Interview with Kathleen Barber, author of the new suspense novel, Are You Sleeping.

We are delighted today to be talking with debut author, Kathleen Barber, about her novel Are You Sleeping.

Please describe what your book is about.

A woman whose father was murdered thirteen years ago suddenly finds his death (and, by extension, her family) the subject of a popular podcast. When an unexpected death forces what’s left of her scattered family back together, she’s forced to confront her past and the lies upon which she built her future.

Share a teaser sentence or two from your novel.

“The truth is complicated.”

“That’s where you’re wrong, Jo. The truth is never complicated. It’s just the truth. Circumstances may be complicated, but the truth is always black-and-white.”

[N.B. This is one of my favorite lines from the book, and it’s on the back of the UK cover.]

What do you want people to know about your book?

I have been writing about these characters – Josie, Lanie, and Adam – for literally decades. I have written so many terrible drafts of their story (including one draft as a NaNo novel in 2009), and so I’m so, so happy to have finally found their plot.

What did you learn about yourself while writing this novel?

Not exactly while I was writing the novel, but just before it: I had been listening to Serial, and by “listening,” I mean that I had been listening to the podcasts, visiting the website to look at the supporting materials, searching for Serial-related hashtags on Twitter, frequenting the Serial subreddit, and so forth. When I caught myself conducting a Google image search to see what some of the people involved looked like, I was sort of horrified. I realized I had been thinking about them as characters in an entertaining drama, rather than very real people who were part of a very real tragedy. I generally think of myself as an empathetic person who is concerned with other people’s feelings, and so I realized that if I was doing that, surely many other people were too. And so the first draft of the current version of ARE YOU SLEEPING basically started as a way for me to work through my own Serial obsession.

What was your timeline from drafting to publication?

As noted above, I’ve been playing with these characters for decades. However, once I found their plot, things moved fairly quickly: I began drafting in October 2014 and began querying in April 2015. I got some feedback from agents and spent most of 2015 revising, and then I signed with my agent in February 2016. More revisions followed, and she sold the book in April 2016. Publication followed 16 months later in August 2017!

What is your favorite part of writing (drafting characters, making up scenes, plotting, developing emotional turning points, etc). Why?

Inventing characters is hands-down my favorite part of writing. I’m really not sure why; it’s just been something that I’ve always enjoyed. I mean, when I used to play The Sims, I always invented really long, complicated backstories for my Sims and would keep track of their affairs in a notebook (when, really, I should have been making sure that they weren’t setting the kitchen on fire again).

Briefly, where did the idea for your book come from?

[see above, in the “what did you learn” section]

When do you do your best thinking about your work in progress?

In the shower, obviously! Sometimes public transportation, or the elliptical. Really, anywhere that I don’t have access to my computer or a pen. My muse is a slippery little devil.

Share something people may be surprised to know about you?

My husband and I spent the better part of 2014 backpacking across Africa and parts of the Middle East. (Come to think of it, this is probably how Josie ended up in Tanzania … )

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

I love that Jodi Picoult quote: “You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” It’s so true. It’s so important to just get some words on the page, and to not be too precious about them.

What’s next?

I’m always writing, so hopefully I’ll have something new …
aysfinal

ARE YOU SLEEPING

Serial meets Ruth Ware’s In A Dark, Dark Wood in this inventive and twisty psychological thriller about a mega-hit podcast that reopens a long-closed murder case—and threatens to unravel the carefully constructed life of the victim’s daughter.

Josie Buhrman has spent the last ten years trying to escape her family’s reputation and with good reason: her father was murdered, her mother ran away to join a cult, and her twin sister Lanie, once Josie’s closest friend and confidant, went completely off the rails and stole her high school sweetheart. Josie has finally put down roots in New York, settling into domestic life with her partner Caleb, and that’s where she intends to stay.

The only problem is that she has lied to Caleb about every detail of her past—starting with her last name.

When investigative reporter Poppy Parnell sets off a media firestorm with a mega-hit podcast that reopens the long-closed case of Josie’s father’s murder, Josie’s carefully constructed world begins to unravel. Meanwhile, the unexpected death of Josie’s long-absent mother forces her to return to her Midwestern hometown where she must confront the demons from her past—and the lies on which she has staked her future.

Available August 1, 2017 with Gallery Books (an imprint of Simon & Schuster).

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Interview with Jenny D. Williams, Author of The Atlas of Forgotten Places

We’re talking today with Jenny Williams, author of the fabulous new book, The Atlas of Forgotten Places.

Please describe what the story is about.

