Wednesday, January 31, 2018


For readers who love Adriana Trigiani, Jennifer Weiner and Liane Moriarty, Forks, Knives, and Spoons is a light-hearted, thought-provoking coming of age story that takes readers on a nostalgic journey back to the 1980s and 1990s. Romantic, witty and warm.

There are three kinds of guys: forks, knives, and spoons. That is the final lesson that Amy York’s father sends her off to college with, never suspecting just how far his daughter will take it. Clinging to the Utensil Classification System as her guide, Amy tries to convince her skeptical roommate, Veronica Warren, of its usefulness as they navigate the heartbreaks and soul mates of college and beyond.

Beginning in 1988, their freshman year at Syracuse University, Amy and Veronica meet an assortment of guys―from slotted spoons and shrimp forks to butter knives and sporks―all while trying to learn if the UCS holds true. On the quest to find their perfect steak knives, they learn to believe in themselves―and not to settle in love or life.

2017 Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal for New Adult Fiction
2017 New York City Big Book Award Winner Women’s Fiction
2017 IAN Book of the Year Award for Outstanding Women’s Fiction
2017 USA Best Book Awards Finalist in New Fiction

"The novel's construct of categorizing men's qualities according to a Utensil Classification System when looking for a romantic partner is memorable, wittily practical, and has the power to influence readers' real-life choices. For that, Forks, Knives, and Spoons breaks new ground."
―The BookLife Prize

"Reading Forks, Knives, and Spoons is like having your best girlfriend take you by the hand and tell you a story. A story you want to sit and listen to until the very end."
―Ann Hood, New York Times bestselling author of The Book That Matters Most

"Leah DeCesare has a writer's voice that is remarkable for a debut novel. The characters in Forks, Knives, and Spoons are so relatable, and the story makes you long for your own youth. A wonderful book about love and growth, discovering who you are, and what makes you happy."
―Anita Hughes, author of Christmas in Paris

"What a warm, wonderful read! I fell in love with Leah DeCesare's wit and her relatable, human characters, who brought me back to that tender and occasionally heartbreaking time at the very cusp of adulthood.”
―Cristina Alger, author of This Was Not The Plan

Some Q & A with Leah ~ 

What are some things you enjoy when not writing?

I love family dinners and FaceTiming with our college girl, Mastermind challenges and movie nights snuggled in with my steak knife (my husband) and my kiddos.  I love to read and have wonderful towering stacks of books, full bookshelves, a bursting Kindle and countless audiobooks downloaded and waiting for me to devour. I also love to travel, which will be on hold for the next many years while our money pours into kid’s tuition. I play tennis a few times a week and almost daily in the summer and I’ve practiced yoga since I was in college (way back in the same year’s that Amy and Veronica were in school, 1988-1992). Making time for breakfasts or lunches out with friends is another favorite. Which leads me to your next question …

Do you have a ‘day job’ as well?

No. I worked in NYC in buying and PR for Lord & Taylor after college and in my early married years but I chose to stay home with my kids and loved that I could be a full-time mama.

While the kids were little, I became a doula and birth educator and cherished the years teaching and supporting families as they welcomed their new babies. About four years ago, I stopped taking clients and only accepted repeats. This week, I attended what is likely to be my last birth as a doula. Being a doula is such an intimate and special job and I’ve tapped into that world in my next book. 

At a writers’ conference last spring, I heard an author talking about being a bookseller and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it before. I finally reached out to my local indie bookstore and got thrown happily into the deep end during the Christmas season. I’ve loved it and am so glad I get to stay on here and there because it is so much fun to be around books all day and to recommend books and to go on “scavenger hunts” trying to find a book that is just right for a customer.  

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

The initial inspiration for Forks, Knives, and Spoons came from my father. I’ve carried the central idea of this book with me since 1988 when my dad sent me off to college with the advice that my character, Amy York’s, dad sends her off to Syracuse University with: There are three types of guys: forks, knives, and spoons. That tidbit was true and when I shared this system with my college friends it took off, with everyone adding descriptions for new utensils and talking as if it were an understood concept, for example, “I met this complete fork last night.”

That idea sat with me for decades, but there was no story around it, so when I finally sat to write this book, I had to build the characters and their arcs and let the Utensil Classification System (the UCS) become a backdrop and an organizing idea serving the characters and their growth. In the end, I had a story about friendship and learning to believe in oneself. 
 Amy is from Newtown, CT, my hometown, I figure characters need to be from somewhere, it may as well be from somewhere I know and love. 

