriam Tedesco has lost faith in humanity and herself. When a bouquet of flowers that her husband always sends on their anniversary shows up at her workplace, she completely unravels. With the help of her best friend, she realizes that it's time to pick up the pieces and begin to move on. 

Step one is not even cleaning out her family's possessions, but just taking inventory starting with her daughter's room. But when she opens her daughter's computer, she stumbles across a program her daughter has created detailing an automated cross-country road trip, for her and her husband to take as soon-to-be empty nesters.

Seeing and hearing the video clips of her kids embedded in the program, Miriam is determined to take this trip for her children. Armed with her husband's guitar, her daughter's cello, and her son's unfinished piano sonata, she embarks on a musical pilgrimage to grieve the family she fears she never loved enough. Along the way she meets a young, pregnant hitchhiker named Dicey, whose boisterous and spunky attitude reminds Miriam of her own daughter.

Tornadoes, impromptu concerts, and an unlikely friendship...whether she's prepared for it or not, Miriam's world is coming back to life. But as she struggles to keep her focus on the reason she set out on this journey, she has to confront the possibility that the best way to honor her family may be to accept the truths she never wanted to face.

Hopeful, honest, and tender, A Song for the Road is about courage, vulnerability, and forgiveness, even of yourself, when it really matters.

Reviews ~

Advance Praise for Song for the Road:
"Basi's exquisite, gut-wrenching debut is filled with loss, hope, and secrets that fans of Julianne Maclean's A Curve in the Road will enjoy.”
—Booklist

“An emotionally complex story about reconciling love with loss, and the healing power of music…I loved every scene from the first to the last.” 
—Barbara Claypole White, bestselling author of The Perfect Son and The Promise Between Us

“In a novel filled with music, heartbreak, and surprising laughter, Basi takes us on a journey that encompasses both unimaginable loss and the powerful resilience of the human heart. A book club must read.” —Kerry Anne King, bestselling author of Whisper Me This and Everything You Are

A must read! Basi’s insights into the human experience make A Song for the Road an unforgettable journey. She introduces us to life, loss, love, and the resurgence of hope—she introduces us to ourselves. The beauty of her prose and this adventure will linger long after the last page.”
—Katherine Reay, national best-selling author of The Printed Letter Bookshop

Q & A with Kathleen ~

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

I grew up on a farm, and I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing. I used to write in the tree house, in the hay barn, even on a low barn roof. My whole life, writing stories has been my “me” time. When I was studying music in college and grad school, writing was my reward for four hours of practicing a day. Even now, when it’s progressed from hobby to profession, I still get excited every day. Also, I still like writing outside. I don’t use a smart phone, so when I’m away from wifi I am well and truly undistracted!

What are some things you enjoy when not writing?

Cooking, bicycling, kayaking, hiking, and gardening—to name a few.

Do you have a go-to first reader after you feel your manuscript is ready?

I have a top-notch group of critique partners who review my rough drafts chunk by chunk. Conventional wisdom says “don’t edit while you’re drafting!” But my critique partners flag problems that could derail the whole thing. Sometimes they see the same section three times before I move forward in my rough draft. It slows the drafting phase but saves a TON of time in revision!

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

This is the fourth book I’ve queried (in other words, pitching to literary agents). It was a roller coaster getting to a book deal, that’s for sure! I had to cling obstinately to my belief in my writing. I knew I was good enough, but waiting for the break and not getting it can crush your spirit if you let it. Thank God, I also do nonfiction writing and musical composing, so I had other things to keep me busy in the interim.

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

Like Miriam in A SONG FOR THE ROAD, I’m a church musician. Some of the questions she wrestles in its pages are questions I’ve also wrestled—but thankfully not the central question of the book!

Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?

So many! But the one that comes to mind was among the last to be written. Midway through the book, Miriam plays her husband’s guitar on rural Iowa’s High Trestle Trail Bridge (go look it up!). This scene had been consistently problematic because the situation she encountered at the bridge was so absurd. At the suggestion of my editor at Alcove, it became something totally different. Miriam encounters a widower, and her music facilitates a wonderful moment of healing and connection. It’s absolutely gorgeous and uplifting.

What are you working on now?

My next book is set in California wine country. It’s the story of a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law struggling to rebirth their family business and their own lives after the man they shared (son/husband) self-destructed, burning down the winery with himself inside it.

Favorite band or music?

