Interview with Devin Murphy, author of The Boat Runner

We’re chatting with Devin Murphy today. His novel The Boat Runner debuts in September!

What’s your book about?

The Boat Runner is about a wealthy Dutch family whose world is upended over the course of four years during the WWII Nazi occupation. As the family struggles to stay whole, we follow the youngest son through the forests of France, the stormy beaches of England, and deep within the secret missions of the German Navy where he is confronted with the moral dilemma that will change his life forever.

Share a teaser sentence or two from your novel.

“I allowed myself a small, transcendent moment of feeling alive again. As I watched them, I had a deep and swelling love of trees, their sway and dance, and thought how goddamn beautiful this world would be if we’d never been allowed to touch it.”

What do you want people to know about your book?

I wrote this book because I was fascinated by how Nazi Germany used controlled information, news, and propaganda to establish power, and how storytelling cut through all that into the truth of what really mattered.

What did you learn about yourself while writing this novel?

I learned I needed to be patient and trust my instincts with research, as the more I dug into a topic the odder and more unique details arose to help guide this story to new and interesting places.

What was your timeline from drafting to publication?

About 8 years. Though I did lots of other writing and family making during that time as well.

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

I love the wild first jolt of drafting new work. It’s exciting. I don’t know where it will lead or what it will demand of me, yet everything I see, think, feel, and read winds up becoming relevant when my imagination is delving into a new project. I love how my own life gets stitched right into process as I go. This process makes me feel attuned to my days at a deeper level and I wish that first draft feeling could go on much longer, as when it stops, then it’s time to turn back and look at what a glorious mess I’ve made and now have to fix.

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

My mother’s father was an engineer in the Netherlands who had to go into hiding during WWII. I never met him, but his story was so interesting it wound up finding its way into my writing and got me started on this book.

How do you feel now that you’re done with this book?

Relieved. Joyful. Excited. I get to share this story with others now. The novel is going to be translated into Dutch, so I get to give it to my mother in her native language. I love that.

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

At the computer. I’m not sure when it happened but I think best while typing and watching the screen, the click-clack lets me access a dream space better where I can see and then do what W.B. Yeats once wrote as his To Do List for the day, “Hammer thoughts into unison.”

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

I once heard a writing hero of mine, Richard Bausch, tell a room of writers something along the lines of, “When you’re stuck, lower your standards and keep going.” I like that a lot. It takes the pressure off. I can always write through a tough spot to get to something good, then come back and fix what wasn’t so good.

What’s next?

I’m currently finishing a second novel and short story collection and when those are done, I’ll start another book and keep going. That’s the plan. Those first drafts are too much fun.

“Murphy is a rare writer whose prose rings with authority and beauty as it weaves the devastating story of children coming of age in the darkest hours of the twentieth century. Every page is alive with discovery, surprise, and ultimately, the mystery of what drives the human heart. The electricity which sets this story on its journey continues to crackle and spark long after the lights begin to go out across Europe, one after another, until we finally understand the cost and meaning of resistance, our only weapon against the tyranny that threatens to destroy civilization. This is an unforgettable tale of human triumph.” — Jonis Agee, author of The Bones of Paradise

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Interview with Patricia Beal, Author of A Season to Dance

Please describe what the story is about.  

A Season to Dance is the heart wrenching love story of a small town professional ballerina who dreams of dancing at the Met in New York, of the two men who love her and of the forbidden kiss that changed everything.

Share a teaser sentence or two from your novel.

This is for them. This is for the magic. This is for every little dreamer in the room.

What do you want people to know about your book?

A Season to Dance is a journey. From hard to better. From striving to being. A story of love lost and found, broken dreams, and second chances.

What did you learn about yourself while writing this novel?

That I had to find spiritual balance first. Only then could I engage in career and romantic pursuits healthily.

What was your timeline from drafting to publication?

I wrote the first chapter in January of 2011 and wrote a chapter per Saturday until the novel was complete. I spent the rest of the year polishing. Then I spent 2012 getting rejected and 2013 rewriting the whole thing. Then in 2014 I got an agent, and we sold the novel on February 4, 2016.

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

My favorite part of writing? Making up scenes. What a power trip, no?

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

Writing a novel was an old dream. It first crossed my mind in 1987, when growing up in Brazil, I read Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. But for years I didn’t have a good idea.

In January of 2011, on I-40 (somewhere between Nashville and Winston-Salem), I had an idea that wouldn’t let go of me. A young woman, a ballerina, stuck on top of a wall for behaving badly.