Set against the backdrop of Joseph Kony’s rebellion and the ivory wars in central Africa, THE ATLAS OF FORGOTTEN PLACES follows two women who must face their brutal pasts to find their missing loved ones.

Share a teaser sentence or two from your novel.

“The day she left Uganda for the last time, two years ago, she’d looked out the oval airplane window as they lifted off the tarmac and rose into the air over Entebbe: the undulating green hills below, the vast blue of Lake Victoria glinting all the way to the horizon. She’d known even then—hadn’t she known?—that after everything, she couldn’t just flee; it wasn’t as simple as packing your bags and unpacking them on another, colder continent.”

What do you want people to know about your book?

THE ATLAS OF FORGOTTEN PLACES is inspired by true events, though I’ve taken plenty of creative liberties with the storyline. At its core, ATLAS is about family secrets, love, forgiveness, and redemption.

What did you learn about yourself while writing this novel?

Patience and humility.

What was your timeline from drafting to publication?

I had the idea for a novel when I was living in Uganda in 2006, but I didn’t start writing what would become ATLAS until January 2012. I rewrote it several times over the course of the next few years, continually recalibrating based on research, reader feedback, and a return trip to Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in spring 2013. The novel sold to Thomas Dunne/St. Martin’s Press in early 2016.

What is your favorite part of writing (drafting characters, making up scenes, plotting, developing emotional turning points, etc). Why?

I feel the most joyful when I’m in the initial imaginative stage—when I’m deep in research, shaping and exploring the universe of the novel, when characters and plot threads are still a bit elusive and anything is possible. But I also love the powerful emotional experience when I’m two-thirds of the way through a full draft and I’ve spent so much time being with these characters that the story becomes almost physically manifest in the room around me.

Briefly, where did the idea for your book come from?

I’ve wanted to write about northern Uganda ever since I first visited Kitgum in 2006, when I was a long-term volunteer for an aid organization working in Uganda and South Sudan. It took five years before I felt ready to tackle the material in a novel. There are some excellent nonfiction books about northern Uganda and the LRA, but I was excited by the opportunity fiction affords to reach other kinds of readers.

When do you do your best thinking about your work in progress?

I like to go to bed early and think about my characters and storylines in that half-awake, half-asleep state, when my mind is a bit drifty. I find that the dream of the novel takes over and carries me to surprising places that I never would have reached with my logical daytime brain.

Share something people may be surprised to know about you?

I have a lipsynching cameo in a Bollywood blockbuster.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

When I first started working on this novel, I shared some initial plot ideas with my husband, who listened very closely, nodded his head thoughtfully, and finally said, “That all sounds great, but someone has to die.”

What’s next?

I’ve been mulling over a few ideas and am waiting to see how they develop.

atlas

THE ATLAS OF FORGOTTEN PLACES

With the empathy of Little Bee and the political intrigue of Blood Diamond, The Atlas of Forgotten Places is a gripping story of two women from different worlds who become inextricably bound in a quest to save their loved ones.

After a long career as an aid worker, Sabine Hardt has retreated to her native Germany for a quieter life. But when her American niece Lily disappears while volunteering in Uganda, Sabine must return to places and memories she once thought buried in order to find her. In Uganda, Rose Akulu—haunted by a troubled past with the Lord’s Resistance Army—becomes distressed when her lover Ocen vanishes without a trace. Side by side, Sabine and Rose must unravel the tangled threads that tie Lily and Ocen’s lives together—ultimately discovering that the truth of their loved ones’ disappearance is inescapably entwined to the secrets the two women carry.

Masterfully plotted and vividly rendered by a fresh new voice in fiction, The Atlas of Forgotten Places delves deep into the heart of compassion and redemption through a journey that spans geographies and generations to lay bare the stories that connect us all.

“A young American woman gone missing in Africa, her German aunt forced to revisit her own past. From these elements, Jenny Williams has produced a riveting alchemy. In the vein of Paul Bowles and Robert Stone, The Atlas of Forgotten Places is part political thriller, part love story, always attuned to matters of the heart. It’s a splendid debut.”
Joshua Henkin, author of The World Without You, Matrimony, and Swimming Across the Hudson

Available July 11, 2017 from St. Martin’s Press.

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Interview with Kellye Garrett, Author of Hollywood Homicide

We are so thrilled to be chatting with Kellye Garrett, author of the new book Hollywood Homicide! (Kellye is also a founder of 17 Scribes!)

Please describe what the book is about:

Hollywood Homicide introduces Dayna Anderson, a semi-famous, mega-broke black actress who takes on the deadliest role of her life: Homicide Detective. It’s the first book in the Detective by Day mystery series being published by Midnight Ink Books.