I have two degrees in music, so classical is my happy place. Here are three standouts:

O Magnum Mysterium, by Tomas Luis de Victoria

Rachmaninov Piano Concerto #2 (the Russian pairs skaters Mishketunok & Dmitriev skated to it at the Lillehammer Olympics and it was spectacular!)

Dvorak’s 8th Symphony. I got to play first flute on this in college and it was such a thrill! Bonus: Appalachian Spring. This version is staged by a university and it’s glorious.

Place you’d like to travel?

Everywhere! I hope to walk the Camino de Santiago someday—when the kids are self-sufficient, and one of my lifelong dreams is to live a year in Alaska, so I can really see the northern lights.

To connect with Kathleen:






Tuesday, April 27, 2021

GOODBYE, LARK LOVEJOY, by author KRIS CLINK

Lark’s lost her husband, and the expiration date has come and gone on her fake-it-till-you-make-it “Happy Mommy Show.” Healing her broken family requires drastic measures, like returning to her hometown in the Texas Hill Country. But she’s going to need more than clean air and a pastoral landscape to rebuild a life for her and her young sons.

After years of putting off her dream of becoming a winemaker, Lark puts every cent into a failing vineyard, determined to work through her grief and make a brighter future for her children. The last thing she expects is to fall in love again. Especially not with Wyatt Gifford, an injured Army vet with a past of his own to conquer.

Coming home may not be the reset Lark imagined, but it does take her on a journey filled with humor and reconciliation, one that prepares her for a courageous comeback.

Reviews ~

Featured in Bustle's “The Best New Books To Read This April”

“An uplifting tale about family, second chances, and the complexity of making fine Texas wine.”
Kirkus Reviews

“A wonderful new voice in women’s fiction.”
―Kristan Higgins, author of Life and Other Inconveniences

“In her debut, Goodbye, Lark Lovejoy, Kris Clink explores what happens after the traumatic events that shaped her characters’ lives, and the hope that love and acceptance offers. You’ll want to say hello to these charming, complicated, and refreshingly flawed characters.”
―Amy E. Reichert, author of The Optimist’s Guide to Letting Go

“I didn’t want to say goodbye to Lark and the cast of characters in Kris Clink’s debut. With a confident voice, smart humor, and masterful handling of difficult subjects, this story is full of heart and has so much to love.”
―Leah DeCesare, author of Forks, Knives, and Spoons

“A sweet, charming, romantic interlude in the winemaking hill country of Texas―a lovely vicarious vacation, and just the rosy dose of optimism and hope we need right now.”
―Phoebe Fox, author of A Little Bit of Grace

“Kris Clink takes us on a delightful trip to Texas wine country in her heartwarming debut. With a large and engaging cast of characters that never feels like too much, Clink introduces us to an endearing community you’ll want to revisit. Goodbye, Lark Lovejoy is a touching tale about moving past grief, building the life you want, motherhood in all its forms, and finding love again against the odds.”
―Lainey Cameron, author of The Exit Strategy

“Lark Lovejoy is fierce, funny and unforgettable. Clink’s debut is a heartwarming and uplifting story that reminds us it’s never too late to go after your dreams, that age is just a number, and you can find love in unexpected places. I can’t wait to see what Kris Clink writes next!”
―Alison Hammer, author of You and Me and Us

Q & A with Kris ~ 

Tell us a little about yourself and how you started writing. I have always been a writer, although I’ve spent most of my adult life writing for other people—technical writing for marketing, medical, and nonprofit work. At the ripe old age of forty-six, I quit my job to write full time. Five years later, I published Goodbye, Lark Lovejoy. 

What are some things you enjoy when not writing? Cooking for my family and friends, playing pickleball, riding my bike, and listening to music and audiobooks.

What is something about you that people would surprise people? I consider myself Willie Nelson’s biggest fan. When I was young, my big sister introduced me to his music, and I was hooked. I think I’ve attended eight of his concerts—almost always on the front row so I can sing along. (Pretty sure those around me wish I wouldn’t).

Where do you get your ideas? Watching people, listening to conversations, reading other books, watching movies. There are so many books I want to write and so little time.

Do you have a go-to first reader after you feel your manuscript is ready? My husband reads aloud as we go along, and one of my sisters reads the first finished version. She has an eagle-eye for catching things that don’t line up.