I also used the years I was in college, 1988-1992 and Syracuse University where I went to school, as the time period and setting for the book.  It was a conscious choice to set Forks, Knives, and Spoons in the late eighties into the early nineties for a few reasons. First, it’s a period I know and could realistically convey the college culture at that time, but I also wanted to show some timeless truths about growing up, coming of age, and seeking love despite cell phones and technologies. If it were set in present day, some of the incidents could have unfolded differently - or not at all. Certainly, today, handwritten letters and phone calls on the hall payphone are extinct, and finding someone in a crowd outside at a fire drill or at a party is easy by comparison.

I mistakenly thought it would be “easy” to write a period I had lived, but it took a lot more research than I expected. I had to be sure not to have anything out of chronological order, for example, my editor found that a Sega video game I mentioned in the book was in the right year, but my characters were playing it in April when it didn’t actually come out until September that year. I changed it! But I found it really fun, myself, to revisit old fashions and music, and to return to a time pre-Internet and pre-Always-Accessible. 

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

Thank you. From my very core, I want to say, thank you. It is humbling, thrilling and purely amazing to hear that people (who aren’t related to me) have read and enjoyed my book. I am so grateful to be able to do this. I’d also like to mention that reviews seriously make a difference to authors, so please, take a moment to review books you love - we really appreciate those stars on Amazon and Goodreads. 

To connect with Leah ~ 

Pinterest - (I have a Forks, Knives, and Spoons board)
Amazon Author Page-

Tuesday, January 23, 2018


A novel inspired by the most celebrated regiment in the Red Army— About a woman’s sacrifice, courage, and love in a time of war. Russia, 1941. Katya Ivanova is a young pilot in a far-flung military academy in the Ural Mountains. From childhood, she’s dreamed of taking to the skies to escape her bleak mountain life. With the Nazis on the march across Europe, she is called on to use her wings to serve her country in its darkest hour. Not even the entreaties of her new husband—a sensitive artist who fears for her safety—can dissuade her from doing her part as a proud daughter of Russia.

After years of arduous training, Katya is assigned to the 588th Night Bomber Regiment—one of the only Soviet air units composed entirely of women. The Germans quickly learn to fear nocturnal raids by the daring fliers they call “Night Witches.” But the brutal campaign will exact a bitter toll on Katya and her sisters-in-arms. When the smoke of war clears, nothing will ever be the same—and one of Russia’s most decorated military heroines will face the most agonizing choice of all.

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

I actually started writing when I was a kid. Plays, poems, short stories… I even started writing a novel when I was in high school (yes, it was historical fiction!) The problem? Aside from some really terrible short poems, I never finished my projects. I was convinced that I was wasting my time because I wasn’t a ‘real writer’. I ended up taking some grad school creative writing classes while working on my MA in another field and ended up writing the short story that would become Promised to the Crown. It sat in a drawer for ten years until I had the courage to finish it.

What are some things you enjoy when not writing?

Hiking, going to the movies and theater, reading, baking, and above all—traveling!

Do you have a ‘day job’ as well?

Not a paying gig. I have two small kids who employ me as their personal chef and chauffeur. They pay in snuggles. #worthit

Where do you get your ideas?

So far, a grad school class, my weird and twisted brain, and online articled forwarded to me by friends.

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

The two that come to mind are Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth and Philippa Gregory’s Tudor series. Gorgeous, immersive books!

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

Yes! The women of the 46th Taman Guards were very real. While the characters in my book are of my own creation, many of the anecdotes they share and some of their personality traits are taken from real experiences and real women. I decided to use factionalized characters rather than historical figures so I would have to take fewer liberties with the timeline, regiment assignments, and so on.

Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?

I love the scene in the meadow where Vanya paints a portrait of Katya. It’s definitely the most romantic in the book, and one that I think is very revealing about the characters and their hopes and desires. 

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a novel, Girls on the Line, about the women who were sent over to France as telephone operators in WWI. There were more women in the armed forces in the first world war than we ever hear about, which is a pity because their involvement killed the anti-women’s suffrage movement. It’s been a joy to write, and you can all enjoy it this November just in time for Veteran’s Day!

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

I’m a huge fan of the old axiom, “stop aspiring and start writing”. Set aside time every day—or at least on a regular schedule—and write. Take it seriously. Read good craft books (don’t assume they all are, but even the worst of them may have a pearl of wisdom). Find your process. That part isn’t easy. It may change from project to project, but eventually, you will know how you tick as a writer. Talk with writers about the business as well as the craft. Have realistic expectations for your career, as well as realistic long and short-term goals. You *can* make a living at writing, but that will look vastly different than what the novice writer thinks it will.