Share a teaser sentence or two from your novel.

I went back to the bloset, where I didn’t call him. Instead, I got on my tablet and googled “Tricks to trigger memory.” A ton of hits came up. All of them were for how to remember things in the future. That would be fine and dandy for the next hit-and-run I witnessed but was not helping me now. I typed “How to remember something you forgot.”

What do you want people to know about your book?

Hollywood Homicide is a light-weight mystery like you get from a Stephanie Plum novel and the Spellman Files series. It also is based on my experience of spending 8 years in Hollywood. I used the Shonda Rhimes approach to the characters, where the lead is black but it’s a very diverse cast in terms race and ethnicity.

What did you learn about yourself while writing this novel?

I learned that I could actually finish a book! It’s been my dream since I was five-years-old, but fear had me trying literally every other form of writing other than poetry. I finally put my big girl panties on and started writing.

What was your timeline from drafting to publication?

I actually just found my second draft, which was dated August 2013. So it’s been quite a long process. During those five years, I finished about three more drafts, was chosen for Pitch Wars at the end of 2014, found my agent, did more revisions, finally sold the book in May 2016 and here we are!

Being a writer is just as much about patience and drive as it is about talent. It’s also a lot about luck.

What is your favorite part of writing (drafting characters, making up scenes, plotting, developing emotional turning points, etc). Why?

My favorite quote is from Dorothy Parker: “I hate writing. I love having written.” In actuality, I love rewriting. There’s just something about cleaning up my first draft that makes me so happy.

Briefly, where did the idea for your book come from?

I was driving down the street and saw a billboard offering a $15,000 reward for information on a murder. I was so broke at the time that my first thought was, “I should try to solve it for the reward money.” My second thought was, “That’s a horrible idea in real life but a great idea for a mystery.”

When do you do your best thinking about your work in progress?

When I’m not thinking about it, if that makes sense. It’s when I’m walking down the street or in the shower or in bed. Basically anywhere that it’s nearly impossible to write things down. Let’s just say the Notes app on my iPhone gets a lot of use.

 What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

Writing is rewriting.

 What’s next?

Book 2 of the Detective by Day series, which will be out sometime in summer of 2018.

“A former magazine editor who’s contributed to TV’s Cold Case, Garrett writes with humor and insight about the Hollywood scene. Readers will look forward to Day’s further adventures.”

Publisher’s Weekly (Starred review)

hollywood-homicide

HOLLYWOOD HOMICIDE

Dayna Anderson doesn’t set out to solve a murder. All the semi-famous, mega-broke black actress wants is to help her parents keep their house. After witnessing a deadly hit-and-run, she figures pursuing the fifteen-grand reward isn’t the craziest thing a Hollywood actress has done for some cash.
But what starts as simply trying to remember a speeding car soon blossoms into a full-on investigation. As Dayna digs deeper into the victim’s life, she wants more than just reward money. She’s determined to find the poor woman’s killer too. When she connects the accident to a notorious Hollywood crime spree, Dayna chases down leads at paparazzi hot spots, celeb homes and movie premieres. She loves every second—until someone tries to kill her.
And there are no second takes in real life.

Available August 8 from Midnight Ink.

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Interview with KD Proctor, Author of Meet Me Under the Stars

We’re delighted to be talking to KD Proctor, author of the debut novel, Meet Me Under the Stars.

Please describe what the story/book is about.

Charlie’s sister has died and left a will with one simple request: she wants a memorial scholarship set up in her name at the summer camp they both attended as kids. There’s just one problem. Charlie has to create the scholarship with Nate, who just so happens to be her ex.

Share a teaser sentence or two from your novel.

What do we do now? Hug? Shake hands? My body moves towards him on autopilot. Our chests bump first, and then my mind scrambles. Should I hug him around the middle? Or do I give him one of those wimpy hugs like we’re on a first date? Where’s the how-to guide How to Hug the Ex when you need it?

What do you want people to know about your book?

The setting of a summer camp is based off the camp I used to work at both seasonally (while in college) and full time/year round (after graduate school). Many of the scenes in the book are based on real camp traditions, places around camp, etc. For those who have never been to a traditional summer camp, you’ll get a fun glimpse of what camp is like. But for my friends who I’ve met at camp and who have spent numerous summers on the shores of Lake Hubert in Nisswa, Minnesota—those scenes are my “Easter Eggs” left there for them to find.

What did you learn about yourself while writing this novel?