Is there a particular author or book that influenced or inspired your writing or decision to write? When I began writing full time, I was introduced to Kristan Higgins’ books. Until then, I couldn’t put it into words the way I wanted my readers to feel when they read my books. Kristan has a way of pulling the reader into a story and making them feel right at home the entire way as they read.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published (or this book?) I had many “almosts” with agents. Ultimately, I decided to take a different approach and went with a hybrid publisher who would give me more control while putting my books on multiple sales platforms.

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 know, the writing road is rarely straight. For every twist or turn, there’s been a valuable lesson to be learned.

How do you market your work? I hired a publicist to take care of the pieces I couldn’t, while I contacted other authors, bloggers, and reviewers to ask for their support.

What are you working on now? I’m writing the third book in the Enchanted Rock series (set in the Texas Hill Country), and I’m interviewing other authors for my podcast, Kris Clink’s Writing Table.

Is anything in your book based on real-life experiences? Walter Cronkite, the dog, was a lot like my daughter’s dog.

Do you have a favorite chapter or scene? The scenes with Bianca made me laugh as I wrote them.

Do you have a favorite character? Again, Bianca made me laugh … and cry. She’s a gem!

What would your job of choice be if you didn’t write books? Wedding singer. Just because I know the words and sing them enthusiastically doesn’t mean I can hold a tune.

What was the most unique research you had to do for a book? Visiting the Center for the Intrepid in San Antonio, a facility created to address the unique injuries suffered by veterans of Desert Wars.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers? Don’t grieve over those manuscripts that don’t grab agents or publishers. Keep writing. Your writing will improve, and your voice will become clearer.

What are the downfalls of your writing career? The best parts? We put ourselves out there, heart and soul. Every day is a new high or low. One reader loves our work, another thinks it’s garbage. Yet, we can’t stop doing it because we love writing.

Favorite band or music?  Willie Nelson. I love all kinds of music from Billy Joel to Otis Redding and everything in-between.

Place you’d like to travel? Europe.

Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans? Their time is valuable, so it’s a great honor when they use it to read my books. 

To connect with Kris:

@krisclinkbooks for Facebook & Twitter; @kriserinclinkbooks for Instagram. 









Wednesday, April 21, 2021

WHEN WE'RE THIRTY by author CASEY DEMBOWSKI

Two friends. One pact. The performance of their lives.

Hannah Abbott is stuck in a dead-end relationship and at a job she loves but that barely pays the bills. The four walls of her tiny New York City apartment have never seemed so small. She’s barely toasted her thirtieth birthday when her old college friend Will knocks on her door with an unexpected proposal.

Will Thorne never forgot the marriage pact he made with Hannah, but he also never imagined he’d be the one to initiate it. One ex-fiancĂ©e and an almost-career-ending mistake later, however, he finds himself outside Hannah’s door, on bended knee, to collect on their graduation-night pinky promise.

With both of their futures at stake, Hannah and Will take a leap of faith. Now, all they have to do is convince their friends and family that they’re madly in love. As long as they follow the list of rules they’ve drafted, everything should go smoothly. Except Will has never been good with rules, and Hannah can’t stop overthinking the sleeping arrangements. Turning thirty has never been so promising.

Reviews

"This sweet and unconventional romance between two people who don't realize how much they need each other will warm your heart like an old, favorite indie rock song. When We're Thirty is a fun twist on the marriage of convenience trope with charming leads, realistic millennial struggles, and a happily ever after with a grin-worthy emotional payoff - pinky promise!"
~ Alanna Martin, author of Heart on a Leash

"The perfect blend of sweet, fun, and sexy - this book has all the feels!"
~ Allison Ashley, author of Perfect Distraction

"When We're Thirty is a charming and engaging romp through an unconventional contemporary romance."
~ Kimmery Martin, author of The Queen of Hearts

"In When We're Thirty, Casey Dembowski swirls together a drunken college promise, a strings-attached proposal, the comfort of an old friendship, and the excitement of refurbished love. Will and Hannah charmed and delighted me in this fast-paced and heartfelt novel."
~ Kathleen West, author of Minor Dramas and Other Catastrophes

"I devoured this swoonworthy alt rock rom-com in one sitting! I pinky promise you'll love it too!"
~ Erica Lucke Dean, author of To Katie With Love

Q & A with Casey ~ 

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

A little about me… well, I write contemporary romance and women’s fiction, and my debut novel is coming out next week! I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember; I can’t really tell you how I got started. I just did. And then when I was about twelve, I started writing every day, and in high school my best friend and I wrote this never-ending YA novel. It’s been pretty much non-stop since then.