Then came the questions: Who put her there? What exactly did she do? Why did she do it? Where did he go? Is he coming back?

That’s how it all started.

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

In the morning, when walking, and when on Pinterest ?

Share something people may be surprised to know about you?

In 2014 I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder.

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

If you have a great novel that’s not selling because of the market, write a different novel. If you have a great novel that’s not selling because the writing is not as mature as it needs to be, keep improving the same novel, or you’ll repeat the same mistakes in the next one.

What’s next?

I wrote a second book, but I’m still editing it. It’s called The Song of the Desert Willow, and it’s a split-time military romance. The contemporary and central part of the novel is the story of a college graduate (Clara) who thought she’d sworn off soldiers forever and of a young Army captain (Andrew) whose first shot at love and marriage imploded on the steps of a West Point chapel on graduation week.

She takes a break from a long and unfruitful job search to travel to Fort Bliss, Texas, to deliver her grandmother’s last love letter, a letter to a retired general Clara has heard about since she was born. When he is delayed in Germany with a weak heart, Clara’s stuck in Texas and Andrew is put in charge of her well-being.

The story has a lot of my grandma’s history in it—life in the German colonies of the south of Brazil before WWII, the beginning of the shoe industry there (still famous worldwide, with women’s shoes always available at stores like Neiman Marcus), the life of the richest family in town, the most influential man (my great grandfather), his death, loss, change. It’s fascinating to me, and I pray I can paint a vivid picture of this most unusual slice of history and get people to care.

If you could cast your characters in a Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play them?

The story is a love triangle. “Ana Brassfield has her path to the stage of the Met all figured out until her first love, renowned German dancer Claus Gert, returns to Georgia to win her back. Despite a promising start towards her ballet career and pending marriage to landscape architect, Peter Engberg, Ana wonders if her dreams of dancing at the Met are as impossible as her previous romantic relationship with Claus. Then, an on-stage kiss between Ana and Claus changes everything.”

Peter would be Blake Shelton. Claus would be Mikhail Baryshnikov, a young Mikhail Baryshnikov—I’m thinking late eighties, when the movie White Nights was really popular. And Ana would be me and you. I think there’s a bit of Ana in each of us ❤

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Interview with Orly Konig, Author of The Distance Home

Today we’re talking to Orly Konig, author of women’s fiction novel, The Distance Home.

Please describe what the story/book is about.

The Distance Home is a story about second chances, knowing when to walk away, and learning how to heal.

Share a teaser sentence or two from your novel.

Jumping Frog Farm.
The First time I saw that sign I was eight, and believed, with the certainty that allows reindeer to fly and little girls to heal, that this place would save me.

What do you want people to know about your book?

Horses may play an important role in the book, but it’s not necessarily a “horse” book. The themes of family and friendship, hope and heartbreak reach far beyond the fences of a stable.

What did you learn about yourself while writing this novel?

I learned that I have far more reserves in me than I imagined. Every time I thought I was creatively, emotionally, mentally done, an idea would poke at me and I’d sit right back down and keep writing.

What was your timeline from drafting to publication?

I think the timeline for drafting and revising a book is similar to having a baby … as soon as it’s over, you forget what it was like. Otherwise, would we really do it again and again? Joking aside, it was about 3 years – one and a half for writing, revising, querying, and then another year and a half from contract signing until launch.

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

My favorite part of writing is in the revision stage when I’m adding those small details that bring the characters and setting to life.

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

I wanted to write a book about the lengths we go to feel accepted. Horses have always been my safe place, where I felt like I belonged. The more I noodled the various themes for this book, the clearer it became that horses needed to play a role in the telling of this story.

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

When I’m in first draft mode, it’s usually on the treadmill or rowing machine. That’s when I work through what the scene will be about before I sit to write.

Share something people may be surprised to know about you?

I was horrible at creative writing in school. Even had a professor in grad school tell me to stick with non-fiction.

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

Write. Seriously! That was the simplest and best advice ever. We all know people who’ve said they’d love to write a book, someday. You have to make your “someday,” not wait for it to happen.

What’s next?

My next book is about family secrets and a historic merry-go-round.

thedistancehome

THE DISTANCE HOME

Sixteen years ago, a tragic accident cost Emma Metz her two best friends—one human and one equine. Now, following her father’s death, Emma has reluctantly returned to the Maryland hometown she left under a cloud of guilt.