As much as I didn’t mean to, I put a hell of a lot of pressure on myself to make everything about this novel absolutely perfect. As a result, I found that the stress was too much for me and it was having an impact on my self-esteem and those around me. I had to let go and trust my editors, my publisher, my writing friends, CP/Beta readers that I was doing good work and that no author ever feels like their novel is perfect. Once I finally let go of that pressure my confidence soared. I had to tell myself that accepting imperfection doesn’t mean I’m a lazy writer.

What was your timeline from drafting to publication?

March 2015: Idea was born and outline created

April 2016: Publishing offer was accepted

May 2016 – April 2017: Edits

July 2017: Published

What is your favorite part of writing (drafting characters, making up scenes, plotting, developing emotional turning points, etc). Why?

Plotting! My method consists of an extensive, highly detailed outline for the story as well as a deep character inventory/questionnaire. All of this especially helps my CPs know more about my characters should I need their help in fixing a plot point.

Briefly, where did the idea for your book come from?

My book ideas pop into my head at the most random of times. Case in point: I was at a work conference in Chicago. I was sitting in a session about federal compliance for financial aid funding (riveting, I know). And out of nowhere, the original idea for the book hit me: friends who met at a summer camp years ago travel around the world spreading the ashes of another camp friend. In their travels, they connect with other camp friends, fall in love, etc.  On my flight home I drafted the outline and the rest is history.

When do you do your best thinking about your work in progress?

In the most inconvenient places: on the treadmill, in the shower, driving in the car, in conference sessions when I should be taking notes. And do you think I can remember all the great brainstorms I had? Nope. *sigh*

Share something people may be surprised to know about you?

With all my summers working at camp, I’m quite the practical joker. I also have a set of rules I follow, too (no one is in danger, no personal property is damaged, etc). Of course, you can’t say you’re a great practical joker without SOMEONE challenging you. They try, but they never succeed because the payback is always something they never saw coming. And without fail, they proclaim that yes…I am the reining champion of the practical jokes.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

Colleen Hoover and I had a very kind email exchange very early on in my writing career. She shared a laundry list of writing advice and my favorite was this: Publishing is a really hard industry to break into and the odds of being a best seller are slim. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. She encouraged me to set my end goal to be as simple as possible: write a book that I love and publish it. That way, if any of the cool stuff happens (like movie deals and world publishing rights) then it’s an added bonus. If none of that happens, it’s okay because you still met your goal of writing a book and publishing it.

What’s next?

My editing group has a holiday anthology going out on submission later this summer. It’s a combination of novellas set in a small Vermont town that all weave together—much like the movie Love Actually. A fun mix of genres are included, so there is something for everyone!

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Interview with Lorena Hughes, Author of The Sisters of Alameda Street

Today, we’re chatting with Lorena Hughes, author of The Sisters of Alameda Street!

Please describe what your book is about.

Set in a small South American town during the early 60s, The Sisters of Alameda Street is the story of a young woman who assumes another identity to find her mother among four unconventional sisters.

Share a teaser sentence or two from your novel.

She looked into the woman’s eyes. Was that fear in them? There was a strange tension in the room, but she couldn’t quite pinpoint what it was.

“Aren’t you going to say hello to your mother?”

What do you want people to know about your book?

If you like unconventional settings, family secrets, lots of surprises and stories about women fighting for their dreams in patriarchal societies, you’ll probably enjoy my novel.

What did you learn about yourself while writing this novel?

I learned that I can handle bad criticism a lot better than I ever thought I could.

What was your timeline from drafting to publication?

The concept of this novel first came to me in 1998. Yes, you read correctly: 1998! But I initially conceived it as a Spanish soap opera. By 2005, I decided to write it as a novel in English. It took three complete rewrites, two agents, and many rejection letters to finally find its home in Skyhorse Publishing—exactly ten years after I’d attended my first writer’s conference!

What is your favorite part of writing (drafting characters, making up scenes, plotting, developing emotional turning points, etc). Why?

I love it when I’m not sure how I’m going to develop a scene, but everything comes together the moment I’m writing it. I love being surprised by what my characters say and do.

Briefly, where did the idea for your book come from?

I once watched an old film about a young mother who accidentally lost her daughter on a train and found her—years later—along with two other girls, but didn’t know which one of them was her daughter. I started thinking: “What if instead of the mother searching for her daughter, it is the daughter trying to find her mother?”

When do you do your best thinking about your work in progress?

When I’m detangling my hair in the shower (it takes a looong time, ha!) But I’m probably at my most focused when I’m writing an actual scene. Magical things happen when you let your characters’ actions and dialogue flow in the page without censoring anything.

Share something people may be surprised to know about you?