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

It’s impossible to leave the office. Especially when I’m neck deep in drafting or the meaty parts of editing, and it makes me tiresome company at times. That said, this is an amazing job.

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

Thank you for all your support of Daughters of the Night Sky! I am humbled by the love you have shown for this precious project of mine, and I am forever grateful!

To connect with Aimie ~

Thursday, January 11, 2018


(If you share this post on social media, from my post or Barbara's, your name will be entered for a chance to win a signed copy of her new book!)

Metal artist Katie Mack is living a lie. 

Nine years ago she ran away from her family, consumed by the irrational fear that she would harm Maisie, her newborn daughter. Over time she’s come to grips with the mental illness that nearly destroyed her and now funnels her pain into her art. Despite longing for Maisie, Katie honors an agreement with the husband she left behind—to change her name and never return.

But when she and Maisie accidentally reunite, Katie can’t ignore the familiarity of her child’s compulsive behavior. Worse, Maisie worries obsessively about bad things happening to her pregnant stepmom. Katie has the power to help, but can she reconnect with the family she abandoned?

To protect Maisie, Katie must face the fears that drove her from home, accept the possibilities of love, and risk exposing her heart-wrenching secret.

"A challenging and important story about the difficulties of living with mental illness.”—Kirkus Review.

“If you leave your newborn child because you have unstoppable thoughts of harming her, are you a good mother or a terrible one? This dilemma is at the heart of Barbara Claypole White’s novel, a wrenching story of how one woman’s OCD has a ripple effect on those around her, including the people she tried hardest to protect. This is an eye-opening and realistic exploration of mental illness—a topic that greatly deserves to be front and center.” - Jodi Picoult, NYT bestselling author of SMALL GREAT THINGS

"Barbara Claypole White does not merely write about people with mental illness—she inhabits them. This brilliant novel about obsessive-compulsive disorder is compulsively readable.” –Lee Smith, NYT bestselling author of The Last Girls

"THE PROMISE BETWEEN US has something for everyone: suspense, romance, and even a hint of mystery. A fast-paced read that captivates from the first word until the last." Kerry Lonsdale, Wall Street Journal and #1 Amazon Kindle Bestselling Author of EVERYTHING WE KEEP.

“THE PROMISE BETWEEN US redefines motherhood and sacrifice, delivering a heartfelt story with a powerful message.” –Laura Spinella, bestselling author of UNSTRUNG.

Some Q & A with Barbara ~ 

Do you have a ‘day job’ as well?
Nope. I hang out with my imaginary friends seven days a week, and despite the chaos it brings to the family, my menfolk support me 100%. However, family always comes first, which is the reason I’ve had several pub. date extensions. J

Where do you get your ideas?
Life. Anything around me is fair game. I was flying home from a conference when some poor guy collapsed three rows in front of me, and I was the terrible person taking notes. (My heroine in THE PERFECT SON has a heart attack on a plane.)

When my BFF had squirrels in her linen closet, they also went in THE PERFECT SON. When my mother broke her ankle, chasing after her mad springer spaniel, that went in THE UNFINISHED GARDEN. I fell in love with a piece of metal art at the hairdressers, and Katie Mack, the heroine of THE PROMISE BETWEEN US, became a girlie welder. On it goes…

Is there a particular author or book that influenced or inspired your writing or decision to write?
When I was five I wanted to be Beatrix Potter. At twelve, I wanted to be Charlotte Bronte, but it wasn’t until I read Denyse Devlin’s THE CATALPA TREE in my early thirties that I thought, “This is how I want to write.”

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
How long do you have? I spent ten years on that puppy, and it went through many transformations before James Nealy strolled into my head and insisted on becoming my hero. James grew out of my darkest fear as a mother: What if, when my young son grew up, no one could see beyond his OCD to love him for the incredible person he is? James set me on the path to writing stories that find hope in the darkness of mental illness, but that subject matter is not an easy sell. Oh, no.

After working with a freelance editor for a year, I started querying and got nothing but rejections. I queried slowly—49 queries over three years—and randomly stopped to rewrite the manuscript. Finally, I submitted the opening pages to a handful of contests, and became a finalist. I had a breakthrough when the story placed second in the Carrie McCray Memorial Literary Awards, and several weeks later, I received a devastating rejection. An A-list agent informed me that the book would never get published because James was too dark to be a romantic hero. This contradiction—between the competition win and the rejection—was a precursor for the way readers respond to my work. They become diehard fans or clearly think I’m off my rocker. 