What are some things you enjoy when not writing?

When I’m not writing, I’m usually reading. I also find baking really relaxing (or I did before I had to bake with a four-year-old)!

What is something about you that people would surprise people?

Right out of college, I worked for a tri-county newspaper in the region where I lived. I covered high school sports for nearly four years, and I really loved it. I got to drive all over New York state to cover tournaments and championships.

Do you have a ‘day job’ as well?

Of course! I work in corporate marketing communications. So, I spend my days writing and editing within my company’s brand voice, and then my evenings writing and editing in my characters’ voices.

Where do you get your ideas?

That’s the question isn’t it? Music is a big source of inspiration. A song hits a certain way at a certain time, and a story unfolds in my mind. I also use pieces of my life and morph them into novels that take completely different paths, but started with that one moment in my life.

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

Sarah Dessen. I’ve been reading Sarah Dessen books since high school, and I’ll read them for the rest of my life. A lot of people have said my writing – though in a different genre – is like hers, and not only does that make me so happy, but it is also very true. She was the author I was reading when I was really coming into my own as a writer as a teenager. And her books had such an effect on me at that key point in my life. I’ve always wanted to write a book that changed my life the way The Truth About Forever changed mine.

How do you market your work?

Since I work in marketing, I feel like I have a bit of an advantage. But I have a newsletter and a website, and I do a lot of work on social media. I’ve really worked on growing my author/writer network and also connecting with bookstragrammers and bloogers and readers. I’ve made a lot of friends over the last year as I dug in. Really, I just try to be authentic. I’m an author, but I’m still a fan, and it makes me squeal in delight when authors like my posts or comment on them—just like anyone else.

What are you working on now?

Right now, I’m working on a enemies-to-lovers, fake romance novel about a **secret** character from the universe of When We’re Thirty. It’s so fun, and I can’t wait to share more of the details!

Do you have a favorite character?

In When We’re Thirty? That’s a hard one! I love Hannah, Kate and Riley for various reasons. Kate is just so much fun to write. Every time she’s on the page, it’s so awesome. And Riley – I’ve been writing Riley since 2008. She has a whole novella about her and her husband and the start of Deafening Silence New York. When I started crafted When We’re Thirty I was so excited to get to bring her back as an older and wiser—but still totally fun—version of the character.

But I love Hannah. Hannah is like this version of me that could have been if I stayed in journalism or moved in New York City. But she’s also totally different. She’s so passionate about the things and people in her life, and it was really fun to develop her arc and watch her grow.

And of course I love Will. When I started writing I wasn’t sure he was going to have a POV, and then in Chapter 5 he just came to life. It was so amazing to dig into who he was and who he wanted to be and his journey to get there.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Just keep going. My debut novel is coming out one day before the ten-year anniversary of my MFA thesis reading. It took ten years and two books before I got a deal. I signed with an agent and didn’t sell a book. I sold When We’re Thirty but parted ways with my agent. Publishing is a long and arduous process. It’s never a straight line. You really have to keep perspective and make tough choices to be in this industry, but most of all, you have to keep writing—always.

Favorite band or music?

Anything Andrew McMahon (Something Corporate, Jack’s Mannequin, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness). His music has saved me more times than I can count.

Place you’d like to travel?

I’ve always wanted to go to London. I’m hoping after the world returns to a more normal place, I’ll be able to get there in the next few years.

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

Thank you! I can’t wait for you to meet Will and Hannah and the rest of the cast in When We’re Thirty. This book has a special place in my heart, and I hope you love it! 

To connect with Casey:

Social links:

Website: www.caseydembowski.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/author.caseydembowski

Twitter: www.twitter.com/casey_dembowski

Instagram: www.instagram.com/casey_dembowski

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/21133262.Casey_Dembowski

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/casey-dembowski







Wednesday, April 14, 2021

SISTERS OF THE VINE, by author LINDA ROSEN

Housewife and mother with a loving husband to take care of her that’s all Liz, a Fifties gal, ever wanted. Over her father’s objections, she drops out of college to marry Rick, who dreams of living off the land. They buy a farm on a verdant hillside in the Hudson Valley, but can’t agree on what to plant. When they discover French-American hybrid grapes, Liz is confident they’ll be happy. Grapes are classy.