People may be surprised to know that the walls in my parents’ apartment are covered with pictures I painted during my teenage years.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

I love this quote from Calvin Coolidge:

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

What’s next?

I’m working on revisions of my fourth novel: a historical mystery set in a cocoa plantation in Ecuador during the early 20th century. I can’t wait to see what happens with it!

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“Malena’s tidy world collapses when her father commits suicide, leaving behind only a letter from her mother, who Malena thought had died in childbirth. The letter, signed with an “A,” leads her to the Platas sisters, four women whose names start with an A and who want their pasts buried and forgotten. To avoid a scandal, Malena assumes another identity and searches for the truth. But living a lie will bring a myriad of problems, such as falling for a forbidden man and loving a family she may lose when they learn of her deceit. Worse, her arrival threatens to reveal secrets that may wreck her life forever.”

Interview with Meghan Masterson, Author of The Wardrobe Mistress

We’re talking today with Meghan Masterson, author of The Wardrobe Mistress.

What’s your story about?

The Wardrobe Mistress follows Giselle Aubry, one of Marie Antoinette’s wardrobe women, who casually spies on the queen as revolutionary fervor takes hold in Paris. As the revolution escalates, she becomes torn between her loyalty to the queen and her growing love for her idealistic revolutionary suitor, and in danger of facing the guillotine herself.

Share a teaser sentence or two from your novel. 

Her diamonds catch the light and shatter into hundreds of colors, rainbow pinpricks after the other, hovering around the queen, dancing with each of her steps and floating away from the people as she progresses through the courtyard.

“It is like she is made of light,” says Madame Campan poetically.

It’s like she is stealing the light from everyone else, I think.

What do you want people to know about your book?

Color plays an important part in the novel. As revolutionary fervor grew, people wore tricolor rosettes in red, white, and blue to show their support. Of course, if someone didn’t wear tricolor, it could signal royalist sympathies and draw potentially dangerous attention. Since Marie Antoinette was in the public eye so much, she was often judged by her clothing – not just the opulence of it, but also the color.

What did you learn about yourself while writing this novel?

I’m not good at sticking to outlines. I wrote a whole plot synopsis for this novel before getting into the first draft, but it’s not very close to the finished book. Also, apparently I’m totally fine with being really mean to my characters if it leads to a better plot.

What was your timeline from drafting to publication?

I started researching and outlining in February of 2014, and writing the first draft in March – I’m always impatient to get going on the writing, and I research continuously. I finished in February 2015, so it took me a year to write it. I did some edits with my agent, and then some more after receiving editorial feedback when the book was on submission, and I signed a book deal with St. Martin’s in April 2016. Then the publication date wasn’t until August 2017, so it’s been a three year journey!

What is your favorite part of writing (drafting characters, making up scenes, plotting, developing emotional turning points, etc). Why?

I love fitting character development and emotional scenes into the historical framework. It’s like a puzzle. And it’s the best feeling when I find a historical detail that just makes everything click into place. Of course, sometimes the opposite happens and that’s less fun.

Briefly, where did the idea for your book come from?

I’d always been interested in the growing chaos and shifting loyalties of the French Revolution. In my early research, when I stumbled across the secret du roi spy ring, Giselle and her ex-spy uncle showed up in my head with a story to tell. I also enjoyed writing about much-maligned Marie Antoinette – such an alluring, tragic figure.

When do you do your best thinking about your work in progress?

Invariably when I can’t write anything down, like when I’m driving, or walking my dog, or half asleep at 3 am.

Share something people may be surprised to know about you?

Hm. I’m not sure I’m a very surprising person. I’m a pretty good cook. I like whiskey neat. People are sometimes surprised about that one, for some reason.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

It’s a quote I read in an interview with Ursula Le Guin. “When people say, ‘Did you always want to be a writer?’, I have to say, ‘no! I always was a writer.’ ” This resonated with me because it made me realize I should stop trying to qualify myself by using other people’s markers of success.

What’s next?

Another book, I hope! I’m always writing something.

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“In THE WARDROBE MISTRESS, Masterson deftly captures the tumult of the French Revolution and the tragic unmaking of history’s most infamous queen—Marie Antoinette—through the eyes of clever and likable dressmaker Giselle Aubry. Immersed in scenes of jeweled courtiers, of furtive exchanges between spies, and the palpable danger lurking in every corridor, tavern, and rue à Paris, I grew impatient to return to the book each night. By turns sexy, absorbing, and suspenseful, this story sweeps you along to its riveting conclusion.”—Heather Webb, author of Becoming Josephine and Last Christmas in Paris

Interview with Callie Bates, Author of The Waking Land

We’re so excited today to be talking with Callie Bates about her upcoming debut novel, The Waking Land.