After one more rewrite—in which I went darker with James, since I figured I had nothing to lose—I received requests for partials and quickly landed my agent: Nalini Akolekar. Nalini understands how I write, why I write, and what I write. She’s the best. When the book went on submission there were several editors who didn’t ‘get’ James and one freaked out over a snake in the opening scene, but three months later Nalini landed me a two-book deal with MIRA Books. Yay!

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?
For my new release, THE PROMISE BETWEEN US? Not one thing. I adore my editorial team at Lake Union, and I’m super proud of my characters and the portrayal of OCD. I have no idea how the book will perform in the big wide world (January 16th, y’all!) but the advance reviews have touched my heart. If my imaginary friends help chip away at the stereotypes, stigma, and myths surrounding OCD, then I’ll have contributed something huge to the Universe.

Is anything in your new book based on real-life experiences?
Hell, yeah. Since THE UNFINISHED GARDEN, I’ve wanted to tunnel deeper into the impact of OCD on relationships. Obsessive-compulsive disorder frames my life as a wife and a mother, and every day I battle misconceptions about this chronic illness.

Most people assume OCD equals compulsive behaviors like hand washing, but for many sufferers, it’s purely mental. Irrespective of how it manifests, OCD is an allergy to life—an anxiety disorder that creates irrational fear in the absence of true threat. It’s like having a broken smoke detector in your brain, one that floods your mind with intrusive, unwanted, repetitive thoughts of danger. It digs deeper and deeper, asking, “What if, what if?” until it finds your worst fear. Then it goes for the jugular.

For new parents or grandparents, an intrusive thought would be something bad happening to the baby, right? But OCD doesn’t let you off the ride with that fear. It keeps going until it says, “Aha! What if the threat to the baby is you?” And then your brain plays a private horror movie over and over with you in the starring role—you hurting your baby. This is the living breathing hell of postpartum OCD, and it’s slowly killing Katie in the prologue of the book.

Here’s the true story behind Katie’s fictitious one: a teacher posted in one of our private online support groups about her battles with intrusive, unwanted thoughts and images of harming kids. Her comments were leaked to her employer, and she was fired. Shortly afterward, someone sent me a joke with a punchline, “I wish I had OCD so I could better organize my closets.” I would never wish OCD on anyone.

My son is incredibly brave and incredibly successful at life, but OCD rarely leaves him—or me—alone. In the month before the manuscript was due, we were back in exposure therapy, which means I had to torture him with his fears (to take away their power). Trust me, that is counterintuitive to every mothering instinct, but it does work. Eventually. Exposure therapy is hard and emotionally painful, as Katie will show you in THE PROMISE BETWEEN US.

Do you have a favorite scene?
I have several, but they’re full of plot spoilers. I do love a certain scene that unfolds at the UNC botanical gardens, and there’s a scene with drunken dancing that leads to… Yeah, I’ll stop there.

How do you market your work?
I treat myself as a marketing tool. That sounds egomaniacal, but to me it’s authentic. I want to participate in discussions about mental illness—how we treat it, how we provide collective support, how we educate ourselves and others. Engaging with readers is my way of becoming part of a public conversation. Information is power, and too many people suffer in isolation. To quote Jake, one my characters in THE PROMISE BETWEEN US, I want to break down walls.

As an author, I also believe in the power of networking, and I try hard to support booksellers and other authors by going to events, buying books at those events, posting pics to social media, etc. All of that is within my comfort zone. Bashing people to death with ‘buy my books’ isn’t. J

What are you working on now?
The story of Maggie King—clean and sober for ten years—who’s on an impossible mission to earn her mother’s forgiveness…until she discovers that her spectacular history of failure has the power to save lives. Including her own. It touches on addiction—obviously—cyberbullying, dementia, mental abuse, the role of celebrity in our lives, and how our greatest successes can rise from our failures. The story seed grew out of events surrounding Chester Bennington’s suicide, which had a huge impact on my son—and me. The working title, inspired by a Linkin Park song, is THE SHADOW OF THE DAY. Oh, and it has a toxic mother/daughter relationship, which is so much fun to write!

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Keep writing—every day if you can. Publishing is a brutal industry. It doesn’t always treat authors or books well, and the rejection never ends. The only way to survive is to let writing be the cure. Escape into your stories, follow your passion, believe in your characters, and keep working on your craft. Write, write, write.

Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans?
Your support, encouragement, and enthusiasm remind me why I do this. Thank you. <3

To connect with Barbara ~