Sorting through her father’s affairs, Emma uncovers a history of lies tying her broken family to the one place she thought she could never return—her girlhood sanctuary, Jumping Frog Farm.

Emma finds herself drawn back to the stable after all these years. It’s easy to win forgiveness from a horse, but less so from her former friend Jillian, their once-strong bond has been destroyed by secrets and betrayals. But despite Jillian’s cold reception, for the first time in years, Emma feels at home.

To exorcise the past, Emma will have to release her guilt, embrace an uncertain future, and trust again in the healing power of horses.

“Orly Konig’s first novel wins a blue ribbon for delving into the meaning of family and friendships, and how both bring joy and sorrow.” – Susan Wilson, New York Times bestselling author

“Lovely and evocative … Konig’s writing is captivating from beginning to end.” – Shelley Noble, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author

The Distance Home marks the arrival of an extremely talented new voice in women’s fiction.” – Lori Nelson Spielman, internationally bestselling author of The Life List

Available May 2, 2017 from Forge

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Interview with Renée Dahlia, Author of To Charm a Bluestocking

Today we’re chatting with Renée Dahlia, author of the historical romance, To Charm a Bluestocking, which debuted in March.

Please describe what the story is about.

1887: Shy Josephine has almost completed an extraordinary task – a medical degree – when a professor starts to harass her. Her friends suggest that she invent a fiancé to keep the professor at bay, but when she meets Nicholas, he is too charming, and far too distracting. The professor won’t give up, and together Josephine and Nicholas must fight for love.

Share a teaser sentence or two from your novel.

‘My aunt has just finished a long visit and the whole time she kept asking “when are you going to give up this doctor nonsense and find a nice man to marry?”’ said Josephine. A strong mocking tone coloured her voice.

‘Oh my! What did you say?’ asked Marie.

‘I told her that I needed a couple of months to consider the idea,’ said Josephine. Claire roared with laughter.

‘That is so sly! You’ll be finished by then,’ she said with a loud snort. Josephine just smiled, pleased to move on.

What do you want people to know about your book?

Even though there is a lot in this novel about female education, the novel is still a romance. It’s about a shy, slightly socially anxious, woman who finds support with an unlikely hero. In the end, a happily-ever-after is achieved through team work and understanding each other’s strengths.

What did you learn about yourself while writing this novel?

I learnt that I could transfer my skills from short form writing into longer writing. Initially, the challenge of a whole book seemed too big, but once I broke it down and thought of each chapter as a segment of a whole, then I was less overwhelmed by the size.

What was your timeline from drafting to publication?

This is a difficult question for me, as I have a lot of guilt about how fast this has happened. It’s a myth that anyone can dash off a romance novel – yet my first one took three months to write, and nine months to edit (which included a lot of online courses). I pitched it at the 2016 Romance Writers Australia conference, and was accepted within three days of submitting the full manuscript. The concept – three female friends who support each other in changing history – was a big driver in how quickly it was accepted.

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

It’s probably my slightly mean sense of humor, but I do love figuring out how to upset my characters. What would be the meanest thing I could do to this person? In my current WIP, the heroine is a feisty, loud-mouthed suffragette; so I’m going to make her ill because that takes away all her agency. People start to make decisions for her when she is too sick to argue with them.

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

My great grandmother was one of the earliest university graduates as a doctor in Holland. I thought about the challenges that faced her, and which of those challenges would resonant with modern day readers.

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

If I have an issue that I can’t solve, I go for a walk. Before writing novels, I wrote statistics based magazine articles for years, and realized that every time I couldn’t find the right words for a conclusion or the angle I wanted, a walk often jolted my thoughts into the right spot.

Share something people may be surprised to know about you?

I didn’t have a burning ambition to be a writer, and did a science degree so that I wouldn’t have to write. After a convoluted career path, I ended up writing magazine articles (which is brilliant practice for keeping to deadlines and word counts), and was offered a job ghost writing a non-fiction book. Perhaps I’m a slow learner, but after more than a decade of writing, I didn’t consider myself a writer. Now that I’ve embraced the idea that I might be able to write, I’ve realized that I’d always been a story teller, so in some ways, this is a logical outcome.

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

Stephen King sums it up best when he says that the best writers are readers. Hopefully all those years hiding in books will pay dividends now that I’m writing them. And, of course, all the time I spend reading can be considered research.

What’s next?