Please describe what your book is about.

THE WAKING LAND is about a young woman, raised as a hostage, who is pressured by the father she barely remembers to lead a rebellion against the king who virtually raised her, using a magic she’s spent her life repressing.

Share a teaser sentence or two from your novel.

“The plants sit about me in their pots, a collision of greens; if I listen hard I can hear them breathing, hear the sturdy effort of drinking sunlight.”

What do you want people to know about your book?

That it has powerful, earthy, forbidden magic and daring escapes and ancient stone circles and revolution. That I was going to put it away, but the heroine’s voice kept me awake at night, demanding I write it again. So I did!

What did you learn about yourself while writing this novel?

I learned that I am very, very stubborn. OK, to be honest, that was not really a revelation…

What was your timeline from drafting to publication?

It’s going to be about four years, if you count it from the very first draft with no breaks in between. I actually wrote an initial version in 9 months in 2013, received an R&R from the agent I now work with, and eventually ended up doing a 2-3 month complete overhaul of the book (so, I didn’t work on it continuously). We accepted the publisher’s offer in spring 2015, and the book is slated to come out summer 2017.

What is your favorite part of writing (drafting characters, making up scenes, plotting, developing emotional turning points, etc). Why?

I’ve learned to really love revision. I love clarifying my ideas and themes from the rough draft, but the most satisfying moments come from really digging into the characters’ emotional arcs and evolution. As a reader, I strongly connect to emotion, so I’m trying to be more “vulnerable” as a writer. But I also have lots of fun building a pacey plot and, particularly, developing a sense of place on the page. Of course, the best part of writing is when all these elements come together—that’s the magic!

Briefly, where did the idea for your book come from?

In a very broad sense, the book emerged from the (perhaps unlikely) intersection of climate change, Aldo Leopold’s land ethic, Jacobite rebellions, and Neolithic monuments—all united by a female narrator struggling to understand her own power and place in the world. Oh, and poisonous fungi…

When do you do your best thinking about your work in progress?

I think best outside while hiking or running, or while taking a bath, or just before I fall asleep. Occasionally I have to talk aloud to myself like a crazy person. But sometimes ideas do come to me while I’m staring in mounting anxiety at my outline, thank goodness!

Share something people may be surprised to know about you?

I have the same birthday as Harry Potter. But I think I’m more of the Hermione sort of Gryffindor… Gryffinclaw, perhaps?

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.” That Picasso quote kicked me out of my endless loop of rather self-indulgent perfectionism (which was really tedious, btw), and continually reminds me that I don’t have to wait for “the muse” to speak. She speaks once I start working.

What’s next?

The sequel!
bates_thewakingland-rev

THE WAKING LAND

In the lush and magical tradition of Naomi Novik’s award-winning Uprooted comes this riveting debut from brilliant young writer Callie Bates—whose boundless imagination places her among the finest authors of fantasy fiction, including Sarah J. Maas and Sabaa Tahir.

Lady Elanna is fiercely devoted to the king who raised her like a daughter. But when he dies under mysterious circumstances, Elanna is accused of his murder—and must flee for her life.

Returning to the homeland of magical legends she has forsaken, Elanna is forced to reckon with her despised, estranged father, branded a traitor long ago. Feeling a strange, deep connection to the natural world, she also must face the truth about the forces she has always denied or disdained as superstition—powers that suddenly stir within her.

But an all-too-human threat is drawing near, determined to exact vengeance. Now Elanna has no choice but to lead a rebellion against the kingdom to which she once gave her allegiance. Trapped between divided loyalties, she must summon the courage to confront a destiny that could tear her apart.

Advance Praise:

“Callie Bates has written an exciting and involving first book, and she is clearly a writer of real talent.”—Terry Brooks

“A heartbreaking, enchanting, edge-of-the-seat read that held me captive from start to finish!”—Tamora Pierce

The Waking Land is all about rising to challenges, and it succeeds wonderfully.”—Charlaine Harris

“A simmering tale of magic that builds to a raging inferno, and hits like a cross between Brandon Sanderson and Pierce Brown.”—Scott Sigler

Available in June, 2017 from Del Rey.

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Interview with Haley Harrigan, Author of Secrets of Southern Girls

Today, we’re chatting with Haley Harrigan about her novel Secrets of Southern Girls.

Please describe what your book is about. 

Secrets of Southern Girls is about a woman who believes she killed her best friend when they were teenagers. When she learns there could be more to the story, she leaves her home in New York and returns to her Southern hometown to get to the truth of what really happened that night. But she finds more than she bargained for.