As the rich soil sinks into her soul and the vines begin to thrive, the marriage grows rocky. Refusing to disappoint her father again, Liz is determined to make her marriage work . . . until she discovers a photograph hidden in the old barn.

Faced with impossible decisions, Liz is desperate. She has a vineyard ready to harvest and no idea how to accomplish the task. Does she have the moxie to flourish? Or will she and the land turn fallow?


Reviews

"... not only a beautiful tale of self-discovery and reinvention, but one of female triumph, too." -Hannah Mary McKinnon, bestselling author of Sister Dear

"For those who love a story of sisterhood with a strong female protagonist, pour a glass of wine and immerse yourself in this well-written novel." -Sublime Book Review

"A novel about vineyard life and family, Linda Rosen's delightful and poignant Sisters of the Vine is for wine-lovers." -Laura Dave, author of Eight Hundred Grapes

"If you enjoy sistership stories, great domestic fiction, or wine, you'll relish Sisters of the Vine - an uplifting story that kept me engaged throughout!" -Lainey Cameron, award-winning author of The Exit Strategy

Q & A with Linda:

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

Thanks, Jill, for inviting me to your blog and the opportunity to meet your readers.

I’m what’s called a snow bird. I live in New Jersey, where I grew up, with my husband of almost 49 years. Sam and I have two sons, one living in Arizona (where I get to visit and see gorgeous mountains) and the other living less than a mile away from us, with his wife and two boys. The months I spend in N.J. are wonderful simply because my grandsons use my house as their second home. Even the dog does and the yard shows it! But when I have to swap my sandals for shoes and socks, we say goodbye to the northeast and head to our home in Florida. I’m not a fan of snow and ice. I like to be outdoors all year swimming, playing tennis or pickleball, walking along the water, whether the ocean or lake, and reading in the shade of a tree or beach umbrella.  

For the past forty years, I’ve been a fitness professional leading group exercise classes and working with private clients. As I was nearing my sixtieth birthday, I felt a pull to do something more. I had always been creative choreographing aerobic dance routines, playing with photography, gardening, crocheting and many other needlework activities, but they weren’t enough anymore. So I perused a local adult school catalogue and found a listing for a writer’s workshop. An avid reader, I always thought it would be fabulous to pen a novel though I never thought I actually would – and then I took the class and characters started talking to me, sitting on my shoulder when I swam or pulled weeds in the garden. My fingers found the keyboard and here I am over ten years later with two published novels. It’s all so surreal. Sometimes I look in the mirror and say, “yes, you are an author.” It’s been a wonderful journey and I’m happy to share it with you.

Do you have a go-to first reader after you feel your manuscript is ready?

Shortly after I took that writers workshop, I created a writer’s group with a few women, all members of the NYC chapter of The Women’s National Book Association. Over the years, we honed our craft, (and still are) and helped each other develop characters and story lines. Eventually the group disintegrated though I still share my work with one of the women. In Florida, I am part of another writers group and am so thankful for their friendship and expertise in story. Their questions and suggestions made both of my books the novels they are today.

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

I have to say, every writer I’ve ever read has influenced me. That may sound odd, but it’s true. All the way back to Carolyn Keene, author of the Nancy Drew series I read as a young girl, I was in awe of the ability to write a novel. As I mentioned earlier, I thought it would be fabulous to do so, though I never believed I would. And when I did, when I got my contract to publish my debut, The Disharmony of Silence, I silently thanked all the authors I’ve enjoyed. There are a few today who, unknowingly to me at the time, influenced that book. The story is written in dual time-line and I am a huge fan of Susan Meissner, Kristin Harmel and Fiona Davis who do that so well.

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

Absolutely. It’s actually a story that reminds me to never give up. I had been querying agents for my debut novel, getting some requests but never getting an offer of representation. When I saw that other members of The Women’s Fiction Writers Association were published by small presses, I researched some and found Black Rose Writing. They had an online form which I filled out and submitted. Two months later, I hadn’t heard a word, which wasn’t odd, though I casually mentioned it to my editor one day and found out she was published by them! And, to top it off, I learned they had redone their website and my submission probably got caught in the transition. It was lost in cyberspace. 

Pamela, my editor, told me to fill out the query again, on the new website. The day after I hit send, I got an email from the publisher asking for my manuscript. I was dancing! And then, a month later, I opened my inbox to find another email from him. Braced for a rejection, I read his words with my heart pounding. I had an offer! It was a dream come true. I do believe if Pamela hadn’t simply asked how my querying was going, I would have assumed Black Rose wasn’t interested. I wouldn’t have contacted them a second time. Now I have two books published by Black Rose Writing and I’m working on my third.  