The second Bluestockings book has just been sent to my publisher, so that will be coming out soon. And I’m working on the third in the series. A fourth Bluestockings novel, about Josephine’s companion, was completed earlier and will be added to the series in time.

 

 

TO CHARM A BLUESTOCKING

She wants to be one of the world’s first female doctors; romance is not in her plans.

1887: Too tall, too shy and too bookish for England, Lady Josephine moves to Holland to become one of the world’s first female doctors. With only one semester left, she has all but completed her studies when a power-hungry professor, intent on marrying her for her political connections, threatens to prevent her graduation. Together with the other Bluestockings, female comrades-in-study, she comes up with a daring, if somewhat unorthodox plan: acquire a fake fiancé to provide the protection and serenity she needs to pass her final exams.

But when her father sends her Lord Nicholas St. George, he is too much of everything: too handsome, too charming, too tall and too broad and too distracting for Josephine’s peace of mind. She needed someone to keep her professor at bay, not keep her from her work with temptations of long walks, laughing, and languorous kisses.

Just as it seems that Josephine might be able to have it all: a career as a pioneering female doctor and a true love match, everything falls apart and Josephine will find herself in danger of becoming a casualty in the battle between ambition and love.

Available March 25 through Escape Publishing

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Interview with Crystal King, Author of Feast of Sorrow

We’re chatting with Crystal King, author of the historical fiction debut, Feast of Sorrow, out April 25!

Please describe what the book is about.

Set amongst the scandal, wealth, and upstairs-downstairs politics of a Roman family, Crystal King’s seminal debut features the man who inspired the world’s oldest cookbook and the ambition that led to his destruction.

Share a teaser sentence or two from your novel.

On a blistering day in the twenty-sixth year of Augustus Caesar’s reign, a young chef, Thrasius, is acquired for the exorbitant price of twenty thousand denarii. His purchaser is the infamous gourmet Marcus Gavius Apicius, wealthy beyond measure, obsessed with a taste for fine meals from exotic places, and a singular ambition: to serve as culinary advisor to Caesar, an honor that will cement his legacy as Rome’s leading epicure.

Apicius rightfully believes that Thrasius is the key to his culinary success, and with Thrasius’s help he soon becomes known for his lavish parties and fantastic meals. Thrasius finds a family in Apicius’s household, his daughter Apicata, his wife Aelia, and her handmaiden, Passia whom Thrasius quickly falls in love with. But as Apicius draws closer to his ultimate goal, his reckless disregard for any who might get in his way takes a dangerous turn that threatens his young family and places his entire household at the mercy of the most powerful forces in Rome.

What do you want people to know about your book?

It’s about food and feasts, love and loss, and the glamour and grit of ancient Rome.

What did you learn about yourself while writing this novel?

I learned that I could finish a novel! I had always written shorter pieces, non-fiction articles and poetry. The idea of writing hundreds of pages seemed so daunting. When I wrote the last word of my first draft I cried. I still remember it, sitting in my local library, alone on a cold winter day, the last word bright on the page.

What was your timeline from drafting to publication?

I’m not entirely sure I want to admit this! The actual drafting of the novel took about five or so years (off and on, mostly on weekends). Then I spent three years finding an agent and from signing with Touchstone to publication it will be 18 months. Hopefully, now that I’m established, things will go much faster. I’d love to have a new book out every 2-3 years.

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

I love plotting and outlining. Writing historical fiction means that I have to tie in actual history with what is made-up and make sure it all fits together. I did my Masters in Critical & Creative Thinking and as part of my thesis I developed a series of exercises for writers in the middle of their work. I use a lot of those exercises to help me push through plot holes and I find that process to be sheer fun.

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

I was writing a very different book, set in contemporary times, about a chef who owned a magical set of knives. I needed an origin story for those knives and around the same time I came across the story of Apicius and how he died. I wrote a scene for the other novel, thinking that would be the origin story but after I wrote that scene I realized that was the better story. Some of that scene still remains, late in FEAST OF SORROW, and the idea of those knives carries into the second book I’m writing. Maybe I’ll go back to the original idea someday.

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

I am a big believer in incubation. I might go weeks not writing but I’m always thinking of my story in progress. Sometimes when I have a really sticky problem to solve I do my best thinking when I’m driving. I’ll put on classical music and talk to myself in the car. “Okay Crystal, what will Apicius do about his mother?” And then I will run through all the possibilities out loud. People driving near me probably assume I’m on the phone, which I suppose is better than them thinking I’m crazy, which is closer to the truth.