Share a teaser sentence or two from your novel.

It’s not your fault she’s dead. It’s the same thing Julie has told herself, over and over, for ten years. But it’s a lie, and she knows it.”

What did you learn about yourself while writing this novel?

So many things! I learned that being a writer has nothing to do with whether or not your work is ever published. I learned that I have to write in order to feel complete. I also learned to be more comfortable with writing storylines and scenes that aren’t all hearts and unicorns and butterflies. Writing some of the grittier, more “grown-up” content (hello, sex scenes!) of SOSG pushed me way out of my comfort zone, and yet, I think the scenes I was less comfortable with writing turned out to be some of the best in the book.

What was your timeline from drafting to publication?

It’s complicated! I first started toying with the idea that became SECRETS OF SOUTHERN GIRLS about ten years ago, but I went through phases where I got distracted (or decided it was terrible) and put it away for months—even years—at a time. I finished an imperfect version about five years ago, polished from there, got my agent in spring of 2015, and sold my book in December of that year.

What is your favorite part of writing (drafting characters, making up scenes, plotting, developing emotional turning points, etc). Why?

Character interviews. I love getting to know my new (imaginary) friends!

Briefly, where did the idea for your book come from?

Eavesdropping on my mother, who was gossiping with a friend of hers about a girl they’d known in high school who was involved in a scandalous relationship.

When do you do your best thinking about your work in progress?

On vacation or relaxing in the sunshine, when my day job and other distractions feel far away.

Share something people may be surprised to know about you?

I’m a sucker for good fanfiction. I’m huge Joss Whedon fan, and I’ve even written a few Whedonverse fanfics. It’s a fun stress reliever.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

Stop talking about it and do it. Put it on paper.

What’s next? 

My second novel is currently in the works. It’s about a woman who becomes obsessed with the suicide of a local college boy. It’s a little dark and creepy. That’s all I can say about it for now!

SECRETS OF SOUTHERN GIRLS

Ten years ago, Julie Portland accidentally killed her best friend, Reba. What’s worse is she got away with it. Consumed by guilt, she left the small town of Lawrence Mill, Mississippi, and swore nothing would ever drag her back. Now, raising her daughter and struggling to make ends meet in Manhattan, Julie still can’t forget the ghost of a girl with golden hair and a dangerous secret.

When August, Reba’s first love, begs Julie to come home to find the diary that Reba kept all those years ago, Julie’s past comes creeping back to haunt her. That diary could expose the shameful memories Julie has been running from, but it could also unearth the hidden truths that Reba left buried…and reveal that Julie isn’t the only one who feels responsible for Reba’s death.

Available June 6th from Sourcebooks Landmark.

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Interview with Ricki Schultz, Author of Mr. Right-Swipe

Today, Ricki Schultz discusses her debut novel, Mr. Right-Swipe.

Please describe what the story is about.

Boy meets Girl. Boy ghosts Girl. Girl decides to just die alone.

Share a teaser sentence or two from your novel.

It’s a Tale of #LeftSwipes, #NotMyTypes, and #Vodka.

What do you want people to know about your book?

It’s a wryly humorous take on the crazycakes world that is modern dating.

What did you learn about yourself while writing this novel?

I learned that there is a reason I keep dating! To sell books!

What was your timeline from drafting to publication?

The writing was spread out over the course of about nine months, but actual writing time was about four months total.

What is your favorite part of writing (drafting characters, making up scenes, plotting, developing emotional turning points, etc). Why?

My favorite part is the actual drafting of the novel, because I tend to plan things out pretty tightly at first. However, when I start getting the words down, the characters always end up taking different turns that surprise me!

Briefly, where did the idea for your book come from?

It came out of a conversation I had with a bunch of married ladies during my friend’s book launch—one of those married ladies being my agent! They were asking me about the dating scene and I was telling them about online dating. I started firing up some apps and showing them the method behind my Left and Right Swipes. They were delighted and horrified. A few days later, my agent called and told me—This is what you should be writing!

When do you do your best thinking about your work in progress?

There isn’t a particular time of day that’s better or worse for me. I just have to be focused. Some people write to music, and that’s not me AT ALL. I’ve got to have a coffee, a juice, and a water on hand; I’ve got to be sitting in my office; and the house needs to be pretty well silent. It’s there at my desk that I might stare into space for a while and think about my WIP. If I’m stuck, I might go for a walk with my dog, pace around my back yard, call someone and talk it through, etc. That all usually does the trick for me.

Share something people may be surprised to know about you?