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

My second novel, Sisters of the Vine, was influenced by a high school friend of mine. When I reconnected with her many years after graduation and learned about her life, I knew aspects of it would be perfect for a novel. When my friend’s husband walked out on her, she was left with thirteen acres of grapevines, full to bursting, ready to be picked, and had no idea how to get the daunting task done. So, one day, she walked down her mile long road and knocked on neighbors’ doors asking stay-at-home moms, with no knowledge of winemaking, to come and help. The women came in droves and, as in my novel, they formed a sisterhood and broke into the all-male fraternity of winemakers. 

Do you have a favorite character?

I imagine most writers might say their favorite character is their protagonist. In Sisters of the Vine, I do adore Liz, but my favorite character is Bobbi, her assistant. She’s a bit younger than Liz and is much stronger emotionally, and wiser. And I love Liz’s dad. Every girl needs a dad like Lou. I imagined my own father when I created him.

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

Sisters of the Vine takes place on a hillside vineyard and winery. I had to learn every detail of the winemaking process from planting, pruning and picking to crushing and pressing, all the way to the final sip. It was fun visiting vineyards, feeling the plump grapes in my fingers and smelling the heady scent of them fermenting in their stainless-steel tanks – and tasting the final product

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Yes, read. Read everything. Read in your genre and outside your comfort zone. Hone your craft. Take workshops, read craft books, find a writing partner. Never give up. But, most of all, have fun. Enjoy the journey. It’s a long one.

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

I’m happy to say, I haven’t experienced any major downfalls. A disappointment now and then, yes, when an agent rejected my manuscript, before I found Black Rose Writing. On the other hand, there have been many great parts, the best being the community I’ve found. In the few years since I signed my first contract, I have met so many wonderful writers all ready to support each other, like you, Jill. Being part of this community has enriched my life.

Place you’d like to travel?

I always smile when I’m asked where I’d like to travel because my desires are not the usual. I am not interested in visiting Southeast Asia or climbing Machu Picchu, seeing the penguins in the Galapagos. The trip I’d like to take is following the settings in Jane Austin’s novels and sitting over a cuppa in a charming inn, re-reading Pride and Prejudice. Another on my bucket list is the coast of Oregon. I love coastlines and I’ve not been to this one. When there, I’d go inland to Portland to see the roses in bloom. A rose lover and one who buys many from a Portland company, this has been a desire of mine and I have no idea why I haven’t done it yet. I will. Maybe I’ll make it a setting in a future book so I’ll have to go for research.

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

I want to say a huge thank you to all my readers, those who’ve read my books and those who plan to. My dream was to pen a novel that readers would devour curled up in a comfortable chair with a cup of tea, or glass of wine. Now I have two out in the world and I so appreciate everyone who has joined me along the way and those who I’m now meeting. I love to meet my readers. If you are in a book club and would like me to join you, at no charge, to chat about either book, The Disharmony of Silence or Sisters of the Vine, contact me via my website www.linda-rosen.com. I can join you virtually or, if possible, in person. It’ll be fun. And, if you’d like to hear from me again, sign up for my newsletter, Linda’s Tea Room, also via my website. I promise not to invade your inbox.

Thanks so much, Jill. I’ve enjoyed your questions and being here with you.

 To connect with Linda ~




                                                           

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

THE SOUND BETWEEN THE NOTES, by author BARBARA LINN PROBST

What if you had a second chance at the very thing you thought you’d renounced forever? How steep a price would you be willing to pay?

Susannah’s career as a pianist has been on hold for nearly sixteen years, ever since her son was born. An adoptee who’s never forgiven her birth mother for not putting her first, Susannah vowed to put her own child first, no matter what. And she did.

But now, suddenly, she has a chance to vault into that elite tier of “chosen” musicians. There’s just one problem: somewhere along the way, she lost the power and the magic that used to be hers at the keyboard. She needs to get them back. Now.

Her quest—what her husband calls her obsession—turns out to have a cost Susannah couldn’t have anticipated. Even her hand betrays her, as Susannah learns that she has a progressive hereditary disease that’s making her fingers cramp and curl—a curse waiting in her genes, legacy of a birth family that gave her little else. As her now-or-never concert draws near, Susannah is catapulted back to memories she’s never been able to purge—and forward, to choices she never thought she would have to make.