Share something people may be surprised to know about you?

Most people I know are surprised to find out that I spent my high school years in Idaho. The state seems so distant and remote from Boston where I’ve lived for nearly twenty years. I still have family and friends back west.

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

It all goes back to Dorothy Parker. None of the other writing advice matters as much as this one: “Writing is the art of applying the ass to the seat.” Of course, it goes a bit beyond the seat—you have to be fully present when you get to it, ready to write, even if the words don’t want to flow. Something on the page is better than nothing on the page.

What’s next?

I’m working on a novel about a Renaissance Italian chef, a man named Bartolomeo Scappi. He was the chef to several popes and had a cookbook that came out in 1570 and was the bestselling cookbook for nearly two hundred years afterward. It’s a mystery, with a bit of romance and a whole lot of food.

What recipes have you made from the Apicius cookbook?

There are many of them. My husband and I make Parthian chicken regularly for dinner. We recently perfected a sweet and sour dill sauce for fowl and I’m also rather partial to Roman fig cakes. I’ve made honey water and honey cakes before and there is a wonderful goat milk bread that I also make from time to time. Recreating the recipes has been a lot of fun!

FeastofSorrows

FEAST OF SORROW

 

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Interview with Leah DeCesare, Author of Forks, Knives, Spoons

Today we’re talking with Leah DeCesare, author of the women’s fiction novel, Forks, Knives, Spoons.

Please describe what the story is about.

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.

Share a teaser sentence or two from your novel.

Amy unpacked her dad’s words along with her yellow Sony Walk- man, turquoise Benetton sweater, and peach comforter set. His lesson was tucked carefully in her memory, the details recorded in her reporter’s notebook, available for labeling the college guys she was about to meet. She would adhere to her father’s advice—she always did—though she wasn’t about to let any guy distract her from her dream of being a journalist, not even a perfect steak knife.

What do you want people to know about your book?

FORKS, KNIVES, AND SPOONS presents a fun, quirky system but in the end, I really want women to hear the message loudly that we all need to love and believe in ourselves. I love the discussion questions included in the book and would love to be an invisible listener when book clubs share their thoughts!

What did you learn about yourself while writing this novel?

The saying “you write your first novel to learn how to write a novel” was definitely true for me. I came at FORKS, KNIVES, AND SPOONS from so many different directions, and with the help of a lot of revisions, great editorial advice, studying the craft, awesome feedback from beta readers, and still more rewrites, I wrote a book I’m proud to put out into the world. I’m approaching my work-in-progress very differently and have spent a lot more time planning and considering story directions before doing the writing so I’m hopeful that this book will be written more efficiently.

What was your timeline from drafting to publication?

About four years. It definitely wasn’t a straight-line path! But it was about that time from when I got serious and sat to “write the book” until this incredible time of having an actual pub date.

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

One of the parts I love the most is naming my characters. I put a lot of thought and research into the meanings behind their names, the time period, how the names sound, what the nicknames could be … I’ve gotten some raised eyebrows with my baby name books lying around.

Even if the reader never knows what a name means, I’m very deliberate about that selection. I’ve always loved symbolism and deeper meanings behind things. I like to decide on the names at the outset of my project so I can really begin to understand and get to know the characters.

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

The kernel of FORKS, KNIVES, AND SPOONS that’s real is that my father told me before I headed to college, like Amy’s dad told her, that there are three kinds of guys: forks, knives, and spoons. In my freshman year, my girlfriends and I all added utensils and created this elaborate system. That nugget stayed with me for decades as I raised children and worked in the childbirth/doula arena for sixteen years until I finally asked myself when I was going to write my book. I got serious and reprioritized things to make room for writing and I knew my first novel would have to include this fork, knife and spoon labeling system.

There was just this system without a story behind it, so I had to invent the characters and the story arc through which this Utensil Classification System could be woven.

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

Usually when I can’t get to paper or my phone notes app.

I have some very random notes that didn’t translate well when I’ve tried to speak my ideas instead of typing them.

I also like to take walks to work out story problems and sometimes I just open a document and free write to figure out where I want to go with an arc or plot problem.

Share something people may be surprised to know about you?

I volunteer doing leadership development training for middle school girls, collegiate and alumna women and I lead a team of fourteen leadership development specialists across the country and Canada. I have a very random work and volunteer history but when I examine it, I see the common thread is empowering others. That’s the message in FORKS, KNIVES, AND SPOONS too – believe in yourself.