I spent most of high school and college wanting to be on General Hospital. I used to do a lot of community theatre, and soap opera acting was what I wanted to do when I got out. Now, I spend most of my time wanting to marry Jason Segel.

So I’ve always had big, offbeat, specific goals. Haha!

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

Read your work out loud. You can catch so many important issues, from errors to cadence and flow, from doing so.

What’s next?

I’m currently working on my next novel, which will also be with Grand Central Publishing. So excited! It’s called SWITCH AND BAIT, and it’s a humorous modern retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac, wherein an online dating matchmaker/messaging ghostwriter starts falling for one of her clients’ matches, finding herself in an ethical dilemma.

Do any of the dating experiences in the book come from real life?

Yes, and no. Anyone who has done the online dating thing understands there are certain shared experiences we all have—the catfishing, the ghosting, the guys holding fish (Why are there so many dudes out there brandishing fish? Who are the women who want this??). There are kernels of truth to some of the dating experiences Rae experiences which come from my own personal online dating experiences, sure. But, at the same time, I don’t think any of those people would ever want to admit that! 😉

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Interview with Kristin Rockaway, Author of The Wild Woman’s Guide to Traveling the World

So excited today today to be talking with Kristin Rockaway about her new novel!

Please describe what the story is about.

The Wild Woman’s Guide to Traveling the World is about a twenty-something New Yorker with a severe case of wanderlust who questions her prestigious career and perfectly ordered life after meeting a free-spirited American artist in Hong Kong.

Share a teaser sentence or two from your novel.

“I firmly believe the travel bug isn’t something you catch, but something you’re born with. An inherent trait encoded in your genes, like the color of your eyes or your dominant hand.”

What do you want people to know about your book?

If you’re looking for a quick bit of escapism, The Wild Woman’s Guide to Traveling the World is the perfect way to indulge your wanderlust without getting out of your chair. It’s an easy, fun read that should appeal to fans of Sophie Kinsella or The Devil Wears Prada.

What did you learn about yourself while writing this novel?

I learned that I’m far more patient and persistent than I’d ever given myself credit for. Publishing is a tough business; to succeed, you have to keep going despite repeated rejections and interminable waits.

What was your timeline from drafting to publication?

I started drafting this story during NaNoWriMo in 2013, got an offer of publication in February 2015, and my release date is June 6th, 2017. So from draft to pub, it’s been almost four years!

What is your favorite part of writing (drafting characters, making up scenes, plotting, developing emotional turning points, etc). Why?

I love the revision process. After I’ve defined the big picture of the story, it’s fun to get back in there to fine-tune it and make it stronger.

Briefly, where did the idea for your book come from?

Travel has always been one of my passions, and writing this story was a way for me to capture the excitement and wonder of exploring the globe. One day, I was flipping through some photos of a trip I took to Hong Kong, and I thought it would be the perfect setting for a whirlwind romance – a bustling city full of flavor and spirit.

When do you do your best thinking about your work in progress?

The best ideas inevitably come to me when I’m in the shower, driving my car, or drifting off to sleep. I keep my phone close at hand so I can record them before they float away.

Share something people may be surprised to know about you?

I have a degree in Computer Science and spent fifteen years working as a software developer and IT manager before making the switch to writing fiction.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

Use the advice that works for you and ignore the rest. It’s good to learn as much as possible, to attend workshops and read books to help you find new ways of approaching your craft. But there’s no one-size-fits-all piece of advice, and not everything is going feel right to you – and if it doesn’t, it’s okay to ignore it.

What’s next?

I’m torn between a couple of different ideas right now, but they’re both fun, female-focused stories with a chick lit vibe and a healthy dose of romance.

THE WILD WOMAN’S GUIDE TO TRAVELING THE WORLD

Fans of Sophie Kinsella and The Devil Wears Prada will love this smart, sexy debut novel of wanderlust.

Objectively, Sophie is a success: she’s got a coveted job at a top consulting firm, a Manhattan apartment, and a passport full of stamps. It isn’t quite what she dreamed of when she was a teenager dog-earing pages in exotic travel guides, but it’s secure. Then her best friend bails just hours after they arrive in Hong Kong for a girls’ trip, and Sophie meets Carson, a free-spirited, globetrotting American artist.

In the midst of their whirlwind vacation romance, Carson invites Sophie to join him on his haphazard journey around the world. While the brief international jaunts she sneaks in between business trips don’t feel like enough, Sophie is far too practical to throw away her five-year plan on a whim. Yet Carson’s offer forces her to question whether the reliable life she’s chosen is really what she wants–and she soon discovers that his feelings for her run deeper than she realized.

Available June 6, 2017 from Center Street Books

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