Told through the unique perspective of a musician, The Sound Between the Notes draws the reader deeper and deeper into the question Susannah can no longer silence: Who am I, and where do I belong?

Praise for The Sound Between the Notes:

“The climax, on the night of her performance, is a tour de force steeped in suspense, and Susannah’s subsequent revelations are satisfying and authentic. A sensitive, astute exploration of artistic passion, family, and perseverance.”
Kirkus Reviews

The Sound Between the Notes is so beautiful, so lyrical, so musical that it was hard to put down. . . . This is a wonderful story from a skillful writer, one that appeals strongly to the heart. It features awesome characters, a twisty plot, and gorgeous writing.”
Readers’ Favorite 5-star review

“In her second novel, Barbara Linn Probst delivers yet another powerful story, balancing lyrical language with a skillfully paced plot to build a sensory-rich world that will delight those who loved Queen of the Owlsand win countless new readers. Offering a deep exploration of the search for identity and connection, The Sound Between Notes reminds us to embrace everything we are—and everything that’s made us who we are.”
—Julie Cantrell, New York Times and USA TODAY best-selling author of Perennials

“Beautifully told, The Sound Between the Notes, is the story of tragedy and triumph, of the push and pull of family, of the responsibility we feel to ourselves and those we love. Once I started the book, I couldn't put it down until I reached the last, gorgeously written note.”
—Loretta Nyhan, author of The Other Family and Amazon best-seller Digging In

Q & A with Barbara ~

We loved hearing about Queen of the Owls last year, and congratulations on all the awards it won!  In a nutshell, what’s your new book about?

Thank you!  The two books share the theme of a woman’s search for self, framed around art. In Queen of the Owls, painting and photography framed the story. In The Sound Between the Notes, it’s music—the piano.

The Sound Between the Notes is about what happens when a woman who’s always struggled with identity is given an unexpected chance to restore the self she thought she’d lost.

Susannah, the book’s protagonist, is a pianist. Her career has been on hold for sixteen years, ever since her son was born. But now, suddenly, she has a second chance. There’s just one problem: somewhere along the way, she lost the power and the magic. She needs to get them back. Now.

As her now-or-never concert draws near, Susannah is catapulted back to memories she’s never been able to purge—and forward, to choices she never thought she’d have to make as she struggles to do right by those she loves and to fulfill, through music, her deep longing for identity and a place in the world.

How did you get the idea for the book?

I can actually remember the specific moment that the idea took hold!  I had gone back to studying piano a few years earlier, after abandoning my studies for over twenty years when my own son was born.  I’m nowhere near the level of Susannah, of course—I’m what’s called a “serious amateur, which means that I study for the love of it, not professionally.  

I had just switched to a much more rigorous teacher and a whole new level of playing, a whole new possibility, was opening up for me—and there I was, standing in front of the bathroom mirror, reaching into the cabinet, when I felt an odd stiffness in my left hand. And I thought, “No! Not now, of all times!”  That was the moment when the story idea took hold. A new possibility, and a new threat.

What do your characters have to overcome? What challenge do you set before them?

Susannah is struggling with so many things! At the most obvious level, it’s time itself—the looming concert date that will make-or-break the career she never thought would still be possible, and the disease that proceeds in stages whose pace can’t be predicted. She’s also struggling with her need to balance doing right by those she cares about—husband, father, son—and doing right by herself. 

Susannah also has to overcome her doubt and misbelief that she’s not good enough to be “chosen.” It’s a common theme for adoptees, all the more so because of her adoptive mother’s insistence on a “chosen baby” story that always felt, to Susannah, as if it sanitized her struggle and swept it under the rug.

The other characters have struggles, too.  Her husband Aaron has to grapple with his need to be the one who knows what to do and fixes problems, and his feeling of being brushed aside in Susannah’s quest for a kind of fulfillment that he can’t provide.

The challenge that threads through the journeys of many of the characters in The Sound Between the Notes —Susannah’s birth mother, her adoptive mother, her grandmother—is the quest to understand what it means to be a mother and a daughter.

It sounds as if the story has two intertwined themes. One is Susannah’s quest to restore her “lost magic” at the piano, and the other is her quest for her birth family, her roots.  You’ve mentioned that you play the piano. What is your own relationship to adoption? 