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

I don’t have to do it like everyone else does. I used to think that the “right” way to write a book was to have a daily word count goal and to do your writing in the morning during the same hours every day, but I don’t write like that. I’ve learned from hearing many authors talk about their own process that there isn’t one way or a right way – there’s my way and that’s a valid way!

What’s next?

I’m working on my second novel set in eastern Connecticut about a doula. It’s a lot to juggle all the pre-publication activities for FORKS, KNIVES, AND SPOONS and working on a manuscript deadline, but it’s EXACTLY what I want to be doing and it lights me up in every way!
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FORKS, KNIVES, AND SPOONS

 

“Leah captured me on the very first line, ‘There are three types of guys: forks, knives, and spoons.’ With imagination, highly relatable characters, and witty dialogue, we are taken back to our youths – reevaluating and categorizing all of our crushes. A lovely story of friendship, love, and the amazing time between childhood and adulthood.” —Dawn Lerman, best-selling author of My Fat Dad: A Memoir of Food, Love, and Family with Recipes, New York Times Well Blog columnist

“Full of 1980’s nostalgia, DeCesare’s ambitious young women protagonists meet campus ‘Forks, Knives, and Spoons’ as they navigate how to ultimately place themselves firmly at the head of their own tables.” —Ann Imig, Founder of Listen to Your Mother

“FORKS, KNIVES, AND SPOONS is the perfect marriage of wit, romance, and, above all, heart. DeCesare’s writing is simply delectable and sure to woo any woman who has ever wondered if there is such a thing as Mr. Right.” —Nicole Waggoner, author of Center Ring and The Act.

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Interview with Kate Brandes, Author of the Promise of Pierson Orchard

Today we’re talking with Kate Brandes, author of the Promise of Pierson Orchard, which comes out on April 22 (Earth Day).

Please describe what your novel is about.

This story is Erin Brockovich meets Promised Land, about a Pennsylvania family threatened by betrayal, financial desperation, old flames, fracking, and ultimately finding forgiveness. 

Share a teaser sentence or two from your novel.

“He moved back over next to LeeAnn, stripped off his shirt, and lay down under the coat beside her and the baby, wrapping around them to offer what body warmth he could. “Your dad’s waiting for the ambulance. They’ll be here very soon,” he said, kissing LeeAnn’s forehead. “I’m here with you. That’s all I’ve ever wanted,” he said, muttering it over and over, hoping she heard.”

What do you want people to know about your book?

I’ve spent most of my career, not as a writer, but as an environmental scientist. I didn’t start writing creatively until I was in my mid-thirties. I’ve always loved stories about complicated families and relationships. I first learned about fracking (a method of natural gas drilling using deep rock fracturing) through my environmental science career. One of my first thoughts was that it would make a great metaphor in a novel about a fractured family. And that’s how this book began.

What did you learn about yourself while writing this novel?

I learned that I could be a creative person. That may sound strange, but before I started writing, I’d never done anything creative. It took me a long time to be able to refer to myself as a writer and to be able to think of myself as a creative being.

What was your timeline from drafting to publication?

It took me seven years from when I first began the novel to get a publishing contract.

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

I love rewriting. The first draft is the hardest for me. I like the reshaping that comes afterward because I like to get under the surface of my characters and story.

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

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

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

Walking. I love a long walk and go farther than most people consider reasonable. But I get the best ideas when I’m on foot, not going too fast.

Share something people may be surprised to know about you?

I’ve had a lot of different jobs in my life. Once I was in charge of counting potato bugs in huge plots of potato plants and then mapping their population density in each plot. It was part of someone else’s research, but I was in charge of the data collection.

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

Love your characters. Especially the bad ones. In order to love them, you have to understand them.

What’s next?

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

ThePromiseOfPiersonOrchard

THE PROMISE OF PIERSON ORCHARD

“Brandes checks off all the boxes for quality fiction: the characters are well- rounded, the settings, such as the apple orchards, the crisp Silver Creek, and the rocky outcrops, are vividly described, and the plot is well-organized and crisply paced. The tension between the characters satisfyingly rises to a crescendo that’s in sync with the larger environmental crisis that threatens the town.”
— KIRKUS REVIEWS

Long before fracking ever came to Minden, Pennsylvania, the fissures in the Pierson family were developing into major fault lines.

Brothers Jack and Wade were very young when their mother, Stella, abandoned them and never returned. Twenty years later, Jack, who recently separated from his wife, LeeAnn, is an orchardist tending to acres of apple trees in his economically depressed home- town. What the townspeople don’t know is that they could be sitting on vast reserves of Marcellus shale, an abundant source of natural gas.

Before long, Green Energy, a fracking company, comes calling and sends in a star salesman with a few local connections: Wade.

In response, Jack reaches out to their mom, now called Stella Brantley, who’s an established environmental lawyer, and convinces her that Minden should be the next battleground for pro bono activist work. The scene is set for confrontation: between the two siblings, between them and their mother, and between the small town and a large corporation.

Available April 2017 with Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing.

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Interview with Sara O. Thompson, Author of Otherwhere #1: Muddy Waters

Today, we’re sitting down to talk with Sara O. Thompson, author of the urban fantasy debut, Otherwhere #1: Muddy Waters.

Please describe what the story is about.

Convicted for murdering her family, and locked in a psych ward, witch Tessa Reddick has just made a deal with the FBI to be their newest Supernormal Investigator. Freedom has a price, though it’s one she’s willing to pay if it means she can track down who set her up for the fall. Solving crimes. Doing magic. Drinking bourbon. (Lotta bourbon.)

Share a teaser sentence or two from your novel.

“Athena’s tits, Tessa, you could talk the paper off the walls.”

What do you want people to know about your book?

I wrote a book that I wanted to read: something fun but not too twee with an interesting world.

What was your timeline from drafting to publication?

It took about eight months to write and edit, then three months of beta reads and querying. I signed my contract with Curiosity Quills in March of 2016. The book is out April 4, 2017.

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

Until I wrote this book, I had never outlined anything except that one time in fourth grade when they tried to teach us outlining for writing papers. For this book, I ended up going a little bonkers and writing a 75-page 10-book outline.

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

I’m a big fan of the X-Files and I was re-watching the old episodes. At some point, I asked myself what would happen if there was no barrier between what we think of as “our world” and the world of the supernatural. It’s all a blur after that.

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

When I’m brainstorming, or freewriting. I write longhand in a blank notebook.

Share something people may be surprised to know about you?

Most people are surprised to learn that I’m naturally an introvert, especially since I perform improv comedy, which is scenes created off the cuff, in front of a live audience.

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

Always be on the lookout for stuff you can use: physicality in the real world, bits of overheard dialogue, ephemera from other genres.

What’s next?

Book two in the series! I’ve got about half a draft.

muddy-waters-cover

MUDDY WATERS

Five years ago, Tessa Reddick was convicted of killing her entire family: 37 Witches from one of the most powerful covens in history. She’s been at Lakeland Psychiatric hospital, still grieving but mad as hell at whoever – or whatever – put her there.

Half an hour ago, a handsome FBI agent showed up to spring Tessa from the joint – but there’s a price. A series of murders is picking off Supernormals and the feds need the help of the last known Reddick Witch.

Determined to learn who had it in for her family, help solve the FBI crimes, and maybe get closer to her mysterious (and seriously hot) Dark Elf partner, Tessa is more than willing to play Witchy Nancy Drew. But Tessa has few friends left and something is coming for her, too – maybe it’s the one who framed her and killed her coven, or perhaps a new foe with a taste for Witch’s blood.

Solving crimes. Doing magic. Drinking bourbon.

Available April 4 from Curiosity Quills Press.

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Interview with Claire Marti, Author of Second Chance in Laguna

We’re chatting it up today with Claire Marti, debut author of Second Chance Laguna!

Please describe what the story is about.

Magazine editor and aspiring novelist Sophie Barnes left everything she knew to move to Laguna Beach to rebuild her life after being devastated by her fiancé’s jilting her at the altar. Little does she know she’ll meet the love of her life, player Nicholas Morgan, and fulfill her deepest dreams of becoming a successful author.

Share a teaser sentence or two from your novel.

“Not that she cared what he thought one way or the other as she was planning on being a single novelist for the foreseeable future.

Like Jane Austen.

Just like Jane Austen.”

What do you want people to know about your book?

It’s a story about finding the courage to start over after suffering a broken heart. Choosing to release the past, live in the present, and follow your dreams is a recipe for happiness.

What did you learn about yourself while writing this novel?

That I believe in not just second chances, but in third, fourth…as many as desired. Choosing to change is powerful.

What was your timeline from drafting to publication?

I started in late 2014 and began pitching in 2015. I won a few contests and that helped me sign a book deal in March 2016.