I’m a mother by adoption—twice—and have been able to be an intimate participant in my daughter’s complicated journey to understand where her birth family fits into her life. Through that journey, I’ve been able to understand that adoption is complex, profound, and different for different people.

My own training as a clinical social worker also helped me to understand the perspective of each person in what’s known as the adoption triangle, including members of the birth mother’s family. For example, when I wrote the character of Beryl, the birth grandmother in The Sound Between the Notes, and had her express dismay that Corinne was “giving away my first grandbaby,” I drew directly on my own experience.  

However, the story itself is entirely fictitious. The characters “came to me” easily, but none of them are real people.

Did the book pose any special challenges for you?

Every book has its challenges, but The Sound Between the Notes posed two, in particular.  One was the task of navigating dual timelines, because each transition to the past—the supporting timeline—had to be natural and necessary, with something in the front story to serve as a portal. I tried to structure it in different ways, in my early drafts—for example, labeling each chapter by place or date or a tag like “sixteen years earlier.” Eventually, I settled on Then and Now.

Another challenge was the protagonist’s character and motivation.  In early drafts of the book, Susannah was much too angry. It took me a long time to understand her in a deeper, more nuanced way. You could say that I needed to find the love and kindness in her—and that really had to do with my own journey as a pianist. I had to understand music more deeply before I could depict Susannah as she needed to be depicted. I had to see, through music, that there was no way that a person who loved the piano could be as bitter and self-absorbed as I’d written her! You could say that I had to be a better pianist before I could be a better writer—though I had no idea of that when I started out.

What do you hope readers will take away from the book?

The Sound Between the Notes is about embracing everything we are—and everything that’s made us who we are. The message it offers is about integrating all the influences we’ve received, all the experiences, and all the parts of ourselves—nature and nurture, self and others, individual identity and a sense of family and connection.

Was there something you deleted from the book?

In an earlier draft, the book had two extra scenes at the end—one from the point of view of Dana, Susannah’s adoptive mother, and one from the point of view of Corinne, her biological one.  Ultimately, I decided to delete them and let Susannah have the ending to herself.

Was there a special piece of research you had to do for the book?

I actually got to talk with Misha Dichter, the world-famous pianist mentioned several times in the book, who had the same hand ailment that threatens Susannah’s playing. I wrote to his agent, explained my request, and was stunned when my phone rang and it was Dichter himself calling me!  He couldn’t have been kinder.

What inspired you to become a writer?

I actually wrote my first “book” when I was seven years old, ten chapters, complete with illustrations!  Seriously, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing, although I did other kinds of writing for many years before returning to fiction. The first novel I wrote as an adult—which, fortunately, will never be seen by anyone but me—was my way to work through certain events in my own life.  I think it’s that way for a lot of novelists. You have to get that out of your system before you can create a truly fictional world.

Can you tell us a few surprising things about yourself that we never would have guessed?

Here are five: 1.    I’ve lived in a former jail cell, a former sauna, a former firehouse, and a cabin in the redwoods without heat. 2.   I’ve been a therapist, researcher, college professor, advocate, director of a nonprofit organization, elementary school teacher, and fulltime mom. 3.     In the course of my travels I’ve been inside a glacier, a lava tube, a monastery, and a mosque. I’ve seen the Whirling Dervishes, the Mona Lisa, the rain forest, the Outer Hebrides, the Venetian canals, and the Egyptian Sphinx. 4.     My eyes change color, depending on my mood. 5.     My best writing ideas come to me in the shower.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned, as a writer?

What I’ve learned, over the course of two books, is that I need to love my characters much more generously than I thought. I need to listen to them, feel their humanity, and find the thing in each of them that’s worthy of love and respect. And that goes for secondary characters too!

Any writing advice for aspiring writers?

There is so much advice out there, but I think there are three essential principles that span genre, temperament, and the whole notion of “plotter-versus-pantser” (I do both).  Here are my three essential bits of advice:

First, have a really good story that you are burning to tell. Let the story lead. Listen to the characters, rather than worrying about how to please agents and publishers, or conform to any of the writing templates out there.

Second (and this is the essential complement to the first principle), find a couple of really smart people whom you trust, and listen well to what they have to tell you about your work. Be open, not defensive.

Third, read up. Read books that are really well written to see how the authors did it. Write books that you would love to read.

Where can we find you?

Website:         https://www.barbaralinnprobst.com/

Facebook:       https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100011410511548

Instagram:       https://www.instagram.com/barbara_linn_probst/