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

I’ve got two favorite parts. I love creating the characters because the entire story springs from their inner conflicts. Learning to love and accept themselves frees them up to love and accept others. I enjoy transforming the crappy first draft into flowing prose. It feels like putting puzzle pieces together.

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

Real life. I’m a big believer in the universal boot—when you aren’t following your dreams or fulfilling your potential, the universe will change it for you whether you are ready or not. Courage, vulnerability, and transformation.

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

All the time. Sometimes when I’m reading an idea will pop into my head. I also walk on the beach a lot and ideas tend to flow when my feet are in the sand.

Share something people may be surprised to know about you?

I’ve got the musical taste of a teenage boy from the 1990’s. Alternative rock, heavy metal—front row for Soundgarden, Foo Fighters, Muse, Guns n’Roses (back in the day.)

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

From Nora Roberts at the RWA conference: There is no muse sprinkling fairy dust on your shoulders. It’s a job—sit your butt in the chair and write.

What’s next?

I just signed the contract for the second book in the Finding Forever in Laguna series. I’m about to embark upon revisions of the first draft of book three. Then, I’m plunging into the historical romance world. After that, I’m planning a mainstream women’s fiction story set in 1920’s Paris and Antibes.

SECOND CHANCE IN LAGUNA

When Sophie Barnes’s fiancé jilts her at the altar, her carefully planned life implodes. Considering her ex’s betrayal to be a rude wake-up call, she leaves everything she knows in San Diego and flees to Laguna Beach. She vows to transform her life by avoiding men for a year and by fulfilling her dream of writing a wildly successful novel.

Sophie’s new landlord, Nicholas Morgan, is a gorgeous, successful architect with a player reputation. He makes it tough for Sophie to remember that she’s sworn to be single. Nick’s avoided the intimacy of a long-term relationship–until Sophie’s independence, courage, and beauty touch his guarded heart. Both Sophie and Nick are terrified of being hurt again, but can they resist the pull of true love?

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Interview with Jill Orr, Author of The Good Byline

Jill Orr talks with us about her debut, The Good Byline:

Please describe what the book is about.

A young woman uncovers corruption, murder, and suspicious taco trucks while writing her best friend’s obituary.

Share a teaser sentence or two from your novel.

So far my plan to change my life was not going well. I’d vomited on my first first date in over seven years, and instead of reconnecting with my old friend, I was writing her obituary. I told myself that if there was anything good to be found in the wake of Jordan’s death, it was a reminder that life was fragile, fleeting, and a gift not to be wasted. Her dying the way she had both strengthened my resolve to fix my life and terrified me because if a woman like Jordan James couldn’t make it in this life, what hope was there for a girl like me?

What do you want people to know about your book?

It’s a light, fun read similar in tone to Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels.

What did you learn about yourself while writing this novel?

That I hear voices in my head – and that’s not always a bad thing!

What was your timeline from drafting to publication?

Two years (one year to write, a few months to get an agent and publisher, then a year till release date).

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

Definitely drafting characters! I am a people person and an observer by nature, so I like to take what I see out in the world –the good, the bad and the bizarre – and use it while building my characters.

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

I was reading an article on how there is a subset of people who just love reading obituaries (even when they don’t know the deceased) and I thought that would be a great quirk for a protagonist. And obviously, with an obituary, death is implied – so it’s a natural fit for a murder mystery!

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

Always in the morning, often while driving, which is terribly inconvenient. I’ve learned to use the voice memo feature on my phone to “jot down” ideas while I’m driving.

Share something people may be surprised to know about you?

I spent the weekend at the same vacation lake house as Oprah and Stedman when I was thirteen-years-old.

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

“Good writing reflects clear thinking.” That was day one of Journalism school and I’ve never forgotten it. If you don’t know what you’re trying to say, you won’t be able to say it well.

What’s next?

I’m working on book two in my Riley Ellison mystery series! It’ll be out next April, with the third installment coming the April after that.

The good people of Tuttle Corner have unofficially changed Riley Ellison’s name to Riley Bless-Her-Heart. Reeling from heartbreak and adrift professionally, Riley is in a self-imposed purgatory waiting for her life to begin. When she learns her childhood BFF has suddenly committed suicide, Riley agrees to write her obituary as a way to learn why this dynamic young woman would suddenly opt out. Riley eventually becomes convinced that Jordan’s death was no suicide, and is led down a dangerous path toward organized crime, secret lovers, and suspicious taco trucks. Will writing this obituary be the death of her?